Over the past few years, Like A Storm has logged countless hours on stage and logged an obscene number of miles touring the land. Known as one of the hardest working bands out there, Like A Storm fought hard to be heard. The New Zealand brothers came to the United States knowing no one, and built a diehard and devoted fan-base by tirelessly touring to promote their debut album, ‘The End of The Beginning’ with top acts such as Alter Bridge, Slash, Black Veil Brides, Three Days Grace, Steel Panther and more. In the midst of that whirlwind, the road served as the foundation for their forthcoming sophomore set, and first album for Another Century Records, ‘Awaken The Fire.’
While supporting Creed on a summer 2012 run, the band— Chris Brooks [lead vocals, guitar, didgeridoo, keys/programming], Matt Brooks [vocals, lead guitar, keys/programming], and Kent Brooks [bass, vocals, keys/programming]—would immediately retreat to either their dressing room or hotel after each show and begin recording new music until daybreak. This intense work ethic fostered a fertile creative spell for the boys. Cut on the road, ‘Awaken The Fire’ quickly resonated with fans and began to make waves. Their singles, “Love The Way You Hate Me” and “Wish You Hell” both charted in the Top 25. The record-smashing breakout single “Love The Way You Hate Me” reached #22 at Active Rock, was #1 for five weeks on SiriusXM Octane, and the accompanying video became a viral hit viewed more than 3.2 million times to date. The follow up “Wish You Hell” reached #17 and gave the band the distinction of being the only artist from New Zealand to break into the Active Rock Top 20.
Keeping the momentum going, this band of brothers is heading out on their headlining tour — Didgeridoo Destruction Tour 2015! The tour will feature special guests From Ashes To New, Stitched Up Heart and Failure Anthem. Like A Storm are known for their phenomenal live performances with Kerrang! applauding their “Big, badass riffage and arena-sized choruses … ” and Metal Hammer praised the band’s introduction of the didgeridoo into heavy music declaring, the band is “rewriting metal’s rulebook like never before.”
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Matt Brooks to discuss the band’s meteoric rise, the challenges encountered along the way, the making of “Awaken The Fire” and what the future holds for this band on the rise!
Like A Storm has been lighting it up lately and the word is definitely spreading about the music you are making. I wanted to go back to the beginning. What are your first memories of music?
Our mom and dad were huge music fans. Music has been a part of our lives for as long as I can remember. My brothers and I all started learning piano when we were around 5 years old. That was really our first introduction to playing music. As far as being fans of great songwriting, our mom and dad were huge fans of the Beatles, Eagles and Creedence Clearwater Revival, so we really grew up with that around us and I think you can’t help but absorb it.
As you got a little older, what records really made an impact on you as a budding musician?
When I was 5 years old, my favorite song was Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” [laughs] That is the first song I can remember absolutely being in love with! As I got a bit older, I really got into bands like Nirvana, Metallica and Tool. I will never forget the first time I heard Korn. My brother Kent, who plays bass in the band, introduced me to Korn and I had never heard anything like it. That was when a switch went off in my mind when I heard the combination of crazy down-tuned guitar riffs, all the cool rhythms they had and Jonathan Davis screaming over the top. That was a real turning point for me as far as getting into heavy music was concerned.
At what point did you and your brothers start turning your attention to forming a band and pursuing music professionally?
It’s funny because the three of us grew up playing in different bands. As we became teenagers, all of us independently became songwriters, guitarists and singers. I actually started out as a drummer! I guess we all had music in us and all had songs that we wanted to write and shows that we wanted to play. It was only after we started jamming together at home that we had this crazy chemistry whenever we played together. We found we had the same chemistry when we wrote together. We all had a shared vision even though we had never talked about it. We all had the same kind of music that we wanted to write and that was what brought us to the idea of forming a band together. That is really where Like A Storm was born.
Any young band takes a little time to find their voice. Did you find this to be true in the case of Like A Storm?
