Chris Brooks of Like A Storm (INTERVIEW)

For a young band such as Like A Storm, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a rock & roll fairy godfather. In their case, that would be guitar player Mark Tremonti, who has taken the New Zealand native brothers – Chris, Matt & Kent Brooks – on the road with all three of his bands: Creed, Alter Bridge and Tremonti. “They are very hard-working dudes, a great band and great people. It’s good to be on the road with them,” Tremonti told me recently. “When we did the last Tremonti tour, they were with us as well. We all shared a bus and had a great time.”

Moving to Vancouver to try and get their band some attention, Like A Storm started winning fans very quickly; not to mention perking up the ears of some record companies as well. Their debut, The End of The Beginning, came out in 2009 and they went out on tour with Creed, which eventually led to outings with Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Slash, and most recently with Three Days Grace; while also landing on big name festival rosters such as Rock On The Range and Rocklahoma. “We’re making the music we want to make,” singer Chris Brooks said recently. “There are no rules when we’re writing except the three of us have to love whatever we’re doing. We push it creatively. We love to see how far we can take things. That’s the sound of Like A Storm.”

With the release earlier this year of Awaken The Fire, the band has gained more adulation and even more fans with such high-powered songs as “Love The Way You Hate Me,” “Wish You Hell” and new single, “Become The Enemy.” Seven of the songs on the current record are actually from the 2012 EP, Chaos Theory. When Century Media came calling, they took those songs, added in four new tracks, and Awaken The Fire was born.

Last week, as their tour with Three Days Grace was drawing to a close, Glide talked with singer Chris Brooks about their music. “Musically, we want to inspire and empower people,” Brooks explained upon the album’s release. “We write songs about the things we feel strongly about, things that really matter to us. It’s amazing that we’ve made an impact. We came from the other side of the world and we’re living our dream. If that inspires someone, that’s incredible.”

USA - Music - Like A Storm performs at Nationwide Arena in Colum

How has the tour been with Three Days Grace?

Oh it’s incredible. It’s gone amazing. I mean, we’ve been friends with the Three Days Grace guys since Vancouver, you know, when they were making a record up there. We’ve always known them and loved the band and it’s been incredible to tour with them and the crowds have just been insane. Really good, really loud and a ton of fun.

Are you behaving yourself with those guys? I hear they can get kind of wild.

I don’t know that anybody’s behaving themselves (laughs). That wasn’t part of the deal.

How does this tour differ from other ones, cause you’ve been on tour with some pretty big guys, as well as on your own?

This tour is great because we’ve had two singles and now our third one coming out on radio here so it’s really cool hitting the stage and having some people in the crowd waiting to hear us. You know, when we first started we were touring with these massive bands and no one knew who we were. So when you went onstage, you didn’t know if they were going to clap or throw bottles at you. So yeah, it’s awesome to play for a crowd that’s into it.

USA - Music - Like A Storm performs in Columbus, OH

What’s been the biggest show you’ve played so far?

I’m not sure. We’ve played festivals that were big but I remember our first ever show in the US was to 15,000 people and that was opening for Creed so that was like straight into the fire. So when you start it like that, it’s totally either sink or swim.

I saw you guys earlier this year when you opened for Slash in New Orleans and I talked to other people there who discovered you at that Slash show and became instant fans.

Oh cool. You know, that was awesome. Opening for Slash was huge. He’s one of the most iconic guys in the rock genre. Obviously, we grew up listening to him. We knew Myles [Kennedy] cause we’ve toured with Alter Bridge a lot, but the first day we joined the tour we introduced ourselves to Slash. Well, he came over to us and he was like, “I know who you guys are. You sound awesome.” I literally never thought I would hear those words coming out of his mouth (laughs). It was a total dream moment.

Those are really a great bunch of guys to be on a tour with.

Absolutely. When we first moved to Vancouver when we moved out of New Zealand just to kind of play around the bars there and try and get into the States that way, we opened for Todd [Kerns] with a solo project up there and this was maybe like six years ago. So it was cool to hang out with him again on tour with Slash. It was awesome.

I want to ask if you guys are horror movie fans because your videos have skulls and zombies and snakes and all kinds of creepy stuff going on in them?

(laughs) I think we just found that kind of genre interesting. We enjoy the videos, creating the vibe that we’re going with the music. It’s cool to have a lot of those things – snakes, spiders, all those kinds of things, zombies. They just set such a cool vibe and seem to really go with the music well.

But you guys are such nice, sweet boys.

It’s those kinds of things that allow us to be so sweet and nice the rest of the time (laughs).

How do you like making the videos? Is it fun or is it more like a necessary evil?

