Before their show with Every Time I Die at London’s Mean Fiddler, I catch a few words with Rody Walker, vocalist of Protest The Hero. A new addition to Vagrant Records' roster, this astoundingly young Canadian band is ready to blow away all misconceptions about the youth of today being uninventive and bring some cohesive storytelling music to the scene.
Can you tell us a little about the concept of your album, Kezia?
Well, when anyone asks this question we give either a simplified answer or we give a more in depth answer that’s very literal. The simplified, more metaphorical version is that it deals with the gradual dissolution of God, State and Self. Something that’s inevitable within everybody. Everybody feels that at some point in their life. The more literal explanation is that it’s a scenario in which the main character, which is Kezia, is being shot to death. It’s taken from three different perspectives; one being the prison priest, one’s the prison guard, one’s Kezia herself and then the final song ties it all up as it’s essentially a metaphor for our history as a collective unit.
Why a concept album?
Errr… A lot of drugs, a lot of dungeons and dragons.. Nah I’m just kidding. We were just kinda sick of those albums that come out and it’s just a bunch of random songs randomly thrown together. You know, nothing that ties them together so we really wanted to have one cohesive piece of music that could be listened to as one piece of music or as ten individual pieces of music.
Did it take a long time to write with the added constraint of a concept to be followed?
Yeah but not so much because of the concept. The concept didn’t make it more difficult. Well, it made the music somewhat more difficult to write ‘cos the lyrics were all there. We just had to make the music coincide with the feeling that the lyrics were trying to get across, so that was a little more time consuming, but I think the fact that we were in high school while we were doing it made it take considerably longer. So… everyone should quit school to make crappy albums!
You clearly have loads of musical influences. Which acts do you look up to most?
Um… I listen to a lot of stuff. Damien Rice’s ‘O’ – that record changed my life. Dillinger Escape Plan, Between The Buried And Me, The Red Chord… There’s bands that have taught us a lot that we don’t necessarily love the music they make. They’ve taught us a lot by being on the road with them. Such as Silverstein – none of us are big Silverstein fans but we respect their choices as individuals and as a band. They stay out of the politics and melodramas that are the music industry.
Any favourite new bands around at the moment?
I like Exit Ten. They’re very good, they’re a band from the UK. I also like Sikth. They’re not exactly a new band but they are starting to make noticeable waves in the water at this point. You don’t really hear that much of them in North America but I think that band will do really well. Other than that I can’t really think of anything overly new that I listen to. I like Mariah Carey…
How important do you think it is to stamp your own identity on the music industry?
I think it’s moderately important. Regurgitating the same old five chord metal or punk, there’s no way to get noticed. So if you really want to be regarded or even be looked at, you definitely have to be doing something innovative that’s a mixture of different things. I think for the sake of artistic integrity it’s very important to innovate, to try and constantly push yourself to your limits and improve on your craft.
Are you always thinking of new ideas of how to make new sounds?
Yeah. We constantly go back on stuff. It’s about constant improvement, constantly pushing yourself. I don’t ever want to sound the same on an album. When I listen to myself a year later, I’d like to think that I can sing a lot better a year down the road.
You’re a pretty young band. What age did you start touring at?
We started touring at like 17. It wasn’t like serious full-time touring but it was the first taste.
Were you still at school then?
Did you find it hard fitting everything in?
Not really. Well it might have been hard for the other guys. I never did my homework.
Where’s your favourite place to tour and why?
So far, the UK. Canada’s a big place to drive across with pretentious kids. No, they’re nice kids. I won’t trash them. The United States is a little more interesting but at the end of the day it’s the same shit, different pile. I just really like the UK. I like the environment, I like the attitude, I like that the people who’re coming to the shows have a lot more respect for the musicianship and music in general as opposed to in North America where people come out to the shows and stand with their arms crossed. “Do my friends like this? Should I be liking this?” They have no idea. They can’t make up their own fucking minds what music is good. I love it here. I like that it rains all the time.
When Protest The Hero take to the stage, it’s a full on assault of riffs and beats. Rody’s voice is powerful and penetrative but it’s a shame that they play down the quieter moments of their album. Instead, the focus is very much on the heavy aspect of things. Despite this, the intricacies and musicianship of Protest The Hero are evident in bucketloads and they certainly hold their own next to the always exciting Every Time I Die.
Protest The Hero's album 'Kezia' is out now on Vagrant Records.
Interview by Sarah Maynard