Interview by Tracey Moyle – Music Maven
Hard working local rockers These Four Walls are set to release their third studio album ‘This Is Not A Future’ on April 24th to the delight of their dedicated fan base that spans widely across Australia, their home soil of New Zealand and beyond.
This latest offering is definitely something special and has all the main components needed to take this band straight to the top of the rock charts. With four previous singles building up momentum – Bravery, Over & Over, Fire Away and the most recent single Chaos, released in March, already at almost 60,000 hits on Spotify, you can’t help but get excited about the third offering from these highly energetic rockers.
One of their biggest fans, our hard rock loving Music Maven, Tracey Moyle recently connected with front man Stephen Gibb and lead guitarist Gray Vickers via Skype and had an in depth chat about the new album and how it all came together. Digging deep into the world of These Four Walls we find out how the current health epidemic has effected their lives, how this album morphed into it’s final arrangement, their connection with their fan base and more.
Sitting in an all too familiar space, I get a sense of excitement as I prepare my interview with These Four Walls. Living in a world where suddenly, our lives have been limited to our homes – very much our own ‘Four Walls’- we need to reach out to music more than ever. Not just that, we need music that will reach out to us. Songs that are personal enough to connect the band to the listener and the listener to the band.
‘This Is Not A Future’ is that album. With brilliantly crafted rock, heavily laden with catchy riffs and demanding rhythm, brought to life with powerfully melodic vocals so emotive you feel every word, there is no doubt this band will be on the top of everyone’s playlist if they aren’t already.’
Grey and Stephen, thanks for chatting to Good Call Live about the New album coming out April 24th, we are all very excited about it. But first up though, how are you coping with the massive changes that COVID19 have brought to everyone?
Gray: “It’s really interesting, being a bunch of Kiwi’s over here we are getting a lot of reports from back home as well, from our families and everyone. They are having a vastly different experience to what we’re having right now so it’s really interesting. They’ve been in lock down, I think they’re at day 3 now and everyone is taking it very seriously over there. Yet yesterday when I went to the supermarket to get a couple of essentials, there were heaps of people out, people at the park doing group training sessions and stuff. I just don’t think people are taking it as seriously as they are everywhere else and its really weird.”
Stephen: “I think to answer your question where family is concerned, it think that in a weird way it’s brought a lot more of us together. Particularly in my family, I’ve got every corner of my family, through social media, just chatting all the time. People we don’t talk to on a daily basis just going crazy, you know, anything but talking about the problem at hand, just to keep everything light. But everyone is worried about each other, everyone is thinking about each other. My wife and I are in retail so we’re face to face so my whole family is just checking in everyday, like ‘how’s it going’. I think it does show that with problems in the world it does bring people together.”
Gray: “I’d say that’s true, we had a big gaming session last night and it’s the first time I’ve had that much engagement in a long time. Even in the chats, everyone’s wanting to be engaged, because I think what it is, that people are feeling isolated and realising how important it is to actually have that connection and that communication.”
I feel that when it affected the music and entertainment industry with all the mass gatherings closing down, that was when it hit me, that is was at that world epidemic level. My music social calendar cleared from very busy to nothing in a few days. How did that realisation hit you?
Gray: “We’re connected with a lot of bands and road crew on social media and as a crew it was like, straight away ‘holy shit, I’ve gone from four months being booked out to not knowing how I’m going to pay rent next week’. It happened like that. It was this cascading thing, every tour, every show was being cancelled. That was the scary part. I guess things hit you at different stages and then it personally effects you and you take it a bit more seriously. Straight away we knew this was going to be a big deal so we started putting wheels in motion to see what we could do to counter it or at least survive this.”
Steve: “I think the scary part of it is the unknown. I think you hear 14 days, you hear 29 days, you hear 3 months, you hear 6 months, you know. There’s no time frame for this, we’re on it’s clock, it’s not on our clock so it’s just one of those things that no one knows when gatherings are going to start again, no one knows when gigs are going to go again. I’ve seen bands rescheduling for September and December and that’s good, you need to be proactive, you need to be out there but it’s the unknown. That’s the scary part for a lot of people.”
Very much so, and it’s great that we have the album coming out soon to keep the music flowing. I know the fans are excited – it’s been a long time coming. You released Bravery, the first single from the album in 2017 then it’s like ever 12 months we had something new, 2018 it was Over & Over and last year was Fire Away and you’ve just dropped Chaos in the last few weeks and this has had almost 60,000 hits on Spotify alone already. The album will be out 24th April. It must be good to get everything out finally?
