What was the transition like for you guys going from writing an EP to writing a full length album?
It was a pretty big and new thing for us because before the album, the biggest release we had out was an EP, with an interlude and an intro – so it was like three tracks really. The whole process of putting together long release was a little daunting. But I think we definitely handled it really well. Our writing style involves having a large inventory of material, we do write a lot of songs and sort of pick and choose which ones we vibe the most and then we will go and develop them from there. I think as it progressed it didn’t challenge us as much as we thought it would, but it definitely wasn’t easy. Especially when it came to recording, there were times where I felt like I was sitting at home rush writing trying to pull shit together.
What has been your favourite venue to play and why?
Red Rattler in Sydney – that’s home. Obviously there’s Blacktown Masonic as well, that’s another really iconic one for us and it definitely feels like home as well. I think one that we all collectively love when interstate would be Fowlers in Adelaide. It’s a big venue so you know you’ve got a good show coming, they’re super accommodating, the sound there is always great, both on the stage and in the audience.
How have you found the transition between your smaller scale shows to selling out venues?
It’s kind of funny, we did actually play a show at Fowler a couple of years ago and no one had heard of us – there was like 15 people there. So, we sort of got a strong visual representation of how far we’ve come in that time. That’s the main sensation we get from progressing from smaller scale shows to these larger ones. It’s cool to see the shift in reactions, and fans beginning to build momentum around us – It’s just a really good feeling.
In spite of the crappy weather, how did you find the audience response at UNIFY Festival as opposed to other gigs you had played in the past?
It was really good! I could definitely pick out a lot of people from all over that have come and seen us at shows that came, making for a really responsive crowd in the end. Apparently because of how messed up the set times got due to the weather, people were walking off thinking “oh yeah I’ve got 15 minutes before they go on” – I didn’t see it, but apparently when the music started playing there was a little crowd of people who just sort of stormed back to catch us all at once. So that was pretty cool. The best part was that even with so many people there in a festival setting, it still felt to me like it was still our crowd there.
How do you find the crowd reaction varied between UNIFY and shows you had previously played?
Going into it we knew it was going to be really different – there were a lot of people there who didn’t know us. I think the thing that’s different even for some of the bigger shows, we do find there are a few people out there that will know us – they’re front of the stage, you can see the words being mouthed or you can see them engaging with it – but at the larger scale shows there’s a lot more people that are just taking it in and soaking it up. It was definitely really different – the enormity and the size of it. It’s a bit of a hard transition, because once you’re up there there’s no room for error – you get up, you play, you get off.
With that expectation how did your preparation change going into some of your recent larger scale shows?
We usually don’t practice that often – normally we are like “we have a tour coming up, let’s sneak one in,” and try to get everything done in that practice, and then we’re good to go. Since we have played so much, our shows sort of have a natural rhythm, so we can pull it off without too much practice. But the change ahead of UNIFY was us locking down some serious practices – we came together focusing more, probably overthinking a lot of things we shouldn’t have. I think we were just trying to limit the margin for things to go wrong. I actually condensed some of my guitar rigs just to make sure there were fewer things to go wrong.
How did it feel transitioning from being a primarily live band to writing a full-length album – especially since recently signing to Joshua Merriel and Ash Hulls’ Greyscale Records?
I think at the end of the day our preparation for shows and tours is (even if it probably shouldn’t be) fairly minimal in comparison to all the work we have put into what we recorded. Coming to do this album, writing took up a big chunk of time. It’s just thinking about it every day, to and from work – what to write, what to do, how are we going to do it when we get into the studio – it was definitely a very big thing to take on mentally when writing the album. Going through Greyscale has been really awesome, the team there are really dedicated and really strong – I mean obviously Josh and Ash are fantastic people to work with and we’re really happy about the fact we can put this album out with those guys – we know it’s through people we trust.
How do you think it went translating your live presence into a full-length album?
