Interview with Grand Collapse’s Calvin Sewell

We chat to Welsh thrashcore heavyweights Grand Collapse about their song-writing inspiration, their recent tour and their ideal Sunday.

Interview by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Pay No More Than Photography. Article photos by Alia Thomas.

In recent years Grand Collapse have become one of my favourite bands. Their live performances carry enough force to knock your teeth out; they take seriously fast, intense thrash to new heights.

Although the sheer force of their music is in itself a pleasure, they stand apart from other hardcore bands by adding in classic 80’s metal grooves and fusing it together though sterling musicianship. There’s also a strong political undercurrent in the songs. Listening at home, this might only become clear if you’re reading the lyric sheet, but the band often incorporate it into their live shows by pausing to discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time. Watching Grand Collapse injects fire straight into your veins; there’s a fury and beauty that’s hard not to love. Their album Along The Dew, released on TNS Records earlier this year, is also a stunning demonstration of musical talent and hardcore force.

I was lucky enough to catch up with singer, Calvin Sewell, just before their recent gig at The Smokehouse in Ipswich (check out my review of the show here). For someone fronting a hardcore band, Calvin seems to write with his heart on his sleeve, putting a lot of emotion and care into his words and his approach. I was keen to find out a bit more.

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Welcome to Ipswich! You’ve come a long way – South Wales and Bristol, right?

We’re all from different spots around South Wales but myself and Jon have emigrated to Bristol.

How did Grand Collapse first get started?

Nothing spectacular; we’re all the around the same age, from the same area, and all into fast / heavy music so inevitably you find each other. The other lads had played in several bands like Four Letter Word, Rejected and Threat Manifesto amongst others and we all knew each other vaguely from going to gigs. I wanted to start a band around that time and those three people made sense, so I told each of them that the other two were involved before they had even agreed and on that basis they all said ‘yes’!

Your second album, Along The Dew, was released earlier this year. How have you found the reaction so far?

Pretty decent. We’re stoked with this one. I think we learnt quite a lot whilst making the first record that helped us whilst writing and recording this one. It’s a lot closer to the mark sound wise and stylistically to where we want to be.

You’ve got such a genre-defying sound that I think people struggle to know what other bands to compare you to. What were you listening to when you recorded the album? Are they are any acts that have really inspired you?

Zeke. Rush. Propagandhi. Bane. Def Leppard. Motorhead. Death. Sick of It All. Conflict.

It’s also a lot more polished than your average hardcore band. What was the recording process like?

We work with Lewis Johns at The Ranch in Southampton. It’s a great place to record and Lewis is a fucking wizard. We gave ourselves a bit more time with this one so it was less rushed and we had a better idea of how we wanted to it to sound as a whole record rather than just a collection of songs. It’s a lot more chaotic and aggressive than the first.

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Are there any songs on Along The Dew that you are particularly proud of?

They’re all outstanding!

How does the writing process work for you? The prose is amazing, but it does tie in perfectly with the music. Does one come before the other?

Err, it works both ways. I have bits and pieces written down. Like certain lines, or a turn of phrase that I like. If they eventually fit the tune then I’ll work it in. Then other times the music is laid down and the style or tone evokes the lyrical content.

You’ve obviously put a lot of thought and work into the lyrics and subject matter. What inspires you when you’re writing?

Just whatever moves me I suppose. There’s so much injustice in the world that it’s hard not to concentrate on depressing shit, but I try to bring some humour into it if I can.

Turncoat is a description of our day in court against a UK Border Agency officer. I was the defendant and Jon and Glenn were my witnesses… I went to Next in Cardiff to pick up a suit in the morning and the nice lady who was fitting me up began asking about the reason why I was buying the suit. I told her it was for a wedding which brought more questions and eventually I found myself in a full blown conversation about this fictional wedding.

The trial was interesting because the ‘victim’ had some of his border officer cronies sit in the gallery in full uniform to sway the magistrate, and his claims that he was left distressed by the incident were amusing to me, considering the job he carries out and the lives he negatively affects.

Omission is a description of the Defence & Security Equipment arms fair; the largest in the world. I work for a whole foods company and I was at a trade show in the Excel centre where the arms fair was being advertised. One week there are hippies taste testing organic bulgur wheat, the next there’s the scummiest people on earth negotiating deals with modern military technology. The presentable face of warfare with nice carpets and finely laid out stands.

You’ve been on tour for a while. Are you surviving?

We haven’t broken down yet so it beats the last one. Tour’s been great. We got to some new places on this one which is always good and we’re coming towards the end now.

What has been the best show so far?

They’ve all been good. Lincoln on a Tuesday night was a bit of a wild card but even that came together and was a good little gig.

Have you had any complete disasters?

Not on this one, thank fuck. Still three days to go though.

What’s the weirdest thing anyone’s ever said to you at a show?

“More!”

What else have you got planned? What’s coming up for you next year?

Basically tour this record until we’re sick of the songs and simultaneously begin writing the next one. We’re far from prolific though so I expect another album will take another 3 years.

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I’ve got some silly questions for you as well, if you fancy it. What’s your ideal Sunday?

Karaoke session at the Cat ‘n’ Wheel pub in Bristol. Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen or Planet Earth by Duran Duran is the answer to your next question.

Your plane’s about to crash. What do you put on your iPod?

AC/DC’s Shot Down in Flames.

What song do you want played at your funeral?

JAMIROQUAI’s Deeper Underground.

You’ve got unlimited funds, a time machine and any venue you fancy, but you can only book three bands. Who do you book for your ultimate gig?

Minor Threat, Bad Brains and The Clash.

Thanks very much to Calvin for taking the time to ramble chat with me. If you’re not already all over Grand Collapse’s new album Along The Dew then you’re a fool. Rectify all your past mistakes by picking up a copy from TNS Records. You can also check out the band on Bandcamp or on Facebook.

Make sure you check them out live when you next have a chance. They’re playing Gullivers in Manchester on January 20th (event here) plus a gig with Great Collapse (amazing!) in Bristol on February 6th (event here).

Interview by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Pay No More Than Photography. Article photos by Alia Thomas.

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