SOiL, Sons of Texas, Liberty Lies, and The Fallen State fight the cold in the UK
Writer – Max Styles
A long queue of SOiL fans waited outside The Hub on a freezing cold evening in Plymouth last Friday; were they eager to see their favourite band or just excited to get out of the cold? Either way, it was set to be a good night.
First up for the night was The Fallen State, the local support hailing from Barnstaple. These guys don’t mess around; they delivered straight up rock, with the strong vocals from frontman Ben Stenning cutting above the wall of noise. Having already toured with Black Stone Cherry and Halestorm, they’ve got their fair share of on-stage experience, and you can really tell. Their confident stage presence shining through and creating an even better atmosphere all around. The Fallen State are definitely ones to keep an eye on.
Liberty Lies, alternative rockers from the west midlands, were the next band on the bill. Although their set was great and their playing was really tight all around, I feel as though local support The Fallen State upstaged them a bit. I didn’t feel as hooked into the performance as I would have hoped to be. Having said that though, they did a fantastic job of keeping the crowd moving throughout their set, warming them up for the sonic freight train that is Sons Of Texas.
A long way from home, Sons Of Texas opened their set with “Never Bury The Hatchet,” the first track on their debut album Baptised In The Rio Grande. They take to the to the stage and immediately assert dominance with their heavy, groovy riffs. The crowd received them really well and all band members looked genuinely happy to be there, thousands of miles from home playing to a new crowd. I hear a lot of comparison to Pantera, which is entirely evident in their music, but it’s not a bad thing at all. After all, they are from Texas! Mark Morales’s vocals are beautiful; he has a real Phil Anselmo (Pantera) sound, and combined with his deep, soulful tones the two blend together perfectly. On top of this, you have their crushing rhythm guitar riffs.
Sons of Texas
“I want to meet every single one of you fuckers after the show,” declared Mark halfway through the set; and sure enough, he was out there at the merch stand after the show signing albums and meeting fans. Sons of Texas really kicked ass and were definitely my favourite performance of the night. I was given an opportunity to sit down with the group and chat for a bit. Scroll down for an in-depth interview!
Now for the headliner, SOiL. Unfortunately I was instructed that they didn’t want any photos taken of them at all tonight; perhaps they got camera shy? I was given no real reason as to why they didn’t want to be photographed, so we can only speculate. They opened with “Wide Open,” off their second studio album, Scars. This was a good opener and was well received, as they kicked off the set.
After it was announced that Saliva were pulling out of the tour, SOiL announced that they were going to play an extended set each night, including some previously unplayed songs. They performed well, but felt like they became a bit stale after the first few songs, especially when playing an extended set. Now that is just my opinion, a die hard SOiL fan may say otherwise, but the show just started to come across as slightly regurgitated.
Vocalist Ryan McCombs exchanged words with the crowd quite frequently, calling people out for taking photos with phones and so on. It was funny to listen to and earned a lot of laughter from the crowd, especially when he called out someone for taking photos on a phone with flash. Although semi-presented as a poke at the guy for fun, you could tell it was actually irritating him. SOiL went on to play more of their hits, including “Halo” and “The Hate Song.” Overall it was a good performance, but it didn’t move mountains.
Regardless of how well-known artists are, it’s always interesting to speak with them and get a peek at what life on the other side of the lens is like. Below is an interview with Mark Morales and Jon Olivares from Sons of Texas. We talked about their adventures in Europe, how Texas compares, and how unreal working with Josh Wilbur was.
Shutter 16– I was looking at the tour dates earlier- this tour is intense! How’s it going?
Jon– It’s crazy right? There’s like one day off every week, so it’s like normally you’d work a 9 to 5 and it’s 5 days a week but for us it’s like 6 out of 7! It’s pretty crazy but we love doing it and the guys in SOiL and the crew are awesome to us. It doesn’t really feel like work half the time.
Mark– It’s good though, the 6 days a week it keeps you sharp man, I think, you know?
Jon– I mean when it comes to performing live you gotta be on your A game every night, so it kinda helps out having that every night to practice.
Mark– It really does man, it really does, and the days off we’re just kinda like ‘oh man I wish we would of played today’, but yeah it’s all good man, it’s going really well!
Shutter 16– You’re a long way from home! It’s quite different to Texas- how’s Europe been treating you all?
Mark– It’s been great man, the reception has been extraordinary, you know, this is our first time out of the states and it’s been a hell of a journey. All of Europe- aside from the language barriers which wasn’t too crazy, I mean most people knew English.
Jon– Yeah most people knew English yeah, in Germany, the Netherlands and wherever else.
