PlanetMosh is proud to be one of the official media partners for this weekend’s Blazefest, Northern Ireland’s biggest annual charity gig, which brings together the top rock and metal bands from this part of the world to raise funds for the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. One of the highlights of this year’s event undoubtedly will be the return to live action of the mighty Sinocence, who have just unleashed their firestorm of a new EP. We took the opportunity to catch up with band founder and lead guitarist Anthony McCaughley to talk about the new release, where the band stand at the moment and what the future holds for them…
I asked first of all why the band decided to record and release a set of EPs rather than go for a full album?
Money and time my friend. We are not chasing record deals or any of that, so we decided what works best for us. An EP and a video for each. Gets the music out faster and works better financially. Some of the guys have kids now. We all have mortgages, and things like that, so its finding a balance. At the same time we wanted to tie a body of work together… that’s where the trilogy idea came in.
The first EP had very much an anti-religion theme to it: given the title of the EPs, can we assume that this theme is carried into the second one, and can you give us some idea of the topics you’re addressing this time around?
We are an atheist band no doubt about it. Our views on organised religion are pretty clear. I think Moro has taken it a step further on this one though. Systems of control, seats of power are a large topic on this trilogy in any form. At the same time we write a lot from personal experience and we wrote a song [‘Valorous’] for a good friend of the band that passed away. That one was written with a lot of respect, as we knew his family/wife and kids would have to hear it. It’s a bit different for us and we even have a violin in their as a nod to Paddy’s love of Irish music. Very proud of that one. No matter what anyone thinks of the EP, I feel we did a decent thing there and the family were very supportive, which is all that matters on that one.
Musically, is there much of a difference/progression between Volume One and Volume Two, or are they very much taken from a common mould?
With ‘…Vol 1’, Davy (Cassa – drummer) had just returned and he was thrust into the metal again. Now we’ve got back to being that unit again the songs I think flow better. Moro’s done a great job with the vocals and the song writing just feels a fresh as ever. It’s definitely the best shape we’ve ever been in. So a continuation I would say, we just are more on the same page as ever. There will be threads running through the Eps to tie them together but I’m sensing they will all have their own flavour so to speak.
You once again recorded with my old friend Frankie McClay at his appropriately named Einstein Studios. How important is the relationship between band and producer, and for you as a band to work with some you know and who knows you and your music?
Extremely important to us. You often hear bands saying their producer is the fifth member of the band. This is a definite for us. We’ve been recording up there since 2003. A lot of stuff has happened in those 12 years or so and Frankie has always been there for advice – and honest advice at that. We basically walk in there with our songs and Frankie will suggest things: vocal melodies, harmonies and they just make the song that much better. Our music is open to layers and he can add the strings/violins and touches that give the song the feeling it needs. Like anything we have our moments up there, but it is all to serve the music. So, yeah, it’s very important to us and the production speaks for itself. I think we are his second favourite band! lol
The EP is, of course, finished and about to be released. You’ve chosen to launch it in Dublin, two weeks ahead of doing so back here in Belfast. Is there any particular reason for that, or is it just down to timing and availability of venues?
A few reasons for that but yeah availability and timing where the main thing. Although recently we have been working with a great promoter Ciara Roberts down there and we thought why not. We are meeting a lot of great bands down there and have never launched in Dublin so we decided to do it.
You’ve put together a helluva strong line-up for the Belfast launch at the end of the month: how did you go about selecting what bands you wanted to appear on the bill, and did you deliberately pick bands you knew would push you in terms of having to be at the top of your game on that night?
We always stack our bills. If you aren’t playing with the best you’re wasting your time. We like being pushed. Nothing wrong with healthy competition. We are all muckers playing the music we love so let’s go. I like having up and coming bands on there also. Gasoline Outlaws and Donum Dei are hungry and killer bands. Maverick are just fun to be around and Conjuring Fate are long term friends so it’s a strong, positive line up. Should be a great day. Everyone’s energy to play it has been fantastic so expecting a stonking day all round. And yes be deliberately pick those bills…love it!
The reason we’re talking, of course, is because you’re appearing at Blazefest this coming weekend. Bands get asked to do lots of charity shows: what is different about this one that made you immediately say “yes”?
We do stuff that we are close to. Darren, Dawn and Blaze have been big supporters of us, so it wasn’t even a question. Just when you need us. We get to play a great venue, with great bands and raise money for a worthy cause. Not much downside there.
As a music journalist, I’m always giving my opinion on bands. However, I’d like to put the boot on the other foot for a moment, and ask you to tell us what you think of the other bands on the Blazefest bill…
Ahhh man!!! Lol what can I say. All fantastic, I’d be here all night starting to go on about each one individually. These are guys that we have been playing with for years it’s great to see some of the bands making a dent. Screaming Eagles are on a real tear at the minute and seeing younger bands like Donum Dei coming through is fantastic. Again love watching Andy Baxter on guitar so theres lots of things I’ll be looking forward to on the day.
If you had to cover a song by one of the other bands on the bill, who and what would it be?
Personally if would prob be a Screaming Eagles one…any of them….just that big rock sound coming out of the Peaveys….That would be fun. We’d metalize any of those fxxkers!! lol
After Blazefest, you have your Belfast launch and then, the following weekend, you’re taking part in the first ever Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses competition ever to have been staged in Northern Ireland. Why did you, with your wealth of experience, decide to enter?
It’s just one of those things bud. Hate the idea at near 40 and 14 years into the band to have to ask people to come down and vote to play a festival. I can see why the festivals do it but to be honest it’s just a chance to promote the album. We travelled to Scotland and won our slot at Hammerfest so it can be done. Best just to get on with it.
Finally, as we mentioned, the new EP comes out in less than a fortnight; what does the rest of 2015 hold for Sinocence?
We had a few things going on last year which took the focus off the band and more on our personal lives. We are in a good position now so we’ll see what happens. We brought some amazing bands over from the UK last year so maybe we’ll get over to England and do a few shows there. We’ll be actively seeking out opportunities now and I’m pretty interested myself to see how 2015 pans out. The main thing for us is to get Vol 2 out and let everyone hear what we have been doing. We’ll think of something for the rest of the year
Blazefest takes place at the Empire Music Hall, Belfast, on Saturday (March 21). In addition to Sinocence, the line up also features Maverick, Screaming Eagles, Xerosun, Conjuring Fate, The Irontown Diehards and Donum Dei. Admission is £10 and tickets are available (with no booking fee) from Ticketmaster, and also on the door.
Sinocence also play Limelight 2, Belfast, on Saturday March 28, with Conjuring Fate, Maverick, Donum Dei and Gasoline Outlaws. Admission is £5 (pay at the door). They also take on Conjuring Fate, Scimitar and Ceaseless Blight in the fourth heat of Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses at the same venue on Saturday April 4. Again, admission is £5 at the door.