Gallows are one of the most iconic punk bands to come out of the UK in recent memory. Though they may have gone through their fair share of line-up changes, one thing they’ve been unrelenting in is their dedication to pressing buttons and pushing boundaries. Streaming exclusively on Noisey (below), their fourth studio album, Desolation Sounds, is the start of an entirely new chapter for Gallows. It takes everything they’re known for - unhinged aggression, bleak landscapes, wild energy - and hikes it up to the extreme.
We spoke to founding member Laurent Barnard about the band’s history, future, and the making of the album that will, in his words, “leave you bruised, bloody and nursing a comedown”.
Noisey: So, Desolation Sounds is pretty damn furious. Some tracks are the heaviest you've ever made, but there are also tracks "Bonfire Season" which are far more rock-leaning than anything you've done before. How would you describe Gallows circa 2015 to someone who is discovering your material for the first time?
Laurent:If a stranger were to ask me what Gallows sound like now I’d probably describe the band as an acid fuelled S&M party in audio form. The music is raw and violent at times but psychedelic waves of beauty and colour burst out of the chaos. Essentially, the record will leave you bruised, bloody and nursing a comedown but you’re gonna love it and you will find yourself coming back for more.
Gallows are moving towards their tenth anniversary. In your eyes, how has the band changed over the course of those years?
I guess for a band that’s only released 4 albums we’ve changed far more over the years than career acts who knock out the same record over and over again. When we first started Gallows we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. I basically wrote a bunch of music that sounded like noisy rock’n’roll metal hardcore punk noise art punk punk with absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever and Frank would yelp over it in his extremely British style. Our sole purpose was to piss off other UK hardcore bands that all sounded exactly the fucking same. Needless to say we succeeded and became that name you saw on flyers that put people off going to all-dayers at the Dome.
Do you think the fact that you sounded completely different helped you break out?
How we got signed to a major AND the last ten years is still a mystery. I guess we were so different it was worth the music industry taking a gamble on us in the hope our next release was Nevermind the Bollocks Pt. 2. It wasn’t, and we released a hate fuelled album featuring a thirty-three piece orchestra. Wade joined the band and once again we were pushing Gallows in a new direction. At this stage it felt like we had more focus unlike before where everything we did escalated into some kind of circus that kept spiralling out of control. The stripped back self-titled record cemented Wade as the new lead singer and reminded people we still had that early venom. We kinda thought we’d done what we needed to do but then in February of last year I asked the boys to come back to the urban sprawl of Watford so we could perhaps start working on new songs. By this point our personal lives had made some drastic changes and the rage that originally fuelled earlier works was now more controlled. Looking back over the years, change seems vital in order for Gallows to exist. I think if the band hadn’t developed over the years then people would’ve just got bored of Gallows and I’d have turned to EDM, eventually becoming a millionaire. Fuck.
In an interview with Clash a few years back, Stuart said the main thing that differentiated your debut album Orchestra of Wolves from the records that followed was that it was more about the music than the concept. What's the concept behind Desolation Sounds?
Desolation Sounds is a personal collection of songs. I think what Stu was suggesting is that every album since Orchestra of Wolves has had some kind of purpose. Like I said, the first record was kinda hashed together and was basically 30 mins of pure release. I guess that’s what people saw in it and loved. We provided fans an outlet for their frustrations. We’re not really kicking against anything anymore, at least not as much as we used to. The concept behind this record was simple - be open minded and ignore any expectations outside the four of us.
Gallows has gone through a few line-up changes over that time. Where did you all find yourselves, mentally and in terms of musical interests, while writing Desolation Sounds?
It’s sad to say that with every line-up change you discover a new lease of life. When Frank left and Wade joined we released an EP called Death Is Birth, the title of which summed up what we were all feeling. Geographically speaking we’re pretty far apart. Stu lives in California, Wade lives in Toronto while Lee and myself are still local to London. Musically we’re very much on the same page. If we’re on tour in the van we’d rather listen to Major Lazer than anything that sounds remotely like us. When we bumped into Diplo at an airport in Belgium we all looked at each other and thought, “he’s a good guy, it would be fun to record a Major Lazer cover”, so we did and it’s on our latest EP. I can’t imagine a conversation like that taking place among many punk bands. When we were making Desolation Sounds we closed the door to music, at least guitar bands anyways. We wanted the writing process to be entirely organic with no outside influences. Mentally it was an extremely relaxed experience and sometimes even spiritual. It was a great feeling to be making music for the fun of it. For the first time in a long while we all felt truly free.
A lot of the greatest records, especially in hardcore/punk - have come out of shitty socio-political environments. Given the amount there is to be pissed off about at the moment, are you surprised at how few bands - particularly in the UK - there are addressing the state of things right now?
Sometimes it does feel like screaming at a brick wall so I’m really not that surprised. I respect bands like Anti-Flag and Rise Against. They’ve built a platform for their political messages but are people actually listening? When we signed to a major label we were under the impression that this new wider audience would react more to what we had to say but people were more concerned with the suits we wore in the videos. Punk rock is now extremely diluted and the messages only seem to take effect in the undergound scene. I mean, what the fuck is punk now? The term lends itself to anyone who plays the guitar low and can jump in time with the music. How can we expect these bands to have any idea of what it’s like to live below the poverty line in the UK. They have no clue! I think it’s important that if an artist has something to say they need to be seen acting on it. It’s hard to find sincerity in music nowadays and it’s a huge credit to the few bands out there that spread awareness and inspire change. I’d like to see that more but I’d also rather avoid the potential fakeness of it all completely.
This record has been described as "fearless" in that you haven't compromised anything or stuck to one specific sound on it. But talking about fear seriously, what are the top 5 scariest movies of all time?
The Shining - the old lady in the bathtub has been etched into my retinas ever since I first saw this film.
Rec - nearly made me kick the TV off the wall.
The Herd - I recently scored the music to this horror short, the end credits are scary because it’s real.
Begotten - too fucked up.
Superman 3 - the scene where that lady comes out of the big computer near the end is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever witnessed!
Those visuals alone are going to give me nightmares. Thanks Laurent!
Desolation Sounds will be released on April 13 via Venn/Play It Again Sam. Gallows will play at the Garage in London on May 26.
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