Interview: Make Way For Man’s Drew Shepherd on the new album ‘Rites’

Perth’s Make Way For Man have only been around for four years, but in that time, they’ve already carved out a niche for themselves in metal. A booking agent green-lighting their first ever show supporting one of the world’s biggest NWOAHM bands certainly helped, but the five members’ appeal has also been built up by odd time signatures, pop hooks, guttural breakdowns, poly-rhythmic passages and technical guitar solos.

Since their inception, they have released EP, Evolve and Repair, and now it’s time for their new EP, Rites. Slated for September 18, Rites contains six tracks – all lyrically themed around overcoming the fear of every day life. Grater recently caught up with guitarist Drew Shepherd to get all the details.

How are you Drew? Keeping busy?

“I run a structural engineering business, so it’s got me pretty busy at the moment and then also (this) release, so time is tight at the moment (laughs).”

Nice. And in your four years as a band, you’ve had a slight lineup change – a new vocalist I believe? Just to refresh our memories, who makes up MWMF now?

“Dylan Symmonds. He’s the new guy. The new vocalist. He’s been in the band over a year, but he’s ‘new’. And John Kelly is the other singer. Adam Mather is bass. Then we’ve got James Glover drumming and on guitar is Drew Shepherd.”

Gotcha. Now, let’s talk about your new EP, Rites. This has been in the works for a while?

“So here’s the weird thing about it. I was away. I was travelling around Asia, but I had my guitar with me and I was tracking stuff while I was away. So the vocals were done here while I wasn’t here. So it was kind of done over a long period of time. Probably summer 2018-19. We had everything good to go and I think the first thing we released was September or November last year, and then Coronavirus happens. So we just backed off and sort of sat on it and waited. So it was a long process for this one.”

What about the other four guys? What was their process like?

“The singers always go in at the same time because they’re bouncing ideas off each other, and the guys did it all in their own time. I heard the stuff online – it was a bit of a different process – but I found the time to do it, even while being away.

“We recorded at a couple of local studios; friends of ours here in Perth. The studio is actually owned by a friend of ours called Sumo Sound Studios. He gives us mates rates (laughs). Joe (Johnson) mixed and mastered the songs (at Tone Traktor Audio).”

People will be familiar with songs like “Ideations”, “Rites”, “MVP” and “Fireflies”. What are the other two songs?

“‘Strangers’ is one and the other song is called ‘Victories’, which no one has heard as of yet. It’s been kind of quiet (with) no shows or anything, so we’ve got a lot more ready to go.”

OK, so maybe another EP after this, or an LP?

“I don’t really know. I know it’s not really conventional (but) I’m starting to like the idea of just doing singles and eventually releasing an EP. I know some people don’t want that; listeners want a whole EP at once, but that way works for us anyway. With time restraints, just getting a single done or a few singles is so much more efficient for us, and that way it doesn’t get stale later. I found in other bands – especially with an album 10 songs or more – (you’re) three quarters of the way into it, it’s been six months (and) everyone gets a little bit stale and things don’t happen quickly.

“Then there’s the whole keeping up with the times and having relevant content. Everyone wants content right now. It’s hard to do that when you’ve got an EP. It’s just an idea of mine. I think it works better for us as a band as well.”

Perth’s definitely home to some quality heavy bands, which brings us to another “Make” band – Make Them Suffer. How did their vocalist Sean Harmanis end up on “Ideations”?

“Perth’s not a huge place, so everyone knows each other, especially in the heavier scene. Our drummer was actually the Make Them Suffer drummer, then he left a couple of years ago. We were looking for a guy to do some guests vocals and the song fit someone from a heavier nature, so Sean was a no brainer.

“At the time, he was in Perth … and he was happy to, so it worked out well because that song did pretty well for us. He definitely gave it a boost as well. People want to hear what he’s got.”

That song has your two vocalists, plus Sean. How the hell do you make that sound good (laughs)?

“Well that was the guy that mix-mastered it, which would have been pretty damn hard. I told him, ‘Not only are there three vocalists, there’s waves of guitar, samples and all sorts of stuff going on. There were a shitload of tracks on that one. Do your best. Try to isolate the ranges of vocals’.

“It was a lot of trying to decipher what should be the lead and what should sit pocket in the background. Obviously we wanted to push Sean up, so we made him stand out for his part. Some people – especially sound guys – were saying, ‘Wow, this guy did a pretty good job of balancing all that’, so we were happy with the end result.”

Your drummer also did some time in Perth band Saviour as well?

“He was in Saviour. They had a bit of a split. We were going for a couple of years and he went to Make Them Suffer.”

It’s a tight-knit community over there!

“Yeah, especially in heavy music. Especially drummers; they’re in like four bands (laughs).”

Who composed the music on this EP?

“Most of the music is me. I come up with initial ideas and I’ll do all the drums and guitars and bass and everything pre-production. Then the vocalists both get together and sit down and bounce ideas off each other and then we rearrange the song to be a bit more vocal-friendly. That seems to be the way we normally do things and that seems to help and get the song more of a finished product, rather than just a bunch of ideas.”

