Fireworks Magazine Online 48 - Syndicate


An interview by Mike Newdeck
Originally called The Next, Syndicate was signed to the Sony label in their native Australia. Aware of the huge potential of the band and the limited market for the band in their home country, Sony has clearly sent out feelers for the band to tap into the lucrative American market. The debut album (reviewed elsewhere in the magazine) was almost exclusively made in America using a wealth of music talent available and clearly the band have the sort of radio friendly songs that are tailor made for American radio. One listen to the magnificent pop rock of the single ‘Shout’ will leave you convinced that this band is going onwards and upwards. Mike Newdeck caught up with vocalist Gregg Agar to talk about the band’s rise and where the band is aiming to go from here.
It’s great that the album contains 16 songs, but wouldn’t it have been better to trim the number of tracks down to the norm of say 12, picking the best songs?

When we set out to record this album we only intended for it to have about 12 songs. However, as the process went on we worked on more and more tracks and, especially being our debut album, we wanted to make sure that it gave the right impression to the public. We ended up recording 23 songs, so getting it down to 16 was a hard enough task for us!
Could you give us a brief history of the band and its formation?

Sure, we formed the band about four years ago. We’d all been playing in other bands at the time and got together to jam on some riffs and soon enough we found this band taking priority. It all kind of went from there… a whole lot of live shows, an EP, a couple of writing trips to LA and now we’re signed to a label and just released our debut album.
How did the band come to be sent to America to record the album?

After recording and releasing our EP we decided we wanted to take a more ‘grown-up’ approach to our album. We went to LA to meet with writers over there - at this stage Sony had been very interested in our development. We came back home with a bunch of songs, but one in particular, ‘Tightrope Walker’, caught their attention and we put together a plan, reached out to a producer we wanted to work with (Brandon Friesen), who took a liking to the band, and it all went from there.
Why did you choose to include so many people in the recording of this album? Was that down to the record label?

Well, after Brandon became involved, he put the word out that a rock band from Australia was coming out to record and the hands that went up from people wanting to be involved were truly flattering for us. Having this many people work on the album wasn’t really a decision as such, as much as us being pumped to make music with people, and loving what everybody had to contribute.
The album shows many different styles within the modern rock genre, is this what Syndicate is all about or have you not yet discovered your niche?

I feel there are a lot of sides to our sound, definitely. Especially being that there’s a massive difference between say, ‘Bring It On’ and the Piano version of ‘All My Life’, but both are very relevant to us musically. We love the hard rock edge and we wanted to include good melodies also. I think of it as more of broader spectrum than a contradiction of styles.
Wasn’t there a fear that the album might seem disjointed with so many people involved with it, writing and producing?

This album was definitely about finding ourselves musically, and although there were different producers working on each track I think the goal was to create a sound that was unmistakably Syndicate, and I think we’ve done that, so for me it was a success.
Having travelled to the US to record the album is the intention to move there and try and crack that market much the same as fellow countrymen Sick Puppies?

The US is absolutely on the horizon. We love where we’re from and are very proud to be Australian, but for a population that has less than half a percent of the world’s people, it’s a little hard to take this band to the level we’re wanting to from home.
Is it difficult for a band to survive in Australia with its limited audience?

It is, and not many do. We’ve been lucky and the support from our fans, families, and label has really helped us keep this thing on the right path. A lot of people don’t realise the things you have to sacrifice to play in a rock band for a living. Mind you it has its benefits as well!
How did you become signed to Sony in the first place?

A funny story actually. We all used to play cover gigs to pay our bills and it was at one of those gigs that Kris was playing the pre-show entertainment across from Acer Arena when Ozzy Osbourne was in town and a Sony rep happened to be there. He told Kris he was looking for a rock band, to which Kris’s reply was “Well, I’ve got one of those” and it all went from there.
Why did you change your name from The Next to Syndicate?

Well, we thought hard about it. Our sound had evolved since the EP, along with our image and even a minor line-up change, so we thought, why not? We’ve got a new everything else…”
What was it like playing live shows in the US?

We actually only played one, it was at the Viper Room on Sunset. That was an amazing experience for us, especially growing up hearing about the cool bands that cut their teeth there. To actually play there was definitely a highlight of the trip. We even played a cover of ‘All Die Young’ from Rockstar, just to get in the spirit of things!
How did Dianne Warren come to write a song for you, with ‘When You Hurt’?

Getting to meet and hang with Dianne was definitely another highlight for me. She’s such a prolific songwriter and just like with a lot of the other people we got to work with, the biggest compliment was that she took us seriously. She listened to our sound, we played her a few tracks and she thought ‘When You Hurt’ would be an ideal track for us.
Are you a pop band or a rock band?

We’re a rock band, we have a lot of pop hooks in our songs but come and see us live and you’ll know which side of the fence we sit on.
You wrote with Jeff Blue, what was this like and how did it happen?

Jeff was super cool, we got along with him really well and are still good friends. We did most of our writing with him at his house in the Hills. It was pretty incredible seeing all those platinum records on the wall and looking out the window and seeing the Hollywood sign staring back at you. I really can’t say enough good things about our time with him.
How did you get involved with Matt Sorum with the tracking? What was it like working at his house?

Matt, just like most of the others, was approached by Brandon who asked if he wanted to be involved in the project, and we had a great time. He’d come and hang in the studio, wearing a bathrobe at 3 in the afternoon, and we’d jam together on acoustic guitars. He came running into the studio, banging a cow bell, trying to scare me while I was doing vocal takes. He had some great laughs and heard some great stories too.
Likewise what’s the story behind using Tommy Lee’s studio?

We didn’t see as much of Tommy as we did of Matt, although he’d come down and sit in the control room from time to time. His studio was amazing, state of the art, and everything you’d imagine a rock star’s house to be like. So needless to say, that was such a great experience for us and it really cemented the seriousness of what we were doing.
Where does the inspiration come from during the writing?

All over the place In fact, sometimes you sit down to write a song with nothing in particular in mind and someone will come out with one line and we’re off, the rest comes flowing out. After we have that first line we kind of brainstorm the idea and say, “What do we want to say? And how can we say it in the coolest way?” There’d be countless times where someone would suggest a lyric only to have the “Yeah but how do we say it cooler?” response launched back at them.
Is the band living the dream? And what did it feel like to be signed to Sony?

We’re living a dream, haha. No really, a friend once told me that if we put all our last four years worth of highlights in a five minute youtube clip it would look like we’re ‘living the rock n roll dream’ but the truth is that there’s a lot of hard work that accompanies it, so maybe that AC/DC song was right…
‘Shout’ was a single in Australia. Will it be released/promoted in the US? It seems tailor made for the American market.

We’re taking it one step at a time for now, it’s definitely a possibility but we’ll have to see how things are looking when it’s time to decide on a US single.
What is the band currently doing?

Well, I’m currently sitting on a plane, headed for Berlin. We’re playing at POPKOMM and looking at the possibility of a European release. After that we’re back to Australia to start a national tour, including New Zealand,  supporting Alice Cooper.
What is the bands plan for the rest of 2011?

We’ve got a very busy time ahead of us, we’ve just finished a national tour, and after Europe and the Alice Cooper shows we’re looking at doing another one. We might make it to the US later this year. But in the meantime, when we’re not playing shows, we’re on Facebook talking to our fans and supporters. Come and say hi!

This and over 30 other interviews can be found in issue 48 of Fireworks Magazine, available from ...

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