Merseyside Progressive Metalcore. There’s a phrase you never thought you’d hear. Formed a decade ago in the Merseyside borough of Wirral, Scouse screamers Carcer City have always harboured ambitions that reach far beyond their home county. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with founding members Patrick (vocals – centre) and Lewis (guitar – 2nd in from the right) as they prepared for their gig at Southampton’s very own The Joiners; my review for which you can read here. It marked the midpoint of their 10-date July UK tour, which began in Liverpool and ended in London. Come and sit with us atop the venue’s roof as we talk Capri-Suns, Potassium, and Grand Theft Auto.
So, how did you guys meet? Where did it all start?
Patrick: Ok, well it’s probably important to know me and Lewis are the only original members left. We met through going to college together. I was actually in a band already, that dissolved in the first few months of going to college and I just approached Lewis and was like “you wanna do a band?” Lewis knew a few other people, I knew a few other people and the original line-up just came about through that kind of thing. Obviously as time’s gone on we’ve got new members in and that’s just been through fishing for people on social media or through people we knew in the industry.
Do you often audition people or is it just like a “we know this guy, he’s gonna turn up” sort of thing?
Lewis: So with the new guitarist ‘Yacka’ (Anthony – furthermost right), he was in another band we played with in Liverpool, and as soon as we wanted a new guitarist I just knew it had to be him.
P: The drummer and bass player situation was a bit more of an audition thing. We knew what we wanted out of those two members specifically.
L: Our manager actually pushed the bass player (Olly – 2nd in from the left) towards us. He knew him and recommended him to us, so we took him on.
P: So three different stories there: ‘Yacka’ we knew we wanted; Karl (drums – furthermost left) we auditioned; and Olly we got through our management.
What’s the metal scene like where you guys are from? ‘Cos it’s sort of Liverpool area isn’t it?
P: Yeah it’s Liverpool, Merseyside. Not what it used to be, but you know it’s still kind of there… but it’s hardly a strong scene.
So it’s weakened?
P: Yeah I’d say so.
L: From when we first started yeah. But the first show of this tour was in Liverpool, and if that’s got anything to show it’s that it might be coming back.
A bit of a resurgence then?
L: It was a good show, there were about 250 people there.
Sick. So I listened to your first album, loved it…
P: When you say first album? [Lewis laughs]
…Yeah not the EP, The Life We Have Chosen (available on Spotify).
P: Ok good that is the first album. [Laughs] Good.
I heard a little bit of Killswitch Engage, Bullet For My Valentine maybe… What would you say were your influences on that album?
P: We were much more of a techy band back then, so old-school Architects, Ion Dissonance… But there were melodic elements there too, so things like The Ghost Inside…
L: That’s where he got Killswitch from.
P: …Yeah Killswitch as well, of course.
Cool. Would you say your sound has changed according to what you’ve then started listening to, or have you pretty much remained with the same sound?
P: Yeah I mean you’ve gotta realise we wrote that album when we were all kind of young, late teens… sort of 17, 18. And now I’m like 27, so my ideas and my tastes have changed. So yeah definitely, the sound of the band has progressed somewhat to include more dynamics, more melodic elements, more… just different sounds. Growing up on metal, I wouldn’t say I got bored of it but that was my main kind of thing, and since then I’ve just sprouted off to listen to other things and we’ve taken a wider influence.
L: I think the word there is progression. We’ve not completely changed who we are but we’ve just progressed and aged.
P: It sounds selfish but we just tweaked it to our tastes. Like, what do we wanna play?
Well fair enough! So you’ve had a pretty punishing tour schedule; a gig a night. What’s it been like on the road? Has it been tough?
P: Well this year and last year were nothing compared to the 2014 slog. That was pretty harsh, touring most of the year really. I think the longest we had at home was 2 weeks or so at most. 2015 and 2016 we spent a lot of time in the studio. We did a few tours, but we’re pretty used to it by now so it’s not really hard as such. It’s just keeping your head in the game, staying focused…
L: Keeping morale high and stuff like that.
P: …Yeah exactly.
Do you find you have to watch your diet and how much you drink? ‘Cos obviously that’ll affect you if it builds up.
L: Definitely, you gotta look after yourself. You’re no good to anyone if you’re ill as fuck are you?
P: That’s it. If I’m on tour my behaviour in terms eating and health and what not is completely different to when I’m at home. When I’m home I can eat whatever I want but on tour I can’t have dairy, I can’t have certain foods, I can only eat at certain times. It is hard yeah.
That leads me on to a question about screaming in particular for metal. A lot of people have a technique, they’ve got a certain routine. I was gonna ask you what’s yours? What do you do to prep your voice, if anything?
P: It’s a 24-hour schedule man. So it’s waking up and instantly having some water, about a litre. Then some Manuka honey, raw. Healthy breakfast, making sure I’m getting lots of Potassium, so bananas. No nuts, no dairy, loads of vitamins, as much healthy eating as possible. And then I’ll kind of cram… I’ll do all my eating prior to about 3pm-ish, that’ll be my cut-off point ‘til we play. Then I’ll just be drinking hot water, warming up, focusing. And then I don’t get to eat ‘til after the show. I’ll usually scoff a load of food after the show as well. [Harley laughs]
L: Top it off with a good night’s sleep.
P: A big healthy joint and a nice sleep.
Very nice indeed! [Patrick laughs] Why not?
L: A healthy joint?
Yeah, medicinal. [Laughs] So your 2012 record The Road Journals, was it called that because it was written on the road? Inspired by the road? What’s the story there?
