Review: I, The Lion – Run [EP]

Post-punk is a bit of a funny label to play with. Readily applied to bands like Biffy Clyro, Thrice and Reuben, it seems to be a catch-all for anything that just sounds big these days. It would be far too easy to lump Cheltenham’s I, The Lion in with that lot. While it’s clear that the trio take influence from a few of the noisiest bands around, you’d be hard pressed to find a record that has the same heart and ambition as Run.

The EP is a technical masterpiece, to say the least. Recorded and produced by Jason Wilson at Stakeout Studios, who’s worked with big names like You Me At Six and Fightstar, was a clever move, helping to enhance and consolidate what is already an impressive signature sound. Everything about Run is huge, from the infectious riffs to the ambitious choruses. If you’ve ever seen I, The Lion live, then you’ll know that it is actually possible to make that level of noise with just three people, even if it seems unbelievable for now. Take lead single ‘Hold Strong’, for example – right from the start, you notice the sheer force of the drums and the incredible level of control in the melody. Then, when Chris’ vocals start to feed in, they’re just the right side of gruff, balancing perfectly against Elliot’s higher backing. Each element in ‘Hold Strong’ is so intricately crafted, and that carries through the entire record. ‘Icarus’ is perhaps my favourite track, with its playful opening riff that leads into a crushing breakdown right from the off. But, for those of you who like their stuff to sound epic, then ‘Bonny Island’ crashes through any expectations and totally rewrites them – a complex, time-signature bending pure rock pounder with riffs that Incubus would be jealous of.

However, it’s not just the fact that I, The Lion are completely on top of their game musically that really makes Run such a fantastic record. Lyrically, you can be forgiven for thinking it’s just another pile of metaphor on metaphor at first glance, but if you listen closely, Run is a thrilling, emotionally intelligent ride. From start to finish, it’s an exhilarating experience, and it’s impossible not to see the love and attention that has been lavished upon these four tracks.

Run is a statement of intent – I, The Lion have arrived, and they’re here to stay in your stereo. One of the most exciting new bands in the British scene, I, The Lion are perfectly poised to overthrow the alternative rock hierarchy and triumphantly claim your adoration as rightfully theirs.

4.5 out of 5 high fives!

You can read our interview with I, The Lion about how Run came together here.

Interview: I, The Lion

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.

2000trees 2014: The Definitive TwoBeatsOff Overview

This year, I decided to put a big middle finger up to Reading and Download. I said sayonara to Sonisphere and a big ol’ screw you to Glastonbury. No, this year, I decided to do something a bit smaller and a bit more local. I decided to do something where I didn’t need to camp, where I could just hang about and check out some stuff I’d never heard of before, and where I didn’t need to pay in excess of £200 for the privilege.

This year, I had a bloody nice time at 2000trees.

There were a lot of highlights, so I’m going to give everything nice headings and make it easier for you to dig out the good bits. There were a lot of great bands over the weekend, some gourmet food choices and plenty of glorious sunshine to keep us all going. Beautiful.

The one band you should have seen were…

The Blackout were on absolute top form this weekend. Those lads from Merthyr know how to party, as Sean Smith demonstrated early on by storming into the crown and starting a circle pit around himself. If you’re just a fan of witty stage banter, then The Blackout have you covered – during ‘We Are The Dynamite’, Sean Smith gave a bunch of uncool non-participants the choice of ‘have fun like everyone else or fuck off!’ And there were plenty of other golden moments too. But all in all, The Blackout have a great selection of big rock stompers, all of which came out to play at 2000trees and simply made the festival for me. Great stuff.

The five new bands you’ll love are…

Slaves – this two-piece punk band from Royal Tunbridge Wells are rowdy, abrasive, witty and disgustingly noisy. Entertaining to watch, unbelievable to listen to. Definitely your new favourite band and my top discovery of the weekend.

DZ Deathrays – it’s all about guitars and drums this year and nothing else. DZ Deathrays played a blinding set of scuzzy garage-punk thrashers to finish off the weekend. If you like it loud and proud with extremely catchy riffs, these guys are for you.

Youth Man – these Birmingham punks are equally terrifying and mesmerising. A bit doomy in places, a bit frenetic in others, they’re completely captivating. The music’s stupidly smart, and the live show is bloody mental. We reviewed them a while ago and loved them.

I, The Lion – if you like big Biffy Clyro-esque sounds but with more guitar smashing and lyrics that make even less sense, you’ll love I, The Lion. These Cheltenham locals opened up the Saturday and set the bar incredibly high for everyone else to follow.

Jamie Lenman – can you count Jamie Lenman as a new band? I will anyway. You may not have heard him as a solo project rather than as the former front man of the now-defunct UK titans Reuben. This year, he did a proper hardcore set based on the ‘Muscle’ side of his incredible album Muscle Memory (see our best of 2013 for more) and drew one of the biggest crowds of the festival.

Okay, the other bands you should have seen were…

Gnarwolves, Johnny Foreigner, The Bronx, Blood Red Shoes, Arcane Roots, Tall Ships and The Computers were all pretty good as well. However, special mention goes to Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, who blasted out an amazing set of beats and bars. A massive rave went down on Thursday night, and it was great to finally catch DLS VS SP live!

The one band you’re going to miss are…

The last Kill Chaos set ever happened at 2000trees. Gutting. At least we’ll still have the records, right? PromisesPromises only just came out after all! I only discovered them last year on Jamie Lenman’s first solo tour and I am sad to see them disappear already. Here’s to seeing what happens next…

The most surreal festival moment was…

Seeing Dave McPherson off’ve InMe stroll out onto Jamie Lenman’s set to do a bit of screaming, without actually knowing the words, was a little bit bizarre. I know he was playing this weekend, but InMe were never really a shouty band at all. Kind of weird but mostly wonderful.

The best food stall was…

Props to Wide Awake Café for their delicious iced lattes and veggie burritos! Check them out at a festival near you.

The coolest item of merch was…

Uh, 2000trees sunglasses for a fiver? Yes mate.

Festival Dickhead of the Year Award goes to…

There was a guy who sat down under a tree and pulled out The Diary Of Anne Frank to sit and peruse on Friday afternoon. What a knob.

So, will we be doing 2000trees again? The answer is a great big resounding yes. What a good festival.