Prior to their show at The Castle Theater in Bloomington, IL, I got a chance to sit down with Burden of the Sky (BOTS) lead vocals, Scottie James, and founding member, guitarist, Josh Appel to get to know them a bit better. Also with them, manager, Jason Williams.
Congratulations on “Sirens” release last night (early this morning). I downloaded it as soon as it was available. Who produced that for you?
Scottie: Colt Capperune down in Nashville, he’s actually from Peoria (originally started with Dark River Studios in Peoria and then ended up moving down there, so he works down there). Everything we record, we pretty much go down there to record.
As I understand it, you have 6 songs finished for your upcoming album?
Josh: Yes, six. I wrote some of those not sure if they all will make it, yeah…
Scottie: Our plan is to do like to get at least fifteen songs and pick the best ten or eleven. So right now, we’re just kind of writing as much as we can and get those fifteen and kind of fine tune the songs and pick the best of the best of those fifteen.
So when were you (Scottie) added to the lineup?
Scottie: I am came in October or November
Josh: But we didn’t announce it until January.
Scottie: I’ve known Josh for years. We’ve played in separate bands and kind of kept in touch. He asked me to be in Burden four or five years ago, at the time I was kind of busy with my other band. I told him I want to, but I can’t right now. We kind of stayed in touch. My band played with his, stayed in touch and hung out for a while and the times kind of lined up perfectly where my band was dying down, they needed a singer. He (Josh) called me up and asked if I wanted to do it now. I said “let’s do it” and that’s where I came in.
Josh: It was a pretty perfect switch. It’s hard. You can change guitar players, you can change bass players, drummers, but switch the singer, it can be brutal.
Scottie: It was weird for me because I was coming in and you guys had already established yourselves. I’ve got a little bit to live up to, you know. So far it’s been a really good reaction from everyone I’ve seen. I am sure there will be some haters that come out, but it’s to be expected.
Josh: Every one that has seen us live, before we ever released anything (publicly about Scottie joining the band) Once they heard Scottie live, they understood and felt that it made sense and it’s even better.
Scottie: Everyone that I have met from the BOTS (Burden of the Sky) family has been very well received. It’s been a nice transition.
You are planning on the release of your next album sometime in 2019? Is there anything more concrete yet?
Scottie: Not really, we are shooting for early 2019, but don’t know exactly when that’s going to be. But right now we are strictly writing. With writing and playing shows, sometimes shows take priority, so we have to put writing on the back line.
Josh: It takes so much time to put an album together and I don’t want to rush that. I am really picky, we’re all a little picky. It takes so much time to do an album, so you want to make every song count. If it takes writing twenty songs to get the best ten, then that’s what we’ll do.
Scottie: We want to be 100% certain that we have the album ready before we make any announcements. Because the last thing we want to do is say “hey, it’s going to be ready by this…” and we can’t do it.
Josh: We did that will our first album. We cut corners and I go back and listen to parts. There are songs that I skip because I hate my guitar.
Jason: This is coming from the guy who is never done with a song. We could be done with a song and three months later he says he’s got to re-record this song. (The guys all laugh)
Josh: There are seventeen things I want to change on “Sirens” right at this moment.
I actually think picky is good because you are in a market and you’re compared to bands like Breaking Benjamin and Evan’s Blue, and some others. How are you going to differentiate yourself from that genre as a whole?
Josh: His voice (pointing to Scottie). He does have a higher voice and a lot more range than a lot of other bands. We’ve spent a lot of time and this isn’t out of the ordinary, I Prevail does it, Bring Me the Horizon does it… When we wrote “Cinis ad Cinis”, Mike, our keyboardist came in at the very end and he was scrambling. So a lot of those piano parts were parts I wrote and he kind of just recreated them. Now from the ground up, we’ve gotten a lot more, Me and Scottie work a lot more on our digital aspect. SO we have a lot more digital drums, digital synths, and things like that on our sample pads that we put in our songs. Mike has gotten to really get in there and really write his own parts. I think that separates us. You’ve heard that with Motionless In White, they have a lot of elements, but they didn’t have the keys tightened in and then they brought in their new keyboardist and it kind of developed that sound.
Scottie: It is cool, Mike isn’t out in front all the time, but he has that…if he’s not in there, you will notice it immediately. Even on the distorted guitars, it’s not just the guitars, he has this nice gritty sound, that makes you think ‘oh that’s Burden of the Sky’…that sound.
Me: Your signature sound
Scottie: Yes, he does a really good job of differentiating us.
