Breaking into the U.S. is tough for any international band. Not only from the stand point of trying to win over a new audience who may have never heard your name (let alone seen you live), but also just getting clearance to even enter the States (as many bands struggled with last year). Yet it was a welcoming challenge for Northlane, who’ve gained enormous success in their home country of Australia as well as a strong following in the U.S. for its second full-length Singularity (produced by Will Putney). Still, even Northlane were taken aback by the overwhelming response they received on their first ever tour of the U.S. this past winter supporting Veil Of Maya. That led to Northlane to return earlier this year for not only a headlining run on the West Coast, but an opening stint on an East Coast run with Bring Me The Horizon, Of Mice & Men and Issues (playing considerably larger venues to mostly sold out crowds).
After Northlane performed its last of two sets at NYC’s Best Buy Theater, singer Adrian Fitipaldes took a moment to speak with us backstage. During our chat, he recalled his initial expectations for playing to U.S. crowds and how they were quickly dispelled, how he mentally prepared himself for playing to new and larger crowds, and how he had the chance to meet one of his idols, artist Alex Grey.
When I saw you Northlane in New York with Veil of Maya back in December, I was just blown away by how the crowd just went apeshit the second you got on stage. And that was your first time in New York ever! What was going through your mind when you saw that reaction from the crowd? Were you expecting it, were you surprised?
Very surprised. I was expecting with New York, one of the biggest cities in the world, I was expecting people to be really tough to crack –sort of like “We’re not impressed, you’re gonna have to do better than that” sort of mentality. But it turns out that we have a lot of fans here, that people were really excited. And I think considering that we waited so long to hit New York or hit the States, I think people were just really hungry to see us. I think it was like a long time coming and people were just excited to see us and enjoy the show, and I was completely blown away and overwhelmed by the reception. I have photos of that show that I look at and I still can’t believe that that’s a show that we played in New York.
Yeah that’s amazing. And even tonight [opening for Bring Me The Horizon] the crowd was pretty intense.
Yeah, it was great. Kids were waving their hands, jumping up and down – doing what I was saying pretty much, which is good.
Now on this specific run, Northlane was doing headlining dates and also opening for Bring Me the Horizon and Of Mice & Men. What was more nerve-wracking for you – the headlining dates or the opening dates?
To be honest, the opening dates because there’s certain industry people at some of these shows. Obviously this isn’t necessarilyour crowd, so once again we’re having to crack these crowds. It’s different from the show you just mentioned at the Gramercy Theater [with Veil Of Maya]. People, like I said, want to be impressed. They want you to give them a reason to move around and to have fun. It’s more than just seeing a band. And of course a lot of these people, the fans at this show, probably haven’t heard of us before. So instantly that’s a bit more difficult, to win over these crowds. But we’ve been doing a good job of it, and yeah I guess that’s one of the things that’s just a little bit more nerve-wracking about these shows.
How did you prepare yourself mentally for these shows? Because as you mentioned, you’re essentially performing for a whole new audience and for an even bigger audience.
Something that I’ve done more and more these days is trying not to get attached too much to the idea of having a really, really good show. Because life can throw you curveballs, and sometimes you don’t have the best shows and sometimes it doesn’t sound as good as you hoped it sounded. Whether it was out the front or how it sounded on stage or how the crowd reacted or something like that. So setting yourself up or preparing yourself for not what you were expecting is the best way to prepare yourself.
Just to relate it to something else, the other day I met one of my hugest idols in the world, an artist called Alex Grey. I went to his gallery not knowing if he was even there, I just went to see the artwork and I was like “If I’m lucky, I’ll meet him.” But he’s actually a huge idol of mine. And the receptionist was like “Yeah I’ll see if he can come down and take a photo but he’s really busy, so I don’t know.” And in my mind I’m just getting ready for a no, like I’m just 100% getting ready for a no. It’s likened to how you mentally prepare yourself for something –don’t let something that you want and when it doesn’t happen destroy your world because like I said, life throws you curveballs sometimes. You’ve gotta accept the bad things in life. I wish that world was all peace love and everybody was having fun, but it’s not like that and you gotta accept those things. Accept that bad things sometimes and try to accept those curveballs.
See now I have to know, did you end up getting to meet Alex Grey?
Yes I did get to meet him.
That’s awesome. What was going through your mind when you met him?
I was trying to really contain myself and just sort of bring him back down to my level, because at the end of the day he’s just another man just like me and you. The type of art he does and what he’s trying to communicate through his artwork isn’t about idolization at all – it’s about the unity and equality of all mankind, and not worshipping one individual over another and seeing everyone as special. And I’m sure he gets a lot of people, just like certain people in bands, getting worshipped. And he’s sort of a spiritual figure in the world as well, so he talks to religious heads and monks and all sorts of spiritualists. And I’m sure people bow to him, I’m sure people literally bow to him on the floor and kiss his feet and shit like that. And he’s not looking for that, that’s not what it’s about. So I gave him a few presents – I gave him a CD of the band, I gave him a t-shirt, I gave him a little drawing I had done – and he was stoked on it. We just grabbed a photo together and that was about it.
