Lookin Up

Stayin’ Gold: An Interview With Lookin Up’s Luke Cooper

New York hardcore legends Gorilla Biscuits came to New Zealand back in 2015. A group of us from Wellington all pitched in to rent a van and drove up for the gig. It was a great trip, with positive vibes and fun times all round. The show was a total blast. It was also where I first saw Lookin Up play, who had a supporting slot.

Lookin Up also played at Declaration AD’s final show, which was also an amazing night. It was bittersweet, because Declaration AD had been a huge part of my life for the past five years, and this show signaled the end of an era. But it was also the best night, with so many people coming together to celebrate their legacy.

And I’m sure I’ve seen Lookin Up a few other times – sometimes with a line-up of smaller NZ hardcore bands, and sometimes opening for bigger names like Turnstile. But those shows I just mentioned are the two that stand out for me. Every time I saw them, I remember being impressed by the intensity, positivity, and the sheer fun nature of their sets.

Lookin Up are releasing their second album, Gold, on Friday 5th October, so I had a chat with Luke Cooper to hear about recent changes the band have gone through, the new album, and touring around the world.

Will Not Fade: Lookin Up have dropped off the radar for a while. Now you’re back, with a new album and a different lineup. Talk me through what you’ve been up to.

Luke Cooper: Oh man, we have been up to so much. A few days after the Rise Against show in December 2015, Rowan and Levi told us they were leaving, so we knew the Turnstile tour in January 2016 will be our last shows with that line up. Jamie and I were thinking about whether or not we wanted to carry on and decided to take the rest of 2016 off to reset. I continued to write and by the end of 2016 we were ready to go again. We spent most of 2017 building the band up again in the rehearsal room  and at the start of this year we had over 20 songs that we were proud of. We were ready to get back to playing shows again, so we booked the NZ tour and then headed off to Europe to record the new songs and play a bunch of shows.

Are you still playing Reborn material, or did that era of the band finish when Rowan and Levi left?

Yeah definitely, we still really like that album and all of those songs are fun to play, so I don’t think we will ever stop playing at least a few of them. We wrote the new songs to intentionally integrate the 2 albums into our set and all the new songs are a natural progression from what were we doing in Reborn.

You’ve been through a number of lineup changes over the past few years. What were the key things you were looking for when trying to find new members to join the band?

Yeah, we had a really good dynamic and understanding with Rowan and Levi. When we first started the band, we set some goals and achieved every single one of them. This got us to a point where we either had to start investing a lot more time and finances into international touring or to just call it a day. Rowan had already been there with a bunch of other bands and he and Levi both didn’t want to commit in the way that they knew they needed too. Jamie and I still believed in what we were doing and saw potential in it, so they encouraged us to keep going.

Since we had already done over 4 years of ground work, we needed to find people who were ready to take the next steps with us. This has taken a few different combinations of people to really work out, but with Chow on board we are good to go.

Dylan’s nickname is Chow Ming. I remember this being super confusing when I first met him. Have you got any funny stories about this?

Haha yes it was very confusing. I remember when Chow changed his name on Facebook and lost hundreds of friends because no one knew who Dylan Stubbins was. Back when he was in Blameless and they toured with my old band Punisher, we played in Christchurch and took the ferry down. On the ferry ticket I listed his name as Chow Ming, because I was so used to calling him that, and he had to get a note from his mum saying that he although his ID says Dylan Stubbins, he is Chow Ming also hahaha

Do you ever dress the same to be cool onstage? Just wondering if a Brave Sons influence rubbed off.

Oh yeah man, Brave Sons are the reason we started playing music. 

You recorded Gold in Norway. Why Norway?

Once we had an albums worth of new songs, we started looking at recording options. I have a studio at home and it would have been really easy to just record it there and do what we have always done. But we wanted to try something new, so I typed into google “Cool recording studios” and a picture of Ocean Sound Recordings popped up. It was one of the most insane things I had ever seen. I contacted the studio manager, it turned out to be affordable and we started to plan our year around that. Since we were already in Europe, we decided to play some shows so I reached out to a bunch of promoters and booking agents and made it happen. 