P: It’s kind of a half concept album in the sense that it tells the story of leaving for tour, being on tour and then returning home. And yeah the title is a reference to being on the road. A lot of it was written on the road over the years, from when we were touring for The Life We Have Chosen.
L: And we had the ideas book as well, which was the road journal.
P: That’s right, the road journal was a genuine book. It doesn’t exist anymore… I burnt it. [Lewis laughs]
P: It was a genuine book that I took with me on tour which had all the ideas, all the songs, all the lyrics. Everything was in there. All the ideas that didn’t make it onto the album, they were all in there. Then those ideas were just transferred to the record, and we named the record after the book.
Well there we are. So what is the weirdest experience as a band you guys have ever had?
P: Aha! Wow ok…
L: There are so many unbelievable…
P: Most of them were in Europe I think… [Lewis laughs] those Europeans man. We’ve been hit on by a lot of gay people, we’ve been offered bum sex, we’ve been asked to have bum sex with people. [Lewis laughs] Plenty of drunk people come up to us. Just on this tour for example we saw a dude at 2am when we were loading out of Swansea, he picked up an empty Capri-Sun off the floor and began attempting to drink it. It was empty but whatever. Then he wandered off and blew the thing up, looked at us as if we were gonna applaud him.
L: Basically every single night we either have a homeless person ask us for money, or someone tries to just stand there and stare at us while we’re putting all the gear in the van. Every night there’s something strange.
P: You meet some bizarre characters.
I can imagine you do.
L: It’s just cities late at night when we’re loading out. You just get the reprobates man, they come out at night! [laughs]
Now, the name Carcer City. I typed it in and Manhunt came up as the reference, although some people have said GTA (Grand Theft Auto). What’s the story there? Wasn’t it the bassist who came up with it or something?
P: It was the old guitarist actually. Yeah it is sort of a semi-reference to the fictional city from within the GTA universe, which Manhunt is a part of. But we also liked it purely ‘cos it’s the Latin translation of ‘Prison City’. When we started out we were adamant that we did not want to be a local band, our aspirations were high from the start man. And we felt that it highlighted that fact, that our city was… not a prison, but we wanted to break out of it, you know?
So you were incarcerated?
P: Exactly, we wanted to break out of that.
P: Management I suppose. The interesting thing about them is that Mike (from Stay Sick) was very forward with us. He was like “guys, this record man,” you know? And we’d had a few offers from labels that are considered bigger, considered more ooh… but we were really attracted by the fact that the guys at Stay Sick were much more passionate about our sound, about what they could do for us. Rather than it just being “yeah we’ll take you on, here’s some money,” Stay Sick were much more “we love the sound,” “we wanna make you part of the brand,” “we really wanna push you”. So we went with that in the end.
L: It was a very attractive deal.
Cool. The title track from your new album, fucking brilliant by the way…
P & L: Cheers.
…The music video is sick. What was it like filming that, being on set?
L: Well that was like the first time we’ve ever done a proper music video, with a legit team. All the others were done DIY by ourselves. Filmed, edited, everything. So it was a really surreal situation at first. Just going in there and there’s like food laid out for us… proper studio… it took us aback a bit, we were like “this is pro, this!” The guys were just so professional and knew exactly what they wanted. We just relished the chance to be there, to be honest.
P: It was definitely a much smoother and more pleasant experience than doing it yourself anyway.
Yeah I can imagine. Well it’s got that really slick, professional look to it. The white line design… it looks really cool.
L: Glad you liked that idea.
It seems like Stay Sick have this big American tour going on at the moment. Do you see yourselves hopping over the pond, doing a tour, breaking America?
P: That’s the end game, the boss level.
L: That’s what we really wanna do. Stay Sick have got a tent up now every day at Warp Tour. Of course that’s the dream for us. To get over there and do Warp Tour… and just America in general man. We wanna go there and road trip it up! That’s where we wanna be.
That would be amazing… How would you describe your sound to people who haven’t heard you before and might be interested in listening to you?
P: Christ, I hate this question… [Lewis laughs] so much! We’re trying to be the weirdest metal band possible. Strange sounds, electronic elements, acoustic elements, ambient elements, heavy stuff, breakdowns, fast riffs, slow riffs, drops, sub-drops… we wanna be always different. We don’t wanna repeat ourselves. We just wanna be as weird and unique as possible.
Very good answer. And what would like to say to the fans who have come out night after night to support you on your tour? Any words for them?
P: Thank you… thank you! Like without you guys we would be doing literally nothing. I don’t know what I’d be doing. I love playing music, and if I couldn’t be playing music I’d probably be hanging from my ceiling… so cheers! Thanks for not killing me. [Lewis laughs]
All time favourite bands? What would you say?
L: My favourite band is Incubus. For ages it was Blink 182 and I was set on that. I could put Blink on whenever and know the words, even though I haven’t listened to it in years. But when I started listening to Incubus it was just blowing my mind. Every album is different. No song’s the same. It’s definitely a desert island band for me.
P: I’d say I’m into my composers and weird, obscure solo artists more than I am bands as such. Classic composers: Hanz Zimmer obviously; and James Newton Howard. I like a lot of ambient bands: Tycho; Keith Kenniff… just weird shit. I listen to a lot of Classical basically. [Lewis laughs]
Me too, it’s good shit! So all that’s left to say is thanks for the interview, I hope it goes well tonight, and good luck for the future.
P: Thank you.
The album Infinite//Unknown comes out September 16th. The title track is out now via Stay Sick Recordings, check out the music video for it below.