Animals As Leaders

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“We know we are good and we know what we are capable of.”

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Staying ahead of the ever expanding musical landscape is becoming increasingly difficult as technological advancements continue to widen the market while simultaneously reducing choices.

With more music out there than ever before getting noticed and subsequently staying relevant is no longer a case of following the album/tour cycle that has been so effective in the past.

Bands are constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ideas to keep their name at the forefront of people minds, but according to Javier Reyes, guitarist for the instrumental three piece Animals As Leaders, sometimes the best place to look is within yourself.

“Music is constantly evolving,” he offered. “The internet and streaming is changing things every year, faster than we realise. We’re constantly having to think of new stuff. As soon as we get to the next level there’s a new challenge that makes us feel like we haven’t grown that much. We know the band is bigger than it ever has been but it feels like there’s still a lot of work to do or that the work has just begun. At the end of the day it becomes a business and it becomes work and you have to keep tuning it like it’s some kind of engine by feeding it new things and new ideas. Whether it be tab books, videos, instructional stuff or endorsing instruments or products there’s a lot that’s involved and we’re constantly trying to work on it. We’re always trying to stay relevant.”

With their recently released fourth album, The Madness of Many coming out last month, Animals as Leaders provided a unique twist on this notion by releasing as their first single preceding the album a song that was far removed from their usual sound in the hope the attention it garnered would reverberate through the music community. It was a move that didn’t generate the expected response, but was still a fruitful experiment.

The song, ‘The Brain Dance’, featuring acoustic flamenco style guitars, was released as a conscious decision to divide opinion but instead was well received both critically and commercially.

“Absolutely,” Reyes admitted when asked if it was a deliberate ploy by the band. “The song is so different to anything we’ve done in the past. The original intent was to put it out and have people give negative feedback. We wanted to have a bit of drama and make people think that we had gone weak or commercial but it was the opposite (laughs). People said it was cool and amazing so it still worked out well.”

While admitting to caring more about how fans receive Animals as Leaders music than critics, Reyes also believes that in order to flourish as a band they have to be selfish more often and make music for themselves first and foremost.

“I’ve never read a review first and had it as the reason why I bought a CD or didn’t,” he said. “I think it’s a bonus to hear someone’s opinion with a credible name but ultimately I don’t think it matters what a reviewer thinks. It’s important to have the fans appreciate it too of course but when we wrote the first album we didn’t have fans but we still wrote music. There was no critics or fans, it was just a matter of us writing music for ourselves so I think we try to keep that approach with every album. We don’t set out or send a letter to the fans asking them to tell us what they want to hear on the next album and we don’t do that with reviewers either. We just keep doing what we want to do and luckily the listeners – both the reviewers and the fans – have gravitated towards it.”

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Animals as Leaders was initially formed with a view to being a solo project for Tosin Abasi who is himself an accomplished guitarist, having recently played with musicians of the calibre of Nino Bettencourt, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Zakk Wylde as part of the Generation Axe tour earlier this year, but with the addition of Reyes and Matt Garstka on drums it was soon evident that the band was more than a one man show.

“The original idea was the owner of Prosthetic Records wanted Tosin to make a solo album,” Reyes explained, “but he didn’t want to call it the Tosin Project or whatever. He just wanted to give it a band name so it naturally evolved as an instrumental thing from birth. Now we enjoy the benefit of being able to slide in and out of different genres or support slots so luckily it has worked out for us.”

With three accomplished musicians in the band, particularly two guitarists who are in the elite of their chosen profession, Reyes says there is never a shortage of inspiration in the studio.

“I think we’re always trying to push each other,” he enthused. “We know we are good and we know what we are capable of. I don’t think we’ve ever limited each other. We’re just trying to do what’s best for the song and if someone can’t play it in that moment then they will learn how to.”

The biggest challenge facing an instrumental band is in the live arena. With no vocalist or front man it reduces the capacity to entertain by way of distraction and leaves every note or blemish as a feature rather than a component.

While admitting it can be difficult to sustain audience interest with only instruments as entertainment, Reyes says the band has found other tricks to add to their arsenal.

“We use lights and visuals,” he laughed.  “We don’t move a hell of a lot because we are standing there concentrating on whether our pedals are working so a lot of it comes back to production. We also try to interact with the audience but for the most part I think people are just intrigued with what we are doing.”

Because of the intricacy of much of their guitar work the band has been limited to what they can do in the way of improvisation on stage, but Reyes warns fans to expect the unexpected on next year’s tour.

“The older material is all prearranged,” he conceded, “but on the new album Tosin definitely tried to improvise a lot more and on this tour he is trying to improvise as well. We all agreed that if that’s where he is trying to go as a guitar player the best way to do it is live and putting himself in that position where he has to perform 100% so on this tour he is definitely improvising more and it’s the first time he has done that which is exciting.”

Written by Kris Peters

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THE MADNESS OF MANY TOUR

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with special guests PLINI and Nick Johnson
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SAT
FEB 25
2017

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BRISBANE
THE TRIFFID

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THUR
MAR 2
2017

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PERTH
CAPITOL

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SUN
FEB 26
2017

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SYDNEY
THE METRO

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TUE
NOV 28
2017

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MELBOURNE
170 RUSSELL

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WED
MAR 1
2017

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ADELAIDE
THE GOV

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