Like A Martyr
Interview with singer/songwriter Jeremy Allingham
by Jade Sperry/JadedPhotography
On a bright Friday morning, I met up with Jeremy at an East Vancouver location that I used to live nearby. I had forgotten how good the sweet East Indian coffees are in this place. Jeremy was the only customer in the place at the time I arrived, but as we talked about the album that Jeremy’s band Like A Martyr has just released, As Long As You Don’t Get Caught, the place was full of customers in no time.
Here is how the interview went in a question and answer format:
Jade: How did the song “Calloused Hand By Calloused Hand” come about?
Jeremy: This song was written with one of our old drummers in a jam space called Alley Cat Music on Clark Street. Ben (Henthorne, lead guitar) came in with the opening riff idea and that was it. We knew it was going to be solid pretty quickly and within 20 minutes the music was done. We built it off that one riff. Strong melody, good chorus, and the insistent drum beat. Kind of a dark song but it has the juxtaposition of that uplifting chorus. That’s why I like it.
Jade: What about the song “Rock and Roll Made Me Do It”, who came up with the groove for that?
Jeremy: I actually wrote this. When I write a riff, I feel like I have a bit of leeway to go further with the arrangement because I do write most of the melodies and the lyrics. This song was pretty much fully done except for the backing vocals. Matt (Denny-Keys, bass) and Ben are absolute ace singers – technically better than me. They just know what the harmony is and how to vocally pull it out. We had all the lyrics and the riff and once that drum beat and the pickup with the vocal were added, it just cooked. And then the three part harmony and the chorus came, what a gearshift! Based on jamming this song, we really liked it.
Jade: In the last year, what personal goals has the band as a whole achieved?
Jeremy: Well, with being in a “DIY” band as it’s called now, just to be able to make a record is a herculean effort. It’s so much work on everyone’s part. As a person who drives the band in a large way from some clerical/administrative work (with the record label folks) to recording the vinyl, pressing it and getting it out there – this was our goal; to make a really good rock and roll record that people enjoy. And being able to talk about it with people such as yourself makes it a reality. We’ve also done a couple of mini tours up in the interior of BC. We definitely want to tour more. We were also in the CFOX Seeds competition with a goal to play live for the CFOX folks because our music isn’t really geared for FM or any radio play the way it is in Vancouver. We have a really big live feel to our music which can be lost in compressing the songs for radio play. We recorded As Long As You Don’t Get Caught live off the floor. Most bands can’t do that in this day and age of ultra pre and post production. Our engineer/mixer Marcel (Rambo at K&M Studios) went for a Glynn Johns/ACDC feel to it and I think it worked out really well. Four dudes in a room giving it all they’ve got.
Jade: Having discussed past goals over the last year that the band has achieved, what goals are the band setting now to work towards over the upcoming year?
Jeremy: One crucial thing that we do need right now is a good manager. We’re good at what we do, we have great support from our indie label (Fantasy Ranch Records) and other people who support us, but, we lack connections. An agent and/or manager would be a huge and welcome help to us in where we see ourselves going. We would love to get great reviews, tour more regularly and to be better known as the band we are here in the Vancouver scene as well as anywhere else. We want to play live for everyone. We just released this album but we have enough material now to do another record which is costly! (lots of laughter) Just to be playing to people who are enjoying the music.
Jade: As a band, what has been the BEST thing that has happened, and what has been the WORST thing that has happened?
Jeremy: Okay, two best things that have happened were The Georgia Straight review which said “we were resurrecting rock”. I was shocked and thought they were joking. I had to read it twice just to make sure they were serious. Very humbling and awesome. The writer had listened to our first album The North on vinyl and then came to see a show and based the review on that. And the second thing was the day the vinyl came in for As Long As You Don’t Get Caught. I was flying so high when they arrived! We were all so excited…..we rehearsed, got the vinyls and went to a bar in Gastown called The Diamond which is right across from our jam space. We had one of the happiest band times just saying to ourselves “wow look at what we did”. A lot of arguments, disagreements and strife that went into that album just dissipated with that shiny piece of vinyl.
