INTERVIEW: Sean Harmanis – Make Them Suffer

MAKE THEM SUFFER roared onto the deathcore scene several years ago with the release of their debuts Lord of Woe and Neverbloom, turning the scene on its head with their unique brand of symphonic deathcore. Since then, their acclaimed 2015 release Old Souls skyrocketed them into the spotlight, and earning them support slots on tours with the most popular bands in the genre all over the world. 2017 marks the release of their new album Worlds Apart, and we caught up with their vocalist Sean Harmanis before their first show in New York to get the lowdown on their new sound.

Are you and the rest of MAKE THEM SUFFER excited for everyone to hear the new album? What do you think of the feedback so far?

Sean: When you change things up stylistically, people are going to have different responses, not everyone is gonna love it. It’s definitely a grower of an album in my opinion. We were proud of it as we were recording it, and when we got the initial mixes back we were happy with it. At the time, I don’t think we realised how proud we were of it, and how proud we’ve come to be of it – it’s got a lot of replay value I think, so I’m super excited for everyone to hear it for sure. I think not everyone will take to it initially, but over time I hope that people come to acknowledge that it’s probably the best release thus far in our discography.

What are the ideas and lyrical themes behind Worlds Apart?

Sean: Something different, again, from our old concepts. It’s a storyline that doesn’t really make sense – when you listen to the lyrics of First Movement it might insinuate that there is a storyline, but things won’t really make sense until people crack this hidden thing that I’ve got in one of the softer sections of the record. Essentially, though, it’s just another boy meets girl story. It’s set in a different realm to that of our previous releases – maybe, like, in the 90s in a parallel universe. It’s spacey and otherworldly, but the time is still inherently human.

Along those lines, one of the more intriguing parts of the album is the spoken word section at the end of Save Yourself. What’s the story behind those lyrics?

Sean: That section is exactly what it sounds like. I’d just taken a breakup pretty hard, I think, and I just really needed to get some stuff off my chest. The verses of that song were written at a very dark time for me – the verses were written in one sitting with ¾ of a bottle of tequila and three bottles of wine drunk. It just all came out. We weren’t sure of what to do with that end section, all I knew was that I had two minutes of chords to fill up with vocals. We’d never done anything like that, so I just really wanted the song to hit home. So, it’s exactly what it sounds like – it’s just me, dropping the veil. As it goes on, the language almost becomes more basic, because it was just a stream of consciousness. I think if people look into it, they can kinda see that with previous concepts and lyrics it’s all just metaphor, and I wanted to lose that for a section and just be myself.

How have MAKE THEM SUFFER handled the recent lineup changes?

Sean: They’ve been awesome, honestly. Both of them are long term friends of ours – Booka joining us on keys, for example. We’ve known her for ages. Where we’re from, Perth, is the second most isolated capital in the world, and everyone knows each other. We were part of the same sort of drinking crew, and Nick used to work with her. I think it was just one night when Nick was out at a bar and happened to bump into her, and they had a really mad conversation. She was asking how the band was going, Nick said we were looking for a keyboardist and joked that she should join us on keys, and then she said actually she would. In terms of Jaya, Nick used to play in bands with him, back in the day, and they were living together – I used to go over to their house to hang out with them before Nick was in MAKE THEM SUFFER. But yeah, we’ve all known Jaya for ages as well. Everyone is settling in, and it’s a good energy at the moment, definitely. We’ve never really been a band to disclose all that much in terms of lineup changes until something is completely solidified and we’ve settled on an answer that we’re all 100% happy with. This [Worlds Apart US Tour] is the first tour we’ve done together with this lineup.

Are you excited for your UK tour?

Sean: I’m stoked. I’m a bit nervous as we’ve only been the UK about three times in total so I’m not entirely sure what our following is like over there, so I hope the turnouts are okay, it’s kinda a leap of faith on our behalf. It should be awesome if it goes well, though.

How was the writing and recording process of the new album?

