Having just released their sophomore full-length, The Sick, Dumb & Happy, on March 17, 2017 via Nuclear Blast, Amsterdam-based metalcore band The Charm The Fury are set to take on the world’s stage. Antihero Magazine’s Niwy Kovacova recently had a chat with vocalist Caroline Westendorp and drummer Mathijs Tieken about the new album, the history of the band, and the music industry in today’s world.
Antihero: You have new album The Sick, Dumb & Happy coming out on March 17th. I personally expect some very strong opinions and deep thoughts on this one, considering you state that the world is fucked up, but it is great food for writing. So, what is the album really like? What are the topics, ideas, inspirations for this one?
Caroline Westendorp: There are lots of different themes per song. But what it really revolves around is the fact that we are becoming blinder to the real problems in the world. And it’s because we feed ourselves with cheap commercial series on TV, and media use that, they only offer us one-sided perspectives of the world. Such as mindless game shows, gossip from the latest celebrity channels and stuff, and I think we’re becoming blind to the world, I guess? Mathijs, what do you want to add?
Mathijs Tieken: Well yeah, I think it’s very true. I think it’s like, that someone like Kim Kardashian can be this huge celebrity who is someone who has never really accomplished anything as far as I know – it’s just gossip to get more attention and it’s considered to be more important than the actual world problems.
Antihero: So, what are the real problems you are trying to address here?
Mathijs Tieken: I think there are loads of them. We address some of them in a couple of songs. I think there’s a lot of political changes that have happened in the last ten years with, of course, Donald Trump being elected being the most recent. But before that there’s been this ongoing war between sort of a terrorist threat and sort of, I guess, politics taking advantage of threats like that. I think the album as a whole, the general sense of The Sick, Dumb & Happy is that person that is not paying attention to the world and is not addressing the real things. But then in different songs we’ll address different problems.
Mathijs Tieken: “Echoes” would be an interesting example because we wrote it sort of as a response to the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo which was the critical newspaper with comics in France which was attacked I think back in 2015. And as a result of those attacks, at least in Europe, but I think across the world, you sort of saw this response with freedom of speech whether it can go too far and what are the boundaries of whether you’re just insulting someone for the sake of insulting them. Or do you need to print those cartoons, and for me that’s and at least for the most people I think, it’s kind of crazy that you even have that discussion because I think the basis of free civilized society is that you can express any idea, and that might be insulting to some people but it’s the freedom of expressing those ideas which gives us the luxuries we have today. I think once we start censoring ourselves for the sake of a particular group, that once you carry that through you sort of lose the liberties that come along with civilized society. So, I think that’s a very dangerous thing and that’s something we wanted to address.
Antihero: Yes, but also it is said that the freedom of one person ends where the freedom of another one starts, so it can be tricky.
Mathijs Tieken: Well, the thing is that once you start addressing a certain group of people and you know those things that you say are insulting is what you said, is limiting their freedom in a sense. And I think in a society you should be free to insult and feel insulted, that’s just part of living in a modern world with different viewpoints. I think most people in Western society are used to feeling insulted by certain things like maybe you’re very pro-gay rights or you’re very anti and you feel insulted by different things. But the great thing is you can express all those opinions. And that’s the important part. I think once you have discussions on whether you can even express those things that’s when it becomes dangerous.
Antihero: Especially with all this freedom of speech thing, in the past months I’ve heard more than once especially regarding the whole Trump presidency you mentioned fans actually complaining about artists because they address different matters and voice their thoughts. And some people basically told them to shut up about the politics and just do their music.
Caroline Westendorp: That’s insane.
Antihero: I personally think it’s bullshit. But how do you guys feel about this? You are clearly not staying away from the topics, you even mention them in your music.
Mathijs Tieken: It’s funny that you mention it because I think in previous interviews we’ve discussed this we’ve addressed this ourselves, it’s funny that you’ve come up with it. Yeah, I think it’s very strange that people would say that. Because I think musicians are one of those rare breeds of people who have sort of a relatively large audience that they can reach – and don’t have the interests of a political party or maybe a large corporation as a sponsor. As a musician, you can voice whatever comes to mind. So, in a sense you’re free to address a large group of people and speak your thoughts. I think what people are saying is you’re not a politician, you don’t know what the hell are you talking about. I think it’s sort of really missing the point.
