Interviewed June 2007
The scream wasn’t blood-curdling, but it was loud. Heads snapped around as we sat in the warmth of the South Library and chatted to metal / hardcore band Beneath the Silence.
Brook is lead vocalist, Sophia is lead guitarist, Hamish plays the drums, Nic the bass and Mark plays guitar and adds backing vocals.
Screaming and pig squeals and “death growls” are common in metal / hardcore - but Brook says he doesn’t buy a lot of throat lozenges.
“There’s a technique to it. One night I just kind of fluked it - my brother was doing it, and I just fluked it. There’s this DVD that I bought that shows this technique, this little movie shows you how to do it. Some casual people hurt their throat when they do it, this little movie shows you how to do it.”
I ask for a demo scream - it was loud, and followed by much laughter, but it was also relatively high pitched. There are different ranges and styles of screaming, the band say. Deep, throaty rumblings are “death growls” Sophia explains. “Genres like grind core and stuff have what’s called a pig squeal.”
She asks Hamish to demonstrate: He does, and it sounds convincingly piggy.
He explains that it’s “really brutal underground stuff.”
These guys love what they play - but why metal hardcore - of all the genres you could choose?
The answers come firing back, rapidly: “It’s fun, it’s a challenge, it’s unique, it sounds cool, it’s unique and it’s really fun to play.”
“It’s what we love as well, Mark says. “We love that music in general, it’s what we listen to.”
“There’s no point being a band that plays rap or whatever, if you don’t know what it’s about” Brook says.
Despite most metal / hardcore bands wearing black and having a definite black look, Beneath the Silence say that’s not for them.
“We took some photos a couple of weekends ago, rarely do any of us wear any black,” Sophia says.
“We’re not trying to be anything, It’s just us,” Nic says.
“It’s not about image,” Mark adds. “You don’t have to look the part to do what you love. You can just be yourself and do whatever you want to.”
Brook: “That’s probably why everyone’s like: ‘You guys are a metal band - how come you’ve got a girl in a metal band?’
“(Sophia) gets up on stage and plays this sweet picking piece and everyone stops to stare at her,” Mark says.
“Or they stop because they don’t like it. I always think that,” Sophia counters.
Appearances aside, playing live is what the band love most. “There’s this anticipation,” Nic says, “that it could go wrong at any second. But it’s still heaps and heaps of fun.”
“You go on, you’re nervous, as soon as you start playing it all goes away.” Mark adds. “You look out to the crowd when you’re playing or your jumping around the place, there’s nothing like it.”
Sophia is lead guitarist - and says the band have gradually changed their sound over several years.
“When we started out, which was in year 7, we we’re pretty much a soft rock band, we did covers of Kiwi bands like Steriogram and stuff. Then we started getting into Led Zeppelin, Metallica and from there progressed into the more hardcore bands that we like today, and we just aspired to be more and more like them.
“We progressed from rock to nu-metal crap to the sound we have now. I guess I was just along for the ride…When I started out I hated metal. I thought if you can’t understand the lyrics, what’s the point? But over the years, it’s like you know, it’s like an acquired taste, like Dutch liquorice.”
We ask what techniques the band uses to create their wild sound.
“Distortion, pretty much” says Hamish. “Just messing with amp settings and stuff.”
“Turn up the gains,” says Sophia.
“You need double kick on drums,” Hamish adds.
“And hard bass” says Nic. “It’s not that much different from any other genre.”
“We do have some clean bits and some power songs. Sometimes we chuck in jazzy bits for fun.”
“There’s clean bits and slow pieces,” Brook adds.
The drum kit uses a double kick pedal and a lot of cymbals, including a China and a splash. Hamish explains: “I’ve got kind of a good setup and home with like four toms, but usually when we play live I just show up with my double kick and a couple of cymbals and use whatever’s there…mess around with it.”
I ask if the band are metal purists, or whether they listen to other music.
“Mainly metal and hardcore,” Hamish says. “I guess its like with wine tasting, when you have bread in between…”
“It’s nice to have a contrast,” Nic says.
“We mostly like metal,” Sophia says “but…”
“We’re not elitists,” Hamish finishes.
“I don’t like listening to the same thing all the time,” Nic says. “I like some jazz and a range of stuff.”
“We all like jazz, a bit of blues,” Sophia says. “Mark likes alternative rock”
Hamish admits he’s never been to a wine tasting: “I’m not speaking from experience.”
The band took original songs to smokefreerockquest.
“The stuff that we’ve written so far has just come from someone having a riff and we’ll build on that,” Hamish says.
“Trial and error,” Nic says. “Try and find what sounds good.”
