Conversations With Alex Jennings of Octopus Montage

Following the release of their new album ‘How To Live and How To Lose’, Alex Jennings from Octopus Montage is here with us to discuss his recording process, inspirations, personal experiences and more.

Before we start, how would you describe your music to anyone who hasn’t listened before?

(Alex) It’s something I struggle with describing, I won’t lie. We’re definitely opening with the tough questions! I think the best way to describe it is to imagine bands like A Day To Remember and Four Year Strong but imagine their soft sounds are a lot more melodic and their heavy songs are basically deathcore or heavier. Recently since the album dropped, we’ve been called a Pop-Punk/Deathcore hybrid and I like that Death-Pop has a ring to it, right?

Let’s talk about your new album! After what has felt like a lifetime in lockdown due to Covid-19, you guys were finally able to get back into the studio to create your second album ‘How To Live and How To Lose’. How did this feel? Was it difficult to find inspiration due to the circumstances?

(Alex) To be honest, in terms of recording the record, Covid-19 was actually kind of a god-send. We record all our stuff from home and being forced to stay at home meant that we kinda had to finish the album. We began recording it WAY before Coronavirus was even a thing but with things like jobs and normal life it was a struggle to spend as much time as we wanted to on it so we got dealt a pretty good silver lining. For me personally, I prefer working musically (recording especially) on my own. There’s way less pressure which means you can try different things & if you mess up the only person who knows about it is you. It did suck when it came to album release day though, we couldn’t hang out together and celebrate properly but we did what we could over video calls.

What musicians do you feel helped shape this album into what it is today?

(Alex) Obviously that is a difficult question to answer on behalf of the guys but I know that they were influenced by the likes of Neck Deep, Real Friends, Knocked Loose & of course A Day To Remember. For me though, there’s a lot! With me doing vocals, guitar and having a large part to play in the writing of the songs, there is probably way too many to list!

From a songwriting perspective I’ve kind of always done the same thing. I began writing songs when I was around 13/14, between these ages up until I was around 16 were undoubtedly the hardest parts of my life and touch wood I don’t have to experience things like that again. Just to name a few things, I suffered with & was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of OCD with way too much anxiety added into the mix, having to come to terms with that at such a young age was difficult. On top of that, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer at that time and almost died in a bike accident around a month after he finished 18 months worth of cancer treatment. It wasn’t a great time but one of the escapes I had was listening to music. I was majorly into grunge, bands like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden & Nirvana would constantly be in my ears. The latter became somewhat of an obsession, a healthy one at last. I was amazed by the honesty of Kurt Cobain’s lyrics but admired how they were also so subtle. For example, one of my favourite songs was ‘Drain You’ off of their Sophomore album ‘Nevermind’ & the lyrics ‘I don’t care what you think unless it is about me’ were one of many that stuck with me. For me, listening to this at a time my Dad was at home potentially dying due to his illness, I felt so dissociated from it – as if nothing was happening. This meant that I would often get hung up on small things & these small things would cause me infinite times more stress than the fact that my Dad was in the next room taking his fourth nap of the day because he physically can’t stay awake. That’s the power of dissociation…

Vocally, I mainly did screams on this album and I wanted to push myself as far as I could go. On things we’d released previously I was getting used to how to use my voice, I’d only really begun screaming a month after joining the band as I wasn’t meant to become the vocalist (but that’s a story for another time…) At this point though I felt comfortable with what I could do and I wanted to push my range, which is why there are a mix of high, low & mid screams throughout the record. I took a lot from the likes of Mitch Lucker, {Suicide Silence} Chris Fronzack {Attila} & Danny Worsnop {Asking Alexandria} They all used their voices to the limit, or at least did at some stage in their career. Songs like ‘Unanswered’ by Suicide Silence, ‘Toxic’ by Attila & ‘Breathless’ by Asking Alexandria really showcase the mindset I was in for inspirations. For the guitar stuff, on the metalcore side I took a lot from Wage War and anything with insane riffs to be fair. On the Pop-Punk side, it was mainly Tom Delonge era blink-182 that was inspiring me.

It’s clear that you have put your all into every track on ‘How To Live and How To Lose’ but if you had to choose just one favourite, what would it be and why? What do you feel separates this from everything else you have released?

(Alex) From the start my favourite has been ‘Voices.’ I’m so proud of that song. Everything from the lyrics being both somehow subtle & literal to having a catchy chorus to THAT breakdown – Yeah, just yeah!

Moving away from the talk of your album, back in 2019 you had a lineup change in which Alex Jennings took on the task of screaming and Cain Dylan started playing drums. Comparing now to then, do you feel this has had a positive impact on you musically wise?

(Alex) I mean I assume so otherwise I think I’d be in a different band! On a real level though I know for a fact that the band has gone from strength to strength since then. For example I sat down and researched how to market music for a solid 2 months which is effectively why all of our songs bar one ended up on Spotify’s editorial playlists (not to blow too much smoke up my own arse though!) For Cain, I think you’d struggle to find someone more enthusiastic & committed to their instrument. If this guy could play drums 24/7 he would. On top of that, he’s been amazing with helping with the marketing and social media stuff. There was a point where I was doing most of it and I was really struggling but Cain offered his help & the positive impact that that alone has had is immeasurable. He’s a pretty fast learner for a drummer! 

It goes without saying that there’s no shade on the guys who used to be in the band, I think it’s now just hit a new level because we outlined what we wanted to do and set about doing it with tunnel vision which meant sacrificing ‘normal life’ things & if it hadn’t have worked then we’d have looked stupid so I don’t blame them for wanting to build a stable life for themselves! 

I’m sure you all must be desperate to get out and play together in front of a live audience, what have you missed most about live shows? Do you have any shows lined up for the future?

(Alex) Genuinely, I just want to play a gig man! There are some things planned but I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about them and I’m not sure if they will even happen at this rate – Cheers Boris! We have a few festivals that have been announced though and I pray they still go ahead, especially the Scottish ones – I can’t wait to be back in my favourite country.

Talking about gigs, if you could play alongside any artist of your choice who would it be?

(Alex) Hmm well, it’s either The Amity Affliction or 2008-era Vanna (who sadly aren’t a band anymore!) The things I’d do to share a stage with them man!

As exciting as it can be to think about the return of live shows, we still have a while until then. Working within the music scene can be hard, especially during these times. what would you like to say to anyone who is dying to make it in the music industry?

(Alex) It depends what you want to do. You can make more than a comfortable living off being a cover artist and if that’s what you want to do then you’ve gotta grind your arse off basically playing anywhere you can until you build up a following. If you want to release original music then please, please do your research. Nothing irritates me more than people creating music and not knowing how to drop it – All the information is out there for free, you just need to find it. It isn’t just a case of dropping a song. It comes down to the day, the time, how long before you upload it to distributing services, where you send it, how you send it, why playlists are important, how to get on them, etc, etc. That stuff genuinely riles me up!

Now that we’re coming towards the end of our interview, what do you feel is up next for Octopus Montage? 

(Alex) There’s a lot coming, I’m not sure where to start! I can guarantee more content by the end of the year and a hell of a lot more tunes in 2022 that are being worked on as we speak. As for live shows, it’s a case of when they come back & what opportunities present themselves.

Listen to ‘How To Live and How To Lose’ by Octopus Montage over on their Spotify below!

by Lucy Cheyne

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