Sunday, March 27, 2011

Interview With The Approach & The Execution

Last Friday night I meet up with vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Langham and vocalist/bassist Nick Kozono of The Approach & The Execution to discuss life on the road, the new album and the group's future plans. Being the extreme guys they are we hit the road looking for some action and new way's to cause trouble. OK, actually we would meet at Starbucks (located inside Target) to enjoy some over priced coffee alongside shopping couples. Such is the life of these modern day metal mavericks. Between day job's (Jeremy works as a social worker while Nick is busy busting tables to get by) and college (every one's working on their PHD) it amazes me that the band has found enough time to develop such a tight and unique sound. It hasn't been easy as Jeremy tells me. But when you "eat, breath and crap this" as he says in regards to the band things work out in the end. What follows is an interesting look into the history of the band, the making of The Burial March (from concept to recording) and how life on the road takes a very special kind of girl.

Andy-Could you tell me a bit about how The Approach & The Execution got started?

Nick-"Well let's see me, Jeremy and Mike (Michael "Mikey" Notte-vocals/guitars) played in a band from 2004 to 2006. It was a different kind of band. We had different influences and everything. We had metal but essentially I wanted that band to be this band and what not. That band broke up though and Mike and I got together. Jeremy would call and he wanted to get the old band back together and do a few shows. I'll let Jeremy take over from there."

Jeremy-"Anyway, I had listened to one of our demos and I didn't want to leave it at that with a bad taste in my mouth. I talked with a lot of people who were interested in our old stuff and maybe bring the band back. I called everyone and everyone was about three quarters in at the time. Nick though said he wasn't feeling it. He said he was on a different chapter though and I totally got that and respected that. So, at the time I was playing with this heavier rock band who are still around in the Kent area. I wasn't really feeling it. I respect them immensely but I was out of it. I wanted to start something heavier so I hooked up with these guys. I was a vocalist for the old band and had started playing guitar and was getting good at it. I really wanted to just play guitar in a band. I called them up and we meet up. I showed them some riffs I had been working on and we just clicked right away. We talked the and it all felt nature. They had been playing with this guy (our drummer Riley) and after finally meeting him (he had been out of town for a few months) we hooked up and it was fun. We started talking about how can we take this to the next level as far as the music was concerned.With the three of us on vocals we wanted a third guitarist and after trying out more than a few including this guy Tom we finally settled on Andy on lead guitarist. He didn't really look the part. Well, I guess none of us look the part as we are sitting here drinking Starbucks coffee! He was a young kid the youngest of us all. He shreds though and is great. At that point I had always talked about having a female member in the band. I really wanted a keyboard/vocalist to set us apart. Not as a cliche or selling point but just to add something new."

Nick-"We had some people in mind. But this girl Britney would come to mind. I didn't know she played keyboards. But she ended up being with us and really was with us over a year."

Jeremy-"Yeah it just clicked. I don't want to get into it too much. We had some falling outs and things happened. We are really happy with Julie though. We played one last big show last year with Britney and it went over well. We are all on good terms now".

Nick-"Yeah, she is over it and all".

Jeremy-"Julie came in right away and picked up the slack. She laid down vocal tracks on two songs she had never heard before. She came into the studio when we were working on our old demo tape and it's been great with her. It's been over two years with her now".

Andy-"Could you tell me about The Blood March?"

Jeremy-"We started working on Blood March the album in about June of last. We started off just saying let's come back and lay down so tracks every couple of months and see where this is going. We didn't know if it was going to be an EP or what".

Nick-"We never really had a set or anything. Nothing was ever set in stone. We threw out a lot of material or rather didn't use everything. As Jeremy said we had some songs we worked out and once the recording process started we started to mold it into what we have now".

Jeremy-"We started talking about what we were going to do with this and I was the one pushing for this to be a full album. Mike was pushing to get music out right now but I wanted to put out something we would be really proud of. Let's get some awesome art work on this and make this thing a whole concept. It's a concept album and I wanted people to be able to get that. Get the whole effect. I know people are still scratching their head's about some things on it but it's all there."

Nick-"Yeah it's complete."

Jeremy-"It's all there. We took on a new monster but it made us all complete as a band".

(It's interesting to note that The Blood March was actually recorded in a small custom studio. Matt Lucy served as producer and engineer on the record and worked along with the band members themselves to craft this killer album in what was actually just a converted two car garage studio. Jeremy and Nick said that working together in such an environment brought everyone closer together as far as chemistry was concerned. Matt Lucy in fact went above and beyond the role of a producer becoming the unofficial seventh member of the band. The job he did on this album is nothing short of genius. On a fraction of the budget of big name acts he helped craft an album that sounds superb. For those bands who are looking for quality you should look into 5/5ths Studio in Painsville,Ohio. It amazes me that a record this epic was recorded on such a small scale. It just goes to show you that with the right producer anything is possible.)

Jeremy-"It came out this past March and it was quite a few months in the making."

Nick-"We had a deadline and the pressure really pushed us to work harder."

Andy-"As you mentioned it is a concept album and it's rather involved. I was reading through it while I listened and there is quite the story being told there. Care to explain how it all came about?"

Nick-"That was all Jeremy!"

