Interview: Conjurer

We cherish the moment, every moment in fact. There’s not a moment where we stand upon a stage and we don’t enjoy it and we don’t feel fortunate to be there. So yeah, we feel really, really lucky.

At  the recent Damnation Festival Conjurer played a blinding set in front of a packed out Eyesore Merch Stage. Afterwards Sander van den Driesche caught up with bassist Andy Price to chat about all things Conjurer, their upcoming album, spiders and of course, biscuits.

(((o))): Hello Andy, how did you experience your Damnation set?

Andy: We had a really good time, personally I really enjoyed it and we had a really, really good crowd. To be honest, it was much better than I thought it was going to be! We were clashing with our wonderful label mates Svalbard, and I genuinely thought we would be playing to an empty room because Svalbard are just amazing live, and I assumed everyone would be watching them. But the place was packed; I understand that they had to shut the doors at one point, which is a bit crazy! The crowd were great as well; we got a little cheer when we walked on-stage, which made me smile and ruined my ‘angry metal guy’ visage, haha!

(((o))): A full room must be the best compliment when you play at a festival with clashes on multiple stages?

Andy: Definitely, it’s a huge compliment, especially when the clash is with a band from the same label and that plays in roughly the same genre. Even more so when the clash is with a band that I personally adore. To be honest when we saw the clashfinder we were all a bit disheartened, I think we got one of the worse clashes – alongside Infernal Sea going up against Cult of Luna – but trying to schedule a festival like Damnation must be an absolute nightmare, so we were really just glad that we were asked to play!

(((o))): But even though Svalbard has been around longer than you guys have been, I do think you guys have the momentum right now. You guys seem to be everywhere lately, playing everywhere possible!

Andy: Yes, we’ve been really fortunate in that we seem to have been able to play a lot of shows, which is fantastic; it’s really helped us refine our live show. I don’t know about momentum though, I suppose it’s difficult to judge from within a band, but we have had a busy stream of gigs and great support from press, including Echoes and Dust, almost from day one, which we’re really thankful for. It helps that our guitarist Brady is a relentless promoter for the band; he has worked hard since we started to build relationships and to pick up shows. The guys who manage us now, Tone Management, work really hard as well, and that translates to lots of shows, which is fantastic. We’ve been really lucky and have had lots of support so far.

(((o))): You released your 4-track EP, or mini album recently (read our review here). Are you working on a new album at all?

Andy: Yeah definitely. We are in the process of finishing off an album’s worth of material. We’re about 90% on the way there with the writing. So we’ve got seven songs finished now.

(((o))): So this one will be a full-length release then?

Andy: Oh yes, definitely. We’re finishing up the writing for an eight track album and then we’ll go and record. We’ll do some demo work first so we can see how the songs sit together and make sure everything works, and then we’ll record in April next year. We’ll be working with the lovely Lewis Johns again. He did the second half of the work on the EP. He has produced records with Svalbard, Employed to Serve, Rolo Tomassi…. lots of great bands, really. And us.

(((o))): So is he a bit of a Holy Roar in house person?

Andy: Kind of, but not really. I think it’s more a case of his good work propagates more, and because all the Holy Roar bands listen to each other’s music, it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we said we were going with him, Holy Roar was like ‘another one?’ But we really like Lewis; he really understood what we wanted to do with the first EP, he got it to sound the way we wanted it to sound, which was a bit of a challenge. He works really well with us and his style of communication is really good, which is really important. He’s got a lovely studio; it’s a beautiful place out in the countryside. It’s going to be a really good couple of weeks.

(((o))): So you’re looking at a mid-2017 release then?

Andy: Possibly. I think it’s more likely we will push it a bit later. This year we released the EP in July and it did well, but it’s picked up more momentum now that the weather has been getting colder. I think we make cold music; music for the autumn. I think it’s more likely we’re pushing for a September release, but that’s somewhat in the hands of our label overlords. I’m hoping we’ll be going for a vinyl release for the album, as such we’re a little bit constrained by how quickly the vinyl can be pressed as well, I think that’s an issue that affects a lot of labels since the boom in vinyl began.

(((o))): The band has only been around for less than 2 years?

Andy: Actually less than two years. Our first show was February 1st, 2015, and I joined the band about two weeks before that. 

(((o))): How did that happen?