Jason: “Sirens” is a great example of that. That song is thin without his synth and keyboarding in that song. Even the verses are driven by really his piano and Scottie’s vocals. But the intro and the outro is really driven by the synth stuff that Mike’s doing. Part of that has become your guys’ new sound really. It was there in the first record, but…
Josh: It’s fuller. It’s more like it has a place. Some of the stuff on the first record was good and it fit, but now I think it’s more molded around that.
Scottie: Rather than being thrown on top, we kind of built from the foundation with it in there.
Josh: We turned it (keyboard/synth) into the ice cream instead of the cherry on top
I love that because too many bands just throw things out there like we have talked about. I am a big Shinedown fangirl, and Brent’s voice one of the things that make them stand out. It will be interesting to see when this album comes how you will differentiate yourself with your (Scottie) vocals. I am very much looking forward to that.
Who writes the songs? Do you all write songs?
Scottie: It’s most Josh, Brad, and myself that do most of the foundation work. Lots of times, I’ll have a riff or a melody and I will ask them to check it out. We will kind of build off it or Brad or Josh will send me a guitar piece, little sections and we’ll build around that. Once we get a full structured song, we’ll kind of share it with Dusty, Rick, Mike. They will kind of throw their input on it and put it together from there.
Josh: For the first album, it was Brad and me who wrote all of the songs. With him (Scottie), he plays guitar. He plays guitar really well. He would pop out riffs and we (Josh and Brad) were playing catch up. A lot of the foundation for “Sirens” you wrote (Scottie).
Scottie: Sirens was kind of the oddball because “Sirens”…that was what I refer to as my try out songs because when I joined the band they had most of the music of Sirens…it’s similar, pretty close to how it is now. They gave it to me and I kind of sang over the top of it. I throw lyrics and melody on it. Every song other than that has been all of us together writing. I’ll throw a guitar part here or Josh will have an idea for a vocal melody. It’s nice because in other bands I have been in there have been one or two guys who write the songs, but here it’s nice to have everyone…everyone has their own input.
I think, particularly, in your position (Scottie, vocals) you need to be a part of that writing process because your voice is key to the song.
What is your biggest challenge?
Scottie: My challenge personally is…I have zero patience. I am ready to go. I want to get music out there, go play shows, but you can do all that at once. Like I said before if I play in shows it’s kind of hard to write. I just want to get out there. I just want to keep playing and writing and non-stop playing. This is kind of where Josh comes in, I am wanting to get this out there and he says ‘Wait’ …
Me: But on the breaks
Scottie: …yeah, Josh is like let’s check it out, fine-tune stuff. That’s my biggest challenge. I am excited. I love music and playing. Mine’s my patience.
Josh: Mine is balancing. Playing shows because we’re running and running…and the writing. We want to try to get good shit for next year without…
Me: You kind of have to clear your head to be able to do that…not tired, not worn out, not stressed and going from show to show to show that happens
Scottie: Yeah…people think we book a show on the weekend, so why does that interrupt your writing. We’re not just playing a show on Saturday, it takes up the previous weekend to play that set and practice instead of writing. We don’t just show up and play for a show. We’re there six, seven hours early sound checking, setting up. It eats more than just one day, it eats two weeks of time we can use to be writing. At the same time, it’s good because no one is going to know how we are if we don’t play out. He’s right about the balancing, we have to find time to write, but also time to play shows.
You guys played the second day of SpringFling in Peoria. You guys got to be on stage with some pretty heavy hitters Stone Sour, Sevendust, I Prevail. Did you guys glean anything from that experience? Did you get to talk to any of them?
Josh: Yeah, we got to meet pretty much all of them for the most part. Sevendust is me and Brad’s favorite band. We got to meet them. They are amazing, amazing, amazing. I Prevail, I was scared when I found out they were going on after us because I feel like we moved on stage really well. Those guys are terrorists on stage. (laughter). They are amazing. They do a lot of digital stuff like us. Those guys stood there and watched our whole set and had praises for us. They were really awesome.
Scottie: Yeah, I think they (I Prevail) were one of my favorite bands of the day because of their stage presence. They played so well. After the show, they came up and talked to us.
Me: Down to earth…
Josh: Stone Sour was cool. I said ‘hi’ to Corey Taylor. Those guys are tour machines. They’re on the bus all day, get off, play their show, and then on the bus and out of there. Still good dudes.
Scottie: It was an honor just to be part of that. We were just so thankful that we got the chance to play with those kinds of bands and have time on the stage. We are used to smaller stages.
Me: That was a big deal…
Scottie: That was a very big deal. That was the biggest show that I have ever played myself. I always tell people that it’s nice to get treated like an actual musician. It was nice to feel like we were meant to be there. It was humbling.
Me: I think you fit well with that group of bands.
