We live in a world that is rapidly changing around and within us. Each day is a time capsule: a snapshot of who and where we are at that precise moment. Perspective is key, but by nature human consciousness isn’t built to process experiences in such a manner. People can struggle to get a helicopter view when they’re stuck in the eye of the storm that is life. It’s a concept which London noise merchants Suzerain have been exploring with second album 'Identity' – their very own dystopian nightmare born from the winds of change.
“We made this album across two years,” reveals singer Thomas Pether. “So it took a while to break into something we wanted it to be. Identity is something that is difficult to grasp on a day-to-day basis, it can change but isn’t always obvious. For us, this album feels like our identity at the moment.”
“We wanted to strip away as much as possible,” continues guitarist Rich Summer. “It sounds like a cliché but the more we removed, the more it sounded like us. We have a tendency to try everything we can and see what sticks, but this time once we found the heart of the music, we stripped everything down to that one little nugget that was the identity of the track, in a way.”
Enlisting the talents of respected producer Steve Lyon (Depeche Mode, The Cure, Siouxsie Sioux), the electro rock outfit strived to create something truly exciting, something brand new, something so very now that its process pushed their artistic vision to its very limits. As the pieces slowly fitted into place, so did the understanding that identity is the invisible carpet beneath our feet: a journey of self-discovery, and how the results of such naked introspection place us in equilibrium with the other forces of life.
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“It’s not a concept album by any stretch,” says Thomas. “But it certainly does have elements of that. Our track 'I Know You So Well' came from how we can be seen through our digital footprint in the world, and 'Hide Yourself' is about opening up to other people by not hiding yourself, by just being you. Which to be honest is something we all want to do! So there were many things that crossed over in actually defining ourselves on this record.”
“We recorded so many songs that didn’t make the album,” continues Rich. “We decided that if anything sounded like another band could have done it, we didn’t want to include it. The music had to be something that could only be done by us. And embracing that side of us was both a blessing and a curse! But the result is that anyone listening to this record would have to grab a whole group of genres to figure out where we belong.”
The sophomore full-length from Suzerain is something that bends the idea of genre wherever it sees fit, rather than conforming to the prescribed rules of keeping to any given side of the fence. There are elements of indie, alt-rock, industrial and even filmscore within an intricate wall of sound which remains theirs throughout. And rather poignantly, there’s this intrinsic sense of British charm to their sonic tapestry, reminiscent of the heritage that came with Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Muse and, in more recent times, Royal Blood.
“It would be inauthentic of us not to put something about what it’s like living in Britain right now,” smiles Thomas. “Depending on where you are, the more you look around, the more frightening it can become. And to deal with that idea of fear and having to live a life beyond it is a primary challenge of being human in the 21st century. Navigating through all those things coming at you!
“But rather than creating a full-on prescription of all this history…” he continues, “it was more like this is right for the moment. Lyrically, I found it easy to use metaphors of other places and set it all in closely related dystopias and worlds that weren’t ours yet, but by grace of god could very well be in years to come.”
It’s a train of thought that fuelled the ambient lullaby that is ‘200’: a wakeup call to humanity, narrated by a digitized voice that lists the animals made extinct by human interference since the 19th century. For Suzerain, the answer to identity lies in understanding our past, as well as living in the now to embrace the future that follows.
“I wanted something bizarre and interesting over that particular instrumental,” admits Thomas. “So I found this list and it felt incredibly depressing. Both heartbreaking and worrying for mankind. I mean, it was longer than the song, for starts. Even though we’re all looking to the future, there’s a huge amount of past that can affect how we act now.”
While the cerebral depths of Identity will more than satisfy those that like diving in the deep end, the true magic of the album lies at the very heart of it, in its songs. Like a modern day Pink Floyd, with twists of Nine Inch Nails and Queens Of The Stone Age, Suzerain look set for what will inevitably one of the biggest years of their career.
And way, way beyond the stomping rock grooves, electronic pulses and brooding ambiences sit anthems of rebellion. Change is coming. The fuse is lit and the clock is ticking…
Thomas Pether (Vocals) Rich Summers (Guitar) Mike Smith (Bass Guitar) Matt Constantine (Keyboards & Cello) Ben Howe (Drums)
Great Escape, Showcase of Republic of Music: Thursday, 19th May, 1:15pm The Great Marlborough Theatre