Talk Show Host: 041: The Birthday Massacre

I’ve been fortunate here at this year to have been able to talk music and beyond with a great variety of bands and artists, all of whom are loosely involved with “our scene” in one way or another, and this includes bands both veteran and rather newer.

The latest case was this – I was given the opportunity at the end of October, in the days prior to their headlining slot at Whitby Goth Weekend, to catch up with members of The Birthday Massacre at the O2 Academy Islington, before they headlined that venue later in the evening.

This was with band members Rainbow and M. Falcore, and was a discussion about their band, their early days, the current album and their devoted fanbase. The text below was transcribed directly from the recording of our conversation. So, I was thinking about this. I came to see you first in Leeds in about…2006?

Rainbow: Wow. That was our first time [in the UK]. At the Cockpit/Rocket, and possibly the sweatiest gig I have ever attended.

M. Falcore: Oh man, that was the heatwave.
Rainbow: Yeah, I remember we played in Camden [at the Underworld], and that was ridiculously hot.
M. Falcore: I was hoping for a rainy, cold England, and I was so disappointed, it was blue sky and sun everywhere. I remember that gig because I’ve got a couple of photos, and I wrote about it back then (Into the Pit: 032), and I went back to my notes, and thought, fuck, it’s so long since I first saw you guys, and how much you’ve changed over that time. Do you like coming over to the UK, as you seem to do so quite a bit now. How do you find the crowds over here?

Rainbow: Great. Each show is different, but there is a definitely a core group that come out to more than one show, and they’ve always been really kind to us here.
M. Falcore: The bigger the city, the bigger the crowd. Obviously London is the biggest, but they’re all super-enthusiastic… You can see that from outside [tonight]. There’s a long queue of people [before doors], before 1900 on a grim midweek night. Which is something that doesn’t always happen for live bands now, not everyone can do this and you guys seem to have built this core of fans that many bands would be envious over.

M. Falcore: We’ve been really lucky in that respect. Even the first time we played London, no-one really expected us to do that well, and it sold out.
Rainbow: We didn’t really know what we were walking into so we’ve been really surprised by it. Before we get onto the new album, last year you re-released Imagica

Rainbow: Yeah, the four-track demos.
M: It wasn’t actually a re-release, I don’t think it was ever actually released. But there were copies kicking around on the internet, right?

M. Falcore: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Rainbow: They were some old demos, like MP3s, that were poor-quality that were released – so we wanted to go back and also there were a few that weren’t released. Basically we found the four-track that we initially recorded on broke, and we hadn’t had it for years, and M found one on eBay for $200, so we thought it would be really fun for us to go through the tapes, and refurbish and put them out as a little time capsule for anyone who was interested out of our fans. Even just for ourselves.
M. Falcore: It was really cool listening back to those old tapes, some stuff we’d forgotten about.
Rainbow: There was a lot of songs, maybe there weren’t lyrics or vocals for, but we narrowed it down to a group that were finished songs – but there’s still others, that are strange and weird instrumental things that we did in basements and apartments, so it was really fun for us to do too.
M. Falcore: We had a lot of moments where we were like “oh yeah!”

The Birthday Massacre: O2 Academy Islington: 24-October What are your memories of recording those first demos?

M. Falcore: (points at Rainbow) his basement at his parent’s place…
Rainbow: It was for fun, it was experimenting, it wasn’t with the intention of anyone else hearing them other than us, it was something to do amongst friends. In that environment, it’s part of the charm of those recordings is the way that they were recorded. How quickly they were recorded…and so on. What was the scene like in Toronto at the time, indeed, was there a scene back then?

