Photo Credit: Lee Deane

Interview: Raised By Owls “We’re not looking to divide a crowd, we want, as hippie as it sounds, to unify people.”

We ventured to the Hairy Dog in Derby to interview one of Derby’s best exports, Raised By Owls, who have just unleashed their fantastic new album ‘Vol 3, The Satirical Verses’, which came out on May 3rd. This album is jam-packed with well-honed wit, razor-sharp riffs and good old-fashioned blunt-force trauma; there you go, lads, how’s that for an introduction?

“That’s going on the album tag, that’s going on the poster. One of Derby’s best exports?

I don’t know if it has any other exports?” enquires Sam

Actual things? Hmmm, we’ll think about that. Anyway, we’re at the Hairy Dog, which is the heavy metal place in Derby, and come to discuss what is possibly the funniest record that arrived in our inbox this year. And a damn good bloody death metal album at the same time. Hello.

“Hello, thanks for having us.” chorus frontman, Sam Strachan and guitarist, Alex LeGrice

Today, we proudly wore a Frozen Soul t-shirt, not anticipating any issues. However, we couldn’t help but consider that the image of frozen ghosts might be unsettling for those who invested in the new Ghostbusters movie. If you find this even remotely distressing, we urge you to divert your attention. We love the fact that you chose that as the first single, the Dying Fetus track.

Alex gives us the correct, somewhat lengthy title “Yeah, I’m sorry I wore a dying fetus t-shirt to your baby’s gender reveal party. I had to practice saying it so many times before we played it live. Before we released it, it got a really good laugh live, and I was like, Okay, this is a good laugh. This will go in one of two ways, like, people will like this, or they won’t like this. So we played it live, and it got a big laugh. But before we went on, I was like, I’m 90% sure I’m going to butcher saying this every time and I haven’t yet!”

I don’t think a single metaller in the world hasn’t had that problem at some point. Where, especially on things like non-uniform days, “Just wear what you’d normally wear!” Well, Cannibal Corpse T-shirt it is, then! We’ve seen a few kids walking through town thinking they look great in the shop. But every day of your life, it comes under duress.

“I remember once when I was younger I went to see Chimaira, and they had a white T-shirt, with the ‘Impossibility of Reason’ logo on it and I was like, that’s amazing. And it’s like a blood splatter thing. So I bought it but I didn’t know it had a back print. And in bold on the back it just said, I Hate Everyone! And I got home and my mum and was just like, you’re not wearing that! You’re going to look like a nutter if you go out in that!”

Alex points out “And now you’re wearing a suffocation shirt.”

Let’s switch gears. The comedy element is vital in what you do, but you’re obviously a proper death metal band. You play really well. 

“Thank you.” say Sam and Alex in unison, Sam continues,

“I think part of the crisis that we sometimes have is that people think we’re funny, but we do want to write decent tunes as well. Yeah, you want to strip away the comedy, it’d still be like a decent album. So, we hope that we’ve done that with the new one. I mean, like, people are saying that we have, and we speak to outside of our circle, so…fingers crossed we’re onto something cool.

We don’t know if this has probably been mentioned to you before, but we’re massive Black Dahlia Murder fans, and there was a bit of that there, which we totally relate to, but that’s good if you can have kick-ass influences.

“And wear them on your sleeve as well,” clarifies Sam, “We could be a bit more subtle with it maybe.” (Laughs)

Alex takes up, “The entire first album we went around saying, yeah, they’re just carcass songs.”

Sam agrees “The first entire album we just stole Carcasses riffs. That’s just all that happened.”

If you’re going to steal, steal from the best!

“Black Dahlia are a huge influence, obviously.”

We only say that because we noticed it vocally. On certain words? (We gargle some kind of noise to make a point that doesn’t work in words and somehow Sam understands)

“Some of the pronunciation of words, yeah. There’s a huge influence from me in terms of Black Dahlia Murder and Trevor Strnad and the rest of it.”

What a monumental frontman he was!

“Yeah, he’s absolutely incredible, and my gateway to Extreme Metal. So, when I wanted to get into the heavier side of things, Black Dahlia were my gateway and still remain one of my favourite bands.”

There’s always that worry when we say we can hear an influence when we talk to bands in case we’re hearing it wrong.

“Don’t ever apologise for comparing us, because it’s the biggest compliment to me.”

But you are totally unique. We know your songs from a mile away. Another one of your song titles that really tickled us was ‘Dance Like Barney Greenway’. We can attest to the fact that it’s a very particular dance. 

“Captivating is the word, isn’t it?” offers Alex

Sam explains this bolt of inspiration “Yeah, I think it’s amazing. That’s all the songs about, its how he dances onstage.”

If you’ve never seen Napalm Death before, and if you’re reading this, you probably have, it’s a mixture of moshing and jogging on the spot. 

“Oh yeah, like… And in the song as well, I kind of describe what I think it looks like. Like being chased by a swarm of invisible wasps, somewhere between a power walk and a light jog. You know, it just kind of goes through that. We’ve seen Napalm Death a handful of times and they’re always just amazing. And that is actually a little bit of a love letter to Napalm Death, but about just kind of like how amazing they are, but how, you know, en-trancing Barney Greenway is.”

We think they’ll love it. It’s an affectionate tribute.

Sam adds, “Well, there’s no malice in what we do. It’s kind of like, we love the genre of extreme metal, we’re fans first, so we just poke fun at it a bit, but from an inside point of view”.

It does come across that you are fans first, and it’s affectionate ribbing. You hear the same discussions queuing up for gigs, and you sometimes hear frankly preposterous opinions, but sometimes some stuff makes you chuckle, especially if you’re somewhere like Bloodstock and you hear the campfire conversations; it’s like that came to life; it’s brilliant.

Alex smiles, ”Well that’s how we started off, it was just something to do over a weekend, just me and Sam getting together and having a laugh, writing some songs, because I got a seven string guitar and thought, wow, it’s a low tuning and then just, stole Carcass riffs!”

“Yeah.” agrees Sam, “I didn’t know how to scream, I learned how to scream in February.”

“We had to re-record the first album like three times.” confirms Alex. Sam continues

“I was trying to find my footing as well and that’s probably where the Black Dahlia influence came from. Because I started trying to do lows and it was terrible, still are. Then the big ones were kind of okay, but then it got a bit bad. But the high ones were, I was like, okay, the high scream.”

They recommend that you start with high and work back down. That’s what that Melissa said on the internet. Do you know the lady?

“I bought her DVD and I flipped through it all the time like, I’ve got this, I know this.”

At this point, Alex reminds us of the video of the camera down the esophagus of Will Ramos’ throat. We agree that this was both odd and strange. Sam moves on.

“We started out in Alex’s bedroom every Sunday, ruining your family’s Sunday dinners.”

Alex nods, “Yeah, pretty much.”

Sam continues “for about a year and then we went off from there.”

Did you pick up musicians from around the local scene? Derby is really strong for metal, isn’t it? There’s a lot of musicians.

Alex laughs, “It is, but hilariously we kept it even local-er.”

“Yeah, we went even smaller.” Sam agrees, Alex adds “We didn’t even go out of the home town.”

“We live in a small town called Ashport.” continues Sam, “and I think if you’ve ever watched The League of Gentlemen, it’s a lot like Royston Vasey, if you’re from Ashport, you won’t like me saying that.”

“Oh, it’s true.” affirms Alex

Yeah, so literally the whole town. The whole town?” queries Sam

“Yeah, the whole town.” Nods Alex

“We auditioned the whole town. In the town, all five of them. (Laughs) the whole band is from the same town we all went to the same school. I mean, the age groups, are slightly different. Like Mark and Toby, the guitarist and bassist are a little bit older than us, I went to school with the drummer Lee and I was like mates with his brother and then met him through that.”

That’s lucky you went to school with a world-class death metal drummer because his drumming is incredible. 

“Don’t tell him that because he’ll get too big for his boots!” warns Alex

“Yeah, he’ll cut the drumming bit out.” agrees Sam. “So basically we were all mates. So it was just kind of like, yeah, let’s start this band. Kind of did it as a little bit of an in- joke for ourselves, and then it’s like not stopped from there, It’s been a bit weird.”

It was a thing of myth. It was a mythological band. Because you had a bit of time off, didn’t you? Because life happens, et cetera. But it was all like, did you ever see Raised By Owls? Did you see them? It was this hallowed thing. And then when you came back, everyone was really chuffed. You were away for a Slayer amount of time, weren’t you? 

“Five years, yeah, it’s five years.” (Laughs)

A Slayer amount of time. Not actually splitting up, that’s what we’re calling it.

