In the latest interview for our special Countdown To Bloodstock series, Emily Castles speaks to I Fight Bears, winners of the South Wales’ Metal 2 The Masses and now set to perform on the New Blood Stage on the Friday at Catton Park in Derybshire.
Q: Many congratulations on winning Metal 2 the Masses in South Wales – how did you feel on the night? Were you confident?
A: No, I wouldn’t say we were confident. The outcome of M2TM was a subjective decision by one (albeit legend in the industry) man. We’ve been in this game long enough to understand what works in a live show, what we need to do to get the most energy out of a crowd and are seasoned enough to ensure our set is as technically precise as possible, but there were external factors in the decision completely out of our control. We came to terms with that prior to stepping out on stage. Our goal for the competition was to get to the final and having already achieved that, that lifted the pressure, allowing us to really enjoy the opportunity provided to us. That may have been one of the factors that gave us an edge in a fiercely competitive line-up.
Q: How important do you think Metal 2 the Masses is in giving smaller bands the opportunity to play such a prestigious festival like Bloodstock?
A: For smaller bands, this is the only opportunity to play larger festivals such as Bloodstock. It’s the age-old job/interview paradox. You need experience to get the job, you need the job to get experience. With so much saturation in the music industry these days, breaking through that obscurity barrier is becoming increasingly more difficult. Some festivals will only entertain the idea of the established mainstream act, which is completely understandable as they have a proven track record at venues of that size and the draw of a large crowd. But there are so many grassroots acts that have the energy and drive to succeed, and we must give credit where it’s due to the team at Bloodstock for realising this opportunity and showcasing musical talent of all standings.
Q: Your new music video for the track ‘Beacon’ (see above) is really cool. Tell us about the thought process behind it.
A: ‘Beacon’ is a song about Stan Lee and how his passing affected Dan and Drew. Drew wanted the lyric video to reflect the golden age of Stan’s work with comic illustrations very reminiscent of classic Jack Kirby artwork. In a wider sense, the three music videos we put out for this EP are all connected and have shared thematic elements. They represent the past (‘Beacon’), present (‘Damaged World’) and future (‘Chainbreaker’) of our protagonist and his journey of decline. Try watching them in reverse chronological release order to see the story in full. We might put out a supercut version later in the year of all the videos linked.
Q: You recently posted that you’ve had over 200,000 streams of your cover of Spandau Ballet’s classic song ‘Gold’. How did that cover come about? Are you inspired by the sound of the 80s?
A: There was a Christmas gig being held as an annual tradition for Bridgend Tattoo Studio, where several bands and musicians get up on stage and play a few cover songs. We’d decided on one fairly innocuous choice (the Killswitch version of ‘Holy Diver’) and were struggling with a second song. While watching a rugby match at a local pub, one of us called out ‘Gold’ as a potential second option. I sat down with the song and quickly realised that there were riffs and hooks just oozing from this song. It’s not called a classic for no reason! After a bit of tweaking and an over-indulgent guitar solo later, the cover was born. We decided to release it out of service to our fans who couldn’t attend the show on the night, as those who did really enjoyed, and word was spreading. Our of pure luck, we contacted Spandau Ballet and Gary Kemp to seek permission to put on Spotify and ended up with public endorsement and glowing praise. That was not only unexpected, but a real highlight of our career to date.
Q: Not long ago you released your EP Liberosis – are you pleased with how it’s been received so far?
A: Yes absolutely. We’ve had radio plays on Kerrang! and an 8/10 from Metal Hammer. We really feel we’ve found our feet with this release, and the response we’ve had from the industry and our audience alike has been humbling. It reaffirms that all the effort we put into these songs over the last four or five years has been worth it.
Q: How did the recording process go?
A: Painful and fragmented are the words that immediately spring to mind! We started writing these songs back in 2018, and we hired Giant Wafer residential studios in Mid Wales to work collectively and collaboratively on them. We left there happy with what we had produced with some great sounding demos, and all was well. But as the weeks and months went by and we played the songs on repeat, it become apparent that there were things that needed work. ‘Chainbreaker’ was almost completely re-written, with only one or two sections of guitar from the demos used in the final release. One of us (either myself or Marc) jokingly mentioned that we should tune down our guitars to drop B, because it sounded ‘heavier’. But that joke backfired as that’s exactly what it did, and it gave a whole new perspective on some of the riffs in the songs. This in turn meant that all of Drew’s clean vocals needed to be re-worked and there were intricacies around his vocal register than sounded better if we modified the melodies. Then COVID hit. Almost all work on the EP halted for at least a year. We realised that promoting this EP live in its truest form wasn’t going to be feasible, so we decided to postpone any further work until we were certain what future of venues and live music was going to look like. When restrictions were lifted and we saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, we resumed work and set deadlines for release. We manage all tracking, recording, mixing, mastering, and video production within the band, so there were a few strenuous and stressful months, and minor panic leading up to deadline day, but we got there in the end.
Q: Are you currently working on any other new music or projects?
A: We’ve already started on the next EP (or what we assume is an EP, we haven’t finalised the format yet). From a long list of about 15, we’ve shortlisted 6 songs which we feel best represent our current direction, pay the right amount of homage to our existing catalogue, but also move us into fresh, new musical areas to explore.
Q: Had you been fans of Bloodstock before M2TM – have you been before?
A: Bloodstock has for me, always been the one that got away. For various reasons over the years I haven’t been able to attend. I know some of the guys have been, so for me this is a Rite of Passage. I don’t feel like a true metalhead until I’ve been to Bloodstock, so playing there will be the icing on the cake. I mean look at the line-up, Lamb of God, Behemoth, Testament, Exodus, Sylosis, Soen, and our new favourites Mother Vulture (check them out!). What’s not to love.
Q: What can fans expect from seeing I Fight Bears in the flesh?
A: I can’t tell you that, you’ll have to grab a ticket to our next show and find out.
- For all the latest Bloodstock ticket, travel and line-up news, click here.