“A lot of times we come to a brick wall and we just don’t know what to do. We’ll do something and we’ll think ‘okay, that will do’ and we’ll come back the next week with fresh ears and completely scrap everything. It’s an incredibly tedious process”
“All of the songs we have now, we started writing a year ago,” Sophia says.
“There was a period where every practice we’d be writing a new song.”
“Someone had a riff, someone had another riff…”
“At the moment we’re trying to write, but we sort of have enough to cruise for the moment. We’ve been focusing on gigs, so we haven’t been doing as much writing.”
The band have their next gig at Zebedees on July 21.
“The same day as Harry Potter 7,” Sophia says.
“We’re gonna dedicate our set to J.K. Rowling,” Hamish says, to much laughter.
The band have written an EP (extended play) which Nic says they will start recording soon. “We just need to get some equipment, but we have an intro and five full songs.”
“There’s probably about fifteen all together,” Sophia says, “but we’ve scrapped most of them.”
“As we’ve progressed we’ve got better,” Nic adds.
“We’ve already started writing for an album,” Mark says.
“We’re sort of perfectionists when it comes to songwriting,” Hamish says.
Mark joined the band in March, but the band had spent a year looking for a vocalist. Brook’s brother Shannon helped the band out and suggested Brook join them. He did, a week before smokefreerockquest. “It was nerve-racking. I had one try at the song. We kind of got up there and it was the first time we’d played together as a band.”
The crowd was big, and though the sound wasn’t in the band’s favour, Hamish said they did “pretty well”.
“We got through to the regionals, it was heaps of fun.”
“I don’t think we’ll be nervous for a gig again for a long time,” Sophia says. “Obviously this is the biggest gig we’ve ever played, the Town Hall, normally we play at Zeb’s to audiences of about a hundred maybe, so we’re no longer nervous for those gigs.”
The band will “definitely” enter smokefreerockquest again, the experience was so good.
“We’ve got Rapid Storm coming up as well,” Mark says. The contest kicks off in July. Our Fallen, Brook’s brother’s band, won Rapid Storm last year.
“That means they can’t enter this year so we have more of a chance of winning,” Mark says.
The band know that the mainstream isn’t for them and use the internet to find other people who like the sort of music they do. Their MySpace page has two songs, with Shannon from Our Fallen, another local metal band, on vocals.
“We like to get plays, views and comments. It makes us feel popular,” Hamish, the band’s “MySpace co-ordinator” says.
“Without the internet, we’d be clueless,” he says.
“MySpace has pretty much got us the gigs at Zeb’s,” Sophia adds.
“It’s pretty much the ultimate networking tool when it comes to new bands,” Nic continues.
“People listen to our songs on there all the time,” Mark says.
The songs had nearly 3,000 plays of their two songs, Slo Jam and Eye for an Eye, when pulse visited.
The band say their fan base is growing. “Our first ever gig in April we were playing to … all our school friends. We promoted it pretty well, you couldn’t have a better first gig,” Hamish says. “The more gigs we play and the more people that know about us, we’re getting more and more fans.”
“It’s great to go to Zeb’s at some other band’s gig and have some random stranger come up to us and go ‘Hey, you’re Beneath the Silence aren’t you?’.”
With growing recognition, Beneath the Silence are keen to get their songs recorded:
“We’ve got a studio set up at my house,” Hamish says. “We’re gonna get some more equipment soon.”
The band pay a heartfelt tribute to ‘Swalters’, their techie / roadie.
“Shaun Walters, our good friend, has supported us from the start.”
“He gets heaps of crap from us but we love him, he’s so helpful, he’s like the ultimate guy who knows everything about everything … sound … computers …”
“Plus he’s the one who brings the 16-track around,” Brook adds.
“In our spare time we like to play music, and in his spare time he learns things,” Mark says. “But it comes to our advantage. He always sets up sound when things go wrong and fixes the computer and everything.”
“He’s constructed a whole mini studio,” Nic adds.
The band will need a large van if the five (plus the roadie and his cameras) ever go on tour, but at the moment they are happy to be practicing and playing gigs. They aspire to be like American band Between the Buried and Me.
“They’re the most talented bunch of musicians you’ve ever heard” Hamish says.
“They’re really young, too” Sophia adds.
“It’s their song-crafting skills,” Hamish continues. “They can go from the most ultimate, brutal riff, like just heaviness, then go into this completely beautiful, melodic, clean passage and it’s really inspiring to listen to.”
“We cover a lot of their songs, which are technically challenging,” Soifa says.
Beneath the Silence also pay tribute to local bands as well.
“We’d like to give people a heads up on other bands they should check out because they’ve given us overwhelming support,” Hamish says. “Athenic, Without Constraint and Our Fallen. They’ve been really, really supportive and (are) always helping us out.”