“A Slayer of amount of time!” Laughs Sam “So it was kind of in between Covid and everything and we went down a weird, but good path for us actually, and that’s actually how it helped cause the chain of the new album, was that we started doing online videos and that became a big thing. And then we kind of just didn’t make an album for five years.

“Not for lack of trying.” interjects Alex  “No, we probably wrote some of the songs that started right here at least like two or three times over the five year gap but it didn’t go anywhere because obviously we couldn’t see each other over the whole pandemic period.”

“And then just because we were just like quite rubbish.” adds Sam

“But then yeah, last year, 2023, we really pulled our finger out, spent pretty much the year on it and towards the end of last year we had it ready”

It’s a solid album as well. It’s not just a good listen if you’re up for a laugh. Alan Partridge samples and Simon Pegg referencing a bit. So, it’s all very much our wheelhouse, humour-wise. 

Sam clarifies “It all pulls in from stuff that we like. It’s not just musically, obviously we pull in influences from the bands we like, but from the comedies we like. The era is very much 90s to early 2000s, British comedy. We grew up and that sort of stuff.”

We wanted to focus a little on the comedy aspect of it. Do you have any comedy background? Have you tried stand-up or something like that? 

“Do you know what? It’s interesting. I’d like to give it a go. I don’t know.” answers Sam

It’s scary, isn’t it?

“It’s scary.”

The good thing with doing it on stage for Raised By Owls is if I start to die we could just go into the song. Without that comfort blanket I’d be…I’d have to put some effort in.

You’ve got a platform where you could just like increase the banter.

“Yeah, true” (turns to Alex) “You can have a nice break, you can have a nice drink on stage and stuff while I try and pursue my stand up career.”

“Yeah, put your tight ten in.” quips Alex, he knows his comedy lingo clearly!

The video aspect of what you do, there’s a lot that’s really well observed. But there’s so many stereotypes in our scene that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel sometimes. Especially the one, big things coming!. I’ve seen about 17 examples of that today.

“That’s all it is, it’s just kind of looking at our surroundings and being like, okay, what happens and how can we twist this to make it a little bit comical and humorous. And again, for the most part, never in ill will, never with malice.” Sam states with Alex solidifying

“We always punch up, don’t we?” Sam continues “We’re not looking to divide a crowd, we want, as hippie as it sounds, to unify people. Like a shared experience, something that we’ve all recognised, that we all have in common. That kind of thing is what we’re going for.

Metal, historically, has always been relatively lighthearted. It’s only recently that it’s gotten very serious. We remember returning to, showing our age here, Donington, the late 80s, early 90s. The banter in the crowd was just hilarious, and it was very self-effacing; it was taking the piss out of itself. I mean, Power Metal doesn’t seriously think like that, does it?

“Have you seen the album covers? How can you take it seriously?” says Alex,

We’re sorry if we’ve upset any power metal fans but, you’re that obsessed with wizards?

“Dragons aren’t real, mate.”

The opinions of the people in this interview are their own and do not reflect the opinions of all Devolution Magazine contributors.

Sam sums up and saves us, “I feel like metal is inherently ridiculous, that’s its charm, right? That’s why people love it.”

Alex adds, “What other genre would you go to a gig, pay twenty pounds to see a band, give yourself whiplash, and then do it again the next day?”

You are unsigned, this is something that struck us as being extraordinary. You’ve managed to do a lot without any backing!

Alex laughs, “We’re heavily in debt!” Sam joins in “We’re so poor. I’m hemorrhaging money! It’s probably the videos.”

Videos are such a part of the medium these days. If a band puts out a single, it seems they can’t not have a video because otherwise, it will just be forgotten. But you can make a half-decent video for very little money these days.

“I mean, we’re proof of the pudding, aren’t we?” laughs Alex, Sam continues, “The attention spans aren’t there either. I mean, because attention spans are so short, you’ve got to grab them in a couple of seconds, otherwise you’re gone. So yeah, I don’t know how we’ve really managed. We’ve been very lucky.”

Alex adds, “I think we’ve definitely landed on our feet a couple of times.”

“Yeah,” Sam agrees, “We’ve had some good opportunities that have just kind of presented right time and right place kind of thing.”

It would seem that you are very savvy with your video shorts, TikToks, and that side of things. But it’s not that much by design, is it?

