“It very much uses that high fantasy setting as an allegory of the healing power of self belief and the nature of methods to conquer ones mental health.”

FELLOWSHIP are a new troupe of questers that are due to release the debut tale The Saberlight Chronicles. It’s a mighty tale that will have you fully immersed. Ahead of it’s release, Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to lead vocalist Matthew Corry about the album, mental health and who would join him on a quest. Here’s what happened.

The Saberlight Chronicles is an uplifting release. In your press release, it states it lists mental health as a focus. Does each song look into different aspects of that? For example I got from Oak & Ash that it looks into self doubt.

So, as an overview the album is a concept record and it has an accompanying novel that goes with it. It’s not a small thing, the lore is very important to us. Each song, directly correlates to a chapter in the novel. Across this novel and the album, it tells a story that is a high fantasy; very classic Lord Of The Rings-esque, maybe a more child friendly and accessible style of writing. 

It very much uses that high fantasy setting as an allegory of the healing power of self belief and the nature of methods to conquer ones mental health. It deals with various aspects of mental health such self doubt, feelings of guilt, the act of drawing a line under ones past and moving forward. It also looks into which aspects of your past traumas and troubles you take with you and how you deal with those in a healthy way. At least for me; I found the healthiest way that I can deal with my own mental stuff is to see my past experiences, whether they are negative or positive, as things that bought me to a place where I conquer the aspects of mental health. That’s very much what the album is about.

Fantasy universes are a great way to escape.

Absolutely but I also think that when art is good it should leave you better equipped to deal with the actual parts of your life that you engage with on a daily basis. Even when it’s just a break, it should have an effect on who you are.

Going back to having a story with your album, it got me thinking of Dark Sarah. Was that where you got your influences from?

It’s not where I got the idea or influence from, I am writer anyway. I wrote the novel a couple of years ago and we were doing an album, as I was writing it the storyline emerged in my head and then I thought “ooh I can make this a concept record”. Ideally, each album will deal with a different topic along the lines of mental health. I think the next one is going to be about honesty as a concept and being honest with ones self. We haven’t started writing it yet but that’s where my head is going.

Songwriting is often auto-biographical, was there any of your own experiences that you shared in the album?

Yes and no. I’m lucky enough to have dealt with a lot but also unlucky. This is the idea behind the album where I saw past traumas as something that have made me who I am today and I find value in them. That’s me personally, I know it’s different for everyone else. I find the value in them and I think finding value in the bad parts of life is the most robust way to deal with them. I am simultaneously lucky and unlucky enough that I had to deal with a lot of this stuff very early on in life when I was fourteen through to seventeen and that’s meant I have had a lot of time to reconcile that.

Back then, there were a lot of different things going on. One of the biggest things was I was brought very religious and my mum is an excellent human being but she said to me a couple of times the one thing she prayed for when she was pregnant with me was that I would be a Christian. When I had doubts about this, the act of telling her about me not believing in God or me even questioning it was the same as disappointing her. That’s an incredibly dangerous thing to conflate and that gave me some real mental health issues with hyper-anxiety around sixteen/seventeen. 

I came through the other side of that, I essentially had that conversation with my mum and then I became the polar opposite person for a couple of years. I was blunt and I was like a living piece of trauma for three years. I pushed that onto other people; I mean I wasn’t violent or anything like that. My personality was violent if that makes sense; I would argue with everybody about everything, I couldn’t let things go and it was really unhealthy.

I spent years of trying to deal with this and trying to make myself into a person that I wanted to be because rather than just sit there, looking at myself and feeling bad about it. It came to a point where it got so bad that I made a decision where I thought “from this day on, I’m only going to focus on being better and not why I’m bad”. It took a long time but I got to a place where I am really very proud of myself and I want to share that journey through songs like this.

