Sunday 4 March 2012

Dead & Divine // Interview & Live Review

It’s Friday night and Est.1987 are heading down to one of our favourite venues- Sheffield Corporation for the “Evil Tiger Vulture Tour”. Yep, Norma Jean are back on the road and have brought some great bands along for the ride; The Chariot, Admirals Arms and lastly Dead and Divine, who we hung out with to chat all things… music, Dr. Zeus and paying comic book bills!

Having recently finished a UK support slot with Heart In Hand, Dead and Divine [D&D], the Burlington “post-hardcore” five-piece are back on UK shores enjoying the warmer climate. To me and you, it is freezing outside, but to these guys, used to temperatures well into the minuses, “This is nothing!” laughs lead singer Matt Tobin. And they are certainly warming things up here in the Corporation tonight.

Lead singer Matt Tobin ventures into the crowd
D&D’s live show certainly sets the venue in motion and gets the crowd suitably riled, ready to continue well into the evening. “Asphyxia Fiend” from the band’s new, and some may say heaviest album to date; “Antimacy”, opens proceedings. I think it was less “Let’s try and make a heavy record” and more “let’s make a record and not care and do what we want”, Matt opens up to us. He continues, “The longer we’re together we focus on trying to write stuff that we’re happy with and not always going “hopefully our existing fans like it”.” And their integrity has firmly paid off if the crowd reaction is anything to go by. Concentrating mainly on songs from the newest release, the fans and newer followers are won over and truly believe in what D&D have to offer.

Back in 2003 D&D were forged and it has been work, work, work, from day one! “What Really Happened At Lover's Lane”, the band’s first release, saw them enter the Canadian Billboard Top 200 and it has been upwards from then on. But the band stay firmly grounded, as guitarist Chris LeMasters admits; “success for me is just if I can continue to play music for as long as I want to.” The band love being out on the road touring and put this passion and determination into their performance this evening. After chants of “tequila, tequila, tequila” from both on and off stage, Matt bounds up and down; high energy, high impact as he breaks into “You're so damn good at making it hurt so bad”,  the opening lines of album title track “Antimacy”. Harder opening vocals are blended with smoother, melodic undertones as the song reaches the chorus; the crowd against the barrier singing back line for line.
Guitarist Chris LeMasters
Chatting to Matt post-show he opens up to us about the importance he places on lyricism within D&D’s music. His band mates joke that his influences derive from “Dr Zeus and Robert Munsch”; but on a serious note Matt says, “I take a lot of pride in the lyrics, for sure, because I feel like a lot of people don’t anymore and throw what they want over heavy music.” And in terms of how he developed as a lyricist and who influenced him;

I wouldn’t say so much poets, just a lot of music that I grew up listening to, and that I still listen to, I just consider poets in the way that they wrote their lyrics. Like, if you were to read the songs by themselves, the words, there was more to it than just text book, standard, radio crap lyrics. They had a lot of integrity and meaning behind them and that’s always been my approach.

Antimacy, the latest record
Chris even calls him a “lyrical miracle”! D&D have always done their own thing. Kellan Lindsay [bass] jokes that now “everyone wants to be a DJ”, but D&D have worked extremely hard and are one of the handful of great bands to emerge from the dying Toronto scene. Tonight at the Corporation they take things back a few years or so, showcasing a couple of older songs, “Chemical Valley” and the powerful “Like Wolves”. D&D are tight, assertive and unwavering; you never know what is going to happen next. Throughout the set Matt teases the crowd, clambering on the barrier and then leaps back on stage; he in unrelenting and captivating. More than just heavy beats and enslaving lyrics, D&D are a band that aren’t afraid of hard work, both in their live show and behind the scenes.

Dead and Divine on stage in Sheffield
In the beginning D&D took the DIY approach, booking their own tours, handling their own merch and this has made them resilient, well informed on the nature of the industry and stands their longevity in good stead. However, Matt discloses that “It can be a double edged sword sometimes because we’re so used to doing everything ourselves it’s hard for us to let people in.” But, the band have learnt “to let other people handle things”, admitting “We find we can have a better head on our shoulders knowing that we started doing everything ourselves.” From the beginning of D&D Matt used his artistic skills to design the band’s merchandise and has continued to do so even now, and also been commissioned to do the same for other bands; “that’s what I do when I’m home to pay the bills” he laughs, “all those bills that I have; my phone bill, cigarette bill, comic book bill…”

Other bands should take a leaf out of D&D’s book and their strong work ethic which backs up their talent. Nine years on from when they first started, do they think it’s harder to break into the industry now? “No, I do not! It’s way too f*****g easy”, announces Chris. He goes on;

Matt Tobin on stage
I think kids focus a lot less on actual talent. There’s a lot of bands right now that are super successful that can’t play live and I think that says a lot. That would never have flew ten years ago, or even five years ago. You see the music industry progressively killing music, which is kind of ridiculous. Kids are kind of desensitised; they’re used to every band sounding the same. You get picked up by a label and go on tour with whoever, and you’re playing to a thousand kids. And, those thousand kids think you’re awesome but you were never awesome; you never worked, you never practised. Maybe that’s me being bitter and slowly getting old, but I feel that it’s a real thing.

Matt agrees that the work ethic of newer bands has gone; “we played shows for two years for free, like three times a week, just to do it. It makes me stoked that we did it. It may come off as bitter but it’s just the truth.” Chris tells stories of playing for “absolutely nothing- eating out of cans and sleeping in parking lots, for like three years.” He goes on; “bands don’t do that anymore! They get thrown on a tour doing a thousand capacity rooms, on a bus- done. That’s why you see those bands fail because they never appreciate all the bad; as soon as things get a little hairy, they’re out.”

Matt in the crowd

Ending the set here tonight with “It Sleeps In Bliss” D&D prove that they’re a band who have never ‘sold out’ to the industry, aren’t scared to go with their hearts and essentially will never be one of those bands that will bail as soon as the road gets a little bumpy. As Matt launches himself over the barrier, mic stand and all, he ends the set from within the crowd drumming up a circle pit in the process. The audience respectfully pat him on the back as their set closes, D&D have done their job here tonight!