Sean: I think we all knew what our roles were, so it all came together relatively smoothly. Nick will track me a bunch of riffs in a recording program, and then send me a session file of 10 or 15 riffs, and then I’ll cull those down until I get the basis of a song, and then put those in an order that makes sense to me in terms of song structure. Sometimes the parts are made around the keys, sometimes the keys are added on top of the guitar. I think that’s one thing that we’ve really tried to focus on, is to not have the piano and keyboard sitting on top of the other instruments, but for it to mesh together, for it to be smoother. That sort of thing is a learning experience, but I think we’ve nailed it on this one. When we released Ether it was such a leap of faith for us, but it was received so positively that it gave us the confidence we needed to go in the direction we have for this album.

After some time with Worlds Apart, it started to sound like the song Uncharted is very similar to Ether. Was that deliberate?

Sean: Absolutely. We wanted to have Ether on the album, and we realised that we’d kinda goofed by putting it on the Old Souls / Lord of Woe Re-release. We felt that, as a single, Ether was the song that would best summarise the sound of the album, so I guess Uncharted was a sort of expansion on Ether. They have the same chord progressions, but it’s just because we wanted Ether on the album – it’s just Ether with riffs. Uncharted has a lot of focus on the piano line, and that djenty sort of sound, whereas Ether was very focused on the chorus and breakdown.  

MAKE THEM SUFFER have had a lot of comparison amidst the praise since the release of Ether with other, more progressive artists like DEFTONES. With that in mind, who were your main inspirations in terms of sound when you were writing the new record?

Sean: Yeah, DEFTONES is definitely one of them. Probably my most listened to album at the moment, which has been a creeper on me, I’ve had for about 6 or 7 years and it’s just slowly made its way into rotation more is the album Loveless by MY BLOODY VALENTINE, always thrashing that one. There’s a bit of shoegaze too, and I’m also really into the new grunge revival in rock – I think for the first time in ages, rock is in a really exciting place. Having said that, I don’t think Nick listens to much of that apart from stuff I show him sometimes, and he’s the one writing the riffs.

In that vein, going from these tours, what would your dream tour lineup be?

Sean: That’s a tricky one. Well, I suppose DEFTONES would have to be on there. Maybe MY BLOODY VALENTINE, maybe…ah, damn, there’s so many bands I want to tour with. [Laughs] Even a band like NEUROSIS or ISIS or something like that would be sick, but I don’t know if that would really suit us. It’s hard with our sound… At the moment there’s definitely a sort of post-metalcore or post-deathcore movement going with bands like CODE ORANGE or OCEAN GROVE, which is exciting because they’re a throwback, taking elements from a different era and twisting it, doing something original. That whole thing is really exciting and we’d love to be aligned with that movement.

MAKE THEM SUFFER always has very well produced music videos, how was it making and producing the ones for Worlds Apart?

Sean: Most of our previous music videos have been done by our good friend Jason Eshraghian, who happens to live in Perth and is, in my opinion, the best music video producer in Australia. We’re a very visual band, and even if you’re not reading along with the lyrics, the music itself paints a fairly vivid picture. So yeah, the visual aspect has always been really important to us, so we always put a lot of time into the music videos and writing the scripts, because we want them to complement the songs as best as possible.

So, will MAKE THEM SUFFER continue in this direction or will you return to your heavier roots?

Sean: We would like, at some point, to make some heavier material again – but we’re not going to force anything. The sound that we achieved on this album, we did so because we didn’t think too much about what we were going for, it just came naturally. I think that whatever we write is going to come naturally. We would love to go back to a heavier sound at some stage, and we have every intention of doing another sort of Lord of Woe-esque album. But for now I think we’re just going to ride this wave and see what comes out. I can’t really speak for Nick, but I know that the way that he writes is that it has to be formed naturally. So yeah, I’m not really sure at this point in time, but that’s our philosophy. From here, no one knows, we could turn into a reggae-infused-pop-rock-duo or something. [Laughs]

Thank you very much for talking to Distorted Sound, and we’ll see you later this year for MAKE THEM SUFFER’s first headlining UK tour!

Worlds Apart is out now via Rise Records.

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