Prior to the final gig on their European tour, I was lucky enough to grab the ‘warriors of the frozen north’, Unleash The Archers, for a chat before they took to the stage in Edinburgh. Trying to make sense of my inane gibberish were Brittney Slayes (vocals), Scott Buchanan (drums) and Andrew Kingsley (guitar).
Tonight’s the last night of the Unleash The Archers tour, so I have to ask… are you desperate to get home, or don’t you want the tour to end?
Brittney – “Well there are things that I miss about home, but yeah, I’m feeling fine about going home. I miss my cat!”
Scott – “It’s not so much going home, it’s having an actual night off that’s appealing. We’ve had three nights off in the last thirty days!”
The European tour with Orden Ogan and Rhapsody Of Fire has been pretty full on, yeah? A lot of countries, and a lot of miles?
Brittney – “Exactly, it’s been five weeks now, and a lot of time in a bus. The only breaks have actually been two driving days, and they were like crazy driving days, so we barely stopped even to go the bathroom”.
Unleash The Archers are originally from Victoria, British Columbia, so you will be used to the vast spaces?
Brittney – “Yeah that’s where the band started, but then we all moved over to Vancouver in 2010”.
Victoria is off the mainland, so it must have been quite isolated?
Andrew – “The ferry is only about an hour or so, and there are about twenty sailings a day, so it’s not that isolated”
Brittney – “It’s not super far away, but the commute was one of the reasons that we moved. The ferry is really expensive, and if you have a trailer as well, then it adds to the cost. Add overheight fees as well, and it adds up. We realised that when we were touring, there was this huge deficit just to get to the mainland.”
Something as simple as that could make all the difference when you are not making that much money from a gig.
Brittney – “Yes, it was early days, and we weren’t making huge guarantees or anything like that, so we had to cut our losses where we could.”
Non-Canadians forget how vast it is. That must have been a problem in the early days?
Brittney – “Oh yeah! It’s not that it’s a problem, you just have to be prepared to drive for hours. Places like Calgary and Edmonton are fifteen hours away, so you might look at booking a gig say five hours away on the road North to break up the journey. But then you have a ten hour journey straight after, and I’m talking over mountains so you can’t do it in winter, so no touring between November and April… ever!. You can’t go south as the visas are insane. We finally got ours, but the work, time and effort that went into getting them was massive, and that would put off a lot of bands.”
If complaining was an Olympic sport, Britain would be unbeatable. We love to complain about bands missing out a particular city on a tour, but really we are quite spoiled when you hear about the journeys that you have to make!
Brittney – “I hate to say it, but yeah, you are spoiled!”
Andrew – “We’ve had some people on this tour come up and say ‘I can’t believe that you didn’t play this town and I’ve had to drive for 45 minutes to get here’, so we just say ‘well we just drove ten hours from another country to get here’ and that usually quietens them down!.”
Brittney – “On this UK leg, we looked at the dates and thought, ‘Oh well, back in the van for another week, but then couldn’t believe that each journey was only about two hours or so! We thought, this is nothing, this is easy!”
There is a big celtic connection between parts of the UK and Canada, Ireland as well.
Brittney – “Yeah, most of my background is Scottish and Irish, three out of the five band members have direct celtic ancestry… I mean… Scott Buchanan, right! My mother’s maiden name was McDonald.”
New Unleash The Archers album ‘Apex’ has probably been your best received album ever. What do you put that down to?
Brittney – “I have no idea! Who knows what people like!”
Andrew – “The production on ‘Apex’ was a major step up, and that played a major part, I think.”
Brittney – “Yeah Jacob Hansen was amazing on this album. He was our ace up the sleeve. A very talented producer who knew just what to do with our music, and he did a fantastic job. We also focussed on catchy choruses and melodic riffs, some good headbanging moments as well. It was very structured from the beginning, the writing process, and everything, I don’t know maybe the stars were aligned, I guess!”
As an album sleeve geek, I have to say that the cover artwork is incredible! What does it look like on vinyl?!
Britney – “Oh it’s beautiful on vinyl”
Scott – “That’s the intended format for you to really appreciate the artwork. There’s so much detail, and the more that I look at it, the more I discover. We saw what we thought was the finished product, then we were told that there was like ten more hours of detail to get added. Nothing changed in the structure of the piece, but he just added all these fine strokes, highlights and shadows. We were so impressed.”
Iron Maiden have just announced a new tour for 2018 and it seems close to a “best of” tour. What album would you like to hear them perform in its entirety?
Brittney – “Well ‘Blood Brothers’ is one of my favourite Maiden songs, so I would have to go with ‘Brave New World’, I saw them a few years back, and they played a lot from it so they kind of played it in its entirety! I was singing ‘Blood Brothers’ so loud that I had a circle of dudes around me, telling me to shut up!”
You came from a classical background, I believe. So… what drew you to metal?
Brittney – “Well I think that it’s always been there. When I was younger, my brother was a pretty big influence on me musically. He showed me Megadeth when I was eight years old, and I was like, ‘This is awesome!’. I’d listen to it, but didn’t really understand it until I got to, say, twelve or so. I was listening to Pantera, White Zombie… whatever my brother was listening to. Then I got to high school…”
Fell in with a bad crowd?
Brittney – “I lost my way a little bit there, yeah! A friend of mine was driving me home one night, and he was playing Maiden, so I asked him who it was and he’s like, ‘Dude, it’s Iron Maiden!’ I had been singing in a choir my whole life, a lot of classical music, but that was the first time I realised what I did vocally could be done in a metal way. I stayed in the choir, but I began to learn more about metal, discovered so many crazy new bands, and when I graduated university, I realised that I wanted to sing in a metal band.”
Where do you stand on cell phones at a gig? Do you agree with A Perfect Circle ejecting fans for filming?
Scott – “Yeah, what was it? Sixty people getting thrown out for filming?”
Brittney – “What? That actually happened?”
Scott – “Yeah but they were fully warned, signs up everywhere telling them what would happen if they recorded. The band wanted people to enjoy the show. Be present, rather than looking at it through a screen.”
Andrew – “It’s annoying when you look out and people have their heads down and on their phone. It’s hard because you might want to immortalize a moment at a gig, but there is a fine line.”
Does it distract you when Unleash The Archers are on stage in a small intimate venue like this, and someone is directly in front of you recording?
Brittney – “Yes! The other night there was this awesome fan and I had a really nice chat with him afterwards. He had come a long way to see us, but was front row and had his flash on! He was filming and the flash was directly in my face and I was like, ‘Oh, man! Really?’ I’m not going to say anything or whatever, because you enjoy the show in your own way, but c’mon, you’ve got to think about things like that. Watching a show through your phone is crappy, but a lot of people do stupid things at a gig and that’s never going to change. There have been times when I’ve filmed at a gig, just a snippet of a song, then I play it back, and I’m like, ‘Why the hell did I do that?’, so I’ve stopped it now.”
Scott – “I remember I saw Judas Priest. They played ‘Turbo Lover’, and I was so stoked that I actually recorded it. When I played it back, I realised that I had missed them playing the song live, and I was like, ‘What the fuck did I do that for?’ It was the exact opposite of what I wanted to get out of doing that.”
What are your plans for Unleash The Archers in 2018? Taking a break, or hitting the Summer festivals?
Brittney – “We’re working on it. We’ve had a couple of offers, so we’re going to hopefully try and get a schedule together. Watch this space!”
Interview: Dave Stott