Interview with frontman, Chris Brooks on ‘Catacombs’ release day
It’s been three years since your last record was released. In that time, you toured relentlessly. Opening for massive bands that sought you out and stacking up headlining gigs of your own — further expanding your army of passionate followers. That energy was bottled up to the point where it becomes the only way you know. Then, its re-purposed and helps you get in touch with your deepest, darkest burning fires. They surface, and instead of stuffing them back down, you put them on a platter in lockstep with your bandmates — agreeing to creatively come together and serve them up to the world.
Welcome to Catacombs by Like a Storm.
The band’s third record was unveiled on June 22nd. The name Like a Storm always fascinated me. It’s a strong representation for a group that can come in many different downpours and gusts. Catacombs is no different as it further exemplifies exactly what Like a Storm stands for except this time, the band invites you to stand right next to them on a dock in the middle of tumultuous hurricane. They prove to you that there’s an irony, perhaps stronger than any blast heading your way. Lock hands, embrace the storm and on the other side is the exact opposite. Weather it, lend a hand, and through the power of music, a true connection awaits.
I recently had the chance to catch up with frontman, Chris Brooks. Winding down a day full of press from the bands campout in Las Vegas, Brooks in his most sincere tone, invites us right in to greet the devil inside, cracking open its pure evil, and relishing the satisfaction of achievement.
Your new album Catacombs is officially out today. With all the build-up and a big tour on the horizon, how are you feeling? What is this day like for you?
It’s surreal. We separated ourselves from everything else that was going on in order to dig deeper creatively. We almost tricked ourselves into thinking that no one else would even hear it. So, it’s incredible when the record comes out and people finally do get to hear it. You hear fan’s reactions to the album immediately — what songs people are identifying with. It’s an amazing moment.
The record is full of heavy and sometimes aggressive lyrics. How do you think it’s going to translate — letting that emotion out in a live setting?
Every song we put on this record, we put on there because we thought it would be great to play live. That was the main criteria in terms of narrowing down the songs and selecting those that would actually make it. One of the main goals with Catacombs was having songs that we’d want to play every night. Every single song could make a great opener or closer to a show. There’s a live energy captured. Coming off three years of touring on Awaken the Fire, that energy was brought into the studio. Putting down vocals for example; I wanted it to come across like a live show delivery. Performing live is so crucial in making heavy music what it is — that connection that the listeners feel with it to the connection the band has playing it.
It’s interesting because that’s the playing of the songs. When it comes to writing the lyrics, it’s the total opposite. You never think about what it’s going to be like live. When you write lyrics, if you want it to be honest, you can’t do that if you are thinking about other people judging or analyzing on it. You have the safety net of that music. You are then able to dive into your truest emotions. That part will be challenging for me live because I am a really private person. The energy of the music carries it through.
Given our platform, I noticed something interesting about the tracklisting. The record ends with a message of revenge / your day will come / you’re going to pay in “Pure Evil” and it starts with “The Devil Inside” which contains some very powerful lines such as, “I don’t believe all that I’ve done has been forgiven” and an emotional delivery of the phrase “between the eyes”. Does the record basically start at the end? Meaning, does the anger in “Pure Evil” lead to the aggressiveness of the start of the opening track?
One of the major themes to this record is to take a look at what you have inside yourself and identify what you are not proud of. What are things you want to confront? And what are things you want to not have to deal with? Ultimately, you have to face these things, or they will consume you. With “The Devil Inside”, I didn’t believe all the wrong I’ve done has been forgiven. Coming to peace with what you have done to yourself or those around you, that doesn’t just happen overnight because you decided it does. It takes addressing, work and moments to earn that forgiveness. When you have a song like “Pure Evil” it’s turns to not only looking in ourselves, but you see a lot of this in politics or religion, they criticize everyone else and tell them how to live their lives. It turns out these people are more evil than anyone else. They are exploiting everyone that believed in them. You shouldn’t follow someone just because they tell you to. Forgiveness is not automatic. You have to be true and honest with yourself and everyone around you.
