Vocalist Marcus Bridge may have just joined metal band Northlane last year, but in that time, he’s experienced a lot. If tearing through tours all over the world isn’t enough, he just saw the group’s newest and most diverse work, Node, hit number one in the members’ home country of Australia. Staffer Tim Dodderidge speaks to him about the recent chart-topping record, focusing on the massive sound shift and lyrical themes and also touching on what it means to hold a platform in the Information Age.
Congrats on charting #1 in Australia. I don’t know how similar or different music charts are over there, but in the states it’s pretty rare for any heavy band to chart high.
It’s incredible, thank you for that, man. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a surprise. I would think the only kind of bands that get #1s necessarily I guess are Parkway [Drive] and Amity [Affliction], and even that doesn’t happen too often. So I suppose it’s really good. Our music scene’s doing really well and can obviously hold up with a lot of the pop aspect coming out.
I feel like that says a lot about the dedication of the metal scene in Australia, that a band can hit #1 basically without any radio play or mainstream exposure.
It’s crazy, man. Like I said, it’s just really crazy. Obviously being from Australia, all of our fans are really supportive, and they’ve always been really good like that. I think just how the dudes who saw our viral marketing kind of stuff helped this time as well. We’re just really lucky, though, that we were able to do that.
Before you even joined the band, Northlane had a strong fanbase and was widely acclaimed. Did you feel there were any external expectations as a result of this, or would you say it was more of an internal thing that you felt it was important to come in and bring your own style?
Well, I guess it was a bit of both. I suppose being genuine and me being myself comes off pretty well. If people were to think I was just trying to copy what’s been done before and if I tried to do that, I don’t think it would come off very well. People would just see right through it. The best thing for me to do all the time was just being myself and bringing what I bring to the table, because this is what all the other dudes — even before I joined — wanted Northlane to head in. Yeah, just being myself, and it works out (laughs).
And I mean, you joined the band after Singularity came out, then were broken in, toured, and wrote and released Node in just over a year, basically. That seems like a lot to take on. How did you manage it all, being new and everything?
Well, it’s been pretty non-stop. I definitely got dropped in the deep end from the very beginning. My first tour was with Parkway Drive in Europe. I had never been overseas before and had never really toured that extensively before. I had only really been screaming for a little bit, but I had never done it in a band before, so it was my first time really doing that. Yeah, but I think I’ve been doing it the best way, because I had to either step up or crumble. It made me work for it. It’s all been pretty crazy, and every tour we do, it’s just starting to feel better. I’m more and more comfortable, and now we’re just doing what we’re doing.
Yeah, so tell me a little bit about the making of Node. You guys worked with Will Putney, just as you did your last two records, but there’s also a noticeable difference sound-wise. I mean, you’re new, but how did you approach the writing, and what was that process like?
Jon [Deiley, guitarist] has always said that he writes what he writes. Any external influences, he always listens to different kinds of music, and I think it was just the kind of stuff he wanted to hear. Like I said, I think that’s always the direction Northlane wanted to head in, with me or not. It was really good working with Will since the other dudes had worked with him before, and it made it really easy for me to come in and feel comfortable just with that previous relationship they had with him. But yeah, I suppose it was all pretty intense, this being my first full-length record with the band. There was a lot of pressure to follow up Singularity, because even before I joined I was a big fan of Northlane and Singularity was one of my favorite albums. To follow that up, we really had to try and do something different because, like I said, trying to copy what we’ve done already wasn’t going to work.
So obviously getting into the band, the guys were looking for someone who fit their vision and where they wanted to go with their music. Would you say it was pretty natural then, once you got to the making of this new album?
It was good for me. It was a different approach than what I was used to. How we did it with this was Joshua [Smith, guitarist] wrote all the lyrics and then we’d come together and work out the little things and kind of make things how they were supposed to be. I focused more on the melodies and the structure of how the songs would all be set out. I think that process really helps the album.
The band’s really inspired by a lot of metal, rock, and punk. There’s Karnivool and Incubus and stuff like that. Coming in as a new vocalist, how would you say you fit in? Would you say you’re pretty like-minded compared to the rest?
