Interview : By Robert Cavuoto
Austin Dickinson of As Lion on new CD, Selfish Age – We Are Creating the Music We Always Wanted To!
As Lions came together in 2015 when singer Austin Dickinson wanted to create the best hard rock band he could. From the ashes of his former band, Rise to Remain, he along with Conor O’Keefe [guitarist and keyboardist], Will Homer [guitarist], Stefan Whiting [bassist] and Dave Fee [drummer] formed As Lions. The London-based five-piece released an EP Aftermath in October 2016 and then their debut album, Selfish Age earlier in 2017. The effort provided 11 dynamic tracks with grinding riffs, majestically sweeping strings, stately piano and a hefty dose of atmospheric electronics, all with Austin’s soaring vocals and introspective lyrics.
I caught up with Austin to talk about the band’s formation and the magic they created for their debut release; Selfish Age.
Robert Cavuoto: I found the songs on Selfish Age to be very cohesive with great melody – there’s no filler on it.
Austin Dickinson: Thank you. We’re just happy it’s released and out touring to support it. It’s been an amazing journey.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me a little about the band’s origins and how As Lions was formed from the ashes of Rise to Remain?
Austin Dickinson: Rise to Remain ran its course with the members. The guitarist, Ben Tovy, was an integral part of the band and for reasons unknown, left everything. We felt going into another album cycle without most of the members would be like cheating the fans. It wouldn’t be the Rise to Remain album that they deserve or sound like us as a band. Turns out we were sick of doing metal core and I was tired of screaming. I wanted to write songs with nuances and dynamics not a formula style of music; to have more instrumentation. As Lion is an opportunity for all of us to create the music that we always wanted to create.
Robert Cavuoto: I’m intrigued by the name of the band. How did you come up with As Lions and what is the meaning behind it?
Austin Dickinson: (Laughing) I think we all like the idea of having Lion in the name with its English imagery. It’s also fun and big sounding. We liked it because sonically we want to be expansive. We choose “As Lions” because it wasn’t genera specific, as weird as that might sound. If we went with “The Lions” it would sound like a terrible 50s knockoff and something like “Death Lion” would sound like a death metal band. As Lions can be metal, electronic, or rock.
Robert Cavuoto: What I enjoyed about the CD were the lyrics. They are quite deep, where do you pull your inspiration from when writing songs?
Austin Dickinson: I like to write about the relevant issue and be objectively thematic. For me, it’s a process of stripping away things to soak up what was there in order to get to the theme. It’s been a constant writing process especially for me. Almost half the CD was created in my front room with Conner, Will and I working on chord structures then bouncing around melodies. We started writing a lot more on piano too. It’s so much better to write like that. It gives more contrast against the vocals. It’s also easier to write to as you can nail the melody. You can also come up with richer and more interesting chord progressions. For us, we play guitar so much and often it gets limiting. With piano, you can do leads and chords. When you get the vocals and piano down you can start to feel the hair on your arm to stand up. At that point, you start building the song with guitars, bass, and drums. Everything comes into the song to give it life.
Robert Cavuoto: My favorite song on the CD is “Pieces” can you tell me some insight behind its creation?
Austin Dickinson: “Pieces” changed quite a lot as it was more somber. We wrote the song the day after the Bataclan shooting in Paris. We had just arrived in America from Ireland; it was one of those moments when we were at a loss for words. Our friends Nick Alexander was killed while doing merch for Eagles of Death Metal. It was one of those things that hit home on a personal level with it’s the cultural proximity and people coming to watch a rock band. It was unexpected and we wanted to write something because the ever-churning wheel of the media tells you a story and then wants you to forget when another story comes along. I think this song is a statement not to forget what happened in Paris, to be there for each other. We are a community and need to celebrate each other. To not let hate win and never forget what happen. That’s pretty much what the song was about.
Robert Cavuoto: As an artist and performer do you ever worry about a similar situation happening to you?
Austin Dickinson: We had a couple of scary moments but not as bad as in Paris. One time in New York there was some gang activity outside the venue. It was nerve-wracking and we wanted to make sure everyone on the floor was safe. It’s terrifying when it happens.
Robert Cavuoto: It’s no surprise to most that your father is Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, what was the best piece of advice he gave you in order to navigate the music industry?
Austin Dickinson: Give them hell and don’t fuck up! [laughing]
Robert Cavuoto: What have you learned from his live performances as he is the premier frontman of our time?
Austin Dickinson: Two songs and get some water. Also, have an ample amount of water to song ratio [laughing]
Robert Cavuoto: What is the most important thing you’ve learned from your time with Rise to Remain into As Lions?
Austin Dickinson: What I learned was to do what you want and believe in it. The moment I learned that was the moment I started working harder. I was capable of a lot more. Not that I was wracked with doubt, but there was always the concern – “was this the forever thing?” I love what I do but it can be unstable. I have to trust it and I trust the guys. That is why I’m talking to you from New Orleans on a brutally hot day. I have no idea how we got this lucky to be doing this.