Steve: “It’s a relief, absolutely” (laughs)
Gray: “It’s been a journey. A really crazy journey because this record as it stands now is vastly different to what we were thinking in 2016, which was vastly different to what we were thinking in 2018. We originally started this as a concept record and then we’ve pulled that away and thought, ‘we’ll just do an EP or a couple of singles’, and then we thought, we’ve got to do a full album. It just kept evolving and changing, obviously we kept releasing songs to keep it relevant and that, but where we were when we started writing the earlier songs on this record is a very different place to where we ended up.”
Steve: “It’s like the era of albums is changing a lot with streaming platforms and YouTube, everything is taken in small doses so people will shuffle tracks or part of playlists, so people are mostly listening to a song at a time, their not really absorbing an album as it was. But we’re from an era where bands did albums. In the 2000’s everyone was doing album, album, album. When it stated changing into EPs’ we though, ok lets drop three songs here, and then a year later three songs here and a year later 3 songs. I think we all just got to a point where we looked at ourselves, and who we were as a band and we just thought, we have to do an album. We are an album band. That’s the kind of band we are.”
And I am glad you did, your first two CD’s are in my car and are on repeat constantly. I’m excited there is a new album coming out and I still do buy CD’s. It’s good to support artists in anyway possible. Would you bring out the album on Vinyl?
Gray: “We talked about doing vinyl but it’s such an expensive endeavour. It’s something we want to do. We like vinyl it’s just something that’s hard to co-ordinate and get done.”
Steve: “I really like the concept of vinyl though. I have the vinyl records of some of my favourite bands because it’s kind of like the action figure of the music industry. It’s cool. It’s the kind of thing I’d love to present and I hope, if we get the traction from this album and get enough people interested, hopefully we can offer that somewhere down the line. I’d love to do a re-release on vinyl. A lot of that is design I think. I love the design Brad (Vickers – Drums) has done on the album. Brad’s designed the album. He has given us a symbol, he’s given us a logo and it’s just so striking and I would love to see it on a massive print. Right from the get-go he’s done all of our artwork in every capacity. He does all of our graphic design, he’s a Wiz.”
Gray: “He also did our Over and Over music video too.”
You guys, have such a dedicated fan base and crowd funding the final stages of the album with their help, it was an amazing thing for me as a fan, to be a part of that process. I really felt the love and respect that flows between the fans and the band. The way you connect to them is amazing.
Gray: “We try. We don’t take any thing for granted. We put a $10,000 target on that crowd funding with no expectations. We were terrified to be honest, about putting it out there. We thought no one’s going to pay us, we’re not going to hit that target, it’s going to fail. And then we hit that target in just under two days. And we thought, ‘well this is truly bizarre.’ It was a really bizarre experience to hit the target in that time.”
Steve: “The long and short of it is, that in our industry the fans really do make you. It’s a grass roots effort when you’re a band. You start from nothing and you do what you can, you write the best songs you can and put on the best show you can, but without developing audience and people coming to see it you may as well just be playing in a garage for your entire career. And we are so fortunate to have people that support us and believe in what we do. We’ve got a small Facebook group set up for the core fans and we try and chat with them as much as we can and we try and do streams and that kind of stuff to keep engagement because we want to know what they’re up to and they want to know what we’re up to. So yeah we absolutely adore our fans and we could not have done the album with out them. It wouldn’t have come together like it did.”
Something you guys did recently on the group page was put Spotify play lists out to the fans and asked everyone to make their own playlist with Fire Away the main song and create a list based around that song. It was such a wonderfully interactive thing to do. That was so much fun.
Steve: “That was Brad’s idea, the creative one.”
Gray: “It also gives a great insight into who everyone is, it gives a great insight into how different our musical preferences are. I think it tells a lot of the story of ‘the soup’ that is ‘Walls’. Where the heavy stuff comes from, where the melodic stuff comes from, where the old school feel comes from. We’ve all got these massively wide reaching influences.”
I guess taking everything to the studio this time had a completely different feel to it from the last two albums? Not only having such a big gap, but as you said before, each time the songs came out you had a different vision at the time on what direction the album would go?
Gray: “It was actually really similar to the first album though in a lot of ways. Especially a band like us in our position and very much so in New Zealand,
it was get a single, release a couple of singles and if you’re really lucky you get to release an album, we had that with ‘Down Falls An Empire’. We had Walk Away come out 2007, and then Fly Home and then (Under The) Shadows come out 2008 and then the album came out 2009, and those songs were on that record as well.
