A lot of people who discovered punk music in the noughties encountered Gallows. They were huge, broke into the charts, collaborated with Lethal Bizzle, played on Warped Tour and received mainstream radio play. Gallows may have faded from the public conscience, what with line up changes and a move into a more post-punk sound. But saying the name Gallows is enough to trigger fond memories involving the band (I had one of my first circle pits to them at Sonisphere 2011). Their journey started in September 2006 when the band released their debut album Orchestra of Wolves, which is now considered by some to be a modern classic of punk music. To speak about the album and its impact, I spoke to guitarist, keyboardist and backing vocalist Laurent ‘Lags’ Barnard about the legendary album and the band’s recent output.
Jack: Hello, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Laurent: I’m currently listening to the brand new Neurosis album so I’m doing very well thank you.
Jack: Your first album Orchestra of Wolves was released ten years ago this month – how do you view the album looking back at it?
Laurent: It’s a strange album that captures a snapshot of where Gallows were at the time. It’s frantic, bordering on disaster and utterly self-destructive, which is probably why so many people liked it. It’s real and unapologetic. This made our music stand out when it was released ten years ago, that and the fact that we gave our heart and soul when we performed the songs live.
Jack: Is there anything you’d change about the album looking back at it?
Laurent: If at the time of making the record someone told me ten years from now people would still be talking about Orchestra of Wolves I definitely would’ve put more time and effort into writing the songs and possibly making the album sound heavier. But then again that’s probably the charm in the record. If we had done things differently then I might not be here doing this interview today.
Jack: Do you have fond memories making the album?
Laurent: Yes and no, at the time it was quite stressful considering it was only ever meant for release on a small label. We didn’t have a singer so we were having to audition vocalists while recording songs. In fact I still have mp3s of tracks recorded with different singers. Frank (Carter, former vocalist) came in and recorded the vocals right at the last minute so the lyrics and melodies were quite rushed in places. To be honest we didn’t really know what we were doing. I don’t even remember practicing the songs before we recorded them. At the same time the producer Banks was a good friend of mine so whenever we got bored with recording/mixing we’d just head into London and get weird. Professionalism didn’t exist during the making of ‘Orchestra of Wolves’. I can’t even remember much about the actual recording process apart from it all happened in the world’s smallest room.
Jack: Do you still get the same buzz playing these songs live as you did ten years ago?
Laurent: Playing any Gallows song is a buzz but I guess a track like ‘In the Belly of a Shark’ goes down particularly well live. Kids always lose their shit to the old songs. Ask any band. It’s amazing to think that tracks that are ten years old still resonate with new fans. The music to ‘Abandon Ship’ however was written about 15 years ago which is crazy to think. Gallows have changed a lot over the years but the passion has never died and we play old songs with just as much heart as new ones.
Jack: The album still means a lot to a lot of people as it is still listened to regularly, discussed online and songs played at rock nights. How did this make you feel?
Laurent: For any artist it’s a good feeling to know their art still has meaning. Nowadays the punk and hardcore scene is saturated with bands so for people to still recognise our work is a huge honour. Ten years from now it might be a different story but seeing posts on social media about ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ proves it still has a place in people’s hearts.
Jack: Was there a lot of pressure going into the writing sessions of Grey Britain because of this album’s success?
Laurent: I definitely think there was a lot of pressure, obviously being signed to a major label people were expecting a record that sounded like Green Day meets the Sex Pistols. In the end we gave them the opposite. We certainly put a lot of pressure on ourselves and the process of writing and recording took much longer than even I expected. I remember being in a room with the head of Warner Bros, management, press, booking agent, the entire Gallows team and playing them the demos of Grey Britain. There was a look of shock on everyone’s faces. I don’t think they were expecting what they heard.
Jack: Do you still feel that Orchestra of Wolves’ success hangs over you in any way?
Laurent: It’s the album that broke the band so it’s always going to be the first record that comes to mind when people think of Gallows. There’s nothing wrong with that. When I think of other bands there’s always one record that stands out and it’s never the most recent one. I’d rather people remember Gallows for something rather than nothing.
Jack: Do you still check out the local scene in Watford?
Laurent: Always; I try and make it out to all the local shows. A good friend of mine runs a local cafe/record store. He’s single-handedly keeping the DIY music scene alive in this town and doing a great job. Being so close to London a lot of people just head there for gigs but Watford has always produced a lot of strong bands. Lower Than Atlantis are local and headlining Brixton Academy next year. It’s great to see good local dudes achieve great success.
Jack: Your latest album Desolation Sounds came out last year, how do you feel about the response looking back at it?
Laurent: I felt the response was great. Every album we’ve recorded has been different and at the same time received amazing reviews in the press. Of course it’s not about reviews but it helps to know that critics at least understand what we do.
Jack: The album was a massive departure of sound and incorporated a lot of elements of post-punk and melodic guitars. What was the reason for this?
Laurent: Gallows is not a one dimensional band, the members are not one dimensional. We all have different influences and it makes perfect sense to incorporate ideas that excite and inspire us into our music. We weren’t fulfilled playing straight up heavy punk when it came to writing new songs.
Jack: The album was released on your own label, Venn Records. Why did you set up your own label?
Laurent: It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, not just to release Gallows’ own music but to allow myself the opportunity to work with other up and coming bands. Since starting Venn Records back in 2012 bands that we’ve worked with have gone on to achieve huge success. Honourable mentions are Marmozets, Moose Blood, Milk Teeth. This year we’re putting out a record by a local band called Nervus who write amazing songs.
Jack: Despite a lot of your fans feeling alienated by the new sound on Desolation Sounds, what inspires you to keep going?
Laurent: Alienating people inspires me to keep going. Gallows have alienated music fans ever since we played our first show. That’s what strives us. We’re challenging, individualistic and unaffected by trends.
Jack: Gallows have had a fairly quiet 2016. Have other bands such as Alexisonfire and Krokodil as well as the day jobs taken priority?
Laurent: Gallows is spread over two continents and three different countries. With growing up your priorities change and other responsibilities enter our lives. It’s a shame that we can’t devote more time to Gallows but it’s just the way it is.
Jack: Do you have fond memories of collaborating with Lethal Bizzle?
Laurent: Bizzle was great to work with. It was fun to step into a different musical world for a short while. I even ended up collaborating with him on his record for a song.
Jack: Finally, Nirvana’s Nevermind turned 25 this year – what does this album mean to you?
Laurent: Nevermind was a gateway album that introduced me to bands like The Melvins, Soundgarden, Black Flag etc. It still sounds huge and Kurt Cobain was an incredible songwriter as well as the anti-hero the music scene needed at the time.