I spoke to The Charm The Fury’s singer, Caroline Westendorp backstage just before their album launch show kicked off at Sugar Factory in Amsterdam.
You recently signed to Nuclear Blast for the new album. Why choose them?
Because they offered us a deal. Nuclear Blast is such a household name in Metal music, it was always on the top of our list because it’s such a great huge outlet to all these countries we’ve never been before with a great marketing team within their company. I think with all the top records that come out every year, Nuclear Blast is like 70% of them. They’re so passionate about music in general and wanting to push us, so it felt like the right thing to do.
I did notice some posters for the album up when I was on my way here on the tram?
You did? Awesome.
It’s been four years since your first album (a shade of my former self) – why such a long gap?
Four years – so long. We spent ages over the writing process. When we finished the album cycle of the last album we were like “we need to write a new album” but the metalcore genre didn’t feel right for us any more because when we released that album, so many bands did the same, so it was just another metalcore album, so when we were done with the album cycle we felt it wasn’t right for us any more. We were writing and writing and we killed all those songs. We were kind of having an identity crisis, like what do we want to do? and that’s when it hit us, because we were listening to Pantera and Metallica and those kind of bands that we’ve been listening to since we were kids, and they make stuff that’s timeless. We thought, they make stuff that’s timeless and their songs are always based around one great riff or hook, or vocal line, and we were really thinking in song structure like poppy chorus, then there needs to be a heavy breakdown, so when we moved that focus to writing a killer riff that would carry an entire song, that’s when the creative juices started flowing and then there was an album.
Your new album is called “The sick, dumb and happy”. Where did the album title come from?
It’s basically the theme of the album, how we’re becoming blind to the real problems in the world, it’s partially because we let it all in. We sit on the couch, we watch all these mindless TV shows, we watch all these commercials – “Buy this cream and you’ll become a supermodel”, and on the other side you have the media using that, really trying to sell you stuff, and we’re just becoming blinder, fatter and dumber and I guess too lazy to look at the real problems in the world, so that’s the Sick, Dumb and Happy.
What’s the song writing process in the band – is it a collaborative thing or are there one or two main song writers?
Well Mathijs the drummer, he always lays down the core of the track, he gets a riff in his mind as he’s cycling through the city, so he sings it into his phone to record it. Then he sits down with one of the guitarists and proposes his idea and together they work on the riff and work it out into the entire structure of the song. Most of the time the guitarist will fill in the faps with their licks and riffs. Once the instrumental part is done we mostly sit together with a group of us, just humming vocal lines not even like words, just phonetically. Maybe this sounds good over this line and this sounds good over this riff, so a bunch of artistic guys just humming. Then we’ve got hundreds of lines and just filter the best ones and start writing the lyrics for them.
That must be quite hard because you’re not only writing them to fit a particular vocal line but you’re doing it in English which is you’re second language.
It’s pretty hard. You have so many bands that have great lyrics, and their lyrics aren’t difficult but it feels so natural. For us it’s so unnatural, to have something we want to say in the most simple but effective way.
I can imagine that some ideas sound great in Dutch but when you translate them they don’t fit the vocal lines.
Exactly, and we often let native speakers look at the text to say if that’s right. If they say no we have to throw away all the lyrics.
You’ve released two great videos so far – “Echoes” and “Down on the ropes”. “Echoes” was probably quite a tough one for you to film as you get dragged through a warehouse, tied to a chair and then hung from a hook by your wrists.
That was such a heavy day, but “Down on the ropes” was also a heavy day because it was January and we were shooting at this trailer and then in this workshop and it was all unheated, and it was like minus 10 or something and I would stand around the whole day in a bikini, so I got super sick. I got huge throat ache. “Echoes” was even worse, they literally hung me up with duct tape around my wrists and lifted me up onto this hook. At first it was ok but after a while they kept forgetting and I was like “Guys…”, and I was all blue and sore.
I bet it hurt afterwards too as the blood came back into your hands.
Yeah that was heavy.
That’s something people don’t often appreciate – they see a video and think it looks great, but don’t realise how long it takes and how much work and sometimes pain goes into it.
We’re shooting a new video next week, in a studio inside, so it’s like there are no hooks, it’s inside so it’s heated.
No hooks that they’ve told you about anyway…
Exactly. But they still have to finish the entire concept, so..
At least with Echoes you had the pyros going off to keep you a bit warmer.
That was pretty cool right.
You’re on tour in April with Bury tomorrow.
Yes we’ve got something like 8 shows with them which will be nice because we’ve known them for a few years and they’re great guys, and we’re also with a German band called Any given day. Then we’ll head to the States at the end of April to do a couple of festival shows which is brilliant.
Then you play an amazing lineup of festivals – Pinkpop, Graspop, Download, Masters of rock and many more. It looks like a busy but exciting summer for you
Bucket list material. We have 20-25 shows, literally like every weekend we’re at another bucket list festival. We’re opening the main stage at Graspop – it’s just insane, I get nervous just thinking of it. I’m really looking forward to it because I think festival shows are the best. You get to play for a huge audience and get to see so many great bands and everyones happy and smiling, and most of the time the weather is great.
Well, don’t expect great weather when you play Download – that’s normally pretty wet.
Pinkpop is of course a big festival in Holland
Yes, that’s also so weird because it’s pretty much a mainstream festival – Justin Bieber is playing, Sean Paul is playing as well and we’re one of the only metal bands on the bill which is amazing. I’m getting so many reactions from people around me who aren’t really into music but know Pinkpop, so it’s a big thing.
Tonight is the album launch show so presumably you’ll be playing plenty of stuff from the new album?
Yes we are playing most of the album I think. We’re going to do something entirely new.
The timing is good as the album came out a week ago so fans have had time to hear the new album and get used to the songs before they hear them played live tonight.
Yes that’s true. Hopefully they can sing along already.
When you’re not touring or recording, what do you like to do to relax?
Mostly when I’m just at home, I go to the gym around four times a week and compensate for it by eating a lot, so it’s just going to the gym and hang out with friends and eat. I live right next to this food hall which has loads of food trucks, so I’m there a couple of times a week eating. So that’s what I like to do most, just eat and work out. Also just hang out on the couch and listen to nothing.
It’s amazing how nice it can be to do nothing for a day or two when you have a busy life.
Yes, just sit in silence or watch a few Netflix shows or do nothing.
The gym is obviously fairly important because your performance on stage is fairly energetic so you need to be fit to do that and still sing.
True. That’s why I started working out, to increase my stamina. Actually my vocal coach gave me an assignment to go running in the park and sing while I’m running. That’s so awkward, I’m losing my voice, singing badly because I’m out of breath and people will be looking at me strangely.
Do you have to do anything else to look after your voice?
Yes I work with a vocal coach twice a month and have to do vocal exercises every day for about an hour. It’s kind of like going to the gym. The vocal chord is like a muscle and has to be triggered in multiple ways. Because I’m battering my voice on stage every night, it will become less flexible so I have to exercises to keep it flexible and to keep it in good condition.
And on tour that’s important particularly because when one person gets a bug everyone on the tour bus gets it.
Yes, and I don’t drink any alcohol on tour – those are all things that will ruin your voice, so it’s kind of living like a nun.
Until the last night of the tour?
Then it’s like a bottle of Jaeger on my own.