Jonathan Geddes

15:04 8th February 2007

Senses Fail

For a musician, joining an established band can be difficult. There’s always the danger that you’ll forever be perceived as the “new guy”, unable to fit in alongside people already accustomed to each other’s presence and habits. However, for Heath Saraceno, guitarist with New Jersey’s finest exports of emo tinged hardcore punk, Senses Fail, that hasn’t been a problem. After joining the band as a fill in guitarist in 2005 it seems he’s found the adjustment easy to make. He explains: “I started touring with them as a fill in and we started writing on that tour. It was an easy fit from day one, I went and learned songs and we started playing together and it just felt like a click. There wasn’t much time [for me to feel like the new guy]. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we practiced for a month and a half before we left for tour, we practiced like 3-5 days a week, they got to know me really well and I got to know them really well! By the time we went on tour we already had an understanding.”

Now firmly established as one of the band, Saraceno is eager to talk about his first record with the group, last year’s ‘Still Searching’. The follow up to 2004’s debut, ‘Let It Enfold You’, the album sees the band expand on the template set on their debut. According to Saraceno, one of the band’s biggest problems was having too much material. “We just wrote a ton of songs, we probably had ideas for 30-40 songs and we finished about 25-30 of them and they were all a little bit different. They were songs that sounded a little cock rock, we had songs that sounded like early 90s alternative shit, we had some really metal songs. We recorded all of them ourselves and we started picking and choosing and trying to find the most cohesive songs that would create a record that would sound like it was from one band”.
Senses Fail - Still SearchingOf the 13 tracks that did finally make the album there’s a few that stand out in the guitarist’s mind as best exemplifying what the band are about. He feels that “A couple of tracks definitely stand out, ‘Priest And The Matador’,  ‘The Rapture’, ‘Sick Or Sane’, ‘Can’t Be Saved’. I think if you took those tracks and put them in a blender that’s how you could sum up the tone of the record.”

That slightly disturbing visual aside, it is clear the band recorded with a lot of ideas flying about, trying to create the right mixture. Saraceno adds another, less disconcerting analogy to describe how the creative process worked. “We went in without having any boundaries. We wrote like that and then had to pull in the reins a little bit. And that’s how we then picked the songs for the record. Some days were like a big tidal wave of musical ideas! And other days it was like just trying to pull it… like working with dough and trying to turn that into a pizza, stretching it out! Trying to figure out where it was going, all these different things.”

Senses Fail

Obviously, with the album done and dusted the band were quick to hit the road and start to tour, including a trip on the prominent Taste Of Chaos tour in Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand last year. Saraceno does exhibit some weariness when describing the tour as being “Just a lot of dudes hanging out together, no bust-ups” and then confesses that the forthcoming North American leg of the tour will consist of “just showing up for the same thing everyday, it’s gonna be pretty boring. But at least it’s consistent!”

Yet last year’s tour did give him some good memories as “A lot of those places we’d never been before, never been in Japan or Australia,  to be able to go and do shows like that, where there’s no pressure on you whatsoever to go and draw kids, all you have to do and play and win them over. Also, coming here [the UK] on that tour we were able to play some bigger venues, we played the SECC which was just a blast, great fun. We played Brixton Academy, just a great vibe, we played it and killed it, that was a real standout.”

Currently the band are back in the UK, playing their own headlining tour in smaller venues. That in itself excites Saraceno. The band are looking forward to it because “Everyone coming to the show wants to see us. This is our first time headlining here [the UK] and we’re just glad, we’ll see what happens. We’ll get out there, play in front of these 500-600 hundred kids tonight, really excited for that. We’ll play a good mix. On the next tour we’ll be playing more new songs than old ones, we’ll start to phase some of the older ones out. But we don’t want to alienate people who don’t have the new record”.

When discussing influences Saraceno has some obvious inspirations. “It was Metallica, Megadeth, and Led Zep, bands like that. For this band there’s a whole bunch that we all looked up to. The bands that you’re way into when you start a band, those are gonna be the bands that affect the way you think about your band. Bands like Thursday, Jimmy Eat World, Get Up Kid, Saves The Day, Fairweather”. He’s quick to stress that while Senses Fail have some clear influences they are determined to ensure they put their own spin on it. “There’s always got to be some originality in it, I think that we bring a lot of our individual styles and tastes to the band.”

What is a surprise is his favourite album of recent years, the jazz/pop of ‘Let It Die’ by Canadian singer (and Broken Social Scene member) Leslie Feist. However he’s quick to point out with a laugh that there will be “No influence though [on Senses Fail], not now or any time!”. That’s a relief. For Senses Fail have clearly mastered the art of screaming, loud rock. Long may they continue.