“We set out with the intention of releasing a solid album that would hopefully stand out from the crowd,” say SERVERS of their sonically stupendous debut album “Leave With Us”, released with little fanfare in February of this year.
The following 12 months saw the Barnsley based band hailed by the music press, play some fierce headline shows and support LA metal band My Ruin on their last ever tour of the UK in August. Add in charity singles, visually stunning videos, a sound like no other band around and an imminent final gig of the year, and we’ve got plenty to talk about.
So we sat down with the self-styled kings of cult to do just that…
SBA: 2014 has been an amazing year for SERVERS following the release of Leave With Us in February. What have your most memorable moments been?
SERVERS: Wow, tough one, there have been so many! Releasing the album on a rejuvenated Undgergroove Records, a label we all have so much respect for; seeing our band get such amazing reviews in the press and being featured in major magazines; playing festivals like Guilfest and gigging with My Ruin were all beyond expectations. But I think the stand out has to be making our live debut at our album release show in Barnsley and it selling out, so much so people were left standing in the room next to the venue to listen. The response and support we get from the local scene never fails to amaze us.
What has the reaction to Leave With Us been like over the last 12 months? It seems to have had a great reception from the gig-going public and some of the rock and metal music press?
We set out with the intention of releasing a solid album that would hopefully stand out from the crowd. The response has been phenomenal – people really seem to get it and relate to it. We did put ourselves out there a bit with the theatrics of the live show, and the concept of the band/album but thankfully it seems to have hit a chord and been bought into which is amazing.
How did SERVERS come together as a group?
Lee S and Lee W have known each other for several years now through our old bands. After Lee S left GU Medicine the intention was to quit music altogether, and he thought his days in music were done. The guitar was left gathering dust for a while, but eventually he couldn’t fight the urge to pick it up again and start putting some tunes together. At that point he asked Lee W if he’d be interested in putting a demo together with Pete at Flatwave Studios and see where it went. Those original demos lit a flame even though they have since become new songs or been forgotten. There was a moment in Flatwave that we remember well when we had a rough draft of “Universes…” – we were just buzzing off its sound and we could see the potential in these songs so it took a more serious turn.
We had been programming the drums up to that point and we knew we needed a real drummer, Ant had just finished with his old band (Disarm), and Lee S had been told about him. He came in to Flatwave for an audition and he knocked us sideways with his skills and his attitude, and we became “SERVERS”.
The enigma that is SERVER #00005 joined us on guitar when it became apparent that we needed a second guitar to make sure the huge sound we’d achieved in the studio translated to the stage. He does a cracking job.
SERVERS have a genuinely unique sound in amongst the current crop of hard rock and metal bands. Did you set out with a plan of what you wanted to sound like as a group when you began?
I don’t think we did. We all have rock/ metal roots so it was bound to have an impact on our overall sound. However with SERVERS our defining concept with the music has always been, if it sounds good to us and it gets us excited to record/play it then it’s OK to be a SERVERS song. I think that’s what helped with the reviews if I am honest. There isn’t a strict formula for SERVERS music; we don’t intentionally start a song with something like “this needs to be heavy or sound like this band”.
To be brutally honest sounding like another band or fitting into a genre/clique is not something we care about. If we have a melody or riff that we buzz off then we will work on it. If it turns out to be a ballad that won’t stop us playing or releasing it because SERVERS is there for everyone and anyone – if someone picks up on a song and loves it as much as us then great, if they don’t, so what?
Leave With Us has a full, layered sound and some incredible arrangements. What was the recording process like for you?
We are so very fortunate to work with Pete at Flatwave Studios for the pre-production on our albums. We loved the idea of being a 3 piece recording band but making something that sounded so much bigger, and the months spent on pre-production allow us to build on things and really focus on the tiniest detail when writing. We are really lucky in being able to work with so many talented people as well in the writing and live phase of the album. With an approach like ours to writing there are never any boundaries, so we can keep tweaking things, hit delete several hundred times, re-record, rearrange, add layers until we are 100% happy with what is there to be recorded.
