Norwich rockers Prey Drive are right up with there as one of the most exciting new bands we’ve discovered in our last year of promoting new bands. The band has an impressive knack for writing engaging rock tracks built around their guitar-led sound – which has you baffled as to how they only have one guitarist.
The quartet of Brad Smith (vocals and keys), Steve Larke (guitars and backing vocals), Paul Gaul (bass) and Christian Kett (drums) formed late last year when Steve set about putting together a band for a few song ideas he’d come up with. All members have previously toured the UK and Europe, whether it be in their own bands (Atlas&i, Darwin & the Dinosaur, Deers, Gospel) or as session musicians for international bands, including Johnny Craig’s US band Slaves last year.
The band is now on the verge of embarking on an exciting European tour of their own, which kicks off with two UK gigs beginning on Friday (1 September). That’s to support the recent release of debut EP Tabula Rasa, which is quite the introduction.
Built around a key theme of starting again, the band tell us: “Tabula Rasa focuses on the realisation that you’ve perhaps been taking the wrong, long path and then having to retrace your steps. It’s about starting right back at the beginning but not knowing where you will end up this time around.”
The EP opens up with a big energetic blast of winding guitars in the intro to Brand New Skin, which is a metaphor for being wounded, hurt or beaten and having to heal. As the band explain: “It’s about growing old and having every day life taking its toll on your body and mind but trying to start a new day with a fresh start and new attitude.”
Big smashing drums drive the track forward as it builds in intensity through the opening verse, with flowing vocals over palm muted guitars, which build into a powerful, layered chorus with Thrice-like vocals – including some really cool effects on the long notes. The second verse is bigger, with diving guitars leading into a cry of “You won’t remember my name” and flows into a dramatic ending.
That’s followed by the equally enjoyable More Than Magic, which starts off slowly with organs supporting light vocals then suddenly bursts into life with big wandering guitars and hugely engaging vocals. A singalong chorus follows, then fun little guitar bursts followed by calls of “Magic” that flow into a repeat of the chorus.
In the band’s words: “More Than Magic is about trying your hardest to make something work but your best never being good enough, no matter how many times you try and bend or mould yourself into something your not.” Check out the video below:
Next up, the EP title track Tabula Rasa is about death, what happens after it and the realisation that something is over. It opens up with a light guitar riff over palm muted guitar chords, with vocals that build into a powerful chorus. The band’s guitar-led focus is particularly evident here, with all manner of awesome riffs going on, including a big heavy breakdown that’s followed by the track dropping down into the opening riff and then slowly building to a heavy conclusion.
Final track Like Animals begins with a lone, slow piano intro, then smashes into a big heavy mesh of guitars and a wildly enjoyable opening verse. The track drops down again with funky building guitars and drums soon joined by intriguing vocals, then flowing into a big singalong chorus of “We used to be like animals” that the band tell us “is a metaphor for being once hungry and having the energy to fight but now being an old wounded animal that can’t really protect itself anymore.”
The track continues to build in heaviness, with a big, intense bridge between two choruses and huge bass supporting the winding guitars. At 5:33 this is by far the longest track on the EP, and showcases Prey Drive’s superb songwriting abilities, particularly their knack for writing engaging vocal lines perfectly complemented by winding guitars.
On the EP, the band told us: “The reception to the EP has so far been very positive. It’s still very new and we’re working on getting it heard as much as possible, but overall the response has been great. You can expect an energetic EP with soaring guitars mixed with angelic vocals and you’ll be in the ballpark!
“Steve had the song ideas for almost two years before the EP was released, so for him, it’s nice to finally have them heard by other people! As a band, we’re so proud of how it all sounds on record AND in the rehearsal studio and cannot wait to get out and play more shows.”
The band’s dynamic sound is born of a range of diverse interests, with bands such as Brand New, Thrice, Circa Survive and Arcane Roots inspiring their writing. Lyrically, frontman Brad likes the use of metaphors by Jesse Lacey (Brand New) or the way John Lennon and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) create beautiful imagery and soundscapes with simple words, phrases and melody, while Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) and Jamie Lenman (Reuben) are huge influences in mixing up the melancholy with a bit of tongue in cheek.
The band tell us: “We’d say it’s a mixture of a lot of influences. We’re a guitar band, and we try to come up with interesting guitar lines, interesting beats and fills and layers of vocals. Steve is heavily influenced by Circa Survive and Thrice, so guitar work could be vaguely in the style of those bands. Brad’s vocals are so recognisably angelic, they almost contradict the heavier music – but we love that sound. Christian is influenced by a lot of hip hop and so certain fills will have that vibe and Paul, like all of us, was brought up on punk rock so provides a solid backbone to our songs.”
Prey Drive set out on a tour across Europe on Friday, kicking off with a show at in Leeds, then the Owl Sanctuary in Norwich next Thursday (7 September). They then take in eight shows in nine days in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany and are actively looking for more shows in the UK and beyond. More info on those gigs is here. So if you like what you hear and you need to fill a set, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
The band has already nearly finished writing five or six more songs for their next EP, which they hope to later this year or early 2018. So there’s plenty more to come from this exciting new band.