Rainbow: There were scenes, but I don’t think we really fitted into any of them per se, but we were definitely had specific tastes in music as a group of friends, and as a band, and we got along with a lot of other bands, but really we forged our own way.
M. Falcore: We sorta built a little scene around our band, I remember when somebody came up to me in early 2000s, and said “it’s amazing, you guys have like created this scene in Toronto, that’s awesome!” and I was “really? We did?”
Rainbow: We wanted to play shows and we were always on the lookout for other bands who might want to play with us, or we might gel with, so we were definitely networking and befriending people who we thought were interesting and doing something cool, and we’d put on nights and we’d get all these bands together. We would never necessarily try and play shows on our own, we’d always try and get a collective, a group of… I guess it was a scene, we’d try and get a group of bands, our friends, we’d get DJs to play whose club nights we’d go to, we’d make a night of it. Do it every few months, we didn’t play that often but when we did we’d make it a party. Like a Hallowe’en party, or a Valentine’s party, or something like that. Were there any particular bands that influenced you to start with, that made you think “hang on, I want to do this”?

Rainbow: I think a lot of bands I thought were really interesting and inspiring, but I think what really made me think I could do this was seeing some friends of ours do a High School “Battle of the Bands”, back when I was obviously a whole lot younger. That’s what made me think that not only do I love this music, maybe I could do it, be a part of it. If these guys can do it, then we can do it too.
M. Falcore: That was High School, and actually one of the members of Kaptain Hairdo will be at the show tonight, as they live in London now.
Rainbow: Oh really, which one?
M. Falcore: Simon.
Rainbow: Oh, wow. You’ve got a new album Under Your Spell out this year, which to me sounded like there was a world-weariness to it. A little less forceful and angry than recent albums have been, this feeling like many of us seem to have at the moment, that “man, this world is shit”. Did you feel that while recording it?

Rainbow: Actually, we enjoyed recording that record, it was something that was fun to do, the lyrics were not overthought, they were from experiences, notes, diaries. I don’t think we overthought it, often times when we make an album we try not to paint ourselves into a corner by having a set-in-stone idea of what we want to do, we let the chips fall where they may, and work off of that, and let things build organically. The records have been different and varied up to this point, but still the same souls in the band, but just at different points in their trajectory. I didn’t think of it as “I’m bummed out, let’s make a bummed out album”, but I can see what you mean.
M. Falcore: We definitely weren’t watching the news while writing it
Rainbow: Yeah, we’re pretty insular in that way. I guess that’s the way it turned out, though, that’s fair enough.

The Birthday Massacre: O2 Academy Islington: 24-October It more struck me like that when I was listening to it again this morning, and it clicked as that “feel”.

Rainbow: I think we feel that too, but it’s almost in retrospect. When we were doing it, we’re not as conscious of it, we can’t see the full picture, ‘cos the album’s not finished. The songs aren’t all together, you don’t hear them all back to back and you don’t connect those threads. Aside from playing it live, do you revisit your own music much?

M. Falcore: I wait for it to just come on. Sometimes, even like ten years ago, when we came out with Walking With Strangers, it’ll come on the car radio, and I’m like “oh my God, that song”, I find that’s the best, when it’s a surprise.
Rainbow: I guess now and again, but it’s not something I do. I don’t tend to unless there’s some sort of reason for it, if there’s someone that’s asking to have something explained. We don’t typically reference it for the next album. we don’t try and grow something out of it. Once it’s done it’s done, and it’s actually strange hearing them after playing those songs live…you get used to them the way they sound live, and when you hear it again, it almost just doesn’t sound right. That’s a good point, as I’ve always thought you’ve got a heavier sound live than you do on record – sure, you have moments where you unleash the metal guitars, but there’s always been this impression I’ve had, all the way back, that you’re much more metal live. Is that a conscious decision?

Rainbow: Somewhat, it’s something i like doing. It came out of wanting to be noticed, and making an impression, and feeling a lot towards what we created. We wanted to present what we had written in a way that was visceral and powerful, we didn’t want to be mistaken for anything too “weak” or “poppy”, we wanted to have certain aspects of our songs and band that referenced pop and shoegaze, and goth, but we wanted to play it in a way that kicked ass and got the message across and got attention. Looking outside tonight, you’ve got a younger crowd than many bands in our “scene” – something that many bands have a problem with, how do you “connect” to younger people, get more people into the “scene”. You guys seem to have done this without really trying.

