New Zealand band, Like A Storm just had their 4th single “Break Free” from their latest album, “Awake the fire” move into the top 30 at Active Rock Radio. Currently on the road with Hinder on a mini-acoustic tour which came through Flint, MI at The Machine Shop on Tuesday, June 14. Legendary Rock Interview’s Aimée List spoke with Matt Brooks (Guitarist) about being a Kiwi, the band’s new obsession with Delta Blues and much more!
Legendary Rock Interviews: I am glad that we don’t have the language barrier I was concerned about.
Matt Brooks: (Laughs) Believe it or not, English is our first language!
LRI: Tell me a little about what it is like to be a musician in New Zealand.
MB: That’s where we grew up and started. Ultimately, when you are a kid playing, it’s probably the same as being a musician in America. Form a band with your friends and start playing in the basement. Then you get a little bit older and start wanting to play in clubs and that kind of thing, and so that was the path that we took. Just the same as if we grew up here. The thing that made us want to take our career further is that New Zealand is an amazing place, but it is so isolated geographically and that makes touring really hard. We really wanted to be a band that could tour all the time. We saw all of these bands coming to New Zealand from America and England, and they were awesome! And they were really awesome because they were playing 200 nights a year! We really wanted to have the chance to be able to tour like that … and that’s the only part where you notice that New Zealand is not necessarily stacked towards being a touring band. It’s an incredible place, but quite remote, and that’s ultimately why we ended up coming over here. There is so much talent in New Zealand. Every time we go home to visit our family and friends we are blown away by the players and fellows that are there.
LRI: I had a musician friend tour New Zealand, who agrees with your description.
MB: It’s a pretty amazing place. We got what we were looking for, and now we really only get home about once a year. But when we go, it’s like an invitation to paradise down there. It really is. Everyone we meet up here loves New Zealand.
LRI: Everyone wants to visit you when you go home, right?
MB: (laughs) We have this funny thing where we have family and friends back in New Zealand who want us to play, and because we ARE New Zealanders it would obviously mean a lot to us to play in our home town. But we are touring for so many months right now, that time is our only time off. It’s kind of funny when you go home for a month or two for what should be kind of your down time, but actually is like one step catching up with everybody and sooner rather than later we are back touring 10 months of the year.
LRI: Well, it’s a good thing you guys are young! Now, Chris and Kent are your brothers?
MB: Kent is the oldest and then Chris, and then I’m the youngest. And then Zack our drummer, he’s a brother from another mother, he’s younger again. He’s our little brother.
LRI: I can only imagine how three 20-something brothers could possibly have interesting ways of dealing with each other when cooped up over 12 months on the road … and then you have a fourth ‘brother’. My theory is, if you are in a band you are married to however many other members are in your group.
MB: You know, that’s exactly what it’s like. I think to be honest touring with your brothers was probably easier than not touring with family. Mostly because if you are going to go out for a whole year with a bunch of people and being in close space 24 hours a day, it really helps to know that person. The other thing is that we get to share a lot of cool experiences together. If just two out of the three of us were in the band how weird it would be to have that third brother who couldn’t relate to all this amazing stuff that we do. It’s really a trip being in a band with your family but ultimately I think it’s really cool. And it can also resolve conflicts. No one knows how to start AND finish and argument like your brother or sister, sooooooo … nothing is left unsaid. Let me put it out there!
LRI: Where no chair has been un-thrown …
MB: (laughs) EXACTLY, it keeps everybody pretty grounded!
LRI: As the baby, I am guessing you catch the most slack?
MB: The guys were good to me as we were growing up, but ultimately I kind of had to ‘earn’ my place in the band. So it was a bit bizarre. There was a bit of good-natured ‘hazing’ I guess (laughs). The older brother always thinks the younger brother had a really sweet deal and everyone has their own perspective based on where they are in the family. And my band is also my family.
LRI: My favorite track off the new CD is Wish You Hell. The structure is unique and doesn’t seem to use a typical arrangement process. Do you put all of these levels into your songs when you are writing them, or when recording?
