We decided that in this modern era of music it is no longer viable for us to spend so much money to go to studios and make records with engineers and producers. So we decided that we had to learn to record our albums ourselves.
Lionize are most known in the UK and Europe as the main tour support for Clutch as they’ve been over on tour with them a couple of times now. Steve Fallows caught up with keyboard player Chris Brooks to find out more about Lionize, their tour experiences and recording your own music.
(((o))): A lot of people have recently got to know about the band through your association with Clutch (tours and split singles), could you tell us a bit more about the band?
Chris: We’ve been active since 2004. Since then we’ve released 5 full length albums and 3 EPs. we spent the better part of the first ten years touring all over North America as a headliner and as support for a wide variety of bands including Clutch, Steel Pulse, CKY, Streetlight Manifesto and many many more. Since 2014 we have been spending more of our time on tour here in EU and the UK. When we’re off tour we spend 5 days a week writing, recording and rehearsing.
(((o))): How important has that relationship been, spending so much time with a band with so much experience? What have you learnt from them?
Chris: We have learned everything from those guys over the years. We are extremely humbled that they continually want to take us out and expose us to their fans. Clutch are the most professional touring outfit in the game. We learned from them all the work and business stuff. How to be a well oiled machine. But maybe even more importantly we’ve learned to really enjoy and never take for granted that we get to make music and go out and share it all over the world.
(((o))): You also worked with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Did your music crossover well into that crowd? And what did you learn from that experience?
Chris: We have been surprised and delighted to find that there are few crowds that wholly reject what we’re doing onstage. The Lee Perry crowd was always receptive to the Lionize set, even when we got a little heavy for their collective taste. We were also Lee’s backing band on that tour. So we would play two shows every night, which for us is the greatest joy. Touring is tough, but getting to jam in front of people every night always makes it worth it, so to play over 2 hours of music a night for us was totally ideal.
(((o))): You have been over to Europe a couple of times now. What, if any, are the differences in touring over here?
Chris: In Europe we are just starting out. So for one thing there are a lot of places that we get to go to for the first time, which is a particularly addictive aspect of touring. So lots more tourist stuff here. The crowds also seem to be more immediately receptive to what we’re doing. Otherwise there aren’t too many huge differences. In America we tour in a 12 passenger Ford van with a trailer, and over here we have a sprinter with our gear stuffed into the back compartment. And since we rent from an English company the driver sits on the right!!
(((o))): You recently built your own studio and undertook what sounded like a huge project to work on a number of tracks and EPs leading up to your next album. How has that evolved?
Chris: Yes, we decided that in this modern era of music it is no longer viable for us to spend so much money to go to studios and make records with engineers and producers. So we decided that we had to learn to record our albums ourselves. The first EP: Alpha, was a little scary and very difficult to commit at the end to it being finished, but I think every song and every release are getting better and better. Maybe one day we’ll look back on those two EPs and decide they sound totally amateur, but it’s important to start somewhere and at the end of the day the songwriting and arrangements speak for themselves.
(((o))): I heard you recorded a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘America’ for a candidate in the recent US election. How did that come about?
Chris: We were asked to work up a version for an ad firm we occasionally do work with. It didn’t end up being used, but we were proud of the way it came out, so we went ahead and put it out for streaming. Needless to say it was not for a candidate we did not support.
(((o))): I read in an interview that you don’t write songs that have any emotional ties or meaning behind them. Was it a difficult choice to get involved in a political campaign when you stay away from that kind of territory normally?
Chris: I’m not exactly sure where that comes from. Our songs certainly have emotional ties and meaning. We choose often to veil meanings in sci fi metaphors. We try not to be too on the nose because we don’t find that sort of thing terribly poetic. Many many Lionize songs dabble in politics and world issues, in fact I would say the majority do. The more recent EPs are more about music and touring and ourselves being in a band. But given the current political climate in our country you better believe Lionize will have a lot to say on our next record. But you might have to do a little thinking to catch our meaning, we’re poets, not preachers.
(((o))): You seem to be a band that are constantly push themselves to grow with each release. What type of things would you like to see the band doing in the next 5 years?
Chris: Our goals are always straight forward. Write and record great new music. Get it in the ears of as many people as possible and tour our asses off. There can’t be one person who knows our music that doesn’t get the opportunity to see us live.
(((o))): Plans for 2017?
Chris: There will be an album for sure. We are currently playing new material on tour and we can’t wait to get back and incorporate some of the feedback we’re getting from live audiences into the recordings. We’re planning on hitting festivals this summer and coming over to the EU as much as we can.