Yeah, they’re very different, though. We’re all fans of those bands, but we also have a lot of different music we listen to. Jon [Deiley, guitarist] listens to a lot of electronic music, Nic [Pettersen, drums] listens to a lot of chill hardcore-y stuff, and I like to listen to a lot of heavy stuff and pop-punk. I guess it’s a little strange because one of my favorite bands is Panic! At The Disco, which is really different from what we’re doing here. But I think everyone pulling from different influences makes for an interesting sound. We’re all pretty like-minded, I guess. We all know what we want Northlane to be and we don’t try to copy what anyone else does. We do what we want to hear.
By bringing in a lot of those rock and pop vibes on this record, it sounds a lot less progressive metal-oriented. I mean, I don’t try to pinpoint genres or anything, but you’re ultimately a band that’s labeled “progressive.” So how do you think you were able to balance kind of bringing in different vibes and atmospherics with your heavy side without, I don’t know, alienating a lot of your fanbase?
Well, I don’t know. Yeah, atmospherics were in the music, and I think as well, more singing makes more dynamics. It makes the heavy parts feel more heavy and it makes the softer parts come down a lot more. That was the thing as well, you know how in “Node” the verse is so mellow and the song keeps building and building into the last part. I think clean vocals and a lot more relaxed instrumentals really help the dynamics of that song. We’re always just trying to do what we want to do, and a lot of people stay attached to the old sound, but we’ve also seen a lot more people become a lot more positive to the new direction. I think that’s what Northlane has always been about: moving forward and not doing anything that we’ve already done. Singularity is so different than Discoveries, and Discoveries is so different than Hollow Existence. So I just say we keep on pushing forward and trying something new.
Being such a forward-thinking band, it’s so interesting when you get to the lyrical side. Like, you’ve got the song “Impulse,” where you’re kind of stepping back and realizing what problems have come with the forward movement of society in general. I just thought that was really interesting.
Yeah, it’s kind of funny as well. I’ve heard from some people, “Oh, this is ironic, they’ve released a song about the Internet being detrimental on the Internet.” Us as a band, we’re not innocent of that. We’re all guilty of being stuck behind a screen, but it’s just what the world has become. It sucks. I see kids that are four years old with iPads, playing games on them. That’s not something I ever grew up with, and other people didn’t grow up with stuff like that. I got my first phone when I was 13 or 14 and it was just a little brick (laughs).
Yeah, same with me (laughs).
Yeah, I think that’s becoming the norm but it’s also alienating people and making it harder for people to interact with each other in a real way. It’s kind of sad to see, but we’re all guilty of it for sure.
Don’t even get me started on the people that bring iPads to shows, taking pictures on them. It bothers me so much (laughs).
Exactly, man (laughs). You’ve kind of got to do what you’ve got to do to keep up in the world.
I think it’s also interesting on this album that a lot of the lyrical themes get thrown to the forefront. There’s “Impulse” and songs that talk about the brokenness of humanity. I know this might just be because you’re both Australian, but it reminds me a lot of Parkway Drive on their last album, Atlas, you know, how they talk about our poor treatment of the planet and stuff like that. I don’t know if you’ve seen any comparisons on that side of things.
Yeah, I suppose it’s because we bring a positive message to our music. Parkway has always had a strong message of positivity, though the songs may be a bit negative. I think it’s good for us to use our platforms to be able to be positive, and so people are able to speak out for what they believe in. There’s always bad stuff in the world and I think people think there’s not much they can do about it. But when people band together for a common cause, you can really make a big difference and a change, work towards it. Like, the gay marriage thing happening in the states. It’s so crazy that finally their people are able to marry, and it wouldn’t have happened without people banding together, coming together and wanting change. It’s really good to see that. People can actually make a difference by doing that.
Definitely, with this generation, people are able to speak their mind more so than ever before. I guess with technology it gives you that option as well, to look on the positive of that.
Exactly. Use your platform for positivity, or make people feel empowered. I feel that’s always better than writing hateful stuff, writing angry stuff (laughs).
You’ve already done a lot, for being in the band for just a short time. Where do you hope this journey continues to take you by the time it’s over?
I’m not sure really. I haven’t really thought about it.
I know it’s not really a set-in-stone, linear thing.
Yeah, I just hope to keep moving forward. I’m just happy to be out here doing this as my job. It’s always going to be a part of my life. To finally be able to tour the world and play music, all with this positive message, it’s exactly what I want to be doing. I just want to keep doing that. Hopefully more people will jump on board and we can expand it even more (laughs).
Yeah, hit number one again with another album. Who knows (laughs)?
Hopefully, you never know (laughs).