INTERVIEW: Nick Lythall (THE IRON EYE)
Love rock-hard tunes and fuzzy swagger? Well unless you'e been living under an iron-clad boulder, you may already be familiar with Brissie rockers The Iron Eye, a trio who have consistently demanded attention with their blasting tunes and thumping live energy over several years.
And while 2017 saw the gents erupt both locally and abroad, 2018 has stepped up again with The Iron Eye's recent release 'Conscience Cleaner' whipping speakers into a riff frenzy, plus a current run of shows that will see them traipse over to New Zealand before returning back home to Brisbane in early October.
But behind the smouldering grooves and pummeling riffs is a group who are willing to sacrifice it all for their art (including showers and sleeping on actual beds), and as they look to the next leg of their 'Conscience Cleaner' Tour, frontman Nick Lythall took a moment to chat early days, new tunes and confession to clear his conscience. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hey Nick! Thanks for your time today, I've been very much digging your tunes for a while now. But firstly, I think congratulations are in order because you guys have had a crazy little run of late, you've had the new single 'Conscience Cleaner', you were one of the finalists for the VB Hard Yards comp, and you're currently taking the new track on the road as well, including a little sneaky trip to New Zealand. Have you managed to take it all in yet?
NICK LYTHALL: Yeah, I think we have but just because it's been boiling for a little while, we've been sort of like ducks on water...sitting pretty calm on the surface but underneath it's all just going on! But that "going on" has been the last few months, it's nice that everything's starting to come together. We've had our New Zealand dates in for a little while, but these last few dates in Australia have actually taken a bit longer to get together, which is weird (laughs). New Zealand was so easy! Australia was a bit tougher. But the reception to it all has been really good so far, even just with Spotify streams, I think it was about 20,000 streams just in the last week and a bit. So yeah, we're pretty happy with it.
TIANA: Yeah, you guys got chucked up almost instantly on some pretty awesome Spotify playlists, have you noticed a lot more traction as a result?
NICK: Yeah, there has been. When we released our EP, we released our first single 'Just Started' and we got onto one of the Rock playlists, and we were kinda hoping to get onto that same playlist this time around. And we did! Which was great, and another one picked us up the next day (laughs). And then after that, another one so I think we're on about three playlists now, and that's almost half a million listeners combined! It's been great, we've been getting a bit more interest from overseas, the US, Canada and Germany, and places like that. So, it's really cool!
TIANA: Just casually taking over the world, I love it!
NICK: (laughs) One fan at a time!
TIANA: And by the sound of it, it might be easier to travel to Germany than it is to travel interstate! Now, the new track 'Conscience Cleaner' is a bit of a rager, it sees you guys a bit more raucous...not that your earlier stuff didn't have that heavy vibe. But was there a conscious effort to head in a slightly different direction this time round with the new material?
NICK: I'd actually say that our last EP was a little bit more of a departure for us than this? With this song, maybe we're just a bit angsty and raucous in our personalities, but this was really natural. And we sort of toned that down for our first EP, but with this we're just expressing ourselves maybe a bit more, and it's a bit more raw. But saying that, we've got some new songs in the works that are dynamically very, very different to this as well. So I think we're sort of just pushing the directions that we're currently heading, we're just pushing them a little bit further out. This one's getting a little bit more wild, whereas there are other songs that are getting a bit more mellow, a bit more groovy. We're exploring all our boundaries.
'CONSCIENCE CLEANER' (THE IRON EYE)
TIANA: Exciting times ahead for us and The Iron Eye by the sounds of it! And with the track, I'm not sure if it was the case for all of the new material, but I believe it wasn't a walk in the park to bring to fruition. You had an impromptu trip to Melbourne to record with Tom Larkin, sleeping in the control room...safe to say the outcome has been good, and there are no regrets?
NICK: (laughs) Ughhhh. No regrets at all, it was a bit of an effort. We had a plan, and we wanted to do it relatively cheaply. We ended up booking a studio up here (in Brisbane), we were gonna get an engineer that we used on our EP to fly up and do it up here. And he came up and there were issues in the studio, just a whole bunch of gear that he brought just wouldn't talk to the studio. And it was pretty important for the sound that we were going for. So (sighs) over a few beers we decided just to leg it to Melbourne the next day and catch up on the time we lost in the studio and ended up doing it down at Homesurgery. I mean, at the time we were like "what are we doing, we're just throwing money down the drain?!?!". But the end result, we tracked a couple of songs down there, and we're really happy with the result so far.
TIANA: I think the further you get away from that experience, the better. You'll look back on it fondly! And thank god for beer.
NICK: (laughs) Yeah, thank god for beer and baby wipes, because we slept on the floor of the studio and we were there for probably four days and we didn't shower the entire time. Well, we had baby wipe showers, so thank god for baby wipes and beer.
THE IRON EYE RECORDING AT HOMESURGERY RECORDINGS (NOT PICTURED - BABY WIPES)
TIANA: "Baby wipes and beer". The new tagline for The Iron Eye. And that is a happy segue for me, on the note of beer, as we touched on briefly earlier, you guys were one of the Queensland finalists for the VB Hard Yards competition. How did this opportunity come about?
NICK: We were up against a couple of really good bands from up here, and it just came about because I just saw it advertised, basically. And saw they were promoting it on instagram, and just thought "oh, what the hell, a good chance to get out and play some shows!". But I think myself and Antonio (Antonio Mancini - Drums) submitted the band without even knowing that we'd both done it (laughs). And then when they said we were one of the finalists, we checked out a couple of the bands, and one of them, or maybe both of them I think are five-piece bands...so there's going to be a more organic reach there as well, but, we're weren't going to be disappointed if we didn't get it, either way it's a nice opportunity!
