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Defences’ Cherry Duesbury: “It’s Okay To Be Who I Am And Feel What I Feel”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 21 October 2021 at 15.03

"Sometimes you need more experience to be able to understand the things around you or even understand yourself"

Defences have just released their brand new album 'In The Balance'.

An expression on both a musical and emotional level, it finds the band pushing the boundaries of what they initially thought they could achieve and coming out the other end stronger, more confident and with more clarity than ever before. Delving into the most vulnerable and volatile corners of their lives and creating vast slabs of modern metalcore brilliance in the process, it's a record that the band hope will be as fulfilling for those who let it under their skin as it has been for them.

To delve into the process of how we got here, we jumped on the phone with vocalist Cherry Duesbury and guitarist Calum Wilmot...

So, where do we start with this record? Where would you say the first pieces of it began to come together?
Calum: "It started in the summer of 2019. It was just after we had written ‘What You Know’ off our last EP, and then we wrote ‘Voices’, which appears on this album. I think in the past, we have been guilty of being a bit too cerebral when we write. We have been caught up in our heads, and this was the start of us just writing things that we would be excited to play live and what felt honest and real. We weren’t focusing on what sections go into others or anything like that. We focused on the things that had made us want to be in a band.

"We had a challenging period after the release of the first album where we lost key members. There was this revolving door of people joining and then leaving. There were times when we weren’t sure we would ever make a second album. Until we got here, I don’t think any of us thought it would happen."

Cherry: "I think we came out of that difficult period thinking that we would do whatever we wanted to do. After a while, there was a plan, but we let whatever needed to come out and then refined and focused on it from there."

Usually, getting the hurdle of a debut out of the way makes you feel like things will get easier from there, but there are so many other unexpected things to keep you on your toes. But if they allowed you to open up and create art that better represents you, they were almost necessary…
Cherry: "Essentially, Cal took over the primary songwriter instrumentally, and when I started hearing the demos he put together, you could hear the difference. You could hear the freedom there to take things wherever he wanted to go, which inspired me in terms of what I ended up writing lyrically. The topics and tones change throughout the songs, but that freedom felt like it flowed throughout everyone."

And what did it feel like hearing those instrumentals that you had created?
Calum: "I was just relieved that I could help the band continue making music. In many ways, this version of Defences that we are presenting now differs from that from around the first album. I have never been particularly academic in my approach to things. My view with all music is that the only bad variety is emotionless. I wanted to elicit an emotional response in every way with this record, be it lyrically, melodically, rhythmically, even in terms of the aggression this style of music incites.

"At the beginning of the process, there was a clear case of imposter syndrome where I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for this. But I was very fortunate that the band were incredibly supportive around me. But in terms of taking on this responsibility, it has been one of the most empowering and fulfilling things I have ever done in my life."

And when you consider the subject matter injected into those instrumentals, what was it like realising what you were pulling out of yourself. What was it like sharing those parts of yourself that you probably never expected to be sharing?
Cherry: "It was scary, I'll be honest. I remember writing some of the lyrics for some of these songs and thinking, ‘I’m nervous about showing these to the guys, let alone anyone else’. It’s the first time I’ve dived into a lot of things about myself personally. The album takes inspiration from many things, but it comes from my personal experiences with other things. In pretty much everything we have done, I tried to keep things more about the collective or shared things. This time it was less about that and more about how I’m feeling and thinking. It was a nerve-wracking thing but incredibly freeing to say that this is where I am at, and this is what I want to write about. I feel like it’s been really important to get it out."

And for you to be writing that when so many things are happening in the world around you, crucial things that people will discuss for years to come. It’s difficult not to be influenced by that…
Cherry: "Opening yourself up to that vulnerability in the face of those things is something I am starting to see much more. It’s happening in general. People are less afraid to speak up about mental health issues, for example. And what with everything that happened last year around George Floyd’s death and Black Lives Matter, there was so much new conversation that was a positive thing. As a collective, I think that it is a very good thing, people not afraid to be vulnerable about the things that affect them. Sometimes you need more experience to be able to understand the things around you or even understand yourself."

So how do you sum up the fact that you have been able to create a record like this after there is a time where it felt like you might never make an album again?
Calum: "It’s surreal. Even now, I still feel like someone will surprise us and rip it all away from us. In so many ways, this feels like our first album. It feels like the first time that we are doing this. It’s mind-blowing. It’s an extremely vulnerable thing to do, but it’s what we live for. Getting to make music with our friends and getting to share it with the people who matter the most to us. It’s what we are here to do."

Cherry: "And we’ve been working on it for so long. So to be here now and it is actually happening is very strange. I’m also not scared anymore, though. I’ve been worried about people hearing certain songs for the whole time we have been making it, but now I’m not. It’s time for people to hear these things."

What would you say you have learned about yourself throughout this process that you weren’t aware of initially?
Cherry: "It really is okay to be me. There isn’t another me, and there’s no point trying to be somebody else because that person is taken. So I should be myself and accept everything that comes with that. All of the good and all of the bad. Previously I would not acknowledge the bad or pretend it’s not there, which will never work out. So a lot of self-acceptance, self-reflection, and internal exploration about how I am and that it’s okay to be who I am and feel what I feel."

Calum: "Mine is to have the courage to back myself and have that conviction about what I want to do and achieve. Take a song like ‘False Gods’, which has some truly powerful lyrics, which we wrote entirely under lockdown and without much interplay between us. We initially thought it was too aggressive and heavy, but it gave us that visceral chemical reaction that you get with certain songs. ‘Ocean Floor’ is another song like that, which came about from messing with synths. It was different to what we did before, but we just rolled with it. Those are the moments when we were genuinely creative, and identifying that and seeking it is the biggest takeaway from the whole record."

So as we look forwards, how important is it to you to have Defences as such a vital part of your lives?
Cherry: "For the past seven years, probably longer, this band has been one of the most important things in my life. And it has only got more important as time has gone on because we have made it more and more what we want it to be. It’s down to how much we have been able to put into it, as well as how much of ourselves we have been able to put into it. Despite everything we have been through, that's something that is becoming easier, which excites me. It excites me for what will come next because I feel like it will be even more of the real Defences."

Calum: "This band has given a huge sense of agency to our lives. A feeling of being in control of everything that you, which is a feeling that can often slip away from some people. Being in this band has helped me to hang on to that."

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