Interview: Vilify’s Kieran Jackson on their debut EP ‘Clarity’

Formed as a group of friends who met within the local heavy music scene and connected over shared interests and musical direction, Newcastle melodic hardcore trio Vilify released their debut EP, Clarity, in December.

Vocalist Amy McIntosh (The Beautiful Monument, Liberties), drummer Kieran Jackson (SETMEONFIRE, Liberties) and guitarist Deni Hourihan (Cold Era) teamed up to produce a brutal five-track tapestry which delves into self-worth and a multitude of other personal topics. Here’s Jackson with more.

How did Vilify become a reality?

“(Liberties) were rehearsing at the same place as where Deni was rehearsing with her other band and one day we were just finishing up and we heard this band playing and we’re like, ‘These guys are tight’, and we sat there listening and they eventually came out. We introduced ourselves and then we ended up playing quite a few shows together after that. Amy and I just got a liking for Deni and then because of issues with our band … (we thought) let’s do our own thing, because Amy and I will probably always do things together. We always support each other. Then Amy was like, ‘How would you feel about doing something with Deni?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’d love to do something with Deni, because every time I’ve gone to see her band play, I’ve been like, ‘This chick’s a beast’. I’d love to do something with her’.

“We started working on songs together (in 2019) and then eventually we just went in and recorded it in May (2020) at The Brain Recording Studios in Sydney with a guy called Clay.  He is a lovely lad.”

What was the lead up and release of the album like for you guys?

“Our EP came out on December 4 and the second single (came) out on the 27th of November with another video as well, which Amy did herself again because COVID kind of fucked us. I think it actually worked out well, because she’s a boss. She’s a boss at all things visual. It probably worked out well, because I’m not sure that whoever we would’ve went with would’ve got the exact vibe. We knew exactly what we wanted and she nailed it I think.

“We shot that in a corner of her lounge room at her house. In a little space of about three by three metres. She’s got a white screen … you wouldn’t know from looking at it. It looks like we did it in a proper egg-shaped studio.”

The notes say some of the songs are about addiction. Addiction to what?

“People might think addiction to drugs and alcohol, but from what I know, it’s addiction to doubting yourself. Because that’s something I know Amy does. Like, when we’ve done the videos, I know that she doubts whether it’s good enough or whether her ideas are going to be good. And when she was recording vocals, I was in there going, ‘She’s fucking killing this’, and then she’s outside walking around furious at herself going, ‘It’s not good enough’. She’s always doubting itself. I don’t know why.

“Even though it’s a curse and it sucks to feel like that, it’s better to feel like that than to feel the opposite where, ‘Everything I do is amazing’. There’s a lot of people that think that of themselves and you wouldn’t like to have a beer with them because you couldn’t stand to sit at the same table as them for five minutes.” 

Who contributed what to the lyric and music writing process?

“The lyrics were, I would say, 99 per cent Amy’s.  Then she would come to us and say, ‘I don’t know what to do here, or do you guys have any input here for the lyrics?’  There’s one song where literally the only lyrical input that I had was on a previous experience with someone and the song is about them. So she was like, ‘What could I put there?’, and I was like, ‘Well, the point of the song is I was sick of someone, and I just wanted to get him out of my life, so get out!’ So you’ll hear that in “Deadweight” – she’s doing these big screams at the end. 

“The music itself – a few of the songs were written by Amy.  Some of them were ideas that she had for our old band, but for whatever reason, other people didn’t think they were good enough or whatever. I always thought they were good. And so she was like, ‘Alright, fuck it.  I’ll use it for something else’.  We worked on them together and they’re both really good at guitar, so I’d say most of the songwriting is those two. I write all the drums, but they usually give me an idea, like this is a two-step beat or four-on-the-floor beat, which we have in some super simple, stripped back sections. It’s a team effort, but it’s definitely mostly those two who write the songs.”

Are there any bands that have influenced all three of you?

“As a band, we all love Every Time I Die. 

“The producer that we went to when we were down in Sydney introduced us to a band that’s got Will Putney (Fit For An Autopsy) in it and the drummer from Dillinger Escape Plan, Billie (Rymer).  They call it END. It’s super raw and heavy. 

“Norma Jean.  The whole week that we were down there recording in Sydney, we were just slamming Norma Jean. 

“Amy loves Dance Gavin Dance.  It’s not really my jam.”

How about just you. What’s really influenced your musicianship?

“I love Pendulum. And one of the reasons I ended up in my other band SETMEONFIRE is because I always wanted to start a band that had a mix between electronic punk slash metal, dubstep sort of thing. And there’s still not many people that really do it.

“I’ve been frothing Northlane since Singularity. Their latest album’s got lots of synths and drum and bass in it, so that’s been a big influence on me and Nic (Pettersen) is my drum tutor who I go to every second fortnight, so he’s a big influence on me definitely because he picks me to pieces when I go to lessons and we work on all drum parts for both my bands.  When I’m writing new drums, I always take them to him and get a tick of approval first, and he’s always got interesting ideas.”

Do you practice a lot at home too?

“I was, until (November 2019), an electrical engineer for a distribution company that does power lines and stuff in New South Wales. Very boring. It’s a place where people go to die.  I got made redundant … So they paid me lots of money to fuck off, basically.  It worked out well, because then I was able to just sit at home and play drums for a solid four to five hours every day for the last 12 months. My body’s feeling it but it was good to get the hours in that I normally wouldn’t get.”

Clarity is out now

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