BAILER: “People Are Seriously Dissatisfied”

It’s been a wild time for Corkonian metallers Bailer, including a tour of Russia that provided an insight into social dissatisfaction and the world’s perceptions. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with guitarist Chris Harte.

Since emerging seemingly from out of nowhere in 2014, Leeside four-piece Bailer have been working constantly: a seemingly endless array of gigs, tours and festival/all-dayer appearances have been punctuated with steady releases of singles and extended-players, charting the development of the band’s hefty, grooving, hardcore-inflected strain of modern metal. The most recent of these extended-players, a self-titled affair released via Sligo-based Distroy Records, has seen them finally begin to break down some of the media barriers that have traditionally thrwarted Irish artists in the UK and continental Europe. Guitarist Chris Harte has been seeing the difference in recent months. “Yeah, the songs have gotten a good push from bigger metal outlets. We’ve been thrilled with the response so far, and it feels great. We’ve been touring this release more than our past E.P.s too, seeing new faces and meeting new fans every night we play, it’s awesome.”

Part of the touring for the record included an excursion to Russia for two weeks in February. A daunting task for any band on the basis of weather alone, the trip presented challenges to the Bailer lads on numerous fronts, even before political and world-affairs considerations surrounding the country’s government entered the discussion. “About this time last year, an offer came to us to tour there for two weeks. We’ve seen so many of our favorite bands go there in the past, and their shows always looked wild. We wanted to do the same, so we took the chance and it certainly paid off. It was a crazy experience, but the shows were incredible, and the culture was totally different. They don’t get a lot of bands like us touring there, so it meant a lot to people. Obviously, it had its hiccups: Lufthansa lost all our equipment on the way out there, and it took two days to get it back. But once we hit the road, we had an amazing time and played some of our best shows yet.”

Heading to a new country to play tunes for the first time is always a big deal for a band, and on a day-to-day basis, Harte and company were pleasantly surprised by the reaction they met from a metal audience that hasn’t necessarily been treated well by touring bookers in recent years. “Our songs went down really well over there, the crowds seemed to love high-energy, heavy music, and we certainly didn’t hold back on the performances after travelling all that way. People were queuing up for photos every night, and you could see how much it meant to them. We made sure to connect with as many people as possible online, on Instagram, as they have their own version of Facebook in Russia. Lots of them have been following us ever since.”

The experience of dealing with music fans at the other side of a social and political divide was especially poignant for the band, as recounted by a detailed post on the band’s social media as the dust was settling on the sojourn. Gig-goers and supporters of heavy music attending the band’s tour regularly asked them to take the message home that objections to Vladimir Putin’s rule and actions in recent years are shared equally among people on the ground in Russia. “That was pretty surreal on a humane level, those were some of the most powerful memories we took away from the tour. In a way, it was what we expected, since we were heading over to play underground hardcore shows, but it really stuck with us. I think it’s easy to see that people these days, from all over the world, are seriously dissatisfied with their governments and it’s no different in Russia. Western media would have us all believe they are a scary people who hate our guts, but it’s total bulls**t. Look at America’s government right now for god’s sake, politics are f**ked wherever you go.”

Upon arrival back home, Bailer found themselves on the cusp of cult recognition in the UK, with positive reviews and features in youth-oriented print magazines such as Kerrang! and Metal Hammer. Important mags for young rockers of yesteryear, yes, but facing the same challenges of any print-first media outlet, in addition to the overall crisis of mainstream relevance that heavy music faces amid a dearth of fresh bands to replace the stadium-fillers of the ‘90s. Regardless of the question marks, these features have given the band a bump across the water. “For us, it felt great to be in those magazines, even if only for the fact that we used to buy them all the time as teenagers, and we found out about so many bands that shaped our tastes in music through those mags. Nowadays it’s certainly not the same impact, as the internet has taken over and it’s just a totally different ball game now, but it’s still huge exposure, and they are still the biggest physical publications in our world of music right now. We’ve certainly seen a massive increase in streams and online followers since, and we’re working on getting over there for some good shows later this year to follow up on the exposure. Hopefully that’s just the start of it, now.”

Another set of questions hanging over music at present are those of sustainability and income. The industry overall is dealing with the extended transition from paid downloads to subscription streaming services, which have overtaken physical CD and vinyl sales in the past year in many markets. Having taken their own management in house, the band is using its knowledge of merchandise and vending of same, to help other artists with artwork and visual identity. Enter Absurd Merch, the band’s joint venture with their label. “Since becoming a member of the Distroy Records family, Alex, who runs the label, had been chatting to me a lot about his aspirations to start up a merch brand, operating within the metal and hardcore community. There is a big increase in the scene here in Ireland and around the world right now, and there are a lot of bands doing well. We set it up to help out bands working hard and looking to tour at home and abroad. We want to make things easier for these bands, and bring everyone together to benefit each other. It’s early days for us yet, but it’s looking good already and we have lots of plans in the pipeline.”

With a pair of Irish tours over with this year already, the band has a number of spot shows and festivals to keep them busy throughout the summer, before heading around the country again with UK outfit Palm Reader. Ireland has long been a quietly supportive country for heavy music, sustaining and nurturing a close-knit community in the process. “The Palm Reader tour kicks off in August, we know this is going to be another high-energy tour, and tickets are selling fast already. Ireland is certainly on the up-and-up for this kind of music, and as the quality, diversity of the bands and the venues continues to increase, more and more people are turning up at shows. I can’t wait to see what the scene will look like in another few years.”

