AWAKE BY DESIGN are due to release their third studio album very soon. Their self-title album is full of strong melodies and poignant lyrics. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to vocalist Adrian Powell about their latest album, coping techniques that help him through tough times and how the band have been helping keep fans spirits alive.
Hello Adrian, thank you for joining Rock Out Stand Out today. So, you are due to release your latest album. This is my first experience of your sound after hearing your name pop up. From your album, I thought there might have been influences from Kamelot and Evergrey. Would you agree with that?
My bass player Dave [Favill] would love that comment because he is a massive Evergrey fan. We did support Evergrey in London at The Underworld which was a good show. I mean we definitely have elements from those kind of bands in our sound. I think we incorporate quite a lot of bands from a lot of different genres so it’s quite hard to pinpoint what bands we sound exactly like. It’s great to hear your take on it and other people have said similar things but also very different things at the same time. So, it’s always good to hear.
I have listened to your upcoming album alongside your previous releases. One of the main things I notice is the production is a lot tighter.
Definitely. From the ground, we had Carl Groom behind the desk when it came to making this album. He’s also worked with bands like DragonForce and Powerquest, he’s also in a band called Threshold. He’s a fantastic musician and an absolutely brilliant producer. He liked the band as well so it was easy to get on board with us and point us in a certain direction. He recorded the drums and vocals, the rest of it was done at our drummer’s little studio in Taunton. So, we recorded the guitars, the keyboards, the piano and the bass there. We’re really happy with the outcome so far.
We are living through uncertain times, especially for musicians making and releasing albums. Did you manage to record your parts before the country went into lockdown?
Yes, we were quite lucky on that front. We recorded the guitars, the keyboards and bass round about in January 2019; when we were getting the demos together. The last bit, the vocals and drums, we didn’t record until June/July 2019 sort of time so we missed it by a few months luckily. It hasn’t been an easy time has it?
It has not, particularly the touring side of things. Bands having to cancel or postpone shows and tours, lots of festivals being cancelled this year.
We have had quite a few gigs postponed this year, the same as any other band or artist has. Hopefully it can go back to normal at some point early next year but again nobody knows. It’s that elephant in the room really.
I ask this question to a lot of bands about the song writing and recording process for albums, each answer is different. I have read in your press release you do melodies first and then the lyrics.
Normally we do. I don’t tend to have lyrics straight away for the song, I normally come up with the melody first and the power behind the song. I normally find a drum beat and rhythm usually helps as well along with the riffs. There is always a strong melody first. Sometimes, I might change that melody ever so slightly to fit a really good line of lyrics because sometimes you can have the perfect melody and then you come up with the lyrics but it doesn’t make sense or you need an extra syllable. I cater it around to the melody usually but you have to pick and choose what’s going to be the best outcome.
Do you come up with the song title based on a particular lyric?
Normally yes. I write the lyrics, most of the time I would get the melody down and we go over the lyrics. I find out what the song means to me and then come up with a title that way. There’s only been one or a couple of times in Awake By Design where we have had a really strong title, I like the sound of and already that title means something and the lyrics flow from that. It’s always changing as well; I will have a few good song titles and something never happens with them. Even though the song title might sound good, I can’t come up with lyrics that reflect the song title.
That will explain why your melodies are so powerful.
Sometimes when you read the lyrics, you’re like “I swear they weren’t saying that” or “I don’t know what that means but the melody sounds good.” To me, that’s why the melody is the most important thing. I know some people like to read the lyrics and get a story from it; everyone’s interpretation of a song can sometimes be different to what the song creator envisioned for that song. It’s always good to hear different things from people.
Do you draw upon your own experiences when writing lyrics or do you get inspiration from elsewhere?
I like to get a physical copy when an album comes out, I like to look over the lyrics and envision when what that artist means. It’s very important to have a picture in mind about what that song’s about. Some people like a catchy melody and chorus, the lyrics are there and they like to sing along to which again is important from a song writing point of view. I do think the lyrics have to mean something. I have songs on this album that draw upon what happened to me in the past, it’s quite easy to write about stuff you have experienced.
We’re passionate about spreading awareness surrounding mental health, the lyrics in Coming Home are particularly relatable to that. Is there a band, artist or album you turn to when things become overwhelming?
I am a big fan of Iron Maiden, they helped get quite through a lot as well. I think My Dying Bride do as well. It’s weird to say but when you’re in a low mood and you’re feeling depressed, I know some people say My Dying Bride’s music is depressing. Although saying that about their music isn’t a bad thing, I find the slow melodies where the guitar rings; it resonates with me and helps me through times where I feel a bit low.
I get what you mean, sometimes it’s better to listen to something that matches your mood at the time. Sometimes, I put Rotting Christ on to help with stress and anger. Do you have coping techniques that help?
Exercise helps, I am normally in the gym four times a week. I also find a run always helps. Singing also helps me too. Even if you can’t sing, you haven’t got to show everyone your voice. Singing also helps and I think that has been proven, it always makes me feel good unless I am having an off day. Exercise, hitting the gym and singing are things that help pick me up.
I can imagine song writing might be helpful to get anything off your chest, does it help?
Yes, I play piano myself. As soon as you start playing piano, you have a melody pop in your head and that can also eliminate any depressing feelings you have because your mind has suddenly switched and you are on a task. It can bring you out of that zone of feeling low.
Do you have a message for your fans during these uncertain times?
You just got to do what Dory says in Finding Nemo, you got to just keep swimming. You got to keep moving, keep your mind occupied. On most Fridays, we do a live stream on our social media. We have had a couple of our fans message thanking us saying four our Friday sessions and how they are helping with their mental health issues. That’s fantastic to hear and we try to do that most Fridays, especially when we have a release coming.
Thank you Adrian for talking to us at Rock Out Stand Out today and best of luck with the album release.