Review of British tech-metal band Chronographs’ set at UK Tech-Metal Fest, plus an interview with the whole band!
L-R: Tom Ridley (guitar), Jack Pope (guitar), Tom Benson (bass), Jon Sinfield (vocals), Finn Mclean (drums)
Opening the main stage on Sunday were Chronographs, a true example of what this festival is about: British, technical, and metal – metal as a bunch of guys in smart shirts can be, at any rate. Funny thing is, over the past year the band have moulded themselves into a professional-looking bunch of cads. At Tech-Fest, they were organised (forgoing the previous night’s festivities in favour of extra practice – and it shows), they were together, and they totally engrossed in the performance – the majority of them not even noticing when, mid-foot stomp, bassist Tom Benson put his heel through the chipboard stage – nor, a couple of songs later, when putting his entire leg through it to a chorus of cheers.
The Malvern-born but nationally-spaced quintet released their label debut EP Nausea earlier this year through Ghost Music, and it marked a big step-up from their previous demos in terms of both songwriting and production. Admittedly I have a soft spot for Chronographs – I hail from the same town as them and am aware of both the history and context of the local scene in which members Jon Sinfield, Tom Ridley and Tom Benson were formed – but their growth in maturity is palpable.
The entirety of the EP was on display for Tech-Fest attendees, as well as an older track or two. I’m not sure if it was where I was standing, but some of the higher, ‘noodly’ guitar work was lost a bit. Nevertheless, all of the important riffs and more showman-ly parts were all there, and honestly, for a live performance of such technical music, it delivered exceptionally well. Having palyed a couple of dates recently, including Ghostfest the weekend before, there was very little rustiness, and drummer Finn Mclean in particular stood out. The guy’s a fucking machine, and flawless to a beat. Jon, too, sounded great; his cleans a real highlight.
The crowd were a bit slow to take, but being early and the final day, it wasn’t overly surprising, even if many will have missed a great set.
Once the set finished, I managed to catch a bit of the following main-stage act Visions before being summoned for an interview with “Chris, where are you you fucking shaft?”. Charming. Once Jon had put his balls away (don’t ask), we got into the actual questioning. Ridley got hyped, we got some vital advice for small bands, there was confusion over festival lineups, and we talked reception to Nausea…
Right, so how HYPED are you to be here?
Finn: Ridley, you can answer this
Ridley: Pretty hyped…
Finn: You’ve been hyped for about a week now haven’t you?
Ridley: Yeah, I’ve been hyped since Ghostfest actually, and…
Finn: …at Ghostfest you got really hyped in the car park afterwards.
“How do you like your new case Tom?”
Ridley: Yeah, I did….
Jack: I’m really excited that Hype have chosen to sponsor Tom Ridley for the rest of his personal career in Chronographs. You know he gets paid in stickers?
Ridley: I’m actually obliged to mention them in every interviews, so…Chronographs; sponsored by Hype! Believe it…
Is the guitar case alright now though?
Jack: It’s not just Hype…
Finn: You’ve been peeling away for a while now haven’t you?
Ridley: Yeah, I do a little bit every day, when I’m having a poo or something.
Right! So this is your second time playing Tech-Fest isn’t it?
Jon: It is!
How does it compare to the first time – with the crowd and the organisation?
Jon: Completely different! did you come to last year’s?
Jon: No? Well, it was a community hall in Alton with one stage, and when we started to load in gear there was actually a still-life painting class going on in the back room.
Ridley: For over 70s.
Jon: No, no, they were painting apples or something.We were trying to load gear in and they were all sat there. But yeah, it’s completely different this year; the organisation’s great.
What about the crowd?
Jon: Yeah man!
‘Cause I didn’t really see, you know; I was more…
Jon: Part of it, yeah. No, it was cool man. I mean, obviously it’s early in the day, and it’s the last day so people are tired.
Finn: It’s head-nodding, it’s not running around.
Yeah. The frontman from Visions, after you, was saying “you all look haggard and bored as fuck!”
Finn: thanks, Visions!
Check out our review of the excellent Nausea HERE
So Nausea came out in January. You’ve read a few reviews of it, right?
What’s been the best and the worst so far? I think I know what the worst one was…
Jon: I can’t actually remember!
Finn: The one about dolphin speak.
Jon: Oh that one! Crazy, crazy review.
Jack: Someone threw up a thesaurus
Ridley: Wasn’t it bizarre?!
Jon: It was like abstract poetry, but reviewing a CD.
Jack: It wasn’t bad though! We haven’t had a bad review.
Jon: No, we haven’t had any terrible reviews. Kerrang! was pretty…
Ridley: Well, the thing with Kerrang! is like…”it’s really good! Three Ks”
Jack: It was like “we didn’t want to like it, and we listened to it, and it was a bit better than we thought it was gonna be, so we listened to the whole thing and loved it, so it was average”.
