By Nicholas Jason Lopez
United Kingdom-based hardcore punk outfit Grand Collapse recently put out their third album ‘Empty Plinths,’ where they expressed their thoughts and feelings about their country’s history, its colonial past, the consequences of colonialism on today’s society and infamous topics like slave trading and human trafficking.
The Music Bugle had the opportunity to chat with singer Cal about the new music, social issues and more.
Music Bugle – What makes the UK a good – or bad – place for underground music?
Cal – We’ve recently returned from a UK tour and the scene is definitely in a good place. All gigs were packed, even mid-week and the local bands we got to play with were brilliant. It felt really good to be back in sweaty rooms screaming my head off! The negative moving forward is the customs process after Brexit and how to get international touring bands through the door. Everything is more complicated now and that might put a lot of people off coming here, which sucks.
Music Bugle – What are the bands that influenced your sound the most in the early years of the band? Also, what bands influenced you the most in the most recent years? It sounds like there was some sort of shift in your production at some point…
Cal – We didn’t want to make the same record again, so it had to go in a different direction. We’ve always been somewhere between hardcore punk and thrash metal, but gradually moved in the heavier direction and this is definitely our heaviest record. Early on, we were blasting Propagandhi a lot – we still are… – and 80’s UK punk like Conflict and so on. The new record is more metallic for sure, but there’s also some melody and punk in there too. We try to mix it up and hopefully keep things interesting. Sound-wise on this one, we were after that Leeway guitar tone and it landed pretty close. Overall, we’re really stoked with this one.
Music Bugle – Your new album’s title is ‘Empty Plinths.’ It comes from the events that followed the protests against colonialism and its symbols in your city, Bristol. Can punk and hardcore take their antiracist message to other layers of society or does it feel like the discourse is still relegated to a small portion of the society?
Cal – Actions like this certainly help. It was an iconic moment in Bristol’s history that resonated across the world and encouraged others to follow suit. The statue in question was of Edward Colston, a 17th century slave trader that should never have been celebrated publicly in the first place. Local groups have campaigned for years to have it removed, but the council had no intention. It was up to the people to change their own landscape and remove this ridiculous moment. It was torn from its plinth and rolled into the harbor! This caused stir and we saw a reaction elsewhere with people removing monuments of colonialism from their streets. I realize that statues are not the biggest issue facing us today, but it’s a poignant moment nonetheless and hopefully gives an insight into how society in general is waking up to these issues.
Music Bugle – What was the songwriting process like for this album? Are you guys perfectionists in the studio or do you like to keep it spontaneous?
Cal – For this one, we rehearsed like mad, because we’ve been caught on the hop before by turning up the studio only to find out during tracking that we hadn’t worked out certain parts correctly. It’s our third record and they’ve all have been recorded at the same studio, so we knew what to expect this time around. We wanted to record with Lewis Johns again because he’s a wizard and easy to work with.
Music Bugle – What is the most important lesson punk and hardcore taught you?
Cal – To be conscious of the world we live in and to respect it and each other and to question authority and do something when you recognize injustice.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Is it hard to plan and work on a release now that things are not yet fully resolved?
Cal – Just as the first lockdown hit in March 2020, we were just about to shut up shop as a band and concentrate on these songs before session, so it really didn’t affect us too much. It probably helped actually as there were no distractions. I feel for bands and artists that had tours and such lined up, as this threw a huge spanner in the works for them, but the way it fell really didn’t hamper us too much. Then, the record got held up at the pressing plant for seven months, so by the time it was ready in August this year, things were just opening up again and our release show was one of the first gigs back. We booked a UK tour out of hope more than anything and we got lucky with that, as most venues were just opening up at the time.
Music Bugle – Talking about your recent UK tour to promote the new album – how was it?
Cal – Tour was awesome. We covered a few cities up north and into Scotland. I feel like there should have been more adversity though, because everything went smoothly and that’s just not right! The gigs were class and we got to catch up with old friends along the way.
Music Bugle – What can a person who doesn’t know you expect from your album?
Cal – It’s full throttle hardcore with a few twists and turns along the way.
Music Bugle – Do you feel any pressure to make music that people might enjoy or do you feel free to explore your creativity?
Cal – We never write anything to fit a particular genre, just whatever comes out at the time is what we roll with. I like to think the albums are quite eclectic because of that, which should keep things interesting, rather than blasting out the same beat each time. I’m not sure where we go with the fourth album, but thankfully, I don’t have to think about that for a while!
Music Bugle – What do you hope for from the rest of 2021 and 2022?
Cal – We’re just buzzing to be playing these new songs live. We have a few gigs lined up in the UK, so we’ll be out and about blasting the new record.
Music Bugle – Any plans to make it to the USA?
Cal – We toured over there with Conflict in 2016 and we’d love to go back at some point. Hopefully next year, if things are a bit clearer with Covid policy and so on, we can make it happen.