Tonight Alive have been going from strength to strength ever since emerging from the Sydney Australia pop punk scene. In January 2018 the band will be releasing their fourth studio album Underworld through new label UNFD. We caught up with vocalist Jenna McDougall to talk about their latest single “Temple” and find out what we can expect from Underworld.

SCENEzine
Firstly congrats on your new song “Temple”. You must be stoked with the response it’s been getting?

Jenna McDougall
Thank you I am and we all are. It’s pretty rad this is a song we totally took a chance on that I totally believed in at the same time.

SCENEzine
How did the song come about in the writing process?

Jenna McDougall
I’m pretty sure if my memory serves me well that it was the last song we wrote. We were in Nashville where Whakaio has now moved to live. We were writing and he was on a different track so I went outside with a guitar I just remember having this idea in my head I’m intoxicated by my depression and that’s exactly how I felt at the time because I was really unwell. I felt very trapped in my body and I’m a sickness. I wrote that lyric down and the verse just flowed from there.

I honestly thought when I took that back into the studio that he would turn it down. I honestly thought that he would think it’s just too old school, too nostalgic. It’s not his regular style, even though he wrote the riff and we wrote the song together this is the type of song that Whakaio would of thought I don’t know if anybody else wants to hear this. It’s really true to what happened in the Underworld writing process that we were just like hey let it come. In a way that was the same story with Limitless on a different end of the scale.

Which was like let’s push ourselves and see what we are capable of. With Underworld we were like lets figure out what comes naturally to us and let ourselves return to our roots and what used to excite us as we were growing up and falling in love with music for the first time.

SCENEzine
Was the video clip a fun experience to make?

Jenna McDougall
Yes very much so. My original idea for the video was to walk through the streets of Melbourne and every few steps be handed a dog on a leash. By the end of the video (laughs) just be walking like a hundred dogs down the street. Logistically it didn’t work out but I got that idea because I was walking my dog. As I was walking her I was listening to “temple” and I started doing these weird dance moves. I was like oh this feels good. So I knew that I had to be walking down the street dancing because that’s where the idea for the video came from.

My friend Neil whose a great videographer I called him and said I want to make this video with you I don’t want to go to America I don’t want to do some bullshit big production. I just wanted to do it with friends and that’s how we did it. We went to Melbourne and danced through the streets. We performed at Black Rabbit which is our friends bar at the end of the night. We did the bathroom scene in St Kilda’s town hall it was just rad. It was so much fun I want to make every video like that.

SCENEzine
Would you say the new album Underworld is a mix of all of your previous work?

Jenna McDougall
I think so man it definitely returns to the edginess, heaviness and nostalgic vibe of The Other Side. It also has that polished cinematic feel that Limitless has. Both of those are qualities of our guitarist and songwriter Whakaio. He’s super into movie scores and bands like 30 Seconds To Mars and Angels and Airwaves. He loves soundscape stuff so we have a lot of synth and clean beautiful production. But Whakaio also totally riffed out again which is nice because when we made Limitless his goal was to not palm mute and to not really use distortion guitars as much because that was a safe zone for him and he was sick of doing the same thing. It was really nice to return to going back to when you weren’t afraid and there were no expectations but with evolved minds being able to do it in a new way.

 

SCENEzine
When Tonight Alive first emerged you were known as the new pop punk band with a female singer. What has it been liked being boxed into a genre initially?

Jenna McDougall
That feels so far away now. I was listening to some of our old songs when we were putting the setlist together for the tour we are on, it’s creepy it’s so jagged and the songs are really fast and I sing really high and very snappy. I guess that’s the sound of being that age. It’s cool because I think we really honed that sound and that direction with The Other Side when that sound was at it’s peak for us. That’s the most that we ever grew when we put that record out. That really blew up for us. After that like I said Whakaio was especially in the frame of mind like ok we’ve already done that I don’t want to do it again. So then we were like ok what else are we capable of, where else can we take our music. That’s why we took a sharp left turn and did Limitless.

It was really satisfying for us as songwriters but also satisfying for the performers in us. Because The Other Side and What Are You So Scared Of are quite heavy records and really angsty. People very passionately connected with our music and then you have a record like Limitless which is super uplifting we are talking about higher consciousness and self liberation which is a really big difference from The Other Side where we are talking about break ups and the angst of growing up and becoming an adult. It’s cool to hear Underworld and be hearing The Other Side come through us again but with the mentality that we used for Limitless.

SCENEzine
How does your lyric writing process work? Do you have a journal you go to?

Jenna McDougall
No I always hear singers talk about that like Alanis Morrisette she journals all the time she says. Then when she wants to write a song she opens the page in her journal and interprets it into a song which is awesome. But I don’t work like that, what I do is write one lyric down in my phone and then it evolves into a song when I tap back into it. Like when I said to you before I wrote I’m intoxicated by my depression the song “Temple” started with that lyric. That was a note on my phone and I know when I open that note that I’m going to be able to pour out a song just from one line. It’s kind of how it works for me if I have a thought or a conversion I just take note of it and it flows from there when we are in the moment with the instruments in front of us.

SCENEzine
Now that the band are a four piece has it presented many challenges?