Andy: Brady (Deeprose, guitars and vocals) and Dan (Nightingale, guitars and vocals) got together to start jamming some stuff in the middle of 2014. Brady was looking for a new project and so was Dan, they got together after Brady posted about wanting to do something on Facebook. They did some bedroom jamming and writing, and then recruited Jan (Krause, drums) who they knew from other projects. They got into a practice space and refined some songs, and they just had a bass slot free. They auditioned a couple of people, and I got the nod partly because I already knew Dan through one of my other projects, and because Brady saw one of my other bands when we played at a show he was promoting; I think my stage presence won him over. We got into a room and it just worked, we got on really well and the sound worked. I learned the songs and then we started playing shows and we’ve pretty much been able to just keep playing, which is great. That first show was nerve-wracking though; I had printed tabs by the side of the stage and as soon as I got up there I realised that I didn’t know the songs as well as I needed to. It was the equivalent of your mind going blank as you sit down for an exam!

(((o))): It’s quite remarkable to see what you have managed to get done in such a short amount of time. 

Andy: Yes it’s been absolutely ridiculous, we’re very proud and humbled by the reaction we’ve had so far.

(((o))): Is it because of your work ethic? 

Andy: Partly, yes. Our first year was very much a time where if someone was offering us a show and we could physically do it, then we would absolutely play that gig. There was no instance where we would say no if it was physically possible. It’s been hard, some long days and nights, especially where we’ve had to work as well as play shows, but we love the live experience and it’s always been worth it, no matter how tired I’ve been the next day. We just wanted to get out and we wanted to play, and that hasn’t changed. We’ve also been really, really lucky; we’ve been in the right place at the right time, and we’ve had great support from some fantastic promoters, some fantastic writers and some lovely people that turn out to shows. The stars have aligned, I guess!  As a result of all of these elements we have managed to get on some really good bills, supporting some really great bands. So yeah, we’ve been really, really lucky, but we’ve also worked hard. We’ve been lucky, we work hard, we have got songs that seem to connect with people and we put a lot of ourselves into every performance. 

(((o))): But you are aware there are lots of other bands around that haven’t been this lucky?

Andy: Of course – I’ve been in plenty of those over the years, so I very much understand that struggle! We cherish the moment, every moment in fact. There’s not a moment where we stand upon a stage and we don’t enjoy it and we don’t feel fortunate to be there. So yeah, we feel really, really lucky.

(((o))): I really love seeing Conjurer live, you guys are so tidy and really put on a show. Especially you Andy, I feel like most people end up watching you. Because you’re everywhere on stage, whereas the rest of the guys are not moving as much, probably because they’re both singing as well, so they don’t have that freedom.

Andy: Haha – thank you! I think you’re right; it’s tough for Brady and Dan to get too animated, although they do still give it as much as they can and I love looking around onstage and seeing them go during a riffy part with no vocals, Dan especially. He’s exactly the same in the practice room! Jan as well, when he’s really in the moment he’s a complete whirlwind of movement, which really drives me on. My philosophy has always been that if you come off stage and you’re not drenched in sweat and you don’t hurt somewhere, or you’re not bleeding from somewhere, then you’ve not given enough. It’s a two-way street, you’re giving the crowd something and the crowd is giving you something back. And if you don’t give, then the crowd won’t give back. It has to be reciprocal. So that’s what I do; that’s the only thing I know how to do. I couldn’t be in a jazz band; I don’t think I could just stand there and play, although it would probably make me a better bass player!

(((o))): How do you decide when a show you’ve played has been a good show?

Andy: It’s a feeling. Usually in my back actually, it tends to be painful after a good one! I don’t really remember things from shows, I think it’s the adrenaline, but things tend to come to me in snapshots, so I rely on how I feel. There’s a warm feeling when you know you have delivered on what you promised. That’s kind of separate to the crowd reaction; I know when I’ve done the thing I set out to do. I’ve played the songs, gear hasn’t malfunctioned and my performance has been what I wanted it to be. The crowd reaction is usually the icing on the cake, when someone comes up to say something it’s lovely. I suffer a little with stage-fright so as much as I engage with the crowd I kind of focus on my playing and performance more. I also don’t wear my glasses on stage and can’t see much of them anyway! We do have the occasional show where we walk off stage and say ‘that wasn’t right’, or where things went wrong. There’s always a risk when you play live the way we do and the harshest critic is always going to be the person on the stage. For example Jan came off stage today saying ‘that was awful’. He had a hard time behind the drums, he broke some sticks, he had some kit issues and he was struggling a little bit, not that the rest of us really noticed, his performance was reliably excellent. You feel it when you come off stage. I’ve had times when come off stage where I’d throw my bass on the floor in frustration and just had to walk away to have a couple of minutes to myself while everybody is reassuring me I’m being too hard on myself. Personally it’s usually gear issues that annoy me; when a piece of kit fails and it means I have to focus on something other than pure performance. The irony is that our shows are so physical that gear breaks more frequently. Maybe I should reconsider that jazz band idea…

(((o))): You’ll always be your worst critic though… 

Andy: Absolutely. That’s the way it should be. If you’re not your own worst critic, then you shouldn’t be doing this anymore, because you’ve lost perspective. That said though, Dan and Jan can be pretty tough critics too – haha!

