Sonic Syndicate has been back in the studio after a period of silence. A couple of tough years for the band have led them to do some serious soul searching and embarking on a creative change in direction. The result is their new album Confessions, a daring and bold new start for the band. Photogroupie caught up with singer Nathan Biggs to find out more about the band's new evolution.
PHOTOGROUPIE (PG): THE BAND HAS BEEN AWAY FOR A WHILE, WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON?
NATHAN J BIGGS (NB): Anything you think a band can go through, we've been through; multiple member changes, change of record label, not being able to tour, all sorts. Anything you can throw at a band to attempt to cripple them, we've had our share of it!
PG: LUCKILY FOR THE BAND YOU GOT THROUGH THAT DARK TIME AND YOU HAVE RECORDED A NEW ALBUM, HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
NB: We decided that we needed to write something that was going to break new ground for us. After the line-up changes and everything that happened, Robin (Sjunnesson) and I questioned if this was too many blows for us. We thought about if for about five seconds and decided that we are just the best friends in the world and when he sits down with his guitar and I start coming up with melodies, not creating music together was never going to be an option. When we picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves off, we realised that right now we have the chance to do something we can be remembered by. We're so proud of everything that Sonic have done in the past, but we weren't a band that was going be torn apart. We were in danger of falling into the fold of being a clone of the heydey of melodic death metal and metalcore. In Flames and Killswitch Engage, they were the bands that were making the mark and the way that the band (Sonic) were going, we were always going to be in the shadow of that. I love the genre so much and I appreciate everything we've contributed to it and we're always going to have that attitude and energy, but we wanted to see what we could do as songwriters ourselves. That's exactly what we did with this album.
PG: HOW HARD WAS IT TO SHED THE OLD SOUND?
NB: We physically did it. We had written a whole album of songs, we booked the studio and we had a more 'metal' producer, we were all ready to go. Then we stopped in our tracks and through: 'Are we going to go down in history for this album?' 'No.' 'Is it going to be enough to allow us to do more with the next album?' 'No.' We thought long and hard, then we thought, 'fuck it' and threw it in the trash. We cancelled the studio and the producer and started writing again. We were walking a path where we knew what was around the corner, we'd done it before so it was comfortable and easy. Now we explore other types of music and sounds that we enjoy, from the lyrics to the song structures.
PG: THERE'S STILL A BIT A FLAVOUR FROM THE OLD SOUND THERE ON TRACKS LIKE 'LIKE IT ROUGH' WHICH HAVE A HEAVIER BASS LINE AND STYLE.
NB: Maybe...I'm completely transparent with everything that I enjoy listening to, Danko Jones, Nickleback, Alice Cooper; we love these dirty rock and roll riffs, so I think that's where that comes from. When you come from being a metalcore rock band, there's always going to be that energy there.
PG: DID YOU EVER THINK IT WAS A BIT OF A RISKY MOVE? YOU'D GAIN WIDER APPEAL BY BROADENING YOUR SOUND, BUT YOU COULD POTENTIALLY RISK LOSING CORE FANS BY A DRAMATIC CHANGE IN SOUND.
NB: Not really, our true fans and people that have been following the band love us for who we are, we know they are into diverse music. That's certainly the case in my era of the band since 2009. We know that they don't just listen to one genre of metal. We've made it clear for a while that we wanted to evolve and add poppier elements, more electronic stuff and add more rock and roll attitude into the music since 'We Rule The Night.' We keep in good contact with the fans and they know that we are moving and pushing ourselves. Of course, there are going to be those core fans from the early Nuclear Blast days, when Sonic supported In Flames on tour, this isn't going to make a lot of them happy. I'm sure if they listen harder they'll realise this is just good songwriting. This album might not appeal to them, but then they have the older albums and all the other bands that are similar. We're not writing for the fans, once you start doing that, you stop being passionate about your music so much. How many bands are out there that just keep making the same album, walking the same path, making the same album with the slight changes. They might get away with it for two or three albums, but that album is never going to be their defining point unless they wake things up.
PG: ABSOLUTELY, PLAYING SAFE CAN BE EVEN WORSE FOR A BAND, THEY BECOME COMPLACENT.
NB: Taking risks can be destructive for a band too, but I'd rather die trying to push the envelope and stand behind music I believe in, than playing it safe. I can honestly say that even if not a single person buys this album, I've enjoyed making this album more than any other we've done.
PG: YOU'RE GOING TO START REHEARSALS FOR YOUR TOUR WITH AMARANTH, AND YOUR SCHUDUAL IS PRETTY BUSY FOR NEXT YEAR. DO YOU GET ANY DOWN TIME?
