Sonic Syndicate: the call of the fans

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is take a step back, do something else, and come back when the stars are properly aligned again. That’s precisely what Sonic Syndicate did following the chaos caused by the departures of the Sjunnesson brothers, Richard and Roger, which left their cousin Robin the sole survivor of the original line-up. The various members of the band took this opportunity to recharge their batteries and focus on family life, as vocalist Nathan James Biggs told us. In the end, the break wasn’t all that long: the self-titled album, Sonic Syndicate, came out four years after We Rule The Night. It seems the band still has some musical inspiration left to share with their fans, without whom they probably wouldn’t have come back so soon.

The eponymous album is supported by a four-piece band – a layout that might leave some more breathing space to everyone. In any case, although the singer remains terribly enigmatic regarding the departure of Richard Sjunnesson, he’s convinced the band’s current form is for the best.

« Me and Robin have always said it would be criminal for us ever to stop doing music just because the ideas that we bounce off each other are so good. »

Radio Metal: Two years ago, you decided to take an extended break. What was the reason for this? Were you exhausted from touring? Did you need some time away to get re-inspired?

Nathan James Biggs (vocals): Yeah, I think so. Part of it was that from the very start of the band, we haven’t been on a break at all since the beginning in 2005-2006, and the whole time it’s just been relentless touring, album the album. There’s never been a break in between at all. The “We Rule The World” tour that we did in 2011 was a pretty big tour, I mean we were on the road for… I don’t know. There were some here and there dates as well, but there was a big chunk of a tour where we literally didn’t come home for 3 months, basically. So we were gonna have a nice break anyway after that, and then, you know, during that time Karin [Axelsson] and John [Bengtsson] both had planned to have children… Not together [laughs], make that very clear!

Did you, at some point, think about ending the band’s career or was it just a need for a break?

No, never… No, no, never ever ever! We love it too much, the fans and the whole process, writing, recording… Me and Robin have always said it would be criminal for us ever to stop doing music just because the ideas that we bounce off each other are so good… It was never planned to finish the band. We weren’t sure about how long it was gonna take or when we would be comfortable to come back, that was uncertain for a while, but the support from the fans really helped to speed that up.

What did you do during those two years?

Me personally? Well, I’ve been living in Helsinki so I’ve been enjoying life here, my girlfriend and my friends. I made lots of great friends in bands here, like The 69 Eyes, Amorphis, Apocalyptica… There’s lots of great people here, the metal scene’s great. I’ve been playing rock and metal with some musicians here, nothing too serious, but yeah. They took a break to do family stuff and I took a break to do more songwriting, some more music and things, yeah.

At what point did you start working on the band again? What made you start again?

Well, we didn’t really ever stop. There were 6 months or something where we totally did nothing, but even then we’ve been in touch with each other all the time, we talked about whether we should play a show or something… Me, Robin and all of us, we were passing song ideas to each others; every few weeks one would be like: “Hey, I came up with this cool idea” and we’d work on it, make kind of a rough song out of it, and keep it. What made us stop really was Karin and John getting to a point where they were comfortable enough and happy, settled at home, with their children at the right kind of age where they’re not too young – they’re like 1 year old now. They had to really pay attention getting those little lives started, so to speak. But as soon as they were comfortable enough, we started talking more seriously like: “OK, let’s do a comeback kind of thing.” We took some other songs that we’d been working on and started shaping them up more seriously, getting ready to do an album. But I really gotta emphasize how much the fans played a part in that. Maybe we could have taken another 6 to 8 months before we came out again, but the support was just never ending, the messages on Facebook were a huge part in getting our asses moving to get this album done.

The album is self-titled. Does this mean that this break was needed for you to find back you roots?

Yeah, maybe. During the time we had off, we just listened to a lot of music, everything from the older stuff Sonic Syndicate was influenced by back when we started, the Swedish metal scene, like Soilwork, In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and we also listened to a lot of new bands. We just took the time to enjoy music again, and get pretty psyched up to put something out there that was very fresh and heavy.

