Formed by brothers Chris, Matt & Kent Brooks, and with the addition of Zach Wood on drums, Like A Storm has never been a band content to do anything less than shattering the mold. Known to be one of the hardest working, most original sounding bands in the business, Like A Storm has not only quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, they are also the most successful New Zealand rock band in US radio history. The journey began with their debut album, ‘The End of The Beginning,’ which introduced the world to their brilliant vocals, gritty guitars and their infamous didgeridoo, setting the band apart from their peers and leading to their first US tour. Like A Storm continued to gain momentum with their sophomore release, ‘Awaken The Fire,’ which kicked the door wide open with four consecutive Top 40 Active Rock Chart singles, including “Love the Way You Hate Me”, “Wish You Hell”, “Become The Enemy”, and “Break Free”. Both of Like a Storm’s two studio albums debuted in the Billboard 200. As one of the most prolific young acts on the scene, their early success led to global tours with some of the biggest names in rock – including Alter Bridge, Slash, Korn, Shinedown, Three Days Grace and many others – as well as touring North America extensively as a headline act.
In the summer of 2018, Like A Storm will return with their most powerful and inspired album to date — ‘Catacombs.’ Released on June 22nd, 2018 via RED MUSIC, ‘Catacombs’ serves as an ambitious followup to their previous releases. To bring ‘Catacombs’ to life, the band had to step away from their aggressive touring schedule to write, record, and produce the new album. The album quickly began to take shape as they channeled their life experience into a style of music that is all their own. Recorded in Los Angeles, Toronto, and a Las Vegas studio that over-looked the Strip, the sessions resulted in eleven hypnotic, honest, and hard-hitting anthems that are undeniably powerful. In fact, it’s only a matter of time until they will be invading the airwaves and captivating listeners around the globe. These seasoned rock warriors are no strangers to life on the road. Armed with a brand-new album and a slew of already memorable hits, Like A Storm has their sights set on bringing their high-energy rock show to the masses and creating a lasting connection with their fans. You can catch them this summer in direct support of Godsmack and Shinedown on their co-headling tour.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Like A Storm frontman Chris Brooks to discuss the band’s already impressive history, their creative evolution, the making of ‘Catacombs’ and what they have in store for us in the year to come!
You’ve carved out an amazing career but I want to start by going back to the beginning. How did music first come into your life and what drove you to pursue it professionally?
Wow! As you know, the three of us are brothers, and music first came into our lives when we were about 6 or 7 years old. That’s when our parents got us started on piano lessons and that was the first time we started learning music. For me, I guess I have always just been fascinated with music. We grew up listening to a lot of Beatles and that kind of thing. I can remember when I was 5 or 6, going to Australia to visit my granddad. We walked past a CD stand and my parents were like, “You can pick out whatever you want.” I ended up buying this Alice Cooper CD. I had never heard it but the cover just spoke to me! [laughs] What he looked like was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen! [laughs] I started getting more and more into that. I switched from piano to guitar. I also got into bands like Nirvana, Green Day and Jimi Hendrix. I got captivated with that whole world! Once I started learning guitar, I started writing songs and singing in a band with friends to occupy the weekends. My brothers had a similar journey. So, we ended up, each of the three of us, ended up fronting our own bands and we would play weird parties, school halls and that kind of thing! We always knew that’s what we wanted to do with our lives. Kent and I started playing together because I was looking for a guitarist, someone to do backup vocals and someone to write with. I finally realized, “Why am I fighting this? Why am I looking at everyone else apart from my brothers who I already have a great musical connection with?” We would always just kind of jam. We had a drum kit in our house and both Matt and Kent started as drummers before moving to guitar. We always had a ton of instruments around and it was so easy for us to jam any song or even write a song on the spot. It was all because of that incredible connection. After Kent and I started playing together, we went through the same thing with Matt. He was singing in his own band and once again we asked, “Why are we fighting this thing that is so easy?” The connection was impossible to deny! The three of us started playing together and it was basically right after that when we moved up to Canada. That’s really when we started chasing this dream. We started at the absolute bottom! In Canada, no one knew who we were and we had no family or friends to help fill out a room starting out! We played some pretty empty gigs to begin with but the chemistry was there!
I’ve seen Like A Storm play live on multiple occasions. As a frontman, you have remarkable energy and a great command of the crowd. When did you come into your own as a frontman? You make it look easy and I know it’s far from it!
Oh, thank you, man! I don’t know that I have still! Ya know what I mean? [laughs] It’s just one of those things that I love to do. For me, that expression of being on stage and having that connection with the crowd is a really, really magical thing! I think we’ve been lucky to have the support of the crowds that we’ve had and to have the support of the fans that we have. I think that all makes a huge difference. You don’t want to be out there doing the same show to people who don’t want to hear what you have to say. Our first tour in the U.S. was the ’09 Creed reunion tour. We kind of worried because that is the paradox of the opening band; you’re the only thing standing between the audience and this band that they can’t wait to see! It’s your set that’s preventing them from hearing the band they love! [laughs] For us and for me, personally as a frontman, you just have to have a good time with the audience and give the show everything you can and hopefully they connect with it.
There is no denying the fact you are driven in all aspects of your career. What lessons did you learn early on as a young band that carried forward with you as your reach has grown?