TIANA: Speaking of fellow Queensland bands, I feel like of late Queensland and in particular Brisbane really seems to be cornering the market, particularly with a lot of these heavier bands. Do find it a supportive and engaging community to be a part of at the moment?
NICK: Yeah, absolutely, Brisbane is such a supportive community because it's smaller than say Melbourne and Sydney. It seems that some of those environments can be a little bit competitive, but Brisbane itself, it's more close-knit in a way. And we know most of the bands that are on the touring circuit around Brisbane, or have played with them on shared lineups. So there's a familiarity which I don't think you get in the bigger cities.
TIANA: Now jumping back to the new track 'Conscience Cleaner' and more specifically yourself...obviously there's some pretty crushing riffs going on with this new single. As resident axe-slinger for The Iron Eye, what actually prompted you pick up the guitar back in the day? Was there a moment where you were just like "I wanna be a rock star!"....is there a romantic story behind the music?
NICK: (laughs) Ohh, I don't know about romantic, I actually wanted to be a drummer originally, and I think my parents were like "no, you're not getting a drum kit, use these pillows and here's some drum sticks". I was always musical, I played piano from a young age, and got to the first year of high school and there are thirty-odd little nylon string acoustic guitars in the classroom, and everyone had to sit down and play 'Wild Thing'. And I picked it up pretty easily, I was like "oh, this isn't hard", I felt pretty in tune with it. And so I got sent outside because I'd already finished all the songs, and the teacher's like "look, take the music, go outside, just have a play" while everyone else is still struggling to fret a D-chord, or whatever. It felt really natural, but even saying that I don't consider myself a "guitarist" guitarist. I just happen to play guitar in a band, and it's all I use to write the riffs. But I was inspired, I didn't really know it at the time, but I was listening to a lot of guitar-oriented music like Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, all that stuff. And I was sort of primarily focused on the drums, to be honest (laughs). As soon as I started playing the guitar and started learning the riffs I was like "oh, this is pretty cool!", you know? They come to life a bit more on the guitar.
NICK SHREDDING SOME TASTY LICKS ONSTAGE//pic by Nicole Matthews
TIANA: And what about singing, was that something that just got thrown into it simultaneously?
NICK: Yeeeahhhhhh.....I think that just came part and parcel with playing the guitar, you pick up a few chords. I've always liked more melodic music, you know Zeppelin's still pretty melodic, Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, and then obviously modern day stuff as well, I was big into Chili Peppers, Incubus and bands like that too. And Jeff Buckley as well was a big influence. So, trying to emulate them on the guitar, high school girls would rather hear you sing it than just play it (laughs).
TIANA: Ain't that the truth! Well then fast forward from those days a few years in time and you're sharing stages with DZ Deathrays, Harts, Shihad to name a few...what's been your most memorable live show so far?
NICK: Um...ohhh there's been a few. There's been some crazy smaller ones! DZ's was pretty crazy because that was just a whole bunch of Sunny Coast kids destroying the barrier (laughs). So that was fun to watch! Shihad was great because it was such a big stage, we were playing at the Triffid up here in Brisbane in front of all their fans, so that was pretty good. We played a festival called MojoFest recently in Brisbane and that was pretty wild too. There's just been so many! And some pretty eclectic fans that you meet on the road as well. Adelaide's an interesting one! There's too many to choose from!
TIANA: And I daresay plenty more to come in the near future!
NICK: (laughs) Absolutely! Nailed it.
TIANA: So you guys do have a pretty hectically busy schedule for the months ahead, but beyond these live shows, what else can we expect from The Iron Eye, can you reveal any secrets?
NICK: Ohhhhh, there's not much under wraps that we can't reveal. We did record a couple of songs, so we're hoping to get another single out relatively soon. We're just focusing on 'Conscience Cleaner' at the moment, and seeing if we can pick up some more shows and get a few more tours happening before the end of the year! But yeah, definitely if not the end of this year, early 2019 there will definitely be some more stuff dropping. And some more tasty treats for ya!
TIANA: Keen!! So, last but not least. In honour of your new single 'Conscience Cleaner', is there anything you want to get out in the open to clear your conscience? Any burning secrets you've been hanging onto?
NICK: (laughs) Ooohhh....my conscience is pretty clean. I will say that even though we were a finalist in the VB Hard Yards comp, we actually don't have our band room fridge stocked with VB...we feel like a bunch of phonies in that regards.
TIANA: It's fine, we just won't tell them! Well, thank you so much for chatting, and I'm hell-bent on catching you guys live eventually, so keep touring and keep up the tunes!
NICK: Awesome! When you see us come say hey and we'll have a beer. But not a VB cos we don't have any.
TIANA: It's a deal! Thanks Nick.
NICK: No worries, thanks so much!
THE IRON EYE'S LATEST TRACK 'CONSCIENCE CLEANER' IS OUT NOW WHEREVER YOU NORMALLY GET YOUR MUSICAL TREATS. PLUS IF YOU'RE IN MELBOURNE, AUCKLAND, CHRISTCHURCH OR BRISBANE, YOU CAN CATCH THE BOYS ON THE ROAD NEXT MONTH. MORE INFO BELOW.
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BY TIANA SPETER