Finn: Kerrang! logic.
Jack: Not that we’re bitter or anything.
Finn: We love you Kerrang!
Ridley: Honestly we didn’t have any really negative criticism at all…which is remarkable, because in our old bands we got slammed!
Good stuff! Why did you choose the title Nausea?
Jack: I’m a philosophy nerd and I read a lot of existentialism, and there are a lot of concepts I used when approaching it from a slightly more abstract view when I was writing that was influenced by what I was reading. The feelings that “Nausea” made me feel when I read it got put into the music that I was feeling as I wrote it.
Finn: You haven’t really said what “Nausea” is…
Jack: “Nausea” is a book by a French man called Jean-Paul Sartre. It’s fiction, but it’s a kind of…nice way of describing existential philosophy in a real sense; how you feel it and what it makes you go through as you experience it.
Jon: Then we kind of chatted after all the music was written and all the lyrics were written. Sat down with Jack and it actually happened that a lot of the ideas that were in “La Nausée” were the same as what I’d written in my lyrics and we transferred it across; we got the progression and we ordered the tracks and just mapped the emotions that you feel as you read through it perfectly.
Excellent! So you’re all pretty spaced out in terms of where you’re living; how often do you get to practice?
Jack: Just before shows, so there’ll never be any idle practice
Ridley: So if you look at our show list, you’ll know we’re practicing two days before.
Jon: I mean, we’re less spread out now, because me and Tom have just finished university. Jack and Finn have still got a while to go but me and Tom are in Malvern for the time being…well, he’s in Bristol as of tomorrow!
Ridley: As of tomorrow, yeah.
Jon: We’re hoping over the next twelve months to be more centralised and we’ll be in a bit more of a straight line rather than all over the fucking country.
Fair enough. Do you think it affects the show, or…?
Jon: I think so.
Finn: I think it would do a little bit. It must do.
Jon: But we’ve played like it for a long time now haven’t we?
Finn: Yeah, but we’ve never tried the other way have we?
Jack: It’s really hard to say because we haven’t done…living together and playing shows, and then being separate and playing shows; we’ve only ever been like this. I’ve never been in the same city as these guys and neither has Finn, so…
You don’t wanna go and live in Malvern…
Jack: I guess how I feel about it is that because we’ve never had the experience of playing together every day, I don’t know how much tighter we’d be, or whether we’d get bored of the material, or would we actually practice, or would we sit and play Xbox lots more?
Jack: When we do get together we’re very efficient; we get into the practice space, we practice the set as many times as we can in that set time and we go home. And when we go home we practice bits on our own.
Ridley: We have to rely on each person to work on their own parts, and as long as everybody does that, and Finn’s got it down, it comes together; it’s not a problem.
I was going to say next, does it ever affect your motivation?
Jon: No, I don’t think so. I mean, there are times when you’re like “ah man, I really want to practice, I really want to play a show”, and then it’ll get to them summer and we’ve got ten awesome shows that we’re going to play, and then we’re going to go to this place, then this place and meet these people.
Finn: It makes the time we do spend together a lot sweeter.
Benson: It was quite hard in the beginning; just doing Skype and Guitar Pro and stuff.
Jack: What gets me a bit more than our live performance is writing; so, I will be writing in my room, and I’ll be getting everyone up on Skype and showing people and you’ll be dealing with SCHRRRRRCCCHHHH
Jack: And you’re trying to show everyone an idea and you’re really stoked on it and they’re like “ehhhhhh” – so now we all record mini demos and we send them to a dropbox, and we work like that, but I think our writing is more affected than our live show, definitely.
Do you get to play as many live shows as you’d like?
Jon: Because we don’t have a city that we base ourselves out of – I mean, we’ve been roughly based out of London up until recently, and we’re soon to be pretty much based out of Bristol, because they’re the epicentres of where we want to be – but it would be nice to be on local support slots with big bands.
Ridley: We’ve never had that.
Jon: We’ve never come from a town where that’s happened. So, we’ve never been able to hop on a show if Architects came through town; you could never be the local support.
Ridley: I think if we did live in, you know, Leeds or Bristol, we’d probably be the obvious choice for a lot of bands, but because we’re not local – and I don’t know why that’s a problem really, ‘cos it’s Architects who’ll draw the people, not us – we’re like “oh, we’ll play your show” and they’re like “no, you’re not local” – “alright, fine”.
I see Red Seas Fire playing quite a lot of Bristol shows
Ridley: I mean, I’m moving to Bristol tomorrow, and we know those guys pretty well, so maybe we’ll have a nice relationship there; see what happens.
Help each other out.
Yeah. So, young bands don’t really make a lot of money…
How does that affect what you’re able to achieve?
Jon: The label has helped us…enormously.
Benson: Be in a cover band; that’s what I did.
Finn: Yeah, Benson’s in a cover band to fund our band.
