The first time I interviewed RavenEye, I naively asked Oli Brown (vocals/guitar) why, after a celebrated career as a blues guitarist, he was willing to walk away from a genre that lauded his accomplishments to start a rock band. Oli replied:
“I kind of got tired of the scene I was around … And I was actually like, ‘You know what, screw that. I know what I want to do, I know what I want to sound like, and I know what I’ve got to do to change it.’ So that’s why I changed everything, I left everything, and just hit the reset and just started from scratch.”
That reset button launched UK-based rock trio RavenEye and produced their first EP, a little bluesy-rock number titled Breaking Out, in 2015. I got the sense, in speaking with Oli that day, that there was a lot of music inside him, a lot that couldn’t be contained by blues, that needed the freedom of rock and roll to come forth. The smooth blues infused riffs and melodies were full of energy, but comfortable and easy. And so with great anticipation I dove into Nova (review coming soon), expecting to fall into the same groove I’d come to associate with RavenEye. What I encountered left me desperate to have a sit down with the boys across the pond. Luckily, Oli, Aaron Spiers (bass/vocals) and Adam Breeze (drums) were able to take a break from rehearsing for their upcoming tour to chat with us about their soon-to-be released, Nova.
Shockwave Magazine: Hi!
Oli Brown: Hi, how’s it going?
It’s going really good! It’s been a year since I talked to you at Louder Than Life!
Since then, I’ve played Breaking Out to death. I don’t know how much you’re allowed to talk about the upcoming Nova, but I’ve been listening to it for about two weeks almost non-stop …
OB: I’ll talk as much as you want to. Nothing’s off topic. It’s all cool.
There have been of course, some changes. You have a new drummer.
OB: Yep, that’s true. He’s actually here. We’re rehearsing at the moment.
Adam Breeze: Hi! How are you?
I’m good! How are you?
AB: I am amazing, thank you. Nice and sweaty on this beautiful day. It’s nice to meet you.
Tell me how you ended up becoming part of RavenEye.
AB: I’ve known the guys for maybe about a year or so now, and I knew the previous drummer, Kev, quite well. He lives around here. I actually met these guys – it was at a jam. Kev invited me down and I thought, “Yeah, I’ll come down and play a couple of songs.” I remember it distinctly …
OB: Well, we all remember it that. [laughs]
AB: I was bashing away, and one of the cymbals flew off the stand somehow and then just landed in my lap while we were playing. We all just stopped and looked at each other and completely just burst out laughing.
OB: It was amazing.
AB: It was great. So that was my first experience.
OB: It happened a couple of times, that cymbal.
If anyone reading has a copy of that, a video of that, chat me up. That would be great.
OB: That would be great!
AB: And then after that, I bumped into the guys a couple other times, and when – I think it was a couple of months ago that Kev actually phoned me up and said, “I’m no longer a part of this anymore.” Alarm bells started going off in my head and it was like, “I need to take this opportunity because I’d be an idiot not to.” So I did, and I was kind of nervous at first because I wasn’t kind of up to it as a player, but I just went for it anyway, and I’m here now. And it’s pretty crazy, but I’m still trying to get used to it really. It’s amazing.
It’s only been a couple of months, right?
OB: We were in the studio at the time recording the album, and that’s when Adam got in touch. And we checked out some of the videos and we were like, “Ah, this is exactly what we were looking for.” So we were stoked.
Now you’ve done some gigs with RavenEye, but you’re not on the recording, are you?
AB: No, I’m not. This guy named Gunnar Olsen, who’s like an absolute machine, he played on the album.
And it’s Gunner that’s in the video for “Hero?”
OB: No, that is Adam.
That’s Adam! Alright, because your face was hidden a little bit, ironically behind the cymbals I noticed.
OB: [laughs] Yeah, he was still a mystery.
Ah, I see, okay! So I do want to talk about Nova. I got to hear it right before “Hero” came out, and I’m blown away. How do you come up with your tunes? What is your process? Your beginning-to-end, pen-to-paper, to studio?
