Off the back of being announced on the massive Good Things Festival (their first time in Australia), and just before the release of their new album – Welcome to the Neighbourhood – we had a chat with Boston Manor:
The intro track ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’ is super bleak, and it almost instantly sets the scene for what this album is, and the world it creates. What sort of inspirations were you drawing on for this pseudo-fictional world that you’ve created for the album?
Well it sort of mirrors the real world and space that we currently occupy. When you say fictional world, I think it’s more meant to be us using our hometown [Blackpool] as a metaphor for what we’re trying to talk about. So we kind of exaggerated what this gloomy place actually is. I mean, it really is a dilapidated town with a lot of problems, but we thought it was the perfect example for our record.
We wrote the record in the town that we live, and we were calling things as we saw them. Even just things we saw on the street, tended to be indicative of wider issues happening elsewhere.
I really think you’ve done a great job, especially with the immersion you create with the lyrics. To me, I think Boston Manor has always been an emotionally charged band. I feel like we’re definitely seeing that again here with the new effort. What do you think sets this album apart from ‘Be Nothing’?
I mean, it’s a totally different beast. We didn’t initially set out to be like ‘oh we’re gonna do a total 180 on the sound, we’re gonna shift things’. But it’s been over three years since we wrote a record. The world has changed, we’ve changed and so have our tastes. You know, touring together for two years constantly, you’re talking and sharing ideas, so your tastes start to align in that time and you get to discover a lot of new stuff. Sonically, we knew we were coming from a totally different place. We wanted to explore the electronic sounds, and fill it with hip hop elements. We definitely talked about it [changing our sound], but we never had a defined blueprint.
What we do when we write a record is we write ten crap songs and then once we’ve dug through that layer of shit, then we can start getting to the good stuff. Once we’d written that first song we wanted for the record, the ball starts rolling from there.
In terms of you guys experimenting sonically, like you were saying, I’m really loving the electronic sounds, and especially the synth in some of the tracks. Were there any major challenges along the way?
100% man. Especially with the synth. This is all fairly new to us, so we didn’t have a big knowledge on it all. We’ve never really made music with it before. We were messing around with digital synths, listening to references like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, and we were like ‘We want something like that but not exactly that, but we don’t know how to get it.’ I think we got pretty close. As soon as we hit the studio though, with Mike Sapone, – I mean, he lives for that stuff, and I don’t think he usually gets to work with that kind of vibe. He was like a kid in a candy store. He rocked up on day one with massive analog synths, and all this weird shit and started going nuts with it. I mean, he taught us a lot and we know how to work with those sounds now.
You guys just released Bad Machine, which has a huge electronic presence. There was also a video that you directed and released, and it’s probably the angstiest thing I’ve seen in my life. What was the inspiration for everything that’s happening in that video?
Well, I had those visuals in mind when I was writing the song. I don’t know why, but we’re quite a visual band. We always had movies playing on mute when we were recording the record that we thought fit the vibe of what we were doing. There’s a lot that we drew from there that I wanted to get into. I directed the video, and we shot in Blackpool. I knew I wanted this film-noir, creepy video. It took us three nights, shooting until 5 AM but we managed to get it!
A few weeks back on Twitter, you said that the best tracks are still to come, so tell us what’s your favourite on the album?
I think my favourite track is ‘England Dreaming’. In my opinion, it’s a really sexy and cool song. It’s super groovy. We listen to a lot of Queens of the Stone Age, and it’s sort of injecting some of that vibe into our album. We played it a few times live over Warped Tour, and it’s sick because it’s just such a contrast to the rest of our set and everyone’s like ‘What is this?!’
Who do you think this album is going to resonate with the most?
Honestly dude, I can barely comment on that! When I see people reacting to the songs we’re putting out and what their take is, I’m always like ‘Really dude? I’d never looked at that song that way’.
Not that it’s incorrect, it’s just never what I expect someone to think of it. Once it’s out there, the album belongs to the people!
Yeah I totally get that! What do YOU personally want people to take away from it though?
To be honest, it’s just an angry, angry record. If people can channel their emotions and get some form of catharsis from it – DOPE.
What’s been your favourite thing about writing this angry album?
How much we threw caution to the wind! I talked before about those ten songs – but honestly we had about two albums worth of material written. We started to dip our toes in, but by the time we came to actually write what became the record. We were throwing the rulebook out there, and there was nothing off the table. I’m not saying we’re reinventing fucking sound, but we really pushed our own creative boundaries. Once we got to that point, it was really sick.
I think we’re seeing that a lot this year! I know you guys spent a lot of time with Trophy Eyes. They’ve talked a lot about writing the music they wanted to write.
Yeah exactly! They did the same, and it’s great! You really hear it on their record.
What more is Boston Manor ready to do? What’s next on the bucket list?
We’re really excited to play the biggest headline shows we’ve ever done. There’s a lot of new places we’re heading to in 2018 and 2019 that I’m excited for. I just wanna push this thing as far as it goes. We’ve already started writing new songs, and I’m just so buzzed to be doing what we’re doing. Every day is a blessing.
You’re all coming down to Australia for Good Things! What can we expect from your set?
A lot of energy! We’ve never been to Australia before, so we’re gonna be so excited to be there. We’re approaching our live show in a different way for this album. It’ll be intense but a lot of fun. We’ve been working on what the sets going to be over Warped, and we can’t wait to get over there and start playing man.
I’m just as excited! But what are you guys most excited for?
Seeing a bunch of old friends! Every band we get along with the most on tour are always the Australian ones. I don’t know why.
It’s because we’re the best.
Exactly! And to be honest mate, it’s all going to be a lot of tourist-y stuff since we’ve never been there before. And the food. All my mates keep talking about these specific cafes and restauraunts and I’m so excited.
We’ll flip it around – What are you nervous about? Like, do the drop bears scare you or anything?
*laughs* Everyone always tells me it’s nothing like that. But I’ll tell you what I am scared of – because I watched a documentary – stonefish. Have you heard of those things?
No I haven’t actually.
Oh dude, they’re fucking terrifying. They just look like rocks but if you step on them it’s apparently one of the most painful feelings in the world, to the point that people have wanted to saw their own legs off. It just sounds disgusting. I’m gonna stay out of the ocean. Spiders, snakes, I’m good. But why do these fish exist?!
Well shit, aside from that I know heaps of people are stoked to see you down in Australia. Is there anything you want to say to your legion of fans down here?
I didn’t even know you guys existed, but when Good Things was announced, we got a bunch of love. Thanks to everyone for listening to us, and we’re stoked to play for you. It’s gonna be great!
Last question – is there any chance you’ll ever bring back ‘All Tight’?
*chuckles* Nah! I think it’s time to lay all of those songs to rest! As much as people love them, it’s time to let go!
Interview – Kileab Li Jen