Antihero: Is there even any specific topic you feel like avoiding when you’re creating something, or are you really addressing whatever that comes to mind?
Caroline Westendorp: I think whatever comes to mind, right?
Mathijs Tieken: Yeah.
Caroline Westendorp: Because it would be kind of hypocritical to not touch a subject when you have a strong meaning and you want to vent it.
Mathijs Tieken: Thinking of whether there would be an exception, I can’t really think of it. I think as long as it’s fitting with the music, that’s at the end, of course, really important as well. You need something that fits well with the music. So, that sort of dictates the things you talk about. I think it will be easier for us to avoid a love song than like a political thing.
Antihero: So, what reactions do you get and are there even some negative ones? And how do you guys deal with it?
Caroline Westendorp: That’s quite funny because the reactions nowadays go two ways. We have old fans who listen to our older material which was very metalcore-ish. And they often say, “I don’t like the new tracks. It’s not anything like you’ve ever done before.” So, there is a lot of negativity. And regarding the fact we need to reach new people. It could go both ways. Either they are like, “oh hey it’s a girl it sucks” or “hey it’s a girl it’s awesome” or they just like what they hear. Back in the days it kind of got to me if someone was negative about the material. But I think we’ve delivered this great album and I’m really happy with the outcome. So, what people would think about it, I really don’t mind because I’m very happy with it. I stand by it. And also, the people who tend to like our older material I’d say give our new album a chance. Because it’s really a diverse range of metal on it, so there’s something for everybody there.
Antihero: As you mentioned, you as a girl in the music industry, especially in the metal parts of the music, it’s hard. What is it like for you?
Caroline Westendorp: Oh, it’s funny because I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days and there’s still a lot of sexism in the music industry and in metal as well, because it’s a very male-dominated genre. But it can really go two ways. You tend to have a lot of attention because a girl in a band. But there’s also a lot of negative to it. People are often like, “well, the band’s probably going great because there’s a girl in the band” and it’s just kind of like, “let’s see what you’re up to, what you’re all about,” and they don’t tend to take you seriously from the start. It just starts up with “but you’re a girl.” Every, every discussion.
Mathijs Tieken: What’s most interesting is that when once you have a female-fronted band then, when people first listen to your music, the first thing they’ll comment on is the fact that there’s a girl in a band – like, “how do I feel about a girl being in a band?”
Caroline Westendorp: It’s so weird.
Mathijs Tieken: The first reaction is never about the music, per say. It’s not, “do I like this music?” It’s “do I like this female-fronted band?”
Antihero: So how do you fight all these assumptions and prejudice?
Caroline Westendorp: Well, at first I was like, “oh my god!” But now it’s just… I’m working my ass off to become a better vocalist each day. And I just hope that I can prove all of those short-visioned female-oriented dudes wrong just by putting on a great show. Just by being a good vocalist and that’s what it all revolves around, and not around the fact that I’m a girl but that I’m a good vocalist. Yes. So, working on that.
Antihero: On another topic, what is your favorite song from the upcoming album and why?
Caroline Westendorp: My favorite is “The Hell in Me” because it’s super dark and moody and it’s just on a verge of like craziness. Introvert and I really like the vibe to it.
Mathijs Tieken: I guess for me it’s “Echoes” probably. Because it’s kind of a leap from what we’ve did before. It’s really slow. Before we used to have fast technical songs and this just starts with a really slow, heavy, sludgy groove and then halfway basically this kind of melodic core pop synth. So, it’s like the whole song is sort of a different extreme compared to what we did before. So, to me that truly felt the most like venturing into new territory, which is always very nice to do as a band, to try new things.
Antihero: So, is that one of the reasons why you released “Echoes” as a single? Or were there any other reasons behind that?
