Animals As Leaders – ‘Don’t Get it Twisted, We’re Still Here’

animals as leaders band

Making a lasting impact on the world of metal is no easy feat, yet over the last 15 years, Animals As Leaders have released some of the most ground-breaking, cornerstone albums that progressive metal has ever heard. Beginning with virtuosic guitar gymnastics of the band’s Self-Titled debut album back in 2009, they have continued to set the standard when it comes to musicianship, songwriting and production with every single addition to their mighty catalogue.

Every chapter in the Animals As Leaders discography has moved the sound of the band forward and while the battle with expectations can prove to be an adversary for so many artists, guitarist Javier Reyes assures that the pressure was a very welcome feeling when the time came to start working on their fifth album, 2022’s Parrhesia.

“There is definitely some form of expectation, but I think it comes with a natural progression as musicians, writers and creators in general. The three of us like music that constantly evolves and even with the musicians that I like, I have the records that I love but I also hope they come up with something new that blows my mind. So, there is a bit of pressure but I think it’s very welcomed in our camp and it’s the drive for us to do new things and not repeat ourselves.”

Animals As Leaders 2023

Javier, coupled with Tosin Abasi (Guitar) and Matt Garstka (Drums) make up the power trio that is Animals As Leaders, with each member being masters of their respective instrument but that certainly hasn’t stopped them from continuing to grow and push themselves musically. This ever-evolving and progressing momentum to their playing individually also bleeds into their creative process as well as the production.

“Obviously instrumentally, we’re trying to do new things whether that means adding a new variation to a technique or apply it in a different context, but it also comes down to the production side of it too. How we refine the mix? How do we refine our guitar tones? How do we refine every little aspect of it all?,” Reyes comments.

“We definitely influence each other. Even when I’m programming drums at home and I’m messing around, I sound like Matt. Certain chord melody stuff that Tosin might write is probably a direct influence from something he’s heard from me and if I’m coming up with a thumping riff then obviously, I’ve learnt that from Tosin,”

It goes without saying that technical music of this nature requires a lot of discipline and meticulous practice to prepare for tracking it in the studio. Taking that material to a live setting presents a whole other set of challenges, however and curating the perfect setlist that covers fan favourites, deeper cuts and newer songs is a very delicate balance, especially when playing certain material live for the first time.

“There are obviously some obstacles to overcome when playing live as opposed to the studio, but it’s also a different mindset. Each night you only have one chance to execute and perform for an audience. With new music, there’s more of a concern about ‘will the song translate live?’. With a lot of material from previous albums, we were very excited about how it came out, but it didn’t have the same impact we had hoped for live. We’re not afraid to cut a song from the set if it’s not working or not getting the reaction we’d hoped for.”

While Animals As Leaders began as a solo project for Tosin Abasi, Reyes and Garstka have both been in the fold for over a decade now. Writing, touring and working together for so long has truly solidified the trio’s bond, to the point where their creative process has become truly seamless.

“I think The Madness of Many was the first time it really sounded like the three of us and it’s become a really natural thing. We’re all very aware of what the three of us can do individually but when you combine all three, something really cool happens. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to write good music and write music that’s enjoyable for us to listen to. We constantly have that idea of ‘if I were a fan of the band, what would I want to hear?’ in the back of our minds.”

With Animals As Leaders not having graced Australian shores for over 6 years, Reyes has a very simple message for anyone who’s questioning their absence.

“Don’t get it twisted, we’re still here.”

Interview by Nicholas Simonsen @blackechomusic

Animals As Leaders Australia Tour kicks off Sunday!

Animals As Leaders – Australian Tour

Sunday, April 16 – Magnet House, Perth – FINAL TICKETS

Tuesday, April 18 – Lion Arts Factory, AdelaideSOLD OUT

Wednesday, April 19 – 170 Russell, MelbourneSOLD OUT

Thursday, April 20 – The Metro Theatre, SydneySOLD OUT

Friday, April 21 – The Princess Theatre, Brisbane – FINAL TICKETS

Tickets here