The new Northlane record, Mesmer, came as quite the surprise! We had the chance to do an interview with guitarist and founding member Josh Smith. He speaks about the record’s conception, the plan for the surprise release, and their efforts to keep everything under wraps! Make sure to read our review over here.
It Djents: Hey Josh! First off, tell me about the concept of Mesmer.
Josh Smith: Mesmer is a record that started off with us writing about the sort of topics we would normally cover: Existential topics, environmentalism and corruption to name a few. The writing process was quite drawn out and, over this period of time, a few things happened to us which were such intense experiences that we felt compelled to write about them. In hindsight, after writing the record, we could see a pattern; there was a recurring theme of loss woven through every song. Whether it was about the loss of our touch with nature, a loved one or a relationship, it carried between the songs.
ID: How did the people react?
JS: We were surprised at how overwhelmingly positive the feedback on the record has been. Usually, we are a very polarizing band – highly controversial between music fans and often the subject of criticism. This time more than ever, the majority of listeners have been on board with what we’ve done on Mesmer, both old fans and new. This record seems to have brought these two groups of fans together, which is something I never anticipated happening.
ID: Did you have doubts that it could go wrong?
JS: I think doubting yourself is completely natural and healthy as a musician and artist. What really matters is backing and believing in yourself enough to overcome these doubts. This pushes you to both become a better and more confident artist.
ID: Why did you not announce it? What was the basic idea behind this surprise release?
JS: We wanted for the record to feel like a gift to our fans, like something that they could just have straight away, as soon as we could offer it to them. With the nature of music consumption these days, that meant they could stream it instantly. If they wanted to support us further by buying the record, that was their choice.
ID: A lot of people are flagging you because you are moving in a direction that is not as metalcore as Discoveries was. What do you think about that?
JS: Discoveries came out 6 years ago. At the time, it wasn’t critically acclaimed at all. As time has gone by, we have developed as a band. Every time we write and release music, we push forward and develop our sound; we never want to release the same record twice. Our old work will always be there for our older fans to listen to and I don’t think there’s much point in getting upset about an artist not writing the same record twice.
ID: So, is Northlane going more and more in a progressive rock direction?
JS: You tell me!! In all seriousness, we don’t really make a conscious effort to go in any particular direction as far as genre umbrellas go. Every time we release a record, it’s just a snapshot of where we are at in that point in time. The mood of our head space dictates how the songs turn out.
ID: Your sound again changed a little. Why?
JS: We are always morphing and developing our sound as we artistically and musically grow and mature. This time around, we really wanted to bring back the big riffs but also incorporate more electronic soundscapes. We also had quite a focus on the vocal arrangement, lyric content and melodies on Mesmer; we paid far more attention to that aspect of our songs than ever before.
ID: What has influenced you most on this record?
JS: I think the biggest influences on this record for us were the events going on in our lives at the time of writing it; they had a huge bearing on the content and mood of the record. Musically, our idols really haven’t changed and they’re the same list of bands: Pink Floyd, Deftones, Incubus, and Karnivool.
ID: How long did you work on it and when?
JS: We began writing Mesmer in about mid 2015. We took off 6 months total in 2016 just to write the record in 3 month blocks. In the middle of our 2016 European festival tour, we spent a week at Ghost City Recordings in Bavaria. While we were at Ghost City, we really honed in on the direction we wanted to take Mesmer and collated all the material we had into something more cohesive. It was like a chance to sharpen our tools before we went into the second half of writing it.
ID: Was it hard to hide your plans for the album?
JS: It was hard; we weren’t able to talk about it, and we had to keep the entire recording process under wraps. The hard part really began when the record was done though. We had to prevent a leak, otherwise the whole release plan would have come apart. This was easier said than done because so many people have to know about an upcoming record, from studio staff where it was recorded all the way to people working in music stores who’ll be selling the album. All these people need to be briefed. Some even signed non-disclosure agreements and we needed to trust their word that they wouldn’t leak our plans.
ID: You just posted a new band picture, all in white. Do you want to build up a new image?
JS: Just like our music, our fashion is always evolving. For example, what we wear on stage has also been evolving over the last year. We’ve been experimenting with different looks, which you’ll see in the music video for “Citizen”.
ID: What is your musical guilty pleasure?
JS: I don’t feel guilty about it, but my band hates it when I throw on Van Halen.
ID: And now? What are your future plans? Is there anything you’d like to add?
JS: We’ll be touring quite extensively for the rest of the year. Next in Germany, we’ll be playing With Full Force among many headline side-shows this summer. Thank you to everyone who checked out the new record, we can’t wait to see you at a show!
We hope you enjoyed the chance to read about some of the inner workings and creation of Mesmer. You can check out Northlane on Facebook and buy or stream Mesmer here. You can check out the group’s upcoming tour dates here.