Interview: The Birthday Massacre

By on 9 August 2011

Canada’s favourite electro-rockers The Birthday Massacre are back. The band’s new EP ‘Imaginary Monsters’ has already hit the shelves following on from last year’s full length album ‘Pins And Needles’. But rather than resting on their laurels and enjoying a well deserved break, the Toronto-based sextet are already planning to head back out on the road for a North American tour with Dir En Grey.
Dominion caught up with vocalist Chibi and guitarist Rainbow to talk about the band’s inspirations, goals and how The Birthday Massacre has progressed as a band.

Dominion: How have you found reaction has been to your current full length album ‘Pins And Needles’?

Chibi: “The reaction has been very good, it seemed to be very well received and reviews were very positive. I’m really proud of that album. I think some of our strongest songs are on it.”

Rainbow: “I think the material from ‘Pins And Needles’ ended up working really well in the live context so, it’s been great to see the positive reaction at our live shows. We were happy that the album was well received in terms of critical reviews but, seeing the way our audience has responded to it has been awesome.”

Dominion: What were your main inspirations and goals in making the album?

Chibi: “To create the best record we could. To bring each of the songs to a stage where we felt good about them and confident that our audience would like them. We’ve got such an extremely loyal fan base – some who have been with us since the very beginning and others just finding out about our music, and of course we want all of these people to feel the same way we do about the songs, have the same emotional involvement. Feedback I have always heard is that our music does evoke very strong emotions or sentiment in people, and that’s one of the goals for our songwriting.”

Rainbow: “Looking back, I think we were working to further refine the sound that we had developed throughout ‘Violet’ and ‘Walking With Strangers’. ‘Pins And Needles’ just felt like the next chapter in our evolution. ‘Pins And Needles’ was written at a point when we were catching our breath after a long period of touring. Mike and I decided to temporarily relocate to Dundas, Ontario (our hometown) to start the writing and recording without distraction. The nostalgic environment definitely had an impact on the writing process. During that time, the band also had a chance to take stock of all the positive experiences and negative consequences that resulted from working and living as we did throughout those few years. I think those memories and experiences also had an undeniable impact.”

Dominion: How does the writing dynamic work within the band?

Chibi: “Usually Rainbow and Mike work on the musical elements and then I get involved once it’s time to write lyrics. On the last two albums, we also worked with our old bass player OE.”

Rainbow: “Due to the fact that we tend to more or less produce our own albums, our song writing and sound production tends to occur simultaneously. Every song is different and our writing methods have varied throughout our past albums but, usually, Mike and I will come up with some ideas which we’ll then pass back and fourth until the core progressions are fleshed out. Then we’ll typically work on the vocal melodies with Chibi and arrange the rest of the instrumentation around them. Chibi and I generally work together on the lyrics but Mike and OE have also contributed a lot their own lyrics throughout our last two albums. Despite the fact that OE isn’t touring with us, we’re still on good friends and he may continue to contributing to the writing and recording. We’re also very excited to start working and writing with our new bass player Nate Manor.”

Dominion: Did the end result meet with your expectations?

Chibi: “Yes. I remember I said this a lot when the record came out, but I loved our record ‘Walking With Strangers’ so much that I didn’t know how we were going to make an album that was going to make me feel the same way. I was honestly sort of worried about it. But ‘Pins and Needles’ exceeded my expectations. Like I said above – I am really proud of those songs.”

Rainbow: “To be honest, I don’t think I had any particular ‘expectations’ during the writing/recording process. We were just working in the moment. At that time, we were just pushing ourselves to make the best album we could…. which I honestly believe we did.”

Dominion: How do you feel the band has progressed since ‘Walking With Strangers’ through to the new EP ‘Imaginary Monsters’?

Chibi: “We had been touring quite a bit, which is something that we have always loved doing. We were on the road well before ‘Walking With Strangers’; during the time the first records were released, touring was always something we’ve prioritized, and sacrificed very much to be able to achieve. As we went into recording the EP, I think we all sort of realized that at that time it was becoming important for us to take a bit of a breather – so we can focus both on ourselves and our lives at home, as well as songwriting and other creative ideas and projects within the band. When you’re touring and trying to write music at the same time, it’s hard to find that balance that is essential in order to remain productive in all ways. So I guess we’ve been focusing more on trying to find that balance.”

Rainbow: “I think our writing and production skills have come a long way over the past few years but, I think the biggest change has been in our live show. The sheer amount of touring we’ve done over the past few years has really allowed us to refine our performance. We’re much tighter both as a band, and as friends. Aside from evolving our sound and image, I think we’ve also managed to carve out a unique little niche for ourselves within the music scene and in doing so, we’ve been able to cultivate an online network of friends and fans into a energetic and inspiring little community.”

Dominion: Speaking of the new EP, are you happy with the way your songs have been re-interpreted by the remixers?

Chibi: “Yes. It’s always very cool to hear different artists’ interpretation of our music and to be able to work with friends on a release. I think all of the songs on the EP, the originals and the remixes, work very well together to set a strong cohesive atmosphere all the way through.”

Rainbow: “I think each of the artists has done a great job in showcasing their range of mix and production styles while still maintaining the spirit of each song. I was happy with all the submissions.”