So it was very similar, even just having Elliot (Burton – Bass) in the band now. Because he hasn’t been in there with the previous records and us trying to figure out who we are as a band and who we are as writers, that sort of thing is very similar to starting again in a lot of ways, especially creatively.
It’s really interesting how it has mirrored our first record in a lot of ways. It a way we’ve just staggered the release and worked on bits and pieces rather than ‘Living To Write The End’ which we knew we had a nine week block in 2011 to go and record this thing, so we had to do all this work leading up to it, we had to do all these things, we had to have all the songs ready to hit the ground in one hit. This ones’ been a lot more organic, a lot more feeling the way as we go.”
Steve: “In a technical sense, in the way it was recorded was very different. With ‘Down Falls An Empire’ and ‘Living To Write The End’ we were all in the same room almost all the time. I mean, ‘Down Falls An Empire’, that was a disgusting room we were in, you know, for four weeks. Then the air conditioning broke and we were all sweating on each other.
Gray: (laughs) “That was ‘Living To Write The End’.”
Steve: (laughs) “Ok they were both sweaty.
But we were together for the whole of the time and I think as we’ve grown as a band so has the technologies. A lot of the recording was done completely separately; I recoded all my vocals with no one else except for Luke our producer, Gray recorded the guitars exactly the same way, Brad recorded the drums exactly the same way and Elliot recorded the bass the same way. We were all on our own and we had one glue stick which was Luke Palmer (Dead Letter Circus, Rival Fire, Sky Harbour) who just kind of put us all together, and had this big image for the song. So technically it was a different way to record the album. And going back a step, to our previous point of this originally was going to be a six track EP, developing more songs to make it a complete album we had to think of it as an entire package you know. The songs that we had to add, had to fit the songs we had previously done. We didn’t write them all together in one lump like we did with the previous album. Technically it was different. But as far as the release structure is concerned Gray is exactly right, its pretty much mirroring our first album ‘Down Falls An Empire’.”
With this album you brought in Ian Peres (Wolfmother, Xavier Rudd) on piano and Chris Carmichael on strings. The opening track of the album, The Sound it’s so beautiful with the piano. It adds such a sombre feeling with the keys at the beginning. Just adding that depth it gives the album a instant maturity, it’s a little bit more exciting.
Steve: “It’s something we hadn’t done, that was an idea that had been floating around for a really long time. We knew we wanted to start the album with Chaos. Then I was just mucking around, playing on my keyboard at home and I played The Sound and I was like ‘that’s in the same key as Chaos. I went back and found the old demo of Chaos and just went ‘holy shit, there it is’.”
Gray: “It’s worth noting that Chaos was the last song writing for it’s completion for the record and I would say it’s sound is the oldest music on that record. When did you send that demo through, 2015 or something?”
Steve: “Something like that. Maybe even earlier 2013 maybe. It was just that. It was a small piece with a piano and a vocal and it just turned into what it is. It’s one of my favourite things on the album to flick through, it’s like just start it again, start it again. Brad put it really well, ‘we’d never done anything like it’. (The Sound) Our albums always start straight away with a bang and we wanted to try something a bit different and this definitely was that.”
Lyrically the album feels so personal. It feels like it’s all falling into place as well. With the release date being pushed back now seems the perfect timing. It’s so relevant in the current climate. There are songs on the album that fit what’s happening.
Gray: “Well it’s funny, when we talk about the concept record it was about originally, it started as an idea based on a video game where meteors come to Earth, you have seven days to live, what are you going to do? Songs like Fire Away were a part of that style of writing, thinking about that story line. I think even though we pulled that story line out and decided just to write songs, I can’t help but feel that it was a tone that was set for the rest of the writing. So ultimately it is oddly an album about the end of the world, or our impending doom in a lot of ways.”
Steve: “It’s not necessarily impending doom about a world, it can be just about your world, your neighbours world, your parents world. You brought up the word personal and I think the big difference with this lyrically compared to the other two albums is that I really did turn the pen around to myself this time. I’ve always written about my friends and my family and about other peoples experiences because I’ve never felt my own experienes to be very worthy, very poetic, so I really dug deep and sunk into myself and I’m glad you said that because there’s a lot of me in there, so it is very personal.”
‘This Is Not A Future’ will be available on all digital platforms from 24 April.
Pre-order your copy HERE
Stay tuned for Tracey’s album review – coming soon!