Mathijs Tieken: Well, no. We will have some preferences of our own and then the producers and people we work with we’ll ask sort of their opinion and then we’ll let some friends listen to it and say what are tracks that pop out for you guys. It’s always hard because it’s our material, so I know in the past for the previous record, for instance, the first single that we released was “Carte Blanche.” And our manager at the time, he said, “that needs to be your first single.” And we really strongly disagreed with him. He sort of pushed it through like, “trust me guys that really needs to be your single.” So, we did release it and a couple of months after we were so happy that we did listen to him. It’s hard to listen to your songs from an outside perspective. So, when choosing the single like “Echoes” we’ll ask friends like, “what do you think? What do you feel was the most fresh or exciting about the record?”
Antihero: How did the video come together for this one? It has some strong visuals, I think that’s given the topic the song is centered around.
Caroline Westendorp: We’ve shot it like a year and a half ago. We did it with Roald Jansen of Set Vexy and we’ve been working with him for years. And he delivers just great metal videos. We wanted to go with something more in your face, so we did the scene – the beating up of me in front of some televisions. We wanted to make it more graphic and the actual videos around it, the images on the TV, we’ve just collected them over the past few months and we adapted it to what’s going on right now and what we think fits the song.
Mathijs Tieken: Because, of course, a lot of stuff happened since we wrote the songs. We felt like let’s get some images there that are relevant today. That’s something we really tried to do. And then as Caroline said, we wanted some more intense images, so we actually, for the first time, got a cool make-up effects artist – so, we didn’t really beat up Caroline, just to put that out there. That’s all very, very nice make-up.
Antihero: You already released two music videos from the record. Any plans to release more?
Caroline Westendorp: Well, we’re going to release a video two weeks after the album comes out, so it’s not much of a long wait.
Antihero: If it’s not a secret, can you reveal which song it will be?
Caroline Westendorp: Nah, that’s going to be a big secret.
Antihero: Oh, damn! Thought so. So, other than that, you have some tour plans already from what I’ve seen. You will even appear on a few of The World’s Loudest Month festivals in the States, Welcome to Rockville, Carolina Rebellion and Northern Invasion. You played some shows in the States before, but these are the first festivals for you, right?
Caroline Westendorp & Mathijs Tieken: Yes.
Antihero: How do you feel about it? Excited yet?
Mathijs Tieken: Very excited. I think for most European bands it’s always sort of, even if they don’t admit it, secretly a dream to go to the States to play cool shows there. And as you said, we did play shows in the US before but literally those were in very small bars for a couple of people, and really small scale for industry professionals and stuff like that. So, this is going to be the first time at like festivals for fans and hopefully a new audience, so really exciting stuff.
Caroline Westendorp: It’s just insane that we as a small band from Holland are able to just go to the US and play shows, it’s just really intense.
Antihero: Other than that, you have also some European festival plans and everything, so what can we expect on tour, what will the shows be like?
Mathijs Tieken: Very different from what we used to do. We’re sort of really rebuilding our live set. What we did in the past, we always played with backing tracks, the synthesizers or maybe some additional effects to help with the show. But what we noticed is, that’s cool but, it also limits you because once you start playing one of those tracks you’re stuck and you can’t always engage with the audience the way that we would like to. So, what we’re actually trying to do is build a new set where we can have both the synthesizers and the cool things and engage with the audience live as well. Maybe start a pit. Maybe start a wall of death. Maybe get something cool going. So, we’re really building right now this new thing where we have a sort of hybrid set-up. And then also tying the whole thing together to make sure that what you get live is more than just us playing just a couple of tracks from the album, actually giving a live show. Something that you would never get on a CD.
Antihero: That sounds really cool. Now let’s talk about the band a bit more. You guys met through an online advertisement and the current lineup isn’t at all what it was at first. So, how did it all go and how did the band form in the way it is now? How did you all click? Did you even know anyone else from the people that came together at all?
Mathijs Tieken: A couple of us did. I think I knew the bass player. Carol, did you know any people?
