Interview with Mark Trotter of Lonely The Brave

In the lead up to the release of their second album Things Will Matter on 20 May 2015, UK five-piece rock outfit Lonely The Brave have released three new music videos for their singles Black Mire, What If You Fall In and Radar. Continue reading below to discover guitarist Mark Trotter’s insights when asked about the progression of the band, the band’s songwriting and recording processes, Black Mire, life on the road, the significance of handwritten letters and the secret to success.

Congratulations on the completion of your new album, Things Will Matter. How has your approach to writing and recording this album matured or changed since the release of The Day’s War

We are very different people from the four guys that wrote that first record. For a start there are five of us now, with Ross joining the band. So much has happened, both to us as individuals and as a band that our songs have matured and grown along with us. I personally feel this is how bands should progress. You have to keep pushing forward and keep pushing the boundaries of what you do. It’s a much darker album than The Day’s War, which has been shaped by various different things; personal relationships, the last 18 months of fighting our way through the music industry itself etc. It’s these things make us who we are.

What was it like working in the studio with Ross Orton and Engineer Dave and have you learnt anything about yourselves through the process of working with these guys? 

Both Ross and Dave were amazing to work with. Ross just got what we were trying to achieve from day one and pushed all of us to give the best possible performances that we could. This led to all of us having a meltdown each at some point through the process of recording but to be pushed to do the best you can is a massive kick up the ass, which really helped to make the record what it is. It was hard work but ultimately a lot of fun being locked away with lots of musical “toys” to experiment with. My idea of heaven pretty much.

Is it difficult to know when you’ve finished writing and recording a song, or does everyone come to a mutual agreement fairly easily? 

Some songs write themselves, others need serious time and energy to get to a point where everyone is happy. Sometimes that point cannot be reached at all which means that one of us will have to compromise or we will leave that song and come back to it later, sometimes months later, to look at it with a fresh approach and get it nailed down. The funny thing with this record is there were several songs that we thought might change dramatically in the studio structure wise that ended up staying exactly as we had originally planned. That in its self is refreshing, especially when your label trusts you enough to put out a 5.30min single! 

Based on the feedback I’ve read on social media pages, your fans have responded very positively to the release of Black Mire and particularly praise Dave for his rare performance direct to the camera. Knowing that Dave is most comfortable singing near the back of the stage both while rehearsing and performing live, whose decision was it to have just Dave featured in the Black Mire music video and was it a tough shoot? 

We wanted the first song from this record to have as much impact as possible and we have a thing for trying to do exactly the opposite of what people expect from us, so we came up with the concept for this video. I think it’s fair to say that it was an intense day for Dave but nothing he couldn’t handle. A lot of people assume Dave’s onstage persona comes from stage fright. It doesn’t. Dave just isn’t keen on the idea of the traditional front man, swinging the mic ‘round his head and acting up. He just wants to sing and let his voice say all he needs to, which we all support 100%. 

You really seem to value and appreciate the support from your fan base and often keep them in the loop with updates regarding upcoming shows and milestones. Do you feel that the bond between you and your fans has strengthened over these years and if so, how?  

We are extremely lucky to have the fans that we have. Without them we couldn’t do any of this and we know it. We have all been, and still are those people who love music and follow our favourite bands and everything they do. For me, meeting new people and fans is the best part of what we do. It’s an incredible feeling having someone you have never met before from the other side of the world telling you how a song you may have written at home with your friends has helped them through some of the toughest times. That is something truly special.

Dave writes all of the lyrics for the songs and recently handwrote the lyrics of Black Mire, publishing them on your website. What was the significance of handwriting the lyrics as opposed to typing them? 

All of the lyrics are personal to Dave and it only really seems appropriate that something so personal should be handwritten. Remember receiving a handwritten letter in the post (remember how we used to do that for each other?!?) and how it was such a special thing – the kind of thing that gets kept for life? To me it shows that not only are these words personal but that the person who has written them has taken the time to make sure you know it’s personal between you and them.

When you’re on tour, do you ever keep a diary or take photos/videos to help process or reflect on your time away from home? 

