Skarlett Riot – Becoming a WarriorSunday, 26th November 2017
UK act Skarlett Riot hasn’t been one to take the easy way out. Forming in the early part of this decade, they’ve moved progressively heavier and darker with each release. Their last EP, 2016’s Sentience, seemed to put them on the map in more of the modern metal circles. The release garnered enough attention to grab a signing with The Artery Foundation, and then a label home in Despotz Records. Continuing in the direction that Sentience began, the recently released Regenerate (the band’s second full-length) is the band’s strongest and most mature release to date.
A modern metal heaviness with a stronger focus on solos and aggressive riffs combines with soaring choruses courtesy of the band’s vocalist Skarlett, whose more poppy influences craft an excellent (and fresh) contrast. It’s a sound that could easily pull in fans from across the spectrum of metal and rock. To get a better grasp of the band’s evolution we had a chat with Skarlett herself, which also diverged into her work in modeling and drawing as well.
Dead Rhetoric: In the way that bands tend to move over time, why go heavier?
Skarlett: I think it was a natural progression more than anything. It wasn’t something we decided on purpose. Since we formed in 2011-2012, we started off like rock-pop and then we just seemed to progressively heavier as we have matured as a band. I think its maybe that we more wanted to progress individually as well, with our technicalities I suppose. The more you experiment as a band and get to know each other and how you work, I think you end up just naturally writing things that feel right for the band. I think the heavier progression comes natural to us and I think it works.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that you have found the sound that you are looking for?
Skarlett: I think so. With our last release, the Sentience EP, we pretty much all went, “Yeah. We are all quite happy with this, and the style of this.” We wanted Regenerate to be a heavier hit than Sentience and just a little more exciting and experimental, with more guitar solos and heavy riffs. I’d say the vocals, in songs like “Break” and maybe “Affliction,” are a lot heavier lyrically as well.
Dead Rhetoric: I myself found the band with the Sentience EP, so it does feel like Regenerate was the next logical step. It’s just always surprising nowadays when you see bands veer in a heavier direction, as most tend to mellow out as they get older as a band, so I thought it was kind of cool.
Skarlett: Yeah, we’ve had that opinion a few times actually. A lot of people are doing the opposite and going softer, which is still cool. I think we actually struggle to write ballads. If we sit there and go, “Let’s write a softer song because it’s something we haven’t done for a while,” we sit there for nights on end and it’s just not coming out. I think with this album, we have a lot of aggression to release so it came out naturally [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: It’s funny you mention that, as one of my favorites on the album is probably “Calling,” which is one of the more melodic songs, even if it’s no ballad.
Skarlett: Yeah, it’s a bit of a standout track isn’t it? It’s a little different than the rest. It’s more of a love song I suppose.
Dead Rhetoric: How has the fan reaction been to the progression that the band has made up to this point?
Skarlett: The response we have had is amazing. I don’t think we’ve had anything negative, which is fantastic, because with almost every release we have wanted to step up and have people to think, “Wow, this is their best stuff yet.” There’s plenty of times where I have listened to bands and I’ve been so excited to listen to the album because I’ve loved the singles, and I put it in and I get disappointed. It’s the worst feeling ever so I didn’t want people to feel like that. I want people to think that we have really progressed again and we are on another level. We like to keep things fresh and have something different with every release. So far, everyone who has bought the album has said that they’ve loved it. I don’t think we’ve had a bad word, which is fantastic. Hopefully they have been truthful [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: So do you view Regenerate as a fresh start – you have a new label, you’ve advanced in the direction you want to move in, etc?
Skarlett: Yeah, I’d say so. We’ve only just released this, so I can’t even visualize what we would do next but yeah, I’d say this is definitely the path we want. We are loving the metal/rock vibe and it seems to work for us. We’ve matured as a band together, so I think that’s probably where we are going to go with it. Each time we like to bring in something new with it, so the next release could be interesting.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do your lyrical aspirations stem from? It’s certainly a more positive view than if you look at other bands who play similar styles.
Skarlett: I write my lyrics mostly on personal experience. Previously, I have written them on movies or say, a picture you can look at and get lyrical inspiration from. For this album, we had a rough patch as a band a couple of years ago and we were kind of struggling to know where to go with it next. The album was kind of written as a message to say, “No matter what life throws at you, it’s never too late to change direction and learn from your failures and successes, and just turn things around and make things right again. If you are having a hard time and things are going bad, just try and pick a positive from it. Just gain strength and don’t give up – make sure you carry on.”
