Eleven years ago in the early days of the Rockpit I was sent an EP by a new band from Scunthorpe in the UK called Skarlett Riot. It was a record which was on pretty constant rotation here at HQ. Fast-forward 11 years and album number three has just dropped – the wonderful ‘Invicta’ – a stunning piece of work which may be four years in the making but takes the band to an entirely new level. We caught up with Chloe “Skarlett” Drinkwater to find out all about it…
Mark: Good Morning, it’s 4am here in Western Australia, so it’s an early one, but definitely worth getting up for! What a great album! It’s been a while in the making though, so tell us the story of it.
Skarlett: Thank you. Yeah, basically we released “Regenerate” in 2017, and since that release, we’ve literally just been touring off the back of that, and it got to March 2019 and we’d just finished a headline run which was the last run of “Regenerate”, and we said, right, it’s been a while since we’ve brought out any new music, we’ve finished the fun and games now, we need to crack down and start and do some work again! So, that’s why it took so long to start with, but, we started writing March 2019, and then in March 2020, we went in to record, and we were kicked out of the studio straight away because we went in to record the night that lockdown was announced! So, we got told you can’t be in the studio we got sent home, and it was August 2020 we actually got back in to the studio, but we had to go back in one by one because we weren’t allowed to be in there together. That was super strange, not being able to hang with the lads in the studio for a month, like we usually do, and that’s why it took us so long! It was going to be released in September 2020, which would have been a couple of years, but then with lockdown and not knowing when we were going to be opening back up we were delaying the release because we wanted to tour off the back of it. But then we thought what people really need right now in this pandemic, is new music to look forward to. We set a release date; got all the press and promo ready and thought let’s just get it out there.
Mark: It’s hard isn’t it, for any band that’s got new music to know when to record things, when to release things. Some bands out there have been sat on albums like you, for quite some time, and others released things early in the pandemic and are now looking at putting another album out after having missed a tour. I see you have a live date, in my old neck of the woods, “Call of the Wild”, I’m really hoping that takes place, it’ll be a great place to launch the album! What’s it like there in the UK at the minute? Is there hope that things are going to start happening? We are in a good position here in Australia, we have live music and relatively few cases of Covid, we’ve kept it away from us, and that has meant that local live music is thriving, because no one can come in! Do you think “Call of the Wild” will happen?
Skarlett: I would like to think so; things are opening up 17th May, and so from then live music can happen. Because it’s outside as well, and the line up’s full of UK bands, I do have hopes for this one, also the promoter is very positive that it’s going to be happening, so fingers crossed!
Mark: That would be fantastic. We’ve been treated to a few singles in the lead up to the release of the album; tell us the reason for the title “Invicta”, I know it means undefeated or unconquered, I remember that from doing Latin at school, but what does it mean to you? Does it mean not being bound to what’s been happening to us all?
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Skarlett: It’s actually been written about the ten years we’ve been together as a band. We’ve come from such a small town, and we built ourselves up from nothing. We didn’t have any clue about how the music industry worked, we didn’t know anyone in the industry, and so ten years in the making, we’ve been really pushing our name to be heard and trying to get people to listen to us. It’s a tough industry and you have to have a tough skin, there are lots of ups and downs and lots that go on behind the scenes, and lots of negativity as well as the positives that people see, but we’ve just pushed and pushed, stuck together, and tried to better ourselves with each release, we’ve taken on the criticism and made ourselves the best we possibly can. So, it’s like a celebration really, that after 10 years we’re still here and still fighting!
Mark: That’s fantastic, it’s a wonderful album, what do you think? A friend of mine loved your first album, but thinks this is a “masterpiece”!
Skarlett: Thank you so much. Yeah, I’m so excited to actually get this out; we’ve been sat on this for so long! I think, obviously as a band when you record something, you believe that it’s good, but what everybody else believes can be different to what we believe! It’s been nice to get it out and have people say “I love this” so we are not deluding ourselves, and it actually is good! Like I said with every release we try and better ourselves, we don’t like to bring something out that we don’t think is better than the previous release, and I think with “Regenerate” we’d found our Skarlett Riot signature sound. It is heavier than our previous stuff and I think it took us to the next level, I feel with “Invicta” we keep that sound but it’s just a bit more dynamic and more textured with the growls and things that we introduced, more piano and violin, and just more interesting layers.
Mark: I did want to talk about a few of the songs, we’ve had the singles, “Human Gravity” and another one as well, and on my first listen what surprised me, I think when I was listening to “Underwater” I thought I’m sure that’s Skarlett growling on this! I had to play it again just to make sure! Was that the first song you’ve done that type of vocal on?
Skarlett: Yeah, it was. We actually recorded “Underwater” with “Gravity” and “Stronger” and they were recorded in November 2020, so they were the first ones recorded for the album. Then we went to finish the recording in March, which is when we got kicked out, and I’d only just started screaming then as well, and it’s the song with the most screams in it out of the whole album for me. I’d put them in so early on, and I was still learning how to do it, and so the amount of takes that I went through in the studio until I got it right, but I was like I need to do this because I’d never done it before and it was a challenge to me, and I wanted to deliver this and do this on the album. Our bass player, Tim, is our newest member and he already knew how to scream, he’s got a great set of lungs on him you can hear him at the beginning of “Gravity”, and I thought I like this, I want to learn this as well! It’s good to have a new technique, and through the lockdown I had time to learn it, so why not? People seem to be really digging it, but I’m just nervous about doing it live!
Mark: That would be hard, changing up like that, good luck!! Great album, I can’t wait for people to hear it, I think one of my favourites at the moment on there is “Black Cloud”, the album has got that great dynamic with the heaviness and the lightness, but I think it works particularly well on that song. What are your favourites?
