“I think the big thing in the music industry is that the people that can stick it out will ultimately find success,” says guitarist Tim Brown.
Of course, that means consistently releasing quality material and putting in the necessary work to get it into as many ears as possible, something Brown and his bandmates in the Edmonton-based metal group Striker have been doing since forming in 2008. The four-piece—rounded out by Dan Clearly (vocals), William Wallace (bass) and Adam Brown (drums)—is now releasing its new album, Stand In The Fire, a testament to perseverance and continuing to believe in what you’re working towards, no matter the odds.
It’s a fitting concept considering Stand In The Fire is Striker’s first album as an independent band. The group decided to part ways with Napalm Records (which it signed with in 2012) and forge its own label, Record Breaking Records, a move Brown says has been liberating and allowed the band to explore more options with its music and take control of its promotion.
“On a label you’re kind of stuck in the box they put you in, and you don’t really have a lot of control over things like promotion and press, so once they spend their allotted budget that they decide this is how much you get, there’s nothing you can do,” Brown explains.
The band had tossed around the idea of going independent after the release of City of Gold in 2014—the album won the group the Edmonton Music Prize last week—but decided to stick with Napalm for the time being. While Napalm did some beneficial work with the band, Brown notes, labels often focus on physical album sales when the demand for such a product is in steady decline. With that in mind, Striker is selling download cards for Stand In The Fire that will allow fans to download the album directly to their phone. And though leaving a label to go independent may seem to be the reverse of what bands have traditionally aimed for, Brown acknowledges that the music industry is changing, and it’s possible for a band to make its own way within it.
“That’s kind of the general feeling behind the album is that you have to do it for yourself, and you have to fight through the tough times,” he adds.
Striker also took a more DIY approach to recording Stand In The Fire than it had with City of Gold, which was recorded in Sweden with producer Fredrik Nordström, known for his work with the likes of Arch Enemy and Opeth. The band had amassed a slew of demos it reviewed during the long drives on its previous North American tour in support of City of Gold, not wanting to lose any momentum after it returned to Edmonton. It was actually Nordström who suggested recording the songs at home and sending the final tracks to him to polish up, a tactic he had used with bands in the past.
“We thought, welcome to the future; it’s 2015, let’s try this,” Brown says.
With no pressure to bang out the recording as quickly as possible to avoid mounting studio bills, Striker took its time finessing the album—which began as a concept record that would encapsulate several distinct sounds ranging from ’80s-inspired, pop-driven hair metal to heavier styles verging on thrash or death metal. In the end, the band members decided to scrap the idea in favour of selecting the strongest songs and honing them to reflect Striker’s style—think plenty of blistering guitar solos and powerhouse clean vocals in the vein of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.
“Ultimately, sitting down our big thing was, what’s the best songs?’ Brown recalls. “You know, don’t choose it just because it has a 6/9 time signature; choose the best song with the best riffs. … It was the same with parts of songs, like, ‘OK, well, I really like this part of the song but the rest of it isn’t that great. It doesn’t need to be there.’ If it doesn’t serve a purpose get rid of it.”
Striker will be heading to Europe and South America to support the record, and the only piece that’s missing from its heavy-hitting lineup is a second guitar player. The band’s original guitarist, Chris Segger, left amicably in October 2014 (he performed some back-up vocals on the new album), and the guys have rotated through several session players in the meantime who will fill in on their upcoming tour dates.
“We kind of have a glass slipper, so to speak, of what we’re looking for, and we’re looking for that Cinderella,” Brown says with a laugh.
What does a metal-band Cinderella look like, exactly? Long hair and a tolerance for beer, for starters, but more importantly, Brown adds, that person needs to possess strong musicianship and the ability to commit to Striker’s heavy touring schedule.
“Being in a band like Striker doesn’t really pay your phone bills or rent, so it’s hard to put in that full-time dedication when we have a touring schedule that is going to see us on the road for maybe a grand total of six or more months in 2016,” he explains. “If you haven’t organized your life around being able to tour and making your life so that you can go out on tour it’s very difficult, because you have to take time off work and time off making any money at work and pay for a tour. It’s very expensive, so it’s hard to find that right person. Obviously, they need to be a skilled musician. I’d say we’re all pretty outgoing and friendly, so they need to be that kind of person as well.”
Fri, Jan 22 (8:30 pm)
With L.A.M.S, Wolfrik, Solborn
Starlite Room, $20