A Career In The Making – Northlane Reflect On Personal Upcoming Mirror’s Edge EP

At first glance, someone naive might have assumed that Northlane were simply resting on their laurels with the upcoming release of their upcoming EP Mirror’s Edge, following 2022’s Obsidian, their second Australian chart-topping album. It is a short record, with cameos from Aussie metal greats, sure to capture attention. That would be until they press play. Who could possibly consider their busy and multifaceted progressive metalcore, of sounding like a band slowing down?

Northlane

Northlane (Kane Hibberd)
Northlane (Kane Hibberd)

Many personal hardships and disagreements were fought through to deliver what Northlane may consider their most definitive, hence its reflective title. They set out to explain to everyone what the moments were, and who the influences were (such as guest vocalists Winston McCall from Parkway Drive, and Ian Kenny from Karnivool), that made them what they are today. And with many more tour dates just announced across UK, Europe and the US, it is clear that they are working at a rate harder than ever.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Marcus Bridge, Northlane’s versatile vocalist since joining the band in 2015, to discuss their future plans, the creation process of their new EP, and just how much it represents on their timeline.

While I can imagine Obsidian at least partially being a product of wanting to get out after the pandemic, was there a different mindset when creating the EP now that everything was back in motion?

There definitely felt like there was a lot more freedom, and that there was a weight off of us. I guess after the Obsidian sessions, yeah, that was quite a slog, and was quite tough to get through because of the circumstances that we were in – it was a very un-inspirational time. For us, we were excited to get back into it and start fresh, and start with an EP, because I guess we wanted to not have as much pressure on a whole album having a certain theme or certain sound.

We could maybe explore some things we’ve done in the past but maybe go back and dive deeper into it. Explore new sounds but not have it all rely on that. I think for us it was still a little bit rocky getting into the process, feeling maybe like we could just be just open and into that again, but once we did it was definitely felt like a lot less pressure.

On the subject of rocky starts, you have said that the writing process began with a “writer’s retreat”. Can you tell me a bit more about what that was?

I guess that leading into recording Mirror’s Edge and heading over to the US, I think that there was a bit of unspoken tension between a few of us, particularly between me and Jon [Deiley] our guitarist and main writer. I feel like during the Obsidian sessions there was a bit of tension and I felt like maybe I wasn’t able to speak my voice completely or fully, and I felt like I was constantly kind of compromise to what he was thought was best. I’m always trying to do what is best for the song as well, and I think that there was always this kind of hierarchy thing. I just thought at that point “I kind of need to address this”. For me that was pretty terrifying to do as well, because Jon also works so hard and I understand that, but that also to be in a band and for everyone to be happy, and want to keep creating together, everyone has to compromise just a little bit. Myself included.

In the end though, it was a really fruitful thing. We were able to just be open and talk about this stuff, and in the end, Jon and I were able to get on top of this stuff. He was really open to hearing me out, and understanding where I was coming from. Honestly, the whole writing process completely changed from there. It felt like we were able to, not only just bounce things off each other, and take the lead at certain times. It was just something I think we’ve had in the past, that’s maybe gotten lost. But yeah, by the time we had done this retreat, it was like we are all back onboard, we’re all brothers again, and we all need to just be open and communicate with each other.

Northlane

Northlane (Kane Hibberd)
Northlane (Kane Hibberd)

I can understand there being some kind of divide if one person writes music, and another person applies the final theme and concept.

Yeah, absolutely. I was always trying to put as much into these songs as I could, and it felt like the suggestions and ideas that were given back to me weren’t at all reflective of what I was doing. It was just like “this is what I’ve had in my mind the whole time, and I don’t really wanna work with this”. But Jon and I have come a long way since all of that and I think it’s just a lot more enjoyable, and I think that as time moves on, we’re gonna be able to create stuff that’s even better than ever, so I’m excited.

On the subject of songs changing, Mirror’s Edge lead single Dante was apparently written originally as a “pure dance track”, but was reworked into the more furious guitar-heavy monster that it is now. How did it go from one to the other?

