It's Quite Complex

Despite

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! How are things in the world of Despite?

Everything is really doing well right now. I would say it’s probably going over our expectations since we released a new album. I mean, the boost that we’re getting right now and also the increasing of new fans worldwide… you know, we can’t understand what’s going on right now to be honest with you.

So the reception has been good for the new album?

Yeah! That you can say for sure.

It makes sense because it’s a great album. It’s a good listen.

Yeah, I think it’s a good album. It’s become kind of mature, you know. A lot of the songs… probably a lot of fans recognize from the EP as well. Since we signed with the label, with Eclipse Records, we said that we want to make a full-length album. So we actually took some of the stuff since we were not a signed band before. We took some of the songs and we just took them with the new songs we made and I think the outcome was really good, so we’re really happy with it.

Yeah, I can understand that. Your last full album release, it was in 2010. The album Clenched. And the rest of your releases have always been EPs or singles.

Yeah. And also, something that people should know about Despite these days is that the founder of Despite, Timmy Leng, he was with us until the beginning of the year, but, you know, his family situation changed… he’s got small kids… he realized that he didn’t have time to do this. So he was actually the last original member of the band, but I think since Pete and Andre joined Despite in 2012, the sound of Despite has changed completely. The only thing that was the same was the name Despite. But if you listen to Clenched, which you just mentioned, that’s more like the Gothenburg sound of metal. How it used to be back in the day with bands like At the Gates and, you know, that kind of genre and type of sound. So, I think these days the band is a completely new form and the sound is a completely different as well. Now we are playing all digital equipment – eight-string guitars. And that of course, I would say, is more up-to-date. 

In what ways would you say your sound has evolved since your last EP?

I think, if you look at Despite today with the setting of members, we are all from different influences and different in age. I’m like the oldest guy in the band. I’m 42 and the youngest in the band is like 23. So it’s quite a big difference of influences of music we like and I think everybody has something good to contribute. That’s probably the nice thing with Despite. I turns out really well.

With several generations in one band you can always learn from each other.

Of course. We really respect each other for the skills and the taste in everything we do, so I think that’s really a nice thing.

When Timmy Leng decided to step down for his family, was that an unexpected thing or something you saw coming?

Yeah, we kind of saw it coming because they already had a kid before. I think he’s like close to four years and they just got a daughter not that far ago. Maybe like a few months back. The family life was really taking over more and more. And we completely respect it. Timmy is always going to be with us. He’s a really cool dude. He has a heart made of gold. And he’s always going to be with us.

How big was his role creatively in the band?

I think in the past it was really a lot. Maybe over the last few years since he got family, he didn’t have the time to create that much as he wished because he didn’t have the time to do it. Today, the really big creators in the band has been Peter, our singer, and our other guitar player. We’ve got three guitar players now. We’ve got a guy who actually took over Timmy’s place and he’s also a very productive guy when it comes to creating music. So, I think in the future there will be a lot of good things coming out of the Despite camp.

When it comes to “Synergi,” how much of that did he write?

You mean Timmy on this one?

Yeah, I mean that.

I think “Sanctum Falls” was one of his songs that he was a big part of. The other stuff was mainly done by Peter and Andre, I have to say.

Well, let’s look ahead and we shall see.

We always look ahead. (Laughs)

The new record was just released last month and I just spent a few days listening to it. It’s really nice. 

Thank you.

What can you tell us about the tracks on the album?

The tracks on the album are very versatile, but you can still find a flow throughout the entire album. There is one particular song that is actually standing out much more than the others, which is “Time Lapse.” That’s a song that Peter made quite a long time ago. It’s a really nice song and we said we really wanted to put this on this album. But to answer your question, all the songs are really designed. If I can put it like that.

It took some time to develop them.

Yeah, I would say these are songs that have been growing over the last two to three years. And it takes time, you know, to find… there are so many things to be in position when you make an album. Like you said, the reception of this album has been really great so far, but we’re already now planning for the next album.

On the move!

Yeah, you have to be.

When it comes to songs like we find on your new “Synergi” CD, how do you create something like that?  There’s a lot of layers in it.

Yeah, that’s also something we work a lot with. I mean, that’s one of the main reasons we have three guitar players. Of course, you could do most of the stuff on backing track and when you play live, you just run these tracks via the backing tracks, but there is a lot of layers and flavor to it. If you really listen, if you really listen careful and pay attention to everything, you will find out there is a lot of things going on there.

I absolutely agree, yeah. When it comes to the guitarists… there’s three of them, as you said. That’s a lot of metal. Are there designated roles between them? Any designated rhythms or designated leads?

I think so far, Andre has done most of the leads. But I think in the future, it’s not gonna be like, yeah, he’s the lead player and he’s just doing the rhythm. The intention is to be able to swap in between.

Switch it up, make it interesting…

Yeah. So it’s one of these things that you will probably notice and hear in the future.

