A Road To Damascus

author TL date 11/10/12

For the past weeks Copenhagen pop-punkers A Road To Damascus have been touring eastern Denmark thin along with Siamese Fighting Fish in this year's installment of the Rock'N'Charity tour, which you can read much more about over here. We caught up with them before the show the bands played together in Gimle, Roskilde, for a chat about the tour, the change of guitarists in the bands and about their choices moving forward as a band.

From left to right in the above picture, A Road To Damascus are:

Drummer Anders Veikko Madsen, guitarist Mads Peter Møller, roadie Steffen Dehn Frandsen, singer Mikkel Raavig, bassist Jakob Lærke Munk and guitarist Ronnie Thomsen

RF.net: You guys are currently in the middle of the third round of Rock'N'Charity, and I'd like to ask how you feel you've developed the concept over the years. How is this year different from the first two years?
Munk: It's different because it's much bigger than ever before and our ambitions with it are much bigger as well.

RF.net: You mean in terms of turnout or how much money you collect or?

Munk: In terms of the profit we hope to make and donate to helping the children with cancer. We've chosen to do things a bit different this year which among other things is because we've been fortunate enough to be joined by Siamese Fighting Fish - Their singer Mirza works for Target Records and has a lot of good contacts in there and ganging up with them have meant that we could actually book 10 shows for the tour, which is more than we've previously done. We've decided that we want to collect 50.000 DKK and this obviously puts pressure on us in terms of planning and attracting a big enough audience. For this reason we've chosen to enlist the help of a lot of local support bands this year, who can hopefully help us pull some good crowds, and so far they have indeed done so, so we're counting on that being good for the rest of the tour as well.

RF.net: Last year you decided to do a much shorter Rock'N'Charity but then on the flipside you had a much more famous band alongside you in The Dreams. How come you decided to go for a smaller band and then do more shows this time?
Møller: Well we've done both previous years in collaboration with Silence Of September who have broken up now, but it was always cool to have another band in the project to bounce ideas off. Mirza from SIFIFI actually approached us saying that this was a project that they would like to be a part of.

Munk: And they were really the most likely choice..

Møller: They're a really talented band, they have good contacts, they have a lot of fans..

Raavig: And they put every bit as much work into it that we do, which really makes it a great combination..

Møller: It makes sense in terms of genres as well

Raavig: And we've actually only been very positively surprised with how well it has worked and how well everybody has gotten along.

Munk: They're pretty nice guys actually! About The Dreams though, taking them on tour last time was a bit of a gamble because while they were a bigger name we also had bigger expenses working with them, so we thought that was another good thing about working with local bands, namely that it would cut down on a lot of different expenses. But the main thing for us this year is that the local acts we collaborate with put much more of an effort into getting their friends and local fans to come watch the shows.

RF.net: How does it affect the shows do you think, sharing the headline duty with another band and playing with a lot of other bands that might have drawn more fans in than you have - as opposed to being out on tour with just yourself as the clear cut headliner?
Munk: Actually there are only two places on this tour that we've played before and generally it's a big advantage for us to get out and play in front of a new audience who might never have heard about us before. So far people have also been good at staying for our shows instead of just leaving after the band they came for.

RF.net: Do you feel an added motivation having to share the stage with another band that are as ambitious as you yourself are, instead of just somebody who's clearly a 'support' band?

Møller: Maybe this is a boring answer, but I don't think it makes any difference. When we're playing we're not thinking about whatever else is going on, or how well the other bands have done.

Munk: We decided a long time ago that the time we're on stage that time is ours. No matter who is playing before or after, that's our time and we want to use that to impress whoever is watching no matter how many it is.

Raavig: We often say that we're used to playing to a wall during rehearsal. So we always do our outmost to play a good show no matter the amount of people. Of course it's only awesome if there's a big crowd that's all loud and happy, but really we always intend to have a good night regardless. That's the attitude we try to bring on stage.

Møller: Yes and hopefully that means that whoever is watching also has a good night.

Raavig: If we have a blast on stage then mostly that helps people have a blast on the floor.

Munk: With SIFIFI, them being crazy good live, we also compliment each other well because whoever is playing last usually gets hyped up seeing the other band, and then everybody wants to make sure that they come on and are just as good at the very least.

RF.net: How has it been going with the tour then, here nearing the halfway mark?
Munk: It's looking great. It really is.

Møller: Making our goal of collecting 50.000 DKK is not looking unrealistic so far.

Raavig: Yeah it's gone better than expected!

RF.net: You recently parted ways with your founding guitarist Jakob Lorenzen and since then you've been playing with Ronni [Thomsen] who's playing on trial these days. Can you tell us which thoughts and feelings you went through when Jakob left the band?
Møller: I've played with Jakob for many, many years so I thought it was tough and I was worried about the thought of him not being a part of it anymore. Not just musically but also as a friend he is a big part of the band. Having Ronnie come in has been great though, much better than I'd dared to hope. Things are going well and we have a lot of fun together.

Munk: Of course we really miss Jakob though.

Thomsen: Even I miss Jakob!

Møller: We keep feeling like we have to count if everybody's there because it feels like somebody's missing.

Munk: We played in Albertslund last week and Jakob was there watching the band as part of the audience for the very first time and that was a very weird experience.

Møller: He thought we were good though, so that's obviously a plus!

RF.net: Ronnie can you tell us a bit about what joining the band has meant to you?
Thomsen: It's meant a lot. I moved from one end of the country to the other to be a part of this, turning my life upside down and I've never tried anything like it. But it's a great experience just coming out and seeing stuff and being part of something where people want to come and watch you play.