NB: No, not really. Michel (Bärzén), Robin and me, when we're not rehearsing we like hanging out together and we have a passion for horror movies. It sounds stupid, but our favourite thing to do when we are being proper slobs is to order pizza and watch cheesy horror movies. We each have our own favourite, mine is Leatherface from Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Robin likes Freddy Kruger the most. We all have our favourites.
PG: IT'S BEEN A ROCK ROAD FOR THE BAND OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT FROM THE EXPERIENCE?
NB: It's been trial by fire. So may different paths, but I'm eternally grateful for it, even though it did sometimes feel like a kick in the nuts.
PG: 'BURN TO LIVE AGAIN' HAS A VERY CLEAR MESSAGE OF A NEW BEGINNING, IT'S LIKE A SYMBOL OF THE BAND'S NEW EVOLUTION, WAS IT MEANT TO BE THAT WAY?
NB: Absolutely, I don't hide anything away in the lyrics, I try to be as plain as possible. Whatever other people interpret is great, but I wear my heart on my sleeve. The lyrics are about how nothing can prepare you for what is coming next, and for you to get there it's gonna fucking hurt, but you have to do it and embrace it, it's going to happen either way. The message behind most of the album is love life and have fun while you're doing it.
PG: THEY DO SAY IT'S THE THINGS YOU DON'T DO THAT YOU REGRET, BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE NOT BRAVE ENOUGH TO JUST GO FOR WHAT THEY WANT.
NB: That's the definition of the first single 'Start A War'. You can become a passenger in life, you're not necessarily unhappy but you just roll along, you don't have a passion, you're not burning anymore. If you want to embrace life a different way you have to start a war, externally or internally if you want to see a change. Only you can make that change, nobody else is going to do it for you.
PG: ROCK MUSIC IS PRETTY BIG IN SWEDEN AND HAS A DIFFERENT STYLE TO THE UK AND US, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
NB: A good friend of mine, Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquility summed it up the best, he said he thinks Swedes sound the way they do because it's so dark in the winter and nobody goes outside, so the only thing to do is pick up a guitar and write songs. I don't know, my opinion is that it's very different from Europe, but it's still very accessible. A lot of things end up in the UK or America like electronic music or 80s rock because the Swedes keeping playing with the music, it's malleable, it's like its own entity.
PG: WHO/ WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCE?
NB: Music wise it's a hard question to ask. If you'd asked me eight years ago I'd have said Pantera. If you ask me now, I don't know. Life is influencing me. I enjoy so many different movements of music, rock, metal, house, pop. I love playing music and being a part of it, whatever gives me a feeling I try and put that into the music. If I want to be really soppy about it, one of my biggest influences is Robin, our guitarist. He's got such positive energy and he's so creative when it comes to all instruments. He has a great passion for music. When the two of us create together it's a dream come true, I love writing with him so it's great to watch him work.
PG: YOU'RE SO PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO, WOULD YOU EVER CONSIDER DOING SOMETHING LIKE PRODUCING?
NB: Yeah, I think so. I've got a lot of passion for film and music video too, I like expressing myself in different ways.
PG: WHAT WAS THE FIRST RECORD YOU BOUGHT?
NB: Limp Bizkit's Significant Other. The other one was Sheryl Crow, that was one of the first cassettes I bought. I loved her first albums, they felt really rocky and grungy like she was an indie artist. Now she's gone all country. It's a nuts genre, it's so big!
PG: THE OPENING TRACK FROM THE NEW ALBUM IS ALSO CALLED 'CONFESSIONS.' DO YOU HAVE ANY CONFESSIONS TO SHARE WITH US?
NB: We actually talked about this in a mini-documentary we ran on our YouTube channel. We wanted to offer a side to us that the fans can see and find out more about what has shaped us as people. It's five episodes long and we each take control of an episode and talk about what the album means to us and any personal confessions we have had to deal with in our life. I'm not particularly proud of my youth, I used to party too hard and didn't care who I hurt in the process. You figure out that's not a good way to live, if you've ever hurt anybody in your life I think nobody has the right to do that. Every since then I'm all about looking after myself, people I care about and being a good role model for people I meet. Robin talks about how he was without a family for a short time while his mother was dealing with alcoholism. It's a different side of the band you don't really see. You can fake so much on social media, with what you see and what's real. Fans want to be able to connect with you, so why not show the real you. Gone are the days where there's this band onstage with a stiff upper lip who wear sunglasses and don't look at the audience and just play their music on a pedestal. In this day and age look at how much we are sharing music, people see other people making music think that 'oh, they are just like me. They are following their heart, making music not just being rock gods.' Once people wanted their rock starts to be a superhero and be some escapism. Now people have that escapism, they can listen to whatever they want, find information, go wherever they want in the world, so they don't need that. What they want is somebody they can relate to and somebody they can even talk to. It's more personal now.