One of the many things I like about the album is that it exists in an abrasive sounding rock space, but it is also chock full of really strong melodies, too. Is that a fair observation? Was that combination something that you consciously tried to achieve?
It’s a great observation and something we are very proud of. It’s easy to make an album that’s heavy for the sake of heavy and lose that riff or melody that changes the dynamic of an album. It wasn’t intentional – I think it’s more ingrained into what we want to hear in a band’s music, and so it comes out in our album, as at the end of the day all musicians are basically trying to write an album that is perfect for themselves and if others connect with it then it’s all good.
Do you have favourite tracks on the album and did you have a vision of what you wanted to achieve lyrically? “Dangerous Devotion” for me seems to encompass everything that Leave With Us is about: societal crisis, the murky underside of knowledge, power, questions, doubt and, yes, the dangerous side of blind devotion.
Picking a favourite track is hard; I know we all have a favourite track either from an album perspective or a playing live point of view. However, I think music is a personal thing. People connect with different songs for different reasons. They make their own story behind them, so for us to say which is our favourite song wouldn’t be right.
Where did the idea of SERVERS’ hooded, cultish image come from?
The album took a dark lyrical context from conversations in the band and an interest in the subservient nature of people, and how cults or individuals can hold such a power over certain people, to the point of killing others or themselves for a cause. It’s both fascinating and terrifying.
We thought it was important for the band to carry an image that gave an insight into the album. With the emergence of social media these days people are willing to write your band off from a photo without even listening to a single chord of your music, so that’s why we do what we do.
How does the music business now compare to what it was like in the days of GU Medicine? Is it very different?
It’s changed dramatically in my opinion. I suppose it depends on whether or not music is a career move as to whether it’s changed for the better or not, luckily for us it’s not, it’s a passion. So in that respect it’s easier to get your music out there on YouTube, Spotify etc. Downside is that people just float in and out without really buying into a band. People check bands out on social media and most of the time make a snap judgement whether they like them or not.
Music has become a bit like a drive-through… pull up, order and leave. There’s less tendency to linger on one band and become attached or devoted to a band the way it used to happen when listening options were more limited. Now the listener is bombarded with new music… they simply try some then move on. As a result, the majority of people have become detached from the artist because they don’t buy the album, opting to buy single tracks instead…. or maybe a quick view on YouTube.
Lastly the sheer amount of different genres of rock seems to have affected things. There’s no such thing as a straight rock and roll band anymore, but on the other hand the dilution has meant exposure for a larger number of bands. Think what I’m trying to say is that it’s swings and roundabouts. But the underlying thing is don’t ever rely on music to put a roof over your head… just enjoy the ride and try appreciate wherever your musical journey takes you!
As a band you’ve alluded to different messages and meanings hidden in the cover art of your album. Care to enlighten us, or does the mystery remain?
The mystery very much remains. There is a meaning to each and every one of the symbols on the album and there are clues spread across our album booklet and website so the code is breakable, but its over to the SERVERS to work that one out.
Who designed the album cover and how did the collaboration come about?
As I mentioned earlier we are very lucky to have the people around us and supporting us that we do. The album artwork was designed and produced by Pete Thompson at Flatwave. We gave him a concept and idea for a logo and booklet, and let him run free with it. We were really happy with the outcome. It was his idea to hide the message in the logo… (maybe that’s a clue to the question above?)
You released a couple of brilliant videos during the year too, for “Universes & Supernovas (The Ride)” and “Claustrophobia”. How did those come about and who did you work with on them?
Mark Latham produced both our videos. He is such a talented guy and he’s known Lee S for several years from GU Medicine. We sent him early demos of the album and asked if he would like to be involved and luckily he said yes. He storyboarded the videos after discussions at our album photo shoot (which he also did). In “Universes…” we also worked with Lisha Blackhurst who agreed to play the poor girl who unknowingly stumbles into the world of SERVERS in the video.