That’s interesting to hear that he’s one of your idols because you can definitely tell that artwork and visual representation is an important part of Northlane’s music.
Definitely. And the reason why I love Alex Grey so much is because a lot of what we write about a lot about and the art and visual side of our project is very much in line with what he’s trying to do and with what a lot of artists are doing as well. And it’s mainly just about viewing life as a positive thing and trying to create more good in the world rather than contributing more to the bad in it. So it was definitely a special moment for me.
What was some of the stereotypes or expectations you had about the U.S. that were dispelled by the time you got here to play?
I was getting ready for America to be a lot harder crowd-wise. People have been really warm and receptive. Also, another thing – I was expecting, not to presume, but that the headlining bands would want a lot of their own space. And it’s been completely the opposite; they’ve been very welcoming, very friendly. Not that they wanted their own space because they’re bad people, but I’ve been touring for a while now and I know sometimes bands just want their own space and they wanna chill out. But everyone’s like “Nah come party, come hang out, come drink!” and even the headlining band. I was working out with Oliver Sykes from Bring Me The Horizon the other day, just talking and laughing and things like that. And it’s just been a really good sense of comradely on this tour, and that’s something that definitely surprised me.
So we’ve been living up to the Big Gulp and lots of food stereotypes!
Oh yeah, that’s right! That’s true. Last time we were here, we didn’t have an RV or a bus or anything like that. So we were doing a lot of the fast food and shitty sleeps and shit like that. But you know what, carpe diem as they say, seize the day. The first time we were here I tried every fast food joint from the East Coast to the West Coast.
Well now I have to ask: what’s your favorite American fast food chain?
Well you know, since then I’ve actually turned vegetarian – that’s probably the reason why. [laughs]
So for the record, American fast food made you turn vegetarian!
Almost! It’s not the only reason, but that’s pretty much it. [laughs] Not because it’s bad.
Well no, it is bad! [laughs]
[laughs] Bad for you, but it tastes fucking great. [laughs] My favorite would probably be In and Out on the West Coast.
See I’m an East Coast guy so I’ve never had that glory.
Dude, you gotta try it!
Well I know that you were very surprised at how accepting the American audiences have been, but how would you say Australian fans interact with music differently than us Americans?
In Australia, it used to be different – the local community or local scene as they call it used to be a lot stronger. Particularly in the years of ’06 to ’08, and then it went downhill from there. And that’s a shame if you’re a band coming out by yourself and just doing your own headline tour for the first time because you’re going to be playing smaller venues and it still won’t even guarantee you that you’ll have a good show. You might end up having 10 or 15 people at some of your shows. So in regards to us doing the same thing over here, people just come out because there’s a show on and there’s a lot more people here in the States as well, so naturally there’s more people at your shows. People don’t like going to shows in Australia unless the venue’s selling out or it’s like a big line-up with big names. You’ll go to see the support acts as well, like local bands, but unless it’s like big tour people, won’t really give a fuck about it, and that’s a shame. It’s sort of a popularity sort of thing where unless people are really talking about it, people won’t really bother showing up. They’ll only support if you know they’re friends are supporting, I guess. It can be quite similar to certain other types of music. It’s almost like a popularity game, like I said, like pop music where people are really only into it if other people like it. Not across the board, but these days, especially in the local scene.
So I was taking a look at the tour diary the band did for Alt Press, and I saw a photo of you guys in front of the house that they used to film Breaking Bad at. And I just loved it – I was on the floor laughing hysterically. Tell me about that – what was that like?
It was cool! Obviously people live there, so we couldn’t go inside or anything like that. I’m not the biggest Breaking Bad fan in the world, but 2 or 3 of the boys in the band are religious Breaking Bad fans and they were so stoked. They were on top of the world about it. There’s actually a photo of us cheering out front, and then there’s one of me pretending to smoke a meth pipe in the photo. It’s such a crazy show. It’s so real and raw and I’m glad that TV shows now are thinking outside the box and doing stuff that’s a little more controversial and more real as well. It’s good to see – refreshing. And it’s not every day on tour that you get to do cool shit like that. It was a nice novelty.
So I know you have Europe coming up, then you’re on headlining tour in Australia. When can we expect you back in the states?
Later this year. Nothing’s booked and nothing’s been announced, but we are working on another support tour, maybe main support, and it’s gonna be most likely a pretty heavy tour.