And the worst thing would be our recent struggles with finding a drummer. We had a drummer named Dom Coletta who is a terrific drummer but we just didn’t gel. On the whole, our music is positive and fun and he wasn’t having fun. It needed to end and it wasn’t bitter at all. We thought we had finally found our drummer but then he got hired to tour with Hail The Villain for 7 months. So we tried to find a “band member” rather than a hired gun. But it just didn’t work out. And in the end we found Alex Glassford who came through a friend of mine and he seems to fit in well.
Jade: How does the band see the Corporate Music Industry as it is today?
Jeremy: Well, every one keeps talking about this “transition” period … isn’t that done yet? I do find it frustrating because there are still aspects of the old guard in the music industry that completely control access to the market now. We give away albums and give away free downloads to get people interested in our music, our sound, to come to a show, buy merch and drink some beers and tell their friends what that they had a great time. For us, we can’t apply for many of the Factor grants because our band doesn’t have a distribution deal. That to me is so ass backwards because in a way, distribution doesn’t mean anything anymore apart from a marketing presence in record stores. A good example of this is on CD Baby. We sold a copy of each one of our albums to a guy in Denmark. Does this not count as distribution? People around the globe can buy this record. That is distribution. In that realm, there can be too many contradictions and it is confusing.
Jade: How do you as a band feel that you have control over how your music reaches the fans?
Jeremy: As far as control, I think you have to let it go at this point in the game. If it reaches anyone that is a success. It doesn’t matter how it gets to a fan. The music is your leaping point for sales. This prompts fans to come and see you play, buy the vinyl, talk about your band to their friends…I don’t care how it gets there as long as it does.
Jade: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard the music before?
Jeremy: We play rock and roll with no sub-genres. No emo, screamo, grunge – nothing like that. Straight ahead dirty sweaty rock and roll. Our influences are ACDC, T-Rex, Thin Lizzy, The White Stripes….we listen to bands like My Morning Jacket, The Faces, CCR, The Kinks…..and it goes on. Mostly classic bands with some modern bands sprinkled in.
Jade: What is it about these bands that have inspired you to do the classic feel to the music?
Jeremy: We all love the classic, raw powerful rock music sound … we love every second of it. Also, in some small way our music is a reaction to what is out there that we don’t like. Like backing tracks behind the live show. We play honest rock and roll without any of that shit behind us. Our album has very few overdubs and no massive post production at all. I would like bands to just be honest about who they are, especially live. If you’re in the audience watching a band mimic playing their instruments and singing, are you going to know that? Maybe not.
Jade: Who are the primary songwriters in the band? Do you collectively write the songs?
Jeremy: The two people who write the riffs are myself and my cousin Ben. I write most of the melodies and the lyrics. Sometimes Ben comes in with a melody and we work off that. We also write melodies collectively on a vague idea and in 15 minutes we have a song that is killer. On one of the last tunes we wrote, Ben was taking a leak and Matt and I just start playing a riff and Ben walks back in and we have a solid song in 5 minutes. Matt has some great ideas that will be on the next record as well. If it’s a good idea, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.
Jade: How did you all come up with the band name Like A Martyr?
Jeremy: We struggled with this for a long time. We had some really shitty names. I really like Buck 65 and I’m a big fan…you might even call it a bit of a man crush. I’ve toned it down though. He is the best Canadian lyricist. He has a song on the Talkin’ Honky Blues LP called “463” and in the second verse he says “like a martyr / I drove myself harder and harder”. And I really fell for that name and passed it on to Ben who really liked it as well. I think in the end, the music affects how people respond to the name, so making that initial choice isn’t quite as dire as it feels right at the beginning.
Jade: What is your opinion of the Vancouver music scene?
Jeremy: If we were where we were five years ago now, it would be really tough because you have to play shows to get good. We were really awful when we first started out. Terrible. But over the last four to five years we’ve practiced endlessly, writing songs, etc., and I think now we’re pretty darn good. With a lot of the live venues shutting down, it isn’t too too bad for us because we have connections in certain clubs and venues. When the Bourbon becomes a country bar, Richards gets torn down for condos, it’s sad. It would be nice to see a real commitment to live music in the city, but at the same time, I haven’t seen these clubs’ balance sheets. They could be hemorrhaging money for all I know.