I already noticed on your Wikipedia page it said, “guitarist,” “guitarist,” “guitarist.” There weren’t any roles. I like that.

Yeah, that’s true. But I mean, it’s like, all three of us, when you go to a Despite show, a gig, and listen to us, it’s like being hit. It’s huge. The sound, the picture, coming out of it… because, like I said, we are all playing digitally. It’s not like in the past when we were using traditional heads. So we use – I don’t know how much you’re involved in guitar gear – but like, Fractal Audio’s Axe-FX.

I’m not really familiar with those, but I’ll look them up.

Yeah, that’s what we’re using and it’s all digital. And the sound that comes out when we play in a show is really big. It’s a very, very big soundscape coming out these PA – from the venue.

That sounds cool.

It is cool. It’s a big difference if you have a traditional band playing maybe just before us and then when we go on, the soundscape is very, very big. And that’s something, you know, with three guitar players on there, you’re going to have a lot of sound coming from these guitars.

Soundscape. That’s a word I also found in the bio you gave us with the promo. It states that you purvey polyrhythmic soundscapes extremely well. What does that mean?

The only way to explain it is just to come and listen to us. It’s a lot of sound coming out of this band, I would say.

So you hit us like a hammer.

Yeah.

That’s a good thing!

It is, it is. I guess, today with all the technique and all the equipment that you use today as a modern guitar player, it’s a very, very big difference and it makes a difference if you go and listen to a traditional set-up and then you listen to a set-up like Despite.

I’ll definitely come check you out then!

Definitely, definitely.

When it comes to your title, “Synergi,” how did you land on that?

That was actually, uh… how can I explain that in a good way? It’s actually being pronounced syner-gi. It’s the American word of synergize. Synergi is the Swedish word. And the “i” on this word, if you follow the team, we are all a cog in a big machinery, and everybody’s effort and work is being important to make the machinery work. It’s kind of like… I don’t know how to explain it in the appropriate way. Like, the whole band, all our thoughts, the meaning of every song, and everything, it’s all actually linked together. Like what you’re doing, what I’m doing, we’re all just a cog in a big machinery. If we don’t do things together, the machine wouldn’t work properly. You will have big hiccups.

Breakdown.

Yeah, a breakdown. I guess the entire message of this album… if you look in a lot of the lyrics, it’s a lot of stuff that is based on what’s happening around in the world and also, Peter, he’s the guy who’s writing the lyrics, a lot of stuff is also based on his life experiences. Things can be unfair in life. Things that are not being handled and taken care of properly. All these things are coming out of these songs more or less and there is a lot of depth into it and it’s hard for me maybe to explain all these things, but its’s quite complex actually.

I get the drift of that. That’s a deep title.

It is. But like I said, there are some really good thoughts behind it.

That much I gather. That’s probably also the reason why there are so many cogs on the artwork.

Yes, correct. There is a certain particular little red one and that should symbolize you or me, you know. I as a person or you as a person.

The first thing I thought when I saw the cover with all the little gears and I imagined them turning… that must be a female.

Yeah? (Laughs) Okay. That could be, you know. We’re all different human beings and we have different thoughts about what’s right, what’s wrong here in life, based on experiences in our lifetime.

Who made the artwork?

The artwork in this case… it’s actually a contact of Peter who made the artwork. I thought it was really, really cool.

Hit the spot, yeah.

Yeah it did. It’s one of those things… me, personally… you need to have a sense of art to understand these things. Maybe I’m not the right guy in the band to explain these things well.

Well, you do know what it means to you. That’s the important thing.

Yeah, I do know, so… and then it’s up to every person how they see it and how they translate it.

With three guitarists in your band, how do you use the big guitar power you have to create the Despite sound? How do you use it to your advantage?

First of all, we are tuning down quite low to get the sound to sound really, really heavy with the right riffs that we have come up with and our playing skills… you will get a sound that is so heavy. But of course, you have Anthony, our bass player. The whole thing complete makes it just so heavy. We are actually tuned down to a low E. I don’t how familiar you are with regular standard tuning…

Just a little.

For people wondering what kind of tuning we have… since we all play eight-string guitars, the first six strings are like regular standard tuning. Then the seventh string is a Drop A and the eighth string is a Drop E. So it’s really, really low tuning. To be able to do that, you need to play on certain instruments with a certain neck and a certain length. I always joke and say, it’s a material sport. You need to have the right gear. You can’t just take a regular standard six-string guitar and tune it down that low. It would never work.

You really take your gear seriously then.

Yeah, you have to. Otherwise… to be able to play this kind of music, you need to use the gear that we are using. We are not the only ones – there are a lot of bands in the world using this kind of gear. But it’s a must.

Yeah, I bet. Without using any flowery language like ‘polyrhythmic soundscapes,’ how would you describe the current Despite sound?

I would describe it as quite heavy, accurate, and fast. In three words.

That’s a nice description.

We’re just doing what we think is cool and people like it.