Dante was one of the first tracks that Jon presented to us, and it was a song that had been floating around towards the end of the Obsidian sessions, or just after Obsidian. Jon worked on a lot of electronic music and stuff himself. He actually collaborated with another musician on this song originally with another vocalist – an artist named Arrowbird. She’s an Australian independent songwriter and artist, and she’s awesome. I’ve known her for a long time as well. We were originally trying to work around it and see if maybe we could work with her version of this song, but in the end we knew that there was something else there.

At the time of getting deep into writing, a close friend of ours passed away, and this song and the vibe, the chord progression and the feeling that we got from it… it immediately screamed out that we needed to write a song about our friend and the situation. As soon as that started coming together it felt really, really right. But yeah, it definitely started as something that was more 90’s or early 2000’s dance track. It didn’t have guitars in it. It was a bit more synth heavy. Then Jon transformed the instrumental and then we wrote the vocals for it and it turned into ‘Dante’.

The fact that it can make such a transformation does make me wonder whether there is such a thing as a ‘Northlane sound’ anymore.

Yeah, I guess so! Jon is sort of at the core of it, and I’m singing on it in the end, so I feel like it’s going to sound like Northlane. Unless it’s pop-punk or something, it’s always gonna sound like Northlane. I guess for us, it’s something we don’t really think about too much. We obviously have our influences, and the sounds that we like to lean on, but I guess we’re never thinking about what’s the style we should be trying to do right now. So, it’s always gonna feel like Northlane, because we’re always doing our own thing.

On the subject of influences, we have to talk about who else makes an appearance, and how these songs came to be. Straight off the bat there is Winston McCall from Parkway Drive on Miasma. How did that happen? You still must be pinching yourself.

Absolutely! We’ve been lucky enough to tour with Parkway a couple of times now, and for most Australian heavy bands, they are a crucial, cornerstone band for so many of us. Even if that is just for he fact that they made heavy Australian bands tour overseas possible. There wasn’t much of that happening before they started doing it. For me as well, they are a band that, from when I first started to get into slightly heavier heavy music, not just Linkin Park and stuff, that was one of the first bands that I was like “oh my goodness, this is insane”. And finding out that they were a Byron Bay band was just insane. And another cornerstone moment for me was when I joined Northlane, the first tour I did was with Parkway Drive.

Wow! That’s quite a way to start!

Yeah, and I feel that I learnt so much from watching Winston, and he was also so kind, obviously knowing it was quite a lot of pressure doing something like that straight off the bat. For all of us, Parkway are kind of a band we look up to in so many ways. Even speaking about the tension we had within Northlane, we saw Parkway’s mini-documentary talking about their tension, and the best thing they ever did about it was open up about it and talk about it, so maybe we should try and do the same thing. They are always a band that we look to to inspire us, or know what the right way of doing things is, so to have Winston on this song is honestly a dream come true, and a roundabout moment of just saying “wow, we’ve just got the most important heavy Australian music vocalist on our track”. And he was also so cool. He came down from Byron, flew down to Melbourne to record in Jon’s little studio room. He was there for like, four or five hours making sure that everything was right. He’s just the coolest.

Ian Kenny from Karnivool also makes an appearance on Afterimage

Once again, Karnivool is one of those bands who were crucial in our growth. When I first came into the band, Northlane had just toured with Karnivool, and could not stop talking about how important it was to see that band, and how important it was for them to have toured with them, and seen how they write songs, and even how they present themselves onstage. I feel like there is so much to learn by listening to Karnivool, but then also seeing them play live… one of those reasons is Ian’s amazing voice and melodies. All of these songs are still so heavy, but they don’t need to have the screaming. It’s all about the emotion and feeling behind it. It was really awesome to have him on the song.

It was one of those emails that you send, and you’re like “oh, he’s gonna say no. There’s no way he’s gonna be down for this” but he was really excited to jump on board. I think he was away doing some stuff with his other band, Birds of Tokyo, and that he was telling us he in a hotel room just demoing it out, making sure it was good before he went home and tracked it. It’s also awesome to work with these two vocalists who are so hardworking and wanting to make sure that it’s perfect. They’re not just trying to phone it in just to make a bit of extra cash for a vocal spot. That’s also a big reason we wanted them. We wanted to make sure that they were the right people, and the right moments on these songs, and that they were not just gonna drop in for a second, and their name’s on the track, and you don’t get to hear them properly. It was really important to us that these guest vocal spots were integrated into the song and not just sprinkled in towards the end.

