Here’s my interview with Henry Upton, the bassist for Maryland-based Lionize whose phenomenal new album Jetpack Soundtrack dropped on February 18th.
I’m of the opinion that people from many musical backgrounds can embrace your music as you combine so many styles. How would you describe your sound? Who do you think your target audience is?
I would probably call it groove rock. Or just rock music at this point. Our target audience is really anybody who is an avid music listener. I think we are accessible to the casual music fan as well, but we really covet the die-hard music enthusiast. Whatever genre that might be.
In the course of your decade-long career you’ve released five stylistically diverse albums. I guess the main shift was from the reggae-inspired Space Pope and the Glass Machine to Destruction Manual. What exactly dictated the change towards the heavy rock aesthetic?
Looking back it’s kind of hard to say. We were touring with reggae bands as well as rock acts. I think we just started to listen to different types of music and wanted to expand the sound of the band. We’ve always been big on Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc. and grew into reflecting those influences. There was no conscious decision to change anything. It just happened.
You tour a lot, and have shared the stage with a multitude of different artists. What are your favorite bands to play with? Who would you like to play with in the future?
Obviously we’ve toured extensively with Clutch. Some other favorites include Steel Pulse, Orange Goblin, Ozomatli, and Kamchatka. I’m definitely leaving some people out. There’s so many good acts out there. It’d be a trip to play with ZZ Top, Government Mule, the Meters or Stevie Wonder.
You’ve always been endorsed by Clutch, and your new album is co-produced by Jean Paul Gaster, and released by Weathermaker Music. What does your relationship with these guys look like?
It looks a lot like guys talking shop about music and enjoying the occasional craft beer. We’ve known those guys for nearly a decade so we are friends and see eye to eye about a lot of things. It’s probably the best label/artist relationship one could hope for.
Superczar and the Vulture, which I’m a huge fan of, was produced by J. Robbins of Jawbox, while Jetpack Soundtrack is co-produced by Machine (King Crimson, Lamb Of God). How does the approach of these two renowned producers differ?
Machine is very intense. He is more of a conductor in the studio. He tries to become a honorary band member and crawl inside the songs with you. Very hands-on. J. is more cerebral. He is more focused on cultivating an environment to capture the natural sound of the band. He wants to get to the heart of your live sound. He’s a master of getting the best takes out of you and is fantastic with harmonies. They have different approaches. Both are brilliant.
Jetpack Soundtrack is more straightforward and accessible than any of your previous releases. Has this alteration in style come naturally or has it been meticulously planned?
A little bit of both. We’ve been moving in that direction since Destruction Manual; trying to trim the fat and really focus on getting to the point. People respond to that. As listeners, we respond to that. I wouldn’t call it meticulously planned. We definitely rehearsed, rewrote and reworked the material a lot but it felt natural. I think J.P. and Machine were a big help in that regard.
There’s a strong focus on infectious melodies on the new album, which is often reflected in a great vocal interplay between Nate and Chris. What were your influences vocal-wise?
Vocally we are just looking for the best melodies we can find. We wanted to have more interplay between the vocals and we wanted big hooks. I can’t pinpoint a specific influence. Good question for those guys.
From the artwork and title to the music and lyrics, Jetpack Soundtrack is very much a space rock album. Do you agree with me on this?
I like that description. Space is endless you know.
Your lyrics are often inspired by sci-fi and comic books. What movies and books had an impact on the concept of Jetpack Soundtrack?
Ray Bradbury’s short stories, Philip K. Dick, The Twilight Zone, X-Men, Scud the Disposable Assassin, Silver Surfer, Star Wars, Batman, Watchmen and a lot more.
What are your favorite tunes from the new album?
Personally, my favorite track is “Amazing Science Facts.” A good bit of it is 5/4 time which is a blast live. And kind of catches people off guard.
What do you think the future holds for Lionize?
I’m not sure. It’ll be a fun ride though.