“Down For Whatever” – an interview with illScarlett
These reggae pop-rockers have been on the Canadian scene for just over a decade now, and things are finally starting to feel at ease for the boys of illScarlett. Coming out now with their fifth studio album on Sept. 2, a self-titled effort from a time tested energetic enigmas. Like many bands before, they decided to redefine their sound a little bit, to something they can truly call their own. This is what led them to creating a self-titled album, which they believe is their best example of what illScarlett brings to the table. Martyr’s Devin Size had the chance to sit down with drummer Swavek Piorkowski and frontman Alex Norman in a Toronto backyard to discuss the new release and what’s to come of their new adventures looking forward as a new and improved illScarlett.
DS: So let’s start by talking about what’s be up with illScarlett. It’s been a few years since you guys have released an album, and this fifth studio album has been highly anticipated, so what do you want to tell fans about it?
Alex: Well as you said, we have a new record coming out September 2, our first self-titled album. We recorded it about a year ago in New York with David Kahne. We’re all very excited to have it coming out. It’s a culmination of the last five years, maybe more, and this is the record we’ve always wanted to make. We’ve been trying to work with David since we started pretty much. But you know, due to schedule conflicts… Whatever we weren’t able to make it work, but we finally did. That’s why we called it illScarlett because it is illScarlett.
DS: I find it interesting that you guys have been out basically since 2004, and now in 2014, ten years later, you’re really feeling that this is really the album that defines you as a band, so talk about that metaphorical aspect of illScarlett.
Alex: We’ve been a band for twelve years now, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve made all the right and wrong mistakes. We’ve definitely learned how to write songs a little better. Not just to plug it in and turn it to 11 and just go, and that’s how we used to write songs. Now we actually have to think a little bit. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but.
Swavek: I miss some of the randomness…
Alex: For sure, but we’ve travelled a lot now from Japan to China to Europe, all across Canada and America, learned so much from all the different crowds. Now we just keep on going, it’s all we’ve been doing since high school.
DS: Take the fans back a little bit, what have you guys really been up to over the last five years, what’s gone on behind the scenes with illScarlett?
Alex: A lot of things have changed, things have changed in our personal lives. Swav just got married, I have a little family now. My girlfriend has a nine year old son, so been doing that stuff. Still been playing and touring, I don’t even know what we’ve been doing! Feels like there’s always something happening.
Swavek: We’ve definitely been trying to get this record out. The writing process took a little while and then after we finally finished writing, it was a matter of finding the right producer, which was David. That whole time, for five years, we’ve just really been trying to make a record, and find a home for it. We have fans out there that want music from us, but it’s taken a long time.
DS: Now that you guys have gotten that pressure off your backs, going forward what are plans for Canadian tours and so on?
Alex: Well after the album comes out, we’re playing the Horseshoe (Tavern) in beautiful downtown Toronto, which is cool cause that was actually the first place we ever played as illScarlett. It’s some nice nostalgia…
[Starts pouring rain on us…]
So yeah… Our first tour of the States starts Sept. 10 in Nashville, then hitting up the east coast from there. Travelling around with the Mad Caddies. Our Canadian dates are just being finalized now. We’d love to get back to Japan and Europe, we just have to make sure that it makes sense. It takes a lot to go over there. We’re realy just focused on the next four months of touring.
DS: Let’s talk about the album itself and the song writing you touched on earlier. I find the tunes very eclectic on the album. Got some party tunes, got some chill tunes, of course some love ballads, so talk a bit more about your song writing, Alex?
Alex: I guess because it actually took five years to put together, that there were a lot of different moods we were going through – as opposed to writing a bunch of songs over six months about the same thing. But yeah you’re right, there are a lot of different songs on there, and that’s how we’ve always done it. WE’ve never set out to just write “that” song. WE’re fans of all sorts of music so whatever we come up with at the time, we just focus on that and make it the best it can be. Then we move on to other songs. Like “Set it on Fire” is one of the heaviest songs on the album, then “Last Night Stand” is a love ballad kind of thing. They’re all reflective of things that were happening.
Swavek: Yeah man, a lot of shit happens in five years.
Alex: We also stopped smoking weed as much as we used to… I really don’t smoke weed at all anymore. That’s not my choice, it’s just that you change. You do different stuff. Just like the band and the music, it keeps changing.
DS: Talk a bit about the first single and video “Down for Whatever.” Talking about life experience, that song is cool cause it talks about exactly that, learning how to deal with it all.
Alex: Well… [turns to Swavek] Why did we make that our first single? I mean it sounds good…
Swavek: Mainly, just because of the vibe of it. I feel it’s a light-hearted kind of tune. I wanted to release it for the summer. We wanted it out a little ealier but just the way things worked out. We’re in a kind of “have to wait” industry. It’s easy, it’s catchy, and I thought that would work the best. It wasn’t really anything overly thought out. A lot of things we do isn’t [sic] really thought out. It felt like the right thing to do at the time. We went to the cottage and filmed it with a bunch of friends. We’re down for whatever.