OB: Usually I get the structure of the song out before I even start touching lyrics. Usually I come straight from computer. I have a little sound card that I’ll plug everything in, and I plug guitars in, then kind of come to the riff. We’ll kind of work from there. We usually try to get the structure of the song out before we even start touching lyrics. So melodies for me are the most memorable thing of a song anyway. As long as you’ve got a melody, the lyrics kind of always come toward the end. And then, just because of the demo, we try to make them sound as good as possible, so we program all the drums and midi just because it’s easier than trying to record a live drum kit. Like for this record we just sat down all the time just trying to write. And there were some moments, like we were in Las Vegas and we were about to go out, and just had this little idea trying out, and then the idea actually ended up working quite well, so then we decided we’re not going to see any of Vegas and we’ll just write this song. [laughs]
So which song was that?
OB: “Walls.” If the song didn’t make it on the album, I’d be really pissed off [laughs].
You saw nothing of Vegas?
OB: Yeah, we saw nothing of Vegas.
Well thank you!
OB: [Laughs] Yeah! We wrote like, a good 30 songs this year. The main thing is we just wanted as many songs — well to also get rid of — obviously there are some bad songs that I have written, but I think just to really decide on what direction we want the record to go, because from our first album I think we wanted to sound a different way than you want the second album. Like, for our second album we really wanted to be more the higher energy stuff, and like loads of intense songs. It’s kind of exhausting by the end of it. Like, “Supernova” is really the only little bit of peace you get, and then “Eternity” is obviously a whole a different journey at the end of the album.
It’s true. I mean, I think with the first EP Breaking Out, it was definitely high energy, and highlighted your blues background. I feel like Nova builds on that and you’re now being more experimental. I’ve listened to it a lot, and I still find myself being surprised. Like, these hooks come out of nowhere, and then they just stick with you, and then you go off in another direction. It’s at times exhausting to listen to, but in a very, very good way.
OB: [Laughs] Cool!
So this is what happens when melodies drive lyrics?
OB: That’s right. Aaron?
Aaron Spiers: Yes.
OB: That’s exactly right. The most important thing is the melodies, and we definitely always focus on making sure the lyrics have something to say. I think that’s important. I like that there’s a story to each song. I think for us, like we want to come across with messages, rather than just being another fun-time rock band. Like, why not have those kind of energies and those kind of heavy songs, but have some point to make? So the main thing it comes down to is melody. At the end of the day if you don’t know the lyrics you can still sing along with the melody, because you know when I try to remember a song, always the first thing I do is, “Oh, it’s that song that goes na-na-na-na”
That’s so true!
OB: Yeah, so that’s the most important thing to me.
Do you have, notebooks of ideas then? Because I can see now how the melody, being very important to you, drives the lyrics, but the lyrics are well crafted, so I know they’re not an afterthought for you.
OB: No! Yeah, I do. The most wonderful thing to ever do if you want to write lyrics is get a nice book. I always get — which I should get endorsement because I write in them so much, but Moleskine books, they definitely owe me some books [laughs] because I swear by them. I always get a new book for a new album, and just write things with pen and paper. I don’t like writing lyrics on a computer when I’m first writing because it just — I feel disconnected. You can also delete things on a computer, and that word could be gone, or that line could be gone, because you just immediately think, “Ah no, that’s rubbish.” If you write it down, you can put a line through it, but you can still see it. It’s just — I hate the idea of losing any line, just in case, because that line may suck for one song, but all of a sudden you may find it could have been perfect for another song.
Yep. All my notes for this and for the review are on paper too, so I feel that. I know what you’re saying.
OB: Exactly. It’s so different. There’s such a disconnect on a computer, than on paper. Like paper, you’re writing it. My handwriting sucks, so I get upset about that as well when I’m writing the lyrics. There’s a lot more emotion involved.
Would you ever sell handwritten lyrics?
OB: Well, we did for a Kickstarter once. We did a handwritten lyric. And actually for the inside of the booklet for the album originally was my handwriting with all the lyrics [laughs] but my handwriting made the art work awful, so we got rid of it. Sorry! I mean, I’ve got them down, and I’ve got the pages down from that thing. I would think about it, but yeah, I would happily sell them but my handwriting is so bad, I feel like I’m better just giving them away [laughs].
I’ll take them! I’ll take them off your hands.
So you said you wanted the first and the second CDs to sound different. How do you feel your sound has changed? Or the direction that this new project Nova went in, how do you feel it is the same, or is different, from Breaking Out?