I know I do. (Laughs)

Thank you!

I saw that you are currently not on tour, nor are there any announced dates on your website. 

We are really working on that. Right now, a lot of stuff is going on in the Despite camp. We are really, really working hard to get on tour. You know, it costs a lot of money to go on tour. And we are not big enough to headline shows so that means we should probably go with a bigger band and open for them. First we were thinking, since we’re based in Sweden, maybe a European tour would be the best to start out with, if you look at it financially, but there is so much really positive and good things going on the U.S. right now, so that could even be the case that the first tour we do could be a U.S. tour.

That’s an exciting prospect!

Yeah, and today I think people don’t realize that bands make almost no money selling albums in the form of CD. It’s mostly touring and merchandise. Or find other things that could be connected to the band in one way or another to make money on. But to really think that you’re going to sell a lot of records, that’s not going to happen, because most of the distribution these days is like digital. With Spotify and all these types of digital media that you can use to distribute music, it’s not a big income for the bands.

I know all about that. I help out a Russian band with lyrics. It’s a hard time to be a musician.

It is. Most of us have regular jobs next to the music, which our passion that we really love and it would be a dream to live off of this, but you know, you should still have your dreams and reach your goals, but sometimes you might need to be realistic and see what’s really feasible or not.

That does make it a bit harsh. It’s too expensive to go on tour, but you make the most money while on tour. 

That’s true. It’s like a catch-22 almost, you know. It’s really hard to do that. But we have some good leads and some good things going on and we will see where that will put us. So people will definitely see us. I’m pretty sure about that.

You did two release shows this year. How were they?

They were good, actually. It was back home. We were in Sweden. We had the one in Gothenburg and then we had another one outside Gothenburg in another town called Halmstad. And it was good for us. It was a lot of people and we had a good time.

Did you play a lot of the new material?

I would say we played more or less the entire album at the release show. So that was appreciated.

I should’ve heard of that earlier.

Yeah, what we usually do, is something… today with fans and everything, you always need to be accessible, so that means every time we do something, we do a livestream on Facebook and that is always nice, because then people who are living on a different continent or in a different country or whatever, they can always have at least a chance to see a glimpse of what we are doing. But of course, the aim is to be able to tour and play all places.

When you played the album at your release party, which of the new songs was best to play live, and why?

I would say… there are few… like “Awakening” is really cool to play live. “Unexceptional” is another one. And some of the new songs like “Soul = Denied,” “Synergi,” I mean, we played all these songs and they were all very well appreciated by the audience. By the fans. But if you ask me personally which song I really like to play live, which I think is really fun, it would be “Unexceptional.” But then “As You Bleed” is also one song that is very, very popular that people like to see us play live and listen to.

Those are really cool songs.

Yeah, they are. And I don’t know how much I’ve checked… in the states right now, “As You Bleed” is like really doing well. We are in like the third spot on the Devil’s Dozen with Jose Mangin with Liquid Metal. So, we came in a few weeks on the twelfth position, which is actually the last position. Then we went from twelfth to ninth, from ninth to fifth, from fifth to fourth. And last Friday we went to the third spot. 

That’s gotta bring a big smile.

Yeah, it does!  Gojira is number two and Metallica with their new song is number one. So bands like Korn, Hellyeah, Slayer… we have actually beaten all these bands now. That’s incredible. We don’t understand it ourselves.

It means you have a great fanbase. 

Yeah, I think so. And it’s just getting bigger and bigger every day. I mean, I go in just for fun on Spotify since we released the album and every second day it increases by two to three-thousand listeners.

When people listen that’s gotta bring a smile.

Yeah. Once again, you know, I don’t think we realize where this band is going right now. We just continue doing what we have to do back here at home and we don’t realize what’s going on, because if you just get some reports and stuff and you don’t feel the momentum… well, we know there is big momentum but we don’t see it or feel it in that way. I guess we haven’t realized yet.

You’re just reading up about the momentum.

Yeah, so that’s kind of cool.

So what’s next for Despite? Any special plans on the horizon?

In a few weeks there will be a new video released. That will be actually on the last song on the album, “Awakening.” So a new video’s coming up. And then we are really at this moment trying to set some deals when it comes to touring to see what kind of bands… and we have a few really interesting things. But it’s nothing that we want to… we don’t want to name-drop any names or anything yet because we want to have everything in order before we say anything. But it’s going to be quite a big thing.

Alright, well, once you hear of that, make sure you let us know!

Absolutely.

I do hope you get your chance to promote your new material very soon.

Yeah, we appreciate that. We’re very thankful for that.

Do you have any last words for our readers?

Yeah. I want them to stay cool and check out everything that’s happening with Despite. They should listen in to you guys and just be there and have fun. Listen to music!

That’s great last words! I thank you for your time and I’ll let you know when this publishes!

Yeah, same to you and we’ll keep in touch.

Alright, have a great night, man.

Okay, Randy. Take care.

Randy Gerritse