Identifying through their bleak world of austere black and white music videos, and albums entitled Grey Britain, Gallows are very much not a poster band for positivity. However, what they are is a band capable of producing music so beautifully sombre and haunting it transports to their foreboding world where stomping punk songs exist, that simultaneously encapsulate the morose weight of Gallows’ characteristic musical art-form. With their fourth album Desolation Sounds on it’s way on April 13th, and new single Bonfire Season set for digital and 7″ release, founding member and guitarist Laurent ‘Lags’ Bernard spoke to us about all of the above.
BM: You just announced that your fourth album, Desolation Sounds, will be released in April. So far we’ve heard Chains and now the new single Bonfire Season. Despite still being musically heavy, these songs also feel a lot more weighted and bleaker. Was the intention to explore a different take on ‘heavy’ music?
Lags: Definitely, we’ve been doing that for years. Look at the string sections on Grey Britain for example. Just because it’s not metal it doesn’t mean it lacks that heavy and depressive force that weighs on your very being. There are definitely those aggressive moments on the record but the one thing we’ve consistently explored are ways to be dark and menacing without relying on sounding violent. Desolation Sounds isn’t a feel good record, it’s an open wound and we’re inviting our fans to either drink the blood or flee for their lives.
BM: Is there something in particular that draws you to the Gothier/darker side of the music you make, rather than straight up heavy music full of breakdowns and such?
Lags: It’s just the type of art that fascinates us. By that I mean books, films, paintings, poetry, not just music. Wade reads a lot of books about Thelema and Magick so some of those themes enter the lyrics. I don’t listen to any bands that have breakdowns. I used to, when I was much younger but that kind of stuff just doesn’t interest me anymore. Don’t misunderstand me, I love heavy music. The last Yob record is on constant repeat but that mosh metal hardcore shit can take their basket ball shorts and jog on.
BM: Simultaneously, both of the new videos explore dark themes, is there a story behind them?
Lags: There’s no specific story but there is a mood we wanted to convey. Firstly, I was sick of reading treatments that went something like “We’ve got the band (Gallows) playing in a dark room, and then a load of punks run in and go wild”. Fuck, that shit is so boring. None of us wanted to be in the video anyways, so that was the first rule. With Chains there’s an almost classic slasher movie feel to it. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Friday the Thirteenth series and there are moments that remind me of those films. On the other side Chains is a beautiful video and that friction with dark and beauty is something that resonates on Desolation Sounds as a whole. With Bonfire Season we took that even further. Again it’s a beautiful video but with that comes danger. Gallows have always been interested in taboos and testing the boundaries of what’s acceptable. We’ve had vibrators on t-shirts, priests fisting hoodies in album artwork, we want to show the mainstream we don’t need them. No one does.
BM: You guys are closing in on your tenth anniversary, how does it feel to have been making music for so long? There’s been ups and downs and some changes, but ultimately you’re here now making the music you want to be making, so aside from the actual content of the record, that’s an achievement in itself, right?
Lags: When I started Gallows back in late 2004 (though the name only came around when we started gigging in 2005) there was never the thought it could be a long term thing. Gallows is a style of music that has evolved in the ten year period and our back catalogue, even though it’s just four albums, is something I will always look back on with pride and fondness. We’ve had more ups and downs than any other band I know but the recordings speak for themselves. It feels great to still be creating music I love after all these years and long may it continue.
BM: You’ve mentioned Siouxsie and the Banshees as one of the influences for this record- what else influences you? Be it musical influences, or otherwise.
Lags: At the time of writing I was getting deep into female singers like Lana Del Rey and Chelsea Wolfe. I know Wade was in a similar place. That’s what lead to my girlfriend Helena singing on Chains. She has her own band Dios Mio that I go out and see live a lot. Stepping out of that punk bubble helped us create this record. We all love punk, hardcore, metal, noise, whatever music that’s loud and heavy but it doesn’t mean that will be the particular thing that drives you to pick up your instrument and write a song. I could be watching an episode of True Detective and suddenly find the inspiration to record some demos. We didn’t set out to write a heavy album, we set out to write an album that was a reflection of ourselves at this time in our lives. Our influences came from everywhere and nowhere.
BM: Before the album is released, Bonfire Season is going to be released on 7” as well as digitally, can you talk us through the other things on there- the remix and B sides?
Lags: We have our own record label called Venn Records and Jesus Fucking Christ is an artist on our roster. His new EP is amazing and sounds like Marilyn Manson and Bjork wrestling with Death Grips. I asked him to remix Bonfire Season for the vinyl release and luckily for us he said yes. Side B features two covers. The first is Denim Demon by Turbonegro. Over the years we’ve played a few festivals together and gotten to know them. Denim Demon is probably my favourite track of theirs so I demoed it and sent it out to the rest of the band. Everyone was down and now it’s on the EP. The second cover is Scare Me by dance act Major Lazer. This is probably the most off the wall cover we’ve ever done. During the festival season last summer we ended up catching the same flight as Diplo (the main producer behind Major Lazer) and had a brief chat at the airport after he remembered a remix I did for another band he produced. It later turned out we were even staying at the same hotel. Everyone in Gallows has quite eclectic tastes and for ages I had been suggesting we should cover the Major Lazer track Scare Me as it already had quite a punk rock vibe to it. Meeting Diplo turned out to be the sign we were looking for and so I sketched out some ideas to make it sound Gallows. With the vocals being all female it gave us a chance to collaborate with one of our favourite singers; Marcia Richards from the UK ska band The Skints did an AMAZING job and the cover is extremely unique. I’m sure some people aren’t gonna get it but as a stand alone track it’s one of the most unique things we’ve recorded.
Gallows’ new album Desolation Sounds will be out April 13th via Venn and Play It Again Sam Records, and the Bonfire Season 7″ single is available for pre-order now on their website. The band will also head out on the road for three dates with support from Baby Godzilla- tickets are available from Kililive or See Tickets (see dates below). As well as these dates, Gallows are taking on a recently announced slot at this year’s Slam Dunk Festival which will hit Leeds on May 23rd, Hertfordshire on May 24th and Wolverhampton on May 25th.
Tour Dates, May:
22nd- Cathouse, Glasgow
26th- Garage, London
27th- Sound Control, Manchester