Slam Dunk was a huge blur of sun, beer, food and A LOT of bands, but we found a little time to catch up with Mark, bass player of Manchester outfit Milestones to chat about the festival, their new video and future touring plans!
BM: Hey! Is this your first time playing Slam Dunk?
Mark: Yeah, this is our first time playing. We’ve been a couple of times just watching but this is our first slot!
BM: So are you expecting the best reaction from today at Slam Dunk North because you guys are from the North then?
Mark: I think typically Leeds is the biggest and the staple date for Slam Dunk anyway, so today should be really cool. We’ve got a good slot on the RockSound stage, it’s going to be really fun. But even in Hatfield and Birmingham, we get very overwhelmed by seeing so many people come to watch us. We try and go in with a very open spectrum, so we have no idea what to expect. We’re happy with anything when we turn up to things like this. Especially as there’s so many incredible bands playing this weekend as well.
BM: Yeah exactly! Is there anyone else you’re hoping to catch over the weekend?
Mark: There’s so many! Definitely going to have to see Counterparts all three days, that’s just a rule. The Faim, Stand Atlanic, I want to see Holding Absence as well, they’re incredible. Chapel, then hopefully Good Charlotte, I’m going to have to arent I!
BM: Least you’ve got the whole weekend with the same line-up so if you miss someone one day, you’ve still got other sets you can catch them at.
Mark: Well yeah, because we’re clashing with State Champs today, but I’ll get a chance to see them tomorrow.
BM: So your album came out in February, Red Lights. How’ve you been finding the reception for that?
Mark: Really good. I guess you never know what to expect coming into these things, especially as we’re a new band. But the reception was great, and kids are really connecting with it. That’s nice to see, it’s ncie to know that we’re a band that can help people!
BM: And you realeased a video yesterday as well for Once Upon A Time?
Mark: Yeah that came out yesterday morning!
BM: Were you getting feedback on that throughout the day yesterday then?
Mark: Yeah! Again, a lot of kids are picking up on the subliminal stuff that we never thought they would. Like some of the things behind the video, so many people got it straight away. It’s so sick to know they’ve actually watched it and taken in what we’re saying.
BM: That’s art in general really though isnt it, you present something to someone and different people make of it and take from it what they want
Mark: Yeah, a lot of kids picked up on things straight away, which is cool, especially with it going hand in hand with what the song is about as well.
BM: What’s the idea behind the video then? I know it looks like a live video in parts but that’s not all there is to it, is it?
Mark: It’s essentially that our vocalist Matt, for the most part f his life, has suffered horrendous stage fright. He’d have panic attacks before he goes on stage and stuff, to the point where you could put him in a room with ten people and give him something to read, he would straight up crumble. I don’t know why, that’s just the way he is. So Once Upon A Time was written about him, and the fear in his head. It’s about the playing in front of thousands, or reading in front of ten; he clearly has a battle inside to get through that too. I know it still bothers him now and then where we’re just about to walk on stage and he’s like ‘oh this is it…’. But he’s done incredibly well to get over the way he feels, so its about him addressing his own fears.
BM: And you worked with a producer in Sheffield for the album didn’t you, Phil Gornell? What was the proccess like for you, developing the album and such?
Mark: I really enjoyed the process actually. Don’t get me wrong, it was very stressful. We had 30 days to do the record, and then we were going on tour and that was it. We were going on tour for like six months as well so we had no time to go back and re-visit it. It was like, if you don’t get it done now, you’re screwed. And that was it. But, we lived in Phil’s studio; a house and studio in Sheffield. We were up until 4am tracking everyday, then we’d go to bed at 5 and wake up and 7 or something stupid like that. We’d be tracking for like 15 hours a day. Essentially what came out of it though is something we’re all incredibly proud of, and we wouldn’t change the way it happened for the world. We were very lucky to be buried away in our own little world. Where it is in Sheffield isnt really near anywhere, so when we were in the studio, we were fully immersed in this world of just making things happen.