MB: Both, to be honest. Our goal is to write music that kind of connects with people at first listen that you hear layers. Each time you hear it, you will hear more and more things. Since we’ve been touring in the United States we have really gotten into the Blues. Specifically the Delta Blues. We thought it would be cool to write this song that combined a hard rock chorus with this kind of Delta Blues breakdown part. The cool part with Wish You Hell is that we decided that rather than other songs, that we would write and record all of that music ourselves. We basically picked up instruments that we had never played like a mandolin and a jaw-harp, a slide XXX guitar, and we created this intro and effected it to make it sound as if it were an old sample. In a way we went back in time and tried to create this authentic sounding Delta Blues recording.
LRI: Like a Storm is the highest charting hard rock band in history! How does that feel when you go home? I mean, you are big in the US, but you are the BIGGEST in NZ.
MB: It’s something that we are very grateful for. We have been surprised about Awaken the Fire. It keeps giving. I remember when Love Me or Hate Me started to get played on US radio. It blew our minds that this song that we had written and recorded ourselves was actually getting played in the States. Then it went on the break the record and set a new record for hard rock bands in NZ. Every song that we released, incredibly, has each broken the record of the song before it! It’s a pretty surreal thing. It’s real nice to have that milestone because we do work really hard to try to make the best music we can, and then we tour our asses off. More than anything, we are unbelievably grateful at how well the songs have done and that our music has been exposed to that many people.
LRI: So many things can distract you and make you a less competent person in this business. People are patting you on the back and telling you how great you are. It appears Like a Storm are fueled by their own energy. It’s great that people love you, but because you are family you can deflect some of that.
MB: There are so many things that can distract you, even why anybody starts a band. Or starts writing music … it’s because you love music. We like to have a couple of drinks at the end of the night, we are no saints! We want to be the best band we can and write the best music we can. And we want to play that music WELL. Having grown up together jamming and all loving music keeps us really focused. That is not to say that we don’t have nights off. If I want to spend a month drinking beers, I’ll go home to hang out with my mates.
LRI: The beer is better there, anyway!
MB: I won’t come out on the road and decide to get smashed every night because we want to be playing at a high level, playing the music we are proud of.
LRI: And you are working, so being serious is important. The people you have toured with have obviously taken notice of you. As you go further, who would be the ultimate act you would like to perform with?
MB: That’s a hell of a question! We have been so lucky with the bands that we have toured America and Europe with. We are talking about bands that we grew up idolizing: Creed, Korn, Shinedown, Alter Bridge, all the bands. I would love to play on the same bill as Tool. They are one of my all time favorite bands and to me that is the kind of thing that I can only dream of achieving musically. But on the other hand, I don’t know if I would want to be in a band going on BEFORE Tool. You’re the one thing between Tool fans and the band they came to see. I don’t know if I would want to be that guy. On the Bucket List, I would like to be able to say, “Yeah, man, we are from New Zealand and we opened up for Tool!” That’s a dream come true.
LRI: How’s it been on this acoustic tour with Hinder? Do you hang out with them?
MB: Yeah they’re a great bunch of dudes. Pretty much every show we hang out with them after the show. We’ve been really lucky to tour with bands that are such nice people. There’s nothing better than playing a show together and go have a few beers afterwards and talk out music and stupid road stories! It’s been an awesome tour. The whole vibe of the tour is very relaxed. It’s like being on summer vacation. You turn up and you play relaxed versions of your songs, everyone sounds great and it’s not super loud. At the end of the night you have a couple of beers and hang out. It’s a great way to see America, you know! (laughs)
LRI: Have you played The Machine Shop in Flint before? (prepare for egg on my face!)
MB: (laughs) Yeah we have. As a matter of fact, I think we have played at The Machine Shop 12 times.
LRI: That’s definitely the club to be able to come back in following a show and people aren’t going to mob you. You can have a drink and meet some cool fans.
