It’s not often a band hits the scene that can deliver both on record and live in such a way that their appeal draws not just ready made fans but also those from the wider spectrum. South Of Salem tick all the boxes. Their songs rock, they have ridiculous energy on stage, and they look the part too. Gary Trueman caught up with the five piece ahead of their final show supporting Wednesday 13. Up for discussion was their latest heavy touring schedule and when their next album might drop.
You’ve built up a lot of momentum in the last year or so. Was it important to lay some solid foundations first before pushing on?
“Definitely, those few months where we couldn’t get out and play because of lockdown, building that online fan base was vital to the success that we’ve had so far. We played one show in the middle of the lockdown break that we had, then by the time we were ready for more we were being offered Bloodstock. It was a great push for us to have that and it put us on the map and let us hit the ground running.”
Hard rock and metal have had to tough it out in recent decades. There are a lot of bands out there so it can be hard to develop and build a fan base. What do you think South Of Salem are doing right?
“With rock and metal the bands that are really breaking out, much bigger than we are, they’re killing it. Rock and metal isn’t just going to go away. Every time we play there are new fans and they’re getting younger and younger.”
It is good to see younger fans at gigs isn’t it?
“Yeah, we’ve had some very young fans come to gigs. They’re excited.”
Is it time maybe for venues to look at trying to find a way to lower the age limits for shows to encourage younger people to see live shows? Even if that means being accompanied?
“Concorde 2 used to do a wrist band thing where you could go in if you were younger. It is something that would be great if it happens but you need to keep everyone safe too. That’s the main thing, finding a way to police it and look after everybody.”
Where are you in the writing process for new songs? Have you got any new material ready to air yet?
“So we’ve all but written the new album. There are some bits and pieces we need to iron out. We’ll be writing for the next three months and then we hit the studio in July. It’s all booked up finally. We’ll be working with a new producer which we’re excited about. We hope to have it out this year, or at the very least a couple of singles.”
Do you go into a studio with songs completely finished or do you still tinker when you’re laying the tracks down?
“We get most of the writing done, the base of the songs will be done. We don’t have the kind of money to go into a studio and write an entire album. That’s just not possible. Once we’re in there the producer becomes the sixth member of the band as it were and will point us in the right direction. It worked last time and we’re hoping for more of the same this time round. In the grand scheme of things we’re still a new band with two new members so we’re still discovering stuff about each other.”
Have those new band members brought a bit of a refresh to the writing, and even the arrangements of older songs?
“It’s just a refresh in general, the whole attitude feels better, it’s more professional – it needed that injection of energy.”
Has the writing process itself changed at all?
“The way we’ve written hasn’t really changed for over a decade. We’ll come up with a couple of riffs. The buck stops with Joey in terms of if he’s feeling it, and if he is you’ll get a whole song back in five minutes. Like in lockdown, we’ve always written on computers, we’ve never been a jam band so we get the basics then jam stuff once we have the songs written to get a feel for what they’ll be like live.”
We’re speaking on the last day of the Wednesday 13 tour which you’ve done with Sick N Beautiful and Tarah Who? As well. How has that gone?
“It’s been incredible, just a great buzz from audiences. We’ve just got back off the WASP tour too. Going from WASP straight to Wednesday 13 has been a bit crazy. Hard on bodies, everybody has had something wrong with them on this tour but we’ve all stayed positive. It’s a testament to how well this line up works together. We’ve all been sick but we’ve all kept each other laughing. It was refreshing to see fans returning from the WASP tour, seeing them again on the Wednesday 13 tour. They basically came to see South Of Salem which is cool.”
Were there any real differences between the two tours?
“We noticed a difference on social media. The WASP fans were very much Facebook based and all the Wednesday fans are Instagram based. So we saw our social medias changing which was quite funny. The feel was different. WASP had an old school vibe, there was more of a professional get things done attitude. With Wednesday it’s a bit more of a laugh, a bit more messing about during sound checks. There’s an age difference, an era difference between the two bands.”
What have you got planned for the summer?
“We’re going into festival season now so we’ve got about 12 festivals lined up. We’re going out to Belgium too which will be our first one outside of the UK and Ireland. Then we’ll be going into the studio in July. So we don’t want to book too many gigs just yet. A headline tour would be cool. We’re looking into it. People have been asking when they’ll hear a longer set and we want to give fans what they want. Hopefully that’ll come about before the end of the year.”
Gene Simmons has famously said that rock is dead. Bands like South Of Salem are proving him wrong though. Have you got a message for Mr Simmons?
“His bank account is proving him wrong. People are still going to his shows aren’t they? The rock scene is influencing music more than people think, from imagery to music to style. He might be right in regard to the magnitude of success, he lives in huge mansions and that might not be possible any more, not to that extent. But it’s far from dead.”
You said rock is influencing other music but the reverse is happening more too now isn’t it? Is it a good thing that music is getting mixed up?
“Yes, definitely. Every era has that mix and amalgamation of different styles. Look at Anthrax. There’s all sorts of cross overs. It’s cool and introduces people to different styles of music. It makes things more accessible to people.”
If each member of South Of Salem could resurrect a lost musician to share the stage with who would each of you choose?
Kodi: “Lemmy. Motorhead are my favourite band. A guest feature from Lemmy with South Of Salem, I’d be up for that!”
Dee: “Either Freddy Mercury or Janis Joplin.”
James: “I’d have to say Taylor Hawkins. He died fairly recently, he was crazy talented. He was a big loss so it would be pretty cool to get him back.”
Joey: “I reckon Kurt Cobain would be pretty cool. He could do a grunge track with South Of Salem.”
Dennis: “ Pete Steele, the shenanigans on and off stage would be absolutely out of control.”
We’re pretty sure Devolution editor in chief Nickie Hobbs would approve of your choice there Dennis.