SOUTHERN FRONT out of Austin, TX is one of my new discoveries, and as such their just-released new album Death Throes has been getting a ton of play here at A&GS HQ. I can’t stress enough how kickass this band is. Guitarists Jon Butler and Jason Bingham, along with bassist Eric Houser were nice enough to give us some time to talk about what makes SOUTHERN FRONT tick, dream bands to tour with, and lessons learned along the way so far. Check it:
Amps: First thing, since I’m new to the band, tell me how you all got your start and what brought you together.
Jason: I had tried to put bands together in the past with different friends and players but it wasn’t until I met and started to jam with Jon that something really came to fruition and eventually became SOUTHERN FRONT. It did take us a couple years jamming with people that came and went.
We finally met Zak and put together a full lineup and started playing regular gigs. After a year or two of that and demoing songs, Payton joined us in time to record the first album, and after a couple different bass players on each of our first two releases, we now have Eric doing a killer job as the newest member of the band. We’re in a good place now.
The other guys all come from different backgrounds though and have played in bands previous to SOUTHERN FRONT. Zak’s (Ward, vocals) is the most notable since he fronted MOTOGRATER for several years through their biggest years. Jon has played in bands mostly in Colorado before moving back to Texas. Payton (Holekamp, drums) has played in groups spanning all kinds of genres and Eric has spent a few years playing in bands involved in the Death Metal scene here in Texas.
Amps: How did SOUTHERN FRONT come to be this type of heavy, in-your-face kind of band?
Jason: It just came naturally in my opinion. There’s a healthy mix of influences and we’re all fans of the heavy aggressive style of metal, so those type of bands just ended up influencing our sound the most. We want to be as heavy as possible without being inaccessible to the typically heavy metal fan. We don’t want to just appeal to some small niche of metal fans. We each have a very wide range of musical taste in general but for me, the stuff that gets me going the most and that I love playing most is the fast, aggressive stuff that is at least somewhat challenging musically.
Amps: Tell me about your songwriting process. How do the tunes take shape? All at once in rehearsal, does everyone come in with demos/ideas, what?
Jon: We usually all bring in separate ideas/riffs and hash them out to form a solid song. Or we scrap them if they’re weak.
Jason: There’s no set way for us, so it’s really all/any of the above. Number one rule though is all killer, no filler, so we try to hack away any weak parts. We want to write great songs first and foremost. It’s always about the song, no matter how badass you are on your instrument. Since we’re still a young band we’ve tried many different ways of writing, but for the most part, we come up with strong riffs and build good solid songs around them. We’ve written songs just by jamming in practice as well as sitting in a room together with a computer and some simple drum programming. A lot of initial ideas come from Jon and/or I sitting at a computer with a guitar and some simple drum patterns and then we’ll bring those ideas in to jam on.
Amps: You’ve shared the stage with some tremendous national acts. What, if anything have you learned from those bands?
Jon: Practice more (laughs)!!
Jason: I’ve learned to keep it fun, interact with the crowd and give off a lot of energy. Keep it tight on stage and don’t leave a lot of dead space in the performance. If you make mistakes just keep rolling with the punches and act like you meant to do it. Own it. I’ve also found that the most talented guys tend to be the nicest and most approachable people that know how to treat their fans well.
Amps: Further, what are some of your best show memories so far in the band’s career?
Jon: Opening for OVERKILL was probably my best memory so far. The venue (Emo’s East) is on a larger scale and has perfect sound, which is always a gamble when playing the smaller clubs/venues and not yet having our own sound engineer.
Jason: We’ve had some fun ones for sure. Some of my personal favorite times were our tour we did at the end of 2012. There have been crazy mosh pits and wild shows. We’ve been fortunate to open for quite a few national acts at some of the biggest and best venues in town. OVERKILL at Emo’s East was a high for me too as well as DRI & DEATH ANGEL at the old Emo’s location, which was a high-energy sold out show, packed to the gills.
Amps: If you could share a bill with anyone, who would it be? What’s the “Dream Tour”?
Jason: I would say any or all of the following: TESTAMENT, SLAYER, EXODUS, MEGADETH, METALLICA. I think the fans of those bands would really dig what we have to offer too and the opportunity to tour with any of them could be a massive boost of the exposure which we so sorely lack and is so hard to come by these days. Even playing a local support slot opening for one of them would put us in front of a lot of people that have no idea we exist.
