A Road To Damascus

author TL date 19/08/14

Copenhagen-based pop-punk/pop-rock group A Road To Damascus have long been among the most energetic and infectious live performers in the younger half of the Danish gig scene, and on Monday, August 25th they're releasing their second full-length "In Retrospect", with which the guys are hoping to take the band to a bigger level. With this in mind, we decided to get hold of the boys for a chat about how far they've come since their last album. With singer Mikkel Raavig, guitarist Mads Peter Møller, bassist Jakob Lærke Munk and touring guitarist Patrick Petersen all answering questions, only drummer Anders Veikko Madsen was absent from the interview:

RF.net: A Road To Damascus are presently preparing to release the second album "In Retrospect", which comes out on the 25th, but can be acquired already at your release party at High Voltage in Copenhagen on the 22nd. Can you start by telling us why people should come by for that instead of waiting until Monday to hear your new tunes?
Mikkel: If we held our release party after the album was released, everybody would be home listening to our songs unable to get out of the door, paralyzed by the awesomeness of the music!

Mads: It’s a chance to hear us play the songs live while we’re still fucking up!

RF.net: Considering that the new album brings about a brighter, larger sound and that you're presumeably aiming for it to help get the band to another level, it could strike people odd that you've decided to call it "In Retrospect". Can you elaborate on why you have chosen that to be the title?
Mads: The title refers to the lyrical theme of the album rather than its musical direction. Most of the songs on the new album are based on stories and experiences from our own lives. They deal with the significance of the decisions we make and the importance of questioning things we are not happy with. Reflection comes about by taking a break every once in a while and evaluating how your life is working out for you. It sounds quite simple, but I think many people neglect to do this and can end up being unhappy. We think that the title, ”In Retrospect”, represents this theme very well.

You are right, this album is less heavy compared to our debut album. When we were working on our debut album, we felt a strong need to explore various types of songwriting. This resulted in an album with a diverse range of songs spanning from pop-rock to post hardcore. It was a lot of fun making that album, but we later realized that it was the brighter tunes in our catalogue which put the biggest smiles on our faces when we performed them live. We reasoned that if these are the songs that we get the most joy from playing, they are probably also the songs that we’ll perform the best. For that reason we decided to focus on writing more bright and catchy songs.

RF.net: While we're talking about retrospect however, shortly after the release of your self-titled debut album in 2009 one of your founding guitarists Jacob Lorentzen left the band to study abroad and you took in Ronni Thomsen as replacement. Now however, Ronni has left the band again. Can you tell fans about Ronni's joining, his time with the band and the circumstances around his departure?
Jakob: When Jakob left the band we had already planned out Rock'n'Charity 2012 tour of Denmark. We knew Ronni from his clothing brand High Five Clothing which had sponsored us, and we had seen that he had guitar covers on youtube, so we asked him if he wanted to help us on the tour, and while underway we decided to make him part of the band.

Mads: Sadly it turned out that the everyday life in the band didn't match Ronni's expectations, and our collaboration never really clicked optimally. It was a simple case of a poor match and that's why we went our separate ways.

RF.net: Ronni's replacement has been Patrick Petersen, whom some in the Copenhagen scene may recognise from defunct deathcore group Luke Stole My Handgun. Can you tell us about how you found Patrick, and how he fits in considering the much heavier background he had with his former band?
Jakob: At the moment Patrick is simply a friend of ours that's helping us play the guitar parts so we can perform live. He is not a full member of the band, but a stand-in guitarist. We knew him from Copenhagen's rock scene and he had seen us play a number of shows. He's a really cool guy, looks good on stage and we're very happy to have him with us.

Patrick: It's always a blast to play live, and with A Road To Damascus the crowd is always very energetic and appreciative. And obviously the guys have a good thing going, so I'm pretty comfortable with helping them out at this point.

RF.net: The new album was recorded with help from Swedish producer Dino Medanhodzic, whom you guys enlisted to help you achieve the larger and brighter sound mentioned in the second question. The album omits your previously used screamed vocals and is generally slower in tempo than your debut. Can you explain what the reasons were for changing your sound like this, and perhaps tell us what kind of things have inspired "the new A Road To Damascus"?
Mads: We actually didn't make a firm decision to leave out screams in the songwriting process. We left the opportunity of using them as an effect in the new songs open. However the point always was that each song needed to be made as good as it possibly could, and we didn't want to force a song in any particular direction, just to show that we can play hardcore. Then, as we were writing the songs we never really hit a point where we felt like screams would make a song better. There are still plenty of bands that combine catchy songwriting with screamed vocals, but in our case we preferred to go without them.

When we were picking a producer it was very important to us that he understood our musical background. We needed someone that couldn't just imitate the sound of the scene we come from, but which could also help us create our own version of it. We knew about Dino from his work with a number of Swedish underground bands and we were very impressed with the quality and diversity of his productions. He was clearly able to create a large and polished rocksound, which at the same time had enough punch and weight for our taste. So we saw it as a perfect point of departure to help us find the essence of our own expression.

Mikkel: When we recorded the debut album we learned much about our songwriting. The process of recording the songs in a studio helped us recognize the forces and weaknesses of every song. That was an eye-opener for us, and has since influenced our songwriting, so that only the best written parts of new songs would survive. That has resulted in what I think is a much better craftsmanship, but has also resulted in our songs to be as short as they are, because we have cut every part away that we didn’t feel lived up to the standard of the song.