How long are your sets? I have 23 minutes of Lookin Up music on my computer. How much music do you need (duration-wise) to warrant touring?

Haha with Rowan and Levi our sets were about 15 mins of pure carnage but that was enough for those sorts of shows. With the new album we have built more of a sustainable set and can play up to around 45 mins if we need too. I think that if you are supporting a show and can cram 9 insane songs into a 15 min set, it helps people remember your band without burning everyone out before the headliners come on.

What happened to the 2017 demos? (“Break” and “Proud”).

Oh yes, we got restless for a month or so and with the line up we had at the time, we recorded those 2 songs and booked a few shows. That line up didn’t last very long so we took them down and re-worked them. A new version of “Proud” is on Gold 

I’ve tagged along with bands on tour around NZ, America and Europe. All offered vastly different experiences. Can you tell me about your favourite places to play, and why?

My favourite place to play was Aarhus in Denmark. The venue was a youth building, a lot like Zeal and we had driven 6 hours from Netherlands to be there. We weren’t expecting much but it was one of the best responses we have seen as a band. We ended up getting about 100 Euro for the show and didn’t have to eat stale bread and apples for dinner again hahaha 

I’m sure that you have played a wild range of venues. Are there any unusual ones that stand out?

We played a café in Prague where the show was free and the café was open to members of the public. People brought their dogs and children in to get dinner and had to deal with some of the loudest most aggressive music you can imagine. The toilet was right next to the stage and I remember young kids and old people walking right past me terrified and blocking their ears all night. No one spoke English either so it was really interesting working out what to do in between songs.

A world tour of 100 shows is a big commitment. What strategies do you have in place to stay sane on the road?

There will be a whole lot of kick boxing sparring, a whole lot of jiu jitsu a whole lot of bombs [I assume Luke means jumping into water here] and a whole lot of Astrid S and Sigrid in the van. If everyone in the van gets in a routine and eats well, its pretty easy to stay sane on the road.

Lookin Up

Image: Dylan Gerschwitz

Luke, are you and Jamie brothers? How does this affect the band dynamic?

Oh yes we are, its one of the worst things you can ever imagine. I definitely would not recommend it.

 Is music a viable career in 2018? Can you break even – or better yet – make a living as a musician? I know that you are an engineer, and do recording and mixing for a living, Luke. What about the other guys?

I think a career in music is more viable now than ever. Bands definitely aren’t selling as many albums as they used too but they are all making way more money touring than ever before. Like every industry in the world, you have to work hard and make wise choices. At the moment we all have other jobs that enable us to pay our bills, fund the band and generally be functioning members of society. But we wont need to do that for much longer and we have every intention of making this as financially viable as possible.

What has been your highlight to date? And what are you most looking forward to?

That trip to Europe on the whole was an incredible experience. We learned a lot about our selves and what is actually possible as a band and we came back from it with a defined sense of direction. Writing and recording an album is a massive strain on time and energy so we are really looking forward to playing as many shows as possible in as many places as we can.

 Tell me about Gold

Gold is 11 bangas that we have been working on for the last year. There are some songs that will confuse people and some songs that are reminiscent of the Reborn era. We got our friend Greg Haver to help produce the songs, his engineer Brendan Davies came with us to Norway and was an absolute wizard. Tom Lord Alge mixed the 3 singles and helped me out with the remaining songs and Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound mastered the album. Everything sounds exactly as we intended and we couldn’t be happier. We can’t wait for people to hear it.

 I really dig the two singles I’ve heard so far. “Don’t” has a mean groovy riff. And I love how the vocals on “Enough” alternate between sounding strong and distant. It’s quite moody but at the same time direct. Neither song is as heavy as your early material, but I am thoroughly enjoying them.

Thanks man, we spent a lot of time working on structured song writing and arrangement of those songs and wanted to record them as well as possible. Recorded, they aren’t as trashy as Reborn but live they are some of the heaviest songs we have ever written.