How did you approach these six songs purely from a guitarist point of view?

“The first EP we did was kind of rush rush. We just wanted to get something out there because we had a good response from our single that we did. Whereas this one, I had a whole heap of songs and we had to narrow it down to an EP’s worth of songs. I tend to write in blocks so I’ll write three or four songs in a certain day and then I’ll have a breather and come back. And then the next songs will be heavier songs or more poppy or whatever.

“So I had all these songs from over a year’s worth of just coming up with things. I just try to make make it as varied as possible, so get that heavier song and get a poppier song then a slow one and and then try and tie that in with our sounds so that, although they’re very different, they have that common theme of the vocals. And just the overall sound. That was the plan – try to make it pretty varied with a common theme.”

So not only do you do your engineering day job, band pre-production and guitars, we see you also had a crack at creating the YouTube music video visualiser for the Rites song?

“I had a go (laughs). I used to do a lot of poster design. I’m not exactly an expert. I had the time. Because of the Coronavirus, we were just sitting around, so I thought, alright, let’s give it a go. As long as people don’t notice that it was done by a novice, I’ll be happy.”

What about the album artwork? It looks like an interesting mix of ancient and futuristic styles.

“I met this guy when I was travelling. He’s an Indonesian guy. I said, ‘Can you do something for us?’ We wanted something symmetrical and a mixture of futuristic tech and old rustic and that’s what he came up with.”

Rites is another independent release. Are you guys enjoying being independent or is a record deal still on the horizon?

“Back when we first started, we got a few offers and I don’t know what happened. I think we were just so busy trying to get tracks completed so we had something to tour off. I’m still open to the idea.  There are a couple of smaller labels in Perth. There are some pretty good bands in Perth but they kind of get overlooked, and it’s not because they’re good or they’re bad, I think it’s because we’re in Perth. If you’re on the East Coast, you’re more concerned with your direct environment, not really with someone from the other side of the country. I don’t know of anyone at the moment that we would suit really.”

So is the idea to keep releasing singles, having fun and see what happens, or would you guys be ready to ditch the day jobs?

“I would, yeah. I think some of the guys are going to struggle with that, because they have houses and mortgages and everything. So that’s always a problem. It’s a big leap to make. So if it’s viable then I definitely would. The idea of touring is the epitome of what I enjoy doing. I love travelling, I can live out of a suitcase; I did for nearly two years. So not only are you doing that, you’re playing music, which is what you’d like to do. So yeah, that’s basically a double win for me.”

What about touring? Being a young band, you’re probably frustrated with everything grinding to a halt?

“We’ve done two tours. We never got to Brisbane. We did everywhere else but Brisbane. I want to go to Brisbane. Especially on the analytics, as far as Australia goes, seems to be one of the places that like our music the most. We’ve had offers as well to come and support other Brisbane bands. I guess this hasn’t worked out yet. Back when things open up, I’m ready to come.

“I mean, we’re allowed to play shows now (in WA) … we can’t really leave the state. We basically decided we’re going to do a regional tour in Western Australia. It’s a little bit different to a regional tour you’d do on the East Coast because there’s not many people in WA, so you can get decent crowds; it’s just you’re playing a floor show in Broome or somewhere like that or Esperance, but you can get a couple hundred people because they’re kind of starved for bands.”

When do you plan on doing this regional tour?

“We were planning close to the end of the year. I don’t know what’s gonna happen as far as borders go. I’m assuming November-December it’s still going to be shut.

“I’ve been to a few shows. I didn’t even know that they were on. I was just at a bar and it was a show and it was pretty packed. We don’t have many restrictions. I think we’ve got a cap on how many people in the venue.”

You’ve played on stages with a few incredible bands. Are there any moments that stand out?

“The highlight for us probably was the first show we did was supporting Trivium (in Perth). So we never played a show before. We’re all nervous. So we get up playing in front of a couple thousand people. We’d all played in our own separate projects before, but never as a unit. So it was pretty nerve wracking, but then when we played, we had a really good reception, so that settled the nerves a bit.

“I remember that booking agent… when we finished the show, I messaged him saying, ‘Thanks for putting us on our first ever show. That’s really cool’. And he got back to me saying, ‘What? This is your first show?’ He didn’t know we hadn’t played a show before … That got us a whole range of other ones. We had a lot of pressure to prove ourselves on that show, and we did, so because of that, we got a range of other shows – Meshuggah and Fear Factory and all sorts. We’re just happy that went well.”

Let’s finish with some of the albums you’ve been nerding out on. What are some of your favourites of 2020?

“I Am Abomination (Passion of the Heist II – 2020). They’re awesome. Very under appreciated; Polaris I really enjoy (The Death of Me – 2020); another one is the Make Them Suffer album that just came out (How To Survive A Funeral – 2020). That one’s a good one. I listen to lots of singles now on Spotify, YouTube and all that. I’m just hearing one song from a band, then I might listen to more if it interests me.”

Thanks for making some time for us Drew. All the best with the album and tour.

Rites is out September 18

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