We definitely tried to make sure that songs we wrote really highlighted a lot of strong points for us. I mean, obviously being an album there was a lot more room for experimentation, and we definitely took that liberty to try some new things, which is evident in the final album as a whole, I think. We tried to emphasise our punchy riffs, tightness and just angry shit with vulnerable lyrics.
Was there any difference in the way in which you guys wrote lyrics for the album as opposed to how you wrote your earlier material?
On some of our earlier stuff I didn’t really write many of the lyrics, so coming into this we did share the load a bit more. As a band, we really encourage communal writing, and everyone imputing where they can.
But the difference obviously, first of all, was that I was holding the reins there and trying to put it all together. The first time I really wrote lyrics in the band was Deep Rotting Fear and for me, I don’t think I did actually change too much in the vibe, and what I was trying to go for. I think the best way to say it is, what I do and what we do as a band collectively is that we write whatever we’re feeling in our hearts at any given time. Like a lot of the time, I don’t think any lyrics get written if it’s not what’s actually relevant to ourselves and what we are going through. Transparency is just super important and that’s how you’re going to touch other people’s hearts. There wasn’t a huge amount of differences, more so just new stories, new experiences, and new things to share and write.
If you had to describe your sound to someone who had never listened to you before how would you do it?
It’s definitely a little tricky since we don’t really neatly fit into a genre category, but assuming they have a good back knowledge of music in general – I’d probably say it’s like a black and hardcore/metal core outfit. Super abrasive music, whilst also having a lot of melodic death-metal influences subtly throughout – it’s volatile, it’s angry but it’s going to resonate with you on some level.
You’ve emphasised the importance of personal experience as an influence on the music you put out. In light of this, what are the tracks which you’re most excited to release off of the forth coming album?
One would be track 10. It’s the second last track, Lilac. Putting it plainly it is a love song – that definitely had a lot of crazy feelings channeled into that one. It feels like probably one of the more mature lyrical works that we’ve put together, a lot of things are phrased really well in that song and I’m just really excited because some of the riffs in that song are definitely my favorites. I am just really excited to see how it’s interpreted and see how the fans feel about those riffs.
Secondly, this one was more of a collaborative effort between us, which is No Flowers On Your Grave – track 5. We’ve actually got a guest vocalist on the track, Jazz from Cursed Earth. For me, that song feels a lot more like a cinematic experience. It grows to this nice crescendo when Jazz comes in, and really lets it out.
When creating your album, did you find there was a strong sense of the final product you wanted to achieve?
Not overly. When we wrote and recorded it, we hadn’t finalized where it was going to go. Because it wasn’t set down yet, it meant that we did feel like we had complete liberty with our direction for the release. I think a huge positive about working with Greyscale is there’s this huge emphasis on that liberty; they want us to be our best and that’s why they put so much effort into it. It’s very much we will do us they will do them and we will do it together, and it’s great heading into it without that restriction hanging over your head. Working with people who at the end of the day are happy with the release if we are has made the process super easy and let us focus on being able to work freely.
Off the back of your national headline you are hitting the road with Thy Art Is Murder and Oceano – how have you guys been preparing for such an enormous string of shows, including in Europe?
Definitely one thing that’s really scary to think about is that the first show of the run is in the same month as our headline tour – so we realized kind of recently whatever preparation we do for Europe has to happen like now before we’ve done the headline, as we only have a few days gap before we have to head out again.
It will probably be really similar to our other larger scale shows preparation with the emphasis on ensuring we’re as tight as we can be, making sure our gear is all fresh and functional – when were confident we will be able to rock up without anything blowing up on us. Strip it back and focus on being transparent and raw.
How would you summarise in a few words how it feels to see everything finally coming to a head after so much time and effort.
I think we believe wholeheartedly that it stacks up to everything we’ve done before, and that we’ve definitely utilised our strengths to create something that you’re going to listen to and know that this is definitely Justice For The Damned.
We’re excited to see it happen and see it out there and to know people are going to hear our most complete and our most unified sound as a unit. Because before this, we haven’t been able to experiment much, as we’d only done such small releases. We’re hoping this gives people a means to gauge the full scope of who we are as musicians and people.