OB: The band is definitely a lot more realized. We definitely knew what we wanted to come into. Breaking Out was such a test, like it really wasn’t meant to — I mean, I’m glad that it did, but it wasn’t meant to take the band as far as it did, and it was really just to get local gigs around the area, and see if we could get noticed. From there, I think we already started to know what we wanted to sound like, because we were all together at the time, it was just easier to just get that sound more focused. I think there’s always been that kind of heavier side of music that we wanted to kind of just focus into. And that’s where songs like “Madeline,” “Hero,” and “Hate” come to play. I think there’s a different journey that we wanted to take with the record that we knew we were going for. Before we went in the studio we had decent mixes, not enough to sell, but enough to get a good picture of whether the songs were good or bad.
Are you playing anything now in gigs over there, or is the listening party the first time people are really going to get to hear Hero?
AS: Actually, it’s funny. We’ve been playing “Come With Me” and “Oh My Love” for over a year. We actually played that when we were in the states. And in January/February we played two other songs, I think “Wanna Feel You” and “Hate.” So before we had enough material ready to take on shows, we’ve always sort of played new music. We’ve always got new songs in, whether the audience knows them or not, and we just try to sell them live. I don’t know, maybe that’s why the show is quite energetic, and people sort of get into it in that sense, but yeah, we’ve been playing these songs for quite a while. But this is the first listening party that we’ve ever done. It’s just going to be the hardcore-est fans, no phones, no recording devices, just sit in a really cool room and listen to the album from front to back. Really exciting.
Yeah, I’m really sad that the pond is so large, because that’s such a treat for fans.
OB: We’ve got a documentary that we’re putting up with it as well. We have a Q&A and we’re just hanging out. It’s going to be a nice family occasion, a lot of people that we’re close to that we’re all kind of experiencing this together. It’s exciting because we’ve had this album for ages, and we’ve been lost in it, and now it’s gotten to the point where we’re over it, and we’re sick of playing these songs, and we don’t know if they sound good anymore [laughs] and it’s nice to see if people actually do enjoy it because we’ve been so involved in it. It’s so weird, I think, to have an album for this long and to now be waiting for opinions and to see if people actually even like it. It’s such a weird thing to get a decent perspective of now. It’s nerve-wracking.
I think they will. It’s killing me to keep it under wraps. It really is. So when you’re playing them live, are there some that you really enjoy playing more than others, in terms of just from a musical standpoint, or just because of fan reaction?
AB: “Inside.” I’m looking forward to playing that. That’s going to be great.
AS: I think a lot of these songs sort of have different shapes to them. Like some are a bit … like, “Wanna Feel You” is quite trippy, nice long guitar ending thing. “Inside” is like, just a punch in the face. The songs are so different in that they belong in different parts of the set, just like the album. Each song cohabits its own little part of the album, and kind of think of it in the same way.
OB: Yeah, we took a long time getting the track order right. Like, we were doing these whole long drives, like ten-hour drives, and we were just all fixing the order up and fixing the song list together. I think that’s — Aaron, I think you’re right. I mean, I think they all begin exciting, after each song, because you’re taking someone on another journey in a different way at that point in time, and that’s the exciting bit. Like all of a sudden, you know, you’ve had the intense riff song, and then you go to something like “Oh My Love,” where it’s this whole break of like, just kind of guitarmaggedon almost, and just this more free-type softer atmosphere of just kind of swagger. And it’s nice that it’s less focused. The newer songs are definitely a lot more focused. I think like Adam was saying, “Inside,” that’s a really tightly arranged and kind of very rhythmically strict song, where songs like “Oh My Love,” you’ve got that freedom. And I think they all have their little different favorite idiosyncrasies.
AS: I think the best albums in my opinion, it’s kind of like, you don’t have to take them off the vinyl player, tape player, whatever you play on. It’s like, you can just listen to it from front to back and it is a journey. And that’s what, the live show, we’re trying to get it to.
I was wondering about even just the order of the songs on Hero, because it’s just like you’ve described. For example, “Supernova” is one of those songs that I probably would have hit rewind or backed up the track, and listened to over and over again, but then you jump into “Walls,” and it’s just like “Oh my god, now I have hear this!” So at no point can I stop, go back, and re-listen to a song, because the next song pulls me in anew. I think the reception is going to be more than you sound like you’re expecting. I think you’re going to be surprised. I’ll be surprised if you’re not surprised. When are you coming over to the States?
