Hornets are incredibly hard to define. And that’s just the way they like it. The Belfast four-piece are a powerhouse of slow grooves and hardcore punk riffs, consistently smashing genre boundaries and playing with an absolute precision that’s hard to rival.
Their new EP No Faith is the perfect example of this. Opening track and lead single ‘Stay Free’ is completely arresting, with a rumbling bass and fast and furious riffs. The backing vocals are occasionally more akin to black metal than hardcore, giving the song a terrifying and demanding edge. ‘Advice’ and ‘Jehovah’ take slower, doomier routes, but are no less compelling; intriguing effects and a consistently strong rhythm keep things interesting, while the verses hit like nuclear blasts. And for those too afraid to let go of a good breakdown, there are plenty of opportunities to throw down throughout. ‘For Always’ goes deep – both lyrically and musically, with a disturbing timbre. Closing track ‘Behind Me’ is surprisingly groovy catchy, despite chilling screams and doom-laden bass, and leaves a certain message lingering – Hornets are not to be trifled with.
This week, I caught up with Andy and Ricky to discuss No Faith’s musical direction, future plans and heavy, heavy music…
When first stepping into the studio, what were your intentions for No Faith? What was your biggest influence on the record?
I guess the main intention was to get into the studio with Rocky O’Reilly (Start Together Studio Belfast) and get the songs tracked, in a reasonable time period, to the absolute best of our abilities. We had all the song structures and most of the lyrics in place before heading into the studio in an attempt to save time and money, in total we spent 4 days tracking the EP which we thought was pretty reasonable. In terms of influence, Belfast based heavyweights “Slomatics” have played a big part in inspiring us to incorporate more elements of sludge / doom into our music. We’ve played a few shows with them and they’re all awesome dudes, keep an eye out for their new album dropping soon.
How long did it take No Faith to come to fruition?
It was a relatively short process to get the songs for this EP banged out. Stay Free and Advice were written first, and then the last three tunes on the EP were written together. No Faith was crafted over the space of about two and a half months, most of the writing took place in the rehearsal room as a three piece before Craig (our new bassist) joined the band.
Although your previous material is still pretty heavy, No Faith seems to have taken on a slower and much doomier edge and sounds worlds apart from anything else you’ve done. What led you in that direction?
The main focus with this EP was attention to the groove and pace of the songs. We’ve written plenty of fast stuff before and decided that it was time to change it up a little. It was an opportunity to challenge ourselves and keep the writing process fresh, we wanted to see if we could approach the process with more emphasis on groove, yet still retain the heavy nature of Hornets. It was refreshing and I think it’s definitely put us on the right path to refine this doom / punk sound we have been working on.
That bass is RIDICULOUSLY deep. What tunings are you all playing in?!
Yeah at points we’re verging on brown note material with the bass! The first two tracks on the EP (Stay Free and Advice) are dropped C tuning (CGCFAD). The last three make use of an even lower tuning, dropped G (GGCFAD), you can get some seriously filthy chords out of this tuning. A lot of the guitar tones on the EP also have an octave down effect on them, this helps to add even more bottom end into the mix.
Lyrically, No Faith paints a very desolate picture. What fed into that as you were writing?
The lyrics make reference to personal relationships, struggles in everyday life… also the usual cathartic exorcism of demons you might expect to find in music typical of this genre. James (lead vocals) considers it a positive way to release this build-up of negative energy. Some of the lyrics were written when we were in the studio recording about events that were happening at the time. I guess more than anything the vocals on this EP are honest and straight to the point.
Is there a particularly big scene for this kind of music in Belfast, or do you find you stand out from the crowd?
There’s not a huge scene in Belfast for heavy music, the punk / hardcore scene in Dublin would be better established. From the beginning we’ve always tried include ourselves in as many diverse gig line-ups as possible. Whilst there’s no denying our music is heavy, I think it has the potential to appeal to people who maybe don’t listen to predominately heavy music. We try to incorporate snappy song structures with heavy hooks in an attempt to keep our music accessible to a wider audience.
You’re just about to embark on your first tour outside of Ireland, and you’ve chosen a couple of reasonably unconventional destinations. How do you think you’ll be received, and for those who are watching you for the first time, what should they expect?
Hopefully we’ll be received well. We really enjoy playing to new people and it’s always a refreshing challenge to try and win over new fans. We look forward to the sincerity of people’s reactions upon seeing Hornets for the first time. Our live show is fairly intense, everyone steps up and gives 100% every time we play so that’s something to look out for!
What else have you got in store for 2014?
We’ve already started writing more new material again, so we’ll be in the studio before the year is out. We’ll also be back on the mainland to tour, and hopefully further afield so stay tuned on all the usual social media outlets.
Hornets are James McAuley, Andy Shields, Richard McAuley and Craig McCloskey. No Faith will be released on March 31st, and all other releases are available on their Bandcamp.