Lionize, the established Maryland-based rock band, supported Clutch on the UK and Irish leg of their recent tour. Alan Daly had a chance to chat with frontman Nate Bergman before their performance about their new album, the Clutch tour, and a recent line-up change.
Alan: Welcome to Dublin!
Nate: Thanks for having us!
Alan: Is this your first time here?
Nate: Very first time! First time in Dublin. First time in Ireland.
Alan: How was the show in Belfast last night?
Nate: Belfast was incredible actually. The energy was great. It was cool.
Alan: You’re here touring with Clutch. You guys seem to have become quite close over the past few years. Your last album was co-produced by Jean-Paul Gaster [Clutch drummer], and released under Clutch’s new record label. So what has it been like touring with them?
Nate: It’s the best. I know it sounds clichéd, or you would expect the opener to say that, but for us it really is like travelling with your friends; and every part of the operation, from the logistics to the shows, to the way it works, is the best. They’re definitely, in my opinion, the best rock band that tours the world. I mean there’s Motörhead and Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, and to me, Clutch is the same echelon.
Alan: Yeah, and they were awarded Metal Hammer’s album of the year last year…
Nate: Rightfully so. I’m a huge Black Sabbath fan, and to be perfectly honest with you, I think Earth Rocker blows 13 out of the water. And I know that some of the press that Black Sabbath got overshadowed Earth Rocker in certain areas, and I think it was a crime…
Alan: I guess that was inevitable; Black Sabbath have been around for so long.
Nate: Yeah, but the Rolling Stones have been around for a long time too, but they haven’t put out a good record since probably 1981.
Alan: So, onto Lionize. You guys have been around for ten years. You have released five albums. I have to confess that your music has been off my radar until you were announced as the support act tonight, so I’m not familiar with all of your music, and I wouldn’t be surprised if tonight is the first time for many of the fans here tonight to hear your music. How do you hope to engage them and make Lionize fans out of them?
Nate: I don’t think there is any hope other than just doing what we do. We’re a rock band, you know? And we delve into a lot of different areas that might be refreshing to some metal and rock fans. We delve into Jazz and Reggae and Funk and Soul, and I think at the heart of all those sub-genres is rock. So we’re just going to go out there and play loud and play hard.
Alan: Your website just lists three band members currently; yourself [Guitars/Vocals], Henry Upton [Bass] and Chris Brooks [Keyboards]. What’s the deal with your drummer?
Nate: We were in a very brief transition period with drummers, but we have a new drummer. Our last drummer departed right before the release of the record. So we have Chase Lapp, who we’ve been friends with for years, and he has studied with and tech’ed with Jean-Paul for about five or six years so it’s a very natural fit.
Alan: So he was already familiar with all of you music?
Nate: Yeah, it’s funny because he’s our friend and he’s also a fan of the band and it’s almost like he should have been the guy the whole time. He knows some of the stuff better than we do.
Alan: So do you see this as being a permanent line-up or just temporary?
Nate: Yeah, he’s the guy!
Alan: Your new album is called Jetpack Soundtrack. What’s that all about? Where did the name come from?
Nate: It was the title of a song in a list of songs we were throwing around for the record. I think Henry came up with it. It was just to illustrate the fast pace of the record; faster than our older material. And I think it just sounds cool. I don’t think there’s a deeper meaning. Sometimes I feel like rock bands take themselves really seriously, as far as the imagery has to be dark or scary. We just want to have some pints and have a good time!
Alan: Apparently you had thirteen songs written for Jetpack Soundtrack which you narrowed down to eleven. Can you tell us about the remaining two?
Nate: The thirteen were narrowed down from twenty five, and then that got narrowed down to fifteen, and then we narrowed that down to thirteen. So we initially intended all thirteen to be on the record. But then we said we wanted to make it more of a classic length. We didn’t want to over-indulge people with too many songs. And we knew there was going to be a lot of awesome stuff coming up where we would need more material. And we felt so good about the other songs that we held them off to release them later. They’re not even B-sides. They’re truly songs that could have been on the album. And instead of picking the worst two to keep off, we picked the two that stood alone the best as singles. And we released one with the 7” Record Store Day split with Clutch. We are super-proud of that song. We would never have put something that was half-assed onto something with Clutch’s name on it.
Alan: Have you ever played at any of the European summer festivals? And have you plans to do so this year? I know Clutch are signed up for quite a few.
Nate: No, this is our first trip to Europe and the UK. We’re actually on the Vans Warped tour back in North America for the whole summer for two months. We’re hoping to get back next year for festivals. That’s our hope.
Alan: Yeah, festivals are the ideal opportunity to open your music up to new fans. Even tonight’s gig in the Academy has been sold out since February or even before. That’s pretty impressive, and it gives you guys the opportunity to play in front of hundreds of potential new fans.
Nate: Yeah, the whole experience in the UK has just been eye-opening to us. Not only did we have some fans here waiting for us to come play we didn’t even know, but the reception has probably been the best of anywhere we’ve played yet.
Alan: So what’s next for Lionize?
Nate: We take three weeks off, then we head out on this Vans Warped tour. Then we take another three or four weeks off, and then we have another tour in September and another tour in October. I can’t talk about those tours yet. They’re good ones though! We’re not allowed to release that information yet, or we’ll get a nasty email from the top!
Alan: What about immediate plans? Tonight is the last show of the tour. Will you have some time in Dublin?
Nate: Yeah, tomorrow we have a day off in Dublin, and we decided to take a personal day to explore the city. I like to kind of just go with it. Wake up in the morning, catch a traditional Irish breakfast, and then see where the day takes me. That’s what we did today actually. We woke up early, we went to this hole-in-the-wall diner, and it turns out they’ve filmed a bunch of movies there, and it’s been around for sixty years. It’s a really awesome breakfast spot with bacon sandwiches and tea. They recommended we go to Glasnevin, and we went to Kavanagh’s; a 120 year old pub that nobody was in, and it was right next to a big graveyard; Glasnevin Cemetery. So without making any plans today, we ended up in this really amazing place. There’s a lot of history of Ireland in that graveyard.
Alan: So do you guys usually hang out together in your free time on tour, or do your own thing separately?
Nate: More than not, we’re together. We’re still friends even though we spend so much time together. It’s probably weird!
Alan: You mentioned Thin Lizzy yourself earlier, so I guess a visit to the Phil Lynott statue just off Grafton street is on the cards?
Nate: Sure. I will definitely be seeing that tomorrow. Yeah, Thin Lizzy is about as good an export as you could hope your country would have. I don’t even know if we have someone; I guess, maybe, Mountain comes close or Clutch!
Alan: Before we finish, do you have anything you would like to say to the fans in Dublin, new or old?
Nate: Thank you for the support! We’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter that people are excited to come out tonight, and people have been waiting, or in the last six months have looked up our material, and we couldn’t be more excited to play tonight. We’ve always been a one fan at a time kind of band anyway. You know, we’ve never had loads of radio or magazine coverage. Our entire success has just basically just been people telling other people.
Alan: Cool. Have a great show tonight. Thanks for taking the time to chat!
Interview by Alan Daly
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko