“Everyone I know has a band or artist they go to who motivates them. It’s such a powerful thing.”

Newcomers LYCANTHRO are making waves with their incredible debut album Mark Of The Wolf, which is out now. Before the release, Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Delbridge about the release, mental health and BLIND GUARDIAN’s Hansi Kursh having magical powers.

Hello James, thanks for joining us. For those who haven’t heard Lycanthro before, how would you describe your sound?

I kind of always describe it as heavy power metal. So we’re still a power metal band, we try and bring an element of heaviness to it. For example bands like Blind Guardian, Manowar, Persuader stuff like that.

You have released your album Mark Of The Wolf. It’s a great release. One of the things that the pandemic had an effect on was release dates for albums and tours. Was this the intended release date for Mark Of The Wolf?

It’s funny you say that because with this album, originally I was in the same boat of “I’m not releasing anything until we can tour and play shows.” I found that mentality in the position we’re in now is not only incorrect, it’s also counter intuitive. The reason why I decided for us to release it now was one, that took forever to do and I didn’t want to wait any longer as it was like Spinal Tap where anything that could have went wrong went wrong. 

There were things that were no-one’s fault, it was just bad luck. For example our engineer took longer to edit the album as he has a kid meaning he had to postpone which is fair enough. Our mixer had some stuff going on in his life and it took longer than usual. We also had members leave and we had to let go of members. 

This was all before I didn’t want to release until we could play shows but then I saw a friend of mine, her name is Gaia Guarda. She’s in a metal band but her main thing is her solo material. I would describe it as neo-classical and dark wave. One thing I noticed she did is release her album during the pandemic and she was getting a lot of press and eyes on her. I asked her what her secret was and she said “well think about it. It’s pandemic, more people are online, they have free time to check out new music and they have a lot more disposable income then they used to. So combine those three things, I think you’d be smart to release something now.”

As musicians, we need to adapt so we can still keep our sanity and still be productive during this time. Gaia also said she made a lot more money from online sales more than she did selling stuff at shows. Everything she said was true. We had only been promoting the album for two weeks at this point, we sold a lot of merch on our online store. We did everything she told us and it worked. 

So to answer your question, it wasn’t orignally intended to be the date but I figured it would be good for us now if we released this. We got a show confirmed for next year and we might actually have new material before then so once shows do come back, we will have a lot more to share.

From the number of bands I spoke to, they have said they have more time in the studio to write and edit. Also, it is a hugely stressful time and I think more people look to things to help them escape like music.

Absolutely and as I said more people are having the time to discover new music. There’s also way more avenues being presented for that, for example these sorts of podcasts. I have also seen some people doing goth style live streams and the reason I say goth style is because I have a lot of friends who are into goth music and one thing that’s common even before the pandemic was doing these DJ live streams, almost live a club night type thing. Other people have been doing that with other genres of music. 

As much as I agree that it’s a horrible time for the music industry in terms of people’s jobs and things like that; for independent musicians, yes it has been tough but I feel the ones who had learnt to adapt are the ones reaping the fruits of their labour.

Going back to Mark Of The Wolf. Often when bands release an EP, some of the tracks appear on the upcoming album. I notice this hasn’t happened with Mark Of The Wolf. Would you consider including songs from your EPs onto future albums?

Maybe. Here’s the thing with that it’s because Four Horsemen & The Apocalypse and the demo were very early on when we first started. Looking back, we didn’t have a lot of know how on promoting and all that stuff. One of the things that was the big complaint with those was production. We’re a young band, even now the age gap is hilarious but when it was the original line up, we were all young guys and we didn’t really know what to do in terms of promotion and production. That was the main criticism we got with the first two releases, they were great songs but they needed better production behind it.

On the demo, three of the four songs from there are on Mark Of The Wolf. I thought these were songs that deserve good production and deserve to be heard with good production. In the case of Four Horsemen, I’m in the mind when it comes to EPs those are stand alone. As you say, some bands may put some songs from an EP onto an album and we might do that. At the moment, I find an EP should be treated as a mini album. It’s a group of songs that are put together for a reason. That’s how I see it.

I was also going to say in terms of Four Horsemen, we may re-record a couple of the songs from that. Not to put on an album but as bonus tracks or an online exclusive as we have so much we want to share already. Also so people can hear those songs with better production. One idea we had and think would be great to do is invite a guest singer on the re-recording of the song Pale Rider.

Who would your ideal guest singer be?