It’s interesting making a video. We really enjoy being able to, I guess, tell the story of the song visually. That’s really fun to try to come up with concepts and come up with ideas. We are really hands on with coming up with the ideas behind the videos and that kind of thing. We really enjoy that part of it and it’s cool to give people who might not get to see you live, give them a chance to sort of watch the song and get a vibe. But shooting music videos is obviously pretty strange because you’re basically playing but you’re not playing anything, you know. So you’re standing around pretending to play or you’re playing but none of your gear is on. It’s kind of like this weird blur between a show and I guess a movie. It’s different, it’s fun but I love playing shows much more than I love filming music videos, of course. You’ve got the crowd there and you’re actually doing something.

like a storm cd

You’ve only been together like eight years?

Yeah, I mean, the three of us are brothers, so yeah, eight years would be about it. We kind of started jamming together right before then but not really in an organized way. Then when we really started doing that, it just felt real natural, obviously, and it was so much fun that we decided we wanted to move up to North America and really have a go at it.

For such a young band, you’ve done some things that bands who are a lot older haven’t done yet or took them a while to do, like a live album and a DVD and acoustic shows. Why do that early on instead of waiting till you had a bigger catalog?

Well, it might be the only live album we ever make (laughs). I hope we’ll get to make another one and we’ll make another acoustic album with this record. For us, we love playing music and so it’s really important for us to continue doing that even in our down time. We were touring and the front-of-house guy was recording the shows and so we were like, why not make a live record. I mean, for us, it’s cool. We always loved those bands that had such a wide range, like a big catalog, of things that you could get your teeth into as a fan. So I don’t know, we decided to do it as we go through rather than just sort of waiting like forty years and then releasing one live greatest hits and that’s it.

Why did you decide to take some of your older songs, update them and make them the bulk of a new album instead of having all newer songs?

You know, we weren’t with any labels at that time and we’d really had enough of having phone calls with potential labels, potential managers, all that kind of thing, only to find the contract wasn’t representing six months of conversation. And it was kind of reaching a point where it wasn’t inspiring at all. But we knew that we had a fan base that would come to the show. They hadn’t heard any new music from us in two or three years. We had these new songs and so we really just made it for them and us so we could tour and continue to create.

Then “Love The Way You Hate Me” got picked up by a station for their nightly cage match and it went on to win for, I think, a month and a half, or something like that, and it set the record for the longest undefeated song. They ended up retiring it undefeated. So then other stations started playing it and then labels came to us again, only this time it was very much more they liked what we were doing. They didn’t want to change us, they didn’t want to pair us up with songwriters, so we ended up signing with Century Media, or Another Century, and when we started with them, they said, “You know, obviously your fans have Chaos Theory Part 1, but it’d be great if we could make it into a full-length album and people who haven’t heard of you guys can have one CD with ten or eleven songs on there.” So that’s why we ended up doing that. We took a couple of weeks off in our tour schedule and we rented a lake house in Michigan and the three of us – myself and my two brothers – and set up a studio there and just recorded four more songs there.

You and Matt both do lead vocals so is it whoever is singing lead indicative of the person who wrote it or means the most to? Or is it just because that voice fits it better?

It depends. We all have a huge part in writing and producing all of the music we do. In our writing process, someone may have an initial idea or two of us may work on an idea. But it comes to the three of us and we all go through it. So we only end up with music on the record that all three of us really, really love. So from that point of view, we all feel a really strong connection to every one of those songs but it’s like while we were writing it, while we’re starting to demo the song, it kind of becomes apparent who’s voice would tell the story the best, who’s voice would suit the song the best. And it’s actually a lot easier than I think people always assume. Like, how do you know? But it’s really obvious to us. We know each other incredibly well and we’re always creating music together so it becomes really apparent.

Which song would you say was most based on a real situation?

Oh obviously “Gangsta’s Paradise.” I mean, come on. You just need to take one look at us to see how bad ass we are (laughs).

You and Coolio have a lot in common

(laughs) Exactly, we grew up on the tough streets, just other sides of the world. I don’t know, all of the songs, every single one we write, has a lot of meaning, just different experiences we’ve had. On the first record we wrote “Galaxy,” which was really important to us cause it was our grandmother who passed away and we weren’t able to make the funeral so we made that song as sort of our offering because she had always been, out of our entire family, our biggest supporter of us having this crazy dream. She would be front row at every show we did, even when she was eighty years old. So we had that. On the second record, Awaken The Fire, “Never Surrender,” I think message-wise, is very important to us because that was the song that that was the moment that we decided just to forget about everything else that was going on, forget about these conversations with the industry, and really just do our own thing and not try to be somebody we weren’t, not try and play music that we didn’t like just because we thought it would be successful.

