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.