 What is the key message that you hope people hear as they listen to your music?

We just want people to leave our shows feeling better about their lives in general. We focus on positive messages with our lyrics but everything is open to interpretation.   

Do you ever get the urge to have Joel Little produce you so you can become the next Lorde? [Rowan who used to sing for Lookin Up was in the band Goodnight Nurse with Little]

Hahaha absolutely, watch this space…

Can you please list your favourite dog breeds?

Bonobo Chimpanzee


Lookin Up are releasing Gold on Friday October 5th, with a NZ tour taking place in October and November, and international tour to follow.

Lookin Up Gold Tour Poster

Lookin Up are:

Jamie Cooper – Lead Vocals / Bass
Luke Cooper – Guitar / Backing Vocals
Dylan Stubbins – Drums

Lookin Up links:

www.facebook.com/lookinuplookinup
www.instagram.com/lookinupnz
www.youtube.com/channel/UCcr6h3zhC8ojBAfLZET5z6Q/videos
www.lookinup.bandcamp.com
https://open.spotify.com/artist/54bc4MYPlOY1WdwmiAbfGS?si=r4kRMnh_QIqixWO-e8e1DA
https://itunes.apple.com/nz/artist/lookin-up/1406543174

 

Interview by Joseph James

Photos by Dylan Gerschwitz

Rise Against Wolves

Album Review: Rise Against – Wolves

The classification of punk music is totally subjective. What do The Ramones, The Clash and The Sex Pistols share in common? Who’s more punk out of Blink 182 or the Rage Against The Machine? To me, the two essential elements of good punk music are speed and political content.

Rise Against have both. Since discovering them in my early teens, they have long been one of my favourite bands. I’ve seen them more than any other international act (Powerstation 2009, Big Day Out 2010, Logan Campbell Centre 2011, and opening for Foo Fighters 2015), and they also take up the most space in my record collection (alongside Biffy Clyro).

But to be honest, I wasn’t so keen on their latest album. I won’t go so far as to say they sold-out, but Appeal To Reason signaled a tipping point for the band once they had signed to a major label, and since then their sound became steadily more accessible. This culminated in their last release, The Black Market, lacking the edge that the band once had.

Thankfully, album number eight, Wolves, feels more raw than the polished radio-rock that the band had churned out over the past few releases. I doubt we will ever hear a true return to their hardcore roots, but the pop sheen on this record is thankfully less noticeable. I didn’t have high hopes on first listen, having not thought much of their previous record, but thankfully Wolves proved instantly likable.

It’s the same familiar Rise Against. They’ve transcended their underground roots to create a melodic-hardcore-come-arena-rock style that has boosted them to prominence. And I do not begrudge them for their success. But I do feel that a special connection to the band has been lost since they started gaining more dominance on the airwaves.

I stated before that I think political content is a vital aspect of good punk music. Rise Against have always toed the line well in this regard – writing lyrics that allude to their personal and political values without being overt enough to ostracize their increasingly mainstream fan base. Just a handful of topics they’ve touched on in the past include treatment of animals (many of the band members are vegan), people (refugees, the LGBT community) and the fallout of war (including the impacts on both soldiers and civilians involved).

In his typical fashion, on Wolves singer Tim McIlrath cries out against injustice with a fervent fire. One could attribute inspiration to a certain orange-tinted world leader, but in reality corruption and oppression will always exist, regardless of who runs the government. Wolves features a theme of rallying the people to stand as one against ambiguous powers-that-be. Both relevant and vague enough for most people to relate to. And how can one not be drawn to that call to humanity that all of us possess?

Plus they have lots of “whoas”. “Whoas” are freaking awesome, and the perfect invitation from a band to have you sing along. Just ask The Casualties.

I find it hard to define my overall verdict. Wolves is actually great. I love Rise Against, and will always hold them dear as an important building block in my musical education. But I’m not sure that I needed another album from them. I like Wolves, but chances are high that  if I’m hoping for my Rise Against fix I will overlook it and reach for one of their older records.