Jenna McDougall
Well it’s really brand new actually because we made the record with Whakaio and he and I wrote it at the start of this year then we finished recording in July then he moved to Nashville. It’s a really new change and we’ve played a few shows without him so far, it’s pretty bizarre. We are feeling really united and I think we had no other choice but to be united through this time. It doesn’t feel unnatural not having him here which is the most surprising part because I honestly feel that Whakaio is the band. He’s been our leader, our songwriter and the behind the scenes man just as much as he is an incredible performer and musician.

So it hasn’t shell shocked us which is as I said really surprising but we know it’s the healthiest decision that he has to make for himself. He’s pursuing something that’s challenging him. He’s a really high achieving guy and really gifted so we are really glad that he’s doing something that’s soul satisfying. We wish that could of been with Tonight Alive and I want to be able to tell the bands story one day and say it was five of us and always was. But at the same time it always will be because he’s in our essence and he’s still in our music. He’s in everything we do he’s just not present. It’s a new chapter but I think it’s really healthy for everybody.

SCENEzine
I managed to catch your set in Wollongong. I was blown away by the energy you had on stage. It must feel cool to re-connect with parts of Australia you haven’t played in a while again?

Jenna McDougall
Definitely yeah I mentioned on stage we hadn’t played the Uni Bar Wollongong for seven years (laughs). It’s outrageous how long we’ve been around and the fact that we can come back and re-visit all those memories and create new ones at the same time. I definitely feel like I’ve came back to myself. I had a lot of time off the road this year it’s been really quite for touring for us because we were making the record it took us like six months.

It’s really good to be back on the road. I was honestly a little nervous leading up to it because it had been a little while but the first show was Canberra and it was like there was no warm up needed. I was like I remember everything and I know who I am most importantly. That’s the kind of confidence I usually have to talk myself into but it just came really naturally. So I’m really happy to be back on the road.

SCENEzine
It must be crazy to think over the last five years how little you’ve toured in your home country versus touring overseas?

Jenna McDougall
Yeah I think the last three years we’ve only played in Australia one tour each year and they aren’t expensive tour either. It’s time to change that and it’s really nice to be working with UNFD an Aussie indie label that really know this market more so than Sony did. We were really disconnected from the Australian industry through Sony that wasn’t the way they wanted it but there wasn’t really a relationship with the community when we were signed to Sony. Now it feels really good to be on a label with a lot of our friends bands, bands that we came up with in the same scene like Northlane and Hellions. We all come from the same part of Sydney and used to play the same shows. It’s rad it’s a new chapter for us and feels really natural and exactly where we belong for the first time (laughs).

SCENEzine
Is it a bit surreal sometimes to be in USA or UK and see yourself on magazine covers then come back to more of a normal life in Australia?

Jenna McDougall
Yeah it’s pretty weird like the UK is ridiculous we sold the same amount of tickets in London in one day as we did in Sydney over four months. So the demand is really different there. I think the scene is a lot better maintained and nurtured in UK especially.

They have all these rock magazines and rock radio stations I know we have them in Australia too but they are kind of mainstream and fully available to people over there. Like we don’t have Blunt and Hysteria being printed anymore but you can go to any newsstand or grocery store and see a kerrang and rock sound magazine in UK. It’s really cool because we get put out there and people pick it up and see us regardless of weather they are trying to or not. It’s two different worlds but it’s also two very different feelings because when you come from Australia it means so much more that your people are behind you and it really feels like that on this tour.

Nothing compares to that it doesn’t really matter about the press and recognition overseas when you compare it to people from your home country totally believing in you and backing you. It’s a really beautiful feeling.

SCENEzine
I interviewed Ella Hooper earlier this year and she was saying she was a big fan of yours. It must be cool to know your carrying the torch for female fronted rock in Australia?

Jenna McDougall
Did she really say that?

SCENEzine
Yeah 100%

Jenna McDougall
I have goosebumps on my whole body that’s so cool. We did a Killing Heidi cover for Channel V at the start of last year and that was really freaking cool. She reached out to me and said she loved it and she really enjoyed our take on it which was really sweet. I was like oh my god Ella Hooper contacted me I freaking love Killing Heidi. I am so inspired by her in the beginning I did green synthetic dreadlocks. I did green braids for our video “human interaction”. My whole vision for my image on that record was based on her futuristic punk trance vibe from early Killing Heidi days. Unfortunately because of the control that I was experiencing with Sony at that time I couldn’t continue that vision. But I was able to get it out there for a couple of videos “human interaction” and “how does it feel”. Also on Warped tour last year I had custom outfits that were kind of like military space inspired. She was definitely apart of that inspiration for me. It’s really, really cool that she is acknowledging our music it’s a big deal to me thanks.

SCENEzine
You’ve done so many rad things you’ve worked with Mark Hoppus, Benji Madden, you’ve played huge festivals. Is there anything that exists still on your bucket list?

Jenna McDougall
(laughs) Oh man I don’t know I’ve never been a person that had those super specific goals except that I always wanted to play Acer Arena in Sydney which has since changed it’s name. I don’t want to say that it seems less and less likely as time goes on but I don’t even know how big that place is but it’s huge. It’s kind of near my house it’s in Homebush. I want to play an arena I don’t give a damn how it sounds but I want our music to reach enough people that we can play that size show. It might not even be as amazing as playing a club show I don’t know because I haven’t done it. But I want to know how it feels (laughs).

(interview by Christian Ross)

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *