Make Them Suffer's "Contraband" asserts they are picking up right where they left off

Make Them Suffer's "Contraband" asserts they are picking up right where they left off

- By Ramon Gonzales

Following the groundwork laid with How to Survive a Funeral, the Perth-based collective continues their charge with their first-ever collaboration - an auspicious indicator of what's to come.

Though the outfit from Perth as been a fixture in heavy music for the last decade, it's difficult to argue with the kind of trajectory that Make Them Suffer have earned since 2018. Shortly after the release of their third album, Worlds Apart, the band faced significant personnel changes and found themselves in a unique situation.

The album presented a compelling assertion of the band's obvious songwriting prowess - a competent mesh of melody and mayhem that distinguished MTS from their contemporaries. Despite enduring the loss of key personnel, the band managed to not only regroup and reconfigure - the album's strength seemingly segued into the remaining core finding their stride. Make Them Suffer would press on, assemble a fresh line-up with the addition of Books Nile and release pivotal singles in the likes of "27" and "Hallowed Heart". Utilizing the blueprint from Worlds Apart, Make Them Suffer steadily climbed the ranks of modern metal all while retaining their creative integrity.

That momentum carried over into an abysmal 2020. While the world was working though the white noise of a world gone mad, Make Them Suffer managed to debut their fourth album in How to Survive A Funeral to universal acclaim - no small feat given the climate. The album further asserted the band's status and underscored that the potential showcased in Worlds Apart and its subsequent singles - was no fluke at all.

Though forced to cut touring plans and essentially debut their strongest album to date without any ability to share it live - Make Them Suffer used the time away from their routine due to the pandemic to reinforce their creative productivity. Just prior to the lockdown of the world, the band spent some time on the road with another emerging unit in Spiritbox. The like-minded entities quickly cemented a friendship that would eventually lead to collaboration.

Resurfacing after a relatively silent 2020, Make Them Suffer debuted the fruit of that relationship with their first joint effort ever in "Contraband" - assisted by Spiritbox vocalist Courtney LaPlante. For Make Them Suffer, the track crossed new terrain, serving as the first guest feature in the band's history. The track also underscored just how vital the band's presence has become in the landscape of not only the massive export of quality have music from Australia - but an emerging generation of dynamic songwriters that are propelling aggressive music to new, articulate heights.

Make Them Suffer guitarist Nick McLernon weighed in on the new single and the next chapter for the band.

The band has been in existence for well over a decade and have never done any guest features. Was that a conscious effort and what about “Contraband” made sense for the band’s first guest spot ever?

McLernon - Truthfully, we would always like to have guest features over our music. However, lyrically and thematically, the music is so close to us and we're extremely conscious of who we ask to do guest features. Contraband made sense in many ways. It was the first song we would release coming out of the hibernation after 'How to Survive a Funeral'. We had just been on tour and made close friends with Spiritbox so the whole things just made sense.

You have explained that the bones of the track has been around since 2016. Do you take any artistic pride in knowing that something you wrote more than five years ago still holds up?

McLernon - A lot of the music we end up recording actually comes from a songwriting bank dated back years and years. I definitely take comfort in knowing that there is a 'timeless' aspect to the foundation of music being written. We belong to a niche of metal that is rapidly evolving so it's nice to see that listeners within this niche are reacting to music that isn't necessarily being written to the trend.

How did Courtney come into the universe of Make Them Suffer? Was the song complete and then she was added into the process or did she have amore a collaborative role in the creation of the track?

McLernon - We were on tour with Spiritbox right before COVID hit and all went home about halfway through. It was on of those tours that seemed like it was going "too well" and we were having "too much fun". I think we built a lifelong connection over those two weeks. Sean was in regular contact with Courtney throughout the writing process and would often call her overseas while we were still arranging the song.

Despite the stagnant pace of 2020, MTS managed to gain some real momentum with the release of How to Survive A Funeral. Do you feel like creatively the band has found their stride?

McLernon - How to Survive a Funeral I would say is the apex of our songwriting showcase. I think each record will have its own sound as our philosophy creatively is to go outside the boundaries of what we can do. Although in terms of songwriting, we certainly had a 'Eureka' moment while we were recording in LA and since then our songwriting approach may have evolved.

Is “Contraband” an indicator that more new music is on the way?

McLernon - It certainly gave us the confidence to push our boundary even more. Honestly, we didn't know what the reception was going to be like for the song. When we saw it go overwhelmingly positive, it encouraged us to go outside the box creatively. I think so long as we have this kind of confidence, it means new music will keep getting pushed out and faster. There's definitely a lot more in our songwriting back from what was written years ago we now have the courage to use!

The band discussed how the single’s aggression is really the result of going two years without musical “catharsis”. Does it feel like the climate is especially right for heavy music?

McLernon- When we wrote the song there was no intent on writing a "heavy" or a "soft" song etc. There was simply emphasis on doing something that was a little outside of our scope that both pushed our technical ability and creativity. The result was something a little dark and a little light which funnily enough tends to be our end product anyway. The song certainly has seemed to capture heavy music enthusiasts and those leaning on the lighter side of metal. The aggression in the song is merely a representation of what is usually played in my home studio rather than what would usually be released by Make Them Suffer. I think people have responded well to the 'home studio' riffs which means there will probably be many more.

Has the time away from the routine of the road made you a more productive artist? Did you find it easier or more difficult to focus and be productive during the time off?

McLernon - After coming home from our last European tour, the band took time off to focus on things outside of music. We had been touring extensively for a number of years and it was the first time we could take a real break and not think about music. This is extremely important to the creative process and helped shape 'Contraband' much later. Eventually, Booka, Sean and myself would continue to pursue other musical endeavours and side projects. I would say this also helped shape 'Contraband' in some way.

Make Them Suffer have always embraced a dynamic approach to songwriting. There are hints of deathcore, metalcore, progressive, and symphonic metal… is that versatility organic or do you make a conscious effort to be well-rounded and flex as tasteful balance of your influences?

McLernon - We certainly make no attempt to try and play 'deathcore' or 'metalcore' or 'progressive' etc. Our philosophy in writing music is just write and play whatever sounds good. Obviously there are boundaries, like we wouldn't throw in Lo Fi Hip Hop or Indie Rock into the sound because we all do that in our side projects, but having various musical influences certainly attributes these hints of different styles of music within our genre.

Given the kind of impact Australian bands have had in recent years in the world of heavy music, do you take any stock in being one of the band’s really leading that charge along with the likes of Parkway Drive, Northlane, In Hearts Wake, and Thy Art is Murder?

McLernon - It's humbling to know that this is a common perspective amongst many people. I would have been full of pride if I was told years ago that's where we were headed. Once upon a time, Make Them Suffer would really look up to these bands and watch what they were doing very closely. These days the band is just focused on their own work and challenging ourselves. It wouldn't matter how high we are up on the proverbial mountain in terms of being with the other Australian bands.

What has it been like to release an album like How to Survive a Funeral and a colossal single like “Contraband” and not be able to share it live? How anxious are you to get back on the road and back onstage?

McLernon - It has certainly been frustrating not being able to tour off the record or off the song. Touring made up our lives for many years and to have it taken away from us so suddenly ultimately has been for the worse. I like to think that when we come back, we'll come back with a bang. The guys in the band will be stronger, closer and wiser than ever before, so I'm excited to see what road lies ahead.
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