Leicester Metal to the masses semi-finalists in 2016 and hotly-tipped for even greater things in the Nottingham Heats in 2017, Beckon Lane are a melodic hard rock band who combine intelligent, impassioned lyrics with incisive riffs and plenty of personality. No one who has seen the band in full-flight on stage is liable to leave entertained and Beckon lane certainly impressed with their debut EP, a self-titled effort released in 2016 to considerable acclaim, not least from SonicAbuse who described it as “a testament to the amazing talent that exists in the UK underground scene today” (Check out the full review here).
A four piece, Beckon Lane are fronted by the charismatic Lewis Phillis, whose past experience as the front man for an Iron Maiden tribute band has certainly aided an incandescent stage presence. Joined by hyperactive man-pixie Samer Bata, the laid-back-in-person-yet-deadly-behind-a-kit Dan Brown, and newcomer Mike Nightingale, whose melodious name belies the terrifying low end with which he completes the ensemble, Beckon Lane are one of those rare acts who put their heart and soul into their live performances engaging the audience with passion as well as impressive musicianship. Recently, we had the opportunity to interview band about their influences, forthcoming EP and Bloodstock Metal 2 the masses experience – read on and meet Beckon Lane…
Lewis: Hi, I’m Lewis, the vocalist and guitarist. I started the idea of Beckon Lane in 2013 as my prior band had fallen apart. I had decided I wanted to start my own thing as opposed to joining a band so as to be able to get a group of seasoned guys together as was tired of constant band issues and unreliability from members. I met up with a group of guys and things never really went anywhere, so shelved it while I was doing things in an Iron Maiden Tribute band. The following year I decided to try again and the first person I met was Samer Bata who shared the vision and had the same enthusiasm for the idea. We got some ideas together and then called on a long-term friend of mine, Dan Brown, to see if he was interested to play drums. He was of course, and Beckon Lane was finally born.
The name came from quite a personal place – in 2013 I was going through quite a life change, and was bemused by the idea that everyone was expected, especially when in their 30’s, to adhere to certain life choices that society seemed to expect. Seeing this as the “road of life” I realised there were these side roads, or lanes, that people tend to turn to at low points – be it drink, drugs, or women, etc. that they either wandered down briefly, or followed to whatever conclusion. Mine always seemed to be music, and I had long since decided I was going to go down that lane that beckoned me come what may, and hopefully meet a bunch of guys heading the same way, and I did.
Samer: It started with me answering a Facebook ad/status thing about a singer looking to form a band. I replied, chatted to the guy forever on messenger – weirdly seems to be a recurring theme to this day (ha!). When I first met Lewis in person, I was shocked by how driven he is. After chatting to him, we agreed to find more people. Dan came along, lietrally dragging his drum kit from London, and we laid the foundation of Beckon Lane. It worth noting that personally my mind was made up after seeing Lewis perform with an Iron Maiden tribute band, not the biggest fan of maiden but he somehow won me over!
Your debut, self-titled EP was a three-track affair – where did you record it?
Lewis: It was originally recorded in a place in Nottingham, but after it didn’t come out as expected we ended up rerecording everything at my home studio once made, bar the drums. Due to the time scale, which ended up being a year later, it never quite got finished to the level I wanted it to be, but is far better than what it was.
How long did it take to prepare for the recording? Did you track it live or separately?
Lewis: We had very little preparing for the recording really, finishing the lyrics for one track the night before we went in the studio. In retrospect it was a bit of a mess as the unpreparedness added to the poor outcome of the initial recordings. We all had very different experiences going in, from small recording studios to professional studios, so recording technique was different for everyone.
It’s been over a year since your EP touched down, how far along are you with regard to preparing new material?
Samer: It’s done! As of now we signed of the masters and waiting! We haven’t just written for this EP, there is more to come. But being in a band like this, the way we write and learn (me slowly) and move things forward at our own pace we tend to make sure every song we write is worthy of people listening to. There is more coming your way, not just the EP.
Dan: New material is being written constantly bit the next EP should be ready for purchase within weeks!
Lewis: We have a new 2 track EP entitled ‘The Long Road’ ready to be released soon, along with a bunch of new material for an upcoming album tbc.
Who did the cover art for the EP?
Samer: A guy from Indonesia called Megan Mushi, you can find him on facebook under Yellow Mushi. I found his artwork years ago, followed his page and his profile and when the time was right, contacted him about the BL EP. He is very easy to talk to and gets your ideas down the way you thought they would be.
Could you tell us a little about the lyrics – how much revision goes on before you’re happy to put them out into the public domain? What inspires them?