Jon: There are too many awesome bands to name, but any of the great tours we have here in the states that would give us a chance to play to a larger audience. Europe would be great as well.
Amps: Jason, how do you and Jon approach writing the guitar parts? How do you decide who is best suited to take which part?
Jason: We try to keep that as simple as possible. It’s really whatever works the best. We both record half of the parts and sometimes that will determine from then on who plays what. We want our live performance to be as close as possible performance-wise to the record and hopefully even better.
Jon: It depends on whoever can play the needed part the best and most comfortably. Also whoever comes up with the riff or part gets to make the decision on what part they play.
Amps: What are you listening to right now? What’s in your CD player/iPod, etc.?
Jon: The new PSYCROPTIC single “Echoes to Come”, CARCASS, GOATWHORE, SOREPTION, HANK 3, Al Di Meola.
Eric: I’ve been jamming DEFEATED SANITY, CATTLE DECAPITATION, and GOROD.
Jason: Lately I’ve been jamming the new EXODUS and CARCASS a lot. I’m really digging the new JOB FOR A COWBOY album…that really surprised me. The new PSYCROPTIC is very promising as well as the new DECAPITATED so I’m looking forward to those albums. I tend to change it up pretty often though so I still go back and listen to my old metal albums quite a bit as well as other genres.
Amps: What are some of your favorite albums from the time you were little, till now?
Jon: IRON MAIDEN (any), PANTERA (any), TESTAMENT (any), DEATH (any), so many more…
Eric: My all-time favorite album is probably Stagnated Existence by DISAVOWED.
Jason: As far as metal, BLACK SABBATH (OZZY years), OZZY (solo), PANTERA, SLAYER, IRON MAIDEN, SEPULTURA (Max years), MEGADETH (up to Rust in Peace and a couple newer ones), & METALLICA of course (mainly the first 4). After those bands I discovered and fall in love with DEATH, TESTAMENT, & EXODUS. I also got into the DIO version of SABBATH as well as his solo band and RAINBOW. I’m also a huge fan of VAN HALEN (the DLR years), ALICE IN CHAINS, TOOL, ALLMAN BROTHERS, and so many other bands, especially in classic rock, southern rock & blues.
I also have to mention that I’m pretty stoked that we got Dave Otero to master the new album. He recorded, mixed & produced CEPHALIC CARNAGE’S Anomalies album, which is one of my favorite albums ever.
Amps: When you hear Death Throes, in its entirety: A) what goes through your mind? B) What do you hope people take away from it?
Jason: A) I get a sense of pride for sure. I personally think we’ve topped ourselves with each release, haven’t lost any heaviness in our sound and have continued to diversify it. Not only the music, but the production has really evolved. Jon and I have handled it on every release so far, with Jon gradually taking on a larger role each time. On this album he did such a killer job. B) I hope they love the songs and the album as a whole and feed off the energy and that it compels people to become fans and make fans out of their peers. I want people to be passionate about it and help spread the word, and then come out to see our shows and lose their minds. I want them to help create the demand that will bring us to their own towns to play live for them and then keep coming back. Of course I’d just love for them to listen to it and enjoy it.
Jon: I think it’s a very diverse album that covers a lot of ground. You can hear a lot of influences in there. I’d like people to listen to it and not have to skip around. Just put it on and play the entire album. That’s what we’re aiming for… and enjoy it of course!
Amps: What’s next for SOUTHERN FRONT?
Jason: No one knows exactly what the future holds but I can guarantee you that we’ll keep working our asses off writing new music and playing shows. We’ll be supporting Death Throes over the next year and trying to expand our fanbase within Texas, our region of the country and everywhere else really.
Jon: Shows, shows, shows. Anywhere and everywhere.
Jason: We want to keep putting new music out on a regular basis so you may see a new album or EP not that far off. Hopefully we can do some more touring here in the states.. or internationally soon. We’d love to play some festivals in Europe or here at home.
Amps: Say something to all your fans out there!
Jason: Thank you to everyone for your continued support. We couldn’t do it without you. Please keep spreading the word for us and we look forward to seeing you at a show here in Austin or on the road and make sure you give the new album a spin!
There you have it. The boys in SOUTHERN FRONT are vicious attack dogs on record and onstage, but away from that you couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of guys. Pick up Death Throes HERE and be sure to catch them December 5 at Dirty Dog Bar in Austin with BATTLECROSS, WRETCHED and more (Tickets HERE)!!