“Do you know what? A lot of people come up to us and think that we’ve got this super slick plan of doing it, I think. Not like, what people don’t see is that we just go from week to week going, how are we doing this? Like, we don’t know, we have no idea.” Laughs Sam. “We don’t have any idea what we’re doing anywhere, but we just kind of like, fake it till you make it. We have fun, and I think people resonate with fun. So if you’re having fun with it, people are just like, all right, yeah, I’ll have fun with that.”

Yeah, that resonates so much with us. We interviewed Party Cannon a couple of years ago, and they said almost the same thing. We said, your logo is marketing genius. Because you went viral for that, it was on the Maryland Death Fest flyer or something similar, among many illegible ones. Then, your Toys Are Us logo is in the middle. We said it was incredible and asked if they did that on purpose. Chris answered, “If I did that on purpose, do you not think I’d be in marketing? I’d be making a mint!”

Sam respects the slam! “Love the guys in Party Cannon, They’re killing it at the moment.” 

We want to hear the new record, but I’m sure they’ve stuck to their guns. In fact they made a point of saying they’re stuck to their guns. They won’t have gone pop. Back to the band in hand, though, you must have been courted by labels, surely?

“No,” answers Sam, “we’ve never had the chat. Well, we’ve had a chat internally. We’ve kind of discussed ourselves, like, oh, should we? And maybe after this one, if this one does alright,

Maybe we’ll kind of talk about what that would mean.”

It’s a funny question these days, because you can do so much on your own.

Alex makes the point “I think we’ve always been a bit hesitant as well, because of the inclusion of other metal bands and celebrities, it’s one of these weird like grey areas.”

We think if you have a label it’s not just your music they could have a hand in, they could end up correcting your comedy as well and that is a very subjective thing.

Alex continues “Our release schedule for the videos would be clamped down on probably if we had some kind of label.” Sam points out, “If we’re kind of ripping on a bigger band or something and someone knows someone, and you get asked to not do that. And it’s kind of like, ah.

I wouldn’t really want to do that.  So yeah, it would get taken over. So, we’re not closed to the idea. But I think we have to go into it with an eye open.”

You’d have to have, 100% creative control we’d imagine.

“And to just think about it before we do it. But we kind of like to do it ourselves and enjoy it, to be honest.”

Before we go, one of your track titles, which was… I thought OSDM was a sexual position or a sexual thing?

“I honestly thought OSDM was a sex thing.” I’ve not had to say that live yet, muses Sam.

It’s funny because we did too, we thought it was some sort of dark wave thing. I thought, oh, dark wave people are a bit funny like that. This prompts much Alan Partridge quoting.

“These are sex people Lyn; I don’t want to be part of your sex festival!”

Sam lets us in on the story behind the song,

“That one, I called it that one because Alex does the main vocals on that song, he does the low gutturals on that, and I wanted to write a song that he would hate singing. I wrote the lyrics to all be kind of sexual references to get him out of the band and I was really laughing writing it. Knowing that he was going to fucking hate it. He was just going to hate this song. I sent it to him, he was like, “I’m not singing that, I’m not singing that.”

Alex protests “It’s only one of my favorite riffs that I think I’ve ever written as well!”

“Also,” continues Sam, “There is the sample at the start of the song, you were dead against as well.”

“Yeah, I did not want to do that.” grumbles Alex “What was it? Blanche falling down the stairs?”

“Yeah,” confirms Sam, “Blanche from Coronation Street falling down the stairs and she shouts, Oh, I’m coming! and she’s like, out of context, it sounds like.” (Laughs all round)

We did wonder where that came from.

“He was like, look, I’ve sang this song, I’ve sang this horrible song for you, I’m not putting that at the start of it right!”

Alex does a great impression of it for someone who doesn’t like it, “It’s just, yeah, I’m coming Ahhhhhh!”

We do have to say though for an old school death metal homage it’s spot on, the guitar tone is a little fuzzier and the vocal tone, it sounds like an Undeath song or something like that.

“Yeah, it’s what we’re going for.” Alex smiles, “So I’m glad you said that.” 

“Again,” notes Sam, “Our influences on our sleeve. It’s like, there’s no kind of shame.

 Saying we’re just trying to sound like Morbid Angel.”

So, in summary, nothing’s new, everything’s funny and we’re not making any money.

“Yeah, we’re all poor.”

“So, enjoy it!”

Interview By George Miller –

Photo Credit: Lee Deane

Artwork Credit: Dan Goldsworthy