A couple years ago when I was new to Guelph and its bursting live music scene, I stumbled upon Unbowed – a young metal band that immediately caught my attention for having a different sound than many of their local peers. Back then, the group had recently released an EP and I sat down with Alex Snape and Nick Lennox to learn more about the young musicians behind the project. Fast forward to today; the noticeably matured band has been hard at work for many months, and is about to release their first full length album titled Collapse the World. I was lucky to hear a preview of it, and let me tell you – it is big, and it is impressive! I reached out to Alex and Nick once again to find out what the band has been up to since our last chat.
Unbowed will be playing an album release show on Saturday, October 25 alongside Becomes Astral, Take the Throne, and Vow of Thorns . You might want to grab advance tickets to this one! And if you just can’t wait to hear the new material, be sure to hit up Rec-Room (Magic) Monday on October 13 for a listening party!
Q&A with Alex Snape and Nick Lennox of Unbowed
C: Your first full length album is coming out about a year later than previously expected. Can you give us some insight as to what the band went through and why the delay?
AS/NL: There are a few reasons, the first and foremost being that we recorded the entirety of this album independently and that our original time frame simply did not account for what an immense workload that turned out to be. Secondly, being a younger band, there were also so many aspects of each of our lives that required attention and forward thinking (be it education, work, or whathaveyou). Ultimately, we had to sort out our own lives first in order to be the best that we could be for Unbowed.
C: What’s been the most challenging thing about putting together this album?
AS/NL: Music is incredible in that when you work hard to create something, it begins to create you. Writing, recording, and playing this piece of work required us to develop and mature to great lengths, both as individual musicians and as a single musical entity. New techniques were learned on short timeframes, songs were written and rewritten countless times, and take after take was thrown away until we reached exactly what we wanted. When all is said and done however, we are all the better for it.
C: What part of the process of creating this album did you enjoy the most?
AS/NL: Easily the most rewarding part of creating this album was having the songs develop into so much more than what we had originally intended. All the little eureka moments of working on songs together and coming up with something more brilliant than anything we could have ever done alone are what has made this journey worthwhile.
C: Has the music and lyrical writing style changed since the last EP?
AS/NL: Unbowed is constantly evolving into a more collaborative project. With the EP material, it was mainly Alex’s original layouts for each song. Those tunes didn’t go through nearly the same growing process as the ones on Collapse the World did. Now, not only are we learning to work together more easily and productively as musicians, but we are learning so much about ourselves as writers; the lyrics are more personal, the stories are bigger, and the music feels so much more involving than ever before. Definitely still Unbowed, but more complex, more driven, and more diverse.
C: When you first set out to make this album, how did you want it to sound, and do you think you accomplished what you set out to?
AS/NL: We wanted this album to sound massive; one doesn’t decide to name an album “Collapse the World” if it’s going to be a tightly confined piece of work. We wanted these songs to be all over the map, in a good way, they ignore the barriers placed by metal genres/sub-genres and still make a strong statement. There’s enough variation in the material that it will allow us to grow in all of the directions which we feel to be natural in the future. It is that balance which we constantly pursue, and we feel we’ve begun that journey with a strong statement.
C: Since the last EP, you’ve dropped your keyboardist. Can you tell us a bit more about that decision? There are still many symphonic elements on the new album; how will that translate into your future live shows?
AS/NL: The decision to part ways with our keyboard player was amicable and mutual. It became clear to both him and the band that our musical interests did not match and decided it was the best choice for both parties. Despite this, those symphonic elements are a huge part of our sound, and in order to keep this as part of our live performance, we have been playing with backing tracks which we have created ourselves. While of course there were many upsides to playing with a live keyboardist, doing things this way allows us the freedom to orchestrate the music itself in a much different manner. Parts are scored as if for an actual orchestra as opposed to a keyboardist, and things that were previously unable to translate into a live setting are now entirely workable given enough practice.
C: To date, the band has taken a very DIY attitude. Do you hope to continue in this fashion, or are you seeking other music professionals/record companies to work with in the future?
AS/NL: The DIY element is something very important to the core of the band. We take pride in getting things done ourselves; this approach teaches you rather quickly how to handle a lot of the issues that will come into play in one’s career as a musician. Right now we print all of our own merch and CDs, and distribute them ourselves locally and worldwide. We also acknowledge that being independent can only take you so far, so we will be looking towards label representation as well as booking representation in the future.
C: Tell us about the epic visual aspects of the new album.
AS/NL: Alex found our artist, Zach Smithson, through Deviantart. Zach helped us to illustrate and characterize the lyrical content of the title track – namely mankind’s desire to conquer nature with machinery, and the ultimate submission to the Earth which man must face, despite his will to do otherwise. Not only does the album cover allude slightly to our self titled EP’s artwork, but it continues to build and shape the character on the front as he is torn between steel and soil, creation and destruction, growth and rebirth. The aim was epic, the result was so much more.
C: What’s next for Unbowed?
AS/NL: The plan right now is to promote the album as much as possible online, and gig as much as possible after its release. We’re aiming to start playing in markets we haven’t yet. It’s currently up in the air in terms of specifics, but we’d like to head east, as well as west within a year. That’s all we can really say.
C: Fast forward to X-number of years to when Unbowed is world famous. What’s on your rider?
Alex : Chocolate almonds and Guinness.
Nick: A nutritious meal and some chai tea. Also enough rum to kill a man twice his size.
Trevor: Brown M&Ms.
Ioan: Books to read, a sketchbook, Monster Munch (imported directly from England), and a Nintendo 3DS equipped with several Legend of Zelda games.
Zack: Teacher’s Highland Cream scotch, Black Creek porter, St-Ambroise oatmeal stout, pizza of any variety.
Photos by Kim Baarda.