Absolutely! I think the best thing and worst thing about us is that we are fans of so many different styles of music and we always want to find ways to incorporate different ideas into our music. When we started writing together and forming a band, it took a while to have a cohesive sound when you have so many different influences. The flip-side to that, which has been really cool, is that once you find your sound and the combination of the different elements that you love, then you are in a position where you can do anything you want because you aren’t trying to follow a path set by anybody else. You are combining your influences to create something totally unique.
Like A Storm released “Awaken The Fire” earlier this year. How did the process of bringing this album to life compare and contrast to what you had done in the past?
It was a completely different experience largely because we decided to make that record while we were out on tour. We had all of these songs that we had been writing and we wanted to make a new record but then we were offered a huge nationwide tour in America. We decided rather than choose between the two things, we would do them both at the same time! We literally would walk off-stage and go to our hotel room to set up luggage carts full of equipment and work on the record all night! The next day we would break it all down, go to the show and do the whole thing again! “Awaken The FIre” has always had this crazy kind of do-it-yourself kind of approach. We wrote all the songs, recorded the album and produced it. To be honest, I don’t think we ever thought it was going to become as big as it has! We had a vision for the kind of record we wanted to make and went out and did it!
You have the reputation for being one of the hardest working bands in the game. What keeps you so driven at this point in your career and where do you look for inspiration? Any method to the madness?
Well, there is definitely a madness to the method! [laughs] Honestly, this is what we love to do. My brothers and I grew up being obsessed with rock music and writing songs. Back then, we were writing songs all day, even if no one was going to hear them. We feel the same way now. There are things that we want to say, both lyrically and musically, and writing songs is our way of getting that out there. The other thing that is really cool is that we have been lucky enough to tour America and Europe with some amazing bands. There is a constant influx of inspiration coming from those experiences. For someone who is a fan of music to constantly be around people like Slash, Mark Tremonti and other people of that caliber, it really inspires you to want to keep making the best music you can and push yourself as a musician.
Let’s focus on the songwriting process for a moment. How does a Like A Storm song typically come to life?
We have a pretty crazy way of working. It is born out of the fact that my brothers and I were all in our own bands and were all the songwriters in those bands. Basically, all three of us write songs, pretty much all of the time. When we are out on the road, we are always working on ideas. There is so much inspiration out there and you see so many things on tour, it gives you a window into people’s lives and it gives you a lot of inspiration. When we come to write a record, we basically put all of our ideas out on the table. For “Awaken The Fire,” we were looking at about 50 or 60 songs that we had written. Then we listened to all the ideas and just picked the ones that all three of us loved. We have this sort of democratic process where even if I’ve written a song it doesn’t mean that I am going to bully my way into getting it on the album. We only pick the songs that everyone is really passionate about and then we finish those songs together. Every song we have written has started as a guitar riff that someone had, a lyrical idea or, in some cases, an almost finished song that comes to the band and the three of us finish it off together. That is when it really becomes a Like A Storm song!
As you mentioned, Like A Storm is so DIY when it comes to making music. Is there a particular part of the process you gravitate towards these days?
Yeah, I think as I have had more exposure to it, I have really fallen in love with production. When we started making “Awaken The Fire,” we saw we had the chance to realize this vision we had. To me, the production side of the process is where you realize the vision. It is kind of like being the director of a movie. Producing an album really allows you to shape the sound and style of the record but also allows you to take a lot of risks. I really enjoy producing because it is an extension of the vision you have as an artist and it allows you to take it even further.
You guys have been doing great videos with Chris Fisher. How did you guys cross paths with him?
Fisher is a really talented guy and is a great friend of ours since we lived in Vancouver, which is where we first moved from New Zealand. We moved to Vancouver and started playing clubs there and Chris was introduced to us through a mutual friend. We hit it off straight away and we loved his videos. I feel like his videos are the perfect visual compliment to what we are trying to do musically.
Touring has been a big part of your lives for the past several years. What type of impact has it had on you as an artist?
