Hell is for Heroes
R.E.P.E.A.T. caught up with Justin, the vocalist from Hell is for Heroes before their recent headlining gig at the Cambridge Junction. Despite feeling the after effects of a heavy birthday celebration the previous night, Justin discussed a wide range of topics from global politics to the new Hell is for Heroes album.
R.E.P.E.A.T - You’ve been labelled emo/ screamo/ hardcore punk/ pop metal and balls out rock. Was this genre straddling deliberate and do you think its helped in your success?
Justin - I don’t think it’s deliberate; I’m not sure whether it’s helped us. In some ways it has but in others it’s been a hindrance. It’s probably helped us in so far as I think we’ve been able to find our own voice as a band even though we are just a couple of guitars, drums and a bass player. I suppose it’s harder just when you’re starting out. Everyone wants to reference you as a new band and categorise you. It’s proven particularly difficult for journalists and people at record companies.
Do you find it frustrating?
No, it’s never really bothered us either way. We’ve never paid much attention to what people have called us or what we’re supposed to be. We’ve just let ourselves develop our own personality and our own pace. Some of those terms we get called in reviews are also used for bands we like a lot so we don’t find it offensive in any way.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
Mainly just to tour for as long and as far as we can off the back of this album (The Neon Handshake) but somewhere between the lines we’re also thinking about making a second record at some point. We’re writing as we go along as much as we can.
In interviews we’ve read that at least one of you has expressed a desire to play with Metallica at Reading. Is this in the pipeline?
It’s in the pipeline but it’s not signed, sealed or done yet. We’re just waiting for confirmation but hopefully.
Part of this album was recorded in the same LA studio as Nirvana, Brian Wilson and Rage Against the Machine have worked. Are you motivated by the desire to be one of the biggest bands in the world?
The bigger the better. (Laughs) I need at least 3 or 4 cars.
And a guitar shaped swimming pool?
Yeah definitely, and a couple of houses in Spain. But no I don’t think being big was necessarily why or in fact at all one of the core aims of the band. It would be nice to have money and not to have to fucking struggle to pay the bills, if we do get big it would treated as a bonus and a by-product of something altogether different that we’re trying to do with the band. I suppose we want to do something honest and something that’s important to us as people, rather than adhering to profit imperative.
What was it like working with the guys behind the legendary Refused album ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’?
It was great. They’re lovely guys and are now very good friends of ours. They’re extremely talented and it felt very much like they were part of our band rather than a couple of outsiders that we were working against. They were very much in our camp. It was us against the record company, us against everyone else really.
So if you do record a second album will it be with those guys again?
Yeah I’d really like to. We can’t say for certain if we’re going to do a second album for sure yet and who knows with timings and stuff like that if we could get them but I think we’d all love to definitely work with them again.
You’re on tour with the hotly tipped Kinesis. What other new Brit bands should R.E.P.E.A.T readers look out for this year?
Our favourite new bands around at the moment would be THIS Girl, Kids Near Water, Biffy Clyro. Those 3 certainly and Copperpot Journals.
Has your hectic touring schedule affected your relationships both inside and outside the band?
Yeah definitely, both of those things. In some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse. It is hard because you don’t get time to spend with your family and friends but there comes a point where then band becomes your family and hopefully you get as much time as you can between tours to hang out with people outside the band. It is a bit of a juggling game.
You’ve been praised as having a very unique sound. Which track on the Neon Handshake sums you up best as a band?
I think its hard to say really as its difficult to pick out any one track from the album . I think the aim of the album was to make something that was a complete piece of work and I’m not sure any one song makes that much sense without the context of the others.
You’ve been hyped by many of the national music magazines as the ‘next big thing’. How much attention do you pay to this and are you concerned that in the future you will be ignored by the same publications that currently champion you?
It definitely doesn’t concern us or bother us. Strangely enough we get stupid things written about us all the time, both positive and negative. I think certain publications will always talk in sensationalist tabloid language. (R.E.P.E.A.T coughs ‘NME’) Yeah its always got to be the biggest or the best or the worst and we don’t consider ourselves either of those things really. We’re just a band that wants to work hard, be honest and keep growing at a steady rate.
How much influence do you think the music press has on how successful a band is?
Less so than possibly used to be the case, a lot of those magazines have become victims to their own obsession with fashions and trend setting. At the end of the day it’s a classic case of you can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Kids see through the bullshit just like people ultimately see through the bullshit that’s on the front page of most of our newspapers. Now kids are beginning to see the bullshit that is on the front of their weekly nationals. That’s a good thing but it takes time.
Given the current global political climate if you could have one Hell is for Heroes song played to every single person on the face of the earth which one would it be and why?
I really wouldn’t want to wish that on every single person on the planet. (Laughs) I think a lot of people do consider music to be something that brings people together and I definitely believe that music has and can be a very important political voice. However I think it gets more misused than used in the right way and I think the idea of a bunch of rock stars getting together to write a song for global peace whilst it is good in its intent and is good in its context if it raises money. I think that the only real honesty in music will come from bands not seeking to change the world but just to change their own environment, the people close to them and the people that come to their shows. That’s as far as we think. We don’t try and reach out to all those people in China and help them in their struggles. We are consciously aware that people are struggling and we identify with those struggles. We are politically active as is shown on our website but we don’t see our role as a band as being something these people can gain from. It’s just for us.