The newest addition to the Greyscale Records family, Make Them Suffer, are next in line for the Australian heavy throne. As they prepared to drop their highly anticipated album How To Survive A Funeral (our review here), we grabbed frontman Sean Harmanis to dive deeper into the release, how COVID-19 affected the band and everything that is happening in the world of Make Them Suffer.
Hello Sean! How are you today? Congratulations on your fourth full-length album. How are you feeling about its release?
I’m very good thank you! Aside from the fact that the date has been pushed back to July 24th from June 6th and now we just received word that it is actually going to be pushed forward to June 19th which has only been due to several issues such as communication between the labels and suppliers. Some suppliers couldn’t print the physicals in time while other suppliers could. Despite all that turmoil, I am super excited for everyone to hear that record. I am super proud of it; I think it is some of our best material to date.
I have had the chance to listen to the album, and I have noticed that your lyrics on this record are your most emotionally vulnerable, with ‘Erase Me’ being a great example of this. What provoked this?
It has just been a gradual change over time. I have never actually actively thought about what type of lyrics I want to write either. With Neverboom, Lord of Woe and Old Souls, I didn’t intentionally decide to write them as concept records, but they turned in to that. It was only three-quarters of the way through writing the lyrics for those releases when I realised that it was turning into a story, so I changed a few lines here and there and turned it into that, then wrote the rest of the songs with that in mind. I think that you should never force that so I have just been writing lyrics that come naturally.
In the past, you have spoken about World of Warcraft being a significant inspiration on past albums. What sort of things have you found yourself to be inspired by when going into the studio this time?
Well, a lot of the lyrics on this album are influenced by personal experiences, or from the experiences of people that I have known or just expressing my own feelings. It’s really a mixed bag of that stuff. I still enjoy the idea of telling a story, but this is a bit more tangible.
I guess that also creates a more profound sense relatability with your listeners.
I never think about relatability when writing lyrics. However, I feel that the music I listen to may influence me to change my lyrics to something more relatable or accessible. I’m literally writing about whatever I feel at the time.
Booka Nile (keys, vocals) Has more of a vocal input on this record than she has in Make Them Suffers older songs. Is that something that happened organically or did the band make a conscious effort to involve Booka’s vocals more?
It depends on what song we were working on at the time. She had quite a prominent position to play on the record for the most part. There was a lot of clean sections as well as ooh’s and ah’s from her. Incorporating Booka’s sound is something that we have always wanted to do; it just came down to giving her the confidence and experience to be able to do that in a way that seemed fit. For a song like ‘Erase Me’, which is probably her most prominent chorus on the record, I wrote those lyrics with her while she was sitting next to me because I wanted her to join me in writing the hook of the chorus but also so she felt a level of attachment to the lyrics because I think that impacts the way that you deliver them as well. It is interesting because we were able to find a middle ground where those lyrics mean something to both of us, but at the same time, we are singing about entirely different experiences.
What pushed you to explore your vocal range with higher-pitched singing as we see in your latest single ‘Bones’?
Well, we wrote the song, and we wrote a massive chorus, but we hadn’t added any vocals to it. Drew Fulk (Producer) advised me to wear my heart on my sleeve with this one because it seemed to be an emotional song. I ended up writing all the lyrics for the verses and then wrote the lyrics for the chorus. It seemed fitting for me to sing it because of how personal the song essentially is. Also, ‘Erase Me’ was one of the last songs we recorded for the record and we weren’t aware that Booka Was able to belt out lyrics the way that she can, I think she even surprised herself with that. We were trying to get this out of her on previous records like on World’s Apart, for example. Now we know that is another tool at our disposal, we are going to be able to incorporate more of Booka in the future. For ‘Bones’ it always felt as if it needs to be a ‘belty’ chorus and I have done a fair bit of singing to Linkin Park in my car (laughs).
Make Them Suffer’s popularity has seemingly been increasing rapidly, especially within the last few years. Did that add any pressure when it came to the writing process of the album?
We focus on what we are doing and what music we enjoy writing. We very rarely consider what is going to be the right decision for the fans. It is just about the music for us, and I think that is the reason why people are starting to catch on to our band; because it feels honest and is written for the specific purpose of the enjoyment of writing music.
The recording process of How To Survive A Funeral was the first time you have travelled overseas to work with an international producer (Drew Fulk). How was the recording process, and how did experiences differ from the past?
It was a crazy learning experience for all of us. I think that we have all improved a lot as songwriters. Drew works with a wide range of different genres which gives him a lot of songwriting tools at his disposal; he has different ideas and approaches that he can use to build songs. It was great to learn from Drew’s experience. All the ideas and riffs were all ours but what was great about working with Drew is that he was an incredible facilitator of ideas and mediator. The vibe of the studio had a very open-door policy where no idea was a bad idea. Most of the ideas that Nick (Lead guitarist) or myself would present were used in the final product which hasn’t happened on previous records because I hadn’t been able to describe it or put it in a way Nick understands or vice versa. Drew would take one of us into a room, take one of our ideas and then encourage us to see how that turns out, he then contextualises it in a way that makes sense to everyone, that was cool about working with Drew. It was a crazy experience all in all, though. It was our first time recording overseas, and it was just a blast. It was a full month of writing songs and being in Los Angeles. It felt like a holiday.
For the release of the album, Make Them Suffer signed to Greyscale Records. How did that eventuate and how have you found the experience of working with Greyscale to release this record?
We have been mates with Josh (Merriel) and Ash (Hull) for ages now. I remember playing the Phoenix Youth Centre way back in the day when Ash was putting on shows there, that was one one of our first tours. Having that rapport and knowing them for so long made signing to Greyscale a pretty easy decision for us. We also wanted to be a part of a smaller, grass-roots type of label that seems to be very hands-on with all their other bands. We don’t like dealing with some big industry giant when we are putting out a record. We want to have that personable, approachable rapport with the staff of the label we are working with. It seemed like a no-brainer for us, and we are very stoked to be with them.
COVID-19 really messed Make Them Suffer around in multiple ways, with overseas tours cancelled and the release date of your album being just a few examples. How have you managed to overcome these hurdles?
I have learnt not to stress about the things that are not in my control. We have just been leaving that side of things with the label and management to handle. It is a bummer that the album had to be pushed back, but we totally understand the reasons for it, and we hope the fans and others are also understanding of the situation.
Does Make Them Suffer have any ideas or plans for what will happen post-COVID-19?
As soon as the restrictions are lifted, we are going to be doing as much touring as possible. We are still trying to figure out what the situation with that is because once those restrictions are lifted there will be a plethora of artists and musicians trying to tour at the same time, booking the same venues. So hopefully all the artists and venues can work together to find a solution that works for everyone so that all artists can get their first few tours out of the way. Our goal though is to hit the road as soon as we can.
What is your favourite song on the album?
Probably ‘Bones’, it has everything I like about a song. It is super heavy; it has a great groove, the riff in it is fantastic, which was very fun to write lyrics to, especially the swing timing.
Interview by Adam Rice @adamrice1994
How To Survive A Funeral is Out Now!
Stream it here!
Make Them Suffer – How To Survive A Funeral tracklisting
1. Step One
2. Falling Ashes
4. Drown With Me
5. Erase Me
6. Soul Decay
7. Fake Your Own Death
8. How To Survive A Funeral
9. The Attendant
10. That’s Just Life