Caroline Westendorp: Well, I knew Matt, our first guitar player and have reacted to the same online advertisement. We met on the station and we were like, “where are you going? – I’m going to this audition. Yeah, me as well.” So, it was coincidence because he was the boyfriend of one of my old friends.
Antihero: Why did you even decide to get into a band this way?
Caroline Westendorp: I didn’t know any people in my surroundings that really listened to metal or wanted to form a metal band. Online it’s such a great channel to meet people who are like-minded. So, in regards to forming a band and just looking for people around Amsterdam who were willing to start a band, it’s such a handy tool.
Mathijs Tieken: It was the same for me. Because me and the bass player, we played in I think five bands before this one. And in metal bands as well. And the metal band before this split up and we tried to form something new and we relied on our own network, you know friends and friends of friends. I think for like a year and a half it didn’t work out. And then one day Lucas was like, “yeah, I’m going to this audition and the drummer cancelled so can you fill in?” I was like, “eh, sure why not.” And then from that it all got rolling. Yes, the online thing makes it so much easier to meet new people with the same musical taste and it makes life a little bit easier.
Caroline Westendorp: And from then on, we started jamming out together and at first, we had two screamers set. But the other guy, yeah… kinda left? Well, yeah, let’s just keep it that way. At first, on guitar we had a few lineup changes. We jammed out for a few months with a couple of guitarists, but that wasn’t just the match for us and they had other priorities. After a year or so we put out an online ad looking for guitarist and that’s when we met Rolf. I think both Lucas And Mathijs both knew Rolf.
Mathijs Tieken: He was studying at a musical school, The Conservatory of Amsterdam, and Lucas, our bass player, was studying there as well. But we knew him as like a seventies Led Zeppelin sort of psychedelic guitar player. So, when he responded we were like, “but you don’t play metal.” But then he was like “no, no I’m this huge black metal fan and I listen to Swedish extreme metal.” So apparently, he was this huge metal fan and we just didn’t know.
Antihero: How did you guys go about finding your own style, since you didn’t know each other all that well? Or did it just evolve somehow from the jamming sessions and everything?
Mathijs Tieken: Well, I think that our music is still changing, I guess. Because when I compare the first thing we put out, which was our EP, it’s way different than from what we’re doing now. It’s recognizable as The Charm The Fury, but what we’re just trying to do is still discover our sound. I think that’s what we should be doing as a band, always keep experimenting, see whether you can try new stuff and find cool new sounds and incorporate those. So, I guess it’s an ongoing process.
Antihero: How did you get into music? You’ve said that some of the other guys have some musical background like The Conservatory. What about you?
Caroline Westendorp: The music, well it started from a young age. I’ve grown up in a musical family and my dad would send me to music lessons where I would just learn about notes and clapping to the rhythm and stuff. I first took the flute. And I was like, “aaargh! I don’t wanna do this anymore. I wanna play guitar,” so I started playing guitar and got into heavy guitar music. It evolved into metal and that’s when my love for metal grew and that’s when I decided there should be more females in metal.
Antihero: Definitely. You recently signed to Nuclear Blast, so how do you feel about that? How did that influence the band?
Mathijs Tieken: It hasn’t influenced us musically because we signed with them after the new album was finished. In terms of influence besides music, it’s been huge. It’s the first time that we’re working with this dedicated label team which is pushing us to deliver new content, try new things, going on the nice tours. It’s great to feel the supportive team behind you who’s working with you to get your music around to new people. And we’ve been with record labels before, but this is the first time there’s a team of people working with you. And it’s a great feeling. And of course, it being Nuclear Blast, it’s pretty surreal. When we were growing up listening to metal, that was the go to label, you know. The biggest independent label there was. So, joining that team in the US, no less, is crazy.
Antihero: Yeah, a dream come true, right?
Caroline Westendorp & Mathijs Tieken: Yes.
Antihero: Any message you would like to get out there to your fans to conclude this interview?
Mathijs Tieken: Well, I guess for the Slovakian fans, I think it’s time to head over there!
Caroline Westendorp: Yeah!
Antihero: I would really love that.
Caroline Westendorp: And make sure you check out the album. Because I think there’s something for everybody.