 

Joseph James

In Between Locastvale

Album Review: In Between – Locustvale

Entry point: Locustvale
Personal favourite: Skin on Skin

From the opening lines this sounds promising. I’ve never heard of In Between before, two tracks into the album and I’m drawing comparisons to Rise Against and that pop influenced punk rock genre. Please note that the “pop influenced” is far from a bad thing in my opinion, more bands would do themselves favours by taking what they do and simplifying. If the song is good, it will show through.

The vocals are on point, harmonies are there when required and the screaming/yelling is tastefully done.

Production on the album is solid and unobtrusive, the songs are able to stand on their own legs without sounding manufactured or as so often happens with this style of music, it doesn’t sound like a garage demo that’s been released.

A note to any band who has the means, yet is still considering releasing less than studio quality productions: Don’t.

You’re only doing yourselves a disservice. If you don’t want to lose the raw energy of performing live or don’t want to be too polished, tell your engineer and producer that. If you’re a good live band, capturing that in the studio is easy. Listen to Rage Against the Machine‘s self titled album and tell me that it lacks energy or is too polished.

Locustvale is relatively two dimensional, but at 27 minutes that isn’t a concern – album is over before you know it.

The track Skin on Skin has a slightly slower more anthemic feel to it, which is where I get the Rise Against comparison. By slowing things down the vocals have more space to breathe and carry the track forward.

The track Locustvale (video above) is a decent summation of the rest of the album, the drums and bass drive it forward and leave plenty of space for the vocals to shine.

In my opinion this genre works best when the instruments drop in and out to add dynamics and contrast to the music, when albums are comprised of songs that aren’t all the same kick-snare-kick-kick-snare pattern at the same tempo.

Locustvale has the songs for those days of driving with the windows down on a hot summer road trip. Fans of this genre should find plenty on this album to enjoy.

– Murray


This review was originally posted by Murray Stace at his site  Relative Silence

Audio Impulse

Interview: Audio Impulse

What is the story behind your band?

Hey guys its Barry, lead singer and rhythm guitarist from Audio Impulse. I met Nate back in college through our bassist Pat. We quickly became friends and always discussed writing music together. We ended up living around the corner from each other and found ourselves without bands and a lot of free time. I went through a break-up and ended up moving about 45 minutes away from Nate. He came over twice a week to write music and keep me sane. Eventually when we had several songs written we decided to make it a full line-up and asked Pat to join as our bassist. The search for a drummer was a little tricky, we ended up placing an ad on Craigslist and Freeman answered it. He was the first and only try-out we had. The first night he played with us it all gelled perfectly.

How would you describe your sound?

Our sound is somewhat unique but still accessible. Most people say it’s hard to pin us directly in one specific genre but overall we identify as Punk Rock. We have heavy Pop Punk influences that mesh with our love for 90s era grunge. We all have specific bands that we pull our influences from but the common ones across the board would be Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, Rise Against, Incubus, Nirvana, Wonder Years, and Thrice.

What song or album do you recommend for first time listeners?

I would actually recommend our EP that we just released in March called “Straight Shot”. It’s four songs that will definitely get you up and moving. My personal favourite from the EP would be “For The Road” which we are getting ready to release a music video for!

What lessons did you learn from your previous bands that you brought with you to this band?

There are more lessons than I care to list here but there are several main points that we all agree on. Everything we do is done as a team, we either sink or swim together. A good work ethic when it comes to practicing on a regular basis. We don’t ever play a song in the studio or live unless we know it like the back of our hands. Practice makes perfect and we make sure we hold true to that mentality especially in reference to our live shows. We take pride in being able to put on a great live show every time and we can only do that if we are well rehearsed together.

A lot of your vocals remind me of Fat Wreck signed punk bands. Would these acts be counted among your influences?

