‘Twas the night before Christmas…well, actually it wasn’t. It was four nights before Christmas and Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster rolled into a snow-struck London to support Every Time I Die at the Borderline.
Coming off the back of a hectic tour with the Taste Of Chaos gigs, it’s amazing that these bands have got the energy to give it one last hurrah, and even more amazing to consider how they managed to get here, given that the UK had come close to a standstill. Just after warming up the tightly packed crowd in a sweaty Borderline, I spoke to drummer Matt Clark about the band, religion and hair-raising bus accidents.
The Only Thing I Know For Sure: How did Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster start?
Matt Clark: Maylene started when Dallas [Taylor, vocal] left Underoath and was looking to go back to his roots. [He was] listening to Southern classic rock and combining it with the things he grew up with, like hardcore and metal. When he was trying to pick out a name for the band, he went back and looked at California. There was a re-enactment that went on every year about Ma Barker and her vigilante sons, from back in the 30s. There was a large gun down in the house, and she was killed with her younger son by the cops. She was a mastermind criminal, behind her sons. Maylene is actually a town in Alabama where Roman was originally from. We kind of wanted to use that background of where he lived with all the guys in the band and then fuse [them]. It’s like Maylene is our Ma Barker, and we’re the sons of disaster reincarnated. We’re here to tell everybody that there’s another way, you don’t have to end up in prison. There are other ways around doing what that story left in the history books.
TOTIKFS: So what is the other way round for you guys?
MC: The other way round for us is just living as good people, trying to do the right thing and trying to shed some light on a dark world. You know, just bring positivity with a little country and a little hard-edge in our music. We don’t speak anything damaging – everything we talk about [in the lyrics] we hope everyone can gain something from, that’s always Dallas’ intent and purpose. So we live our lives as good as we can.
TOTIKFS: Is that something that’s been influenced by the band’s religious views?
MC: It is. We grew up in Christian homes, and a lot of us found out for ourselves if we really believed and what we believed in. We consider ourselves Christians in the band but we didn’t necessarily want to pin the band as being a ‘Christian band’ because we want everybody to experience the music that we’re bringing out. Like I say we’re just good people. We’re very respectful of other people’s beliefs, and we’ll sit and talk with anybody. We never try to preach or ram things down people’s throat because a lot of people have got that for many years from a lot of other Christian avenues. We don’t feel it’s our job to shove something down people’s throats that they’ve probably already heard a million times already. We’re not going to say it any differently, so we’d rather just show people by our actions.
TOTIKFS: You’ve been touring for a while now with the Taste Of Chaos tour. How’s it been?
MC: It was awesome. We’ve been over here for about a month now. It’s been fun, it’s been cold and we’re definitely ready to get back home now, a couple of days out of Christmas and we’re missing all the festivities and things that go on before Christmas! But we’ve been really excited to be over here and being able to play.
TOTIKFS: What’s been your favourite stop on the tour?
MC: I tend to like the UK, but I liked Sweden on this trip. The fanbase there was really cool. We were playing larger venues with In Flames and Killswitch Engage. Even though we were on first and fans were still shuffling in they were really awesome. There were beautiful cities and it was one of those places were I’ve read and heard about it and everything lived up to it.
TOTIKFS: What happened during the tour? Any wild tales to tell?
MC: I wish I did! There is nothing that stands out…well, actually yeah there was. We were involved in a bus accident. That would be our wild event! We were travelling at night and everyone was sleeping and we just felt a boom, banging into something and everybody in the bunk holding onto the ledges hoping we weren’t flipping! It was kind of a rough night, but we actually got to the show but we weren’t able to play because we got there late. That was a bummer, it was a good venue. It shook up our driver, we had to sit and wait to get towed, and got picked up by a public transportation bus and there was a lot of offloading and loading gear.
TOTIKFS: Was that the biggest accident you’ve had?
MC: Yeah. Back home we used to tour in a van and other than tyres flying off we were usually able to handle it. That was the first time…it completely totalled the left drivers side and he said from where he looked the bus looked totalled. It was sliding down a guard rail so it took off all the paint and dented in the whole side of the bus and trailer. It was wild…so I guess that’s our story!
TOTIKFS: Did you get to do much sightseeing?
MC: The one thing about bigger arena venues is that they’re based outside of town. So we’d pull up there and, beside the fact that it’s dark by 3 or 4 in the afternoon, just look around and there’s just space. But we travelled around Hamburg, and I walked around Luxembourg a little bit and we pulled into a really cool part of town in the UK.
