Photo - Stephen J. Cohen / Getty Images
LA's In This Moment have just released their new record Mother, and founding guitarist Chris Howorth had a lot to tell us about the creation of its tracks, along with the state of the industry amidst the current COVID-19 chaos and when they'll be back in Australia!
Read on for Higgo's full chat with Chris:
What’s up Dave?
Just doin' my best to survive in a pretty bloody crazy time right now...
I know man we’re doing the same here, just trying to stay sane!
How does it work with the band - are you guys allowed to see each other or what’s going on?
Man it was so weird because our album just came out and we had a tour that was supposed to start a week and a half ago, and we saw this coming ya know, everyone said it, everyone saw it was ramping up. We were talking to our people and saying ‘guys this is looking like it’s not good, we’re diving into this thing coming up, what are we gonna do?’.
Eventually, ya know, everyone just started seeing it happening and the government’s saying you can’t go here or there, and it kinda made the decision a little easier for us. But it seems like everyone in the music business is having to take it day by day, but even now people are realising that 'okay we are done for a minute, we have to let this run its course before we can go back into gear', but everyone’s trying to plan now for summer and fall, hoping that it’s gone by then, but we still don’t even really know, you know what I mean?
It could be like… we’re trying to get our tour we had set for now, ready for July and we’re trying to get the dates in place, but everyone’s like 'oh god, let’s just hope it’s done by then'. But with streaming and everything, and everyone’s at home right now, hopefully our album will do okay 'cause we’re giving people something to listen to, and now that they’re sitting around they dig right into the album, 'cause traditionally you put the album out and you’re on tour promoting it ya know?
It’s amazing how well, and how quickly bands around the world are adapting to this though, streaming a full concert from an empty arena, or from their house. There’s so many ways for bands now to look at their business model and say 'alright, what can we do for fans, and keep ourselves afloat?' it’s testing everyone.
It is, we had a whole giant merch line too that we had just come up with for the tour, and now we’re shifting all that to do on an online store, but no one’s really working right now so we can’t expect people to be spending much money either, 'cause no one has the money to spend. And that’s another thing because people are talking about the tours coming up and the prices, the guarantees that we were getting 'cause things are gonna have to flex and adjust because people aren’t gonna be able to spend this much. Things are gonna be different in the coming months until this thing gets straightened out.
Definitely a period of adjustment, but lets talk about your fantastic new album, Mother. You’ve recorded a couple of covers again for this album - you have a knack of doing covers but making them your own. How does the discussion take place when deciding on what covers to do?
Usually it’s what we wanna do, but we always talk about them. There’s always a cover, that’s been a thing with us for a while now... last few albums especially were like ‘what are we gonna cover this time?’. As far as for this album, The Steve Miller cover (Fly Like an Eagle) was an accident.
Maria and I wrote the music that’s underneath that song as an original song, and we were just working on it at her house trying to figure out, you know we hadn’t even thought about the vocals or anything, we were just writing the musical bed.
And then we were joking around and fake-singing stuff and one of us started singing the ‘time keeps of slipping slipping’ part, and Maria was like, "I LOVE THAT, THAT IS SO COOL WE HAVE TO MAKE THIS A COVER!" and I’m like, "No Maria, this is looking great as an original we can make our own song out of this, we can figure out another way covering that". But yeah she loved the way it was going so we ended up making it the cover of that.
And then, let’s see... The We Will Rock You thing, she brought that up and I just thought it was the craziest idea ever and I was like "no, we can’t do that song, it’s too big of a song everyone knows it and you can’t make it better than what it is. There’s no way". Maria said “what if I got Taylor Momsen and Lzzy Hale to do it with me, each one of us girls sing a verse?" and I was like "well if you did THAT of course it’d be cool"!
I mean, sure, who wouldn’t think that was cool, but I thought there’s no way you could get them to do it, but she ended up getting them to do it! And ya know they’re really cool artists and singers, and just amazing women, and it was so cool that Maria was able to pull them all together, and I think it is just this big bombastic moment on the album.
Well being a huge Queen fan, I’ve cringed at some attempts at covers, like years ago when a boy band tried to do We Will Rock You, it was a moment of 'oh my god, WHY did you do that?', but when you get Maria, Lzzy Hale and Taylor Momsen together - a different approach - it’s a huge moment, and I think people will really dig it.
The latest single, As Above, So Below, I played last week on my radio show. Very cool song, the riff in the pre chorus and the chorus itself is so anthemic, it’s quickly become a favourite of mine. What can you tell me about how it came together?
Thank you so much man. That was one that popped out in the studio, we had nothing written as far as ideas going in for that song, we were just putting our heads together trying to come up with something. Because we’re always thinking with our albums, 'we can’t have everything too slow, we have to find a balance, we have to figure out a way to get to the up tempo song, we need our power ballad type song or whatever, our piano song', or we have what we call ‘art songs’ even - ya know, the songs that we don’t care what anyone thinks or says it’s not going to be on the radio we don’t care we just want it to be artistic.
And I think 'As Above So Below' was one of the ones where we were like, 'we need a ‘live song’ that's gonna be up-tempo, gonna get people pumped up, and I think that it totally rocks it, and it came together very naturally as well.
It’s funny you should describe the process like that because that song leads straight into Born In Flames, which is the polar opposite in feel which makes the album so interesting to listen to. So it’s a conscious effort to shape it like that, is it just you and Maria who work up the songs?
