Latitude Lookout chats to The Boxer Rebellion!
By Callum Sharp
We recently chatted to drummer Piers Hewitt and newest member, guitarist Andrew Smith of The Boxer Rebellion about music writing and industry advice. Their latest album Promises is energetically flawless, enough said. Here’s the word…
Hey guys! So, first question… How did the name The Boxer Rebellion come about?
Piers: Honestly, we just pulled it out of a political dictionary and there was nothing in ‘A’. It’s not like we have any reference to the event, we honestly just like the sound of it.
Fair enough. What is the writing process like for you as a band?
Piers: It used to be a bit more like Nathan bringing in the bones of everything, but we have changed a little bit now with Andy coming in.
Andrew: So I came from a different background, more of an acoustic singer/songwriter background, and when I wrote I used to just sit there and form it in my head, so to co-write with these guys is definitely an adjustment, you all focus and put more emphasis on your own part and then sit and talk about the song as a whole and talk about each other’s parts and I’ve never had that kind of approach with songwriting before.
Do you prefer it that way?
Piers: I don’t know actually, we play less together, so we record more parts almost one by one and it becomes layered, and then we see where it is at the end of it, because we’re obviously going to re-record it at the end of the day. That’s what we did with Promises anyway.
Is there a specificity you focus on when writing?
Piers: Lyrically, that’s one of the last phases of writing I suppose the music always comes first. I mean there are reasonably common themes of loss and what leads up to loss and stuff like that which is in all sorts of music really.
Andrew: Nate has such a great sense of natural melody that just comes out so I don’t think he consciously thinks too much in terms of melody, it just happens. Some people say that music is a gift and things like that, it’s the same with melody, it’s a gift.
How often do you practice when you’re not touring?
Andrew: It’s completely changed since I’ve come in, I’ve had like 30 something songs to learn and there were some quite high-pressure gigs at festivals. I had to just practice and learn all the pedal changes and vocal parts, so I had to practice individually and then these guys had to practice quite a lot because obviously I wanted to capture the essence of the guitar part.
Piers: It depends what we have coming up. As a group I don’t think we particularly enjoy playing through songs we know loads, we enjoy coming up with new stuff more, but since Andy joined I have felt so much more rehearsed than I’ve ever done!
As a band you have been related to the likes of The National, Editors and Biffy Clyro. Would you say that this is a fair judgement?
Piers: I think most comparisons generally are lazy because people need to label a band, I definitely hear The National in some of the stuff we’ve done over the years, but some bands we’ve been referred to just don’t make sense. We used to get The Verve all the time!
Andrew: You can compare some bands because of the instrumentations and textures that they use, but the message and attitude could be completely different. For instance, if I use the same guitars and effects as a guitarist from The National it may create the link to easily compare us to them.
What does 2015 look like for you guys? I know you’re touring until Christmas time, but what’s next?
Andrew: It’s the new album that we’re working on.
Sweet! Finally, what advice can you give to upcoming artists and musicians who want to be where you are now?
Andrew: I would say don’t undervalue how to be a good musician, everyone gets hung up on how to market themselves and which direction they should aim for, but first of all you should make sure you really enjoy the process of the music and that you become as good as you possibly can with that. It’s really, really difficult to make a career in the music industry so give yourself every single opportunity and learn lots of different styles and make yourself employable. Also, technical proficiency; being creative as a musician; spending a lot of hours on your instrument, these are all really important things…
Piers: One thing I always say about new bands is to stop trying to rehearse for gigs all the time. Just write, and keep writing. If you spend most of your time preparing for gigs your material is going to be crap, guaranteed. Try and be cool in a music sense before you’re cool in any other way, because the cool in any other way only lasts so long, and be nice to everybody. There’s nothing worse than hearing the reputations of people whose careers are down the toilet because they’re idiots, what’s the point. You’re there to make music. Be nice.