RF.net: Have you already started thinking about what kinds of things Ronnie is going to bring to the songwriting that's going to be different from Jakob?
Everybody: He's a chugger!

Thomsen: Haha, yeah I'm a chugger. No seriously we haven't gotten anywhere near those considerations yet?

Jakob: So far we've only concentrated on getting Ronnie ready to play the songs for this tour. We only had three weeks to get that done, so we haven't even had time to address this yet.

RF.net: Jakob and I have had quite a few conversations about this off the record, but I want to ask it for the sake of the readers as well: About releases, you guys have your debut LP out and it's gotten pretty good criticism, and still Jakob and I have talked about whether the times are moving more in the direction of singles being the release form of the future. So can you tell us which kind of releases you prefer personally, and is that the same that you think is the best type of release for your band?
Munk: Every one of us is from the generation where albums were still the primary form of release, and I think each of us is a fan of having albums that you listen to from end to end. That being said we do think that singles are the way to go at the moment. We're going to give them a shot at least, and then we'll see how that works out.

RF.net: Another point of conversation between us is that your recent cover of "Airplanes" is going to be the last material from you for a while, which features Mads screaming. What have been your considerations making that choice?
Møller: Well Mikkel sings amazingly and I just stand around yelling, haha! It's really just a natural choice for us because we want to emphasize the kinds of songs we have the most fun playing on stage. For the moment we feel more like playing the songs that are a little less serious and more about having a really good time.

Munk: It's not like we're going to become a party band, but we just like our tone to become a bit more extroverted than introverted.

RF.net: You've also started playing with a backing track during your live shows, which some rock fans might consider a bit of a sellout move. What are your feelings going forward doing this?
Raavig: Well, SIFIFI just told us during today's soundcheck that they hadn't even noticed that we've been playing with a backing track. We use it to add extra volume and filling to the soundscape, but we don't want it to become something that takes attention away from the stuff we're actually playing.

Møller: It really just gives you an opportunity to play with a better sound, and we've had a lot of people commenting that our sound has been really good lately. We've put a lot of energy into creating a professionally sounding album that represents our band and we can't find a reason that it should sound worse when we play live. We were sceptical when our producer Christian Thomsen tried selling us the idea while we were making the record, because we thought that there's a charm to playing every little bit yourself and he just said "sure, if that charm is that it sounds worse".

Madsen: We originally recorded our first EP with nothing added except the instruments that we each play live, but when we made the record and had a lot of extra stuff on it, we just felt it'd be stupid to not bring that along for the shows as well.

Munk: We've actually added a backing track to the one old song we're currently playing live still.

RF.net: So we can establish that using a backing track is more about getting the sounds that you wouldn't be able to play live, than to cover up things that you could potentially be playing?

Munk: The key word here really is that it is a backing track. We play exactly what we've always played, there's just more stuff around it now.

Møller: It sounds better and bigger..

Munk: And it feels like a natural step forward.

RF.net: So with these changes you haven't worried that the fans you do have so far start doubting what kind of band you are, when suddenly there's a backing track and there isn't any screaming?
Munk: We haven't thought about that at all.

Raavig: No we just take the steps as a band that we feel are natural for us. We're going to evolve in the direction that we feel like and we've never really stopped to consider what any fans might want from us.

Madsen: I think we're aware that there are some people who are going to like us less, but then on the flip side we think that there's a much greater number of people that are going to like us more.

Raavig: We write the music that we like and that's what we're going to continue to do..

Munk: It just so happens that at the moment what we like is a more accessible sound. We have three songs recorded which we're not sure when they're going to come out. But after those come out we also don't have any idea about whether we're going to continue in that direction with anything we do after that.

RF.net: So what have you planned for the band's future after this Rock 'N' Charity tour wraps up?
Munk: We're going to be playing shows in Germany for about a week's time. We've planned five shows so far with hopefully more coming. We played in Hannover in February and it was just very different from playing here in Denmark. We'd been on the radio and in the newspaper and on some sort of metro screen television and we played the smallest venue we've ever been in with 130 people standing all the way up in our faces. It was the furthest away we'd ever played from home and still there were so many people so obviously that was a really cool experience. It was just surreal and a lot of fun and we've been wanting to go back since then. Futhermore it seems that there's a much bigger market for our kind of music down there, so again that just feels like a natural step for us. We're looking into seeing if we can make some English shows make sense as well but we haven't quite sorted that out yet so that's still up in the air.

RF.net: To end things on a more light note we'd just like to ask you what rocks according to you guys right now:
Munk: I'm currently listening a lot to Anarbor, a good American pop-rock band.

Raavig: All-American Rejects, Deaf Havana, You Me At Six

Madsen: Alison Krauss, Union Station, Dan Tyminski and just a lot of country really.

Thomsen: The new Pierce The Veil record and some electronic stuff called Big Chocolate.. Siamese Fighting Fish of course, their new album is really good.

Munk: Yeah! Of course! I've been listening to it a lot as well!

Møller: The new You Me At Six album is the bomb. Listen to it!

RF.net: As usual we're going to let you have the last word:
Munk: We just want to thank Rockfreaks.net for being there and supporting us from the very beginning. We want to thank Siamese Fighting Fish for doing this tour with us and all the support bands for helping out as well. And of course we want to thank everybody who's coming out to the shows and who's listening to our music. That and then we'd also like to give a shoutout to our old guitar player Jakob, who's just gotten himself a Phd. position in London.

Møller: He's totally cool.

Munk: Yeah he's fuckin' cool!

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