M. Falcore: You’re right, we did not try.
Rainbow: I think a lot of the audience we have, they are bits and pieces from other audiences. There’s some people in the metal crowd that may like us, but not all of them, so there’s a percentile that appreciated what we do. Then there’s all those different parts of all these different genres all converge at our shows and those tend to be the most open-minded, broader-spectrum of listening to music, so our crowd tends to be really accepting. And there is no elitism, well, I hope not. It never ceases to amaze me that some of my friends go “I really like The Birthday Massacre”, and I’m like “you’re a dude that listens to Death Metal all day. That’s awesome

M. Falcore: I say the same thing! I’m like “really? Thank you! That’s so great” And you’re playing Whitby this weekend, which has something in the cache of Goth. This is your…second time doing it – was it what you expected it to be?
M. Falcore: I didn’t know what to expect – and it’s our third time, actually. Really? Huh.

M. Falcore: 2007 on Hallowe’en, then in April a few years back, and now.
Rainbow: We didn’t know what to expect showing up, but we really enjoyed ourselves, and really flattered to be asked to play it. We’re really appreciative that we were asked to headline this year, and it’s great to be accepted and brought onboard to be part of an event like that. Were you aware of Whitby before you played there?

M. Falcore: No, not at all.
Rainbow: So many of the festivals in Europe and the UK, we really don’t hear about in North America, except for some of the major ones that are sorta cross-genre, “Alternative”. Summers just aren’t the same as festivals here. Yeah – I found that North American festivals are very different to over here, serious drinking and bands, no gaps, bam-bam-bam. Over here there’s a more relaxed attitude to it.

Rainbow: Yeah, more like a day at the park over here, stroll around, part of it’s the location, part of it’s there’s shops and other stuff to do. And a lot of times [in North America] they’re not outdoors, they are in clubs, basically just an extended concert. What do you guys listen to beyond what you do, beyond what you make?

Rainbow: That’s a huge question.
M. Falcore: Yeah, I’ve been struggling lately, trying to catch up. I find there’s lots of good bands out there, but hard to find good albums. I find bands aren’t committing to the album like they used to. It’s all a couple of singles, an EP.
Rainbow: It’s not like they aren’t there, they are just harder to find. You know they are out there…
M. Falcore: A lot of them don’t even tour
Rainbow: Yeah, and the haystack is huge, and there’s no filter now, there used to be radio deciding, there was a much thinner channel of what got out and what you’d hear. Whereas now it’s wide-open, everyone’s got their own podium online, it’s blown things wide open and everyone has a chance. But you don’t know who to listen to anymore. Finally, what would your advice be to people who wanted do their own thing and form their own band. What life lesson have you learnt?

Rainbow: Exactly what you’ve just said. “Do your own thing”. Form your own band, I don’t think there is any Mr Wizard that’s gonna tell you how to be you, and how to have chemistry with your friends, and do something organic amongst you. What works for one person won’t work for someone else and anyone we’ve looked up to, you realize that they were exactly like you were, and just did it, and they’re not perfect either. Just be yourself, have confidence in it, and don’t put yourself under your favourite band, and think you’re less than them. You could be the next “them”, in twenty years who’s to say who is going to remember your favourite band. We’re all standing on the shoulders of giants at this point.
M. Falcore: You’ve gotta have passion for it.
Rainbow: Absolutely, you’ve got to want it.
M. Falcore: It’s not easy, and you need that passion to get you through the tough times. There’s gonna be tough times. And there’s nothing worse, right, than a band that are phoning it in.

Rainbow: Yeah. The tough times are what builds your character, what builds the lyrics, what build the experiences and stories of what you put into your creative work too, so they go together. But it would be nice to be really comfortable sometimes… You need the good, the bad, to enjoy this. The travelling still kicks the ass right?

Rainbow: It can, it can, if you don’t watch yourself.
M. Falcore: You get smarter, it gets easier.

Under Your Spell is out now

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