"We just do what feels natural. If it starts getting forced, that really shines through, and sounds artificial; like it's not authentic," says Booka Nile of Make Them Suffer in response to being asked whether the band find themselves influenced by the demands of their fans.
Since the release of their guttural deathcore debut 'Neverbloom' in 2012, Make Them Suffer have consistently expanded on their sound while experimenting with a more melodic take on their colossally dynamic riffs and guttural vocals. While this progression is widely met with praise and acceptance, there are a few die-hard listeners that will always wish for the band to go back to their heavier origins.
Australia is something of a melting pot for hardcore/metalcore bands, and their fans often adopt a kind of fanaticism towards the music. More often than not, they're pretty outspoken and will happily publicise their opinions – regardless of whether their intentions are good. As part of the recent line-up change for Make Them Suffer, and a 'woman in a metal band' Booka has had the unfortunate experience of being at the receiving end of these outbursts. Rather than let it affect her emotionally, she questions what the motivations are behind somebody expressing themselves in such a vulgar way, and most importantly; she likes to bite back.
"I've got this background in psychology, so I don't see it perhaps as, like, an attack on me. I see it as them being very sad, sick individuals if they say stuff like that, but I guess I bite back not for me, but for women in general. I want them to think to themselves, 'holy hell I'm pretty pathetic' or 'there's something wrong with this attitude that I have, perhaps it's actually a sign of something bigger being wrong with me', because it is wrong. Nobody should have those attitudes. It's outdated. It's just not normal," she says.
While ruminating on where the roots of these thought-processes might stem from, and with a well-deserved air of confidence, she laughs as she hypothetically asks the question, "Are you pissed off cause I'm in a sick metal band and you're not?" The motivation behind highlighting this behaviour is to show solidarity with those who don't have a circle of people around them who can help them feel empowered and unaffected by the opinions of a small group of individuals. Luckily for Booka, she has a strong support network surrounding her in the form of her bandmates.
Since guitarist Nick McLernon lives on the opposite side of Australia to Booka and the rest of the band, it's often difficult to get everyone together with the intention of making new music. Instead, they choose to share files via a Dropbox folder so that they can collaborate on their ideas and formulate a plan for their next releases. Once they had gathered enough material over the last couple of years; on the advice of friends such as Chelsea Grin and Wage War, the band decided to get in contact with producer Drew Fulk.
Unlike their sessions for 'Worlds Apart', which were more of a scattered process with multiple producers at the helm, their forthcoming album 'How To Survive A Funeral' came to life with the band taking some time out of their schedules to move into a studio in LA. For Booka, who joined the line-up just as the band were in the process of recording Worlds Apart, the last three years have been all about growth, becoming more confident as a musician, and training herself to be more proficient as a vocalist.
She radiates with happiness as she discusses the sense of freedom that came from spending time in LA with nothing to do but make music, and how much she learnt from working with Dre: "He just knows how to write big choruses, and we had just learned so much from him. As well, I guess I had more freedom and flexibility with the vocal parts that I could do because I had been training my voice for the last three years to get it to a stage where it had a bigger range, and it was more powerful, and stuff like that. So being able to record this new album with trained vocals was a huge thing because last time, I did struggle to get through 'Worlds Apart' a little bit. Some vocal parts were very complex, like complicated for me… but it was really great to be able to look back at that recording process versus this one and go 'wow, this is how far I've come – that's amazing'."
'How To Survive A Funeral' offers the best of both worlds for fans of Make Them Suffer. While it is undoubtedly progressive and sees the band exploring new sonic terrain, the album itself feels like it runs parallel to their second full-length release, 'Old Souls'. Make Them Suffer waste no time in ripping through pages from the infamous back catalogue of Neverbloom in order for frontman Sean Harmanis' to reach into the depths of himself, locating where his visceral death metal vocals had been waiting in stasis.
There isn't as much of an underlying story that runs throughout the songs as there was on the previous release, but there was something else that kept following their lives during the creative process which heavily influenced the direction that they went in. "It was something that was at the forefront of everybody's minds, you know – funerals and death in general. So, like, even though not all the songs are that macabre, 'How To Survive A Funeral' just came one day. It wasn't really thought upon too much. It just seemed to work," says Booka on the origins of the album title.
Starting at the beginning, and ending with the ambiguity of the future appears to be the approach that the band have taken in crafting the perfect listening journey. With heavy influence and direction taken from their producer, Booka's melodic and clean vocals are at the forefront of the choruses in songs such as 'Drown With Me', 'Erase Me' and 'That's Just Life', which sees Make Them Suffer dive into the more expansive realms of their meticulously crafted sound.
The key to a song metal song is nailing the perfect riff, and Make Them Suffer have truly outdone themselves with 'Bones'. What starts as a pulsating wave erupts into sheer chugging carnage, and takes on three different iterations as the song progresses. In admiration of Sean and Nick's ability to balance out vocals and guitar, it has become one of Booka's favourite songs. "If you listen to that song you can hear that I haven't had a lot of input like the keys aren't very much to the forefront of the song. I'm sort of in the background, vocally, but I'm not on that track too much, but I love it! It's so good… The riff that Nick has written is so dirty. It's just like pornographic guitar – it's really groovy, but it's also really heavy."
In signifying what could become a new direction for the band, 'The Attendant' offers an element of ethereal shoegaze-doused metal which is almost reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. The song was originally called Worlds Apart and was originally intended to be released on the eponymous album, but the band were not happy with the vocals that they had written at the time. Booka notes that this album is a lot more self-reflective than the last, so it is quite telling that they were able to revive a more denuded side to themselves this time around.
Reflecting on what she would envisage for the lasting power of How To Survive A Funeral, Booka says, "while we each have our own personal meanings behind lyrics and the message that each song sends, we want it to have its own personal meaning for each and every individual who listens to it… We want it to have a message that, you know, ultimately we are all connected [and I think it is great that] they can listen to it and have their own meaning from that piece of music, even if it's not the meaning that we had when we wrote it. Because that's what music is about, isn't it? It's about connection, and people feeling connectedness with the songs."
Taken from the June issue of Upset. Make Them Suffer's album 'How To Survive a Funeral' is out this summer.
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