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Gallows Take on America

London-based Gallows are about the most exhilarating thing happening to punk and rock at the moment; and Americans—I’m here to tell you they are infiltrating. References to Gallows are becoming common enough in U.S.-based publications that people often have an “I’ve heard that name, but I don’t know why” reaction. It’s time to embrace Gallows as more than just a word.

The band has crossed the pond just once previously, playing four sets at SXSW Music Conference in March of this year. At press time, they are leaving breathtaking impressions (perhaps more accurately described as scars) on audiences across the States and Canada.

It’s difficult to describe Gallows, in fact it’s almost insulting to Gallows to compare them to anyone. But if you must…imagine a British interpretation of The Bronx—only more pissed off and way more energetic. Gallows put on one of the most phenomenal live shows of any band in existence right now.

A recent gig at King’s College, London saw so many fans storm the stage during the infamous title-track to their debut, “Orchestra of Wolves,” they had to start it twice. The fans leaping onstage ran off the edge and sprinted across the tops of heads in the crowd—utter mayhem from beginning to end. While American shows have been a little tamer, it’s just a matter of time before Gallows finds its audience here.

After the first date of Warped tour, Gallows was moved from the smaller Hurley stage, up to the main one, where they’ll be performing alongside the likes of New Found Glory, Circles Jerks, Yellowcard and Bad Religion for the rest of the summer.

“I don’t know how it happened. Stuart spent a lot of time sucking dick on the first night, and then, lo and behold, the next day…” singer Frank Carter told Kaffeine Buzz, referring to their bassist, Stuart Gili-Ross. When asked how he honed his oral skills, Stu spat out without hesitation: “My dad.”

Their first performance on the main stage displayed no reservation. As the band went along smashing up equipment, Warped founder Kevin Lyman sat side-stage keeping a written tally of the items being wrecked.

“We broke a mic stand. We just won’t get paid,” laughs Carter. “It’s just part and parcel of a Gallows show. If stuff gets in our way, it gets taken out. It’s just as simple as that. He knew that when he booked us. I think the one thing they were worried about yesterday was the fact that we broke all the mics. Someone came up and was like, ‘You’re gonna have to pay for every microphone, cuz they’re all fucked.’ And we were like, ‘They’re ours.’ We always carry our own mics and our own grills because we go through so many of them. So after that they we’re like, ‘Oh, cool. Sweet.’ The mic stand, yeah that was a different thing…”

Carter also talked a bit of trash. While vocalist Jared Leto was sitting sidestage, unbeknownst to the wiry frontman, Carter started to talk smack on Leto’s band, 30 Minutes To Mars.

“It’s my luck. He’s a great actor, but I’m not into his band. But I don’t care. He didn’t seem that fussed by it. It was more of a joke directed at our tour manager; I had said ‘He’s been working with 30 Seconds To Mars… and now he’s with a proper band.’ I didn’t realize Jared was there. It was cool though; I saw him later and he seemed fine. He was doing a interview and one of his mates shouted ‘Gallows!’ He didn’t get up and run over and smack me, so…”

Gallows’ great American invasion isn’t exactly one of convenience for the fair-skinned five-some. Remarkably pale and mostly gaunt as a combined result of a lack of British sunlight and nutrition (at least in comparison with obese America), the boys are in no way prepared for the 100+ degree weather they are encountering.

Despite the fact that the tour was in coastal California when we spoke, Carter said he was already feeling the heat. “It’s already hot; I’m strugglin’, and I’m gonna be strugglin’. But that’s the way it goes.”

Guitarist Laurent “Lags” Barnard chimes in, “My secret is to just stay on the bus.” Unfortunately that’s not really a possibility all the time, though it’s got to help to have that sanctuary.

While the live experience of Gallows is unfailingly calamitous and jaw-dropping, they do have studio talent as well. With frequently disturbing lyrics, listening to debut album, Orchestra of Wolves, is a sometimes shocking experience simply because the lyrics are decipherable. But those who take offense to Carters’ lyrics are often (if not always) misinterpreting them.

Carter, who’s been sober for several years, often writes from the perspective of someone who used to gets shit-faced all the time, gets into fights, and is an absolute pig to women.

Always frustrated and enraged, his lyrics refer to his own past, as well as to the frustrations he deals with day-to-day. Always personal, as in “Stay Cold,” where Carter unleashes fury about the time the band had 1000 pounds stolen from them while they performed in their hometown of Watford; sometimes metaphorical, like on “In The Belly Of A Shark” (“So here I lie / In the belly of shark; so fucking cold, so fucking dark,” which actually refers to the breakdown of a relationship.)

Spending just a little time around him, it is quickly clear that Carter is a man with a very deep affection for his family (his brother Steph also plays guitar in the band, and the two are constantly embracing each other. Further, at one show in London, Frank wouldn’t let the show begin until he got a hearty round of applause for his mum).

On the title track, Carter belts out some vile words that sound on the onset as if they are purely misogynistic:

“My name is Casanova / I’m basically a man / I have the head of a wolf, the appetite of an entire land / This song is going out to the girls; you’re all looking fucking fine / Baby spread those shaking legs ‘cuz I’m feeling fucking hungry tonight.”

But by the end of the song, it’s clear that this is a mere impersonation, or perhaps a reflection on a former self, as the entire band screams over and over: “The hardest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” This climax usually results in minor riots at their British shows.

This month marks the U.S. release for Orchestra Of Wolves. The album was released in Great Britain in October 2006 through a tiny DIY label named In At The Deep End, but has been re-worked for U.S. audiences by indie giant Epitaph. The US release boasts 15 tracks—six more that were on the original. Warner Brothers is handling the band’s international re-release, slated for July 18, 2007. It will include an entire extra disc including new material, BBC Punk and Rock Sessions and a blistering cover of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown,” which has been going down a storm with audiences on this side of the Atlantic.

Asked what he expects from America, Carter seems to be playing it uncharacteristically safe. “I want our record to do really fucking well over here,” he tells us. “I think it’s got the opportunity to do brilliantly. There’s no country like [the U.S.], and it has such a massive history of music that we fit right in. Everyone knows that we’re from the U.K. and very proud of it; but that just accentuates the fact. And I hope our record will do really well over here; but we’ll just have to see how it goes. I’m not holding my breath or anything. It would be nice, but I’m not worried either way.”

Things are definitely looking positive for them, even after only a few gigs. “It’s been good so far and it’s definitely been encouraging,” explains Carter. “It’s certainly been better than our first days in England. People have read stuff in magazines and we’ve got stuff on the Internet people can check out so they know the words. I’ve been quite surprised at how well it’s going down here.”

There’s no question for us that Gallows will emblazon their name across America, but decide for yourself. They play Sunday July 8th at Invesco Field as part of Van’s Warped Tour, and the domestic version of Orchestra of Wolves will be available Tuesday, July 10.


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