Frank Carter shows off his latest tattoo,
commemorating Grey Britian the new record. Frank
is actually a tattoo artist in his reasl life "day job."
Behind Carter and to the right is Daddy Gallows
himself, Laurent "Lags" Barnard.
Gallows: The UK's Unstoppable Punk Upstarts Hold Court in the Mosh and Preside
Scott Wood talks with "Daddy Gallows" himself, Laurent Barnard, and he reveals when not to listen to the great Kate Bush.
Everyone in Vancouver is very sad this year! It appears that our city will not be getting a Warped Tour date, so I thought I would run an interview I did with UK punk upstarts Gallows when they were here for last year’s Warped. [Note: It absolutely kills me that I couldn’t air this talk. We did the interview in an open field and the recording was ruined by wind.]
Gallows are certainly something rare and special in today’s scene. These days, Warped and teen-oriented music channels are overflowing with tons of so-called punk bands—bands, full of guys covered with tattoos, angry glares and piercings. Some of these bands have great stage presence, but most don’t do a lot to add to the legacy of punk.
Now don’t’ get me wrong. I am not one of those insane guys who can only listen to punk bands from before 1980, but punk in particular has an important tradition of being loud angry and visceral, yes, but also to talk about class inequality and injustices. Gallows have no problem channelling the anger and fury and drawing on their brassknuckle backgrounds to relate social and economic disparities—on two albums so far, Orchestra of Wolves (their 2006 debut indie release) and Grey Britain (their 2009 major label debut).I think Frank's made a lot of enemies on this tour just because he calls out a lot of bands that don't really deserve to be on Warped Tour, do you know what I mean? Warped Tour is a punk rock tour to be honest and there's not many punk rock bands, apart from Bad Religion, NOFX and ourselves.
Having two great albums is an amazing accomplishment for any young band; however the Gallows live show is really where the magic happens. Gallows lead Frank Carter looks like the missing twin in a set of firehaired triplets of Chucky, the murderous horror movie doll, and Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman’s evil twin. Case in point: when I saw them at Warped, Frank decided he did not like performing on the stage that much, so he jumped into the crowd. Then while belting out songs in the middle of a melee, Carter began to direct the crowd; first telling them to circle him like a mad school of piranha, then getting the crowd to assume other shapes so everyone could see him. Majestic.
Carter was a bit of a troublemaker on that Warped, calling out other bands he felt “sucked.” And it was hard not to fault the guy when you compare his performance—conducting a swarming of teenagers while raging his songs—with an act like 3Oh!3, who basically amount to a pretty-boy rock-rap group singing about the whiny chicks they’ve boned. Gallows feel—rightfully—that they are one of the few bands representing punk on a traditionally punk tour.
There was a hold crowd of press there to meet the band. When I arrived, a line had already formed. Soon the record label rep lead a parade of us behind past the security fence in the unknown world of the backstage to find the band. There was a strange and sudden tone shift. Warped, the concert, blared in the distance, yet the backstage area was quiet, like a campground. We walked in between the tour vans and past the cantina where all bands line up for grub in a movie set-type situation. All the bands can gather and commiserate. It was there Gallows would eat and presumably disrespect those other fluffy bands.
We were lead out to a football field (or soccer if you prefer) far behind Thunderbird Stadium. Music from Warped blared in the background, but the peacefulness of the field overpowered it. There, the members of Gallows were playing a match.
The label rep pulled a few members of Gallows from the game to do press. I got Laurent “Lags” Bernard—who I will later call “the diplomatic one.” Juggernaut leader Frank Carter continued to play the game around us as everyone started their interviews.
Scott Wood: Punk music comes from a long tradition of anger and repression, so I was hoping you could talk about a time in your life where music helped you get through?
Gallows stay determined the bleakness of Grey Britain.
Laurent “Lags” Bernard [laughs at my “serious” opening question]: I think like every time I break up with a girl, music helps. It sounds really cheesy and we’re not one of those bands that writes songs about breaking up or anything, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Like Kate Bush or something.
Scott Wood [with a bit of WTF in his voice]: Kate Bush?!?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: Yeah. There’s this song she did. I think it’s called “A Woman’s Work.” [The song is titled “This Woman’s Work.”] It’s probably got nothing to do with relationships, but it’s a really really sad song and I was just sinking into a hole listening to it over and over again. Avoid it if you are breaking up with a chick.
Scott Wood [can’t believe that]: Yeah? I was reading that you guys were listening to Sigur Ros and Mogwai [both post rock instrumental bands] while making your current record, Grey Britain. I don’t think any of your fans would expect that!
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: Yeah. They’re some of our favourite bands. We’ve got a lot of instrumental parts on the new record, so it might kind of show a bit there, but we listen to everything really. We’re quite an eclectic group of boys that way.