Skarlett: Actually “Black Cloud” is one of my favourites too, I think it’s got the metal element to it with the screaming, but it keeps the catchiness as well, so you’ve got that kind of “poppy, rocky” verse, a sing a long chorus which will be really good live, and I just think it has everything I love combined in one track. I do love “Underwater” as well, just because it’s got all these dynamics with violin sections at the end, and I get my little bit in the middle where I can showcase what I can do which is pretty cool!
Mark: You mentioned the difficulties in recording the album, and having to record one by one, did the writing change as well, or is it something that stayed the same from the previous release?
Skarlett: Yeah, the writing stayed very much similar, the songs were written before we went in to record, so before lockdown they were all ready, and so the pandemic didn’t really change anything in the way that we write, but I suppose what did change was because we had no release date before we went back in to recording, we weren’t rushing the album out and so had more time to spend on production layers. So, writing things like the violins, the brass sections, the pianos, we had more time on our hands to put those sections together and work on the production side of it, and the extra little sparkles we added to the album, there was just more time to work on that because we didn’t have a date we had to stick to.
Mark: I think a few bands I’ve spoken to have said that’s one of the few positives that’s come out of the pandemic, there’s more time to work on the music. When we talk to people we always like to know when it all started for you, and when you knew music was going to be a part of your life. Was it a gradual thing or a big defining moment?
Skarlett: When I was 12 I decided that I wanted some singing lessons; I was flicking through the music channels and listening to bands like Bullet for my Valentine, Evanescence, Avril Levigne, thought it was cool and decided I wanted to sing and play guitar. I had some vocal lessons and guitar lessons, and then when I was 14 I entered a competition at school, and Sheridan Smith was one of the judges, and I went on as Alanis Morissette, sang “Ironic”, had my guitar and I actually won that competition! It was only small, but it gave me the encouragement to believe that I was ok, and maybe I can do something with it. From there I actually met the guys in the band in the last year of school, and we just started doing covers in pubs and clubs, and a couple of years later we decided to start writing our own music, so Skarlett Riot was a gradual thing, but winning that competition gave me the confidence I needed to carry on with the music.
Mark: Because of the lockdowns we’ve been asking people also to name four albums they’d choose to get them through isolation, some people have been going back and revisiting things they’ve loved in the past and others have discovered new music. What would you recommend people listen to, although obviously your new album would be on that list!!
Skarlett: Thanks, of course we have to plug “Invicta”!! Architects, I’m rubbish with album names, but Architects have just released a new album, and I absolutely love that, I love Lacuna Coil and their most recent album.
Mark: Those guys have been having it really hard in lockdown in Italy, it’s been really terrible where they are, great band though!
Skarlett: I did talk to the guitarist, Andrea, over there and he was telling me that the amount of tours they have to reschedule, before they can even look at doing any new tours is just ridiculous!
Mark: Ok, so that’s 2 great records. Evanescence?
Skarlett: Yes, I love their new material, and I can’t wait to see those guys on the road again.
Mark: The hard thing for any band that has got a new album out is deciding what they’re going to put in the set list. You’ve already mentioned two of the songs I like, earlier, and hopefully they’ll get a look in, but how hard is it to push old songs out and bring new ones in?
Skarlett: It is hard, actually being able to decide the set list is difficult, and I think the four of us in the band all have different favourites as well, and we all listen to different types of music, and we all want to play different songs for different reasons. But, I think, as for kicking out old songs, we try and have a mixture in our set list, we want new songs, but we also want the old favourites that people love and know. If it’s only a half an hour set, it’ll be mainly new songs, and in a headline set we’ll go back and play songs from the first albums, for people who have followed us all along. We tend to try and keep it modern, but have the odd one or two from previous albums and releases.
Mark: Yes, it is hard, I was always one of those strange people who went to a gig and wanted to hear the new stuff, whereas now I’m a bit older, I get the nostalgia side of it, but I’d rather hear something new than something I’ve heard a hundred times before!
Skarlett: I’m sorry for bands like Europe who play new songs and everyone’s shouting “Final Countdown!!”
Mark: Strangely enough I much prefer their new stuff! I just have a couple more questions that we ask everyone first time round! If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album at any point in time, what would you love to have seen being made in the studio, to see how the magic happened and it all came together?
Skarlett: That’s a difficult one!! I think, Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon”, what an album! I would’ve liked to have been there for the recording of that, wow, it’s completely out there isn’t it? It would definitely have been interesting to watch. Or, Queen, Freddy Mercury, I don’t even know if I was alive before Freddy died!! So, it would’ve been great just to meet him, what a legend!
Mark: I think it was 91 when he died.
Skarlett: Ah, I was born in 91, so I would’ve been a bit young to meet him!
Mark: I think you would’ve been there at the studio for a long time on both occasions if you’d chosen Queen or Pink Floyd! The next question is easy, and probably very pertinent these days, what is the meaning of life?
Skarlett: Experiences!! Creating memories, experiences and relationships, and having a good bond with your loved ones, and connecting with people who are similar or have similar interests as you. For me, definitely experiences, I want to travel the world, I want to see places and make sure I never say I wish I’d done it, and be able to say I’ve done it and have no regrets.
Mark: Yeah, it’s a shame that experience is on hold at the minute, I love to travel back to the UK, and go to the States, we couldn’t do it last year and who knows for this year! What I do know is that we have had some great music out this year, some fantastic albums, including “Invicta” of course!
Mark: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today, I’m glad we got to catch up; it is a wonderful album that people really do need to listen to. All the best, and let’s hope Call of the Wild happens!
Skarlett: Thank you very much, it’s been good to meet you. Bye