OB: We don’t know yet. We’ve got a lot of European tours coming up. Like September we’re in Brazil and Argentina for two festivals which will be amazing. And then we’ve got a whole tour through Germany, Austria, and France for the month, and then doing a full UK tour. But I think we’ve been looking maybe the last first quarter or early second quarter before we’ll be back into the USA. We need to give time for Adam to get a VISA now so we can come into the USA. It’s going to be a lot of fun. But we will be coming back. We’ve got a wicked agency in the US that will be pushing us over there again. We’ve done two tours there with The Darkness and then Slash, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be going back over there and capitalizing on it.
Oh absolutely! Any more teasers?
OB: “Madeline” is the next one that comes out.
Tell me about the inspiration behind “Madeline.”
OB: “Madeline,” it’s a funny one because originally Aaron and I were like — we had this whole different song. Like the chorus we were happy with, but then the verses were this whole different thing. And we sat back and listened to it and actually thought it sucked and didn’t like it anymore, and kind of just like flipped the table and upstarted it all again and re-wrote the whole verses — it’s more about the groove, and just get that whole feel back. I guess “Madeline” is like a love song in some ways, it’s more of, I guess, a twisted love song about — you put up through the things — horrendous things that sometimes you go through in a relationship. You can be the worst person in the world to your partner but then the next day be like “Yeah, it’s all good, I don’t really care anymore.” You know, those arguments are always the worse with the person you’re actually with, and then you get over them. And it’s kind of this fluctuation, this kind of constant dysfunctional thing that works in a relationship sometimes. Well, I guess some people have very stable relationships, and they don’t argue, but you know …
But they might get bored.
OB: Yeah [laughs], they get bored. So that’s kind of what it’s about. Like, just that kind of dysfunctionality of love and relationships and what you kind of put each other through, and you know, the worst of it, but what it’s for as well.
Is “Madeline” figurative or literal? Is there a literal Madeline?
OB: There is not a literal Madeline, no. It’s figurative. I couldn’t say a specific name. It wouldn’t sound as good.
She’s just like a Weird Science mashup of all your past relationships?
Somewhere someone is saying “Wait a minute I think I said that to him once, Dammit!”
OB: [Laughs.] I think I spat on his face once.
So we get to purchase Nova on September 23rd? New album deal with Frontier Music, yes?
Will you be offering bundles? Merchandise?
OB: Yes, and vinyl, and we’ve got a couple of really awesome t-shirt designs that we’ve just finished up yesterday which I cannot wait for. I’m probably going to steal a couple of them for myself.
When do we see them?
OB: We’ve ordered the prints, so as soon as it arrives, I guess the t-shirts will be here in a couple of weeks and we’ll start advertising the bundles and what you can get by pre-ordering.
We’ll look for it. I’ll link it.
OB: Amazing! Thank you.
Well listen, Guys. Good luck, take care, thanks for your time … wow … for the half-hour plus! My coffee is gone, and where did the time go?
OB: Wow, yeah, so is ours! Thanks, Robin, we really appreciate it. It’s really good talking to you again.
Absolutely, you too, and I know we’ll talk soon, and I’ll see you stateside.
AB: Nice to meet you!
AS and OB: Bye! See ya!
An interview with RavenEye is as fun as it is compelling. The boys are in fine feather, and amidst so much laughter are glimpses of an unyielding genius, driven to push whatever limits necessary to bring forth the music inside of them. And while Nova is perhaps the best thing I’ve listened to all year, I can’t help sensing RavenEye has only just taken flight. The anticipation of what’s to come is almost as delicious as the songs themselves. You can watch the videos for “Hero” and “Inside” now, and keep an eye out for the amalgam amour that is “Madeline.” Nova can be pre-purchased on Amazon and iTunes, and check RavenEye’s website for bundles and hardcopies of both their CDs.
Follow RavenEye on Facebook, Twitter, and their always-entertaining Instagram. And if you’re lucky enough to be on the right side of the pond, please catch them on tour because to hear them is to love them, but to see them live is resplendent.