In general, my dream person to have guest on a Lycanthro album would be Hansi Kursh from Blind Guardian. He is one of my vocal heroes, in my top three alongside Rob Halford and Freddie Mercury. 

I did think I could hear elements of Judas Priest on the album.

Priest were my big introduction to heavy metal. The first band I fell in love with was Queen and that’s when I decided I wanted to be a musician.

You had a choir come in on Fallen Angels Prayer, where did you find that choir?

There’s a friend of mine, she lives here in Ottawa. She comes to all the metal shows and she’s a metalhead. The other musical thing she does is run the Ottawa Capital Chamber Choir, one of the biggest choirs in the city.  

The song Fallen Angels Prayer is based on The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, I’m not normally a fan of Disney but that is my favourite Disney film. One of my favourite parts of it is the soundtrack, the songs are incredible and I don’t care what anyone says, they are the best Disney songs written. My favourite part of the soundtrack was the choirs, the really big haunting church choirs and I thought we needed something like that in one of our songs. 

So I asked her if the choir would be available to come to the studio one day. They sing one line which is sanctuary over and over again. She said yes and that she will message them to see if they were available to come down, I think twenty out of fifty showed up which was enough. What I did in terms of the recording was, it went a lot smoother than I thought it was going to go. There was no rehearsal or anything like that.

It’s really cool to say we have a choir on it. When it comes to records nowadays, in my opinion you need something that is going to make you stand out. Something you wouldn’t find on a normal metal album because nowadays, most things have been done. You have to do this while making sure it fits with the song and that it doesn’t feel forced. So that’s how that happened and I am happy that it did.

When bands are able to tour again and perform live, are there any songs that you are looking forward to playing live?

That’s hilarious you say that. I will tell you a story about one them. The last track Evangelion, we’re probably going to play that one live and it’s funny because I wasn’t expecting to as that song was the hardest to sing on the album for me. It took me a long time to do it as I did it at home, I did a lot of the vocals at home during the pandemic because we had recorded all the instrumentals a while ago and when those were edited, I did some vocals in the studio when we recorded them. 

However, what I didn’t realise at the time was for most of 2019 I couldn’t sing properly due to a throat problem, a vocal chord problem. It wasn’t anything serious thankfully, it was something called vocal edema. You know when you get a bruise on your arm from when you hit, it’s like that but on your vocal chords. When you have improper technique, your vocal chords will hit each other hard. It’s not serious, it doesn’t need surgery but it takes a long time to heal, for me it took a year.

So when it came to doing vocals, I couldn’t do any of the high screams. When we got the mixes back, I thought the vocals sounded awful. I thought some of them sounded good, the ones I did before this problem, I kept those. The rest of the songs I recorded from home. Evangelion was the hardest one because there were so many vocal layers and I had to re-write the melody for some of the parts multiple times because the ones I wrote before didn’t fit. It took the longest time to do and by the end, I hated it. It’s frustrating because it took so long to do.

Once I gave the song to Jon Asher and we both started sending it to people, everybody told me that their favourite track was Evangelion and I couldn’t believe it. So I have a new found love for it and figured that is the one I am looking forward to playing live.

I think In Metal We Trust will be a good live anthem too.

That’s the reason it’s on the album. A lot of the songs on the album are live staples to begin with. Typically, bands won’t play stuff that’s unreleased live but we weren’t the case as we didn’t have enough stuff for a show. We only had The Four Horsemen and some of that stuff we can’t really play live when opening for a band as Pale Rider is fourteen minutes. So we play shows with songs that we were going to put onto the album, In Metal We Trust was one of the ones everyone loved. We wrote that song as an audience interaction song.

I look forward to hearing that live. One of the things the pandemic has had a huge impact on is people’s mental health.

For sure. I haven’t had the chance to say this in an interview yet. In terms of the mental health aspect, that’s something really important that people need to start taking into account. I know it’s common to address mental health, way more than it was back in the day. The thing with was before this pandemic hit, I honestly never experienced mental health issues. I was always a support person as I have lots of friends who have depression and anxiety, it was one of those things were I tried to help as much as I can. I could never understand it fully as I don’t have it.

However at the start of this pandemic, I had the worst mental health that I ever had. I don’t have depression but I went into a depression and that happened to me for a good six months. For those six months, I was one of the most irritable people ever and I think that was because I wasn’t doing anything musically. The whole first six months was mainly spent looking for new band members. Not doing anything musically for that long really sucked, I went into a depression because of it. When the album was finally done and it was announced, we got great responses to the single The Crucible and a bunch of other things. This helped me get out of it and that goes to show the power of music, especially what it can do for mental health. Everyone I know has a band or artist they go to who motivates them. It’s such a powerful thing.

