Starting out in 2019 with a vision to create music that pushes all boundaries, their sound harks back to the golden age of nu-metal, but their story began long before the members even met.
As a kid, vocalist Harvey Freeman would spend hours alone in his room. Playing video games and Warhammer in the comfort of his own space. To him it seemed like the most natural thing in the world, but his mother sensed something more troubling. His desire for isolation was a symptom of depression, and the difficulties of diagnosis were only amplified by the frustration of hearing the people around him erroneously claiming to understand how he felt.
Delving into video games, movies, and music as an escape, at 10 years old he was gifted the first two Slipknot albums by a school friend, and his world changed. Gripped by the frenzied delivery and emotionally raw songwriting blasting through his headphones, that feeling stuck with him throughout his life, and now he’s bringing things full circle.
Exploring mental health in unflinching detail, Graphic Nature are spearheading a new generation of nu-metal, dedicated to anyone who doesn’t quite fit the mould. Tired of hearing conversations about mental health that tiptoe around the ugly – often unbearable - darkness, the five-piece are channelling the gritty honesty pioneered by the songwriters that lit the way through their own times of hardship.
Documenting Freeman’s experiences with anxiety, depression, and ADHD, the band’s debut album, A Mind Waiting to Die is a visceral snapshot of life with mental illness, served up alongside grating industrial guitars and mind-bending grooves. Created alongside bandmates guitarists Pete Woolven and Matas Michailovskis, bassist Charlie Smith, drummer Jack Bowdery, and rising star producer Sam Bloor, it’s a powerful and unrelenting gem of modern metal, with a message even bigger than it’s sound.
An early AOTY contender from a band fresh out the gates, KNOTFEST sat down with the vocalist to talk about Graphic Nature’s bold mission to bring nu-metal back into the limelight, how he’s found comfort in music throughout his life, and being unafraid to start up conversations about the things that matter.
Rewinding back to 2019 when this project started out, what was the vision for Graphic Nature?
Freeman - We'd all played in bands before, but we wanted to start from scratch and do something that was entirely our own. We wrote between five and ten tracks in varying styles, and we had one which was a straight-up hardcore song, and one that was more metalcore influenced.
We were trying to pin down our sound, and one evening our guitarist Pete sent over the rough demo for ‘grit’. Instantly everyone was like, ‘Yeah, that's it’, and it clicked. We all love nu-metal, and we’re super influenced by it, so it made sense to write something that impacted us both as kids and as adults. I wasn't sure that we could do it justice because the people that we looked up to did it so well, but we realised we had an opportunity to take nu-metal and make it sound nostalgic and modern at the same time.
That mission statement has really come to fruition on your debut album, ‘A Mind Waiting To Die’. When did you first begin laying the foundations for this record in particular?
Freeman - We started writing it around the start of lockdown in 2020. We were writing the ‘new skin’ EP at the same time, and we were contemplating the idea of releasing two EPs in one year. However, on the day that we released ‘new skin’ we were already in the studio writing an album. Four songs that were meant for an EP turned into 13 tracks, so it worked out quite nicely.
It seemed like the next step forward, and I think having that time in lockdown where we were separated from each other helped us to find our own segments within the band. I realised that I needed to stop writing about things that I've been through and start writing about things that I was going through.
Sonically, this album is all over the place. You’ve got a bit of that chaos of early Slipknot, the Code Orange aggression, and that boundless vision we’ve seen bands like Static Dress and Vein.fm pushing over the last few years. Within that though, it does feel like a rebirth of nu-metal, so how much has that scene served as an inspiration for you throughout your life?
Freeman - It's always been an influence for me. I joined my first band in 2008, and we played metalcore that sounded like The Chariot and Underøath. But we would always talk about one day having a band that sounded like Slipknot and we'd even talk about making a side project just so we could do it.
Nu-metal is the whole package. People always say things like, ‘Nu-metal sucks’, but when you think of bands like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Slipknot, Ill Niño, Soulfly, Deftones… none of those bands sound the same. They're all very unique, but they're all branded as nu-metal, so how can anyone say that it’s all shit?
Anyone that says they hate Linkin Park must be lying to themselves, because those first two records are untouchable, regardless of if you've grown out of them. To be labeled under the nu-metal banner is an honour.
It’s such an eclectic genre, but I think what unites a lot of nu-metal is its community values. Nu-metal has always been treated like the outsider, even when bands like Slipknot and Linkin Park were having huge mainstream success. It’s a genre that deals with the idea of not fitting in, and as a result, it’s never quite fit in itself…
Freeman - Growing up, I was very much into rock music, and I think my first album was ‘Silver Side Up’ by Nickelback. After that, my friends introduced me to Slipknot, and I instantly related to them. Those guys were outsiders and they were singing about shit that I was going through.
Some of it I didn’t pick up on until I was in my mid-twenties, because as a kid you just love it because it’s loud and heavy, but when you deep dive into it you can tell that those guys were going through some shit. That’s why Graphic Nature works, because it's as honest as we can be about issues that matter to us that we feel need to be spoken up about. Linkin Park had that same mentality, and it feels like a passing of the torch for the newer generation to speak up about it too.
A lot of it is about having a solid message and being real, and that’s exactly what you’re doing here with this project. Many people within the heavy music community share that universal experience of having struggled with their mental health, so has music always been a place for you to turn to?
Freeman - I'm very much into video games, movies, and music, and they all fit in the same circle for me.
Everyone has their feel-good movies that they'll watch when they're feeling down, or the sad movies that they watch when they're feeling sad, and music was always a part of that for me.
When I was first introduced to music it had such an effect on me, and when my dad took me to my first drum lesson when I was ten, I realised that all I wanted to do was be as good as Joey Jordison. Music has always been prevalent in my life because it was the only thing that I was really good at. It's like free therapy that actually costs a lot of money.
People can underestimate how important music is as a means of feeling understood. When you’re hearing the people around you say things like, ‘I know how you feel’ and, ‘I understand’, it can be frustrating because it never quite feels like they do, but when you hear someone venting their experiences within songs it can hit so much harder…
Freeman - That’s exactly what ‘Chokehold’ was about on our first EP. I have ADHD, and I often hear things like, ‘Oh, everyone's a bit ADHD’. There are definitely aspects of it in everyone's life, but when I can't focus on doing something that I need to do because I'm way more interested in doing something else, it's so draining.
It comes from a loving place, but when people say things like that it’s frustrating. I have no fucking idea how it is to just exist and do normal things. I get sensory overload from being around too many people at once, and it’s insane that other people don’t have to deal with these things. If it's too loud and there are too many people, I’ll want to go home because I can’t hack it, but people are like, ‘Don't worry about man, just come in and have a beer’. It’s hard for people to understand.
We all suffer in different ways, but we all suffer, and music can be a real comfort. That’s why bands like Slipknot struck a chord with so many people early on, because they were unashamed to be manic and chaotic with their art. When you’re suffering those moments aren’t pretty or coordinated, they’re ugly, discordant, and sporadic, and having music that mirrors those feelings can be comforting…
Freeman - That’s something that I try to put into our performance. A lot of people listen to our music and say things like, ‘It's good, but it could have melodic parts’. It could, but I don't want to put melodic parts in because I'm angry.
This music comes from a pure frustration of, ‘Why does everyone else get an easier time than I do?’ It’s a stupid way to think because everyone's going through their own shit, but when you’re suffering it can seem like everyone else is fine and you’re losing the fucking plot. Having an aggressiveness to this music helps, and I love that you can hear what I’m going through when you listen to these songs.
Especially after the pandemic, a lot of artists are opening up conversations about mental health within their music. How important is it to you that your approach is honest and draws from your own visceral experiences, no matter how difficult it is to go through that process?
Freeman - That’s the most important thing. I didn't have anyone who I felt truly understood me when I was growing up, so it’s vital for me to be as honest as possible within our lyrics to explain the shit that I'm going through. For someone to pick up on that and say, ‘Hey, I'm going through that as well’ is the best thing in the world. A lot of bands can talk about mental health in a way that lets people know there are places to go if you need to chat, and that's fine, but when you're in that space often the last thing you want to do is talk to someone. I don't want to have to talk about it, I just want to go through it.
I don’t necessarily want to make people uncomfortable with my lyrics, I just want them to understand that there's no rose-tinted glass with this type of thing. I say it as it is, and it's not meant to trigger anyone or bring back any bad memories, it's just saying, ‘I'm going through this, and if you're going through it as well, that's absolutely fine’. I'll chat about it at every show, whether it's a show with 10 people or a show with 100 people. If you don't want to hear it, that's cool, but there's someone in that crowd that does. When I'm speaking about it, I'm directly talking to that person.
That’s what’s so important about a song like ‘Twisted Fear’, because in an album of incredible darkness, that's about as dark as things can possibly go. In that song, you're talking about ending your life, and there's an extreme vulnerability in that which will resonate with a lot of people. Why was it so important that message made its way onto the album?
Freeman - Sometimes you don’t want things sugar-coated. I write down all of my lyrics when I'm feeling a certain way, and then I'll add to it at a later date when I'm feeling alright to do so. We had all of these songs about anxiety, sensory overload, and depression, but there was nothing that talked about when you're at your lowest and those thoughts really trickle in. Songs like ‘Twisted Fear’ and ‘Headstone’ were full of things that I thought really needed to be said. It just has to be spoken about, and if I can do it without being a trigger for someone then I have to do it.
How important is it that these conversations encourage fans to talk to one another and to open up when they’re struggling, rather than just sitting in their rooms suffering in silence?
Freeman - I think I speak for the whole band when I say that’s the most important thing. Everyone in Graphic Nature goes through their own things, and our bassist and I take the piss out of each other all the time, but we still check in on one another whenever we can. If we can create that kind of friendship with the people who like our band, that’s the goal. We want people to be able to come on our Discord server and say, ‘I'm going through some things but none of my other friends will talk to me about it, can I chat to you guys?’ If they can do that, we've created this little safe space for someone. I never had that as a kid, and having a space like that especially when you’re in your teens could make all the difference.
A Mind Waiting to Die is currently available via Rude Records - HERE
The band will be performing several festival dates including Reading and Leeds Festival, 2000 Trees, MetalDays in Slovenia and Download 2023 just to name a few.
The band will also embark on their 'A Mind Waiting to Die' album release tour next month. Get the dates and cities below.