By BRUCE DENNILL
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
I picked up the guitar when I was in Grade 9. I sold all my cricketing gear to buy an acoustic guitar in Grade 10. I really loved playing and by Grade 12, I really wanted to play electric guitar. At that time, my big influences were Creed and 3 Doors Down, specifically the albums Human Clay by Creed and Away From The Sun by 3 Doors Down. There were a number of other influences, but those were the most notable in terms of my style and sound.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
It has changed. Creed’s guitarist Mark Tremonti has always been an icon of mine and even now, he still is. He’s involved in Alter Bridge, which is one of my favourite bands. Another band that’s really influenced me, not just musically, but with their message, is Switchfoot. I’m a big fan of theirs and I really love what they stand for – bringing hope through their music. I still love my rock music, so when it comes to what I’m currently exploring, it always revolves around that. A big thing for me at the moment is developing my songwriting. Keeping it rock, but also fresh, catchy and modern.
Name one song you wish you’d written. What makes that song so important?
We Will Rock You by Queen. Such a catchy song that has become timeless. Over the generations, it stays a hit. The guys were so innovative in their approach to writing the song. “Get the crowd involved,” they said. Queen wanted to create a song that was made for live performances. They executed it perfectly and the song has stood the test of time. You hear it everywhere and it’s a hit at sporting events.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
For me, I usually write the original idea of our songs in Rise in Red. It starts with the guitar hook. So for me, melodies are all important. Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics are paramount, but melodies get people hooked. If they like what it sounds like, they’re drawn in. So catchy melodies and hooks are important to me and I focus on writing those. Dustin, our lead vocalist, then works on the vocal melodies and lyrics.
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (selling CDs from a box in your car or similar) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
We like to engage with our audience via live videos, be it on Facebook or Instagram. If there’s a new song idea brewing, we give the listeners, or viewers a preview and get their ideas. I have a small home studio at my house, so the moment I have an idea, I record it, get it down and then start working on it. I bring the idea to the band and then we start working together on the structure, arrangement, melodies and lyrics. When it comes to releasing the song, we find that digital platforms have made things a lot simpler. You can plan your releases more effectively and be considered for playlists on Spotify. We do like old-school though too, so we have CDs of our debut album In Between the Lines, released in July last year, and we know for sure that lots of people still like the physical item in their hand, on their shelf and in their disc player.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
The digital distribution definitely did change things. Since it’s easier for us to release music, it’s also easier for the next guy to as well. So you have to do something different. We try to deliver a top-quality product and give care to each and every release. This means that the song recording, the music video, the video content that goes out, anything – all of it must be done to the best of our abilities and budget. People are more inclined to check out top quality content. Social media has created a place where videos are viral, so in order to stand out, you have to rise above. I believe that utilising the technologies and networks is a means of closing the gap and being relevant to as many audiences as possible. The new approach is all social-media and YouTube driven. Do it. Mid- to old-school approach is big releases – music videos, CDs, albums – do it. Appeal to as wide a demographic as possible.
What is the story behind it – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
Our latest single is Progression. It’s the first track on our album and really is a “founding” song for us as a band. Jaco, our drummer, and I came from a previous band around 10 years ago and when that band broke up, we started Rise In Red. Progression was a guitar hook that I had at that time already and always stuck. I feel like it’s the greatest guitar hook that I’ve written to date and when we got together with Dustin, our vocalist, he was able to adapt a great vocal melody to the already great guitar melody. From there, the song was born and over the years, it really hasn’t changed much. We love the song, including our bassist, Pierre, who joined the band two years ago – it’s his favourite song to listen to and to play live. The song is about a person walking through life, dealing with the issues of life, death, faith and hope. We initially called the song Progression and thought it would change, since we named it after the guitar progression! But then the meaning of the song was also “progressive” as it talks about this journey. So in the song, the person journeys through darkness, dealing with these issues and the song resolves with a hopeful, light message at the end. That’s another reason why it’s a very “core” song to us as a band – it speaks of hope and a better tomorrow and it also speaks of a journey and the road to our debut album was definitely one with twists and turns.