Gary Lambert speaks to the five-piece metalcore band who’ve caught the attention of Deftones with their genre-defiant second album. Things are about to get a whole lot bigger for Loathe.
It’s the dream scenario for many bands. You start the year with people tipping you as a must watch. You follow that up with a critically-acclaimed album, touted as the defining record within the contemporary stable of your genre. Throw in a raucous hometown album launch show in front of hundreds of people as well as a similarly well-received nationwide tour, and you’d think it’s time to sit back and let it all sink in, right? Not for LOATHE.
The Liverpool metalcore band have, instead, decided that the best thing to do is to thank all of their original fans who have backed them from day one, playing an intimate gig in Liverpool at Kazimier Stockroom, one week later, for free. All this, and convincing MTXS and God Complex – bands who have headlined far bigger rooms in Liverpool – to be their support acts, as well as getting one of Liverpool’s up-and-coming metal scene starlets, False Hope, to open the event.
Sitting down with the band before the show, the forthcoming gig and the reasons behind it are an obvious place to start. “Before we were Loathe, we were a band called Our Imbalance. We recorded an EP, played a few shows with it, but the last show of that project and the first show of Loathe was in Maguire’s Pizza Bar. We thought it would be nice to come back to Liverpool and do a show that was like those old days,” guitarist and vocalist Erik Bickerstaff explains.
Their biggest hometown show the week before, at O2 Academy, hadn’t been without a hitch. The fire doors of the venue couldn’t be unlocked leaving hundreds of people waiting in the street until an electrician turned up to correct it. “We wanted to do something to say thank you to the people who waited for us,” says lead vocalist Kadeem France, “those who had to run for the last train home. We thought that doing this little, free gig at the last minute would just be something cool for them.”
As I wait around the venue, there are fans arriving as early as 4pm just to have a look in the window of the venue door, laughing in disbelief that they are going to see Loathe somewhere so intimate. There’s a real back-to-basics feel to the show; a complete contrast in approach for a band said to be in the slipstream of behemoths Deftones. “To be honest, this is mad. I know it’s free entry, but the tickets sold-out in less than 20 minutes without any announcement that they were going to be on sale,” replies Erik. “It’s crazy to think that happens to your band. We’ve wanted to be able to do something like this for so long, and now we’ve got the chance to do it.”
This show was the culmination of just over a week’s worth of non-stop gigging to support their second album, I Let It In And It Took Everything, a wide -anging exploration of metal, distortion and doom-laden shoegaze. “We’ve had the most amazing week this band has ever had. We released the album on 7th February and since then we’ve been playing all over the UK. They’ve probably been the best shows we have ever played. Last night, a sold-out show in London, was the best show we have ever played. Genuinely,” says Kadeem. “We had people getting up on stage for the last song, and literally the entire room was singing along. Erik didn’t even sing the chorus: he started to, stepped away from the mic, and just let them get on with it. Sold-out 400 people in London, yeh, it’s definitely a highlight… It’s really cool to see at every gig, knowing that you’re not the support band any more, that these people are here to see you,” he adds.
Over the last few weeks, watching Loathe from the outside, as they built up to the launch of the album, I got a feeling that things were about to get a lot bigger for the band. Kerrang!, for example, listed Loathe as one of their Hottest Bands of 2020 alongside the likes of Polly and Yungblud, reviewed one of their shows in Japan, and gave a massively positive review of the album. However, in the days of social media there was one piece of unplanned publicity which truly hit home for the band. “It’s surprising the reaction we’ve got from the critics over the album,” Kadeem starts. “When we released Two Way Mirror in the build up to the album release, Chino [Moreno, lead vocalist of Deftones] shared it, which was surreal and started to send things a bit crazy. It doesn’t actually feel real to this day. Him sharing it was massive.
“Having the reaction we have had feels like a blessing. Especially considering how long it has been since we released some music. To still have that dedicated fanbase just gets you buzzing. It’s been nearly three years since our last album, so it’s nice to know that people are still interested in you, and still willing to listen to your work. It feels like we’ve been in a deep sleep, and we woke up from that deep sleep in Liverpool, headlining our biggest, sold-out show with our album released that day.”
Erik continues: “When we recorded the album, it felt at times like we were in this never-ending loop of having to record, mix, and edit all these different bits of stuff; to finally get to the end is great. It took the four of us 451 days to record the album, from the beginning to the point of submitting the album to the label. That’s why we named a song 451 Days. We are so certain of who we are now. I’m not saying that we weren’t ready for The Cold Sun, our first album, but I feel like with this album it’s like a coming of age record.”
I Let It In And It Took Everything is an alluring listen, even if heavy music isn’t to your usual taste. The album is made from many different textures and sounds. For me, Two Way Mirror is the most Scouse psychedelia song I’ve heard in years. There is no doubt in my mind that, musically, Loathe wouldn’t be out of place at an event like PZYK 2020, while also being on the bill at Download. “Our music is made up of so many styles,” Kadeem agrees, adding, “that all comes from listening to different music and taking it in. Every style of music creates a different feeling inside you, and that comes out then in the music you create. You naturally pay homage to the music that you hear. If it means that our heavy music is inspired by, say, some indie music from the 90s then that’s what it is.”
Harry Rule, lead singer of God Complex, concurs. “Part of the reason why Loathe are getting so recognised is their ability to expand genres, doing anything that sounds good and sticking it together on the album.” This feeling is shared by Grant Watling, promoter of Halfway Home Promotions and unashamed Loathe fanboy: “They just seem to have thought of everything in their music. The moment they started playing tonight and last Friday, I stopped being the promoter of the night and was just a crowd surfing kid.”
As the gig finishes, I step back into the Stockroom to capture some images of the band. The residual heat in the room is like a bonfire. While the lads from Loathe are looking forward to getting back to ordinary things, like their dogs and their own beds, I cannot escape the feeling that, for Loathe, ordinary no longer exists.
I Let It In And It Took Everything is available now via SharpTone Records.