BM: Sheffield is such a great city as well. There’s a lot of bands that have come out of there; Artic Monkeys, Bring Me The Horizon etc
Mark: Yeah and Sheffield has always been good to us as well, we’ve always had good shows everytime we’ve played there. We got to spend a lot of extended time there to get to know the city as well. I love it there, I think it’s a great city, it’s got a very nice vibe about it!
BM: Did your writing process change between the album and the EP or do you tend to find you do things the same way?
Mark: I think we try not to follow a pattern as such. It’s more, when it feels right we know it’s right. But the album was a nightmare; it took us two years to write and even when we got to recording it, we were still like ‘I don’t know about this/ don’t know about that’. Obviously we try and always be as confident as we can in everything we do, but sometimes we’ll write a song and never have to revisit it, and then other times we’ll write one and have to re-visit it like twelve times. Against The World on the record, we re-visited it twice and it was done. But then Once Upon A Time got changed about fourteen/fifteen times. It’s when a song feels right that we know its okay, but even then the odds are something will be changed whilst we’re recording it.
BM: Did much change from the writing process to when you took it to Phil in the studio?
Mark: We messed about a lot with it, and Phil’s an absolute genius. He’s very pop-orientated in his head as well, so he’d be like ‘yeah, I like that melody but it could be poppier’, so there’d be little things he’d want to change, and we’d always trust his judgement enough to do that. Quite a bit did change, songs got scrapped and some new songs got written. We had about 60 demos going in and we had to get that down to eleven, which is a very difficult thing to do. But we got there!
BM: I know you guys compare yourself to more old-school pop-punk rather than how he genre is today, but is there anything else aside from music that you draw inspiration from?
Mark: It depends… If we’re talking lyrically then definitely because [vocalist] Matt is a very deep thinker, we’re all about having meaning in life and having a purpose. In our song Against The World, it’s about being believers and us believing in what we’re doing, and striving to achieve and do better every time we do something. That’s what drives the band, the feeling of having a purpose in what we’re doing.
BM: And you’ve toured with people such as Simple Plan and Mayday Parade in the past; did you learn a lot from these bands?
Mark: It was really good, we had a chance to learn so much from both bands! Simple Plan and Mayday Parade are just encyclopedias for music, they’re genius’. It’s just advice that you usually would never really think of unil the time. They’d see you doing things and just say ‘oh maybe you try it this way’, and we learned so much that we’d never be able to replace. They really taught us a lot about the etiquette of touring. Both bands were really good to us, and lovely to be around all the time.
BM: Was it the kinds of things you can only pick up from touring, that you can’t really learn until you do it?
Mark: Yeah I guess to a degree. It’s just every day life stuff you don’t think about. One thing I noticed about Mayday Parade is that they wouldn’t go mental every night when they were going out; they’d have a couple of drinks and that’d be them. We’re not really a party band, but we do have our moments on tour where we’ll just get really bad, and then everyone ends up unwell for the rest of the tour, and everyone’s in a bad mood and hating it. So when we saw them going easy, we’d go easy and then the one night of tour we did go out, we’d make sure we had a day off afterwards. That’s just stuff you get through experience and years of touring. Even stuff like eating healthy; especially in America. If you watch what you’re eating you’ll fell great, and full of energy all day. That’s all you can ask really!
BM: So you have some more dates announced for your own shows at the end of this month, do you have any more festivals planned?
Mark: We’re playing Fat Lip in Bristol in July, and I think we’re got one or two more to announce. One in the coming weeks I believe. We’re doing a few day festivals in the UK… I just wait and see where we’re at with stuff like that! We just want to tour as much as possible. We hope to do Europe again, soon as because we have a lot of kids that travel from Europe to see us and we need to be going over to see them now. It’s been like the last four or five UK shows they’ve come out to see us. I think it’s time we went over to Europe to give them a show now.
You can see the video for Once Upon A Time below!