"I’m a huge advocate for people, particularly young males, speaking about how they feel open and honestly. It’s okay to cry about stuff and get mad about things and to not bottle it up" - Mikey Page
THECITYISOURS recently released their new album 'COMA' via Arising Empire.
A visceral and volatile collection of modern British metalcore masterclasses, it's an album that in another universe may not even have ever existed. But through personal adversity, to the departure of vocalist Sam Stolliday and the recruitment of new vocalist Oli Duncanson, the band have created something truly therapeutic and triumphant that will help all those who let it until their skin in some way, shape or form.
To discuss how it came together we chatted with Oli and guitarist Mikey Page all about its inception and what effect it has had on both of them...
The only place to start is the transition period and bringing Oli into the fold. What was that like for you all on the inside?
Mikey: "I feel like we are one of the bands where lockdown aided us, really. We had a bit of luck on our side in terms of the time that we then had. Sam, or previous vocalist, decided to leave the band in January 2020, six weeks before we were supposed to go in to make this record. There were discussions around it, and we decided that the rest of us would go in and do it anyway and figure out the vocalist problem later. That’s a bold move in retrospect. We managed to finish tracking just as we were put into the national lockdown. But what the lockdown did for us was buy us time, so we could figure what we were doing. We didn’t have to make a public announcement about anything. So we honed our craft the best we could in that time, which then involved bringing Oli into the fold. We were then able to finish the record with him in the gap between lockdowns, so by the time we were out the other end, and it was time to announce everything, we knew we had everything ready."
So what was it like stepping into the band at such a strange period?
Oli: "We started talking about me joining just before lockdown. I’ve been doing content for the band for the last four years, so I know what the band is from that side of things. I also went into the studio with them to get some photos and stuff. I didn’t know the writing process before I was technically part of the band, though. But then, once I was a part of it, it filled my time when we were stuck at home. I don’t know what else I would have been doing. I would probably have been very sad. I had never been a vocalist in a band before, so everything was new, and I was learning everything remotely. We would be going back and forth and seeing how we could improve things as we went."
And being in such a unique position, it’s almost like tackling the biggest storm you will ever come into contact with. Now you know that you can face that, you can face anything…
Mikey: "Absolutely, and time is so precious. As much as the lockdown was horrendous, I tried to keep the mindset that it was still an opportunity for us. When else are you going to get to spend three months away from the 9-5 life. You’re never going to get the time and the chance to utilise that probably ever again in our lifetimes. So to try and use it was so important. It’s an odd thing to be grateful for, but I’m happy that we had it."
And then we have ‘COMA’. What does this record represent for the both of you from where you are coming from creatively and emotionally?
Mikey: "I went through some pretty rough moments over the past couple of years, and this band is my coping mechanism. This is where I will always put my feelings and energy, both positive and negative. It’s an outlet where I can put down what I was feeling down and deal with my thought processes within that, but also create something ultimately positive, which can give people something back. So with this album, in particular, I didn’t want to leave anything out. I’m a huge advocate for people, particularly young males, speaking about how they feel open and honestly. It’s okay to cry about stuff and get mad about things and to not bottle it up. We’re all guilty of that.
"But the first part of that process was me dealing with those things and then letting the rest of the band know how I was feeling. As the record started to unfold, it appeared that a few songs contributed from my point of view and ones from them looking in on how I’m doing and what it’s like to watch your friend go through those things. Essentially this album is therapy to me. We wanted it to be quintessentially CITY but unapologetically honest at the same time. It’s cliché to say this, but I wanted this to be a record that gives other people the chance to say, ‘I know how that feels’. If one person gets something out of it in that way, then my job is done. And then, for Oli, I wonder what it was like having these lyrics given to him to do as he sees fit. It must have been daunting."
Oli: "Yeah, it was a little bit. But with it still being the first thing that I have ever been a part of personally, it was a learning experience more than anything. It was all about encapsulating Mikey's feelings whilst writing those lyrics and taking my own experiences, and trying to connect that way."
And how does it feel when you realise what you have been able to achieve by pushing into those difficult and dark places?
Mikey: "It’s been one of the emotional experiences I have had creatively. It’s one thing to write things down, but then when you’re in the vocal booth, and you’re singing them, it’s an entirely different thing altogether. Particular things in that space, like ‘Save You With My Love’, for example, the acceptance track on the record, were the moments when what they meant to hit me. It’s heartbreaking to go through that, but the flip side of hearing it for the first time was when the happy tears started to come out. I’m still in awe that we were even able to put something like this together."
It’s in those moments that you’re reminded of why you wanted to create an outlet such as this in the first place. It makes all the hard work and toils so worth it because you’ve been able to create that exact vision for what you wanted it to be…
Oli: "The other thing is that the band is such a consistent part of all of our lives now. We’re friends who can lean on each other and know will always be there."
Mikey: "It’s a consistent community. We’ve wanted this band to be a safe space for our people. Yes, we’re the five guys writing the tunes and putting them out into the world, but it’s much bigger than that. We want it to be a place where people can share their true selves with us. I’m not sure where I would be personally without it at this point. I don’t even really want to think about it, to be honest. But what we want is this band to deliver the same level of positivity through that negativity for everyone, not just us. That’s what we are trying to champion. And we want it to continue to be that vessel for all of the crazy and weird thoughts within our heads, and I’m eternally grateful that we have been able to keep it like that through all of the adversity. There were conversations about whether we would even be able to keep on doing it at all, so to be sat here is enough for us. We’re also excited about what comes next within that too."