Dominion: Is the EP an indication of what direction the new album will go in?

Rainbow: “Personally, I think ‘Imaginary Monsters’ is more of an extension of ‘Pins And Needles’ than a ‘new direction’. It’s a conclusion, a celebration, and a heartfelt goodbye to another chapter in the bands ongoing creative evolution.”

Chibi: “The original songs on this EP capture a moment in time for me. They represent that process, that set of months when we were writing them, and hearken back a bit to ‘Pins and Needles’, as some of that material started taking form when we were writing that record. That said, more ideas have taken shape as we wrote those songs, which will lead into the songs for the next record. I feel as though all of our releases flow together, and move forward naturally from the last.

Dominion: What is the recording process typically like for you all as a band?

Chibi: “My experience of recording vocals with Rainbow is always very… hmmm… tumultuous? We have been working together for a long time and we know each other very, very well. There are countless times when we have to stop recording because we have been laughing too hard, and countless times when we’ve been tempted to strangle one another. It is an interesting process, because we feed off of one another’s moods and feelings. It’s like – recording vocals, you’re trying to capture a mood in the way they are expressed, so it can be very emotional and draining for me. I’m always happy to work with Rainbow because he understands this, and we have a good system to keep things moving smoothly. We have a lot of fun working together. But yeah, the ‘We are going to kill each other’ element comes into it as well. It’s like family, I guess.”

Rainbow: “Everyone in the band has a pretty dry and sarcastic sense of humour. We take what we do seriously but, we can’t always say the same for one another. That dynamic can make for some hilarious banter but, before, during, and after the ‘roasts’, we sometimes forget to say nice things too. That being said, I think we’re going a little easier on one another these days. At this point, I’d say it’s a pleasantly dysfunctional family/sibling dynamic.”

Dominion: You produced your first two albums independently, how does this compare to working with a label?

Chibi: “I guess we’ve been lucky in a lot of ways because our label has always been fully supportive in our judgment with the music and allowing us to retain full creative control. We have never had an experience of anyone swooping in wanting to change anything. The label and everyone involved with production has always been 100% with that sort of thing. Our experiences have been very positive and yeah, I think we’ve been very lucky in that aspect.”

Rainbow: “Our production methods have grown naturally along with both our writing and our live performance throughout the years. Each album has been an important stepping stone in it’s own right. Label or no label, we’ve pushed ourselves to improve and evolve with every album as writers, producers, and performers. However, I must say that working with Dave Ogilvie has had an undeniably positive impact on the band. He’s a very talented mix engineer and he really helped refine our sound throughout ‘Walking With Strangers’, ‘Pins And Needles’, and ‘Imaginary Monsters’. The mix work he’s done with us over the past few years has made a big really difference. We’ve learned a lot from him.”

Dominion: You shot a video for ‘In The Dark’, which was directed by Rue Morgue Magazine founder Rod Gudino along with Mike Falcore, how did you find that experience and are you happy with how it turned out?

Chibi: “It was a great experience for all of us. It was really cool that Mike got to take the reins on that and he really worked very hard, which was amazing for him. Rue Morgue’s involvement was invaluable. I think it’s a great video, it incorporates a lot of visual elements that fans of the band will recognize and have been present in our imagery for years.”

Rainbow: “Mike and Rod did a fantastic job. I had a great time working with everyone. There were so many amazing people who helped out, it would be impossible for me to thank them all here and now so…. I’ll just say one big THANKS.”

Dominion: You’re no strangers to making music videos, how important is this medium to the band?

Chibi: “Very important. You get to provide a visual to the song, it’s a fun process, it’s a lot of work and at the end you have something very cool. Music TV stations nowadays barely play any music videos, so the medium has changed. Our videos have been shown on TV, but I think that the days of music videos being used as promotional tools are over. I look at them as a creative project, something to channel your energy and focus into and then share with the people who like the band.”

Rainbow: “Agreed. It’s obviously an important medium to any band wanting to create a visual concept or image around themselves or their music.”

Dominion: You’ve toured the UK a few times now, which is usually a tough thing for transatlantic bands, what has kept you coming back?

Chibi: “We have always received a great deal of support from people overseas from us. We toured in the UK and Europe before we did any extensive North American touring, so getting to connect with the audience over there has always been a priority for us. And we personally enjoy the experience of getting to travel so far from home and see places we may never have the chance to see on our own, out of the band and touring context. But you’re right, it can be a tough thing to arrange. Every tour we do, we have to very carefully weigh the pros and cons and look over the budget and hopefully everything aligns so the tour will make sense for us to do.”

Dominion: Will there be any tour dates in support of the new EP or will the focus be on writing a new album?

Chibi: “We have a tour planned for December, and in the meantime the focus will be on writing.”

Rainbow: “We’ll be touring in and around the US with ‘Dir En Grey’. It should be good times.”

Dominion: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Chibi: “Just a very big thank you for this interview, and to everyone in the UK for their support!”

Rainbow: “Thanks Dominion!”

 


The band’s new EP ‘Imaginary Monsters’ is currently available through Metropolis Records HERE and is available on Out Of Line in Europe from August 15.
The band’s official website can be viewed HERE.

 

About Miranda Yardley

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