Interview with Like A Storm

Like A Storm
w/Song River
Photo Credit: Chris Bradshaw

On the road and around the globe the band Like A Storm has been scratching the metal itch and sanctifying the metal rock sound since their inception in 2005. Hailing from the land of Kiwis, New Zealand directed brothers Chris, Matt, and Kent Brook along with Zach Woods took a few moments out of their heavy schedule to chat with me.

Like A Storm is best known for combining heavy baritone riffs and hard rock songs with a Didgeridoo. They have shared American & European stages with Alter BridgeKornShinedownBlack Veil BridesCreedPuddle of MuddStaindSick Puppies, and many others, as well as touring North America extensively as a headline act. Like a Storm are the highest charting New Zealand hard rock band in American radio history. Creating so much original metal along the way, and slated to begin this year they will be begin recording new material.

Song River: Is it true that you are New Zealand's highest American radio chart hitters?

Matt Brooks: Thanks for chatting with me! Yeah, amazingly, it is true. With our latest singles “Love The Way You Hate Me”, “Wish You Hell”, and “Become The Enemy”, we have become the highest charting New Zealand hard rock band in American radio history. It’s a real honor!

SR: Metal Hammer magazine stated that Like A Storm is rewriting the rulebook of metal. How would you describe metal... and your approach to create what is uniquely and identifiable as Like A Storm.

Matt Brooks: It was amazing to get that kind of validation from an iconic magazine like Metal Hammer. Especially because we have always tried to push the envelope and create our own sound, which is what ultimately lead us to incorporate the didgeridoo into our music.

There are so many different interpretations of what is truly “metal”. But to me personally, metal will always be about that powerful combination of heavy, aggressive music with dark, epic lyrics. From Sabbath to Metallica to Gojira… You just can’t beat it!

SR: On the opening to the video “Wish You Hell” of you latest album, Awaken The Fire, the words “We are punished not for our sins... but by them.” Lyrically and visually this song sounds like a personal story.

Matt Brooks: You could definitely say that! (laughs) Unfortunately, there are those people who walk into your life and bring you nothing but trouble. So “Wish You Hell” is a ‘goodbye & good riddance’ to those people who try to screw you over… The main idea being that sooner or later they will get what they deserve.

We felt like that lyrical message would really fit with a voodoo-themed music video, which made for a very cool and creepy video with live tarantulas, snakes, & all kinds of voodoo imagery.

SR: There seems to be a similarity I've come to notice in bands sound coming out of New Zealand, have you ever checked out Gin Wigmore?  It's a sound that seems to really be unique to your area of the world- and it's killer. The sound almost seems to have become a trademark bit from NZ... at least an identifiable mark. It is a sound that tells a story, makes the listener visualize what is being instrumentally painted and completed in lyrics.

Matt Brooks: Thanks so much! I think all New Zealanders always grow up with that ‘Do-It-Yourself’ attitude, which is a big part of the culture of our country. That attitude really lends itself to being creative and wanting to find your own voice as an artist. Even though we are very different from Gin stylistically, I think being Kiwis we probably both have the same approach to our music.

SR: The number, “Break Free” takes the softer side of rock and melodies as it seems to be the identifiable track to your fans. Replay... replay... replay...

Matt Brooks: We have always been fans of bands who were really versatile - a band like Metallica is a great example - who could play heavy, anthemic music, and then play these incredibly melodic songs as well. “Break Free” is one of those songs - where the vocals and the lyrics really become the focus. We also really wanted the music to reflect those same emotions… To create a soundscape that was haunting, ethereal, bittersweet.

Lyrically the song is very personal, and was written during a pretty dark time for us a band and as individuals. So it’s really symbolic that “Break Free” is now getting played on the radio all over America. And it’s even more amazing to see all our incredible fans who have the song’s lyrics tattooed on them!

SR: Chris Brooks - as lead vocalist what have you found to be some of the greatest challenges when performing and touring?  

Chris Brooks: The greatest challenge is definitely keeping my voice in good shape when I’m up there screaming every night (laughs). I always get so caught up in the music and the show, that I end up giving it my all every night. Even though I probably should be holding back a little, I just can’t help it! (laughed). 

We have radio most days on tour, and I like to talk with fans as often as I can after shows, so I have to be mindful of how much I use my voice offstage. Especially on a long tour!
The other thing I find challenging is getting my voice to work if we play early in the day, which often happens on the huge summer festivals. I absolutely love playing those festivals, but I’m about as far from being a morning person as you could get, so it always takes a while to get my voice ready.
Strangely I find beer helps (laughed) even though I’m sure it's not a remedy any medical professionals would endorse. 
SR: As I understand it, Chris, you are the one who plays the didgeridoo in the band.  Under who did you learn, and do you take an authentic didgeridoo with you on the road- do you have a favorite key to play?

Chris Brooks: I actually taught myself to play the Didgeridoo, which is kinda crazy. My Grandparents used to live in Australia, so we would visit them a lot growing up and we’d always see people busking in the street playing Didgeridoos. It had such a huge effect on me and I was just hypnotized by what I consider to be the most unique and dark sounding instrument I’ve ever heard. 

A friend of mine actually bought me my first Didgeridoo, and I just locked myself in my room and didn’t emerge until I could play it. I’m a pretty determined person so it was literally all I did for a couple of days until I got the circular breathing down (laughed). 

When I first started touring I used to bring out a traditional Didge with me, but I found out pretty quickly that they don’t like life in a touring rock band (laughed). I think the very first time I pulled it out at a show the wax was already absolutely destroyed and the wood was scratched up pretty bad. So I had to try and rebuild the wax mouthpiece backstage. The process involves heating up the wax until it melts, and molding it into the desired shape- its pretty time consuming and is definitely not the thing you want to be doing backstage at a venue. 

So I started making my own Didges out of PVC pipe which are basically indestructible! Its cool because it gives them a slightly different sound than the traditional Wooden ones, and this way I can have all the Didges cut to the key of different songs. We play Baritone guitars, so we’re in pretty low tunings live. As result I tend to play Didges in far lower keys than I’ve ever heard them anyone else use them in, which is cool! The lowest is in A# - which sounds so heavy!

SR: As brothers Chris, Matt, and Kent you share many of the same instruments from guitars, keys, programming... did you all grow up in a household of music/bands/experimentation with instruments?

Matt Brooks: Our parents were big fans of music, and they both played instruments themselves - so we grew up with a lot of music in the house. Kent, Chris and I all started learning piano when we were kids, but once we hit the teenage years we got totally hooked on rock and metal.  We just started playing any instrument we could get our hands on - drums, guitar, bass, keys, even the Didgeridoo!

SR: Drummer Zach Wood is certainly one of the most outstanding drummers of our time. His beat is the head banging driving foundational support to the sound. What drum brand do you prefer Zach? 

Zach Wood: My favorite drum brand is hands down DW and its subsidiary PDP. They make such incredible drums. I've been fortunate enough to go to the DW factory and see first hand how much time and care goes into making them. And it's all done by hand. On tour I use a PDP and at home I have a DW. 

SR: Who are some the great drummers you have come to admire and your drumming again brings the unique sound full circle to LAS... where did you develop your signature from?

Zach Wood: When I'm asked who my drumming influences are 2 names come to mind immediately. Shannon Larkin of Godsmack and Scott Phillips of Alter Bridge. Shannon Larkin is by far the most entertaining drummer to watch. He uses such power and force behind his beats and does all these amazing tricks while playing, making it look like a walk in the park for him ! It's very impressive. And then there's Scott Phillips. His drum beats and wrist work is phenomenal. He plays such intricate fills and grooves. I love his style and the way he can make drums stand out so much in the AB Albums. It's just as complicated as Mark Tremonti's guitar playing. 

Having said that I really aspire to hit hard and have interesting drum moves like Shannon, and play with cool grooves and technique that Scott Phillips has. Those 2 guys are some of the best drummers out there and some of the nicest people too  anyone who is practicing drums should look them up! 

As a percussionist how do you personally take care of your upper body/arms/elbows/wrists as you tour?

Zach Wood: When I'm on the road it is important to keep your arms and wrists in good condition since you are using them nonstop for hour everyday! You want to keep them conditioned and healthy. I try to go to the gym everyday I have a day off to keep your body and arms in shape and to build endurance. Obviously being on tour there are not always a lot of days off. So on the bus I use those elastic resistance bands and work out your arms once a day when you wake up and before you go to bed. It's really makes a huge difference! 

SR: There isn't anything that could say LAS is just another metal/hard rock band. Yet, with the compilation release in 2015... you pulled and put together songs from 2010 to 2016 when can your fans expect a brand new album?

Matt Brooks: We are always writing, even when we’re out on tour. With all the shows you play and all the people you meet, there is just so much to be inspired by. So we have a lot of new songs that we’re really excited about, and our fans can look forward to hearing it very soon!

SR: You've included a defining softer side to this latest album in bringing back your 2013 song, “Southern Skies.” How often do you all get to go back home and when you do, what is the first thing you all reach for? (Can be food, a loved one, a pet, a drink, a special place to just be alone).

Matt Brooks: We’re very lucky to have become as busy as we are touring - but the only downside is that we don’t get to go home to New Zealand as often now. “Southern Skies” is about home, about being being away from that home, and everything that that place and those people mean to you.

But we get home once a year, and the first thing I reach for is my favorite Kiwi beer - Steinlager Pure. That’s the taste of home to me!

SR: Music is the life blood and Like A Storm has taken that force to create a high. What is next after this north American tour?  

Matt Brooks: Thank you… Music is certainly our life and we feel very lucky to get to play it every night! We’ll be out on the road in the US until August, and we’d love to try and get back to see our friends in the UK & Europe again this year. 

The other big news for 2016 is that we’ll start recording these new songs… We can’t wait to share them with our fans and start playing them live!

Like A Storm:
Twitter: @likeastorm
Instagram: @likeastorm