RF.net: If someone heard the record without knowledge of your band's status, it sounds almost bigger than any rock record from Denmark has in recent memory, with Carpark North's material perhaps being the best point of comparison from our own country - Yet you guys still play mostly small-to-mid sized venues here, which could be surprising. What do you think it's like to play "big rock" in Denmark of all places? Does it ever feel weird to play such big tunes from stages that aren't that much higher than the venue floor itself?
Jakob: Denmark, of all places, NEEDS big rock! People must be getting tired of being force fed dancehall and cheesy hiphop songs which is what is dominating the airwaves at the moment. But, I also think that the rock scene has stagnated somewhat, and we’re kind of stuck with a lot of 90’s and early 00’s influenced rock bands here in Denmark which is fine and all – but, someone's got to dare to bring something new to the scene, and bring Danish rock up to date with what’s happening outside the borders. We’re here to do that!

Playing live is a lot about attitude, and if you believe that what you do works, others will as well. Plus, it’s much easier to get a good connection with the crowd in smaller venues! We’re pretty spontaneous live - sometimes we like to jump directly in with the crowd and dance!

Mads: We actually enjoy playing on the smaller stages, where you can look people in the eye. We come from stages like that and that's where we feel at home.

Mikkel: Even though we may be the least punk/sex drugs and rock’n’roll band in the world. We still love the punk scene, the small edgy venues and of course the crowd. It’s a part of our identity as a band, and always will be. One of our best live experiences to date, was when we played in a trashed punk “venue” in a cellar of about forty square meters for 100+ people in Germany. We practically stood in the crowd playing the whole concert.

RF.net: You have previously explained to us that it is hard for a band like yours to come up in Denmark and get big, and that it is pretty much necessary to look outside our borders to make some progress - Which seems right looking to bands that are having success abroad like Dúné, Reptile Youth and Go Go Berlin. Where do you guys feel like you stand in terms of the pursuit of recognition both at home and abroad, and what are you planning to do to improve in both areas here with the new album?
Jakob: We all want to be big rockstars right? Hehe. We’ve made a killer album, which is definitely going to set some things in motion. We have the attitude of always trying to better ourselves in whatever we do, both in regards to songwriting, recordings, music videos, tours and so on. So, we’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing – but better each time. There’s not much else to do than write good music, get it released and play it live in front of people! It’s the long haul, but we feel that we’re getting some wind in the sails here in Denmark, also since we signed with Mighty Music Records on ”In Retrospect” and they're promoting the album both in Denmark and the rest of the world and with the Rock N Charity 2014 tour coming up!

Mikkel: We feel that our music is of a size that can do well abroad as well, so we dream of reaching out across Denmark's borders. As big as our music sounds, that's also how big we dream. If we can one day make a living by doing what we love, which is to come out and play for as many people as possible, then our dream has come true.

RF.net: The summer is almost over and with it the festival season as well. Last year you guys got to play at Smuk Fest in Skanderborg, which is one of Denmark's largest festival, yet you didn't play on any of the larger festivals this year. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on playing festivals, both here and abroad? If you could pick yourself, would you prefer to play on some of the more diverse festivals like Smuk Fest or Roskilde, or do you think it would be better to play on more genre-specific festivals like Belgium's Groezrock or England's Slam Dunk?
Mads: Like every musician that grew up with pop-punk, I have always dreamed of playing Warped Tour. But I think it would be a lot of fun to play the genre-specific festivals. On the other hand, I guess all of us have like a drunk uncle who likes playing air guitar. To that guy it would look much more impressive if we played at Roskilde.

Jakob: Festivals are fantastic because you get the chance to play to an audience that didn't necessarily come to see you, but who you can then expose to your music. Then it's only about keeping your fingers crossed and hoping they like what they hear. It was cool to play at Smuk Fest. Roskilde Festival has always been a boyhood dream to play at for me though, but I'm not sure that our style of music is what they're aiming for primarily. Warped Tour in the US would be the greatest for us - but yeah, the more pop-punk/punk-oriented festivals in Europe are definitely ones we'll try to get through to. For now though, our focus has been 100% on finishing and releasing "In Retrospect" and planning our Rock'n'Charity Tour for 2014.

Mikkel: Hopefully we will be playing a lot more festivals in the future. If anybody personally know the bookers on any festival - suggest us! Or vote for us to play. In the meantime we will do what we can to reach as many people as possible, so that we in the future will be entitled to play on all festivals worth playing. We have yet to play on a big genre-specific festival, but we sure would love that. Even if it is folk or maybe polka, we will do it!

RF.net: Between your albums you released some fun covers in form of B.O.B and Hayley Williams' "Airplanes" and an acoustic version of Broadway's "Same Thing We Do Every Day Pinky". Can you reveal if there's a chance that you have more covers in store for the listeners, either in recorded or live form?
Mikkel: We love doing covers, but recently our main focus has been on our own music. But we have some ideas for new songs we soon would like to Damascufy..

Jakob: Yeah we're definitely going to make more covers, we've just been busy writing our own music. But it's a fun process making your own take on another artist, and I think there's a chance we might have time to do it again soon. Fans are welcome to suggest songs!

RF.net: To round off the interview, can you tell us what your plans are following the release of "In Retrospect"? Like what do you have scheduled immediately, and what do you hope to accomplish with the band moving forward?
Jakob: We're doing a Rock'n'Charity tour again, collecting money once again to give to a charity that helps kids that have cancer. You can read more about it at rockncharity.dk. We're playing all over Denmark and it's going to be our best shows to date, so be there or be square! As for 2015 that's something we're only about to start planning, but it's going to involve more tours and more songwriting.

Mikkel: We hope to accomplish as much as we possibly can with this new album, may it be taking over the world or playing at a polka festival in Poland..!

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