All of the above! I love taking photos (although I’m not very good at it) and we take a little digital video camera everywhere but the most important thing for me is my diary. I bought a little handmade book on a market stall in Exeter on one of our first ever U.K tours and started filling it in. It is actually for my little boy so I can tell him what I have been up to and what he has been doing back home with his mum. I guess it’s just my way of letting him know that I am thinking of him every time we leave on tour. He’s only two at the moment so it’s gonna be a while before he can read it!

What was it like filming the 360° live video of Backroads at Melkweg Amsterdam and as a group, have you ever sat down and watched any live footage of yourselves performing?  

It’s a funny one. We were so grateful that the filming company asked to come down and do the shoot and it was a great opportunity; however through sound check I was getting pretty pissed off with it if I’m honest as I was thinking it was going to get in the way of the crowd coming for the show that night. To be honest though as soon as we started playing I didn’t notice the camera once! The end result was something pretty stunning. We’ve seen a few little bits of live footage but generally don’t like watching stuff back; I over analyze it and that is never a good thing!

The lyrics to your music are often quite dark and you all wear your heart on your sleeves, especially while on stage. Are you ever reminded of key moments in your life while performing and is it ever difficult to relive tough moments over and over?  

All the time. I have one thing that comes into my mind a lot when we are playing and it tends to be in the middle of either Backroads or The Blue, The Green. I think about my grandparents who we lost a number of years ago now. I’m in no way a religious guy but I think of them and how hopefully they would be proud of what we are doing. That’s a pretty powerful moment that ends up getting quite emotional. Playing live is just genuinely a huge release for me personally. It’s a great way to get a lot of shit out of your system.

What’s the most enjoyable element of touring? 

As mentioned before, for me it’s meeting new people and seeing places that I have maybe never seen before. What is really awesome is then coming back to those places and meeting up with the same people, be it the crews in the venues, fans or staff or whoever really. We have made some amazing friends on this journey and for that are thankful.

Do you ever fear that your gear will be damaged in transit? Have there been any disasters or near misses in the past? 

All the time! Ha! I’m such a guitar geek that I am permanently worried about all my gear! We have had a few issues in the past; guitars coming out of airports with broken necks, flight cases flying off ramps, me falling over on stage and taking out the drums and knocking my amps off the back of the stage.. Ultimately though that is what these things are made for. My main touring guitar means more to me than the rest of them put together and really should live at home now but I just can’t leave home without it. Playing a show without it would just be wrong.

If you could collaborate with any singers or musicians, who would you choose and why? 

Right now for me I would say I would love to work with The National and Radiohead. Both incredible bands, both push the boundaries of their own genres and of music itself. Progression is what keeps music exciting for me and both of these bands really are all about that.

Fast five questions for five fast responses: 

  • What was the first concert/festival you attended and where was it held? My sister took me to see Terrorvision at the Cambridge Corn Exchange for my 15 Birthday! I crowd surfed and someone stole my shoes. 
  • Would you rather go bungee jumping or skydiving? Skydiving every time.
  • What is the title of your all time favourite film? Waltz with Bashir
  • When was the last time you swam in a pool? Some hotel in Holland in November, seemed to double up as a dog toilet…
  • Are you a good cook? I like to think so but honestly, not really…

Since the band formed, you’ve toured with numerous big acts including Bruce Springsteen, Deftones, Neil Young, Marmozets and Wolf Alice, as well as putting on unforgettable festival performances at the likes of Glastonbury, Download and, more recently, the main stage at Reading and Leeds. Lonely The Brave continues to grow from strength to strength. What do you think is the key to your success so far? 

A blunt refusal to give up. Honestly that is all I can put this down to. You get better as a band, you write better songs, you keep pushing what you do. If you truly believe in what you do, then eventually so will someone else. Just never give up.

If you hadn’t pursued a career in music, what would you be doing right now? 

I would probably be sitting in an office somewhere plotting my own, or everyone else’s demise..

Finally, what is something you want to do career-wise that you haven’t yet done? 

We have spent the last couple of years touring solidly around the U.K and Europe. We wanted to make sure that we had a solid fan base at home before getting out to the rest of the world. Now though it’s time to get out to everyone that has been asking when we are going to be coming! That’s the next tick on the list for me.

This interview was first published on 13 March 2016 for Amnplify.

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