By Stefan Nilsson
Brittney Slayes is one of the best vocalists in heavy metal today. That she fronts a band that also has great songs and can put on a show for their fans is hinting at a promising future for both Unleash The Archers and heavy metal. Roppongi Rocks decided to have a chat with Brittney Slayes about the Vancouver band’s achievements and its future.
A few months I was at a gig here in Tokyo with the Canadian metal band Unleash The Archers. When vocalist Brittney Slayes opened her mouth she floored me. The band formed in 2007 and released a couple of records independently prior to its latest album, the superb “Time Stands Still”, which was released on Napalm Records earlier this year. Since the album release the band has since been touring in Asia and North America.
Unleash The Archers is a band with many qualities – great songs for starters, something many bands forget to write these days – but Brittney Slayes is clearly one of its biggest weapons in the battle against shite music. I mean, have you heard her sing? Have you seen her perform onstage? If you have, you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t, you should. Now.
Where did that voice come from? You have one of the absolute best rock voices I have heard in recent years. It’s quite unique – a bit like a female version of Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson but actually more than that. “Thank you so much. Bruce is such a huge influence for me so it really means a lot to hear you say that! I started singing classical when I was eight years old and received a lot of training over the years through choir and private lessons. I’ve always loved metal so when I graduated university I figured I’d try that for a while. I always try to push myself and listening to bands I love inspires me to keep training and exceed my own limitations. There is always something more to learn, and as I get older I discover more and more about what my voice can do and I try to perform to the best of my abilities.”
You also own the stage like Bruce Dickinson does. Are you a natural performer or have you spent your formative years studying Bruce Dickinson moves in Iron Maiden videos? “Music very much runs in our family; my brother plays in a punk band and my father paid the bills with music for a long time in the 60s and 70s. I used to play with my dad’s music equipment when I was a little kid, and there are many pictures of me rocking out with an old SM57 in my hand standing on a table or any other stage-like apparatus. Haha! I was always involved in musical theatre or drama or choir or some sort of performing art, so I feel very comfortable up there. Of course I do get a lot of my moves from Bruce though, he is one of the wildest most energetic frontmen I have ever seen and he inspires me big time. I just long for the days when I will get to play on stages as big as he does!”
In recent years you have seen some changes of band members. At the same time the band’s sound seems to have evolved a bit. Are the line-up changes and the evolving sound directly linked? “I think it’s pretty safe to say that, yeah. In our early years we were all really big melodic death metal and metalcore fans, and that certainly came though in our first album. Then as we got into more power and speed metal, even a little progressive metal our music began to change. Now we have two completely different guitar players from the original lineup and both are big fans of traditional metal, so that combined with my preferred vocal style has really rounded out or sound. We are growing as well, becoming better songwriters and are working better together with one another’s talents. We are extremely excited to take some time off this winter to write the next album; we are honing our skills and have some killer ideas stowed away.”
How would you describe your music? I’d say it is heavy metal with some power metal in it and, especially earlier, you had some death metal stuff in the mix as well. “To be honest, lately I have just been calling it battle metal, because we combine so many different genres and styles and we don’t like to box ourselves in. Somehow I feel that tagging us with one particular genre or trying to define our sound will put limitations on the kind of music we write, and I never want to constrain Unleash The Archers in any way, shape or form. Everyone should be free to write whatever kind of ‘metal’ they want, regardless of what others may say they are or should be. That’s why ‘Time Stands Still’ has a rock anthem, a melodic death metal track, a progressive track, a power metal track… It was just what we felt like writing at the time!”
Some of your music is rather complex and sophisticated songs with frequent changes in styles and tempo. Can you describe the band’s creative process? Is it complicated or straightforward? “The writing process is very democratic for us. Everyone has a say in which direction each song will go. If there are parts that some don’t like we all work together to change them. Most often either Grant or Andrew, our guitarists, will bring a riff or sometimes the better part of a song to practice, and we’ll all learn it and jam it out and just work through it until we all agree it works. We’ve rewritten entire songs after working on them for weeks and all deciding it’s just not going where we think it should. Sometimes we write with a purpose in mind, and sometimes the song is the one in control.”
Following some independent releases you now have a record deal with Napalm Records who released “Time Stands Still” earlier this year. Do you feel it is a big difference with Napalm backing the band? “The new album definitely received a lot more exposure than our previous releases, but other than that we still do everything ourselves pretty much the same as always. The videos are all us, we recorded the new album on our own and we still do all of our social media, management and merch. Really labels just deal with distro and promo and lend you money when you’re coming up short on funds for tours or studio time.”
You have produced some great and rather entertaining music videos. Who’s got the crazy brain to come up with this stuff? “Hahaha! Thanks! The first video, ‘Dawn of Ages’, was our friend’s idea. We just grabbed his camera and headed into the mountains for two days of ridiculously amateur but very fun filming. The second, ‘General of the Dark Army’, was all from the mind of our director, Richard Olak. We gave him the song and the funds and he took care of the rest. It took months to coordinate, as we had very little money, but he pulled it off amazingly well. Also we had help from our amazing fans, who donated to the video via an IndieGoGo campaign. Richard also did our video for ‘Test Your Metal’, and basically he just followed us around with a camera for a few weekend road trips. ‘Tonight We Ride’ was a bit more complicated, and was dreamed up by Nathan Cox. A mutual friend introduced us, and when we sent him the song he said he had an idea, but we would have to find our way down to Nevada… So we did! The video was actually filmed back in 2013 and the record got pushed back so the video did as well. It was a complete coincidence that it was released a week after ‘Fury Road’; totally unplanned and straight up luck!”
Over the past few months you’ve successfully toured Japan and China followed by North America. What was the highlight of this major tour? “Japan was awesome, just an amazing country with such rad people, and we had a lot of fun in Hong Kong, but I think the highlight was definitely ProgPower USA. It was such an honour to be up on the same stage as bands like Saxon, Anathema and Dragonland. I was having a lot of fangirl moments that weekend I can tell you that. And then being asked to sing with Dragonland live on stage?! That was incredible. Man, I was so nervous… It was all very overwhelming. The best part about it though was how kind everyone was; how welcoming. After the show each night there would be a party at this place called the Artmore, which basically was just a huge courtyard where all the bands and fans would go to drink and party till the sun came up. There really is nothing quite like taking shots at the bar with your idols if you know what I mean!”
What’s next for the band? “The next album is already in the works, and we are going to start the planning stages of another music video I think. We also are hoping to get over to Europe, though it is proving to be very difficult and very expensive. We would like to tour as much as possible, and we have our sights set on South America as well as Australia… Who knows which will come first! For now however, we are going to focus on writing. The winters in Canada are treacherous and we are surrounded by mountains so touring is difficult. We prefer to hibernate and let our imaginations run wild instead.”
Unleash The Archers – band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Scott Buchanan – drums
Grant Truesdell – guitar, vocals
Andrew Kingsley – guitar, vocals
Kyle Sheppard – bass
Behold the Devastation (2009), independent
Demons of the AstroWaste (2011), independent
Time Stands Still (2015), Napalm Records