After just driving for two and a half days from Milwalkee in a van, six guys arrived in Vancouver. Four of them make up the band The Boxer Rebellion. Relieved that there weren’t any incidents on the trip, the group finished off their soundcheck at The Biltmore Cabaret and their lead singer Nathan Nicholson along with bassist Adam Harrison sat down with Hugo Lunny for a few words for MVRemix.
The Boxer Rebellion have been together for nearly a decade now, and have endured both significant ups, and downs. They’ve had their major label deal, but due to issues beyond their control, their label went under and the band opted for the indie route which has proven well for them.
The group’s music has been heavily featured in TV and film, enabling the UK based band (with a lead singer originally from Tennessee) to travel the world recording music and touring.
MVRemix: Your name, “The Boxer Rebellion,” I know you’re aware of the history of it, but how would you say it relates to your name as a group?
Adam Harrison: Well we didn’t choose the name for any relatable reason. I mean it’s really tough picking a band name and we spent ages going through some terrible names to try and come to it. Actually as un-glamourous as it sounds, we started looking in historical encyclopedias and we found one when we got to “B” and we liked the sound of it. The story was really interesting to which I guess is part of the reason why we chose it, but it was mainly because it sounded good.
Nathan Nicholson: We couldn’t relate it to us then. But I think since we’ve been through the whole major label machine and stuff like that, maybe that could represent the Westernized society… Our struggle against–
Adam: [interupting] –And we’ve always been underdogs, and they were definitely underdogs, The Boxer’s, so I guess you could relate it but it wasn’t the primary reason for choosing the name.
Nathan: I think sometimes people think we’re political because we…
Adam: Yeah, not so.
Nathan: I mean we have political ideals, but we’re not Rage Against The Machine or something.
Adam: We’re not gonna broadcast them like Bono or anything.
MVRemix: So going from taking the name without the historical aspect, who are your favourite boxers?
Adam: For me I think it’s gotta be Frank Bruno, I love Frank Bruno.
Nathan: Who’s the new guy though? And he’s got a —
Adam: Manny Pacquiao?
Nathan: No, no, no, he beat that big Russian guy?
Adam: What? A British guy? Is he a white guy?
Adam: I don’t know. I don’t really like many of the modern boxers actually.
Nathan: I need to find out, I’m gonna go ask Piers [Hewitt] because we were talking about it.
[Nathan leaves to go find the group’s drummer, Piers]
Adam: I never really liked Lennox Lewis much, same with Amir Khan – far too cocky. There’s no humility anymore in boxing. I guess that’s part of the build up and the psyching out of the opponent.
Nathan: He wasn’t out there. Oh well.
MVRemix: Going back to music, you guys have been doing stuff for about ten years now. Compare then in your recording mentality to now, because I’ve seen you (Adam) talking about approaching it now from a much more business perspective. How was it when you were making music initially versus today?
Nathan: Initially it was more about quantity in a short space of time. I guess the first EP we ever recorded as a band, we did five songs in four days or so, which is not too bad.
Adam: When you’re starting out, business just doesn’t come into it. You’re just a young band trying to scrape together enough money to record something and hope that anyone, regardless of whether they’re absolute bastards or not, will sign you. In that stage you’re just hoping to make a small dent and try and get anywhere. Obviously nowadays we’ve learned a hell of a lot and it’s got to the point where we oversee everything and we’re much more wise as to what contracts are good contracts and what are bad contracts. We also have the luxury of being able to work with great producers and make albums in a space of time that allows you to get the best out of them.
MVRemix: As you do have to concentrate on the financial aspect of things, when you’re creating songs do you ever consider the business aspect thinking “This will work great in this niche market”?
Adam: Well it’s all still about the music. If you start thinking about writing music for different markets or even the whole market, if you start thinking about making music specifically for radio or a specific demographic, like “Young girls are gonna love this song…” or Radiohead fans are gonna love that song, then you start sounding less authentic. I think really you cant bear any of those outside factors in mind. We’re only business minded when it comes to making the right decisions post-music. We don’t really write music with a business agenda.