Mark– So I mean finding stuff like food and coffee and whatnot wasn’t too difficult. I think the only thing that was a little bit of a pain in the ass was the currency issue! Having to change from euros, to francs, to pounds, all of that.
Jon– We got ‘em all mixed up at one point.
Mark– Yeah we pull out a thing of coins and we’re just like ‘here you go’ and they say ‘no this is not euro!’ But yeah man it’s been badass, it’s been really good.
Shutter 16– Was it 3 or 5 years ago you started the band? I’ve seen two different dates!
Jon– The idea for starting this band was in 2011. Jesse came to me wanting to start a rock and roll band and that Mark was the perfect fit.
Mark– And you didn’t think so!
Jon– I didn’t think so, I really didn’t think so, but we tried him out and I was like ‘well he’s okay’, but yeah some of the songs that you hear on the album were written in 2011, but the line up that you have right now started in 2013, January 1st actually. So we did a whole year with two other members and then we kind of upgraded to the guys we have now, and eight months later we had record deal with Razor and Tie.
Jon- Well we got dudes who were actually serious about taking it to the next level, whereas the guys before kinda just wanted to do it locally and just have fun, you know?
Shutter 16– Did you have this in mind, getting to a stage where you could be on a tour on the other side of the world? Is that weird to you?
Mark- It’s just fuckin’ weird, I still can’t believe it.
Jon- Yeah it is crazy.
Mark- Every morning, because we’re bunking together so we have a room together every night, and every city we’re in- like this morning I’m like ‘what the fuck are we doing in Plymouth, England?’, or ‘what are we doing in Munich, Germany’, just like every fuckin’ day is still a trip man. This is everything we’ve wanted to do since we were kids, and to actually be able to have the opportunity to pursue and actually live the life, it’s incredible man
Shutter 16– So would you say you had that in mind then?
Jon- You know, starting out you just kinda take it day by day, we just made little short term goals, like ‘okay let’s record these three EPs by the end of the year’ or ‘write th album and make sure we get on the radio’ because if we do that then we’re awesome. And then once all that passes then you always want the next thing, it’s sorta like lifting weights; when you’re lifting you only wanna get this big, but then when you get there it’s like ‘oh man, maybe a couple more pounds of muscle and I’ll be good’ and then you end up like Arnold! We never see the end result, we just see it as a journey, we always wanna be climbing up, and I think so far we’ve done that.
Jon- On this tour?
Shutter 16– At all!
Jon- Oh man, wow, well right now since it’s happened recently we played Loud Park in Japan, and that was a couple thousand people that came to see us in the morning.
Mark- That was probably the biggest crowd we’ve ever really played to.
Jon- Probably yeah, it’s a super arena, I think it fits like thirty thousand people- I don’t think there was 30,000 at the time, there was probably a good ten to fifteen thousand, and I mean that’s still pretty good! And the way they treated us was awesome man, from taking us to go eat, to like this 20th floor fancy hotel, the whole experience..
Mark- Yeah they were very, very hospitable. But yeah that might have been one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever played, and it was at like 10am; we were the first band on the main stage so we didn’t expect much, and when we got onto the stage and just saw the sea of people it was just like ‘holy crap’, at 10 am,man! But you know, that one will be a highlight in my life for a long time. But hey man, all of these shows, they’re smaller, they’re a hell of a lot more intimate, but you guys bring it every night man; the european crowds, the English crowds, everyone is just all for it and I love it. It’s so great, such an awesome feeling.
Shutter 16– So you like the intimate shows as well then?
Mark- Shit yeah! Damn right man.
Shutter 16– Texas has been home to some pretty great bands, D.R.I, Pantera, ZZ Top, and so many more- what’s the music scene like back in Texas? Or even more specifically in Mcallen?
Jon- Yeah where we’re from it’s kinda a load of cities close by to each other, it’s called the Rio Grande valley. There’s a lot of metal bands, there’s a lot of rock bands, and if you look for them you’ll find a healthy array of everything. There’s Spanish rock, Tejano bands, norteño, there’s even a whole scene where people are forestalling and rapping. I’ve never been to one of the shows but I do see the flyers. Country’s really big, there’s a lot of country bands- they’ll play to like saloons full of people pretty much every weekend, but you don’t get a lot of touring bands coming out of the valley, and we’re probably one of the first bands to actually go to Europe and over the states and stuff, and that’s kinda how we separate ourselves from everybody else. And we’re one of the only bands that’s on the radio in the valley, which is another thing, we’re trying to reach areas where no one has really gone before I guess.
