Interview: Gallows

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 13.09.12 | Issue # 305



Even though Gallows sound like a completely different band these days, guitarist LaurentLags’ Barnard reiterates to Daniel Cribb they still like “fuckin’ with people”.

It almost seems as if the stars aligned to bring the world a third Gallows album. When the band announced the departure of vocalist Frank Carter in 2011, it was shortly followed by a statement detailing that Alexisonfire’s Wade MacNeil (mainly known as a guitarist/backing vocalist) would step up to take his place. The new line-up then released the Death Is Birth EP less than six months later. With so much happening so quickly, fans were left in a state of shock. The band didn’t struggle for a single second to find a suitable replacement. Things just worked out so perfectly.

The story begins in May 2011 in an East London pub called The Old Blue Last where Black Lungs, MacNeil’s side project, are playing a secret show, supported by Gallows. “That was the first time I actually saw Wade front a band,” Gallows’ Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard recalls. “I was thinking, ‘He’s a fuckin’ awesome frontman’. Fast forward about a month, Frank leaves the band, at the same time we got the low-down that Alexis were gonna break up, and this was before everyone else knew about it. So Steph [Carter, guitar] from Gallows called up Wade and was like, ‘Hey, man. My brother’s left Gallows, do you wanna sing for the band?’ and he was like, ‘Sure. When do you need me?’”

It was a seamless transition that enabled the band to continue their rampage unhindered. But with an Alexisonfire farewell tour planned for December and rumours of the band doing one final release, does that mean that Gallows will have to slow down temporarily to accommodate? “We actually planned to have a break for December and January anyway, so it’s fine, man. I’ve never been an Alexis fan in the past, but as I toured with those dudes and started listening to their music, just through being friends with them, I realised they are a great fuckin’ band. It’s really good they’re doing this tour because I know so many kids would be stoked to see them one last time.”

So MacNeil was able to impress the Gallows crew a fair bit at The Old Blue Last, but how does he shape up compared to Frank Carter? If you were lucky enough to catch Gallows at Soundwave 2010, when Carter was fronting the band (or more appropriately put – in the crowd smacking the microphone into his head), you likely have their set deeply embedded into memory, but as Barnard enthuses, it’s probably for the wrong reasons. “It felt like Gallows was becoming a spectacle and people were just going [to shows] to see what might happen, do you know what I mean? It got to a point where that just became boring for everyone in the band – including Frank – and I think now we’ve got the right balance between putting on a sick show where spontaneous events do happen, but, at the same time, we hold down the music. It’s become a lot tighter and a lot more professional.”

When Carter left the band, he cited that they had “hit a crossroads” and were struggling to find a direction everyone was happy with. Fans were sceptical that MacNeil fronting the band would remedy this problem, and wondered if Gallows’ best days were behind them (one listen to their album reveals they’re not, not by a long shot). “The EP was very much, ‘Let’s make some fuckin’ intense, heavy noise just to prove that we’re not going away,’ and also, you know, prove to anyone that thinks that we might go soft – just because we have a member of Alexisonfire in our band – that’s not going to happen.”

With a four-track EP that proved that very thing, they entered the studio again, this time more relaxed  to put together their first album with MacNeil, simply titled Gallows. “Wade set into being Gallows and this record’s basically what Gallows is all about now. The last two records we did, yeah, we like them, but looking back there’s a few things I’d change. Listening to this album since we finished it, I don’t think there’s anything I’d change,” he emphasises. “By making it self-titled, it’s just telling people, ‘This is Gallows. This is what we’ve been working up to’ and I really think it is that, you know? It’s got millions of guitar riffs in it. It’s like everything I’d want in a heavy album.

“In many ways the songs bridge what we were trying to do before [Wade] was in the band. I think, again, similar to Grey Britain, we were trying to come up with something a bit grand and at the same time we weren’t signed to a major label. It wasn’t a case of we could spend loads of money in big studios to do something similar to Grey Britain, so there was a lot of pulling and tugging. I know in my head, I just wanted a solid record and I think we’ve definitely done this with Gallows.”

A confusing piece of imagery plays the role of cover art for Gallows. In a black and white photo, two people (presumably female, but it’s hard to tell) are lying on a bed intertwined, both wearing balaclavas and revealing clothing. While it’s just a simple photo with no writing on it, it says more about the band than almost anything they’ve done before. “What I love about our album cover is, firstly, loads of people will have no idea what the fuck we were thinking when we chose it – I think that’s a really good part about it – but at the same time, when I first saw the image it wasn’t glamorous. I’m sick to death of bands that try and set up these shoots for over-the-top album covers.

“I wanted to keep it really simple, like back in the day when punk bands first started it wasn’t a case of spending ages trying to pick the right shot or the right kind of image; you just threw it together quickly. That was my gut reaction when I saw the photo. I was like, ‘This would look fuckin’ sick as an album cover.’ I know loads of people won’t get it, but for me, that’s important too, you know? I just like fuckin’ with people. I think that’s the best thing about Gallows: we can get away with fuckin’ with people quite a bit.”

Daniel Cribb

Drum Perth (Sep 13, 2012)