DATE OF INTERVIEW:
30th January 2009
ERIN BENNETT; AMANDA SMITH-SKINNER; JO HEELEY
METAL DISCOVERY: Have you had any offers for shows from promoters in other countries?
ERIN BENNETT: Yeah, in Brittany - France, and America….and it’s MySpace, you know…
(Amanda on potential future gigging locations for Syren)
"...Spain, Portugal, and France. I think Germany as well actually….and the moon as well!"
Amanda performing with Syren in the Tap & Spile, Lincoln, UK, 30th January 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
AMANDA SMITH-SKINNER: Yeah, we have actually - Spain, Portugal, and France. I think Germany as well actually….and the moon as well! [laughs]
JO HEELEY: We’re getting quite a bit of airplay lately as well on radio stations.
MD: In other countries?
JH: It’s excellent for indie bands.
MD: I guess aimed at you two…[to Amanda and Jo]…I interviewed Alex last month…I don’t know if you read the MT-TV interview on the site?
AS: No, I haven’t read it.
MD: She said MT-TV is now effectively defunct…
MD: ..although I gather there was an overlap where Syren and MT-TV were both touring together - did you find it difficult to juggle live dates between both bands?
AS: Syren used to open up for MT-TV. It’s interesting because Jo and I would do either one or two sets with Syren, and then change clothes, and do one long set, or several sets…
JH: Double gig! We were knackered, weren’t we!
AS: Yeah! But it was good fun and a good experience of stamina.
MD: So you didn’t end up as a roadie for MT-TV?...[to Erin]
EB: Yes I was! [laughs] When I met them, I was actually a drummer…
JH: She was a good drummer.
EB: And I was fascinated by Jo’s drums…fascinated by them! And I got drunk one night…
[at this moment, the guy responsible for spilling £100 worth of scrumpy on the kitchen floor earlier in the evening enters to fill a bucket with ice. Seemingly seeing the funny side now, he collects his ice, mutters something about hating Morrissey, then leaves, at which point the interview resumes]
EB: Yeah, I was fascinated with Jo’s drums and was offered…because at the time I was also doing acoustic stuff…to come on tour with them as an acoustic artist. I was eighteen at the time, so I was very, very intimidated by the fact it was just me and the guitar and nine women on stage, so I said, can I just be a roadie; can I do the drums? You know, so that’s what happened, and Mandy and I started playing with each other.
MD: I asked Alex the same question last month, so it would be cool to get your opinion too - seeing as it’s almost a decade since ‘Motor Driven Bimbo’ was released…
JH: Is it really?!
AS: Is it?!
MD: It was 1999 I believe.
JH: You’re joking!
AS: Yeah, you’re right!
MD: How do you regard the music on the album ten years on because, personally, I think it still has a very contemporary sound to it, very well produced for a debut album, and one of the most innovative rock/metal albums from that period.
AS: Thank you!
MD: How do you regard the album now looking back on it?
AS: It’s not like it’s nine years old; it could’ve been written today. It was ahead of its time, so really well done from our point of view.
JH: You don’t get many concept albums anymore.
MD: Do you still listen to the album?
AS: Yeah, I do actually, yeah.
JH: It was a bit painful for me for a while I think. For the first few years, I just couldn’t go there. It was hard to listen to it and be happy because we were fucked over. It stopped basically because the establishment said no. For whatever political reasons, we don’t want to go into nags with you all night, but we had to stop what we were doing. But the music lives on and it’s really touching that you’ve said that.
MD: Yeah, I’ve ripped a copy to my iPod - it plays on there regularly. Do you know the album at all?...[to Erin]
EB: Oh god, like the back of my hand!
MD: I think ‘Lucifer’ is one of the…I hate to call it a ballad…but it’s one of the greatest rock/metal ballads ever written.
AS: Thank you very much.
MD: And Julie’s vocals - she’s one of the most underrated vocalists in the music industry.
AS: And her stage persona; an excellent stage persona.
AS: Thank you, we’re really honoured to hear this.
