The last two years have triggered all sorts of emotions in people and it comes as no surprise to hear bands channelling those emotions into their music. One such group, wars, took the unconventional route with their work by releasing their new album, A Hundred Shivers (read our recent review), as four individual chapters before combining all four into one complete recording.
The album dropped at the end of November so we spoke with frontman Rob Vicars about why they took off down a different route for the recording, the emotional themes discussed on the album, and how his experiences throughout the last two years have changed him as a person.
Thanks for your time. How is life treating you at the moment?
Rob Vicars: “I’m doing great thanks… we’re actually just back from our first tour in obviously a crazy long time and it was really incredible getting back to it, finally being able to play these songs and meet some people again. Feels very energizing.”
Your excellent new album is about to come out. How are you feeling about people hearing an album with such personal themes?
“Thank you! I think it’s mainly still excitement at finally having it out there. It’s been a bit of a journey these last two years and to be able to come back with this record, that we’ve lived with throughout the whole pandemic, and finally put it in people’s hands feels like a good culmination of everything. There’s always a slight sense of nervousness putting something very close to our hearts out into the world, you can never tell how what you’ve said will be interpreted, but this felt an important album for us as individuals so we’re grateful to still have the platform to do it all.”
The album has been released in chapters. How did that idea come about, and what was your thought process behind putting it out like that?
“Essentially, we wanted to try and take a different approach to how we were typically writing and releasing music, and also to all the other things that happen around the release of a new song. We were writing this album that had, from the outset, this drawn-out approach thematically, where the songs would sit in their own spaces, and all falling under this one overarching idea. Being able to connect with people about the minutia within each chapter was hugely exciting for us creatively, and it meant we could tour and create merch in a focused way that would hopefully keep us going. Obviously touring and merch never happened due to the pandemic, but it was amazing to be able to start each new chapter and put out new music and talk about these new topics that felt poignant to us multiple times a year.
“I think it’s something we’ll definitely take forward into our next record in some form or another, keeping that fluidity of writing and releasing music under one specific idea, and then the next, and then the next.”
Each chapter has its own respective theme. How did you come to decide on each theme?
“We knew from the off what we wanted A Hundred Shivers to be about as a complete body of work, and really we were just writing organically within that idea at first. I think, as a result, each of the songs found a home in a specific part of that idea and that helped us form the chapters. Of course, there was writing the other way as well, once we knew where we wanted these chapters and their themes to go we wrote with that in mind. It was an amazing experience creating in what was a relatively new way for us.”
The album features all four chapters… was the original plan to put them out as an album because even though they’re different themes, put together on an album it does flow together very well?
“The plan was always to release A Hundred Shivers in chapters, but to be honest, a lot of our plans changed and altered along the way. Some of this was due to the pandemic of course, and some were due to the more fluid nature that comes with putting music out in this way. We did think about it as a complete album as well as a series of songs that spoke in each of their spaces, that meant a lot to us and that could stand on their own when we put them out there, that was the hope, anyway.”
Lyrically there are some quite emotional lyrics in there. What did you get out of writing about those subjects?
“What we get out of it is, without wanting to overstate, life-saving. Having a creative outlet for these thoughts and feelings, and a platform to be able to express ourselves in this very raw way; I completely feel like it’s saved my life in the past. I’ve always felt heavy music should kind of bring you to your knees a bit, to justify all that shouting it’s got to be about something. So we write about these things because it’s just who we are and who we need to be as people and as a band.”
How does it feel putting those lyrics out and having somebody interpret them their own way?
“As I mentioned earlier, there’s of course a feeling of extreme vulnerability putting the words you scribble down in all sorts of places out into the world for anyone to interpret. But at the end of the day, I’m just someone else trying to exorcise some demons, and the hope is it might help someone else on that journey too.”
Mental struggles play a massive part in the album. On a personal note, how challenging has the last 18 months been for you?
“It’s been difficult to comprehend, the last couple of years really. It just doesn’t feel like something like this should have been possible, does it? I’ve coped with it in various ways to various degrees of success; I imagine like everyone else I had times where I felt myself completely spiralling. But I do feel there’s some good that can come from everything if we can learn. And I think relating specifically to this band; we’re at a stage where every last drop of energy can be the difference for us. Every show, every stream, every interaction, every bit of merch that’s bought, genuinely keeps it on the rails, and even though everyone was in the same boat, you worry that that’s all going to be impossible in the Brave New World where you can’t go outside.
“Of course, people have had to deal with much more than something like that, I wouldn’t ever want to take the gravity of this global mess away, it’s been a lesson in perspective, and dealing being along with yourself for longer than you might have expected.”
Writing the album as well as going through the pandemic, what have you learned about yourself as a person?
“There’s a lot to parse through there, across these 20-odd months of feeling like we don’t know which way is up, learning to cope with that constant disorientation, trying to stay present when you have four-and-a-bit walls to look at, leaning too heavily on those that are around you.
“I think I’ve found myself to be a bit more resilient than I perhaps thought I was. A Hundred Shivers as a whole is all about reframing things in your mind and changing the way we speak to ourselves, and that’s actually something I’ve really struggled with in bouts throughout this pandemic. I think it’s been polarizing in that regard and the relative silence can turn the voice in your head up to 11, but we’ve come through it, and, especially in these recent weeks, I’ve finally felt my grasp on the world start to come back. Ultimately I think there’s still a bit of finding out to do on my part there.”
What do you think the biggest change has been in you as a person after writing these songs and going through the experiences you have gone through?
“I’d like to say that I’ve learnt to follow my own advice that’s sort of woven throughout the record, about being able to reframe your outlook and successfully stave off the anxiety and the dread that seems to come from just existing. Some days I think I have managed that, and others, well, I haven’t. But it’s enormously comforting personally to know those thoughts and feelings and ideas are a part of this record now; a timestamp that I can come back to and continue to reflect on.”
Looking forward then, what do you hope people have learned from their own experiences of the last 18 months?
“Of course, this depends entirely on what those experiences are; I think they’ve been very different for a lot of people throughout the pandemic. And even though some might feel they have struggled objectively less so than others, perspective is everything; our hurdles are our own and they can be just as high as anyone else’s. Your struggle is valid, even if it feels like just an inconvenience in comparison to others. Hopefully, we all take away an increased sense of kindness to one another, and appreciation for each other’s company, as seemingly we can’t say it won’t all go up in smoke again tomorrow.”
You head out on tour again in December 2021 seems to be ending on a high note. How would you sum up the rest of the year for you?
“It’s been a bit of a year, but to have had the return to live shows we’ve just had, and to have a new record to get out into the world, we feel incredibly lucky and grateful to still be here, able to make and play and release our music and say what we need to say.”
Thanks for your time and good luck with the album. Over to you to wrap this up…
“Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. And thanks to everyone who has supported us and continues to support us throughout; you honestly have no idea what it means to us. This record has turned into our raft in the river for the last two years, with us clinging on to it through everything that’s happened, and now we have to let it go to hopefully be yours as well.”