How would you describe your music and the genres that influence you?
We take a pretty wide range of influences between us and sit somewhere between post-hardcore punk, math and noise rock, and alt hip-hop. The reference points we have going on is stuff like clipping., Death Grips, Deftones, And So I Watch You From Afar, Nine Inch Nails, Glassjaw, Tool, Show Me The Body, Daughters...
We’re pretty shameless about smashing some of these genres together. The idea of contrasts runs all the way through the band from the core ideas of mixing noisy experimental synths with a live-instrument rhythm section and balancing tricky time signatures with moshpit energy.
We’ve not fully settled on a strict label for ourselves, so we’re not too fussed. People openly admit to struggling to describe our music which we take as a compliment, glad to be challenging in at least one way!
Tell us about the new track Pressure
Pressure is a hymn for imposter syndrome, the narrative of a moment of anxiety - facing an opportunity - and the self-inflicted challenge of our own self-doubt.
For us on a stage and in that moment, the lyrics are about ourselves and our own response to this challenge but the same Pressure we’re talking about is universal and the "Holy Trinity" can be many things to anyone - relationships with family and friends, a mundane daily routine, just the mechanisms that people use to cope.
It started life as a handful of big stoner rock bass riffs before Danny took it in a new direction with the lyrical flow. With the context changed, the original headbanger bassline got reworked to something more like a sequencer; Danny went with a minimalist scotch-snap heavy rap and brought a lot of electronic references from stuff like Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Background World’ and Death Grips’ ‘Flies’. Then we developed all of this into a post-hardcore tension and release with the big outro section.
Pressure was recorded as part of Small Pond's Emerging Project, can you tell us a bit more about that?
The Emerging Project is an opportunity that Small Pond put together with funding from Arts Council England. It aims to give eight talented young acts from Brighton and the South of England the opportunity to rehearse, record, and release their music via the label’s professional studio, label and PR set-up, and it’s great to see the arts getting some investment!
Small Pond and its place in the Brighton music scene has been something we're huge fans of, and the label has been supportive of a lot of our favourite bands. The last emerging project brought the likes of El Moono and Clt Drp to the table, whilst Delta Sleep and Orchards have played their events, like Bad Pond festival - so it was an absolute honour to be chosen among the 7 other acts for the 2021 compilation, especially as we’re outside of their city.
As Masquerader, it was our first time in a professional recording studio, we spent Easter weekend down in Brighton recording and had a great mid-lockdown lock-in at Small Pond. We were lucky enough to have Sam Coveney working with us as an engineer on the track; Sam is such a lovely guy, was incredibly welcoming and although we were initially worried about having someone else involved in the process, he was super accommodating with our weird requests and pushed us in all the right ways.
For sure check out everyone on the record, we were pretty taken aback with how varied the acts are - filthy grunge rock riffs, delicate atmospheres, soulful songwriting, and blistering punk - we're in pretty good company.
What is your songwriting process? At what stage are the lyrics written?
Our general process starts with an initial couple of bass or synth parts which we bring to a practice, share and then jam out to see how it works live and together.
Normally after jamming it out, those original ideas, like with Pressure, have been pointed in a different direction in terms of genre or structure. Writing is a really collaborative process for us, we throw out suggestions and terrible mimes at each other until we have some moment where it all starts fitting together.
For lyrics, quite often Danny has ideas from the first jam and then they're worked on and expanded over the course of the writing. He usually has a while with the rate we go! So there’s a lot of time for reflection and digging into the deeper themes, often finding new meaning as the piece grows with us.
Pressure was originally written a few years ago - it's actually one of the first songs we wrote together - and like a lot of our songs, over the time we've been tweaking parts as we've grown together as a band.
Danny, live performances must take their toll on your voice, how do you keep it healthy?!
Warming up gradually through a gig-day helps a lot. Humming through octaves and lip rolls in the morning, energetic chats and singing along in the car on the way to the venue, etc etc. Warm ups are always gonna feel daft so making it a constant casual routine gets you used to that. For me it’s also no chocolate and no alcohol on gig days, and I try to think about when I'm gonna be eating.
On-stage Chris and Tim are kind enough to leave a lot of the set-list order to me. We’re always on the move, so I need to gauge my energy levels through a show and know when to take a breather. Chris helps a bunch by doing the talking between songs to give me a break!
I’ve discovered vocals are forever a learning curve though, and I’ve been forced to learn a lot for this band as we’ve developed. There’s a lot of styles across songs, whether it’s melodic or screaming or rap, and I used to not care much about HOW I was gonna do something, I just aimed my best at what I WANTED to do and sounded bad until I got used to it. If there was ever a real secret, it would be: don’t get frustrated, understand you’ll get there over time, and don’t hurt yourself.
Your live performances are intense and energetic, how do you approach recording to capture that same energy?
To be honest this was actually a challenge for us. Covid restrictions limited the amount of people in one room while recording so we had to tag in and out. We took it into account by tracking Tim’s drums with Chris playing in the room and by taking a lot of time to blend the synths so they fit into the mix instead of sticking out in the middle of it all.
The energy we have live is our genuine expression of the catharsis and enjoyment we get out of playing so it’s pretty natural now for that to come out while playing. In a way, it’s nice that live music can have a different feel and rawness compared to a recorded take, a different experience rather than one that’s worse or better.
On the recording we were able to hit a lot of our alt hip-hop influences with things like ad-libs and dynamic effects, which give their own sense of life to the track and are much harder to do live.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
Tim - Caspian, make a glorious wall of noise together. Although, almost all of mine, Danny and Chris’s influences come together for ArcTanGent fest so just get us there so we can collab with the whole bill.
Chris - Britney Spears, completely unironically. Also, huge fan of brass sections showing up in metal and hip-hop so that too.
Danny - One of my favourite bands, Show Me The Body. They’ve built up a community doing things like collaborative albums and creative spaces and I'd love to do something similar. Though failing that, the entirety of Brockhampton.
Name 3 local acts we should check out
Locally we’ve been really keen on Pej, Dr Satso, and Weaponry. None of these bands sound like each other but they stand out as a group because of the effort they’ve put in to carve something unique. They’re also all out to make Reading welcoming as a scene, they’re working together with other bands and genuinely putting in the work to get good things going.
We’ve also seen a lot of love from outside of Reading though, and we’d be remiss to not mention our Emerging-Mates Dirty, who have been tight through the project, and all the bands from Bristol like ToTouchTheFaceOfGod, Vicarage, and The Byker Grove Fan Club, who have welcomed us into their much busier scene with open arms.
Being part of an alternative music scene in Reading, are there any specific promoters or gig nights that people should keep an eye on?
We ran our own DIY show back in October under Nothing Will Change Events and we were lucky enough that it was a huge success for us so we're going to be carrying that on next year.
We want to focus on making it a safe and welcoming space so that we can start to foster a community for music here in Reading. We’re trying to keep our ear to the floor and hopefully it’ll become a shared platform for alternative bands like us, and unlike us, to step onto.
As a band we've found it tricky to fit into line-ups as we sit in between common genre scenes - too weird for a lot of metal nights and too heavy for more arty, avant garde nights. But we know we're not alone in this so we're wanting to give a space in Reading for other acts that fall between those cracks. If that sounds like you, hit us up!
What’s next for Masquerader?
We’re hoping to join Pressure with some more tracks on an EP next year, which we're really hyped for. Otherwise, we’re looking to keep the momentum going from the Emerging Project, trying to break into new scenes around the UK and get into new sets of ears... Already booking gigs for the year ahead!
New single 'Pressure' is out now!