I think “Ordinary” touches people of all ages. Everybody can relate to that song.

That song was one of the last ones we recorded for the album. It’s basically about being in that holding pen, just going through the daily motions, knowing there is something more out there, something more that you want to do, and feeling that you can’t do it, and trying to find a way to do it. With that one, we started the idea in Vancouver while we were having those conversations, with people saying, “Well, I want to make an album with you in a month” and then two months’ time would roll around and it’d be, “Let’s do it next month.” So we were sitting there in a city that wasn’t our home, totally on the other side of the world from all our family and friends, almost with this glimpse of realizing this dream but still stuck in that grey reality of day-to-day.

Then we revisited the song when we made Awaken The Fire, when we had these four new songs, and it was just crazy how much that message still meant to us. It was incredible to go back to that song knowing that we had moved through a lot of that too, knowing that we were now realizing that dream we had. It was a really cool moment for us and that’s kind of why we kept that just acoustic. We had played around with doing the song as a full band and everything like that but just acoustic it had so much power and emotion to it. It was funny because we started playing that song on tour and we started playing it acoustic, just Matt and I, and you know at a rock concert people often aren’t particularly patient in terms of wanting to listen to acoustic songs. They just want to be revved up. But I think after the second time we played that then the next show we’d go to, the fans would all be asking us to play that song and everything. So it was interesting to hear that it meant so much to other people, that that idea and that emotion resonated with them as well.

You mentioned the runaround with record companies. Did that ever disillusion you from pursuing your dream to be professional musicians?

We didn’t become disillusioned with the idea of making music. We didn’t become disillusioned with, ah now we’re touring all the time and it turns out we didn’t want to do that. It wasn’t anything like that. It just became really apparent to us that if we were going to get this chance to do what we wanted to do more than anything else in the world, we had to do it with the music we believed in. We couldn’t be one of those bands that just played music they didn’t like just because they hoped someone else would. We had dealings with different record companies before, we’d met with different people before, and they would try and tell us to sound like this band and go and write with this person and that kind of thing. We just reached a point where we realized there was no point doing it if we had to do it like that. It’s such a great gift to be able to make art for a living, especially music. It can have such a powerful impact on yourself and other people. It’s truly what we love doing more than anything else so we didn’t want to waste that opportunity or cheapen it.

Do you feel like you’ve always had control of your band? Have you ever felt it slipping away?

Yeah, definitely. We made our first record and then we toured with Creed and it was amazing. Then our record label at the time stopped getting tours for us and just wanted us to sit in Vancouver and write song after song and the first record never got released properly. That was a moment where we realized that other people could ultimately put the brakes on your career and it was something we were really, really, really uncomfortable with because, I mean, we really liked the songs, we always had such an amazing time playing live and we’ve always been lucky enough to have a great response from the crowds we’ve played to. So it was really frustrating to sit there not doing anything, not having any new experiences to write about. At that point you really are just trying to either regurgitate the same message song after song or write about something that means nothing to you. And we didn’t want to do any of those things. That’s why we got out of that and decided to continue in our own direction until people came along who believed in what we were doing as much as we did. And if that had never happened, we were really confident that we could make the best music this way and that we would just tour and tour and just play for our fans.

The defining moment for us was when “Love The Way You Hate Me” got on radio and I think it made it into the Top 40 on Active Rock before we were even signed or anything like that. So this EP we made on tour, the song we had recorded ourselves, no one else produced it, no one else engineered it, anything like that, and we never expected that would get on radio. We just expected that was something we did for ourselves and our fans. But the moment that that got on the radio and people started coming up to us and telling us how much that they loved it, that it sounded different, how much they loved that we didn’t sound like anybody else, that was a real defining moment for us because we really got even more faith in just following our vision.

When did you start writing songs?

I’ve been writing songs to some description for as long as I can remember. I can remember being a kid, five years old, and writing, not sitting down with a pen and paper, but having lyrics and melody that was about absolutely nothing at all. I can remember, maybe I was seven or eight, I went to a friend’s house and he had a recorder and one of the things that you could do was record what you were doing. It might have just been a stereo, I think. So I was like, oh, we’ve got to write a song, we’ve got to sing into the microphone in the stereo. That’s always been something that I look back on it now, it’s always been something I always wanted to do and loved doing.

What was the first song that you wrote that you played live?

Oh man, I don’t know. I had a band with a bunch of friends that kind of grew into this one. Kent joined it and then Matt eventually joined and it was called Fluid and that was in New Zealand. That was kind of one of those things where as soon as we got together we started playing songs. I think the first show we did we probably played five songs that I’d written and I don’t think any of them were particularly good (laughs). But it was always important for us to play our own music.

