I, The Lion are well known in Cheltenham town. And with their latest EP, Run, they’re set to be well known throughout the country, if not the world. Run is a masterpiece, full of heart and absolutely massive riffs. I caught up with Elliot and Chris following the release of Run to find out a little bit more about how it all came about, and just how they manage to create such an incredible and unique sound.
What’s the typical songwriting process for the band?
Elliot: Most of the time it starts as a basic idea from myself, like a riff or chord progression. Then I’ll show Chris and it starts to to get the intricate after a few tweeks. Nath will then have this idea in his head and add his wizardry drumming to complete our style. So over all it’s pretty much a combination of all of us sharing an idea and developing it to the best we can make it.
So Chris, you started off playing drums, then moved to guitar, before finally settling on bass – how has that shaped the way you come up with songs?
Chris: I think it has helped me to understand what the others do and what’s possible for one person to play, although the others constantly break the possible barrier. Playing drums has really helped with my rhythm, so it’s helped me to work with Nath (drums) as tightly as possible and allow Elliot to flow with his lightening fingers. Plus bass is the instrument of love, right? Guys? Right?
Elliot: Errr yeah, love. Good for you!
What was it like working with Jason Wilson? Did his direction affect the songs in any particular way?
Elliot: Sometimes it’s difficult having someone come in and give you their take on your songs, but it felt like throughout the entire recording process Jason knew exactly where we wanted our sound to be. He’s a perfectionist just like us, so being able to record to such precision was exactly what we wanted.
Has Elliot moving to Reading affected you as a band at all?
Elliot: Surprisingly, not as much as you’d think! The distance forces us to be proactive to ensure we’re seeing each other for rehearsals, lil jams or even just a beer. At this point, four years in, we don’t need to practice every week anymore and it’s all pretty much second nature.
How do you achieve such a massive, intricate sound with just three of you? Is there any pedal trickery, for example?
Elliot: We get asked this a lot of shows, it’s a mixture of a couple of things, really. Like you said, pedal trickery plays a minor part, I’m a major tech head and have been developing my tone for the best part of a decade. Also, the ridiculously thick guitar strings we use play a big part. My Gibson has bass strings on it because the electric string equivalent felt like a flappy sponge, and Chris’s lowest string is thicker than a telegraph pole. Oh, and also having a drummer that hits his kit so hard something breaks pretty much every song. True story.
What is your favourite bit of kit that you just couldn’t do without?
Elliot: For me, it’s gotta be my SG. There’s something amazing about the pickups on it that make any tone sound incredible.
Chris: For me, it’s my tiny but mighty Orange SP212 cab. It’s so small but it can still cause an earthquake.
You’ve played most of the songs from the EP live already. Has that affected the final version of the songs much?
Elliot: When we write new material, it goes though a lot of rehearsals to ensure its ready for gigs or recording. We’ll keep picking at it to get everything we can out of that song, so anything we play live it’s pretty much the final product. The four tracks on this EP in particular have never changed since conception.
You’ve got quite a distinctive sound, very different from your contemporaries in Gloucestershire. Is it ever a bugger to find a bill you really fit into?
Elliot: Oh yeah, it’s almost impossible! The number of metal shows we were put on to when we started was ridiculous. Me and Nath are metal heads deep down but our sound stuck out like a sore thumb. These days, we just accept whatever bill were put onto and give it all we’ve got.
You did a fair few festivals last year, including local favourite 2000trees. Are you considering a similar run this year?
Elliot: Definitely! Festival season is just ace, it’s such a different vibe to touring but both are equally awesome.
I, The Lion are Chris Evans (bass/vocals), Elliot Withers (guitar/vocals), and Nath Priday (drums). Their latest EP, Run, is out now, and the band will be touring the UK from 25 February.