Jade: In reading over a bio sent to me on your band, there was a reference to a “Gallagher-esque relationship” (between Ben and Jeremy) which intrigued me. What does this mean?
Jeremy: It refers to the tumultuous nature of our relationship. Neither of us has a brother, we’re 5 months apart in age and we are maternal cousins. We’re like brothers; very tight and very close. With that level of comfort comes a level of animosity and of not being afraid to say “shut the fuck up” or “fuck off”. A lot of people around us get very uncomfortable when this happens. We also have extremely stubborn attitudes about how the music should sound. We’re not shy about vocalizing it to each other. It’s really intense and it can become dangerously unbalanced. We get through it and the music is better for it. It adds to the tension to the music.
Jade: That definitely comes through in the recording and adds an element to the music, a layer that is emotionally hard to get across to the listener.
Jade: How did you like the whole recording process at Factory Studios with Marcel Rambo?
Jeremy: Marcel Rambo engineered and mixed it. He was outstanding, I really enjoyed working with him. You always knew where you stood with him at all times. He was calm, meticulous, patient, detailed, organized … and honestly he fed into my OCD need for detail-oriented work. He was very technically sound. I would work with him again in a heartbeat. The live room is awesome. We were only in there for 5 days, because of cost, but I could have spent 2 months in there…..drinking, writing, drinking, writing…. JJ Golden mastered the record on the recommendation of some of our friends. But initially he compressed it. And we panicked. I finally got him on the phone and told him that we wanted that live sound for vinyl and he understood what we meant and got it on the third try. So it was all a good experience and we learned a lot throughout the process.
At this point, Jeremy and I talked about a few other things, but I want to move on to the show review.
On Friday October 1, my friend Denis and I went to The Media Club to check out Like A Martyr live. I have to say I was excited about hearing the music live in person.
As we arrived in the club, it was half full and The Best Revenge had just started. A 3 piece band that was definitely loud and passionate about their music. Anarchist music was how the frontman described it. They played for about 40 minutes, and then a duo by the name of War Child took the stage to a fairly full club. After one song, the guitarist wanted some technical help. After a few minutes, they went right back into it. The drummer was the rhythm while the guitarist was flavoring the drums. They played tight, well rehearsed songs, and at the end, the guitarist went into the drum kit softly like Kurt Cobain did many years ago in that famous Bleach photograph.
This leads up to Like A Martyr. They took the stage and started with “As Long As You Don’t Get Caught”. I wanted to immediately put my camera down and start dancing. However, I overcame that urge and started taking pictures. Matt on bass was really working every single note with some stellar riffs that weren’t necessarily on the record. From the get-go, I could tell that this band practices a lot and are very tight. New drummer Alex Glassford is a gifted drummer who was playing his first show with this band. He made very minor mistakes that I’m sure no one heard but me. He really added that missing element that Jeremy talked about in our interview. Through the course of the hour plus set, they played every song from their album As Long As You Don’t Get Caught, did a killer version of Bob Seger’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” and just had fun giving it 100% sweaty rock and roll. The entire time the band was onstage they had high energy and were in total control musically. A few things that stood out for this writer is “Let’s Ride” which was performed straight up rock and roll played at high volume and was as fast as bottled moonshine takes to hit your brain. The ballad “7th and Main” was truly awesome and a slow break in the show which just killed the audience. The last song they did was this writer’s favorite song “Worker 684” which was played right on the money – tight and fast with Jeremy’s red smoking hot vocals that by now were raw, emotional and manic. Jeremy and Matt’s guitar and bass work flowed really well with what Ben and Alex were doing. I saw the birth of a new phase in the band Like A Martyr, and I know it won’t be the last. The sweat flew, girls were dancing and guys were drinking. I finally put the camera down at some point and just let the music take over. A truly awesome show that left me wanting more.
You can find the band at their MYSPACE page which gives you links and information on the band.