MVRemix: When you’re touring, do you also find as you’re operating from a business perspective, that you can allocate time where you can look at the places?
Nathan: No we don’t really feel like we have time —
Adam: — We’re still on a budget.
Nathan: We do have to be very mindful of where we go and we have to make sure we have enough just to break even.
Adam: Rentals… Cover costs.
Nathan: It’s kind of boring, but we need to make sure of that. I think sometimes people are like, “Why don’t you come to the middle of nowhere?” Or to some cities. It’s purely just down to the fact that we can’t afford to go.
Adam: Nate and I actually walked five miles around Vancouver today though. We try to make an effort to see places if we can, it’s the real shame about it touring. Everyone says, “Wow, you get to see the world!” But really you get to see a hotel and a restaurant if you’re lucky.
MVRemix: With regards to “The Cold Still,” how do you feel that has been received thus far?
Adam: Basically its been fantastic. It hasn’t completely gone off yet.
Nathan: Yeah, its been pretty good. We’re pretty happy about it. We were kind of giving ourselves a long time to work it but it has gone pretty well.
MVRemix: How many songs were recorded in total for it?
Nathan: Just the ten.
Adam: Well the eleven.
Nathan: We did an acoustic track.
Adam: I’d say in the studio we thirteen maybe. We probably wrote twenty.
MVRemix: What made you go with the ones that you did and leave the other ones aside? Was that because they meshed?
Adam: Well it was a mixture of both really.
Nathan: You just get kind of a feeling from songs; which ones are right and which ones aren’t quite there. There’s a few songs as demos that I think would be nice to keep in the bag not maybe for another album, but if we ever get asked to write for a movie again. It’s nice to have those ideas to touch on.
MVRemix: With regards to your live performance, which artists have influenced that?
Nathan: The first band that when we started out and we were playing gigs, we went and played a gig, this was early, early days for us, and we played some festival at Nottingham. Some school festival, and it was headlined by The Cooper Temple Clause. I thought we were doing fine, we were doing okay… Then they came on stage and it was like, “This is proper. This is what a professional band is all about.” It kind of floored me in thinking, “Man, we are absolute shit. We really need to get our stuff together.” Seeing BRMC (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and things like that for the first time, obviously you think U2 or Radiohead, but I was looking at bands that were an attainable goal.
Adam: You can say to a certain degree that U2 influenced you, but I doubt that you can actually pull off their influence live. Having a claw in somewhere like The Biltmore would be somewhat —
Nathan: — ridiculous. Impossible.
MVRemix: A la “Fight Club,” “If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight”?
Adam: This is more like “Celebrity Deathmatch.” I mean that’s what you’re saying, that’s not really “Fight Club.”
MVRemix: Well no, there’s a line in “Fight Club” where Brad Pitt’s character asks Edward Norton, “If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight?” And Norton says “Shatner, I’d fight Shatner.”
Adam: Who would I fight? I’d love to beat up Bee Gee Robbin Gibb. Just ’cause his face is… [cringes] It always gets me. It’s a terrible thing to say.
MVRemix: But would you win?
Adam: Course I’d win, look at him.
MVRemix: And you Nathan?
Nathan: Maybe in the Bee Gees’ heyday because they were kind of like troublemakers…
MVRemix: You’d take on them all?
Nathan: No, no, it wouldn’t be all the Bee Gees. It would be… I don’t really know. Jared Leto? I know he is in “Fight Club” and he gets the shit kicked out of him, and he deserves it again, doesn’t he?
Adam: Again. He deserves it in real life, he wouldn’t have been beaten up for real.
Nathan: But it was still entertaining.
MVRemix: Any last words?
Adam: Buy the record, come to a show, then buy a T-Shirt at the show. Then donate money to The Boxer Rebellion–
Nathan: –I thought you were gonna say cancer research or something.
Adam: Donate money to Japan. Actually in all seriousness, we did something with the guys from Hanson and Michael Stipe was involved down at SXSW. It’s called SXSW 4 Japan and you can still donate. Basically a load of bands went in and recorded a single track. Ben Folds did a track… It’s really good, I think people should donate there.