It’s nice working with repeat clients. For starters if we’re working together again, it means they were obviously pleased with what we produced last time – so that’s good! But I also find that the more I work with someone, the more the shoots improve….I guess they know more what to expect, I know more what to expect, we both learned from the previous shoot what worked and what didn’t. It’s all good…
One of my favourite bands shoots took place a couple of years ago with Barricades Rise and we’ve become good mates since then, so it was awesome to get the chance to photograph them again a few weeks ago in support of their forthcoming album re-release under Spectra Records. We talked a lot in advance about this shoot in terms of what we wanted to achieve and what the images needed to convey, and I think the benefits of investing that preparation time are reflected in the fact that we’re all really happy with the results….
I also thought an interview with the dynamic duo was long overdue:
How long is it since I first photographed you guys? It must be 18 months now…
Michael: I think it was about two years ago…
Jonathan: It was around the release of our second album…we got you in to do the promo shots for the middle of the album. We managed to fluke our own shot for the cover, but we needed some help for the inside and you nailed it for us!
So what’s happened for Barricades Rise since then?
Jonathan: The major thing that’s happened since then is we got signed to Spectra records who are described as the biggest independent record label in America. They’re about to re-release our album ‘All I have is here…”
Michael: We’ve both have kids as well! My Oscar was born in January last year, so he’s fifteen months old now…
Jonathan: And my Alex has just turned one last week. He was born in April.
Everyone says having kids changes you…Do you think it’s changed you as musicians?
Michael: I’ve written probably about the same amount of material, and I never used to write horrible depressing songs anyway…it was more about love and things like that…so I don’t think musically it’s changed me. What it has changed is the amount of time we can spend on music. We pretty much had the whole of 2012 off…we did about six or seven gigs and that was it. We planned to have about six months off, but it just kind of….well, it’s kids isn’t it?! They take up a lot more time than you expect…
Jonathan: What I would say is in 2013 we’ve done more work for the band, despite being Dads, than I think we’ve done in the last 2 or 3 years out together.
What’s driven that?
Jonathan: The signing to Spectra records…obviously we want to be on our ‘A’ game. With the album coming out very soon we want to get everything right…the way that we look, the way that we play, and everything tied together with the release of the album.
Michael: The way we’ve recorded and learned the songs that we’ve written in the past…they were written and recorded in the studio and then we never practiced. We just went out and gigged them and hoped that they worked…90% of the time they did, but there were some songs that fell by the wayside. With the album being re-released we’ve kind of got to get everything down 100%. Some songs that we tried at a gig that didn’t work…we’ve just said we have to practice and practice to get them down…we’re meeting up once a week just to do practices which is a first since we’ve been doing this for many years!
How did you start as Barricades Rise?
Jonathan: We were originally a five piece Rock band, and me and Michael just decided to do a couple of acoustic gigs on the side. Doing those, we started to get a lot more praise…I think people could hear the songs we were writing when we weren’t hidden behind a wall of distortion.
Michael: It wasn’t just the people, the fans and the crowd…it was me personally, I preferred it, because when you’re on stage with four other guys, all turning up bit by bit throughout the gig, and you have to rely on the sound guy…you’ve got a lot of things going on! Whereas with acoustic, it’s just us and our guitars. We’ve been together for a million years…it was the next step and it just felt natural.
Jonathan: I suppose you could sum it up…it was an accident. We didn’t plan to become Barricades Rise acoustic, but as soon as we dipped our toe in the water that was it. We just fell out of love with electric guitars and distortion, and liked the bareness of the acoustic.
What inspires you musically…who do you listen to?
Jonathan: It’s changed since the first album. Currently we both really dig Tallest Man on Earth which is basically just acoustic guitar…there’s nothing else on there, it’s as stripped back as it can be.
Michael: I think the whole explosion of Mumford and Sons…it helped us…in one sense we were riding on their coat-tails but they kind of happened at the same time as us getting into that kind of music. It wasn’t like we decided to do that kind of music because they were…it was a happy co-incidence. We’ve been compared to them tons…probably more than anyone. I think they’re great…their last album was a bit patchy, but they’re a fantastic act to be compared to. So definitely Mumford and Sons, Tallest Man on Earth…a lot more acoustic bands. You could pretty much throw out 95% of the electric rock/metal bands that I listened to in the last 10 years. It’s only really been the last 2 or 3 years that has influenced me on this album, and on the new songs as well…
Can you describe the process for creating a Barricades Rise recording?
Michael: Yeah, it’s changed. It was a bit of a separate thing where I’d write 90% of a song, or Jonathan would, and then we’d bring it in to record, and then whilst we were recording it we’d just add that extra 10% in…my lead bit, or Jonathan’s melody, something like that. It would be classed as ‘Jonathan’s song’ or vice-versa. But I think with the new ones, it is more collaborative because we’ve been meeting up more to write. There are still songs that I’ve been writing myself and I’ll bring them in and they’re nearly done, but it’s not like the songs are my songs or Jonathan’s songs…it’s more collaborative.
Jonathan: Yeah, as year goes past….the first album was very separate, this album that we’re releasing again now was definitely more of a collaborative effort. The songs that we’re writing that will hopefully go towards album number three – they’re a joint effort from start to finish.
What are your aspirations for Barricades Rise?
Jonathan: Obviously we’re hoping that the release through Spectra records will move us up the musical ladder.
Michael: I think the dreams of headlining Glastonbury to 80,000 people are long gone. I’d just like to be able to live off what we do…not make millions, but have a comfortable wage and spend time with my new family. That’s what I’d like.
Jonathan: I just want to build on the audience that we’ve got, because I think we’ve got to a point now where we do have a fan-base that cares about what we’re doing, interacts with us online and at gigs, and I just want to build that a little bit bigger. It’s like Michael says, the days of being the next Oasis, Coldplay…a huge massive stadium band…that’s not us. It wouldn’t work for us anyway. There’s a level that we can still get to where the fans aren’t a distant army of people…it’s almost like a family.
Michael: You want a solid fan base, but we’re not fussed that we’re not going to be played on Radio 1 or in the Top 40 or anything like that. If we put on a tour and play five or six dates, it would be nice to know we’re going to get a hundred or a couple of hundred to each of those gigs. That kind of stage would be nice.
So what’s next?
Jonathan: Straightaway it’s the release of this album through Spectra, then we’ve been booking dates towards a tour in the Summer…and then really it’s promote, promote, promote with the album whilst recording the next set of songs, which is already happening right now. And then look to a third album the middle to back end of next year.
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Here’s a little behind the scenes video from the shoot…