Interview : Robert Cavuoto
The New Zealand metal group, Like A Storm, will be releasing their newest CD, Catacombs on June 22nd via Red Music. It’s the follow-up to their 2015 release, Awaken the Fire, and it’s the CD fans have been waiting for. The band consists of three brothers who have a unique approach and work ethic when it comes to songwriting; they are dedicated to delivering the highest quantity musicianship possible.
Chris Brooks [lead vocals, guitar, didgeridoo, keys/programming], Matt Brooks [vocals, lead guitar, keys/programming], Kent Brooks [bass, vocals, keys/programming], and Zach Wood [drums] while on tour in Europe were so influenced by the Parisian Catacombs they decided to use that experience as a muse to develop songs. Their distinctive brand of hard driving metal is evident on Catacombs and provides listeners with an introspective look at the band and the world they live in.
I caught up with Chris Brooks to chat about their writing approach for Catacombs!
Robert Cavuoto: I didn’t think that you could outdo your 2015 release Awaken the Fire, but you certainly did with Catacombs.
Chris Brooks: Thanks, we took our time with this one. We wanted to develop ourselves further as a band, and we are really stoked with the way it came out.
Robert Cavuoto: How did you approach the writing for Catacombs and how did it differ from Awaken the Fire?
Chris Brooks: That’s a really good question. In many ways, we the approached it the same. With Awaken the Fire we did the first half of that album for ourselves and our fans; just so we could go out tour rather than wait on the big machine of the record industry. When we made that record, we weren’t thinking that there would be hits on it. We just wanted to get our music out there. Along the way, we got picked up by quite a few radio stations, and it was in the top 40 songs. Then a lot of labels started coming to us. From there we were able to turn it into a full album. We were able to continue that control and make an album on our own terms. We toured for Awaken the Fire all over Europe, the States, New Zealand, and Australia. It was really important for this album that we continue with that same vision of making music for ourselves and our fans.
Robert Cavuoto: How many songs did you write for Catacombs? I interviewed Matt in 2015 and said that you wrote over 50 for Awaken the Fire?
Chris Brooks: We wrote something like 100; songs that range from riffs to lyrical ideas to full songs. The three of us wrote every night then got together to share them. We took the best 40 that we were passionate about and broke it down to the top 20. At the end of the process, it hard was hard to cut it down to the eleven along with a few B-sides. I think we topped ourselves. It got so into the recording process, involved in the writing, and connected to our vision. There was a point during the making of this album that we thought it should be a double record. [laughing]
Robert Cavuoto: When you are coming up with that many ideas is there a need to go back to unused demos from Awaken the Fire?
Chris Brooks: There were a few ideas on this record that may have started from Awaken the Fire. “Pure Evil” is an example of that. It was such an intense and progressive song we took it out of Awaken the Fire because we were catching up on recording other songs while we’re touring. We never had the time to delve into those initial ideas. There were a few other songs like “Pure Evil” that came from the Awaken the Fire era.
Robert Cavuoto: Speaking of “Pure Evil” you incorporated the didgeridoo into it. That is something you typically don’t hear on metal albums; I equate that to Bon Scott playing bagpipes on “Its Long Way to the Top.”
Chris Brooks: I started playing the didgeridoo because I loved the sound of the instrument. I think it is one of the most unique sounding instruments that I have ever heard. It has a hypnotic vibe to it. I started playing it for myself and then started to incorporate it into the live shows. The fans responded well to it. When we were making this album, we got caught up in the heaviness of it and realized we haven’t added any didgeridoo to it [laughing]. We were amazed at how it sounded when we listened back to it. It’s a vibe that no one has ever done it before. It wasn’t us being ingenious it happened organically.
Robert Cavuoto: I think you guys own that aspect as I don’t recall any heavy metal artists using a didgeridoo.
Chris Brooks: The didgeridoo is known here in the States more as a hippie instrument. We didn’t come at it from that paradigm. We lived in Australia, and our grandfather lived there so when we’re there, we heard a lot of it growing up. We didn’t have any preconceived ideas where it would go or how it would work. It was just something cool we wanted to try.
Robert Cavuoto: When Matt and I spoke in 2015 the band had just started playing together before moving to North America. How has the band evolved and gelled musically since then?
Chris Brooks: One of the major differences for us is that we have a new drummer. We knew him for quite some time before he joined and the three of us as brothers are really close and have a great chemistry. It’s a blessing and a curse because sometimes it can be hard finding that fourth guy that you get on as well as with your brothers. It was big turning point getting Zach in the band. He is a great drummer and great guy; we consider him one of our brothers. That has helped make the band closer personality-wise and musically. We did a ton of touring all over the world, and it brings you closer as musicians. Seeing the people react to our music is also inspiring.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the impact the Parisian Catacombs had on the band in making this CD?
Chris Brooks: Catacombs ended up being a journey inward. We got this incredible tour offer to go to Europe with Alter Bridge and Volbeat as we had just planned on working on the new album. There was no way that we would turn that offer down. We also promised ourselves that if we did the tour, we would write every minute that we could. We took a rare trip out to visit the Parisian Catacombs while on tour. It was a beautiful day, and then they take you to down to these catacombs in the middle of the city; 100s of feet below the surface. Inside are millions of skulls and skeletal remains. It was a journey from the pleasant city streets of Paris to underneath the city to see this dark, menacing secret. It was meaningful for us because while we are touring, there are many distractions and problems going on around us or things that we don’t like about ourselves that we just don’t address. We try to bury them and forget about them rather than deal with them. At the end of the day, they are still there and always with you. If you don’t deal with them, they can build up. It was a powerful metaphor for us that sparked the idea of looking inwards. It’s about dealing with those types of things that you might not want to deal with.
Robert Cavuoto: You produced Catacombs, at what point did you begin to understand the term producer and when did you start to produce?
Chris Brooks: Our first ever album we did in LA we worked closely with the producers and engineers. We learned so much from them, and they were complimentary about us and our music. Looking back it was so cool to work with them as they encouraged us on. That was a great learning experience. With Awaken the Fire we weren’t trying to make an album that would get on the radio, so it just made sense to try and produce it ourselves. When it came to Catacombs, we entertained the idea of getting a producer. Producing an album is a lot of work, but we had this vision of knowing exactly how we wanted it to sound. We ended up doing it ourselves and proud of the way it came out.