You cover a lot of ground on those two songs. As a writer, is there any other emotion that you set out to capture on Catacombs?
For us it’s about digging deeper than what’s on the surface. As a touring band, you can get caught up in the here and now and the instant connection. As a society we are the same way. We are great at getting caught up in the moments of our daily lives and consuming things quickly, and then moving on to the next. We do that to distract ourselves from what’s really going on inside us. To me, that’s powerful. You are repressing, trying to forget certain emotions exist and then they start to build and consume you. On this album, it was very important for us to write about these dark things in an attempt to triumph over them.
There’s a big understanding component to that — when you recognize the way out is through.
Some people will say that this is such a dark record lyrically, but I think the darkest thing you can do is ignore these feelings. They are there whether you address them or not. The metaphor of catacombs — those skeletons are there hundreds of years after you put them there. They don’t disappear just because you try and burry them. It’s the idea that through acknowledging them you can find peace and move past it.
Going back to your roots, does the influence of New Zealand still seep into your music at all?
That’s a really good question. Certain experiences we grew up with. The didgeridoo for example, it’s an instrument that came from Australia, but it’s something that came from our childhood. My grandparents lived in Australia. We would go over there, I would hear it and it was captivating. One of the most powerful influences growing up in New Zealand had for us was that it helped us identify that we are all unique. Early on, we would have meetings with potential managers or labels and they would tell us to go listen to rock bands in the top five and to go sound like them and write about what they were writing about. It sounded so absurd. I literally grew up on an island on the opposite side of the world. How would I go sound like these artists that I have no connection to? It gave us the distance and freedom to push our own identity.
You have a big tour coming up with Godsmack and Shinedown. What are you most looking forward to?
That tour is going to be amazing. Just playing with two incredible bands and playing amphitheaters in the summer is always such a great time. Moving beyond that, we will then begin the headline route and will get to play a lot more stuff off the new album. We’ll get the opportunity to play all over the world in territories we’ve never been to before. There are so many exciting things around this album cycle and it all goes back to what I was saying earlier — writing the songs with that live energy. To get to see the songs played in that element will be a thrill.
The Like a Storm fanbase is a very passionate group of people. As they are unwrapping the new record, what is the takeaway you hope they experience?
We are incredibly grateful. We have the most amazing fans. We’ve toured with bands that are far bigger than us and sometimes our fans wait for us the longest to meet us as we get off the bus. The fans have been such a huge part of this journey for us. They’ve allowed us to push the integrity of our music and pushed us to be more honest with who we are as people and a band. I hope the fans can see that on Catacombs — we’ve gone even deeper and it’s OK to talk about these things inside yourself that you are not proud of. Realize that we all have them. There’s something really powerful about confronting them to find peace with yourself. That’s what I would like them to think lyrically. Musically, they’ve allowed us to do everything from bringing in a didgeridoo to playing a cover of “Gangsta’s Paradise”. Our fans have diverse tastes and have been willing to grow with us. It will be interesting to see how they digest the new music.
Coming full circle here, in a close your eyes moment, what does Catacombs mean to you on release day?
The fact that we survived through the process means a lot. It was pretty crazy, and we ended up doing this record ourselves. There were months where we were sleeping two or three hours a night. It was an insane amount of work to meet the vision we felt it needed to be. Artistically, if it doesn’t meet your vision, you are the one responsible. We definitely pushed ourselves. So, from that point of view, I’m very proud of staying true to the vision we wanted to have. Lyrically, the empowerment issue means a lot to us. We were able to be open and honest with ourselves and the fans. It sets us up to further enjoy the touring and appreciate the way it all came together because it was a great experience. It’s always amazing when you can find things to inspire you. It’s our third album in and we were more inspired than we ever have been. That’s something to be grateful for.
Catacombs by Like a Storm is out now.
Catch Like a Storm on tour starting July 12th.
For tickets and more information visit: LikeaStorm.com
*all photos by: Cristel Brouwer