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Interview With 'Digital Criminals'

In the run of great releases to start 2018, Digital Criminals released the brilliant ‘Hell Yeah’ EP which seamlessly blends several genres together. I have considered definitions such as ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ infused with a hopeful resiliency and more guitar riffs. Emily Bates adapts her voice to the needs of each song while Dan Fry makes sure the guitars burn and shred where needed as well as adding subtle nuances in other places. The rhythm team of Jade Ball (drums) and Jimi Hardwick (bass) keep the songs moving and empower them to be as relevant in the Rock show as in a dance club. All three of their EP’s are recommended and have formed something of a trilogy to start the band’s recording career. With that in mind, 3 Songs & Out reached out to learn more about the band’s beginnings, influences, plans, and various other matters.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with 3 Songs & Out. Being a newer band, can you tell us what each of you do and what special ingredient you add to the band’s chemistry? (If answering for other members, what would you say they add?)

Jimi: Every member brings their own influences and creative ideas to the band. Emily and Dan generally write the initial ideas for the songs and these ideas are then embellished by myself and Jade. We record our own music and Dan produces, mixes and masters our releases. In addition Emily and I design all artwork including t-shirts, branding and music videos and we also construct our Social Media and Website platforms.

How did the four of you find one another and come together as a band?

Dan: Emily and I met while both being involved in other projects on the local music scene. We had an instant chemistry and started writing together. Jim was a school friend of Emily’s and again had been in numerous bands on the local scene. On Emily’s birthday he came over for a few beers and asked to listen to what we’d been working on. We played some (very rough) demos which was responded with "Do you need a bass player….. i’m in if you are?”.

Emily: As for meeting Jade, Dan and I were teaching music classes at a local youth centre that she attended. It was shortly after this we put out an add for a drummer. As soon as the add went out, we had an instant response from Jade asking if she could audition. She was the last to audition and she just blew us away. And then there were four, now known as the Digital Criminals.

I first checked out the band because Chez Kane (of Kane’d) mentioned you all while you were on tour with them. I know she has good taste so naturally went to YouTube and really liked what I heard. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the ‘Move It’ video now. I picked up the first two EP’s (‘Bury Your Head’ and ‘Dark Days’) and dug into them while I waited for the brilliant ‘Hell Yeah.’ What can you tell us about the first two EP’s?

Emily: The first 2 EP's were all written around a similar time. There was a lot of crazy things appearing in the media at this time and we responded through our music. Tracks like “Where Is Your God?” and “Are The Kids Alright?” particularly resonate this. We recorded and released “Dark Days’ and pretty much completed ‘Bury Your Head’ a few months later. Naturally we really wanted to share it, so set up our own label and self released the EP’s.

Bringing us to the present with ‘Hell Yeah,’ how did the four songs come together?

Jade: At this point of writing we knew who we are as a band. We knew we wanted to push boundaries with what we could achieve by mixing genres and creating the best production and live sound with very little in the way of resources. As the first two EP’s were very much about challenging political issues and personal experiences, we chose to keep everything upbeat on this EP. “Just Jump” & “Hell Yeah" are prime examples. "Hell Yeah" is also the third EP in the Dark Days Trilogy and shows the fun side of us!

Were you playing these songs live before recording the EP? How has the live reaction been?

Jimi: No we didn’t. We just rehearsed the hell out of them prior to recording and saved playing them for the tour!

One of the things I love are the feelings of hope and positivity in the lyrics. While musically at times y’all can invoke comparisons to NIN’s ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ material, the lyrics often provide a brilliant contrast with a message of not waiting around for things to happen. We make our own breaks happen, and things will be alright. What can you tell us about your approach to writing lyrics?

Emily: Life is tough, not only do we have to deal with our responsibilities and the consequences of others, but we have to learn to live with ourselves. I’ve had to work through a lot of hardships and I’ve always fought tirelessly to not let myself be a victim. We meet a lot of people at gigs that talk to us about the tough situations they’re going through and I wanted to write lyrics to remind us to have hope. Lyrics get written down at all times of day. I keep a note pad under the bed for that “I’ve got to write that down moment” and I always take my phone to the loo as some of my best hooks have come to me whilst sitting on the throne. What can I say.. The bathrooms got good acoustics!