And how did your cover of the Madness song “Lovestruck” for the Mad Not Cancer charity happen? It must have been quite a challenge to take the iconic sound of Madness and Server-ise it?
We were approached by the Specialized organisation to do the recording as they like to have a lot of different genres involved in their projects. It’s a great cause and we’re honoured to be a part of it. “Lovestruck” was a bit of a mountain to climb in converting it to a SERVERS song, but it had an underlying riff that we knew we could use and make it heavier. We wanted to try keeping the melody but add some “epicness” to it. I hope we achieved that.
You played in support of LA metal veterans My Ruin in August as part of their The Sacred Mood tour. What was that like for you guys?
Unbelievable! Lee S had a relationship with My Ruin from his days in GU Med, so when they asked us to be part of their final tour we jumped at it. We saw them a few times on that tour and loved every minute of the show we did in Bristol. Great venue, Great crowd and hanging with Sanctorum and My Ruin was brilliant.
I’ve heard rumours that a collaboration with Tairrie Murphy from My Ruin is in the works? Can you share anything or is it just rumour at the moment?
Tairrie and Lee S are long time friends. His old band GU Medicine toured with My Ruin on two tours in the UK back in 2006 and he often joined Tairrie on stage to sing the Mudhoney classic “Touch Me I’m Sick” which they covered on their album at the time. They reunited for a 3rd time on stage when SERVERS supported My Ruin in Bristol this past August and had a blast. She really digs the band and suggested it might be fun to write and record an original together, which we agreed and have been working on at the moment via Skype and Dropbox. We’re recording the music and Lee’s vocals here in the UK and Tairrie is recording her parts in the States. We have a cool idea for a video as well to accompany the song once it’s done.
You’ve got an awesome Christmas gig lined up on the 13th December at the Rock & Blues Venue in your hometown of Barnsley. Are you looking forward to it and can we expect any new material at the show?
We are really excited about this show and want to make it a celebration of this past year. It’s a great line up, and it’s the place where it all started for us back in February. The Rock & Blues venue is great, the sound, the people and the stage are all top notch – it will be an awesome night. We are hard at work at the moment on the set and as of right now I can tell you that we will be giving “Bodies In The Ground” its live debut!
It strikes me that there is a massive amount of amazing rock talent in Yorkshire at the moment. SERVERS, Marmozets, Bring Me The Horizon, Allusondrugs, Eureka Machines, The Scaramanga Six, Steel Trees to name but a few. Do you think the breadth and depth of talent has always been here, or do you think something has changed that has allowed these acts to break out and in to the wider consciousness of the music loving public?
There are so many great bands out there; I think the talent has always been lurking. With the internet, social media and digital radio bands are being given a greater platform to work upon and get themselves out there. If bands work hard enough these days there’s no need to rely on big record deals or mainstream press / media to get your name around. The music industry has changed so much these days that the time of DIY is upon us. If you have the quality it will find an audience.
What now for SERVERS? I understand you’ve been back in the studio and writing and recording new material?
We are indeed deep in the throes of writing at the moment. I don’t think we will get out and about much early on in the new year unless something really exciting presents itself as we want to focus on putting out a really strong second album that can better Leave With Us. Not an easy task, but we are confident and all signs so far suggest we can do it.
What would success look like for SERVERS in 2015? What would you like to achieve next year?
We plan to continue to build our profile as a band in 2015, release some great music and hopefully get a bit more exposure on the airwaves and media. It would be real nice to play a few of the big festivals and get a tour going. We’ll see what comes. Like anything in life things can be taken away real quick so it’s all a bonus. Just to be putting music out there that people enjoy and buy into is enough for us. Thanks for your support and giving us the interview!
‘SERVERS Xmas Party’ takes place at Barnsley Rock & Blues on Saturday 13th of December. Tickets are available now via SeeTickets priced at £4.50 each in advance.
Check out SERVERS’ videos for their tracks “Claustrophobia” and “Bodies In The Ground” below: