Northlane Get Far North

Australian metalcore outfit Northlane have hit the road this January on a tour through regional towns and cities, stopping in Cairns to play the Tanks on the upcoming Australia Day long weekend. The tour comes fresh off the back of their huge spot at this year’s Unify Gathering, a performance that thrilled punters with their trademark level of production and further cemented them as one of the country’s best live heavy acts.

The band released their fifth album, Alien, last year. It won an ARIA (Northlane’s third), debuted at #3 nationally, received near-unanimous praise from critics and fans alike, and has been described by some as career-defining. While the show will include a slew of the band’s chart-topping favourites, it’s the songs from this latest and most personal release that they’re most excited to showcase.

We caught up with Northlane frontman Marcus Bridge for a quick chat ahead of the show.

NQMP: Not music-related but it’d be remiss of me not to ask; some of the band is from the Blue Mountains which of course has copped a terrible hit with the bushfires. Before the show in Cairns, I see you have fundraising show in Melbourne. Have you or anyone close to you been directly affected?

MB: We’ve been pretty lucky. Jon’s family lives there still and there’s a lot of stuff going on around them and they’re hoping it doesn’t spread any further in their direction. Obviously it’s a tragedy for some people but for us it’s just been a bit of smoke. But yeah we feel so lucky to do that show. I think it sold out in just over a minute. We’re just happy to do whatever we can in this situation and to have some other great acts joining us.

NQMP: Northlane have done a few regional tours now. Even as you’ve grown, doing bigger and bigger shows nationally and overseas, it seems pretty important to the band to get out of the cities to the small centres?

MB: Absolutely. In Northlane, and before that in other bands I played in growing up, you try to play anywhere you can at every opportunity. For us it’s important to keep that interest alive in those areas so that new bands starting up feel like they have an option to do that and to pursue music. Obviously we want to give back to the fans that have supported us all this time, and yeah, it’s great to provide an opportunity to younger bands to maybe a play a show they maybe wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

NQMP: You played UNIFY Gathering festival last week. I had a few friends catch your set and they said it was great. That festival has grown from strength-to-strength, do you have any thoughts on it, and perhaps how it positively affects the image of heavy music and its community?

MB: It’s always an amazing time there. There’s a huge collection of bands that are all friends and we’ve played together before and we’re all in the same scene. That weekend is special because on one hand we get to go big and on the other we’re all hanging out with our friends, and I think that translates to the festival-goers as well. And with its growth over the years, it’s proving that there are so many people who are passionate about this music. It’s not some underground thing that perhaps the (mainstream) public might think it is. It’s exciting to see that and we’re honoured to be a part of that.

NQMP: Speaking of UNIFY/Unified, Northlane were an early signing back in 2009. It was a pretty exciting time back then for Australian metal/core that some say marked a maturation of the scene. How have they been to work with?

MB: Yeah it’s been great man. They’ve always been extremely supportive of what we do, let us achieve our vision, often just letting us do what we want to do… which I guess is what you’re always looking for in a label. We’ve always been taken quite good care of.

NQMP: The band has three ARIA awards so far. What was that like, and where are they all kept?

MB: Ha, yeah dude it’s pretty mental. It’s always an honour to get recognized in that kind of way. I guess with this latest album and the meaning behind it and it being quite a personal record, it was particularly special. Umm, where do we keep them? Actually I have them on top of my comic book collection, just in a cabinet. We actually just got our third one over the weekend because we were away for the ceremony. It looks pretty stupid, all three of them in a lineup.

NQMP: The face masks and get-up haven’t always been a thing for Northlane, and has raised some eyebrows with some of the older fans. Could you explain the thinking behind that?

MB: Well for us the way we present ourselves or what we wear on stage, it’s almost like playing a character. You put something between, for example, ‘Jon-The-Person’ and ‘Jon-The-Guitarist-In-Northlane’. I mean, it was always meant to reflect the music and how that music makes us feel and it’s just another way for us to express that. Especially for Jon and Nick our drummer, when they’re all kitted out in the gear, they definitely into different people and that adds to the show.

NQMP: You’ve toured with a bunch of huge names. Is there anyone you haven’t toured with yet but want to?

MB: There are definitely a lot. The rest of the guys have done it before but I’ve never done a proper tour with Architects- that’d be amazing. Umm who else? Sleep Token would be a good one, they’re a band we all love a lot and are doing something different. There’s so many, it’s hard to pick just one. But we’re always looking.

NQMP: Last year marked ten years for Northlane, however the lineup has moved around a little in that time. You yourself joined about halfway in 2014. It’s almost like that Ship of Theseus, and the concept of parts vs the whole. How do you think Northlane has kept the identity of the band despite the lineup changes, and how do you think it’s affected the band’s trajectory?

MB: To be honest, I think no matter what we did, Jon (guitarist and main songwriter) is always going to write what he wants anyway *laughs*. So I think those changes aren’t a defining factor into how the music sounds. I think people can get caught up or place focus on the change of members or whatnot, maybe with a bit of closed mind or something. In the end we’re extremely happy with where we’re at right now. It might have taken a bit of time for some fans to get on board but my experience has been really positive.

NQMP: Do you think Northlane will always call Australia home, or has another country caught your eye when touring?

MB: Yeah, I think Australia will always be home for us. Obviously Brendon, our bass player, is from Canada, but the rest of us I don’t see leaving Australia anytime soon. It’s so different from anywhere else in the world. Every time we get back from a tour it’s always a relief to be back here, so I don’t see us moving anywhere else.

NQMP: You mentioned your bassist, Brendon. He joined in late 2018. Has he bought across any fresh influences to Northlane’s sound?

MB: Oh yeah definitely. He’s a really, really talented musician. He came into the process (of recording Alien) pretty late, I guess, and a lot of the stuff had already been put together. He definitely had a lot of cool vocal ideas and little tweaky ideas that none of us would have thought of. On top of that, he’s just such a positive vibe in the group. He brings a lot of laughter and fun. He’s just really good to have on board.

NQMP: What are a bass players for, right? And the shows, what can people expect?

MB: We’re playing a lot of the new album. If anyone saw us on the headline tour, there are some new songs that we didn’t play on that tour. It’ll be a pretty big set and we try to bring as much production as we can. I guess in the end it’ll be as good as we can do and see what Cairns has got for us!

Jake Gries

Northlane plays the Tanks Saturday 25th January, supported by Gravemind and local Only Ghosts Remain. Tickets available through Ticketlink

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