Jeremy-"Well, I had the honor and privilege of penning the whole album as far as lyrics and melodies go with a lot of help from the band. They gave me the free reign which I was so thankful for. I've been writing a lot since in my teens. It used to be the angst poetry and the love and hate poetry stuff. It stated off since I've been in bands since I was sixteen lacking in any really depth to where it is now. The meaning behind the lyrics was ever evolving. I wanted to push myself as much as I could to make something we were all proud of. I was thinking about a concept and I had been doing a lot of reading about medieval philosophers and philosophy in general as well as political science and how politics come to be. I took on this character of a philosopher like Socrates and worked with it changing it into my own. Looking at this album from an overview it's more skin deep and a pessimistic view of society. It's about how as human beings we haven't discovered a way to live with each other and not kill each other. As a culture as society we just keep repeating ourselves our history. That's certainly what the album art symbolizes it's people coming from the blood, dying from the blood and being born into the blood. It's very pessimistic but the story isn't all that bad as there are a lot of overtones that suggest we can change. If you want to look down more at the underlying lyrics it's about a philosopher who is in prison for his beliefs. He has an apprentice who really latches onto his ideas and his teachings. He is sentenced to seven days in prison before his execution. His apprentice comes to see him each day to pen his ideas and that's what some of the songs are actually about. It's us singing his ideas. He preaches civil disobedience and for his followers to not use any violence unless they want to become one of the "blood march". The album is called the Blood March because both sides keep referring to each other as such. And the philosopher keeps urging his followers to not use violence against the king. It is funny because it does paint a portrait of what's going on in the world right now. Things happen though and by about the sixth song he is put the death. The apprentice though takes his words and changes them saying let's use reason to justify violence to take over the king. It winds up with a huge battle and mounting destruction on both sides. I leave it up to the listener to decide how that finishes. At the end though it does a fast forward to now though and leave it open ended. There are swords and rifles so we show that it's the past, the present and the future. I'm actually working on a follow up to the album right now. I'm about three songs deep already and leaving the door open so if we want to stop it right there great or we can continue it."

Nick-"Yes, we left the option open"

Andy-"I have to give you credit for it guys doing a concept album for a debut album is a bold move. You pull it off though."



Jeremy-"We like it because it's something different and makes the the listener focus in on what's happening and to wonder about what we're talking about. If this is just one song about government mistrust, love of your friends or love of your girlfriend that's cool but it's not us. We wanted more"

(It was later in the conversation when Jeremy told me that he actually wrote the last song on the album first and then wrote the rest of it around that one song. And as Nick said when it came to writing the album "everyone had their hand in the cookie jar".)

At this point in the interview I shut off the tape recorder as we waited to see if Mike Notte (vocals/guitar) could make it. While he would prove to be a no show (car problems-more signs of life among the rock stars!) I was able to get to get a feel for the the band's influences (Jeremy-punk, metal, prog and even Billy Joel while for Nick it was just metal). As Nick told me most of the band comes from a metal background except for Julie. In an embarrassing moment that will surely do some damage to her metal cred (sorry Julie) Nick says he was playing some "Seek and Destroy" and she asked who it was. That said though both of them had nothing but praise for her. "Julie brings so much to the band" says Nick. Indeed her singing on the album (as well as her talent on the keys) is a real selling point for the album. The Blood March has so many levels as is and Julie is like the icing on the cake. The three of us talked about how we need more women in metal these days. And as I mentioned earlier it takes a certain type of woman to want to pile in a "crappy van with five guys to hit the road" as Jeremy put it. That alone should tell you something about Julie and the type of woman she is. And while I did mention that The Approach & The Execution have been linked to metalcore the band was quick to point out that they are more than that. While we all agreed that bands like In Flames and Killswitch Engage were still at the top of their games things have gotten far too flooded within the genre. Just like nu metal died a quick death metalcore is slowly dying. "There will always be kids who are drawn to the breakdowns and the aggression of the music" notes Jeremy. "For us though we draw from classic metal like Iron Maiden more than just relying on breakdowns". "There's nothing wrong with them" as Nick would say it's just that for them they don't want the tag. "I'd call us progressive" said Jeremy although he is quick to point out that earlier he was "listening to Master Of Puppets". "We like to grab bits from here and there and not so much copy as respect the classics" says Jeremy as he leans back enjoying his iced coffee while sporting a Iron Maiden shirt. The more I was with the two of them I began to understand their mission. With Jeremy, Nick and Mike acting as the three ring leaders the group have set out to create something new while at the same time keeping grounded. "No egos" said Jeremy in regards to the motto. While his old band put business before friendship The Approach & The Execution are all about having fun. "This never feels like a job" says Nick. I tend to believe him. More than anything Nick and Jeremy seem like a couple of guys out to prove that you can be metal and still level headed. "I love my job as a social worker" says Jeremy. "But at the end of the day playing is what I want to do". And playing is what these guys do best two. The group plan to hit the road this summer for a 10 day tour in late July/early August. In the meantime they have Detroit gigs coming up in addition to more local shows in Ohio. The band is also looking to spread the word through new merchandise. In addition to great looking new shirts the group is looking to market themselves in new exciting ways. Sadly these days it takes more than just a good sound to get ahead. I've seen far too many great bands come and go just because they couldn't get the right break. Here's hoping The Approach & The Execution can break past that. The Burial March as I said is an early favorite for my Top Albums Of 2010 column. It really is hard to pin point what this groups sounds like. "We've made an album that anyone can relate to" says Jeremy. "We've found fans who might not be into the metal part and the heavy vocals and yet they find themselves drawn to the keyboards and the melody". That's the thing. Yes the band are heavy and draw from Metallica and Iron Maiden. But when you add the progressive touches and the melody it takes the album to a different playing field. If you haven't had a chance yet check out the group's music at their Myspace page and be sure to look for them on the road. After all as Jeremy puts it "they eat, breath and crap" metal!


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