I was a lucky writer to have the opportunity to review As Lions’ album Selfish Age, but an interview with vocalist Austin Dickinson? Well, that makes me an indulged fan. We talked letting go, having fun, and finding your voice. All of which is good advice for whatever your chosen lifestyle.
Hey there Austin, how are you?
Austin Dickinson: Very well, thank you. How are you?
Good, I’m just listening to your album Selfish Age, again.
I’m still loving it.
Excellent. I’m really glad you like it. That is our absolute pride and joy.
I can see why, this album as huge collaborations when it comes to the production of it all.
Yes, it was a lot of fun, I’ve got to be honest. Kane Churko is one of the most talented people I know, on the planet and it was so much fun doing all the work with him out in Vegas.
Oh, you did it out in Vegas?
Yes, we did. We did the Vegas part with him. We did the some work with Dave Bendeth as well, out in New Jersey.
You’re just all over here, making it work.
Did you get to play while you were in Vegas?
We didn’t get to play any shows. I got to fuck around quite a lot with the Vegas night life. But to be honest, once we had done about one or two days looking around Vegas and experiencing the night life we all went, “Uh, yeah, we’re kind of over it.” It got very boring, very quickly. When there’s a guitar to be played and things to be done, that’s really the best part of it. That’s where the actual magic and fun happens, where all the memories get built.
When you are speaking of memories and creating this album, what were the different personalities like and how did that affect the writing process?
I think the writing process it went on really since it began. This album has been in the works ever since then. It took a couple of different forms, because we ended up writing anywhere from around, I think, 30 songs in the end that we had; some more complete than others. I think the journey that we went on, not only yielded this album, but it also shaped and molded us as the band. Working with David Bendeth was a huge turning point for us, because he’s done some of my absolute favorite records on the planet. To have him want to work with us, and go out of his way to get us over to the states to do the work with him, was just humbling. It was incredible. It was everything really. Then, we got there and it was like band bootcamp. It was, “You think you can sing? Let’s do eight hours a day. You think you can drum? Let’s do eight hours a day to this absolutely mental click, this mental metronome that I’ve built.” I think the coolest thing about working with him was that it was absolute craftsmanship. We all really, really, really, got to get in touch with ourselves as musicians and as people and get to the absolute core of who we were and why we did what we did. I think that’s one of the coolest things about him is he really brings that out of you. Kane, on the flip side, was a very different producer. He’s a lot closer in age to us. He’s kind of had a very similar upbringing musically and he’s just an absolute creative hothouse. The guy lives and breathes music and very much believes in finding the golden moments and really getting a performance out of you. Also he really believes in having fun. That’s a very important part of the process in a lot of ways. When you’re getting such organic and potentially tempestuous parts like guitars, vocals, very human things down, you can tell when somebody means it and when they don’t. I think the wonderful thing about working with Kane, and Kane working with us, was that we really, really, strived to get the best; to get the absolute performance out of it and get the fun out of it. I think that shown through very much on the record. You can tell that we’re having a blast.
One of the other things that definitely shows through in the record, is how far you pushed musical limits. “The Great Escape” has some huge vocal ranges that, I mean, ouch. That had to hurt keeping together. It would be so much and so hard to do.
Thank you very much. I think with songs like “The Great Escape,” with the vocals and the musicianship we’re actually playing more in our comfort zone than ever before in terms of range. Well, actually, I can’t say that for the other guys because they are switching between keyboards, bass, and piano. Conor is actually doing so many things, because he’s one of the most talented people I know. I’m actually singing a lot more in my comfort zone. I think that’s very important because I have to do a show night, after night, after night, you’ve got to deliver a performance worthy of remembering and celebrating. So, if you can’t do it then you’re in trouble. It’s been really cool finding my voice on this, because before I was all over all sorts of different keys, different places where it would be quite hard to replicate live. My last band, we were incredibly, highly, tuned and I screamed all the stuff. Once you’ve done that, you never really want to do it again. I love to tell a story and I love to put everything that’s in my head down on paper, on record, on paper then subsequently on record. I think that’s what we did. We just wanted to make sure it was as big as it could be, and as tight as it could be, and could be put on stage.
This album definitely lives in those melodies. My mind is blown that’s your comfort zone.
Oh, thank you.
I don’t really know what it is. Maybe it’s something in the water.
I need some of that water. That speaks a lot for the guitar work in “The Suffering.” The vocals and the guitar were so aggressive, but they never lost the melodic style. You could almost sing along to you and the guitars, not nearly as well, but we could try.
That’s sort of the point of it for us. We want to be as melodic and as expansive as we can in terms of dynamic and the actual textures we choose to use. With the melody, I think really the key, the secret for us, was expanding the sonic range. Instead of having 19 fucking guitars all playing perfectly lovely pieces, it still sound like 19 guitars fighting each other. So, if you just remove certain things that aren’t quite doing the job and you take the choice bits, and maybe make a counter rhythm on a piano, or maybe make it synth when you play, there’s so much to play with. There are all sorts of stuff that we tucked and buried away underneath. We brought all the best bits to the top and put everything else below it, moving around, flushing out the pure emotion and the story of the song. I think that’s a lot of the fun, was find those moments and finding the purpose, and individuality in each part. I’m very happy you said that, thank you, very much appreciated.
We’ve talked so much about how it was fun for you to make and you were able to find your place vocally. On a personal level, what has As Lions uniquely brought to you that you haven’t had in the past?
Now more than ever As Lions has given myself and all the rest of the guys a platform to tell our stories, share our experiences, and share our music with the world. That might be a bit of a bland answer, but before I was in a band called Rise to Remain and that was a great opportunity, but as a platform I found myself falling to the wayside. Perhaps what was expected of me or what I thought people wanted to here, it just diluted all the stuff that I think was probably the choice cuts, really the bits that I wrote, the bits that Will [Homer] wrote, the bits that Conor [O’Keefe] would write. As Lions has presented us with a brand new lease of life and a whole new bunch of music and a platform, the best opportunity we’ve ever had really.
I think that speaks a little bit for “Bury My Dead” because it has such a freeing and restart your thinking lyrics. That’s probably my favorite. I love that song.
Thank you very much. That was very much influenced by leaving the past behind and moving on; not allowing yourself to surrender to the things that can’t teach you more. Struggle can be a really good thing, a really powerful thing, to propel you forward and build you as a person. I think there comes a time that we’ve all got this baggage that we need to shed. That baggage, normally, is the one that weights on us largest, because it’s the exact thing that is not teaching us or pushing us anymore. So, “Bury My Dead” is very much about moving on in your life.
It’s beautiful and I think everybody could use those lyrics somewhere in their life.
Oh, thank you very much.
I’m super stoked about everything we got to talk about.
Brilliant, thank you very much for having me.
Anytime. By the way, I’ve met your doppelganger.
Yep, so if you’re ever in Utah, watch out for that, you have a twin.
Good lord. Excellent, well if he’s got an affinity for Guiness and Killswitch Engage, we might have more in common than we could think.
I might know someone eerily similar in looks, but I can vouch there is no one comparable to Austin Dickinson. His upbeat attitude and love for the process, as well as his incredible talent, is a florescent sign stating, “This new venture and fantastic album is just a pitstop in what As Lions will bring to the music industry.”