When did you decide to put the didgeridoo [Australian wind instrument] into your music?

I think when we moved to Vancouver in Canada and nobody knew who we were at all. It’s not like when you play in your hometown and your family and friends at least come out and support you. I mean, nobody knew who we were. So we kind of found playing the didgeridoo at the start of the set was the fastest way to get everybody to stop talking and just watch the stage. It’s such a unique sound, a hypnotic sound, a dark sound, and that’s what drew me to the instrument. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard. So then we kind of started incorporating it in that way and then on our first record we made that as an intro to the album when we played live. When we got to “Love The Way You Hate Me,” we kind of got about two-thirds through the song and we didn’t really know what to do next. We were like, well, we haven’t played didgeridoo much on this album so far. Let’s do a didgeridoo solo and see what the hell it sounds like. And we had no idea. We’d never heard didgeridoo in like hard rock metal together and had no idea what it would sound like. It could be the worst idea in the world but the great thing about producing your own album is that you get to try these things. You get to try every crazy idea you have. We did it and we heard it back and we were like, “Man, this sounds incredible. We might be the only people in the world to think it sounds great but we think it sounds great and we’re the ones calling the shots.” (laughs). So yeah, that was cool. We never expected anyone else to react to it the same way that we did but it’s been amazing that they have.

Was it easy to learn to play?

No, apparently not. I learned in like about three days but it was all I did for those three days. I mean, I literally went into my bedroom and was like, I’m not coming out till I can do this. So I guess that’s probably the reason why we have so many acoustic albums, live albums, everything like that, is we’re not very good at taking time off. When we put our minds to things, we spend every waking minute working on that until we achieve it. So yeah, I got it in three days and after that I’ve never forgotten how to do it. But I think it’s a really difficult instrument if you just pick it up once a day or an hour here and there because to train your body to circular breathe is unlike anything you would ever otherwise do. Essentially you are keeping the flow of air continuous, even as you’re breathing in.

Who was the first real rock star you ever met?

Man, I’d have to think about that. I mean, one of the first bands that we met when we moved to Canada was Seether. One of my good friends was friends with some of them and when they rolled into town, we got to go to the show and meet them. And that was incredible because in New Zealand you’re not used to meeting any bands because bands might come in for one show. They probably fly in, go to the hotel, go to the show, go back to the airport, fly out of there. Tommy Lee was one of the first dudes of that level that I met, a dude that obviously everybody in the world knows who he is and he’s just a super cool guy.

But we’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot. Obviously, Mark Tremonti, when we did that first Creed tour, he was one of the first dudes that we met. When we did that tour with them in Europe it was like nine buses and twelve trucks, something crazy like that, and we walk into catering and he’s just sitting there eating. What’s crazy about that is that we got to become really good friends with him and he has been such a huge supporter of and such a huge part of any success that we have had. He’s taken us out on countless Alter Bridge tours. We just toured Europe with Tremonti and we were on the bus with those dudes traveling around. It’s crazy when that happens, when you get to actually become friends with these dudes.

We don’t see a lot of press about Kent so what is the most important thing that he adds to Like A Storm?

Oh man, I don’t think you could just put it into one thing. He’s a huge, huge, huge part, not only musically. He came up with the idea behind “Love The Way You Hate Me,” which has been one of our biggest songs. That was a riff and a lyrical idea he came up with. So musically, he is a huge, huge part of everything we do. He plays a lot of different instruments. He plays bass in the band but he played guitar before that and he started learning drums as his first rock instrument, I guess. He’s big on that. He also designs all of our merchandise. He’s the one who comes up with all the concepts for t-shirts and that kind of thing. He’s definitely one of the big drivers in terms of pushing us forward on all these different avenues, all these different things we have going on.

So what is coming up for you guys for the rest of the year?

Well, we’re on this tour [with Three Days Grace] for another couple of shows and then we film a music video for “Become The Enemy.” That’s going to be incredible.

More zombies?

(laughs) I don’t know if we’ll have zombies in this one but it’s going to be very cool. We’re really, really excited about it. So we do that then we will spend a couple of days working on this acoustic EP and then we head out on tour with Otherwise for a month and then take a week’s break, I think. I hesitate cause you never really end up having a break cause there is always something we want to do. But then we do a headline run for a month, which will be incredible. That will see out the rest of the year for us and next year is already coming along.

 

 

Live photographs by Amy Harris

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3 Responses

  1. This interview is amazing! Great job!!! Chris and LAS are simply the best and you did an awesome job capturing them!

  2. Just “happened” upon them as they performed at white river amphitheater. Their distinct sound drew my daughter and myself in. Excellent artists, gracious with fans after the show. Excellent article.

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