So it was written as an uplifting message. A few of the songs were written about me being bullied at school, one of the songs was written about the end of the world…I’ve kind of written them in a sense of more strength and positivity than anything else. I want people to listen to the songs and if they are going through a similar experience or situation, I want them to feel not alone and feel more strength.
Dead Rhetoric: When I hear the music, one of the things that I think stands out with the direction that you’ve moved in is that you have a heavier vibe, but your vocals have an almost poppy stance to them. Do you feel that contrast between the two areas gives you more of a fresh take than your standard ‘heavier’ band?
Skarlett: I would think so. I think that’s what makes the Skarlett Riot sound. The instrumentals seem to get heavier, but I can’t change my voice and it is what it is. My influences will always lie with more standard rock music, whereas the guys look for heavier stuff. When you put it all together, you’ve got this aggression coming out, but also, I always believe in a catchy chorus. If I can’t have a catchy chorus, it’s not complete. I don’t want it in there if the chorus can’t be a sing-a-long chorus.
We have had comments before though – it can be more difficult than just sticking to the standard – maybe putting a few screams in there. You get all sorts of comments like, “This was good until the vocals come in. I thought there was going to be some screams and then she completely ruined it.” [Laughs] You do get some people who, because they didn’t expect what was coming next, they don’t like it because it’s a little bit different. So it can be difficult, but we’d rather not stick to the norm, and just do what we enjoy.
Dead Rhetoric: Exactly – there’s always going to be some percentage that say, “Eh, that’s not for me.”
Skarlett: You can’t please everyone so do what you enjoy, because that’s what it’s all about.
Dead Rhetoric: In being a younger band, when you have gone out and done shows with more veteran acts – what do you take from those experiences. What do you learn from them?
Skarlett: I think the more that you just play live in general, you pick up things without even realizing. From all the bands, I suppose you pick up professionalism and how to handle things on stage. When things go wrong, how the bands handle it. I suppose persona as well, and image. How other bands communicate with the crowd and make them feel like part of the family. I think that is probably one of the main things I’ve picked up. Make sure that you are so thankful to those who have shown up and make them want to come back again. Make them part of who you are. At the end of the day, they paid for that ticket and they are supporting you and your music. I think it’s important to make the fans feel really special.
Dead Rhetoric: That seems to be a growing mentality with the younger bands at this point. Perhaps it’s due to the Internet, where everything is a bit more open. There’s not that mystique anymore, say that there was 20 years ago.
Skarlett: I suppose as well, with having YouTube and everything right at your door, there are people who will say, “Can’t you just livestream your show? I can just stay at home and watch you from a screen.” [Laughs] It’s like, “Yeah, I suppose you could, but I’d rather you come to see us.” Bands have to tour to stay a band. People have to support your band to actually make it. It’s a lot about making sure that we have time for the fans. People ask if we are doing a meet & greet, and we are just like, “We’ll just be at merch after the show. We are going to meet everybody.”
We don’t believe in meet & greets, if you want to meet us, that’s fine. We’ll be there after the show and we’ll hang out and have a chat, and sign everything. I think that’s what it’s about. Just make sure that you appreciate those fans that come to see you. They are the ones who are keeping you doing what you enjoy. There’s bigger bands, who every now and again you’ll see, that have such an amazing and hardcore following, and they won’t even meet them after the show. They’ll just stay behind or whatever. I want to make sure those people feel important.
Dead Rhetoric: You do some work with modeling as well. Is there a cross-pollination between the two? Not in terms of what you do, but in terms of people discovering the band through the modeling route or vice versa?
Skarlett: I think it’s kind of a separate connection really. The fans of the band know I do the modeling so they will follow me in what I do. But I’ve never really had anyone from the modeling page find out about the band through me. I tend to keep it as a separate thing. I’ll do some modeling shoots alongside the band. I think it worked quite well – when we aren’t out on tour I can be doing shoots and then selling things like my calendars and my prints and signing them. I do sign them as Skarlett though, just because it seems to be my signature thing [laughs]. If fans from the band bought something from me and I signed it as Chloe, they’d be like, “Who’s this about?” I think it works quite nicely as well. I suppose the image that I have with the band, with the purple hair and strong image – I think it works quite nicely in modeling as well.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of stage image – the idea of having an on-stage persona. Would you say that a hoodie is a part of that image for the band?
