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The Best of 2016: Tonight Alive

Tonight Alive don’t just want to get you on your feet for a dance about and a sing-song: they want to make your life better.

The Best of 2016: Tonight Alive

“Something I learnt recently was the greatest gift you can give another person, is to be yourself because it gives them an opportunity to do the same,” explains Jenna McDougall. It’s a lesson that allowed Tonight Alive to create the revolution of ‘Limitless’ and this year has seen that record grow, change and impact. “We didn’t realise what it was until we started playing it,” starts Whakaio Taahi backstage at Reading Festival. “It’s become about more than the music now; it’s this lifestyle we want to lead and this united front we’re taking. A lot of it is us being ourselves, going through all these different styles and allowing our fans to see that and be the leaders for that.”

“We’re trying to encourage our fans to be a part of it with us,” adds Matt Best.

More than a reinvention or a stylised leap, ‘Limitless’ is Tonight Alive opening up. It’s the record the band have always threatened to make, dialled up to the extreme. It’s a record you live. As confident as the vision for ‘Limitless’ is, and there’s not a moment on that record that isn’t tackled with full-bodied commitment and belief, it was only the beginning. “Touring it and playing those songs every day, it’s been able to sink in,” starts Cam Adler before Jake Hardy adds, “people have had time to let the album sink in and grasp what everything is about.” Asking questions and encouraging, the band have spent a bulk of the year on the road, spreading the word of ‘Limitless’ but it’s not a lesson confined to a Tonight Alive show. “We want it to be engrained in them. We don’t want them to go away and be depressed because the show’s over, we want people to take away how they feel now and implement that into their lives, no matter how hard that is,” explains Whakaio. “There are a lot of people trying to stop you from doing what you want, and we want everyone to take away the message of just fucking be yourself, no matter how hard that is, no matter what the path is and do it with everything that you’ve got.”

“At a show, you are not just accepted; you are celebrated,” Jenna tells the crowd at Reading before leading a chant of “My reality, my expectation.”

“People see concerts as a safe place, and they can come here, dress and be whoever they want to be,” she explains. “I’m starting to realise just because we have tour life and home life; it doesn’t mean that one’s the real world and one’s not. I’m trying to make sure every environment I’m in is a safe place, a happy place and a healthy ecosystem for me to thrive in and for me to be confident and expressive in. I just want to encourage that for our fans too. They have the power to create that environment or remove themselves from toxic or negative environments that don’t allow themselves to be free or safe.”

“We believe in everything we’re doing, and it feels right.”

Tonight Alive have grown. “I feel so much more prepared now,” admits Whakio. “It’s completely different. Everything we do now isn’t these big flashing images; we’re so present in this band. We believe in everything we’re doing, and it feels right. Not that it didn’t feel right before, but I think we were taking steps to get here and be aware.” It’s a journey that’s far from over.

“I feel like ‘Limitless’ opened a door and we can take any direction from now,” beams Jenna. “That’s exciting because I don’t want to be confined to one thing. I never have. My image is speaking on behalf of that at the moment, but the music will do that with the next album. We’re not sure what it’ll sound like, but we’re going to keep experimenting with what feels good for us and what we’re capable of doing, which we still don’t have a full understanding of and never will. That’s exciting. The reason I change my image so much is because I outgrow myself every few months and it feels a lot more natural for me to do things differently frequently than it does to stay the same. I don’t think we’ve ever been a band people have attached to because of our image, but hopefully, we set a tone that people are not their physical self. They are who they are, depending on what they love. What you are passionate about and what excites you, that’s what defines you, not the way you look. It’s been freeing for me to detach from image in that way and set a tone for our fans to do the same.”

“We want this so much, and we’re starting to realise what ‘Limitless’ actually is,” explains Whakio. “It’s got so much life to it, and when you talk about the crowd and us, there’s just this energy now. I keep saying everyone’s present, but it feels like that now.”

“We understand it more every day and every show we play. The songs are part of our beings,” adds Jenna. “It’s not like we’re playing something we recorded; we’re living something we created.”

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