If you've had your ear to the underground lately, you've probably heard about the feel-good punk-rock of Living With Lions. Their new record Holy Shit has been turning heads, not only for its addicting tunes but also for the slightly controversial album art that caused the band some turmoil following its release. We caught up with LWL's newest member, vocalist Stu Ross, at Bled Fest to talk about the release of the new album, how he made the transition from guitarist to vocalist and how they've been enjoying all the touring Living With Lions has been doing recently.
[email protected]: Could you please state your name and role in the band?
Stu Ross: I’m Stuart and I sing for Living With Lions.
[email protected]: What’s it been like playing all these shows, like the Manscout Jamboree Tour and Bled Fest, leading up to the release of your new album?
Stu Ross: We left Vancouver about ten weeks ago now and we were out for two weeks with the Flatliners, which was a ton of fun. We did that from Vancouver to Chicago. Then we started The Manscout Jamboree with The Wonder Years and Fireworks and Make Do and Mend. We were in the US for like six weeks. The shows were really fun and we got along really great with all the bands. It was awesome for our little band from Canada to go hang out with our friends and play some good shows.
[email protected]: How have people been reacting to the new songs?
Stu Ross: It’s been going well – at this point we’re only playing a couple of new songs. People seem really receptive to the record and seem to be enjoying it, which is always positive. It’s pretty awesome.
[email protected]: There was a lot of controversy surrounding the new album and I know you guys have said a lot about it. For people who are a little unsure, could you give a reader’s digest version of what’s happened?
Stu Ross: We called it Holy Shit for no real reason. Based on that idea, the guy that had done the album artwork, Cody Fennel, did some altered Biblical drawings. Someone in L.A. must have gotten the record for review and they seemed to notice that on the record we state and acknowledge the help of the Canadian Government funded program FACTOR that helps a lot of bands, big and small, to maintain doing what they’re doing. He basically said, “Shame on you, Canada,” for doing this. As soon as the program was called out, it was brought to everyone’s attention and that’s when everything began to fall apart. Since then there’s been a lot of media stuff we’ve had to deal with. In the end, we decided that we’re going to return the money – which was $13,000 – instead of altering our album art.
[email protected]: Do you think that if you guys were a band from the US that it wouldn’t have happened the exact same way?
Stu Ross: There’s no denying that the Canadian government is conservative at this point and that there’s a definitely a handful of people that don’t support arts funding so when people saw that they thought it was something to jump on. I can’t speak for what it’s like in the U.S., but I’m sure the same thing would have happened.
[email protected]: Did you expect this to happen?
Stu Ross: Not at all. There’s so much more offensive stuff out there. You turn on the TV and there’s way more offensive stuff on there. What can you do?
[email protected]: As far as recording the album itself, could you talk about the recording process, how you planned out this album?
Stu Ross: Basically I’m new to the band, only been in it for under a year at this point. Basically it’s business as usual. Writing, recording. The band had a break and at the end of the tour, their lead singer at that point Matt [Postal] had just said “I don’t wanna do this” and were left at this strange point – they had the whole album recorded except for vocals. Matt had done 3 songs before they went on tour. So the guys hit me up and I was like, “Yeah I’ll give it a shot, never really sang for a band.” Just started doing demos with Chase and a week later we went on tour. When we got into the studio, we just re-did some stuff that Matt had already tried, and then we finished the rest of the songs and that was it.
[email protected]: Who did you record with and how did it affect the overall product that you released?
Stu Ross: It was a guy named Dan Weston. He’s from Toronto. He does a lot of mixing for a lot of bands. He’s cool. He was really good with vocals. Him and I would basically just get together for eight hours a day and get stuff out. The thing I found really awesome about him is that he likes the organic sound of things. His approach with vocals was like that too. Good enough was never good enough. There was never a point where he was like “Yeah, it’s fine”, he’d just really push me to do things over and over and over so he wouldn’t have to edit, so it would be like, “This is actually you singing”.
[email protected]: How would you compare recording as a vocalist to your time in Misery Signals?
Stu Ross: It was definitely different, for sure. It’s different in the sense that with a guitar I have a lot more control. But with recording vocals, it was definitely a learning curve for me. It’s like, I can’t just play. I have to sing this note perfectly. It was pretty hard but I definitely kept a positive mindset throughout all of it and a great experience. It was constructive for me as a vocalist. Dan really helped me to develop how to control my voice for some means.
[email protected]: Do you think that having that guitar experience helped you out in the end?
Stu Ross: I don’t think it played into it at all. It’s just one of those things where it’s like, I kind of did some singing with another band, Lowtalker, and that was just out of like desperation for not being able to find a vocalist really. That’s how I ended up even singing in the first place. It’s still new to me.
[email protected]: As far as lyrically, what were things you drew from?
Stu Ross: A lot of the lyrics Chase wrote. And pretty much every single song is a relationship-based song. All the lyrics have been drawn from personal experiences with people, whether that be a good experience or bad experience. Losing a friend, all sorts of things.
[email protected]: Do you think that type of topic just pushes itself towards the rawness and passion of the record? Do you think it helps to have something more identifiable?
Stu Ross: Yeah for sure. It’s straight to the point. It’s not like you have to study the lyrics, and I think that’s awesome.
[email protected]: Do you think that stepping into the old vocalist’s shoes, that there was some sort of expectation? Like a vibe that you had to meet?
Stu Ross: Yeah for sure. I think Matt’s a great singer so filling his shoes was pretty hard, cause he’s got a really interesting voice. Sometimes he’s singing high and it doesn’t sound like he’s singing high and I’m just like, “What the fuck, how do you even sing this?” It’s definitely like, something I’ve grown into. We’ve been out for ten weeks now and I was like “This is awesome, I definitely feel good about it,” and this last week has just been so tiring and I’m feeling the effects of it.
[email protected]: You recently released a video for “Honesty Honestly”. Can you talk a little bit about the idea behind the video, how it came about and what made you choose that song?
Stu Ross: Our friend Cody who did the artwork, he’s a super creative, funny dude. We have a childish sense of humor and we like to showcase that. Basically we just wanted to do a video. So Cody decided to do a dating video. We tried to do strange things like showcase freaky weird angles and characters. It was fun. I think the video turned out really well. I think it’s really funny.
[email protected]: You have been touring a lot lately. What are you guys going to be doing after this run?
Stu Ross: It’s actually really interesting. We have a handful of stuff in front of us right now that is all being sorted out, we can’t really talk about anything until it’s confirmed but everything’s coming along. We’re going to be busy over the next few weeks. There’s some North American, European stuff.
[email protected]: Anything else you’d like to add?
Stu Ross: Check out the record, I hope you like it!
You can read our review for Holy Shit here. and you can also check out the band in Europe later this summer.