There are a few real key lessons that we’ve learned. One has been that you really have to forge your own path. I remember when we first moved to Canada, where we had a lot of success early on. A lot of people would tell us, “Yeah, I’m going to record your album …” or “I’m going to record your single. We’ll do it in a month.” Then, a month would go by and we would reach out and say, “Hey, man! Are we still going to make that album?” They would say, “Yeah, yeah. We’ll do it in a month. It’s going to be amazing!” From that we learned that you have to push on and you can’t wait for other people to be in charge of your destiny, so to speak. We learned that very early on! We also learned that you have to play the music you are passionate about. When we first moved down and started playing, we had a lot of advice from people. Literally verbatim, we met with people who said, “Go and listen to active rock. Listen to the bands that have the top five songs and write like them.” To us, we thought that was the craziest thing we had ever heard because we didn’t even grow up on the same side of the world that all these bands did. How would we and why would we go through all that trouble and deny everything that was unique about us, just to sound like the worst version of these bands? Those things were so absurd that it really gave us the chance to look at it and go say, “We don’t want to try and do that. We want to embrace everything that is different about ourselves.” It was one of those things where you start out and people say, “I don’t know quite what to do with you guys because you don’t really sound like anyone else.” Then, once you start having some sort of success, it’s such a great thing. They say, “Oh, man! It’s amazing that you guys don’t sound like anyone else!” It’s that sort of irony! You really just have to follow your vision. That’s what we believe anyway.
Like A Storm is about to release an exciting new record. Tell us about your headspace going into the creative process for “Catacombs.”
That’s a great question. We had just come off a couple of years of touring all over the world. When we did “Awaken The Fire” we had really only toured the U.S. and I think we had one song on the radio and that kind of thing. Going into “Awaken The Fire,” we really wanted to build on that. Throughout the process of that album, I think we had four songs in a row on the top 40 of Active Rock radio and we toured all over the world. It gave us a real sense of conviction and belief when it came to follow our own musical journey. We wanted to continue to push ourselves to make our own sort of music and not try to switch on to what might be popular or what people want to hear. We just wanted to continue to push what made us unique. We brought a lot of that touring energy into this record. We knew we wanted to make a record that would be so much fun to play live every single night. That, for us, meant pushing the musicality of it. We wanted to make a heavier record. We have such a wide range of music but nothing beats the connection you get when you play that heavy music live. Our heaviest songs from the last record would always be the most fun to play live, so we wanted to carry that forward. Lyrically, it just sort of worked out that after touring for two years, all the noise, excitement and distractions of touring came to a stop. It’s at that point where you are left to face yourself. You are left with these things that you haven’t had to think about for two years, so a lot of it just wrote itself from that point and that moment where you are forced to confront yourself. From a lyrical standpoint, the concept of it was very quick in terms of the writing process.
Tell us about your songwriting process for Like A Storm. Has it changed through the years?
Yeah. It all stems from us being the frontmen in our own bands; all three of us write and demo. They can be complete songs, a guitar riff, a drum beat, vocal idea or lyric. It can be anything! All three of us will write and record demos and, from that point, we will get together and collaborate back and forth to see what we are really vibing on. Sometimes it can be the three of us in a room writing something, someone coming in with what is basically a finished song or someone might start a song and send it to the other two guys and one of them takes it even further before sending it back. It’s a very collaborative process and it can happen over two different countries. That’s what’s kinda fun about it! Through the use of modern technology, you can do a lot of it without actually being in the same room. That allows each of us to find whatever might produce the best results. It’s about finding the best environment for us to be creative and then working to that.
What are the biggest challenges and lessons learned from bringing “Catacombs” to life?
One of the biggest challenges was that we ended up producing the record ourselves again. We did that on “Awaken The Fire” and we were really happy with the way it turned out. This time around, we started entertaining the idea of working with other people because producing an album is just a hell of a lot of work, ya know? Especially when, as a band, you are the songwriters and musicians as well. It’s like, if it doesn’t reach your vision, there is no one else to blame but yourself! You are responsible every step of the way for getting it to the point where you can achieve that vision. From that point of view, the last couple of months we were sleeping only a couple of hours a night at most. That’s when you’re pushing yourself the most lyrically, as a writer and producer, to get it where you feel it needs to be. That was the biggest challenge. In the early stages of the record, the challenge was finding the time to really immerse ourselves in the album. We had decided it was time for us to make “Catacombs” but we were still getting offered so many tours around the world. That was six months after we supposedly were taking a break to make the album! We had toured just as much as we ever had! That was the first challenge — how do you balance riding the wave you are on with starting the next one? It took discipline to say, “We have to stop touring now. We have to take almost a year off from touring to fully focus on the record.” That was a challenge too!
How have you evolved as an artist?
That’s an interesting question. Ya know, I’ve never thought about it. The interesting thing is, as you progress on through these things, it’s almost difficult to look backwards. You get so caught up in looking forward and moving toward the next album or tour that you don’t often sit back and reflect on what you’ve achieved. I think, for us, it’s a confidence in the music we want to make. It’s a freedom and a confidence to follow that freedom. I think that has been the main difference. When you start out and somebody tells you that you should sound like those other five bands and you are wondering, “Is this really what I have to do to be a touring rock band?” Whereas now, that is such an absurd statement. We have confidence in the idea that the best music we can create is music that is true to who we are.
What does the future hold for Like A Storm both short and long term?
The next thing we have coming up is our summer tour with Godsmack and Shinedown, which is an absolutely insane way to start off this touring cycle! We have this amphitheater tour that goes out this summer and it’s sure to be amazing. Then we will have some headline stuff coming in before we head to Europe. We are trying to balance the U.S. and Europe touring for the rest of the year. Eventually, we’d love to get back down to New Zealand and Australia and tour this album there!
I can’t wait to see you perform the new material from “Catacombs.” I’m sure we will cross paths again soon but until then I wish you continued success! Thanks so much for your time today!
Awesome! Great questions, man! Thank you very much for that! Take care!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.