It can have a big impact on you. I think we might of had a bit of an advantage because when we left New Zealand, we had left our homes, friends and family that we had grown up with, so in a way, we have been on this crazy adventure ever since we left home. For me, touring is no different than making a record, hitting the publicity circuit or anything else because we are already out on the road doing what we love. We are already out making music and it isn’t like we go home to New Zealand in between every tour. In a way, I feel it has really helped because you know why you are out there doing a tour. You are doing it because it is your dream. We grew up on the other side of the world, so to be honest, we are really grateful for the opportunities we have had.
You have your own headlining tour now — Didgeridoo Destruction! What does that mean to you as a band, what can we expect and what excites you about it?
To be honest, I am excited to be able to play longer. I love opening for awesome bands, I really do but I am really excited to play longer. With our own tour, we can play an hour-and-a-half set, which allows us to do a lot of things you can’t do in an opening set. The longer set has everything from didgeridoo and drum solos to us chopping it right back down to acoustic guitar to slide guitar and blues jams. As a musician, once I get on stage, the part of the night I like the least is when someone tries to get me off the stage! [laughs] I am excited to play more songs and take more risks musically, simply because we have more time to do it.
How have you most evolved as artists since first starting out?
Quite honestly, I think it was making this last album, “Awaken The Fire.” When we made our first album, we got to work with a couple of really talented producers. We made it in a big studio in LA and it was a big production. It was amazing but the thing was that we hadn’t really toured or found our identity as much as we have now. When we went to make “Awaken The Fire,” we had a really clear idea of the kind of record we wanted to make. We also had an idea of wanting to incorporate these different elements that we loved into our music, things like the didgeridoo, Delta Blues, writing a haunting acoustic ballad and doing a hard rock cover of Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise.” These are all things that have come out of us really finding ourselves as a band.
I have to ask you about that cover. I think it is terrific! How did it come about?
It’s a funny story! [laughs] “Gangster’s Paradise,” to put it into context, is a song we loved when we were kids. We were little kids and had a tape of it we would listen to all of the time. We took a break from recording “Awaken The Fire” and went out one night. “Gangster’s Paradise” came on and I guess we were still in the mindset of writing a rock album and were looking at everything through that lense. When the song came on, for some reason, Chris and I both looked at each other. We said, “Man, imagine if someone did a heavy version of this! How cool would that be?” It took us about five minutes to remember that we were actually in a band and we might be able to be that band! [laughs] We went back and fired up the studio and for the rest of the recording process, we would work on “Gangster’s Paradise” in the middle of the night. It was this weird experiment we were working on that was a big secret and no one knew about it! It just came out sounding so cool that, when the record was done, we felt we just had to include it!
We have been talking about touring and the making of “Awaken The Fire” today but what lies ahead for Like A Storm?
We are always working on stuff. When you are out touring, you are always grateful for the opportunity but, at the same time, there is always a part of you that is getting inspired and focusing on new music. I think that is the coolest thing about being in a band. In the day to day of being out touring for the album you have worked so hard on but are also focusing on the next thing during your downtime. I know on the last tour, every spare moment I got I was writing on the bus. That is a reflection of the amount of inspiration that is out there! The most exciting thing is that “Awaken The FIre” has left us in a place where we feel like we can take charge and try any idea we like. I remember when we were writing “Wish You Hell,” which is a kind of Delta Blues/Hard Rock hybrid, we thought we might have finally lost touch with reality. We thought our fans might think we had gone insane! It’s so cool because our fans have grown with us as well. Amazingly, the more risks we have taken, the more successful we have been and the better received our music has been. We are excited about the possibilities of where we go next because we feel we are in such a great position!
A lot of people can look to Like A Storm as an inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take away from the band’s journey so far?
It may be a little cliche but it is absolutely true — follow your dreams. If you have something in life that you love and are passionate about, just go for it with everything you’ve got. My brothers and I grew up in New Zealand, the other side of the world, and now we are lucky enough to tour the world with bands that we idolized. One thing that has really been driven home through everything we have been through is to follow your dreams.
Well said! As a fan of the band, I can’t wait to see where the journey takes you and what you have in store for us in the years to come!
Thank you, man! I really appreciate it! It honestly means a lot! I am sure we will talk again soon!
You got it! See you on tour!