Absolutely! I grew up listening to NOFX, and Lagwagon is one of my all-time favourite punk bands. Rise Against has already been listed as a main influence in our sound, and they sit in high regard along with No Use for a Name, Less Than Jake, None More Black, Nerf Herder, and the Real McKenzies. All of those bands have definitely influenced my singing style over the years just from constantly singing along to their albums in my car! I always find it pretty cool when people can pick up on musical influences in our songs. It shines the light on how influential music can really be in somebody’s life.

What are some key themes and messages that you cover with your music?

This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask us. All four of us have experienced moments in our lives that had completely wrecked us emotionally. When we were at our worst, there was one constant that kept us sane, and that was music. We each have an album that we define as “the album that saved me” and picked us up from the ashes to grow stronger. Our main goal is to create that album that helps somebody get through life. We understand the therapeutic principals that are within music and do our best to create a safe haven for the fans. Whether we are playing a show to one person or one million people, if somebody walks away feeling better about life then we’ve done our job. Our songs reflect that by portraying the message of you are not alone in a hopeful and sympathetic manner.

What format do you use the most when listening to music? [vinyl, cd, streaming etc..]

Honestly that depends on the day. I usually end up streaming my music when I’m on the computer or driving, but when I have the time to sit down and appreciate the music, I will rifle through my dad’s old vinyl collection and see what I can find.

Tell us your best tour story.

Well we haven’t been on a tour yet, but we just booked our first one for the month of September this year. We will be heading down south with the Extreme Tour and we couldn’t be more excited about it. I will definitely get back to you with some stories when you interview us again!

What is your band’s greatest achievement to date?

We’ve gotten a few but our biggest accomplishments have been three things. First we opened for Alien Ant Farm and Hed PE and sold out the bill! Then we won the greatest Alternative Hard Rock album in the country in November 2015 by the Akademia Music Awards. Lastly our most recent accomplishment was selling out our EP release show in March at Connie’s Ric Rac in South Philly!

Who would you most love to tour or collaborate with?

I can safely say that the entire band would be tickled pink if we could tour with Foo Fighters! Dave Grohl seems like such a fun guy and collaborating with him would be hysterical and educational all at the same time.

Audio Impulse (2).jpg

What plans do you have for the near future?

We have a busy schedule ahead of us! We are playing several festivals this summer along with local shows. Then we will be going on tour in September for most of the month. We also will be releasing a new music video for our latest single off of “Straight Shot” called “For the Road” in which we got to work with a great director named Scott Hoon. Then we plan on releasing a single sometime in August or September that we recorded with Shane Garland from Hunger Before Greed Productions. After all of that we are planning on releasing a new album sometime in the next year.

Here’s your chance to say anything that we haven’t covered.

Outside of the music we are all big gamers. In fact, we got our name from one of the greatest RPGs ever made. There was a game released for the Super Nintendo called Chrono Trigger and it has been rated as one of the best games of all time. There is a move in the game called “arc impulse”, after some research, we found out that name was already taken. So we ended up deciding on Audio Impulse after some short deliberation. It was a name that as soon as we heard it, we knew that was it.


Links:

AudioImpulseMusic.com

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

YouTube

 

Joseph James

 

strungout pears nz tour

Live Review: Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion

Strung Out playing Exile in Oblivion plus hits

w/ Night Gaunts and PEARS

San Fran, Wellington

Friday 1 April 2016

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (1)

Strung Out. Jake Kiley (L), Jason Cruz (R)

Albany act Night Gaunts started the night off with their upbeat high-pitched ska. They bounced around and got the small crowd grooving along to dub styled offbeat strumming, complemented by saxophone. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but they were far more polished than I expected. Their chirpy happy-go-lucky sound didn’t quite match the tone on the other two bands of the night, but they played well nonetheless.

PEARS have been through a lot on this tour, so we were lucky to even have them. Their bassist had dropped out of the tour mere days before the tour, leaving them scrambling to find players to fill in. Hayden from Night Gaunts obliged for most of their set, with super-smiley Strung Out  bassist Chris Aiken taking over for the last few songs.

