Yorkshire based Power/Heavy Metal warriors SELLSWORD are on mission; that is to create Seriously Unserious Power/Heavy Metal. The release of their album …And Now We Ride in 2016 and their relentless touring has seen their alliance grow to massive preportions. Rock Out Stand Out speaks to vocalist Stuart Perry and guitarist Henry Mahy about their sound, where they would like to perform and turning negative comments into positives.
First off, how did the name Sellsword come about?
Henry: I think it was Tom’s [Keely] idea.
Stuart: Yeah, it was our bassist Tom [Keely]’s idea. We were doing an acoustic gig with a friend of mine and Tom came down to see it. After we finished, Tom said to us “Hey, we need to put a power metal band together” to which I said “yes that’s a great idea”. I think Tom already had the name Sellsword in mind which I instantly agreed with. Given that’s a great name for a silly power metal band. That’s where it came from.
I found your description on your Facebook page quite amusing. Seriously unserious power metal.
Stuart: I’m going to be honest. If you’re going to make up a power metal band where you try and take yourselves seriously, then you are setting yourself up for a bit of fall. In the genre there is a certain amount of silliness.
Henry: We dip into the silly side of metal in the best possible way.
Stuart: Yeah, it’s fun. I think if you start taking yourselves seriously when you are singing about swords, battles and things like that, it starts to get cheesy. That tends to put me off.
That sense of fun definitely shines through at your live shows, particularly when you hand out toy swords.
Stuart: Absolutely, again it’s all about keeping it fun. I’m a firm believer of that if we’re having fun then it rubs off on the audience.
Henry: The reason why people come to see us is that we give off our own vibe as a fun band. We try and do that at our live shows.
Stuart: Not taking it too seriously, just having a good time. To be fair, if you are going to a gig you are there to have a good time. You’re not at the back clicking along to the songs.
Speaking of giving out the swords, is that something you have always done at your shows or is this something recent?
Henry: We have only done it a couple of times.
Stuart: We did it for our album launch, Bloodstock and that Viking festival. I bear no bones about it, it’s not financially viable to give out thirty plus foam swords at every gig. We save that for those gigs that we deem to be very special occasions.
What are your musical influences behind your sound?
Henry: There’s tonnes of musical influences. When we started out, I think the idea was to trying to emulate bands like Iron Maiden and some power metal bands. Obviously, the main influence behind this is power metal. For me personally as chief song writer, I take influences from DragonForce and Stratovarious. Sonata Arctica is also on that list of influences. I also take influences from prog metal bands like Dream Theatre. Not that our music is prog metal, it’s just my own personal influences.
Stuart: For me, I started listening to Iron Maiden when I was eight. I didn’t really listen to anything else until I was sixteen so Iron Maiden is definitely an influence behind my singing. Someone told me after one of our shows that I sounded like Bruce Dickinson and I was very happy with this.
I have a mini challenge for you, you have only three words to describe your sound. Go.
Stuart: I think the first word would have to be fun. Then dramatic, that’s a good word. So fun, dramatic and I think the last word would be loud. So fun, dramatic and loud.
In terms of your lyrical content, what parts of history do you focus on?
Stuart: We tend to focus on the medieval period, so anything from Vikings to the medieval period. Particularly huge inventories clashing in a field. I don’t think we need to specify a particular time period in history.
Henry: Most of our songs don’t focus on particular time periods in history, they tend to describe battles. The songs are based on various sections or different people. I’d say it’s generally medieval.
Stuart: One time, we did actually have a chat on our way to a gig wondering why we hadn’t put any dragons in the lyrics.
Henry: We’re not exactly a fantasy style band, we’re more historical but not strictly. There haven’t been any fantasy influences but we wouldn’t say no to putting these in our songs in the near future.
So, your songs could in a way be mini history lessons.
Stuart: To be honest, it is a risky game. With Hardrada, we had a culling on the YouTube Video. We had people explaining to us how wrong we were to include Odin and Harold Hardrada in the same sentence because Harold Hardrada was a Christian and we were including stuff about Odin. The internet can be cruel.
One of the YouTube channels uploaded our whole album …And Now We Ride on to the site. As long as people are listening to it, that’s fine. One of the comments included me sounding like a tortured seal. Another comment included, Tom Jones does metal.
I’m sure there were nice comments too.
Stuart: Oh yes of course. That is the state of the world today. If you put stuff on the Internet there’s going to be people who like it and there’s going to be people who don’t like it. When it’s just them and a keyboard, they can be really expressive with their opinions.
Henry: Sometimes I quite like seeing the negative comments as they tend to be more interesting in a way. These give you a different perspective on your music. These comments aren’t usually constructive. Yet it’s cool to see opinions from people who don’t like the music because it’s interesting to hear it from a different perspective. It also makes you think how you can make it different.
There is a danger of trying to please everyone as sometimes it can go off track.
Henry: We would never compromise our sound. However, sometimes we could listen to constructive criticism from power metal fans and think yeah OK we could work on that.
Stuart: We had one person who said our song Merchants Of Menace had a lot of obnoxious chugging.
Henry: Yes, according to him there was too much chugging in one song.
Stuart: It became a thing in practices for a few weeks and I was told to stop that chugging.
It’s great you’re able to turn those negatives into positives where you can have a laugh about them.
Stuart: If you’re going to put your stuff out there for public consumption and if one negative comment makes you doubt your art, then you shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place. You do have to have the slight bit of confidence in your work otherwise you wouldn’t be putting it out there anyway.
I see you are touring this year, if you could play anywhere in the world where would it be?
Henry: The power metal scene seems really healthy and big in Japan so playing in Japan would be amazing.
Stuart: Definitely, I also think South America would be a great place to play too. You hear of Iron Maiden Rock In Rio, something like that in front of one hundred and fifty thousand people would be cool.
Henry: I think there is a good power metal scene in Brazil as well so that would be great.
Stuart: It’s probably not going to happen any time soon.
Henry: It’s expensive to travel to those places, unless you are on a huge world tour which bands these days don’t get to do so much anymore. That would definitely be the dream.
Stuart: I agree, that and Japan definitely.
What has been your favourite place to play live on your tour?
Henry: That’s a tricky one.
Stuart: I can certainly say Bloodstock for me personally. I have sung in various places throughout my life and I’m an actor so I have been on stage in various places. Bloodstock was hands down the best experience. It was incredible to come on to the stage to a sea of people, everyone was having a great time and we were all buzzing.
Henry: I would say Bloodstock as well. The only thing that was negative thing about it was the pressure of playing. I knew this was going to be one of the most important gigs of the year, so the build up to it for me was difficult due to the pressure. Once we were on the stage playing our set and afterwards was just amazing.
At Bloodstock, did you recognise any faces in the crowd from previous gigs?
Stuart: We saw people who we usually see at the bar after the gig and they were at the front of crowd so that was good.
What does the future hold for Sellsword? New material perhaps?
Stuart: It’s funny you should say that as after we finish this interview, we’ll be getting some vocals recordings laid down for a new album. The plan is to have it out this year.
Henry: We have been working on this for a couple of years and we had the first song written up ages ago. We have gradually been building up a bunch of songs and we’re getting to the point where it’s nearly completed. We just have the vocals to record.
Thank you guys for taking the time out to talk to Rock Out Stand Out today!