Exclusive: Interview with Northlane Guitarist Josh Smith on Surprise Album Release, 'Mesmer' | Revolver

Exclusive: Interview with Northlane Guitarist Josh Smith on Surprise Album Release, 'Mesmer'

Read our exclusive chat with guitarist Josh Smith

Australian metalcore band Northlane just dropped a surprise release! Recorded throughout September 2016 with producer David Bendeth (Bring Me the Horizon, Of Mice & Men), their fourth album, 'Mesmer,' can be picked up right now.

"Through determination, hard work, sacrifice, and a bit of luck, we are able to travel the world taking our music to fans both old and new," said the band in a statement. "We're able to spend time crafting the music we want to hear with the benefit of not having to leave the studio early to go and work a job. To an artist, these are real luxuries. We appreciate them more than anything and we're in the position of being able to do this because of you — our incredible fans who continue to support us. You free us to be the artists we want to be.

"This is our way of rewarding our fans for everything they've given us. What our music means to you is what it means to us. Art is an experience, and to us it reserves no room for competition, and the only accolade that matters to us is the place this holds in your heart."

Here, we caught up with guitarist Josh Smith for an exclusive interview on the new LP, why they decided on this release style, the challenges they faced doing it, and much more.

REVOLVER So you guys just dropped a surprise album, 'Mesmer' via Rise Records! How did the plans for this come about? Were you inspired at all by Avenged Sevenfold, who also dropped an album in a similar fashion?
JOSH SMITH We aim to do something different every time we release music. For us this time we really wanted to both harness the element and excitement of surprise, while also giving our fans the opportunity to hear the entire album the moment it came out. Like a gift from us to them in thanks for all of their amazing support.

We weren't really influenced directly from anybody else, but we learned from both how Avenged Sevenfold and Beyoncé did it. We adapted the model to our fans, they always expect more from us because of the history of how we release music, so from the moment we dropped "Intuition" at UNIFY we were laying Easter eggs the whole time. The biggest one of course was the 'Mesmer' visual clip filled with samples from the record, clips from upcoming videos and even hints for every song title.

As a fan of music, what is the most surprising or shocking thing you have seen a band do?
As a music fan, I thought the [Beyoncé album] 'Lemonade' visual album was amazing, but to be honest not a whole lot surprises me in the way of releasing music as these things are really set in stone for the most part. I think the most interesting thing I've ever seen a band do with a record though is what Tool did with 'Lateralus/The Holy Gift.' They wrote the record to have an alternative arrangement based on the Fibonacci sequence and the clues to this arrangement were hidden throughout the lyrics on the record. To me that is absolutely amazing.

What were some of the challenges or concerns you faced, if any, when attempting to keep the release under wraps?
Absolutely. From what my label told me some outlets were a bit hesitant about it, we had to be extremely careful with who we told, who we did press with in advance and how we rolled it out. We had to blackout our personal social media outlets while recording and get everyone on the project to keep their lips sealed. That's a really difficult thing to do for an album because well over 100 people are involved from recording to release. We were also less likely to chart as well as we might have. We didn't have the opportunity to release preorders in the normal fashion. Charting doesn't really matter to us though, we have had a No. 1 record in the past and the emotional connection we have with our fans through our music is why we do it. Our biggest priority is what they take away from the music.

So let's talk about 'Mesmer'—everyone is basically hearing it for the first time right now. What do they need to know about his album as they dive in?
I don't think they need to know anything. Whenever you enter an experience with an expectation it can dictate how you feel about it. Just know it's full of twists, turns, surprises and we poured our hearts and souls into the record. It mainly explores the theme of loss. This was unintentional but we experienced it a few times during the writing process and had to talk about it ("Heartmachine," "Fade," "Veridian," "Paragon"). Prior to writing these passages there were a lot of songs written about existential topics like the violent, frivolous nature of humanity ("Savage"), the destruction of the environment ("Solar"), intellectual programming ("Intuition") and the invasion of privacy through electronic surveillance ("Citizen"). Strangely enough though, the songs that were not written about physical loss in a way still conformed to that theme, whether it's exploring a loss of liberty, or attachment with our intrinsic human nature.

Musically, we wanted to challenge ourselves to write a record that was in parts as heavy as anything we'd done before, with some real juicy riffs but also incorporate a seamless sounding electronic element. More so we wanted to really focus on the vocal approach and really harness the emotion in the voice of the songs, which our producer David Bendeth helped with to an extent far greater than we imagined was possible. He worked us to our breaking point, especially Marcus [Bridge, vocalist].

Now that we know you have many surprises in store, what else does Northlane have planned for the rest of the year, if you can tell us?
We'll be touring 'Mesmer' quite a lot, starting with regional Australian dates this May, followed by tours and festivals all around the world. We should be finally making our long-awaited return to the USA in the second half of the year too. It's been way too long since we were in your country. Can't wait to see everyone's faces at a show!



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