MEB staffer Tim Dodderidge spoke with Clint Vincent of Dead Letter Circus during the band’s U.S. tour run with Periphery, Born Of Osiris, and Twelve Foot Ninja. The guitarist of the prog rockers from down under talks about the group’s latest album, their progression as a band over the years, and the way they’ve learned and grown by being around other bands — especially bands with enormous talent.
MEB: How’s the tour been so far?
Clint Vincent: It’s been great, man. We’re fully enjoying it. We’re getting to play to the bigger crowds on this tour and it’s been awesome. And we’re having a lot of fun as well.
What are the biggest differences in playing in Australia versus playing in the United States?
In Australia, we’ve done the hard yards already. So the band’s been a band for over eight years and we’ve only been touring over here in the last couple of years. It reminds us of that time when we were building it, whereas, back there we’ve done a lot of the hard yards and we’re playing to bigger crowds on our own. But this is where it all begins and we love it. It’s fresh and exciting.
And of course, you guys get a good amount of radio play down under. Is that surprising for a band like Dead Letter Circus?
Yeah, there’s a national radio youth network called Triple J that really looks after and gets involved with certain bands.
Cool, yeah I feel like that wouldn’t happen here, with you guys being a progressive rock band and everything.
That’s true. It’s a bit harder. They’ve gotten behind that progressive rock scene. That’s why Australia has those progressive rock bands like Karnivool and us, and now Twelve Foot Ninja as well.
The band released their second studio album [The Catalyst Fire] in August. Would you say this album follows more in the direction of This Is the Warning, or do you find it strays off more and finds its own identity?
This one definitely has its own identity because that’s what we were working towards. Dead Letter Circus has a sound, so we wanted to stick to that sound, but we wanted to broaden the aspects on both ends. It can be lighter. It can be heavier. It can be everywhere in between. We’re always really cautious on not repeating things and making sure it’s always fresh. We’re always thinking about not what bands are doing right now, but rather what will they be doing in the future. And we would rather do that sort of thing. So that’s what we’re always looking towards, which I think made a record that you can tell when you listen to it what we’re aiming for.
So lyrically, does it continue in the same vein?
The themes of the lyrics are definitely the same. That’s the thing. That’s really important to the band. What Kim [Benzie, vocalist] writes about is the things we think about every day. When you’ve got a voice and a platform, why not share those thoughts with other people?
What statement do you think the band’s trying to make to the world?
It’s the Age of Information. If you need a question answered about anything – how to bake a pie, or the government’s role in a certain situation – you can look it up. We encourage people to ask questions. We’re hoping to open a door to a different way of thinking, but we definitely don’t push it down anybody’s throats. It’s what we believe in, and a lot of people are resonating with it, which is cool. Question everything. It’s the Age of Information. There’s so many documentaries out there. Take them with a grain of salt, but be open-minded about it and look for the answers.
Why do you think music is a good platform for that?
I guess that’s the thing that inspires us as well. It definitely is a platform because we get to tell people about it, but it’s sort of the driving inspiration from the music and the lyrical standpoint.
As far as the writing and recording process went for this album, was it any different than you guys had done in the past?
It was definitely different. I’m actually the new guitar player. I actually didn’t play on the last album. But that’s the thing. Like I was saying, Dead Letter Circus has a sound, so we fully worked on the sound. Rob [Maric, former guitarist] and Kim were very much the idea-bringers before we started working on the songs. I think it just made other people step up. Kim had to step up a lot harder definitely. But Stewie [Hill, bassist] and Tom [Skerlj, guitarist] stepped up as well. I was very new at that stage, so I just came in and played the guitar. But also there were some ideas that we jammed as a band. It made sure that everyone started to bring ideas, and it opened the creative process up.
How would you say this album is a progression? How is it different as a whole sound-wise in comparison to what you guys have done before?
True. We’ve got a sound — the Dead Letter Circus sound. It was just about pushing the instrumentation, the vocals, the melodies. It was just more thought-out. It was about taking people somewhere that we haven’t taken them before. We’re always looking towards the future.
Are there any specific songs that you think demonstrate this?
Yeah, so you’ve got to think of how the album came. We did the “Wake Up” single, which was a song that we didn’t put on the album. But it was like the bridging song and then it didn’t quite fit the album. Once we started writing the album, some of the first songs were “Lone Star”, which was the single that Kim really pushed hard. It was really similar to the old DLC sound, but we wanted to make sure we got the sound again, but took it a little further. But songs like “The Cure”, “Alone Awake” especially, and “Say Your Prayers”, we really pushed how prog the band could be as well. But, as other bands, some people take it too prog and they only look after their own ego, but we wanted to make sure it still had that chorus that a lot of people could sing along to or they could still latch onto it.
What are your thoughts on progression in general?
I think bands should do it. Nothing sucks more than when your favorite band starts to go too progressive, and they start listening to Radiohead too much and say, “I want to make that sort of album.” Nothing sucks more than that, but always, you’ve got to remain fresh, and that’s the key that hopefully we’re going to make sure we always stick to. Remain fresh, but don’t lose your sound too much. Try not to repeat yourself either.
Yeah, and I think as you grow, too, you get different perspectives on music.
That’s exactly it. A lot of situations have influenced the band over the last couple of years that are not even music-related, but they inspire you in a certain way to make different changes in your music. The bands that you tour with inspire you in different ways to be like, “My God, I never thought about that.” When we come to the states we always tour with heavier bands, and there’s little things that we learn from that and want to incorporate into our sound as well.
Is there anything you’ve taken from this tour specifically?
Definitely. Everyone on this tour is a phenomenal player.
Periphery kills it.
Yeah, Periphery. Born of Osiris — they’re smashing it. Twelve Foot Ninja — just wow. Everyone on this tour player-wise is really on top of their instruments. But everyone’s got a little bit to learn from each other. There’s little things that everyone does a little bit different.
Looking back on your career now, what about the journey are you most grateful for?
I’m a very grateful person in general. Even on the worst shows on tour I’ll find the good parts because I’m playing music for a living. I don’t have a real job. I’m in the middle of America living the dream, talking to you, talking to people that love the band and know a lot about the band. It’s beyond what I ever thought I would get from it, so I’m eternally grateful.