For me personally, one of my rules for the band was no personal songs as my mentality before was I didn’t want my personal baggage being shown on our music. I broke that rule for Mark Of The Wolf twice in the pandemic. Bands do it all the time, they’re the songs that people relate to the most and I thought it was a good way to exorcise your demons. I find people appreciate those kind of songs a lot.

Here in the UK, mental health awareness is coming to the surface although a lot more still needs to be done. What’s mental health awareness like in Canada?

Honestly, really good. I find in North America it’s been taken a lot more seriously than it has in a lot of other countries. We have lots of great resources for it over here and it’s helped a lot of people. I find the whole mental health crisis is starting to get better in North America because people are actually taking it seriously and seeing that it is a problem. One thing I notice here, even though we like to make fun of the boomers, even they have been acknowledging it recently. Especially when all this time, they were the ones who denied it saying things like “you’re just lazy” or “it’s all in your head”. In the grander scheme of things, that’s not the case and I’m glad more people over here are starting to realise that. I’m glad they are taking responsibility and doing what they can to better this.

Do you think there is anything we could do more of to help people feel comfortable talking about their mental health?

I think the thing that needs to be done about it is things more on a personal level as I think that what helps the most. Sure you can have all these programmes and put in legislature until you’re blue in the face but that can only do so much in my opinion. I think more people just need to be compassionate and understanding with all their friends, your loved ones and even strangers because that’s what will make the change. No amount of politics can do that. If you’re friends are going through something, be there for them and always try to help them out because that’s what helps mental health. 

When you were in a depression, what did you find helped you? That could be a hobby, a particular band.

I have two answers to that because first of all I didn’t handle it the most healthy of ways as I had never experienced it before. I drink very minimally and I don’t do drugs, that’s not what I was implying there. I was very irritable and snappy with people. The way I got out of it was doing stuff like live streams and interviews. On our Instagram page I started doing a live stream talk show series and what I would do is have guests on. They are usually either people I know who are musicians in bands or in some cases I reach out to musicians who I’m a fan of. I have had quite a few big names on there and during the pandemic, they don’t have anything to do either. They are usually more than happy to come on. Being social has helped me a lot. 

In terms of a band or album, they were really big in Canada. They’re a band called Triumph, next to Priest they are my favourite band. Their music isn’t power metal but it could be classed as the step before; very melodic, hard rock with high vocals and shredded guitar solos and happy lyrics. Triumph was a band that got me through a lot of bad times when I was in high school. Their lyrics were motivational and they helped me keep going. I would highly recommend them.

Given that your album was recorded at Wolf Lake Studios which is in the middle of the woods. It’s well known they are associated with horror/survival films. Which five people would you have on your survival team? It can be anyone.

That’s fantastic question. So I am a big anime person so that’s probably what most of my choices will be. 

The one I can think of at the top of my head is The Major from Ghost In The Shell, I think that will be a good one because she’ll just shoot everything and kill anything that tries to get into the house. I think an obvious answer will be Ash from Evil Dead, I’ll go with him. Maybe Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist because he can create a big wall around the place so nothing comes in. 

I would probably have Hansi from Blind Guardian. Sure he’s an amazing metal singer but let’s be honest, Hansi probably secretly has magical powers. He can probably summon lightening from the heavens and strike down all the demons trying to kill us. The fifth person would be Joey DeMaio from Manowar as he is a big dude and can slash things with a sword. 

Relating to that question, which food and drink would you have a whole supply of?

Not the most healthy thing but for drinks I would say energy drinks because that’s my favourite thing. I’d probably have a whole fridge of Red Rockstar and if it’s a night where I don’t have to deal with anything, I would also say Kraken Rum. If you drink enough of that, it will screw you up six days until Sunday.

In terms of food, this might not be a popular answer but it’s because this stuff never goes off, I would say tuna. If we’re thinking about the situation, you can’t have stuff that’s perishable. You have no idea how long you’re going to be there.

Do you have a message for your fans and our readers?

Thank you so much for reading, it’s so much fun to do these. Check out our album Mark Of The Wolf, stream it on Spotify and YouTube. Like us on Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you so much for talking with Rock Out Stand Out and good luck with the album.

 

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