Six Things You Need To Know About

Lion­ize

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Polly Glass Por­trait: Will Ire­land Nuclear Soul is re­leased on Septem­ber 8 via The End Records.

We met with the funky Mary­land four­some as they pre­pared for the re­lease of their big­gest-sound­ing record yet.

The video for Lion­ize’s new track Blind­ness To Dan­ger fea­tures front­man Nate Bergman be­ing mer­ci­lessly de­stroyed by a pro­fes­sional wrestler. It’s just the kind of dar­ing you’d ex­pect from a man who per­forms in head-to-toe gold.

“It’s a metaphor for clawing your way to the top,” Bergman tells us, “and it’s not al­ways about win­ning the fight, but liv­ing it the next day.”

There’s cer­tainly a lot of fight in this Mary­land four-piece, and it was dis­played in their re­cent Lon­don show. An almighty blast of fiery grooves, Deep Pur­ple-in­fused or­gan and Bergman’s soulcharged vo­cals (in­formed by the likes of Sam Cooke, OV Wright and Joe Cocker), their live set has won over a lot of naysay­ers and finds the band on tremen­dous form.

Their lat­est al­bum, Nuclear Soul, merges sci-fi with re­al­ity.

Where their pre­vi­ous al­bums have surfed fan­tas­ti­cal worlds (draw­ing lyri­cally from the likes of Philip K Dick and Star Wars), their sixth is more cen­tred on cur­rent events. Not that they’ve lost their sense of the science-fic­tional.

“We’ve ar­rived at this dystopian world that we were fan­ta­sis­ing about for years,” Bergman rea­sons. “Don­ald Trump is pres­i­dent. We’re here, it’s now. This is Back To The Fu­ture. These are re­ally emo­tion­ally raw sto­ries that we’re telling about our­selves ex­pe­ri­enc­ing this stuff, but through the scope of a sci-fi world.”

They’re a rock’n’roll band, with vi­brant roots.

As a fresh­man in high school, Bergman was lis­ten­ing to bands such as Clutch, Led Zep­pelin and ZZ Top. Soon af­ter a friend played him a tape of go-go mu­sic – a DC-born hy­brid of funk, Latin and hip-hop –he went to an all-ages go-go show at a nearby school.

“I’ll never for­get see­ing the rick­ety stage, where a high-school march­ing band might per­form,” he re­mem­bers, “and these guys from in­ner-city DC play­ing to what was seem­ingly a pre­dom­i­nantly African-Amer­i­can crowd. I was mes­merised, think­ing: ‘This is cooler than punk rock’, be­cause no one was try­ing to hurt me. It was this real or­ganic nat­u­ral en­ergy.”

‘Reg­gae-rock’ is part of their story…

A sim­i­larly nat­u­ral en­ergy was in­te­gral to Lion­ize when they formed in 2004, hav­ing col­lec­tively in­gested go-go, clas­sic rock, reg­gae, punk and blues. Over the years their reg­gae cre­den­tials es­pe­cially grew strong; they’ve toured with Steel Pulse and Bad Brains, and recorded in the Bob Mar­ley-famed Harry J Stu­dios in Ja­maica. At one point they were the back­ing band for reg­gae/dub leg­end Lee Scratch Perry.

…but not the whole story

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, Lion­ize are far less niche than their his­tory might sug­gest – and they hope that Nuclear Soul, with its big­ger, broader rock scope, will change things.

“La­bels are good in one sense, but if you don’t like reg­gae, that au­to­mat­i­cally dis­counts us,” Bergman says. “And we’re so much more than that, we’re con­stantly evolv­ing. At this point we’ve said what we want to say with reg­gae. It’ll come back, maybe, but right now we’re re­ally ex­cit­ing about mov­ing for­ward.”

They’re not afraid to think big.

Hav­ing pre­miered Nuclear Soul on tour with their friends Clutch last year, the band have seen that the new ma­te­rial thrives in huge venues, as well as the more in­ti­mate ones.

“The pri­or­ity is writ­ing great songs. But our band is very in­ter­ested in suc­cess, in terms of reach­ing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. I don’t think there’s a doubt in my mind that we want to be one of the big­gest bands in the UK, in Amer­ica. Any band that tells you they don’t think about broader suc­cess is ly­ing.”

They sound tough, but they wouldn’t trash a dress­ing room.

“We kick down the door with a smile,” grins Bergman. “We’ve been through the shit­ti­est parts of a band’s ca­reer; we’ve been dropped from la­bels, we’ve have tours fall out from un­der us, we’ve been in the mid­dle of nowhere, Wy­oming with a hun­dred and forty dol­lars in our ac­count; we’ve slept in vans, on floors, out­side, un­der the van… We re­alise what it’s like to be treated like shit. It wouldn’t feel right if we showed up two hours late and trashed the dress­ing room. At the end of the day we’re mu­si­cians, we get to travel and play mu­sic, and that’s a priv­i­lege.”

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