To answer your question; with this album, very little of it is actually biographical. I’ve said it’s not biographical but I think a lot of aspects of it are naturally things I wouldn’t be able to write about, it wouldn’t be authentic to if I wasn’t drawing upon my own experiences. I wasn’t just using my Literature degree words to try and explain in a way that’s more accessible to people. I mean I don’t have a legendary sword, I mean it would be fantastic if I did. I never set out for it be autobiographical but many elements of who I am and what I have been through will have crept through these songs. The most obvious example is Silhouette, it’s the most personal song on the album in terms of lyrics. 

Weirdly enough, The Saint Beyond The River. That was the song I wrote myself, the others were written in collaboration with Sam [Browne] or Cal [Tuffen]. That one is as close to autobiographical the album gets.

The Saint Beyond The River was one of the songs I made a note of being one of my favourites. With the choirs, was that all your voices or did you get a choir in?

So everything except the gang vocals section is me. Everything is me expect the gang vocals on Saint, which is all five of recording members for the album. We got them all together, I taught them how to sing the song and split it into parts. It was really awkward. We did that four or five times and layered each version of it on top of one another, kind of Queen style and we eventually got to a sound we liked.

Which of the songs was the hardest to write?

That’s really a difficult question so I can only speak for myself, I know that Avalon took Cal a really long time because it’s a long song that there’s lots of chordal stuff going on. For me, I think I probably spent the longest on Oak & Ash lyrically because that was the one that I did two passes on that song because I wanted it to reference Glint. We didn’t write it as a prequel to Glint but that’s what it ends up being both as a song and in the novel, that song is the counterpoint to Glint. Obviously there is that call to Glint in the middle of the song. The entrance to the bridge is the same tune and because of that, it’s the one that is most obviously about mental health. It’s about vulnerability and accepting that vulnerability in itself.

I also picked that up in Scars & Shrapnel Wounds, was this the intention behind that?

It absolutely does. It’s important to me that the music came first so all of the lyrics came out of the music and there was never any part of me that was like “I’m going to staple this together like this”. I write lyrics to songs and find ways to narratively link them together. To explain this, Scars is a father figure’s response to Oak & Ash. It deals with things that Oak & Ash raises, Oak & Ash is the representation of doubt, guilt and vulnerability in my main character. Then Scars & Shrapnel Wounds is about somebody who has gone through that process and has got things like long term scars but has learnt to value the damage of the past battles fought. 

For those who haven’t heard Fellowship before, who are your influences?

There’s a lot of different influences. I will start with the music ones; the band is such an array of people, we’ve got Cal the drummer who is the lead music writer in the band as in he has wrote the most songs to date. He is a proper power metal guy so Twilight Force, Majestica, Rhapsody, the classics of Power Metal.

Then Sam who’s the other primary music writer, he’s into Eurobeat and pop punk. So bands like Avegend Sevenfold and a lot of anime theme songs. That comes through in couple of the songs.

I was going to say I could hear that in Scars & Shrapnel Wounds.

It was so painful to me, I don’t know if you remember there was this trend on the internet six months ago; people were putting songs to anime openings. Scars lined up perfectly with that but we couldn’t release it because of the album and the marketing.

Back to influences. Brad [Wosko] is very much into Thrash; he is definitely has the heaviest influences among us. Then there is me; I used to have a prog band so I am more of the push the boat out and do experimental stuff. I like 1960s musicals and a little bit of pop punk. I like old Christian Rock too which is way my lyrics are not religious but the emotions are right there. 

Lyrically on the other side and in the novel, most of those influences come from bands like No More Kings, House Of Heroes and Reliant K. The biggest thing for me is marrying the nature of each line to the cadence of the music that it is written for. What I mean by that is if I had a tune that’s got a natural emphasis in the melody, I would make sure the words when spoken mirror the cadence of that melody. That to me is how you create catchy choruses that will stick in people’s brains.

Which of your songs are you looking forward to playing live? I can image Hearts Upon The Hill being great live.

