"The majority of singers end up leaving screaming behind, mainly because it can fuck you up"
As Lions just released their impressive debut album "Selfish Age" and he had the chance to question their singer Austin Dickinson about the creation of the album, their collaboration with two famous producers, leaving behind screaming vocals and their musical influences.
Hello Austin! Congrats for the new As Lions album. It’s really great...
Thank you! We had a lot of fun recording it, and we're over the moon to have it out.
Please tell us a few things about the band and the line-up, as you’re still a very fresh and new name for many people out there.
We're As Lions, five dudes from London, three of us, Conor, Will and myself, were in a previous band together. We started writing for this band back in late 2014, and we officially formed in early 2015, once we completed our line up with Dave and Stef, on drums and bass respectively! It's been an amazing adventure so far, we've been lucky enough to work and tour with people we've looked up to since we were kids.
Every track of "Selfish Age" is a potential single/hit. Let me know a few things about the recording session and how the songs was born...
Thank you! Well, we've been writing for this album since we formed, so I'd say that was a solid two years at least. The recording process itself was half done in New Jersey, and Las Vegas. They both made for totally different environments, but to be honest, we had the "through line" of the songs and the record, so we never really paid much attention to our surroundings, mainly because we were so caught up in the process. It was a lot of fun working with both David [editor: Bendeth] and Kane [editor: Kevin Churko], they were genuinely amazing people both inside and outside of the studio, and we got a killer result.
I think it’s an incredible thing to have on board two big names such David Bendeth and Kevin Churko on the production team. Why did you want to collaborate with both of them and what did each one contribute to this album?
David was a lot more of a "boot camp" vibe, when we went there the first week or so was mainly getting into the mind set of the band, of us as players, musicians and individuals and the record we wanted to make. It was his own "unique" approach, and he brought something new to the table. Whilst it was fun, it was also a shit ton of work, sometimes I was singing for 6-8 hours a day, we'd have Dave in the other room playing drums, Conor would be playing piano, guitars and bass in another room. A total music extravaganza! Kane was very different, he was a lot more about capturing the performance, building the sonic soundscape and nailing the vibe of the record. Like I said, both were different, but they were both pivotal as well as being very productive for us.
I can hear various influences on your songs from Linkin Park to Bring Me The Horizon and from Trivium to Bullet For My Valentine, but you manage to build a personal blend out of them. Which bands or album have influenced the style of "Selfish Age" and what do you think today of the songs included in your debut album? Are you fully satisfied?
Absolutely! I know it sounds cliché, but I am very happy with this album. It's also been an honour to tour with some of those bands at various points in our lives, and I think they've absolutely influenced me as a musician. I grew up listening to them! As far as their influence on the album, we tried to put our personal stamp on everything before we wore our favourite bands on our sleeve.
Lyrically you seem to deal with all the stuff that seems to go wrong in this world today. Please tell me a few things about the lyrics of the songs more specifically. Also, how many important are lyrics for you? I’m asking this because many new bands seem to pay a bit less attention to them...
I think, for me, the lyrics are the "human" element to the music. They're so important, it's the thematic expression of the melody, so really, whatever you put there is going to decide what the emotion of the song is. Some of the best sad songs ever are played in a major key, but they just have depressing lyrics, haha. The power of that duality and irony really shows the importance of paying attention to the words. I wanted to sing about subjects that mean something to me, like the world we are inheriting and the way we live within it. "World On Fire" and "Selfish Age" are two of my favourites, especially "Selfish Age". I wanted to sing about consumerism and the way we relentlessly need to fill voids and spaces in our lives, to the points were we are almost constantly tuned in, but very much switched off in our core.
My favourite tracks of the album are "Pieces" and "World On Fire". Tell me a few things about these songs and just a curiosity, which is your favourite?
Probably "World On fire", mainly because we got to be so expansive with it. Recording the string parts was a huge highlight for me, hearing it all come together was incredible. It had such power with the darkness and somber tone of the vocals and piano.
I really love your vocal performance all along the album, but in songs like the title track and "World On Fire" it’s even more obvious that you have a really versatile voice. How did you approach the vocal lines on this album and what helped you step up as singer?
For me it was really about writing poignant and powerful lyrics and catchy, emotional melodies. A lot of the challenge was exploring my range and trying to get the right tone for the performance I wanted to give, especially because there are a lot of dynamics on the album. Not everything is on "10", so I get to use pretty much all the parts of my voice at one point or another. I did a lot of personal development and practice, and when the time came I was ready and we got going pretty quick!
I think your progress as a singer in this album is amazing. I honestly had a hard time recognizing your voice having in mind your work with Rise To Remain and I’m glad you left the screaming part behind. As screaming and such stuff is still popular in this kind of music, especially in the UK, was it something you had to think about or was it a natural thing to move on?
Thank you! I wanted to leave the screaming behind. I think the majority of singers end up leaving it behind, mainly because it can fuck you up. If the "right technique" for it is effectively damage control, you're probably not supposed to do it. That's the reason so many screamers are terrible singers. Bottom line is: if you won't be doing it at 60, if it's not realistic to your longevity and it's not something you believe in fundamentally, it's not worth doing. Especially not to please other people. If you love doing it, scream all you want. I personally just don't.
I cannot even imagine how difficult it must be to know that some people will try to compare your vocal performance with your father’s - even though the styles are really far away. I guess it is a blessing and a curse at the same time, so how do you deal with it?
I just ignore it. Unless someone is also a singer, what have they got to offer me in regards to me and my performance? Probably just an opinion. Everyone has one of those, so I just do what I believe in.
Do you take advices from your father regarding your vocal approach and music writing? What does he think of the music of As Lions?
He's just my dad to be honest mate, we spend more time talking about horror movies than we do about music.
You were part of an incredible tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown and Sixx A.M. in the US recently, even before the album came out and now you return there to tour with Shinedown. What did you learn from the previous tour and what do you expect from the forthcoming one?
We learnt that camaraderie is a damn fine thing. Seriously, everyone on that tour was amazing to us, and we tried to give that love straight back. We're headed back out with Shinedown fairly soon too, which is exciting.
Even though I don’t dig their last album, I consider Shinedown one of the finest bands in the modern hard/heavy scene. Which ones are your favorite and which albums have made a difference in hard/heavy music over the last 15 years or so?
Shinedown is unquestionably one of them, I also love Breaking Benjamin, Thrice, I love the new Nickleback stuff. I'm not their biggest fan, but they're great song writers. Even if you hate them, their worst song still makes perfect sense! I think a huge album for me was Breaking Benjamin's "Phobia". Just constant hits, a lot of attitude, and a defining record for their sound.
So, what does the future hold for As Lions (apart from touring a lot of course)?
We're already writing a lot of new stuff, we have a lot of plans to do a few videos, as well as more exciting content for everyone to get into. In fact, I'm currently on a Eurostar heading Paris to do a press run! So plenty of stuff!
Thank you for your time Austin. Congrats again for your new album and all the best.
Cheers mate! Thanks for having me!