Mark- I mean as far as talent, there’s a hell of a lot of talent man, and I think it’s often surpassed and overlooked, but there’s a hell of a lot of talent down there. But there’s this profound feeling of if we want to make something happen we gotta move, because you know it’s not really a melting pot for music where we come from. Austin is the nearest place, Austin Texas, the music capital of the world, so a lot of times when we were getting started we travelled out of town to get exposure- Houston, Austin, San Antonio. And often times we’d go play for practically peanuts and then come back because we had work the next day. I don’t know man, I wish a lot more people had that drive. I think what we’re doing now is like a testament to our hard work, and I think bands back home are like, “you know what, if these fuckers can do it then we can too man!” So it’s like I wanna give that sense of hope that you don’t have to move to some big ass metropolitan area, you just do what you do and do it well and do it with all you’ve got and something will happen.
Shutter 16– So would you say most bands move to Austin or Houston?
Jon- A lot actually, there’s been a lot of instances where people will say they love playing music but they’ve got to get out of the valley because it’s kinda like a bubble, the audience is the same every weekend and you don’t get to play to new audiences, so in order to break from that you have to travel to Houston and Austin and some kids don’t wanna do that every weekend so they just move. So they do that early on in their careers, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. In the end it just comes down to how good your songs are that you’re writing and how talented your band is and how driven your band members are because that’s a big part, and I think everybody in our band has the same goal and we’re driven, we’re all individually talented at what we do, it’s not like one dude in the band and we’re hanging on the end of Mark’s coattails or something beeches he’s a great singer. It’s like five dudes pushing a car up a hill as opposed to one, it’s a team effort.
Shutter 16– Whenever I read YouTube comments or reviews I see a lot of comments about your Pantera influences- is this true? I can definitely hear it a lot in your voice, Mark, a real Phil Anselmo thing going on.
Mark- Fuck yeah, damn right. We’re not embarrassed to admit it. I mean to have our name mentioned in the same breath as Pantera is fucking awesome, it’s flattering, because that’s what we grew up with you know. But like I said before, there’s no way in hell we could touch them with a thousand foot pole, there’s no way we can touch that band, but we try to live up to it and we try to keep the legacy going of that sort of power of metal. But I bring a lot of other influences too man, my blues influences, I’ve got a lot of soul I’d like to think, and just a lot of the old school rock- and when I say old school I mean the 90’s, the stuff we grew up with. But yeah dude, huge influence Pantera is.
Shutter 16– Would you say that’s your biggest influence then?
Mark- They’d definitely be in our top three, definitely dude. But it’s not all we listen too, we listen to so much shit collectively it’s not even funny. I’ve got, and if I can say this without being crucified, I’ve got Sia on my playlist, I’ve got Sam Smith, he’s a wonderful fucking vocalist.
Mark- It was too far fetched!
Mark- Coming from his background, he did a lot of pop stuff, so coming from that he’s got a lot of insight into melodies and harmonies and stuff like that. He’d come into the jam space and he’d be like “How about doing this,” or “How about hitting this note,” and a lot of times I’d be like “Man, Josh, I don’t know if I can hit this thing.” I’m more of a baritone voice, and he’d be like “Just fuckin’ try it man, you only gotta do it once!’” But yeah man, he really pushed me and it really motivated me, he got the best out of me. And the same for all the other guys too. Much love to Josh, he’s a hell of a dude.
Shutter 16– Do you still buy CDs and vinyls or do you prefer the ease of digital streaming, Spotify for example?
Jon- For me, if the CD artwork is really awesome to me I’ll go and buy it, actually the last CD I bought was Black Keys, probably like two years ago. As of late though, and I feel really guilty because I’m a musician, I do the Apple Music thing because you can’t beat it.
Mark- I’m such a fuckin’ loser man, I don’t have an iPhone or an Apple-whatever-the-fuck, but the last CD I bought was actually online, on Amazon, because honestly we don’t have a cool record store back home, I think the closest thing is like Best Buy.
Jon- And Target, but it’s like just two stands.
Mark- And it’s all the shit that’s so prevalent today, not to talk shit about any of the contemporaries. The last CD I bought though was Soundgarden.
Jon- Didn’t you buy that one from like a Goodwill store or a thrift store or something? You had like a bunch of Soundgarden old CDs.
Mark- Oh yeah, some of them were from a thrift store, but the last one I actually purchased and looked up on Amazon and got for $7.99 was Badmotorfinger, just because I wanted to hold the tangible disc. It’s so antiquated now, like no one buys albums anymore, but I’m still like a child with them!
Shutter 16– Yeah! Looking through the books and that, because album art now is just a little picture on your phone, but with a CD it’s so cool to have it right there
Jon- It kinda reminded me of the early Metallica albums, I think Hetfield used to do that.
Mark- Yeah, I kinda wanted to bring that back, so if you can get a copy of the tangible record.
Jon- Which we have tonight!
Mark- Get it man, Baptised in The Rio Grande dude.