Ridley: He makes so much more money than we do. We sink hundreds and hundreds of hours into writing and recording.
Benson: I think we’ve got a grand and a half in the pot?
Ridley: Yeah, we’ve NEVER had a grand and a half in the pot.
Benson: Shit music though; it’s quite demoralising, playing that kind of shit.
Ridley: Probably get bigger applause though.
Benson: If I have to play “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” I’m gonna commit suicide
So how have Ghost Music allowed you to achieve what you couldn’t before?
Jack: They’re a bank.
Jon: Like any label, they are a business that are more established than us. I mean, essentially we are a business as well, but they have much better cash flow than we do, so, them handing us a bunch of money and going “hey, do this, and eventually you can pay us back” is like us going “yeah, thanks very much, we’ll go make a music video”. I don’t think if we had the financial support and, well, the logistical support from the label to do the “Opticks” video, or, you know, get tours done…
Ridley: The PR campagin.
Jon: …yeah, PR campaigns; things like that just helps boost what you’re doing so much, otherwise you can be slogging at it for years and years and you never get anywhere.
Have you seen a tangible comeback from the PR?
Jon: Most definitely
Excellent. That’s what I like to hear! What are the plans for the next…are you writing and EP or an album?
Jack: We’re writing music.
Jack: We’ve got one song 70% finished – as in, I’ve written guitar for it and Finn has written drums for it, and it sounds like a song, but anything could happen in between now and when it gets released.
It’s that last 30% isn’t it?
Jack: Yeah, exactly, and anything could happen to it. We could decide to, you know…
Ridley: I’ve got some ideas that I want to work on.
Finn: Ridley’s going to take a meat cleaver to it.
Ridley: I’m going to rip it apart.
Ridley: And they’re probably going to go “naaah”…but I’m going to try.
Jon: We’re heading…diagonally, rather than directly forward or sideways or backwards.
Jack: It’s not going to be Nausea part two.
Ridley: It’s djent.
I think that’s what the kids like
Jon: It’s going to be the next big thing, seriously.
So what is on for the rest of the year in terms of shows, or…
Jon: We’ve got this this weekend, then next Sunday we’re playing Sheffield Tramlines Festival, then we’ve got Throwfest in…
Ridley: And two shows around that.
Jon: Yeah, two shows next to that.
Ridely: It’s a sick venue.
Finn: Really good.
Jon: Throwfest is with Devil Sold His Soul and Bleed From Within which is going to be huge.
Finn: Heart Of A Coward as well.
Jon: No no, that’s Winter Chasm Fest
Ridley: Heart Of A Coward are on today as well.
Benson: No it’s not, that’s Mapfest isn’t it?
Jon: Is it Mapfest?
Finn: No-one knows.
Jon: So many generic-named festivals!
Finn: Put in any word and insert ‘fest’ at the end of it…we’re playing that.
Jon: Also our home-town festival we’re playing at the end of September called Ringmaster Festival. It’s in Worcestershire, it’s the first year. It’s kind of a little bit ridiculous; we’re opening the second stage or a 3000-capacity tent with bands like Maxïmo Park, The Blackout, Mystery Jets…
I think I’ve seen the poster for that! I was like “really? Worcester?!”
Ridley: “really? Chronographs?!”
Finn: I think we’re going to dial back the gain on that show a little bit…
Jon: And then yeah, we’re going to Europe.
Jack: For like ten days
Yeah? Who with?
Jon: It’s gonna be rad. It’s going to be us headlining and a band called Honour Is Dead.
Ridley: We have not announced this yet.
Jon: It is actually announced.
Jon: You’re an idiot.
I’m still going to call it an exclusive
It’s a Ridley exclusive
Jon: So yeah, that’s going to be fun; we’ll get to leave the country for the first time, play lots of new places, go to Holland for a lot of days.
Where would you play if you could? That you haven’t played
Finn: Soundwave. Sound Ameri–South America…
Ridley: Sound America?
Finn: You haven’t heard of it.
Jack: Canada. I want to build a snowman and then play music. I would then go back to the snowman and put a hat on it.
And then get Benson to kick it over…
Jack: Yeah, then get Benson to put his foot through it.
What happened there [with the stage]?
Benson: It was half broken and…I guess I just finished it off.
Finn: Benson is Iron Man.
We basically watched the hole form, and watched it grow bigger, and were just waiting for you to fall down.
The guys on the side of the stage when you went through were like “wahey!”
Finn: I think I saw that; I didn’t have a clue what was going on there.
Jon: I didn’t even know it happened until the end of the set.
I was gonna say; you just walked past and went “uhhh?!”
Benson: Ahhh, good laughs, good laughs.
Jon: Good craic mate, good craic.
Well, that’s the thing; now I can call it a “groundbreaking performance”
Finn: Eyyyy! Lad. True lad.
Ridley: I’m pretty hyped about that.