« I don’t think a lot of bands are putting out really good metalcore or melodic death metal records. »

In your opinion, what is the essence of Sonic Syndicate’s music?

I think a big part of it is having great melodic choruses that really hit you in the chest, that make you feel alive and that you can sing along to, and then these galloping guitars and stuff. We draw influence on how we write the songs by how we play live. We are a band that loves playing live more than anything, so I always think about how I’m gonna sing this song live, how the audience will enjoy the stuff, and it takes on its own life from there. It’s the energy of a good live band. We move around a lot on stage, and I always want to inspire the audience to do something when they’re listening, to headbang or whatever. I think that’s where it comes from.

Since you wrote what we could call a very classic, very quintessential Sonic Syndicate album, what could be the next step of musical evolution for you in the next album?

I really don’t know. When we come to it, I think the reason this album sounds as it does is that we were summarizing the sound of the band so far on the previous albums. We Rule The Night was a huge step towards these bigger melodic choruses, so it took that into account. This album wasn’t as fast, it had a slower tempo, so this time we definitely wanted to have some faster songs on there. That’s how this album took shape. So next time… Who knows? We’re gonna tour the hell out of this album and really really enjoy it, and hopefully the fans will too, and then from there’s we’ll know what the next step is.

Speed, the singer from Soilwork, is singing on one song of the album. Soilwork is one of the most influential bands in the metalcore or melodic death metal scene. Are they a reference and an influence for you?

Definitely. I was thinking about this in during our break from 2011. I don’t think a lot of bands are putting out really good metalcore or melodic death metal records. There’s been some kind of crossbreed, evolution into this post-grindcore stuff with metalcore influences. And while that’s great and produced some very awesome bands that I love, like Bring Me The Horizon or Whitechapel, at the same time, in Sonic Syndicate we are very proud of this Swedish, melodic deathcore metalcore inspired genre. Sonic Syndicate has had a huge part in creating it, and obviously that kind of genre have been carved out by bands like Soilwork, Dark Tranquility and In Flames. So we wanted to produce something that would bring that back with as much power as possible, and really show the rest of the world how you do this genre properly. Having Bjorn on this album was a really easy choice. This album got a lot of homage to the Swedish sound, and Soilwork’s one of the biggest bands who carved this path in music, so when we found out we wanted to have a guest vocalist, it was an easy choice. He’s a good friend of ours. He’s a big influence to my vocal style as well, I’ve been listening to Soilwork since I was a kid, so it was really great having him on board. I’m lucky enough to call the guy a friend but before I could do that, back home in the UK I was listening to Soilwork all the time. To share stage with the guy and to have him sing on our record has been amazing. It’s one of those little boxes in life that you got ticked.

On a completely different topic: what was the reason for Roger [Sjunnesson]’s departure?

I don’t know… [Thinking] After Richard [Sjunnesson] wasn’t in the band anymore, it just kind of didn’t fit anymore with him in the band.

You haven’t announced any replacement. Does this mean that you will be continuing as a four-pieces band?

Yes. We are Sonic Syndicate.

How the fact that you are now four and not five has changed the writing process?

I think it’s made it a lot cleaner and a lot better. We’re just very open about our instruments, we’re all honest to each other, we help each other work on parts a lot more and we’re open. We’re a really solid core and we’re very like-minded. With the sound that we wanted, it just worked very efficiently and really good.

That’s it for me! Do you have one last thing to say?

Basically we’re looking forward to hopefully getting back to France in the end of October. We’re booking some dates shortly for Europe. We’re gonna be going out there towards the end of this year. I cannot wait to come back, and we cannot wait for all of our fans out there to hear this new album. We’re very proud of it and we know you’ll love it.

Interview conducted by phone on May, 22nd 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription : Chloé.
Introduction : Spaceman.

Sonic Syndicate official website: sonicsyndicate.net/

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