(((o))): I know you have a busy day job as well and very often you drive home after a gig on tour to work the next day and then go out to the next gig again. Do you think you’d ever be able to make a living being a musician?

Andy: I would love to, but I don’t think the market is there, unless you’re already on the path to a megastar. The industry just isn’t configured that way anymore, and really hasn’t been since the 90’s; the money isn’t really at the artist level, at least not in this genre. Don’t get me wrong, I suspect Beyoncé isn’t flipping burgers to make petrol money to get to her next show, but every band I know work full time jobs as well as making music. I’m lucky in that I have a career I love and I also get to play music I love. I’m very aware that both of these things are rare, so I’m working hard to make sure I balance both while I still have the opportunity. At the moment my life feels like a really big jigsaw puzzle, and playing in a band is a big piece in my personal jigsaw, it’s a big part of my ‘self’ and it informs my life and lots of my choices. But it’s like everything else; it’s all about finding a balance and working hard to maintain it. I do wonder how long I’ll be able to have my cake and eat it, but I think I’m managing it reasonably well at the moment. There’s a symbiosis between the two aspects as well. When I think of the shows I’ve done in the last year, I get up on stage and all my frustration gets vented, and some of that angst realistically comes from my day job. So if I didn’t have that, would the shows work? It’s almost like a yin and yang thing. If I didn’t have A, would I still have B? Or more to the point, would I still enjoy B as much?

(((o))): What about the logistics of being in Conjurer? You don’t live in the same city as the rest of the band, right?

Andy: No, but we live more or less in the same space. Brady lives in a place called Daventry, Jan and Dan live in a place called Rugby, I live about 25 miles away in a place called Coventry. So close enough to be workable.

(((o))): So do you guys meet in between somewhere for rehearsals?

Andy: Actually because my job is so pressured, I work quite long hours. So we tend to practice in Coventry, because it’s easier for them to come to me than it is for me to come to them. 

(((o))): Are you also involved in writing the music at all?

Andy: Yes, but it’s mostly driven by Dan and Jan. Dan comes up with ideas, and the same goes for Jan, who’s an amazing drummer, but also a ridiculous musician in almost every other way. He used to play keyboards in a band called Esoteric. So you put the two of them together, Dan as an amazing guitarist, musician and amazing writer and Jan providing a lot of the backbone and structure to the music. Then Brady and I put in ideas and thoughts. We usually get to a point where we’re 60 or 70% comfortable and then we go to the practice room, play it live and all add tweaks in and stuff like that. So it is quite a collaborative effort, but it normally starts with Jan or Dan. The bass lines are obviously the areas where I have the greatest input. Dan writes a lot of bass lines along with the tabs for the guitar and then I change things to suit my style, as he has a very distinctive style, which is quite different from mine. Dan is an incredible bass player, which is quite humbling actually – I’m the second best bass player in Conjurer!

(((o))): Because you’re part of our Echoes and Dust team as well, I do have to ask you our cheesy question, which is if you were an animal, what animal would you be?

Andy: Oh crap. That’s a really good question actually. Possibly some kind of spider I think. I hate spiders, but there’s two bits of me. There’s the bit of me who’s on stage who appears very angry, and I think people see that and shy away a little bit, in the same way that nobody really rushes to pet a spider. And then there’s the bit where I tend to think and plan a lot. I’m a focused person and I tend to go away and think about stuff before going forward with it and that’s kind of analogous to what spiders do. They plan, place their web in the right place and sit and wait for the fly. 

(((o))): Not a poisonous spider then?

Andy: Hahaha! No, no, no, the kind of spider who sits in the house and cleans up flies and bugs and stuff like that. I’m a good guy spider. Please don’t hit me with a rolled up newspaper.

(((o))): And if you were a biscuit?

Andy: A McVities Dark Chocolate Digestive that’s been kept in the refrigerator. That’s very specific, I love those biscuits. I’m a biscuit fan. True story, I got married last year and had to lose weight. I lost about two and a half stone through various methods, but the hardest part was giving up McVities Dark Chocolate Digestives that have been stored in the fridge. Honestly, they’re my equivalent to Crack Cocaine.

(((o))): Anything you’d like to add?

Andy: Read Echoes and Dust because it’s great. And preferably read the reviews that I do, because they’re also great, hahaha!

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