Monday, 23 March 2009

Interview with Mikey Way, Serpico

Serpico are a Scottish quintet looking to breakthrough the classic way, not a ‘Myspace phenomena’ but through touring and word of mouth. The band have gone on the road with artists including AFI, Aiden, Kill Hannah, Stone Gods, Wednesday 13, Paradise Lost, Elliot Minor – even crossing the whole of Europe in support of Black Stone Cherry.

So after getting their name spread around and selling all 2000 copies of their four track EP Serpico are now planning to release their debut album, Neon Wasteland. We talked to lead singer, Mikey Serpico:

Where did the name for Neon Wasteland come from?

Well, we were all kinda brainstorming ideas for a title and weren't getting very far - no matter what anyone suggested there seemed to be a reason to shoot it down. Then I came up with Neon Wasteland and it just seemed to fit. It's quite an evocative title in terms of the mental image that it projects, which I thought would be cool in terms of linking it in with the artwork - the idea of sin/decay, the sleazy underbelly of a futuristic city. On another level, though it's a bit of a comment on the current music scene - lots of glow sticks, not that much creativity.

For fans of the Serpico EP, what can they expect from the album?

Well, for a start the EP tracks have been touched up and remixed for inclusion on the album. I've redone some of the vocals and we've beefed up the guitar and drum tracks - so basically they just sound even better! That's partially because the other tracks on the album were sounding so good, that we needed to make the EP ones sound better to compete.
Overall, I guess people that liked the EP will have liked the fact that it's fast, rockin', got moments of heaviness, but also great hooks and melodies... which has just been amplified with the songs on the album.

Has the band or the music changed since you made the EP when compared to now?

Yeah, the band's certainly changed - when we recorded the EP, there was just me, Jonny, Steve and Iain. I think vocally I've matured a bit and my writing has got stronger. Jonny is much more used to playing to a click now (he'd basically never done it when we did the EP) and he's even more determined to stretch his own skills. He's never willing to settle for a boring, safe beat - he's always pushing himself. In between the EP and album, we've had some guitarists come and go, but now we've had Olli for coming up to 18 months and he's had a really positive effect. First of all, he's a much better guitarist than I am, which helped with the recording, but also he added some nice little post-production touches.
Musically, the EP was more of a taster of what was to come with the album, rather than being a totally different sound. So it's definitely more evolution than revolution.

How would you describe Serpico’s sound to someone who has never heard you before?

Always a hard one - I usually describe us as melodic punk metal. We combine aspects of melodic punk bands like Bad Religion, Offspring, Greenday, AFI etc, with metal bands like Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Iron Maiden. There's obviously a pop aspect to it, but I think it's dark enough to not come across as too lightweight. Credible upbeat hard rock, that you can sing along to as well as circle pit to!

Who are your musical inspirations?

Well, all of the bands I mentioned above are huge inspirations. Vocally I love guys with strong, deeper voices because I can relate to them! So I love metal guys like Phil Anselmo, James Hetfield, Matt Shadows but also the punk sound of guys like Greg Gaffin, Kurt Cobain and Billy Joe Armstrong. I've also got a bit of a gothy side (some great baritones!) and I love a bit of HIM too. HIM is quite a big musical influence (although it might not be that obvious) because of the way that they take great pop songs and then turn them into metal songs! Quite a skill!

Did you enjoy making the video for We Own the Night?

Yeah! It was our first proper big production video and it couldn't have gone better. Basically everything that could have gone wrong... didn't, which was great. We just got to run around at night with awesome planes and fire everywhere - what boy wouldn't want that!

What was it like working with Nick Bartleet?

Really great. Nick is really "client focussed" to use a bit of jargon. All the time he was really mindful that he was making a video for us, not for himself and so he was really consultative and to an extent let us do our own thing. Also he was able to keep control of everyone in making sure that he managed to get the best performances out of them. Really nice compromise - and from what I've seen so far the results are going to be amazing.

You’ve been touring and playing with bands for while now, which has been your favourite: to hang out with?

We still keep in touch with lots of the bands we've toured with, like LostAlone, Black Stone Cherry, Kill Hannah and My Passion to name a few. We really got on well with Black Stone Cherry, they're awesome guys to hang with, really chilled out. But to be honest we've been lucky - almost all the bands we've toured with have been really nice guys.

and to see playing?

Black Stone Cherry are an amazing live band, as are LostAlone – especially because with LostAlone there's a real spectacle with Steven on guitar/vocals. Aiden are pretty incredible live - they're so passionate and energetic onstage.

Can you give us any news about future Serpico plans? Any tours lined up?

We've currently trying to sort out a tour of Ireland for late April kind of time with some Irish bands we know. Then we're booking a bunch of UK dates for late May/June, but nothing's confirmed yet - can't be too specific. But, obviously the main thing at the moment is the single release at the end of April and then the album in May. We've already had the single on XFM, and hopefully we'll get the video on the TV, so that's what's going on in the short term and then touring coming up!

What are your long-term hopes for Serpico?

Well, in the long term obviously I hope we become a band that people know all round the world! In the medium term, I'd hope that we could get to a stage where we can tour and be able to live from the band. At the moment we're still essentially just starting out, running our own label etc and so the costs are really high and the income is pretty low. Hopefully we can balance that out and be able to live without worrying about whether we can tour because people are working in bars or whatever!

Serpico’s debut album, Neon Wasteland will be released on May 25 and the single ‘We Own The Night’ will be released on April 27 via WeSaySo Records.

Damon Fowler
Comfort in Sound

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