There is a band which are moving and grooving just below the radar in the UK, constantly plying their trade and sharing their style of alternative rock music. This could apply to a great many functioning music-driven machines today, but these guys are proudly promoting their third studio album Let’s See It All and have already amassed some impressive and important live shows. Thanks to support slots with Blaze Bayley (Wolfsbane and former lead vocalist for two studio albums with the mighty metal legends Iron Maiden) and Michael Schenker amongst many others, Exit State wear a hard-working attitude on their sleeves and have a down to earth approach to the business.
Their debut album Death of a Rockstar was unleashed in 2010 to be followed up in 2011 by album number two which went by the title of Black Veins. These compounded their experience and gave them the confidence to push on much further, as they knocked out energetic hook-laden and emotive modern rock music with a superior aplomb. The only real mystery after digesting their latest studio offering is why they are not more in the limelight? Time with the front-man Roy Bright would tell you a lot about the essence of the band and their outlook. He speaks from the head and the heart, keeps things grounded and has a good grasp of real life. Bright’s devotion to Exit State is more than obvious as he juggles his day job while answering questions for this interview.
“We had done an E.P. to test the waters because we were lucky enough to be signed to King Prawn Records to develop the album. We’d not had to go out and do what a lot of bands do and get your first album out together and go pitching your wares, so we were very lucky in terms that we signed a record deal to produce the album.” This was the lead vocalist and guitarist of Exit State’s response when asked about their debut album. Taking Bright through the chronological order of the bands releases would hopefully give an insight in to the growth of the band. “It was a really fresh organic experience mainly because we felt so comfortable. We’d spent quite a bit of time over there (in the recording studio) and we knew the guys personally. In truth, I think a lot of the songs we’d been playing for a number of years so it all went down relatively simple.”
This is a common and understandable reaction when looking back over the recording process of their Death of a Rockstar album, being an unknown quantity and just working hard to get noticed until the band has sufficient resources to record their selected catalog of songs. This collection of musical material could date back a long way due to the learning process and the duration it takes to reach the pinnacle of entering a studio. Bright then continues the flow of memories as he shines a light on the contrast of atmosphere when tackling their second studio opus.
“It was certainly a different experience to writing and recording our second album which was so much pressure. Due to us having a number one video on the request show on Kerrang!, the label and the management at the time said ‘you’re going to have follow this up.’ You’re going to need to get something out there to really do something about it!” Barely taking a breath as his recollections thundered to the forefront of his mind, Bright continues, “We had to come off tour; go in to a studio to silly o’clock in the morning most nights and write and pre-produce this record in six weeks ready to get to record it over the Christmas.” He then summarises with his evident north of England accent. “For all of the enjoyment we had writing and recording the first album, the sheen was taken off quite dramatically on the second album because of the pressure really. It was one of those where you think ‘it’s not going to be like this all the time is it?”
Despite the leisurely and comfortable state the band found themselves in with their debut album, there was no additional material leftover to aid the recording process of their sophomore album Black Veins. This learning curve and total u-turn in approach over the time they spent with these two albums only aided them in their understanding of how their chemistry worked best. Interestingly, as the band were running along by the seat of their pants at this time, translating the studio recordings to the live arena proved another challenge. Here is their single from Black Veins called Circles.
Bright lets out a hearty laugh as he recalls how Circles was one of the hardest songs to translate live at that time. “Because of the effect, the slicer effect that’s on it, I had to get a lot faster with my feet than I was normally.” His soft chuckle then follows echoing what he was initially thinking again regarding the hectic pace that was adopted for the second album sessions.
Bright explains the lessons that were learned during this torrid time. “We knew that we had to schedule much more time because again with Let’s See It All, that was completely written, all material was fresh. There was no spill-over from previous records, it was written to order so to speak.”
When you hear tracks like the first single Pull the Thread from this album, the impression that is drawn is how cohesive and tight they are as a unit and how decisive the delivery is. The second single arrived in the form of Crystalline which became associated with raising awareness and money for a children’s charity called cHARTUK, more details of which can be found by visiting www.chartuk.org. Check this out as Exit State share their single with the assistance of an introduction by Guns N’ Roses guitarist Bumblefoot, and Wayne Findlay who plays rhythm guitar, keys and provides backing vocals in the Michael Schenker Group.
When asked about his album highlights now that Let’s See It All has been available for several months, Bright replies “Crystalline is one of my favorite ones.” He then elaborates on the subject matter and how they became the official patrons for the charity. “The other one is Die Zombie because I love zombies, it’s one of those where it’s neat enough, it’s heavy enough and it just does it for me. I can listen to it quite a few times and that probably gets creepy when it’s your own music, but…” Bright lets out another relaxed laugh as he realises how that last sentence might sound to the unassuming ear.
When it comes down to his own personal preferences with music, he reveals “I‘ve always been heavily in to melody. I mean I do like very, very aggressive music, it’s just that my vocal has never been lent to that particular style.” Bright then name-checks some bands. “Bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and bands like Guns N’ Roses and Megadeth.” At this point of the conversation it turns to why Exit State possibly might be considered an enigma. “I think that’s probably why people find Exit State a bit of an enigma in the industry at this time because we are a relatively heavy band with the background, and then this vocal gets dropped on and it’s got a, dare I say, pop melodic connotation to it.”
Since 2008 when the band really settled in to their groove and found a balance to their craft, they have thrown their energies in to the band and learned an awful lot. Joining Bright in the line-up of Exit State and collaborating on the ongoing journey are “Texas” Peat Hicks on drums, percussion and backing vocals, bassist and backing vocalist Phil Ireland along with Matt Harris laying down lead guitars.
To reiterate the conclusions from these lessons learned, Bright offers “Yes it’s great to be working under pressure and things like that, but I think sometimes something has to give. If you’re constantly under pressure all the time, you can’t be totally focussed. You’re going to miss things, you’re not going to develop something to its maximum potential and have the song or the record itself as good as it could be. I think there’s a happy medium of course, but I think for us; just organised, chilled out, planned and just get things done by the numbers in the right time frame.”
To build on something you have to create solid foundations, and in order to achieve this you have to reach an understanding of your limitations, and who you are. Exit State has reached a zenith within their understanding of what and who they are as a combined unit. In this respect, you could say their adventures have only just begun as they lay down a solid foundation on which to build. The future is bright in more ways than one.