Vocalist Zach Quinn had recently bust his fist PUNCHING THE STAGE on the Australian leg of the tour, resulting in pricey hospital bills and leaving him in a wrist brace/cast that you can see in the picture below. I recently broke a few bones in my wrist and I can tell you straight away that there is no way I would have been attempting half the stuff Quinn was doing on stage. He threw himself about with abandon, like violent interpretive dance. He jumped down into the audience and walked around – you know, just because – before climbing back onstage and writhing around on the floor.

PEARS San Fran (8)

PEARS vocalist Zach Quinn, with Jarrett Nathan behind him on drums.

When bands have members like this it always makes for a captivating show. It was so unpredictable. I don’t think the band members themselves even know quite what to expect.Guitarist Brian Pretus played front man, and rather than just rattling off obligatory nonsense to fill time between songs, he actually was worth paying attention to. He told stories, cracked jokes, and had the crowd chanting.

The date actually coincided with the release of the second PEARS album, Green Star, which meant that the band were in good spirits. I guess that this, combined with the show being the last of the tour, meant that the band really wanted to give their all. This was great to watch, with the performance being super high energy and frantic. As chaotic and wild as it seemed, there was still evidence of talent beneath the whirlwind. Quinn and Pretus shared some great vocal harmonies when they weren’t launching about the stage. Pretus displayed great abilities and drummer Jarrett Nathan kept them on their toes with his lightning beats. It looked like loads of punters were already loyal fans of the band and there were singalongs aplenty, especially when PEARS covered The Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk”.

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (3)

Jake Kiley (L), Chris Aiken (R)

As always, when bands play an entire album you know what to expect [examples: Nas performing Illmatic, Jimmy Eat World playing Futures], but also hope to hear handful of hits from other albums as well. Strung Out have been playing a selection of their albums start to finish over this Australasian tour. Last night was Twisted by Design in Auckland, and tonight they played Exile in Oblivion.

After a sound check the band kept us in suspense by playing a handful of old jazz numbers through the public address system, knowing that we were expecting one such song to be the intro to”Analog”, to first track of Exile. When said track finally played everyone cheered, knowing that this signaled the start of a brilliant set to complete an already-great night.

They’re tight, and play rippingly fast. And you can tell that they’re on top of their game. Exile came out 11 years ago, and they were able to play it through without a hitch. And on top of that, they’ve been playing many of their other albums in their entirety at other stops on their tour, showing that they are exceptionally rehearsed. They ripped through Exile, and followed up with half a dozen tracks from the rest of their catalogue.

Sweat dripped and the audience swarmed as fans rocked out and sang along to favourite tunes from one of their most beloved bands. Strung Out reciprocated, clearly appreciative that their fans enable them to play music for a living. Singer Jason Cruz told about how the band got a bit tired and jaded when they were first touring Exile on Warped Tour in 2005, until a crew member had told them to suck it up and take a reality check. This made an impact on them, and it is clear that they make the most of their opportunities and give back to the fans who support them to get where they are now.

This was the last night of the tour, and you could tell the PEARS and Strung Out had built a special camaraderie over the course of their time together. Throughout both sets, band members and crew from side of stage would throw bananas and potato chips at the band playing. During the last song – a cover of “Soulmate” by late No Use For a Name singer Tony Sly – members of PEARS and the crew started stealing away pieces of the drum kit one by one, making drummer Jordan Burns work extra hard as he tried to improvise with less equipment at his disposal. Somehow, by the end of the song the drum kit was scattered around the stage, with Strung Out singer Cruz stuck underneath a pile of the drums.

Strung Out San Fran Wellington (2)

Chris Aiken on bass


Although  we have had punk bands like GBH and The Buzzcocks come recently, it is a rare treat to have more modern international punk acts make their way to Wellington. Thanks to Chicks That Scream for organising shows like these. For me personally, gigs like this one are often key highlights of my year.

Special mention to Jordan Burns’ mother, who passed away three years ago. This show was dedicated to her.

Joseph James