Skarlett: With this album actually, I kind of decided that it would be really cool – someone actually said to me that I looked really good on the front cover [of Regenerate]. That’s not actually me, but I thought that would work quite nicely live to give off that kind of vibe of the album and what it’s about. It would be cool if I went onstage with the cloak and gave off that character on the front of Regenerate as me onstage. So I’ve bought clothes so I’m ready to go out when we play in November and December. We haven’t played any of the new stuff live – we go out on Friday actually, with a band called Toseland. We head out with Santa Cruz in December around the UK and Germany. It’s our first time in Germany. We get back Christmas Eve. I’m looking forward to playing the new stuff live and dressing up like a warrior [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: So dressing up in that manner, does that help with stage persona?
Skarlett: Definitely. I wouldn’t wear that day to day. I think it puts you in that mood; I suppose it’s a lot like acting. You put the songs across and the emotions that you were going through when you wrote them. I suppose it helps a lot that way. It puts you in that zone. I suppose your performance is a show at the end of the day, a bit like a play would be. You have to make sure that the delivery of your songs live is as good as it was on the album and when you were writing it. I think that dressing up, and getting yourself in the zone, does help with your live performance.
Dead Rhetoric: You also do some drawing and art as well. Is it nice to have a couple of different creative outlets you can go through?
Skarlett: I sing daily and we rehearse a lot. When we tour, we are out, which is great. I’m constantly on the social media, updating and keeping in touch with fans. Every now and again, it’s nice to have that little chill time. For me, drawing is really relaxing. Anything that’s on my mind…my mind constantly ticks. I can’t just zone out. Everything is constant – for me, thinking what we can do next as a band, what we need to update, what we need to do. I’m one of those people who can’t switch off. The drawing is really nice, because it comes naturally. I don’t have to think about what I’m doing. I just sit there, and my mind switches off because I’m concentrating on drawing. It’s a nice little relaxation time for me.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there something about drawing pets that you enjoy, or do you try your hand at different things as well?
Skarlett: To be honest, I used to draw a few different things. I used to sell a few different [types of] drawings. Mainly animals – I do enjoy drawing pets. It seems to be what I’m better at than people and faces. It’s a lot more difficult to draw people I think. I’d say mainly pets, but that’s because I’ve had so many orders. People are constantly coming to me and asking me to draw their pets. It’s something that’s in demand – everyone has pets. I haven’t really had time to think about venturing into anything else. But it’s great, it’s kept me so busy this year.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s nice that you can use that, or like you mentioned earlier, with the calendars or pictures, as a way to generate additional income.
Skarlett: Last time I was selling prints, I was like, “This will feed me for a two-week tour.” [Laughs] It’s quite expensive when you are on the road for a solid two weeks and you have to feed yourself every day.
Dead Rhetoric: With the calendar that you made [for 2018], do you have a favorite month in terms of the way the shoots came out?
Skarlett: I’d say June I think. I did a little festival one, wearing Download wristbands and pretending to drink a bottle of Southern Comfort [laughs]. There was another summer shoot with a pool where I was throwing water out and eating these massive, bright-colored lollies. I enjoyed those because they were just really fun to do.
Dead Rhetoric: So are those another way for you to bring out different types of creativity as well?
Skarlett: I would say so, yeah. I like to visualize what I want to do next in different shoots. I’d love to do a cosplay one, where you dress up as someone from film or whatever. If I could afford to do it, I would do that next [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: Who would be your choice for that?
Skarlett: I’d love to do something like Maleficent or an elf from The Hobbit. I always get told that I have elf ears or that I look like a little pixie [laughs]. So I was like, “Maybe I should dress up as an elf next?”
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve alluded to this already, as you have a few tours before the end of the year. But do you have anything planned for 2018 at this point?
Skarlett: We are talking to our agent at the moment. We are concentrating on putting our all into these  tours. It’s the first time we are playing all of the new material. We’re working hard on getting a set list together, and the image. Just going out and making sure we put a great impression on everyone with the new album. Our agent is working behind the scenes on sorting out something – we are looking for some time between March and May to get back again one way or another.