MB: We love that place. Kevin (Zink) and everybody are awesome to us! We have opened for some shows there and headlined a few times as well. We were just in Flint at The Machine Shop for Sevendust. It was about three weeks, and I think that’s a record … even for us!
LRI: So you probably have friends here now!
MB: We do! We have a ton of friends in Michigan. Tony (LaBrie) and Maggie (Meadows) at Banana 101.5 are huge supporters.
LRI: Are you going to hit the radio station before you do the show?
MB: I don’t know if Tony would want us in! We have been in so much we started joking that we were living on the deck. (laughs)
LRI: White Zombie was the House Band of Detroit in the early 90s … so don’t be un-proud about that!
MB: That’s a pretty awesome House Band!
LRI: Do you do anything as a band to support young musicians?
MB: We have a lot of friends in bands that are coming up, helping as we can. We spend a lot of time talking to young fans at shows. Young bands. I talk to a lot of young guys. It’s cliché, but music is a universal language. You can travel across the entire world talking to people about guitar and rock & roll. It doesn’t matter where you came from, you connect on that level.
LRI: Do you find some sort of responsibility towards being respectable in the public eye so kids can actually look up to you?
MB: I wouldn’t think of myself as any kind of a spokesman. On the other hand, you lose things along the way. You learn some lessons the hard way. If you can share those lessons with a kid so they can have a career and not have to go through what we went through, I think that is what inspires me to want to go and share advice. Some of those lessons you need to learn for yourself. Certainly a lot of bands have looked out for us. We have always really appreciated that, so it nice to be able to pass that on to the next generation of bands coming up. Telling them to stay true to themselves, it’s probably the most important advice you can ever hear.
LRI: It is so easy to become jaded …
MB: It is very easy. If you make the music that you believe in, then you always believe in what you are doing. You might be on the road for 10 months straight, you might be tired (just physically), but you believe in what you are doing. As a musician I can’t think of anything more horrible than playing music every night that you didn’t like. To pretend that you love it. Talk to fans and do interviews after the show about music you couldn’t actually believe in. That’s the most important thing, and that’s why we have been able to work as hard as we have and still be so passionate about it because we have actually gotten to do what we wanted.
LRI: Are you writing while you are touring?
MB: It’s kind of trick question, because we never really stopped writing. The last record Awaken the Fire, we wrote and recorded most of that while we were on tour. We would go onstage, play the show, head back to the hotel, set up our whole studio rig in our room. We would record all night and get up the next morning, put it back in the van and move on to the next town. That’s how we made the album. Just the songs, but the actual stuff on the radio but the songs that are played on the radio were recorded in hotel rooms. We just kept that approach. We have a lot of these songs that we are excited to start recording for the next record.
LRI: In the 60s & 70s, if you even wanted to capture a riff, you had to write music or have an expense (and rudimentary) tape recorder that you brought to the studio. And hopefully you remember where you wanted to go with it from there. It has to give you a lot of freedom to flush things out so that you are more prepared when you get to the studio to complete the finished product.
MB: Technology has been a huge advantage. Certainly with writing and recording while you are out on tour. You can sit in your hotel room with your headphones on and you can create entire band tracks and record all songs. With the recording systems they have now, you can make something that sounds pretty close to a finished item overnight in a hotel room. That certainly is a huge gift for us. To be back in the day, to have it done was logistically impossible. You had to record it to something and then take it to the studio and try to recreate it. Then take to DAT tape …
LRI: And to recreate the mood that brought you to that place. Sometimes it is completely dependent on that moment you are in.
MB: You know that saying, “Trying to capture lightning in a bottle.” That’s what we are trying to do, to capture the emotion and the inspiration behind that song. I think with the three albums out have now, using my laptop, it’s amazing close you can get to the music that you are hearing in your head by flipping on record in your hotel or backstage at a show.
LRI: The lyrics and the music flow together in a symbiosis that is difficult to achieve. You can have the best lyrics in the world but you don’t have the music to go behind it, then you might as well step off the stage.
MB: And we keep on giving it our all!
For upcoming tour info and more. Please visit Like A Storm on the net: