Beyond Grace are a Nottingham-born-and-bred death metal band that originally formed in UoN’s BandSoc in the late 2000s. I sat down with frontman and vocalist Andy, and guitarist (and ex-president of BandSoc) Tim, to ask them about their journey so far, and their newest album, Seekers.
1) So how did Beyond Grace come to be; what’s the story behind the band?
Andy: We formed at university, through a series of chance meetings and drunken misadventures. We then re-formed in 2014, though it’s not actually accurate to say we’d had “many years apart”. We’d been meandering along under a different name for a while, but had become dissatisfied with our sound and direction, and largely dysfunctional as a band. But none of us wanted to give up or break up, so we made a group decision (after a big, very serious meeting) to restart the band, pretty much from scratch, with a new name, a new focus, and a new commitment to making music purely for ourselves, rather than trying to fit into any preconceived idea or please anyone else.
Tim: I remember bumping into Andy in my first year of university at what was then called ‘The Ark’ (now The Studio) – for a BandSoc room booking sign up of all things. We were both playing in different bands at the time but at that year’s BandSoc Battle of the Bands Andy’s project had a guitarist drop out on them last minute and I jumped in to fill the space. From there I decided to stick around and we soon recruited Ed (drums) and Andrew (bass), who were studying at UoN at the time. It’s been a long hard road with many missteps and dead ends along the way, but as Andy has said, our ‘rebirth’ as Beyond Grace in 2014 was a chance to get our act together, write new music, and see how far we could get. Chris (guitar) joined earlier this year to solidify the line up.
2) Tell me a little about your creative process – how does a song go from a basic idea to a fully-fledged, album-worthy creation?
Andy: Tim is our main songwriter, at least in the sense that his riffs are the backbone of our sound. But we all contribute to the songwriting process, bringing riffs, melodies, and hooks to the table. Our singer tends to focus more on the song structures, etc. and is always thinking about the ordering (and re-ordering) of parts, whereas our drummer and bass player tend to work more in their own pocket, although their ideas often end up transforming the song or changing its feel quite drastically. And now, with the addition of Chris as our new guitarist, we have even more options. The process itself usually takes quite a long time, just because we’re a bunch of perfectionists, but we think it works out well in the end since it allows us to hammer and hone the songs into exactly the shape we want.
“Each band member brings a unique blend of inspiration into the mix…”
Tim: There’s no definitive formula for songwriting (sadly). But I find the discipline of constantly chipping away at songs and writing new ideas down to be helpful, even if 80% of it never sees the light of day. If I can string a few ideas together then with Andy’s help we normally arrange that into a sort of song which we run through with the band. From that point everyone is involved tweaking, rearranging and decorating the tracks. Normally the songs are in constant creative motion, and putting them down to record is a difficult thing because it means they can’t be perfected anymore. But that’s the game we’re in!
3) Who are your main musical inspirations?
Andy: Becoming the Archetype are still a big inspiration I feel. We tend to take a lot of our inspirations from some of the smaller names, not necessarily the big, more successful ones… which might work against us, but also gives us a lot of creative freedom as we’re not trying to fit into the standard mould.
Tim: Each band member brings a unique blend of inspiration into the mix, so there’s everything from classical, to 1970s prog, to musical theatre, to jazz, to every conceivable subgenera of metal all stirred into the pot together. Personally I get a lot of inspiration from the other guys in the band and other guitarists I’ve had the privilege of playing with – there’s nothing like rubbing shoulders with real musicians to inject a bit of inspiration into the creative process.
4) What’s been your favourite moment of being part of Beyond Grace so far?
Andy: So many good live shows, too many to mention really. But for me, personally, the joy of creating music, and feeling a song start to come together in the practice room, is almost unmatched. And I think that culminated in the moment when we got the final masters of the album back – hearing something we’d worked so hard on, for so long, finally come to fruition was worth all the time and effort we’d invested.
“the critical response has been amazingly positive”
Tim: I’m so proud of us for putting an album out and finally having something to show for the years of hard work, so every review we’ve received so far for the album so far has been a favourite moment. On top of that, every now and again you just find your groove in a live show, play well to a group of people who are really up for it, and think to yourself ‘this is awesome!’
5) You recently released your newest album, Seekers – what has the response been like for you guys?
Andy: The response has been shockingly good. We knew, or were at least confident, that we’d put together something good (though there’s still room for improvement) and something which would (hopefully) stand out from the crowd, but the critical response has been amazingly positive. The reception from fans has been similarly amazing, and we’ve been selling physical and digital copies not only to the UK but also to places like Canada, Australia, and the USA.
Tim: Overwhelmingly positive. I was nervous to put it out and subject our art to critique because although you think it’s great, being personally involved in the creative process makes it hard to objectively stand back and answer ‘is this actually any good?’ I’m sure every single creative person has felt that. But, it makes the reviews even better to read. I’ve enjoyed how almost every different review has picked out a different favourite moment from the album so I think there’s something for everyone.
“as long as we continue to follow our own sound … I’ll be happy.”
6) What have you got in the pipeline over the next few months?
Andy: We’ve got a shiny new video for ‘Apoptosis’ in the pipeline, new playthrough videos and promo pics (it’s about time we inducted Chris as an ‘official’ member of the band), and a few shows here and there just to tidy things up and make sure we don’t get too rusty. We’ve already started writing for our second album too, so hopefully you won’t have to wait too long for that!
Tim: Hopefully chipping away at new material and the odd live show here or there. We’re going to work on some play-through videos for some album tracks as well to keep up the momentum.
7) Where do you see yourself as a band in five years?
Andy: If we haven’t killed each other by then (unlikely, but you never know…) I hope we’ll have several more albums under our belt, and have continued to grow and develop as a band. I’m not sure where exactly that journey will take us (though we’re planning to hit both mainland Europe and the USA) but as long as we continue to follow our own sound, wherever it leads us, and don’t fall prey to the temptation just to try and sound like everyone else… I’ll be happy.
Tim: I’m utterly pragmatic with these things so I can only see what the next step is – Andy takes care of the ambitious vision! But I can tell you that a life ambition we might complete is to play an outside show ( a tent would also count).
8) Describe Beyond Grace in three words.
Andy: Better. Stronger. Faster.
Tim: Omni-dimensional death metal.
Beyond Grace’s latest album, Seekers, is available now on Bandcamp.
Featured image and article images courtesy of Beyond Grace.
Image use licence here.