TOTIKFS: You’re here supporting Every Time I Die – how does it feel to be on the bill?
MC: It’s amazing. Those guys are really good friends of ours and we’ve had an awesome trip together. The last four shows [just with Every Time I Die] were really exciting for me because to have the two bands together made it more special than playing large, grand scale places. I tend to like these smaller venues; they’re a little more intimate.
TOTIKFS: So you quite like the Borderline then?
MC: Yeah it’s nice!
TOTIKFS: It’s dingy!
MC: Well it’s no different than the Barfly’s we’ve played. This has got a little more character than the Barfly’s though.
TOTIKFS: So, talking about you guys and Every Time I Die, what is it about this Southern tinged rock that has something special?
MC: It’s just something we grew up listening to. Today on the ferry they were playing music videos and Bruce Springsteen came on. It’s the same thing with him; he’s just got this sound. They call it an ‘all American sound’ but it gives you this uplifting feeling. We’re a little more edgier and harder than something like that, but I like to hope that when you come to our show there’s a sense of up-tempo groove, and everything involved kind of lifts your spirits up a bit and you can’t help but to bob your head and tap your toes. And that’s something that we want to achieve and maintain with the band. Every Time I Die is a little bit different, but they still have that same kind of swagger, and I guess you could call it that.
TOTIKFS: Have you listened to their new album?
TOTIKFS: What did you think?
MC: I thought it was awesome. It was different to all their other ones. They tend to reinvent themselves for every album. It’s a little doomier I think, playing with that sludge metal sound a bit. I relate some of the songs to Torche, and I love it, it’s right up my alley.
TOTIKFS: You’ve got your own new album out [2009’s ‘III’]. How’s that gone down?
MC: Good so far. We’ve had a really good reception and we still haven’t had any negative feedback, everybody seems to like the record. Which is good, because we took a leap of faith on some things; we kind of toned it down a little, and some of the other songs are a little heavier than on the second record. We were kind of playing around with the sound, especially what with some new members in the band it was their first record and there was a lot of nervous tension during the recording process because we didn’t know what to expect. But we were super pleased with how it came out.
TOTIKFS: What kind of things did you want to change from the past albums?
MC: Not really change as much. We wanted to maintain the feel, but I think if you talk to any of the guys we always wanted to strip it down, make it go a little bit more rock. We didn’t really want to take too much away, we wanted to maintain the edge and integrity of what Maylene was, but we wanted to add some elements. We did some more banjo work, we added some harmonica – stuff you would find in old southern music.
TOTIKFS: What goes down really well live?
MC: ‘Listen Close’ funnily enough, has been a real bang out on this tour. And of course ‘Step Up’ which has been called a single back in the States. That really hits, it’s got the bass drum pumping the whole time and everybody just wants to dance. That’s fun for us – they mosh, they dance, they dance with their girlfriend. Whatever it is everybody can find their own element of that song and get down with it.
TOTIKFS: You’re still a pretty young band in the grand scheme of things. Where are you thinking of going next?
MC: Well we’re just starting to think about it. We can’t wait for the New Year to come along and can’t wait to see what kind of tours we’re going to get next year. But we might take the first couple of months of the year to sit down and think ‘ok – what do we have now?’ Just kind of sitting around a bonfire, throwing ideas at eachother, and that’ll give us an idea for where we go next. Right now I can’t really say; I have a lot of ideas in my head, I know everybody’s got tonnes of song ideas so there’s really no telling what’s going to happen until we get together.
TOTIKFS: Do you take a lot of inspiration from playing tours like this?
MC: Well I think it’s inevitable. You are on tour for a month with some people, two months with others. I mean you tend to take elements, some more than others; there are a lot of bands we’ve toured with that a lot of people could pick up our third record and say ‘oh, we can tell you’ve toured with this band’. I think the elements are not so much in the writing style; if you tour with really good musicians they make you want to be a better musician, so you tend to pick their brains and get them to show you different ideas.
TOTIKFS: How do you cope being away from home for so long?
MC: It’s one of those things that you know you’ve got to do. Some people get out on the road, they think it’s what they want to do but it turns out they don’t. I’ve seen musicians who’ve played the music, they love what they do and then they suddenly make a 180 turn: they want to get a regular job, they want to get married and have kids and they want to live the ‘American dream’. I was there – I toured a long time ago, and I got to a point where I thought I wouldn’t get a chance to tour again but here I am. I love every minute of it, but it’s hard sometimes to be away from home. But being an artist it’s when you’re at home you miss being on the road and when you’re on the road you miss being at home. You learn to cope.