Yeah it is, with Kevin our producer. We work with him together, but me and Maria are kinda the final word, 'cause it is our thing, but Kevin has been with us for so long as a writer and confidant, kinda part of the musical team, so we all come together as a team but there is a checklist, of a ‘feel’, you know?
We don’t wanna be chained by ‘we have to do this because it’s the way it has to be’, because that feels so wrong. But we always look at it from the standpoint that someone’s going to listen to it from the first song to the last, even though a lot of people don’t do that anymore, and it makes it even more challenging with intros and trying to get it the way you want it to be on the record.
Because people will download a song, but if it has an intro on it, they may not even listen that long 'cause they have to listen through an intro to get to the song. Because the attention span is so short these days, so you kinda have to think about it in different ways, so our goal is always to have someone listen from the first song to the last and feel the ebb and flow of the whole album as it goes through so it has a bit of purpose.
I would implore anyone to listen to Mother from start to finish, because you have achieved that fullness, and if they don’t they’re doing themselves a disservice and the band a disservice in my opinion, because I found myself wondering where the album would go next, and it makes it really interesting when a band can sequence the album just right.
Yeah totally, and that’s a thing - we go through multiple lists and everyone makes their own and says ‘this is how I think it would work together when I listen to it’ and we go over it a bunch to figure out what will be the best ebb and flow all the way through.
And I know, unfortunately not a lot of people are gonna listen to it like that - a lot of younger people don’t even come from that school where you listen to the whole thing. They’re song oriented, you know, and that’s okay too, but it is nice when people get to hear it the way we would like them to, as a piece of artwork. That’s how we look at it.
Maybe it’s around the older generation that really focused on that - buying a new album and poring over the artwork, the liners notes, and learning the lyrics to every song by heart and playing an album over and over, that’s kinda been lost since the inception of streaming I guess.
I agree man.
What was the first album you remember doing that with, just really diving into?
Well there’s a bunch of 'em really, I remember KISS Alive, I’m a little bit older too... but Iron Maiden's Powerslave, I remember getting that at the record store and bringing it home, listening to it, looking at the cover, and finding the little dark guys in the shadows in the artwork itself and reading the lyrics. It was an experience, you didn’t even know if it was good or bad if you bought an album back then because there was no internet to tell you before you got it if it was gonna suck, you just bought it because ‘this looks cool', 'I love this band' or 'what this band is kinda showing me’. And you know, if you liked the music, it was even more of a bonus.
I remember buying heavy metal albums of bands that I had never heard of JUST because of the cover. Some I didn’t like, but most I did. It was a gamble!
Even though it’s a different world, we’re trying to bring it back even just a little bit, some of that anticipation of a rock star, 'cause you know back then, you’d see 'em on the album, see 'em in a magazine, see 'em in the video, but you didn’t have this daily influx of hanging out in their apartment in their underwear, or them making a video for you of them on their day off.
They were larger than life, so we’re trying to figure out more to do with imagery and with Maria. She doesn’t do a lot of interviews, we’re trying to make it old school in a way so when you see her or hear her it’s more of a big deal. Like it was with KISS it was like ‘ooh there they are’. That’s how we wanna kinda present the band if we can, from an older standpoint I guess.
You’ve totally hit the nail on the head, bands now are more accessible than ever, they’re on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Twitch, Patreon - we have 24/7 access to all the rockstars, and the mystique has totally disappeared.
And the ones that you don’t have that access to, kinda still have that mystique, you’re still kinda ‘ooohh what are they doing’, you know? Look it’s still there, but you have to resist to put every little thing out there, it’s a weird balance.
I wanted to talk about Hunting Grounds from the album, featuring Joe from DED.
He’s our mate, he’s also Maria’s boyfriend now, but we met him a year and half ago. They toured with us, and we love the band, the band are really cool dudes. Maria and him kinda kindled up a friendship and then relationship, and it turned out that when we were doing our album in Las Vegas last year, Joe and his band were working on their album in Las Vegas as well in the same studio - they work with a bunch of different writers in Kevin Churko’s studio, and Kevin is the executive producer. So then he told them that we were there, so Joe could just come over whenever and sing on the album, and Maria actually sang on one of their songs too on their new album that’s coming out. So that’s how it happened, they were dating, both were in the studio, they ended up writing lyrics together, it was very cool.
That is very cool, great to hear a story like that. Well mate, I know things are crazy right now, but is there talk of Australia 2021 perhaps?
There is, I was talking to a couple of guys in Australia about it this morning, and we had plans that were on the horizon - talking about some things, and we’d seen some dates that were all kinda being talked about. And we were talking about those dates three weeks ago, so it was all supposed to happen, but now it’s all up in the air, but our goal on this album cycle IS to go to Australia and play there. The last time we were there was Soundwave in 2010 I think, and we had a wonderful experience man, the shows were all great.
We have fans there, I mean we really like it, Australia is awesome but it’s been hard to get back over there.
Fingers crossed it’s sooner than later when we get to see you again! Congrats on the album, and thanks again for your time today I really appreciate it.
Awesome man well we appreciate the support, thank you for the kind words and the interview and we hope to see you soon.
In This Moment - 'Mother' Tracklist:
1 -The Beginning – Interlude
2 - Fly Like An Eagle
3 - The Red Crusade – Interlude
4 - The In-Between
5 - Legacy
6 - We Will Rock You (Feat. Lzzy Hale and Taylor Momsen)
7 - Mother
8 - As Above So Below
9 - Born In Flames
10 - God Is She
11 - Holy Man
12 - Hunting Grounds” (Feat. Joe Cotela)
13 - Lay Me Down
14 - Into Dust