MD: ‘Dehumanized’ is quite simply stunning - was it always planned to be self-released, or did you tout for a label at all?
JH: We never touted for a label.
EB: When we started playing together, we were living near Detroit and, of course, Detroit is crawling with labels. It’s like walking into a room with cockroaches everywhere! It’s infested with record labels; wannabe indie labels; wannabe big labels. All you have to do is put a song on MySpace and you’ll get an offer and, of course, we had offers but it wasn’t like anything serious or anything really that is relevant to mention. So we thought we’ve been doing it this far on our own - this is when we were doing the album - and we’d gotten good responses and success at what we were doing at that level, and doing the album we thought well, we’re recording the album, we’re producing the album, we’re gonna sell the album and keep the money from the album, and possibly go and make a second album soon. Why do you need a record label, you know? It wasn’t that we didn’t want to sign a deal, but…
JH: But if some of the offers are huge, then…
EB: Yeah, of course, you’re gonna sign it, aren’t you.
JH: But the reality of that these days is really slim, I think.
MD: Have you had any label interest since you released ‘Dehumanized’?
AS: Not really, no.
EB: We had a label from Manhattan would come to a few of our shows. The guy would check us out and, hey, we’d play, he’d buy us a drink and we’d go home pissed, and that was basically it.
AS: That might’ve been the record deal itself actually!
JH: Maybe that was it, yeah!
MD: It’s quite a lengthy album - does it include everything you recorded, or did you have to be selective with the material?
EB: There’s one track that we didn’t put on, and it was…just ran out of time.
JH: It's the fourth one we played tonight?
JH: It was me mainly, wasn’t it - I wasn’t happy with my drums.
AS: No, we weren’t happy with the whole feel of it, but now…
JH: We’re actually getting close to having enough material for a second album.
EB: Actually, we’ve got enough material now, but it’s finding time to…it sounds silly when you think about it, but the three of us are like this one big person if you see what I mean, and when we sort of move it makes itself apparent when it’s time to record an album or do a video. Right now, we seem to be getting people reviewing the album, radio, and stuff like that, so right now we’re focussed on more of the immediate press stuff, and we move just like a big…
EB: Yeah, Frankenstein! And I think when we do another album it’ll definitely be a big, huge decision.
JH: We’d like to work with the same guy we worked with on the first album - John Brandt.
EB: Except he’s now living in Indonesia.
AS: We’ll fly him over!
MD: You produced the album yourselves - was it important for you to keep that autonomy over how you wanted Syren’s music to sound?
AS: Yes. We’re open to ideas, but I think we just like to do everything ourselves really.
EB: If somebody’s got a good idea, and the three of us agree that it is a good idea, we’ll more than likely go with it. You know, but there’s this Syren thing; there’s a thing that goes down…
AS: It’s the feel of what they’re coming from in the first place.
EB: Yeah, we’re trying to keep things organic. Free range Syren, you know!
MD: What’s the story behind the album cover? Is it supposed to be based around the Greek mythology of the band name, and maybe a shipwreck caused by the alluring charms of your music?!
AS: Awww, how nice! Yes, actually!
MD: I can’t believe I wrote that down!
EB: We were actually in the car - I think it was Jo and I, and we had Mandy on the phone - and we were in the car talking about, okay, the album’s almost done and then we move onto the mixing stage, and we haven’t got the album artwork done, what are we gonna do. And then I thought, okay, cover, cover, cover, cover….and I said - oh, what about a shipwreck? You know, because I’m obsessed with Greek mythology, and I actually found the photo, and I think it was the second or third photo I looked at, and it was just like - that’s it. You could just see it; that’d be the album. And we’ve gotten so many compliments and comments on it, and it’s an amazing photo - it really says a lot.
MD: It’s a very kind of provocative, atmospheric shot. Is there any particular meaning behind spelling Syren with a ‘y’ or do you think it just sounds cooler for a band name - looks better as a logo kind of thing?
AS: [laughs] We tried online, and we couldn’t do it because it was a dot com thing. Internet reasons, wasn’t it?
EB: We’d like to give you a good story but somebody else took the dot com.