In-between bouts helping reinforce the infrastructure of heavy music in the country, the band are keeping things ticking over before making big moves in the coming months, capitalising on the momentum that the band have worked diligently to build. “We’re doing a bunch of headline shows across Ireland over the next month until the end of June. In July we have Townlands Carnival and Knockanstockan Festival back to back before the Palm Reader tour kicks off in August. In between all of this we are writing away for our debut album, we won’t be sitting on this E.P. for too long. The next chapter is right around the corner.”

For more information on further dates, check out the band’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The band’s self-titled extended-player is available now across all downloading and streaming services.

BAILER: “We Felt There Was a Lot More Maturity”

A new self-titled E.P. with an expanded sound, some local guests and a Russian tour to support: 2018 is looking massive for BAILER. Mike McGrath-Bryan sits down with guitarist Chris Harte.

Heavy music in Cork is one of the city’s great cultural survivors by any measurement: in the face of venue turnover, cultural changes in the local gig-going crowd, and the usual pressures of maintaining niche music in Ireland. Thankfully, a sustained sense of community is a common thread between Cork’s stylistically disparate metal bands and promoters, a microcosm in itself. Among these is Chris Harte, guitarist in hardcore outfit BAILER, and a promoter of heavy music in Cork since his teens. The band’s second self-titled EP is on the way now, released this month through Sligo-based label Distro-y. Harte goes into detail on the creative and recording processes, and how they differed from previous effort ‘Shaped by the Landscape’. “The biggest thing for this EP was that we were a lot more focused and we knew what we wanted from it sonically and in terms of what kind of songs were going to be written for it. When we started writing, we felt there was a lot more maturity in the material that was coming out and this can be heard in the likes of ‘Long Gone’ and ‘Death Is A Reminder’ which are different from anything we’ve done before. ‘Shaped By The Landscape’ was a lot longer coming together, some of the songs were around for quite some time and had been played at shows before we recorded them, but this EP was fresh from the ground up so it felt good to go into the studio with a whole batch of new songs and it felt really fresh for us.”

Distro-y are a great label for heavy business in Ireland, alongside sister punk label Distr-Oi!, and have given voices to a number of Irish bands in the left-of-field rock/metal oeuvre. Harte outlines how they work together, and how the deal went down. “Yeah, Distro-y are great, they’ve been really good for a lot of bands in Ireland. When Alex (label head) reached out to us soon after the EP was recorded, we felt good about working with them from the get go. We’re looking forward to releasing the EP through the label and working together in the future too.” To whit: leadoff single ‘Long Gone’ starts as the band means to go on in 2018, including guest vocals from Midleton man Adam Carroll, formerly of rock outfits ZOAX and Time is a Thief. Even more improbably, the vocal sessions were overseen by indie/songwriter type Kevin Power. How did all of that come about? “Yeah, we recorded with Kevin in Whitewell Studios, down in Cloyne. He recently took over the studio from Ciaran O’Shea, and Adam actually lives right around the corner. Adam had recorded all his vocals for the ZOAX and Time is a Thief albums in there, so it seemed natural to get him to track his parts there again. It was a quick session, everyone killed it that night!”

After sharing a stage with Swedish mathcore hopes God Mother at UCC’s New Bar, the band took to Waterford for a once-off show at Central Arts. It’s a city with a quietly busy scene, or at least one that hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves. BAILER’s insistence on playing there comes down to a personal connection with the waterside city. “Waterford is a city that’s just waiting to take off again in terms of music. Dave, our bass player, is from there and so it’s nice to have that connection. Central Arts really is the hub of the original music passing through Waterford and the people who run the place are doing a wonderful job, and long may it continue. There’s some smaller venues like An Uisce Beatha which is thriving too and there’s always some great jazz/trad/folk sessions going on there. Lots of fantastic musicians in that city, here’s hoping it can really get going again.”

Somewhat implausibly for a relatively young band from Cork, the lads are off to spend the month in Russia, of all places, although, just before press time, health concerns forced vocalist Alex O’Leary to the sidelines, with supersub Ro Conlan filling in. Harte outlines how the excursion was planned and what the expectations are in the BAILER camp. “Yeah, the motherland (laughs)! We’re really excited for the tour in Russia. Biker Booking Agency e-mailed us quite a while back with a tour proposal, so we’ve been sitting on that one for a while. It felt good to finally announce it, and we’re going to be heading way east into some amazing cities and we’re really looking forward to bringing the BAILER live show abroad, and going crazy with our soon-to-be new friends.”

When the band return from the nearly three-week sojourn, they’re straight into the Poor Relation on March 3rd to mark local promoters Cosmonaut’s first anniversary alongside familiar faces like Rest and Limerick math-punks We Come in Pieces, as well as new blood like God Alone and Aponym. Harte lets us know what to expect in no uncertain terms. “We feel that people are going to hear a really fresh, energized and aggressive performance from us, with the band really firing on all cylinders. We’re proud of the work we put into the EP, and also really happy with the work Aidan Cunningham did on mixing and mastering it too. It’s cliché to say it, but it is absolutely our best work to date, hands down, and you’ll see it when we play it live.” Past that night, it’s looking like business is picking up for the Leeside hardcore band. “More touring, without a doubt. We’re actively looking to book more shows abroad across mainland Europe and in the UK too. We love playing shows in Ireland, and it’s important to us to continue doing that and we will have more shows here throughout the year no doubt. But 2018 is the year where we want to start branching out and taking Bailer to every possible country we can.”

BAILER’s new EP is available now from Golden Discs and online.