Sometimes the best things come when you least expect it. Staff writer/photographer Faye Fetters of Crystal Faye Photography got the call to do an onsite interview with none other than Jake Bowen, guitarist in PERIPHERY who was set to rock House of Blues Dallas that night (review up next!). So here it is, her chat with Jake:
Amps: Ok, so, how is tour going so far for you guys?
Jake: Great, headline tours in the US are always a lot of fun for us because it’s a lot of familiar territory and places that we’ve been to before but we’re super comfortable playing these venues, and touring with our full production, and we have great crew and everything. Also the bands we’re touring with all really know what they’re doing and they’re incredible live so this whole package really has no weak spots to it.
Amps: That’s always good. So, do you guys have any pre-show rituals that you do before the show to like, warm up or get more comfortable?
Jake: Yeah! Every day, I warm up on guitar but sometimes we’ll do a couple little celebratory shots or drink a beer together or just listen to some music to pump us up. So like, you know you could come backstage or on the bus and hear us blasting some gangster rap or death metal or like the most extreme stuff you can find just to get us amped up for the show.
Amps: (laughs) that’s awesome. You do have more members in your band than what’s typical. So does that make touring any more difficult or are there any challenges to that?
Jake: Well I’d say it’s both. It makes it easier. More easy than difficult, but when you have more people living in such a small place or space you have to kind of make sure everybody’s accommodated and that you’re not rubbing people the wrong way or annoying. More people comes more skill sets, and more people can help out with things, and more decision makers to help shape what we do as a band so it’s really nice to have a six piece.
Amps: How did the writing process differ on the new albums (Juggernaut: Alpha and Omega) vs. older works?
Jake: Well PERIPHERY was pretty much Misha (Mansoor), the other guitar player’s project. He started it, I was the next one to join but when the first album came out he had written most of it and I wrote the electronic stuff and the last song with him. And then the second album came out and it was more collaborative. We all worked with Misha to write songs, and then with this album we all wrote the songs. And we all arranged them and really shaped it as a band rather than there be one principal songwriter.
Amps: With the more progressive nature of your music do you still get the ferocity from the crowd or is it more of an “Oh we’re gonna stand and watch and kind of notate what they’re doing?”
Jake: I think we have both types of fans. At this point in our careers when the mosh pit is going it’s like people really love the heavy stuff and you can tell. We just know what parts people are gonna go off on but looking out you can definitely tell that the people that just want to stand and watch and kind of analyze what you’re doing and how it’s coming off live and people are really into that side of it to. So I think that we appeal to both types.
Amps: And how does it feel playing your newer material to your fans?
Jake: For us it’s refreshing because we had just gotten done supporting our last record (Periphery II) and, you know, playing the same songs every night eventually you want to play something new. So being able to play a set that has a lot of new songs in it is a lot more fun because it presents new challenges and you kinda have to practice a lot more to get in shape for playing stuff that you’re not used to playing. It’s a lot easier to play the older material because we’ve been doing it for so long so you know the old adage is “Practice makes perfect.” Once we got that down then the new songs are going to be a breeze and it’s going to be fun for about two years until we wanna play new stuff.
Amps: With Nolly (Getgood, bass) pushing to follow a lot of the leads the guitars provide is there still a strong relationship between the bass and drums as the rhythmic unit of the band?
Jake: Yeah, more so than ever. And that’s been a focus by Nolly and Matt (Halpern, drums) to have a really strong rhythm section. The bass tone is one of the loudest things in the mix on the new recordings on Juggernaut. And during our show I have Nolly really loud in my mix just because the way what I like to hear, and the way that he shapes his bass tone it’s supposed to blend with the guitar tone. Both are nice on their own but when we’re locking in together it creates this growl that you can’t get any other way.
Jake: It’s all about the song and everybody has different ideas about arrangements and sounds but we all have to be happy with what we’re writing so we have a very democratic process when it comes to that. So if the majority of the band is feeling a certain way about parts or an arrangement then it’s up to those people to figure out what the new arrangement should be, and then we bring it to everyone again, then we make a band wide vote and we keep doing that until everybody’s happy.
Since this album is more story-based do you know if some of the stories or the lyrics do come from personal experience or do any of them hit close to home for you?
Jake: I can’t say anything on Juggernaut is something that I have any familiarity with, but I know that Spencer (Sotelo, vocals), he’s the guy that wrote the story for the concept. I know that there are parallels, things that happened in his life that he could’ve written into the narrative to fit the story. So I’m sure as a vocalist you tend to do that you know? Mix reality with fiction. So he could probably answer that a lot better than I can but I’m pretty sure there’s some common ground.
Amps: And then how has songwriting improved in terms of coherence and originality since Nolly was introduced into the band?
Jake: Well I’d say that Nolly is a great producer. He engineered the records and he’s definitely helped with arranging and all that stuff but I’d say the band has been instrumental in the arrangements and stuff like that. So, while Nolly does help and we all have final say about what makes and what doesn’t, I’d say that the songwriting process really starts with Misha, me and Mark and we build from there and then the other people contribute to what we kind of start. On this record it’s been really interesting because we were going for a certain type of vibe so we had to make sure that we were writing that type of stuff. I guess the progress between Periphery II songwriting and Juggernaut songwriting is that there’s more space for the vocals on some songs. We’re holding back on the technical side of things just because we’re trying to write songs that are all encompassing for the band and it’s not just showcasing one instrument or trying to be bombastic for the sake of showing off or whatever. It’s important to us that we’re writing songs with stronger arrangements that are more solid.
Jake: (Laughing) oh, you’d have to ask Spencer, he’s in complete control of that crowd so I’ll mention it to him. I’ll be like “Spencer you know I haven’t seen a wall of death in a while can you um, injure some children?”
Amps: (Both laughing) can you make sure Dallas really brings it tonight?
Jake: They will! Dallas has always been one of our best places to play. Yeah ever since we started coming here back in like 2009, I think was the first time that PERIPHERY played in Dallas, it was always like, “Wow…That’s what shows should be like.” So I don’t think tonight will be any different.
Amps: That’s really nice to for me to hear since I’m from Dallas. OK, last question. What is the craziest thing that’s happened so far on this tour run for you guys?
Jake: (Laughs) you know that’s an interesting question because I feel like, for a lot of bands, they would actually have something really like uh… debauched or rotten or raunchy or whatever you want to call it. But like for us? Craziest thing, that’s always so hard. (Pause) Um, I don’t know. Like we all have bed times, we all just like to chill…
Amps: So…“We stayed up past our bed times. It got out of hand.”
Jake: Yeah crazy things aren’t really allowed to happen you know. We have so many people on the road that if there’s crazy shit happening then I don’t know… I don’t think it would resonate with certain people so we try to be very respectful; keep the environment as professional as we can. And it doesn’t mean we don’t like to have fun, but it really just comes down to making jokes and trying to make others laugh and stuff that’s really as crazy as it gets (laughs).
It’s pretty cool when a band that is 100% all business onstage and in the studio can just take the time to laugh and have fun on the road. As you can see, Faye and Jake had a good time chatting before PERIPHERY went out and tore it up in Dallas. Juggernaut comes out January 27 via Sumerian Records, but I’m sure you all know that already, don’t you?
INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTO: FAYE FETTERS/CRYSTAL FAYE PHOTOGRAPHY