Basement (Alex Henery)
After only three years and two releases, UK five-piece Basement took an indefinite hiatus in 2012. While members humbly worked on personal endeavours, the band steadily rose in popularity and developed a cult following bursting with loyalty. This year has seen Basement return with a new album, renewed passion and waves of tours. Their latest full-length release, Promise Everything sees the Ipswich locals break into new territory as they opt for a more fluid, melodic approach across ten intricately crafted songs.
On the brink of their upcoming Australian tour, guitarist Alex Henery took some time out to chat to us about what it’s like touring with Turnstile, reinventing the band’s live show, and what’s on his to-do list this time down under.
Congratulations on Promise Everything! It’s been doing really well in Australia, how have you found the reception from this release so far?
It’s been kind of crazy, we haven’t really done press or anything like this before with any album. I guess we didn’t really think that that was kind of something we had to do or wanted to do, we would just release the record and that was it. We’ve done two tours so far off the album – one in Europe and one in the States. I wasn’t sure which songs would go down well live or how it was going to be received, but it’s been awesome. Some of the newer songs have been better received than the older ones. People seem excited, it’s a great feeling.
You’re coming back to Australia in a couple of weeks, what can we expect from that tour and those shows?
I’m really excited because I love Australia and I love the people in Australia…everyone’s down to just hang out! Last time we came there we had BBQs on the beach and people would just turn up, it’s awesome. We’re playing with Turnover who we played with at the end of last year and they were amazing live. And then Break Even, which is a band I know does really well in Australia so I’m excited to see them play live. I think it’s going to be great because we get to play a mixed set of older and newer stuff. A lot of these venues are bigger than what we’ve played before too. One of the venues in Wollongong we used to play to 150-200 people and now there’s like maybe 800 cap. It’s kind of hard to even comprehend…you just don’t imagine that. You think oh it’ll stay the same, we’ll play the same kind of venues but it seems to be growing.
So having that background in punk/hardcore, you know the culture of it and how people behave. What do you think of stage diving?
Good question actually, we’ve had this huge dilemma going on tour before. We’re a band that grew up in punk/hardcore and we started playing those shows where there is no barriers, no security and people jumping on each other and moshing. But as we progressed as time went on and our band started to grow, people who weren’t hardcore kids [started coming to shows], and next thing they know someone’s jumping on them and maybe you see someone get kicked. Obviously when you tour with a band like Turnstile you get a whole lot more mixed but for the most part I see our band more like a rock band now, so it’s a dilemma that we kind of judge as we go venue to venue. I think people sometimes see it as a killjoy thing like why is there a barrier? But you have to understand that when you’re seeing people be completely crushed, I’m just scared of someone getting hurt.
How does Promise Everything translate into a live setting? When you were making the album did you specifically consider how it would go live?
Definitely, I think when we got to writing Promise Everything, we wanted to write a record that was really catchy but we also wanted to write energy. Those were the two things that I wanted to focus on: melody and energy, and mixing those two, so when we play these songs I feel like they’re not out of place. They [need to] fit really well with some of the old tracks, and it’s really fun watching how we’re going to transition into that song in that moment. It’s cool because we can transition from a heavier song like ‘Spoiled’ and then go into something softer. It’s a move we’re working on, and I find that stuff really interesting.
Do you have a standout gig that you went to as a fan that made you consider what you wanted to be like as a live performer?
One of the first bands I saw live was the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Hyde Park and James Brown actually supported them before he died. I do remember they had really nuts interludes where they would always do something different, something to do with the solos. We haven’t added that element yet…but that definitely inspired me. I guess recently my eyes are now open to how bands present themselves live, what they do to make themselves stand out. I saw a band called Autolux in Boston a few weeks ago. They just released a new record and they had these incredible projections while they were playing, it blew my mind.
Do you have a favourite track off the new album?
I think it might be the title track, ‘Promise Everything’ just because I think it’s really dynamic and it has a lot of interesting parts. It just hits, there’s a lot of energy, the riff is going and I think near the end with the bass solo and that transition, it just gets me psyched playing it live. Even if I’m tired, I always have the energy to play that song.
Where were a few of the weirdest places you played when Basement were first starting out?
We played at a place called East Side Joes in a desert outside of Las Vegas. It was literally in this dude’s house [laughs], like a shack in the middle of the desert. There were signs saying ‘no trespassing’ and it was so hot and so horrible. We were sweating so much we just didn’t want to play, we just wanted to go back to where we came from and go swimming or something, but we played the show and there were kids there who were super psyched! We couldn’t believe they came out for that show but yeah, East Side Joes.
Just a little bit different to the shows you’re playing now…
Yeah but it’s nice though! It’s given us a nice perspective and it keeps us grounded to be like we know where we came from. We used to sleep on peoples floors to play shows and we did it because we love doing it, and that’s why we’re still doing it now. It’s not really about anything else other than that. Just be creative, have fun with your friends and you get to travel. It’s awesome.
Basement’s string of Australian tour dates kicks off on May 23 in Brisbane and finishes up in Perth the following week, with tickets available via Destroy All Lines. The band’s latest release Promise Everything can be found on Run For Cover Records.