If Manic Street Preachers were to have a child with Depeche Mode and Massive Attack raised it, the chances are the kid would be Broken Links. Merging infectious choruses with gritty lyricism, Broken Links share a kaleidoscopic soundscape with each single. We speak with vocalist and guitarist Mark Lawrence about their new album Conflict::States, audiobooks and future plans.
OSR: How did Broken Links come about?
Lawrence: We all vaguely knew of each other during our teenage years as we all went to the same school, although I was in a different year to Phil and Lewy. Phil is one of my mate’s brothers, so soon after the demise of another band I was in he suggested I have a jam with his brother. I had a bunch of songs I had written so we just started going through them, after a few weeks of that Phil brought Lewy along to band practise and it all just sort of worked out really easy. This was at the very beginning of 2008. We then spent most of that year practising and playing around with our sound trying to make the bass as gnarly as possible and trying to make the guitars as big as possible before eventually playing our first gig down The Joiners in Southampton at the end of the year!
I think everyone is drawn to music in some form or another, but I guess there’s some decision made early on in life deciding on how you’re going to pick up girls and, basically, if you’re rubbish at football you better pick up a guitar! 😆 There’s also something very powerful about music and the emotional states it can conjure up, it’s something that’s always fascinated me and I’ve spent half my life trying to write music that does it myself!
OSR: What can you tell us about Conflict::States?
Lawrence: It’s a collection of 12 tracks that have a pop at the world we’re currently living in! It’s been brewing for a long time this album. We started working on it in 2015 and, in reality, we could have rushed it out in 2016 if we spent a ton of cash, but part of the problem is that we grew tired of our band being at the bottom of the food chain never bringing in any money and having to spend a small fortune making our content and audio as professional as possible. So, we decided to go down the DIY route completely recording, mixing, mastering, photos and making music videos ourselves!
Due to doing it completely DIY, it’s taken forever to make the thing as we all only had half-an-idea how to do it. It has been a massive learning process and we’ve all gone off and done our own thing a bit in the process BUT it allowed us more time to play with the songs and make tweaks here and there rather than being under pressure to hack together a song in time for the next studio booking.
I guess for the above reason we’re now a much angrier band and it’s starting to reflect in our music and lyrics. I think this album is a 12-track brain-fart of the frustration and despair of our own struggles as a band than of the world and society in general.
OSR: Do you have any favourite tracks off the album?
Lawrence: ‘Cold War’ has to our favourite from the new album. One of the little challenges I’ve given myself over the years while songwriting is to try and use an effect I’ve never used before on my multi-effects unit. I was dead keen to try and make use of the pattern tremolo which is a bit of a nasty effect usually, but it’s killer on ‘Cold War’. It’s the effect that makes the guitar cut in and out to a rhythm.
It’s just one of those songs that have been built up by playing around a lot with that effect and trying out different guitar notes and licks. It’s a beast to play live! We’re currently in the middle of making the music video for it, we’re trying to do the song justice with the vid. It’s tricky though seeing we’re doing it DIY!
OSR: What about a least favourite?
Lawrence: ‘Eras’. I really struggled with this song. The intro we jammed out once a few years back, so that was fairly easy, but when it came to arranging it later it was a pretty tricky puzzle to try and piece together after the intro. Writing the lyrics for it was much the same problem. I’m still not happy with them to this day but I couldn’t delay the album any longer!
OSR: Broken Links has a knack for controversial and provocative lyricism. Why do you choose to tackle taboo subjects with your music?
Lawrence: For our first two albums we were perhaps a little safe with our lyrics. Not 100% safe, but they certainly wouldn’t upset anyone too much! They were more about relationships, being a tad depressed and about a few growing pains. Back then, we were more about the music.
For this album though, it’s very focused on the state of the world, society and an introspective look at myself and the band. We’re definitely angrier than we were doing our last album where we were kind of excited about what the future might have in store for the band. However, nothing ever was “in store” for the band, we just worked close to burning ourselves out trying to make decent records, gigging and trying to get noticed only to find ourselves being mugged off or ripped off!
We’ve come out of the other side of that bleak period with a different view on everything which is frankly we don’t give a shit anymore. No one pays us any money so we’re not going to pay anyone any money, which means we’ve totally self-produced the new album along with all the content (photos, music videos, etc). We’re also not bothered about being snapped up by some record label anymore, we’ve reached a point now where it just isn’t going to ever happen so it’s taken the shackles off us music and lyrics-wise. We just write about whatever we want and in places the music is proper heavy. I’ve found myself generally writing about things that piss me off and, in this day and age, there’s plenty of things that cause that!
OSR: Do you believe track placement is significant when creating an album?
Lawrence: Yes, 100%! An album is a journey, you should feel an emotional state during and after listening to an album. This cannot be obtained by bundling a bunch of three-minute Spotify singles together. An album allows room for experimentation which can result in particular tracks existing that normally wouldn’t if you focused on only releasing catchy singles.
OSR: What do you hope people take from Conflict::States?
Lawrence: It would be nice if the whole world gave it a listen and it was the catalyst that made people realise we’re all bat-shit mental at the moment and everyone then just chills the f**k out. Kind of like Wyld Stallyns from Bill And Ted! That isn’t going to happen, but it’ll just be great if people gave it a listen and made a connection to the lyrics in places and got into the overall mood of the album, then headed down to one of our live shows!
OSR: What would you have as your proverbial last meal?
Lawrence: I don’t think there’s any point in changing things up just because it’s my “last meal”. I’d just carry on eating what I normally eat in the week, but maybe I’d do a medley. I mainly eat Italian, Indian and Greek food, so I’d have an onion bhaji starter, then a spaghetti bolognese kebab for mains, followed by a scoop of Gino Ginelli!
OSR: If you were pack animals, what animal would you be?
Lawrence: We’d be a community of chips. Have you seen our music videos? We’re definitely chimps.
OSR: Do you listen to audiobooks and what are your thoughts about audiobooks?
Lawrence: I’ve only got one audiobook and to be honest it freaks me out the sound of someone reading in my ears. It gets a bit boring and before I know it my mind has wandered off and I’ve not been paying attention for several minutes. I think having the actual words written down and reading those gives me the focus to stay drawn into the book.
OSR: Do you have a message for our readers?
Lawrence: Always do what YOU want. Don’t follow some trend or try to please someone else, be selfish, you won’t get any medals at the end of all this! The only exception to this is these words, “go and have a listen to our new album”!
OSR: Do you have any future plans?
Lawrence: We’re currently finishing off a few music videos which will be released very soon and we’re also trying to book live shows all the time which is proving very tricky to do currently. Longer-term, we’re already thinking about doing an EP next. Doing another album would be great, but after how long it took us to get Conflict::States out of the door, I think we’d be better to release little and often rather than having another long break!