XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
J: “Exorcisms of Eroticism,” our brand new EP coming 22 November, is the dark and dramatic collection of six new gothic rock anthems from HER DESPAIR. Designed to unravel the mysteries of the theologic and the erotic, each song is set to a storm of symphonic instrumentation; providing the perfect soundtrack for your sorrows.
There is a music video for the song “The Exorcism” which encapsulates the mood of the music perfectly, and we would recommend you watch it, if you dare. Both of the singles we’ve released so far have had an incredible response, and we think our fans will be delighted with the rest of the record. We’ll also be playing a hometown show in celebration of the launch, which should be a great time.
XS ROCK: So how long has the band been together?
J: Started 2015 as a solo studio project, becoming a full band circa 2016
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for originally starting or being in a band?
J: I wrote and recorded some songs, then wanted to play them live. Meat Loaf is probably to blame somehow, he was one of the first artists I genuinely loved from the young age of 5. Ever since that, I wanted to play music.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
J: I’m fairly self-taught on guitar and piano, and I’ve always enjoyed singing so I’ve “worked” on that ever since I can remember. I can’t read or write musical notation, I just figure out where to put my fingers. My playing ability isn’t overly impressive, but I seem to be able to write catchy melodies on top of power chords from time to time. Fortunately, the band are all excellent musicians, so I’ll show them something I’ve written and basically tell them to play it better.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
J: Dark and dramatic portraits of heartache and theological revelation, with sex scenes.
XS ROCK: What are your current music career goals?
J: Right now our focus is releasing “Exorcisms of Eroticism,” and everything that goes along with that. We’ve just launched accompanying merchandise lines via Bandcamp which have had an amazing reception, so at the moment our main goal is to keep driving the release forward. Plans for 2020 are currently under wraps, but there will be much to look forward to…
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
J: Playing live and connecting with the audience is electrifyingly exciting, but personally for me, the songwriting and subsequent recording is the very best aspect of being in a band. I adore hearing the songs come together in the rehearsal room and bringing them to life over a varying amount of time. Sometimes they feel finished within hours. Sometimes it takes a few sessions. Creativity begins flowing, and sounds start to form from nothing and bond together. It’s so exciting. Then you begin the studio sessions and there’s even more room for experimentation and creativity.
XS ROCK: What are your songs’ lyrics about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
J: The main lyrical themes are varying aspects of love and religion. My previous lyrical output was far more theologically-centered, whereas on this release I found myself drifting closer towards notions of the erotic. Said fantasies were, of course, an influence on the EP title as well.
XS ROCK: What is the single most important thing to you as a musician?
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
J: Without too much detail, it didn’t end well for a Krispy Kreme stand in a service station. How rock and roll.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
J: I can’t necessarily think of any particularly strange requests, but it can still sometimes seem surreal when people ask for a picture or autograph. Don’t get me wrong, we’re always delighted to interact with our fans, and find it deeply flattering when they ask for photos or signatures. We will always oblige, but we’re still quite new to this game so it can be a surreal feeling. Very touching, but surreal.
XS ROCK: Are your friends and family supportive of your choice to play in a rock band?
XS ROCK: What advice do you have for new bands trying to get started?
J: Play what you want to play, not just what everyone else wants to hear.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
J: “Valentines Mourning” is always fun to play live as that chorus really gets the audience moving. Since we’ve brought “The Exorcism” into our set that has also become a firm favorite.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
J: A combination of every artist I have ever enjoyed. It’s just something I have always wanted to do.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
J: Sisters of Mercy, Elvis, HIM, and us.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
J: I feel our greatest accomplishment is “Exorcisms of Eroticism.” The record came out wonderfully, and we can’t wait to share it with you. The songwriting is better, the musicianship is better, there’s more orchestration, the production from Matt Bew is superb, there are additional melodies teasing you from deeper within the mix, and overall we feel it perfectly defines the new era of HER DESPAIR.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
J: I had a small amount of acting experience a few years ago in theatre productions, and that is something I’d like to explore more if the opportunity arose. Maybe later in life, who knows. I have also started outlining a couple of story ideas, so perhaps putting more work into writing some sort of book would be an interesting way to pass the time.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
J: We’re a sextet, with myself singing, Dan and Jordan playing guitars, Vikki on bass, Lee behind the drums, and Toby playing keyboard, so there’s a fair amount of gear. Brand wise there’s Blackstar, Shure, Fender, Ibanez, Vox, Pearl, Meinl, Yamaha, plus all the various pedal and accessory brands. We’ve recently started experimenting with a backing track, which we’re looking forward to incorporating into our shows. Besides the musical equipment, we use extensive amounts of smoke.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
J: We’ve fallen deeper into the goth scene and traveled much further afield over the last year, and it’s safe to say that (ironically) it is alive and well. There’s a great goth scene up North, and we’ve made friends each time we’ve been up there. The North is colder than down here, so goth music is in their blood. Online we get people from all over the world showing their support, which is deeply flattering. We seem to have something of a fanbase in the USA, who are particularly vocal about their desire for us to perform on their side of the ocean. Interacting with fans from around the globe is an amazing experience. Who knows what the future holds…
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
J: A few people that we’ve met at shows have commented that we’re not as scary in real life as they may have initially perceived. Despite our macabre appearances, we’re a fairly light-hearted group of people and we don’t bite. Often.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
J: We’d like to tell you all that we love you endlessly. Thank you for your continued support. Our aforementioned record “Exorcisms of Eroticism” will be released 22 November this year. There are two singles available online now, which are also available as instant downloads when pre-ordering the EP from our Bandcamp. “Pandaemonium,” which is our heaviest song so far, and the music video for “The Exorcism” – which delves deeper into a Suspiria-inspired gothic dance crossover. Both have been very well received, and we look forward to unveiling the remainder of the release towards the end of the month.
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS ROCK!
J: Thank you for having us, may Heaven save you.
J – vocals
Dan – guitar
Vikki – bass
Jord – guitar
Lee – drums
Toby – keyboard