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Interviews : “The Progress is forever ongoing and evolving” – An interview with Mitch Alexander

By on November 19, 2019

Eye of the Enemy has recently released their third full-length album, Titan. I caught up with singer Mitch Alexander, who also currently hosts Triple J’s The Racket, to discuss the new album, the band’s evolution, and the Australian metal scene.

Titan represents the resolution of a tumultuous period for Eye of the Enemy; when asked what the goal of the band was for the new album, Mitch exclaimed:

“To get it out!” Continuing he explained, “It took so long to try and do that at this point it was just a matter of finishing. We’d just gone through so many changes over the last however long that… but it just kept taking longer and longer and longer. That’s what happens when, you know, members change. Part of the issue was trying to figure out how to write, not just what to write. And so, when you have people in a new band situation, you have to sort of recalibrate, you have to figure out how to work with new people, essentially… I think by the end of it we were pretty confident, I think we’re pretty confident now that we can. The fact that the album is out is kind of proof to us that it works, that at least we can and that people tend to like the album is proof that it works.”

Mitch was also especially keen to share the new lyrics on Titan with fans of the band: “I never really valued myself as a vocalist but I did value myself as a lyricist, as a writer. For a whole bunch of strangers to actually read my lyrics finally, and to be able to give critique and say ‘ah, it’s really good!’ I’m like ‘alright, shit, cool!’, that’s really fun. I think again, not speaking for anyone else in the band, one of the things I really like is how much-hidden stuff there is. There’s a lot of call-backs in the lyrics and the vocals and the riffs, there’s a lot of hidden stuff in some of the samples that are just, tiny little things that are in there… if I just said it outright they’d sort of suck, but what I really like is that we’ve bothered to spend some time putting together ‘Oh, we could link this song with this song here’ or ‘we can foreshadow this happening in a later song but putting it earlier in the album’ stuff like that. I’m a fan of that nerdy sort of semi-concept album stuff.”

Continuing this theme, we discussed the lyrics to ‘Clay’, one of the lead singles and music videos to the new song. Standing out as an especially emotional song to me, I asked how the band put the song together and if it was a personal song or an imagined story: “Lyrically, I’ve always been obtuse, just because that’s when you’re younger, that’s how you prove how smart you are… ‘Clay’ was one of the songs that was pretty much fully written and given to me and I was like ‘alright, cool, I’ll just do something over the top of it’. So I had constraints to work with, which I think were really good for it… it always sounded melancholic. I sort of just wanted to write something that fit that… I had the idea for that chorus, like the sound of it, I didn’t know what the words were going to be, but the sound of that chorus informed what I was going to write about; it just so happened that I had some personal stuff at the time to inspire some of the words.” This then leads into a discussion of the bands’ songwriting process where Mitch explained “It really depends on where the music is at… as the chorus of ‘Empire’ was initially just a two-bar interstitial segue, and I heard it and I was like ‘no, no, no, no! That’s a chorus! Extend that out, we’ll write on top of that’… Other times, as I said, a whole song will sort of just be given to me, and other times there’ll be a couple of different riffs or a drumbeat or something and I’ll start to structure it around that and then the input might be ‘the song now needs to go to this spot, so why don’t you write this for me? I’ve got this idea in my head for where the vocals can go, so help me match that.’. That’s part of the fun of writing, that there are different ways to approach it depending on what everyone comes up with at the time… One of the things that I think people do is write music to abstract concepts or stories or ideas. So me and James [McInnes, bass] will sort of colour a lot with the sorts of riffs or sounds of what we wanted to do. Kaneo [Chris Kane, guitars] who’s the main ‘riffage’ guy, responds really well to different types of stories or scenarios to make music around… I always make sure the lyrics sort of match that initial thrust.”

From here, we turned to the trajectory of the band overall, which naturally included discussions on the trajectory of music overall. Beginning with the band themselves: “The progress is forever ongoing and evolving. At the same time, I think it’s like starting again because there are that many new members and it’s so long between albums, this feels like a good mix now… It feels like a refresher for us like we finally got this out there and we got it out with the line-up that we’ve sort of cemented now.

We’re already writing new music and talking about the next thing we want to do alongside touring and playing shows. We’re definitely going to be getting new material out inside five years, I don’t think we’re going to be waiting that long again, but I think there’s also a desire for us, in terms of the actual evolution, to really look at what we release and how we release it.” Broadly, this is also influenced by the changing nature of music consumption in the modern world. Mitch opined that “Whether it’s unfortunate or fortunate I don’t know, but the way people listen to music and the way that people consume media generally has changed. So the idea of a full album makes less sense either way, but not so much for bands. Obviously, with Spotify and YouTube, the algorithms mean that all you want is ears and eyes on views, you want to be bumping that metric, hitting as many new people as you can, and that only happens when you have new shiny things. You’ve seen pop stars and rappers sometimes just release a song, just one track, they’ll do that every few months to just sort of maintain relevance because that’s what drives those algorithms. It would be good if metal bands could do that, but at the same time, it’s very hard to justify the expense of renting a full studio for the drumkit, to set that whole thing up to just record one song; to get the guitarist in and tune it all up and get all the sound right for one track. So, I think there’s gonna be some soul searching in the metal scene and also in the ‘band’ scene to see where that balance between full albums and the changing landscape is going to be. We’ve had some ideas, we’re just going to experiment with some stuff and see what happens.”

The live performance was our final area of discussion, given the band’s recent presence at The New Dead festival. On performing at New Dead, Mitch said “It was fantastic, that festival always kicks arse… The vibe was really good; everyone was super keen on being there, they were all having a good time, all the bands were having fun… It’s really fun to watch, it started as a passion project, now they’ve got Fleshgod Apocalypse headlining, it’s great… it felt like an international [band] was gracing us with their presence at a party. All of the acts leading up to Fleshgod were just a good damn time with a whole bunch of mates fuckin around and having fun and the cherry on top was ‘holy shit, we also get to see Fleshgod at the end of this, this rules!’ It was a cool night, I mean, so many members of each band were in each other’s crowd watching as well and it had a really cool communal, fun vibe to it.” I also asked about the band’s upcoming touring plans: “We’ve got a couple of things we’ll hopefully be announced soon but it’s getting harder and harder to try and book these different types of tours. Which I think is good, it’s indicative of a healthy scene with everything booking out well in advance, you know there are so many venues and they’re all booked out… It also just means booking stuff is a pain in the arse. We’re in a fun position because we’re not reliant on this to pay rent and support ourselves, so we can take our time with stuff and be a little more… involved in the process of organising some shows and tours and making sure we’re doing ones we really want to do that make sense to us, without having to worry about financial considerations. It means that we, unfortunately, do less, but the ones we do we can be 100% behind and stoked on and hopefully present something for people to come out to see and present them something that we would want our favourite bands to see. Sometimes if a band is on their grind constantly, you think ‘Oh that was a “middle-of-the-year” gig, they’re tired, I get it’ so yeah. We’ve got international and national stuff in the works, we’re just finalising all that stuff now.”. With one final quip from Mitch to “Join your union!” that concluded our interview.

Eye of the Enemy will be supporting Trivium at their only Australian headline show in Canberra as part of the Good Things Festival at UC Refectory on December 4th. Tickets on sale now via Destroy All Lines.

About

Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.