by Ryan Meehan
Evictions, hooded masks, secret passwords, basement bootleg tiki bars, fire axes, superstar rappers…These spectacles—some planned, some not—were all part of the live shows that Nashville’s Five Knives played throughout their hometown upon forming in 2012. “Our second show we played a rooftop and set off the smoke alarms. When the fire department turned up with axes during the set everyone thought they were part of the show,” says programmer Nathan Barlowe. “We had our masks on; they had their masks on, they had their axes and people thought they were part of some kind of weird rave. It wasn’t hard for us to book shows after that”. Even though there are two resident programmers and producers in Five Knives, the band sought an outsider’s guidance and opted for producer Mark Needham (The Killers, Imagine Dragons) for their new album “Savages”. As the songs were nearly complete by the time they got to Needham’s studio, his experienced hand proved the perfect finishing touch. “He let us do our thing, and made it sound bigger and better,” says multi-instrumentalist Nathan Barlowe. “Mark’s a sound sculptor, and we were able to collaborate together to breathe even more life into the music.” The result is 13 tracks of bombastic, heart-skipping density, raw power, and laser-honed electric bursts. We are delighted to have vocalist Anna M’Queen as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: How did yourself and the other musicians in Five Knives initially come to know each other; and how long did it take after that to actually form the band with the current lineup?
AM’Q: We have all lived in Nashville for quite some time, with all of us doing different music projects. We came to know each other through the Nashville scene. Nathan and Zach had been working on some tracks for fun, and they asked me to come sing on a couple of them. Not too long after that we put the tracks online and people asked where we were playing next, so we realized we had something good and that was the start of Five Knives.
RM: What did you guys specifically want to do differently on the full-length that you didn’t feel you really executed to full capacity on the EP? How did you go about accomplishing that task?
AM’Q: We really wanted to write great songs. We also decided to take things into more of a structured direction with pop melodies. We basically accomplished the task by writing and demoing tons and tons of stuff so we could narrow it down to the album we know today as “Savages.”
RM: What was the most important thing that (producer) Mark Needham brought to the table which allowed the band to take such a different yet comfortable approach to making this record?
AM’Q: Mark was super easy going. He always let me take things at my own pace vocally. He treated the whole project that way. He also helped us capture the correct mix to not lose a rock vibe in our record. He was really great at blending all of our sounds into one great album.
RM: At what point during the making of the full-length did you write the title track which is also the single? What is the meaning behind the lyrics of that song; and where do you typically place it in your live set? That song’s chorus is very infectious…Do you typically hear hooks like in your head and then build the song around the part that’s catchy, or are you the type of songwriter that starts from the beginning of the song and works all of the way through to the end?
AM’Q: “Savages” was one of the later songs. We pride ourselves on it being a turning point in our sound melodically. The song is about a tragic love story. Two people who know they are bad for each other, but are too addicted to stay away. We used to play this song first in our set, but now we generally play it somewhere in the middle.
RM: How would you best describe the first thought that went through your head when you heard “Ratatat” in the trailer for the Jesse Eisenberg film “American Ultra”? Are there any lyrics to that song that would suggest it’s perfectly suited to accompany action movie footage?
AM’Q: It’s funny you ask that. I actually had no idea we got that placement and I randomly heard it when I was watching TV. My phone started blowing up from friends who heard it as well. It’s definitely lyrically perfect for an action film of that sort… Drugs, guns, and a heist… What more could you ask for?
RM: Could you ever see the band eventually adding a guitar player for live shows, or do you think that would detract from the electronic aspect of your music? Does anybody in the band ever do a lot of writing on the guitar at any time; and if so, how many of those riffs have ended up as Five Knives songs?
AM’Q: We actually do use guitar during our set. Nathan Barlowe is on keys and guitar. We don’t have guitar in all of our songs but we do in some! I love having guitar because with it and live drums we keep the rock aspect.
RM: Other than the stigma of drugs that was typically attached to dance music due to the rave movement of the mid-to-late nineties, which negative stereotype of EDM and its fans do you hate the most and why? Why do you think that particular misassociation has ended up sticking to electronica for so long; and do you think it will ever go away?
AM’Q: I’d probably have to say I hate the stereotype of bad fashion. Sure, there’s lots of furry boots with fishnets and bikini tops out there, but not everyone dresses like that. I think this certain stereotype will fade, as most things eventually do in the industry. It’s just where we are in history right now, so let’s embrace it, no?
RM: If you could only listen to one Depeche Mode song for the remainder of your existence, which cut would it be and why would you select that track?
AM’Q: “Personal Jesus” is such a great song. It’s such a twisted love story depicting your partner as your religion… Your “Jesus.” It’s so cleverly written. I would definitely pick that one.
RM: What’s the best part about being on Red Bull Records? How much of the energy drink are you guys allotted on any one given tour?
AM’Q: Haha! There are a lot of perks of being with Red Bull Records, but the unlimited RedBull definitely helps!
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AM’Q: Right now our main focus is on pushing our single “Savages”. We are in the process of a radio tour by stopping by at different stations across the US. Stay tuned though… A Five Knives performance tour should be happening very soon 🙂
Official Website: http://www.fiveknivesmusic.com/
Five Knives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FiveKnives
Five Knives on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FiveKnives
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