Scottish rockers Alestorm bring their brand of pirate metal to the masses with their pirate themed lyrics and musical styles. Keyboardist Elliot Vernon and Singer/Keytarist Chris Bowes chatted with us to explain exactly what pirate metal is and their worst hangover stories.
Groovey.TV: What is ‘Pirate Metal’? What influenced this style?
Elliot Vernon: It’s a lot of fun. It’s basically about having a party and drinking. We unite all those things within the gimmick of pirates.
Chris Bowes: It’s like party metal songs, sort of drunken sailors and stuff like that.
EV: It all has a sea shanty vibe with the keyboards; our fans come dressed as pirates.
CB: It’s always great when you see pirates in the crowd because you know they’re there to see us. We started a band one day and I wrote a song about pirates; I was just writing various stuff. We took it to rehearsal and we all thought it was cool so then we wanted to write more songs about pirates. It just happened, it was never about our ancestors being Captain Hook.
GTV: What instruments and gear do you use to get the bands sound?
EV: It’s a slightly embarrassing thing because we have two keyboard players that use the competing world leaders in keyboards. We have a Roland keytar and Korg keyboard, so there’s no chance of either of us getting endorsements.
CB: I think we’re the only metal band with two keyboard players that I can think of. But since we don’t get endorsements we have to pay full price at the shop. The only bands I can think of that get endorsements for keyboards are the keyboard player for Britney Spears. We’re not quite on that level yet.
GTV: You guys have been a band for about 13 years. With the ever-changing music industry, how have you managed to keep afloat?
CB: We started getting going just as CD sales were starting to disappear. It helped us because we got our start distributing our music with MySpace.
EV: That’s actually how we met. I wrote some music and put it on MySpace. He found it and liked it.
CB: I asked him if he wanted to be in my pirate band. We have been massively helped with the, I guess you can call it, democratization of music. We would’ve never had access to big studios, but thanks to computers we can record demos and albums at home. It lowered the bar to entry, which worked out great for us because we’re talentless hacks. You see a lot of bands complaining about music pirating and that they’re not selling a million records. We never sold a million records so we don’t know what that feels like.
GTV: The band is known for their ability to drink like pirates. What’s the worst hangover story you have from a tour?
EV: Usually when you go to a really fun city like New Orleans, you play at night so you go out midday, have loads of drinks, and come back to the bus three hours before the show and then you need a nap. So you take a nap, wake up an hour before the show, and now you’re hung-over and have to go up on stage. We headline most of our shows these days so we come off stage at 10:30, everybody has gone home or caught the last train; we just go to bed. So we don’t really have late night parties anymore.
CB: The same day hangovers are the worst. We’re getting boring; we’ve been in bed early every day on this tour.
GTV: Your new album No Grave But The Sea was released about a month ago and has great reviews. How have the fans been digging the album?
CB: We’ve been hearing great things. I think some people got scared off because the first single was more metalcore and featured more screaming and chugging guitar riffs. People thought we weren’t playing the music of our pirate ancestors anymore. When everyone heard the full album, they just thought that it was classic Alestorm with epic songs, folky songs, fun songs; just the usual songs.
EV: It’s kind of cool that we get to do this tour straight away because our set is 30 minutes long and half of it is new songs. You wouldn’t usually do that because people haven’t bought the album yet and want to hear the songs they know. But because nobody really knows us here we can just play the new songs and it’s new to everybody.
CB: It’s just 30 minutes of banger
GTV: This is your fifth album in the last 13 years. Do you ever get bored of your own music or do you find it exciting each time you hear it?
CB: We don’t confine ourselves to one style. We started off in this scene of folk metal bands with lots of accordions and violins, songs about Vikings; sort of a weird, Pagan scene. It was never us, we just became part of the scene. A lot of the bands that we toured with did that sort of thing, they continued doing the same thing and it has gotten boring and stale. We don’t care, we don’t feel attached to that. Say we branched out and did all these weird things
EV: A lot of those bands that we played with five years ago would ever do anything like this; do the Warped Tour, or play with bands that are on this tour. Our music, especially the last couple of albums, is like pop very thinly disguised as metal.
CB: To be honest this entire Warped Tour is like that. At its core it’s pop music with this heavy veneer. I’m not ashamed to say that, that’s just what it is.
GTV: You guys are currently on a festival tour for the new album, having just played Download and Hellfest, and Metal on the Hill, among others, when you return to Europe. What about the band do you think helps grab passerbies at festivals attention?
CB: It’s fun. We always write our songs around catchy choruses; again, it’s back to that pop music thing. We just try to get drunk people who have never heard our music before singing by the end of the song.
EV: You hear it once and the next time the chorus comes along you already know the words.
CB: It’s very immediate music. We’re not trying to create some sort of fancy art. It’s just fun and it works really well for us with people who don’t know us to get involved.
EV: We get a lot of people who are a fan and bring a lot of people who have never heard us to our show and they’re fans by the end of it as well. It’s very easy to get into it, it’s very accessible.
CB: I was actually sitting at the merch table before this and a kid comes up and asks me about the band. He saw our merch tent, which has neon rainbow colors and is covered in ducks. I told him to play our song on his phone, so he listens for a couple of minutes and thought it was awesome.
GTV: You’re headlining a European tour in the fall. How are those shows different from your festival shows?
CB: They’re longer; on this tour we’re just sticking to the three minute long party bangers. We mix up our headlining sets with longer, more progressive, difficult songs
EV: We do have those but it’s nice that we can do two completely different types of shows and have songs to fit each. Some bands are great in the club but don’t really work at festivals. We have enough varied music that it works out well.
CB: We also have a bit more production. We have risers, more neon-banana-rubber-ducks, lights, smoke machines, all that good stuff.
EV: We have a 10-foot inflatable duck that we bring on headlining tours. We didn’t have space for it on a Warped Tour stage.
GTV: You guys have done so much in the last year and have so much planned for the remainder of the year. How do you plan on relaxing when the fall tour ends?
EV: We won’t be relaxing. We go are going to Russia and then South America immediately.
CB: South America is going to be insane; you have to fly to every show, and there are some shows that are in some weird places in the jungle. Last time we went to South America I shit my pants in the Sao Paolo Airport, just walking across the concord and I exploded. I guess I just ate something.
GTV: Any last comments?
CB: I would actually like to tell people to eat recycled pork.
EV: It’s good for you and eco-friendly.
Catch Alestorm on the Vans Warped Tour
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