Hearts always gets an excellent reaction, people really like Hearts as much as they love Glint. Personally, I really want to hear people sing Saints back to us. That would be so good live with the full gang vocal section where we can stop playing and the crowd can just go for it. No feeling in the world will be better than hundreds of people somehow seemed to know the lyrics during our Bloodstock set, this was our first show and they were blaring “I’ve always been worthy” at the end of the song. 

Rock Out Stand Out’s mission is to spread mental health awareness. What important lessons have you learnt dealing with your mental health?

There are many things I could jump to but I think there are lots of really key answers that people give to this kind of question. For example; it’s always OK to get help, it’s always OK not to be OK and when you are having a really bad time, talk to somebody. But I think those things have been said a lot and I can only speak for what’s done stuff for me. I would go back to the thing I said earlier which was finding value in the worst times in your life. If you are able to do that, if you manage to find value in them no matter how bad they are. Even if that value is that you have come through them and you know more about yourself because of it. Or if the value is you have become stronger as a result or maybe you haven’t become stronger but you know more about yourself and have a better understanding. 

The very nature of experiences leading you to the person you are today is that I am sure there is way to value some truly horrible things that happened to me. Not everyone will be able to or want to do this and I wouldn’t tell anyone to do this but if you can find a way to value those experiences then they become constructive in who you are rather than destructive in who you can be. You can’t rid of them and try to ignore them as they will only rear their ugly head at a time when you’re not ready.

What can we do more of so people feel comfortable talking about their mental health?

Firstly I don’t think it’s about specific actions, I think it is simply about doing anything. The idea that you would openly do something and make sure that people know that you are OK to talk about things and these are not taboo subjects. If there is an action, it’s learning to see things from other people’s perspectives. Empathy is the ultimate killer for all bad mental health I feel.

What do you like to do to unwind?

I play a video game called Dota, me and Cal both play a lot of Dota. I play too much Dota but I play in league and those people are lovely. Weirdly enough, Dota is a high stress game. I am one of those people who can’t really turn off properly but instead of fighting this about myself, I embrace it. Dota is so high stress and so focus, you can blank out everything else. You can’t play Dota and not be absorbed in the game. 

Is there any albums or songs you like to turn to that help you feel better or resonate with how you’re feeling?

There is so much stuff. Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglas is the book recommendation I would do. It’s not directly about mental health, it’s one of the first pieces of literature written by an American slave. It’s a chronicle about his experiences but across this book it does one of the best jobs in all of literature about how trauma feels. For me, the writer is incredibly descriptive and good at describing things that are hard to describe and for this reason, it gave me a new perspective on how to look at my own traumas. Obviously our experiences couldn’t be more different but that doesn’t change the value of art. Art is valuable to different people in different ways and I find his writing style to be unsurpassable.

In terms of albums, I would say Forget And Not Slow Down by Relient K is my go to album, what an album. I used to use it as a break up album as it’s a concept album written after the lead vocalist was I think accused of cheating. Most of the songs are about you having to believe me. That has so many things about accepting the things that have happened and moving on.

Given your album takes the fantasy saga route, which five fantasy characters would you have join you on a quest?

It’s really tempting to say the entire cast of The Princess Bride. I think I would take Wesley from The Princess Bride, I would take Vanyel from Mercedes Lackey’s The Heralds Of Valdemar series, I want to say Atticus from The Sorcerers Apprentice, I would take Lind from Twilight Force and Sam from Fellowship.

Do you have a message for your fans?

Thank you for all your support that we have seen, it’s been amazing. Thank you for being patient with us, if you’re one of the early fans that came in. You have been waiting for us to do something and thank you for sticking with us, it means the world. I really hope what we do musically, lyrically and live show wise it can make a difference to people’s lives. Talk to us, we love all the messages we get from people. Come say hi.

Thank you so much Matt for speaking with Rock Out Stand Out today and best of luck with the album release.

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