Scott Wood: Absolutely. I was reading a quote from Frank saying that he liked to make enemies while on Warped Tour. How do you feel about that? [Note: It is fucking hilarious asking this question as Frank boots a football past us.]
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: Uhm—I think Frank’s made a lot of enemies on this tour just because he calls out a lot of bands that don’t really deserve to be on Warped Tour, do you know what I mean? Warped Tour is a punk rock tour to be honest and there’s not many punk rock bands, apart from Bad Religion, NOFX and ourselves. There’s a lot of crunk bands and weird bands, but at the same time Warped Tour is trying to be broadening its audience, getting more kids over and make it a bit different so there’s two sides to every argument.It's funny. We've actually said it to their faces sometimes that we think their band sucks. I dunno everyone just takes it in good spirits. It's what Gallows are all about; we're just about venting anger and being outspoken, so people understand - that's what were all about.
Scott Wood: Yeah. How does that work backstage when everybody’s at the meal tent?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: It’s fine. A lot of the bands, they kind of realize that they’re not punk rock really anyway. It’s funny. We’ve actually said it to their faces sometimes that we think their band sucks. I dunno everyone just takes it in good spirits. It’s what Gallows are all about; we’re just about venting anger and being outspoken, so people understand—that’s’ what were all about.
Scott Wood: Ok. I was reading that Frank found love on the last Warped Tour. How is this tour going for the rest of the band?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: Uhm—It’s funny you should say that. I think Stu and Lee have both picked up girlfriends on this tour. I’m still single so—
Scott Wood: How does one get a girlfriend on Warped Tour? Can you get some tips from them?
Laurent "Lags" Bernard: I dunno. This tour is mostly dudes, so I think they got in there really early basically.
Scott Wood: Ah, ok. Makes sense. Your major label debut, Grey Britain, a lot of it is about the darker side of the UK. Is it one of those records about exposing your reality out of love or do you genuinely want to be in a different place?
Laurent "Lags" Bernard: I quite like living in London. But at the same time, I think Vancouver is an awesome city. I love Austin in Texas and New York; so, yeah, I would consider moving somewhere else. We did a lot of touring and saw a lot of the world. Coming back home, we saw all the things wrong about Great Britain. There are a lot of problems happening at the moment, so our album just expresses all of our concerns about the situation back home.
Scott Wood: I was reading that for this album you guys all contributed to the song making process. True?
What would you do if these guys told you your band sucked?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: Frank wrote all of the lyrics. For this album, we all contributed to the songwriting, do you know what I mean? The first record I pretty much wrote myself. I wrote most of the songs on this album too, but it was more like a collected effort.
Scott Wood: How did that change about how you write songs?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: It’s weird, cuz in your head you think you’re right and everything’s got to be done your way, but there’s a lot of butting heads to kinda get things right, but at the end of the day, everyone’s after the same result to make an album we can all be proud of. It just works; you’ve just got to work it out.
Scott Wood: Great. Can you take a track on the current record and give an example?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: Well there’s an acoustic song, “The Vulture (Acts I and II)”. I hate acoustic songs on a record, do you know what I mean? When you’ve got a rock album and there’s that one acoustic song—that really pissed me off. It took awhile for me to accept there would be an acoustic on the record, but I think it works overall, so there you go. You can be wrong sometimes.
Scott Wood: Can you compare and contrast the US and UK punk scenes?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: I think the UK punk scene just wants to be the US punk scene. All the bands from the UK put on Southern California accents, do you know what I mean? It’s weird. I think that’s what makes Gallows stand out a bit, because Frank sings in his own voice as opposed to putting on an accent. So yeah, the UK punk scene is just a wannabee US punk scene.
Scott Wood: Why on earth would bands in the UK want to imitate US bands?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: I think bands in the UK see American bands come over, get huge and just wanna be like that. Whereas Gallows are “just stick to what you believe in and it should work out for you.”
Scott Wood: What does being a punk band on a major label mean to you?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: It just means you know we can do it for a living basically—that’s the most important thing. If we were still on an indie label, we would still be working jobs. We probably wouldn’t be on Warped Tour cuz we wouldn’t be able to afford to do it. So that’s the important thing for me: a major label just lets us do Gallows fulltime. We don’t have to balance it with other work which is what we used to have to do when we started the band.
Scott Wood: NME [the UK’s most notorious music magazine] loves to report on how much Frank threatens to quit the band. Can you go through the last time this happened?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: It was probably on this tour. [We both chuckle, since Frank is kicking the ball around right by us.] Sometimes things just get really really intense and especially the way we perform and the way we feel about our music. There’s so much emotion involved and things tend to boil over sometimes, but you just need to take a time out to chill for a bit and realize what you’ve got and that you’re not gonna get it again basically.
Scott Wood: Who in the band gets the job of talking him down?
Laurent “Lags” Bernard: I dunno, it’s probably me, but—uhm—sometimes I feel like “Daddy Gallows,” so there you go.
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