I have been impressed with the variety of Jade’s favourite albums as she has revealed them on Facebook. The diversity of King Diamond to Elmore James to Rammstein and Billy Haley among others reminds me of my own varied tastes. How did that influence your drumming style?

Jade: It's had a huge impact on my drumming because there are so many different styles and techniques in all of those bands mentioned. I enjoy playing different styles of music. With artists like Bill Haley and Elmore James you become one with the music when playing, as if it's going through you. King Diamond writes a story and you can let your mind go with the music and lyrics and let your imagination take over. Rammstein is a lot of four to the floor, (drumming term for playing you're bass drum on every beat!) like Rock 'n Roll but the music is just heavier and has a darker feeling to it which I incorporate into DC’s.

Emily, were you singing at an early age? Playing instruments? Who are some of your favourite vocalists?

Emily: At school I sang in the choir and played flute for the orchestra, which I traded in at 14 for hanging out with the weird kids that liked listening to bands and smoking lucky strikes. At 16 I dropped out of music college to work voluntary at a recording studio, where I learnt a lot about song writing, recording, my voice and how shitty bands could be if you couldn’t find the food they sent you out to get for their lunch. From there I worked hard to build my own recording set-up and I’ve been writing, arranging and producing vocals for myself and other artists. I also play keyboard and write a lot of music using that tool. I love lots of different vocalists from Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Maynard James Keenan, Trent Reznor, Gwen Steffani, Missy Elliot, Beth Gibbons, Juliet Lewis, Steve Tyler.. there’s loads!

Dan, who influenced you to first pick up the guitar? What musicians today stand out to you?

Dan: When I first listened to Nirvana. From that point I new I wanted to be in a band and play guitar. Once I started to learn I got into so many artists, digging back to Hendrix, Zepplin, The Beatles through to Tool, NIN etc. Currently I’m spinning the new Perfect Circle album to death. Maynard James Keenan can do no wrong!

Jimi, Who encouraged you to pick up the bass? What are the biggest misperceptions about bass players?

Jimi: I’d always played guitar but found myself more drawn to the bass and drum grooves of tracks. When I heard what Dan and Em had been writing, I really wanted to be a part of it and bass was my natural draw. The biggest misperceptions are that we care what people think!

What does the band have planned for the rest of 2018 and beyond?

Jimi: Songwriting, making videos, touring and meeting lots of new people!

Being a bit (or more) older, I long for the days when music had a much more profound on culture and society. We seem to have lost that over the years with the decline in the number of record stores, sales, the rise of streaming, etc. I still love being able to having the whole package so I can read the lyrics, find out what other bands are thanked in the liner notes so I can make a note to check them out, and examine the artwork. How can we get music back to that level of importance in today’s world?

Jimi: I think there is a generational divide at the moment and the younger audience doesn’t have the same relationship with music. People have always wanted to consume music in the easiest way possible and at one point that was vinyl, then cd, then mp3 and now streaming via online services like Spotify and Youtube. People want access to music and they will always chose the path of least resistance. Music is still very important in many peoples lives, as it is in mine and the bands. I think lots of avid music fans now create music as well as attend shows.

Quickfire answers:

Worst job you’ve had so far?

Emily: Working in a bingo hall.

Best thing about playing live?

Jade: I get to be in my own little bubble and branch out to another side of me that is there but only comes out on stage.

Favourite show you have played so far?

Dan: ‘The Chill Bar’ in Ilfracombe, UK. When we walked in we were greeted with a massive cheer from a room full of people that had painted blue masks on their faces, a stage style we adopted throughout 2017. It was a heart warming moment.”

Worst experience onstage?

Jimi: Jumping off stage, getting tripped up by a lead and face planking the floor. I kept playing and composed myself with all the grace of a 90 year year old man after multiple hip replacements. What happens on Youtube stays on Youtube.. unfortunately!

Dream tour to be on?

Dan: It would have to be a tour with Tool. You never know….. there is talks of a new album this year from them. (laughs)

Final words for our readers?

The Band: Go OUT and support live music, it’s not a show without you!

Thank you to the whole band for taking the time to speak with us. Be sure to check out all three of their EP’s and get out to a show if they are in your area.

Interview - Gerald Stansbury

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