Lewis: The lyrics come from everywhere really. I am a fan of the listener taking what they want from lyrics, so virtually every song has at least 2 different meanings to them, each usually coming from someone else in the band. I write in metaphors and similes a lot anyway, so even songs where I just penned the lyrics there is likely at least 2 meanings in there. I will always do the fine tuning before they go out as want to make sure things make sense, being the one having to sing them haha.
Samer: Some songs I give Dan and Lewis the title of the song, Like Fire, our set opener. I tell them how I felt writing the riffs and how I built the structure of the song, which then changes when we get together, and they put their spin on it.
Dan: Lyrics are often split between Lewis and Dan so that you get multiple meanings to one song. Often, we try to inspire people to be all they can be or guide them through the trials of life etc. and then other times they will be just stories. Lyrics are often revised and changed as are the instrument parts but once recorded, that is the finished article.
One thing that is always noticeable is the metal Beckon Lane sign you take with you on stage – how did you get hold of that – is there a story behind it?
Lewis: I will let Dan explain that. I was bought a proper Beckon Lane road sign, which I still have, for Christmas 2014, and the idea stuck with us.
Dan: The metal sign was made by Dan from scratch and the concept was to firstly represent a street sign but its function is to be a faster to set and more transportable option for when the backdrop is impractical to use.
Last year you took part in Metal 2 the masses, and this year you’re heading out again, what would you say is the main draw of the event and what separates it from more traditional ‘battle of the band’ events?
Lewis: I have always been a fan of Bloodstock since the indoor years, and although I have never been a fan of the whole “my band is better than yours” mentality that plagued such events for years, there is really a sense of comradery these days, and the desire to put on the best overall shows possible, the competition aspect almost taking a back seat. We met so many great guys and bands from last years event that we have since gigged with, as well as the experience gained playing to totally different audiences which helped hone our live shows, we just wanted to go for it again.
Samer: I don’t do BOTB. Some of the more “local” or even some of BOTB under the guise of auditions have money involved, or get to play a gig here or are just done by a venue to booster punters coming in, but Bloodstock M2TM is a scene in itself. Last year when we played Leicester I met so many amazing bands and people that I would later on call friends, we had such a good time and even though only our bass player came from Leicester we had a good crowd cheering us on and voting for us. Simon did a wonderful job bringing metal/rock back to Leicester and to think it all started with M2TM is amazing – it is what the whole thing is about. Of course, there is the whole thing about playing at Bloodstock as well. But what I say is the main draw? It’s a healthy competition and, again, a scene upon itself.
Dan: The main draw of the event is to play for a variety of rock fans with different tastes so that we can be seen by people who might have otherwise given us a miss in the hopes of generating more fans. To win and play bloodstock festival has the same relevance only on a grander scale.
You won heat one, how do you feel about going on the Semi’s?
Samer: Ecstatic! Am full of determination at moment. We have a lot of hard work to do and a lot to prepare for. Our heat wasn’t easy, BlackHawkDown, Scriptures and Descending Angles were all fantastic bands so I am guessing the Semi-finals are going to be even tougher.
As an independent act, what would you say are the main challenges in the UK music scene at the moment?
Lewis: Keeping a level head. We are bombarded by social media as to how bad things are for bands and the apparent pointlessness of it all, but you have to just ignore it and do it if you love to do it. I think going in with expectations is an instant death knoll – hopes yes, expectations no. If you want it, be prepared to work your ass off and never let stuff get to you.
Samer: Itself! The road to wherever you set your goals at is hard and full bumps. I try to stay to positive despite people’s outlook. That is the main thing for me, so that is why I said itself.
Dan: Biggest challenge for original bands in the UK is opportunity. It’s almost impossible to make a living due to the drop in CD sales and zero payments from venues so you have to really love it to do it and fewer people these days attend shows for which they are unacquainted with the bands. The UK “industry” is too focused on manufactured acts and elaborate karaoke competitions such as the X factor and ignores all the true talent out there right now playing for beer money to ten people despite their music being far superior to the generic dribble on TV and radio. So now we must do everything ourselves which is a terrible financial burden but we love music… We live for it and we will always be doing it whether we succeed or don’t!!
For readers finding Beckon Lane for the first time, where should they go to check the band out?
Also, Steve Russ shot a video of our song Fire from MT2M you can watch it here:
What are your ambitions for 2017?
Samer: You’ll soon see.
Lewis: Release the new EP, gig far more than we have in previous years, and looking towards our first album 2017/2018.
Any final words?