Rob Maric of Dead Letter Circus – “They don’t even need to be right; they just need to speak from the heart.”
Written for Voltage Media
Originally published on August 18, 2011
With a UK and a US headlining tour firmly under their belts, Brisbane-based alternative, prog. rockers Dead Letter Circus have returned to their home shores for an extensive national tour, complete with a political viewpoint and a message of awareness toward saying no to CSG operations and the method of Hydraulic Fracturing.
Thus far, 2011 has been a frantic year for the quintet, who became the first ‘not really metal’ outfit to ink a deal with American label Sumerian Records, coming onto a roster boasting the likes of Asking Alexandria, Conducting from the Grave and Periphery. “There is a new decade of rock upon us and Dead Letter Circus is the future,” expressed Sumerian Recordsfounder Ash Avildsen, who released the band’s debut effort, This Is The Warning, in North America this July, following the initial release of the incredible album in 2010 throughout Australia.
Whilst on their American tour, I had the chance to catch up with guitarist Rob Maric to discuss how a rock band partners with a metal label, the reaction to their music from the US audience, as well as their “Groundhog Day style tour”, and began to scratch the surface of the political and social stance of the band.
You’re currently on your first tour of the US, how is the crowd reacting to the band?
Rob Maric: Really good! We are mostly playing to “metal” crowds so we were expecting some unhappy chaps in the crowd who think we sound more like New Kids On The Block than something they want to hear, but they have been surprisingly receptive.
There have also been a handful of people at each show that have driven many hours to come see us so that is an extremely positive sign that we might just do okay over here.
How different are your shows there to that of Australia – as you are huge in other parts of the world, but relatively unknown in the US?
Rob Maric: Punk rock! Show up, plug in with the bare minimum and play. As much as it is a step down production wise it does remind us that being a band is not about all the bells and whistles but instead about a group of musicians expressing themselves with whatever tools they have. Luckily our 30 minute set doesn’t make room for some of the more electronic / percussive songs so we are able to fill 30 [minutes] with our more “rock” material.
And how have you personally found the states?
Rob Maric: It has been really interesting. Being stuck in a groundhog day style tour of sleep/drive/eat/play night after night it’s hard to get a proper feel for the country, but at this stage I’d say it’s a really lovely country, but also at the same time suffering from a lot of problems which seem to only be getting worse in the forms of poverty and violence.
You’ve recently signed a deal with Sumerian Records. How did this come about, did they approach you?
Rob Maric: We’ve had a few of people in the US spreading good things about us since we did our showcasing in LA in 2009. Eventually our band found its way to Sumerianwho were incredibly enthusiastic about the band. We began negotiating with them and pretty soon it became clear that they were a fantastic label to work with.
To be honest, there wasn’t many labels willing to commit due to the tough economic climate over here so it was a case of the only major option fortunately being a great one.
What made you decide to jump on with a label that is mainly known as a metal label?
Rob Maric: At the end of the day they are a label and they are very good at what they do. After talking to them we soon realised they have a much wider vision than just metal and we would be one of the bands allowing them to branch out. In a way it actually made them more appealing as we would be a unique band on their roster rather than one of many alternative rock bands fighting for attention.
Today marks the day of the official release of This Is The Warning in North America, how is the excitement within the band, and what do you hope to achieve through this milestone?
Rob Maric: We feel very fortunate that this is happening. For Australian bands the US has always been a very tough place to even get this far. We hope we get a chance to grow here and have a career that allows us to tour comfortably and play in decent sized venues while making enough money to keep us writing and performing music.
Your forthcoming Australian tour is based on raising awareness toward saying no to CSG operations and Hydraulic Fracturing – why did the band decide to pursue this stance, and what do you hope the tour will achieve?
Rob Maric: This issue makes our blood boil as people. Band or no band. We happen to frequently get up in front of thousands of people who [we] regard as like minded to ourselves, so why not share a little information between friends? We’re just your mates saying ‘Hey, check this out. They’re raping your country and you might wanna know about it‘. If you don’t want to know about it or don’t care about it we still respect you. But for those that are interested, the message is for you.
What is your stance on the current carbon tax debate?
Rob Maric: To be honest I don’t know quite enough about this topic to properly comment. I do know that climate change is big business and when there are people turning over billions and billions of dollars you should always take what they say with a grain of salt, regardless of how ‘scientific’ they appear.
Many musicians have sent comments and responses to the atrocious mass murder in Oslo, what do you have to say on this issue?
Rob Maric: It’s truly depressing that a person can be so separate from others that they are driven to do this. I believe the true essence of each human being is that of compassion and love. I wonder what kind of life this man went through to get to this point. I can’t even begin to imagine the nightmare the victims’ families must be going through.
Do you think it’s important for bands to use their power of influence to create awareness on more political issues?
Rob Maric: Only if it is an extension of how they feel. If you aren’t feeling it, don’t speak out. If you are passionate about a cause and you are in a position to express that to a large amount of people then I think it is very important to analyse any thoughts that get in your way of sharing that.
If your sister was brutally raped, do you really give a shit if a ‘fan’ thinks it’s un-cool for you to raise awareness about rape? Could your ego be taking you for that much of a ride? The world is descending into a nightmare because people are letting their egos steer the ship. We are cut off from other peoples’ suffering and numbing ourselves with materialistic endeavors.
As we lose faith in our ego driven media and government there is a perfect gap for artists to step forward and provide a relatively untainted viewpoint of the world. They don’t even need to be right; they just need to speak from the heart. We lack that today. Everything on our television is calculated and edited for someone’s gain.
Are you currently writing new material?
Rob Maric: We have a new direction for the band in the form of some new song ideas which we are very excited about. Hopefully we can really get stuck into them when this US tour is over!
And what are the plans for your sophomore release, are there any tentative dates planned for recording and even the final release of the album?
Rob Maric: We were originally aiming for early 2012 but we’re now thinking more like late 2012 due to the international stuff going on.
Have you taken a different direction musically or thematically in your new material?
Rob Maric: It’s a bit early to say, but we are definitely changing direction. More of a step up rather than a side step. We’re aiming to make the music bigger and more powerful while at the same time becoming more organic and raw.
And finally, in 2008 the band stated that you’re not going to discuss the meaning behind your moniker for three years. Is it now time to divulge how it came about?
Rob Maric: Not yet! In 2012 all will be revealed!