Northlane

Northlane (Kane Hibberd)
Northlane (Kane Hibberd)

Also Brendon Padjasek (former Northland bassist and backing vocalist, who appeared on 2019 album Alien) returned for an appearance on Kraft. How did he become involved in the project?

When we got to the US to record with (producer) Will Putney, the drummer from Brendon’s other band Structures, Andrew (McEnaney), he was driving us to the studio with our gear, and he also came along to take some photos while we were there. And while we were there, he was messaging Brendon. Actually, we were all messaging Brendon as well, and he was like “is it alright if I came down for a few days?”. He just wanted to come down and hang out. Then, as the song Kraft was coming together… honestly, even before the song came together I was thinking in my head this rappy section feels like an Alien-type song. Maybe we can approach this in a similar way to Details Matter, and have that back-and-forth rappy thing. And the stars aligned, and he was going to be in the studio, so let’s ask him if he wants to jump on a track for old time’s sake, and he was keen. It’s kinda interesting – these three vocalists are all really important to Northlane and their growth. Even just having Brendon during the Alien period, I think that was a big growth period for us. And having all three of these vocalists on it is really special to us.

Are you approaching the EP as a fully fledged cycle? It seems like there is a new tradition to release material in a “stream of consciousness” sort of way, sometimes even refusing to call something an “album” or “EP”. Just a “release”.

I think that with this we did approach this wanting a bit more freedom, like I said earlier, to do things as they come, and feel like we don’t have to smash out ten songs in a month, and be able to spend a good amount of time writing some songs and spending some time. Maybe like… three weeks on maybe five or six songs, and really making sure that they are all perfect. I mean, for us that was a really exciting process, so moving down the line, I don’t know if we will do more EPs, if we’ll end up doing album again. I feel like another EP is on the cards, but who’s to say, I guess?

It is also clearly there is a change in how music is being digested and how people are processing it. It’s obviously going a lot quicker. The period of time that music is sticking around is going a lot quicker. I think that doing EPs means we then have more time to then focusing on new music. If anything, we’re hoping that if that is the path we take that we are releasing just as much music as we were before, but more incrementally, if that makes sense. I think the quality of the tracks will be better if we’re able to spend more time on just specific tracks, not stuck in a time period either. They’re in the now. So, yeah. I guess we’ll see what happens as we go on, and it’s been an exciting sort of experiment so far as well.

You have lots of US tour dates coming up…

We sure do, and I think if I am not mistaken that we have literally just announced a UK/Europe tour. As this interview started. There’s your scoop! We coming in September and October this year.

You don’t stop!

The last time we were here was with Sleep Token, but it’s been a really long time since we’ve done a headline tour. I think probably before the pandemic, so for us, we wanted to make sure were giving UK and Europe the big proper show again, and not just forty minutes. So, it’s exciting! We can’t wait to come back.

As last time that you were here in the UK was when you toured with Sleep Token last year, I have to ask, what is it like touring with a band who hide their identities?

Well, it’s funny, because I guess behind the scenes everyone is respectful and isn’t trying to reveal anything, but in the end they are pretty open and they kind of blend in anyway because no one knows what they look like, so they can just wander around and people will have no idea. For us, they were just chill as. They were regular folk who work really hard. Obviously, during that tour, they had everything explode, pretty much as that was happening, and they turned into the biggest band in the world at that point. Considering all that, they’ve been able to navigate that, and make the music come first which I think is really exciting. I feel like, obviously people are still concerned about who is behind the masks, but in the end, the music is doing the talking, and that is pretty awesome.

Northlane return to the UK in September as part of a wider European tour.

SEPTEMBER
16th – Manchester, O2 Ritz
17th – Glasgow, SWG3
20th – Norwich, Epic Studios
21st – London, Electric Ballroom
22nd – Bristol, SWX

Northlane

Northlane (Kane Hibberd)
Northlane (Kane Hibberd)

Interview with Marcus Bridge of Northlane by Nick Pollard. Photos by Kane Hibberd.

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