Scottie: That’s awesome to hear. It was our biggest fear going into that…we’re just starting out. We’re not as seasoned as all these other bands. These guys have been playing shows and know what they are doing. We’ve been playing shows for a long time too, but not at that caliber. We were just hoping, god, we don’t look like outliers. We’ll just go up there do our best and hope for the best. That’s what we did. All the feedback that came back said that we fit right in. That was our goal and we were happy.
Who are you guys listening to right now? Who is on your playlist?
Josh: Ahhh…this is weird, but I listen to a lot of reggae.
Me: Dirty Heads? Do you like Dirty Heads?
Josh: I love Dirty Heads. When I am writing, I never want to listen to anyone else’s stuff and kind of mimic, I know that happens. So when we’re in the writing process I listen to a lot of 1930’s jazz and reggae music. Yeah…it keeps my head clear.
Scottie: I listen to a lot of video game music, orchestrated video game music.
Josh: What a nerd…
Scottie: I love it though because there’s a lot of rock and metal covers and old school video game music. There is the stuff out there that is like amazing pieces. There’s just crazy musicianship. I love Coheed and Cambria…I listen to a lot of them.
Josh: I Prevail and Slightly Stoopid have been the main two bands I have been listening to.
Scottie: Honestly, I don’t listen to specific bands too much anymore. I got to Spotify and just my Discover weekly curated playlist and just trying to hear new stuff.
Me: That’s exactly what I do…
Scottie: Yeah, it’s fun stuff. What’s been popping up on mine is Architects, Crown the Empire. I’m really digging those guys. Motionless In White, I listen to a lot of them. Hands like Houses, they’ve got some really cool stuff.
Me: The Fever 333 has been on there.
Scottie: Yes, they have. I love Linkin Park. I still listen to them a lot. I still say that “Reanimation” is one of the most underrated albums ever.
Josh: I also listen to Breaking Benjamin.
Scottie: Nothing More is another band that I love!
Josh: How did we leave them out?
Scottie: That’s a band I want to play with…
Josh: Yeah, I do too, because both of your voices (Scottie and Jonny Hawkins) are so high.
Scottie: I look up to him because the way he writes is kind of similar to how I write. He’s kind of all over the place. He goes up and down. I like to do that, too.
Is there anything else that you want me to know about you guys?
Jason: BUY THE SINGLE! bit.ly/2npnqB1
Final parting words to Scottie from me were to BRING IT!
Thank you to Scottie, Josh, and Jason for taking the time to give me a peek into the world that BOTS.
My final words to Scottie during the interview were to Bring It! That they did! Coming in hot to the stage, Scottie, and the rest of the guys in BOTS, pumped out “Kicking and Screaming” from their first album. They debuted five new songs from their upcoming album due out sometime in 2019 as well as played favorites “Same Old Page” and “Solace”. Some of the newer songs had only been practice a few times, but audience members would not have been privy to that had Scottie not explained.
BOTS is a polished band, but not so refined that they are stiff and lifeless. There is so much going on stage, and it’s almost overload which from my perspective as a photographer is great. I would much rather shoot for a band who has members all over the place having a great time than to photograph those who merely stand there playing their instruments. You never know where you might see Dusty. He may wander up to Mike at the keyboard or hang out a bit with Josh.
Front-man, Scottie James, absolutely tears up the stage. Young, vibrant, full of charisma, and energy, he still manages to keep solid vocal while jumping and spinning on stage. Bradford Shaw throws his death growls in to give BOTS that heavy metal, alternative sound.
What is apparent is that these guys like to have fun, on and off the stage. You can see it in their performance hijinks and inside jokes.
There is something to Burken of the Sky, they have the “it” factor. Maybe with the addition of Scottie James, and a more cohesive writing process, BOTS while rise above the rest. “Sirens” is very much radio material whether local radio stations or Sirius XM Channels like Octane.
Their performance showcased their new song “Sirens” which debuted that day, August 10, 2018. BOTS fans were treated to a sneak peek of their the video for “Sirens” which came out August 11, 2018.
“Sirens” video review:
Burden of the Sky gave their fans, a sneak peek of the video to their new song, “Sirens”. The video is profound in that it is a visualization of the struggles that weigh us down. The video begins with a woman with stitches painted on her face, the representation of keeping quiet or helping someone as the lyrics suggest “When you hear the siren’s song will you sing Or will you save me from myself”. Using metal chains to represent those things that weigh us down, be it bullying, self-esteem issues, drug or alcohol abuse, breaking those chains so you don’t end up like the girl at the end of this video.
In today’s environment of mental health issues ranging from cutting to suicide, the video showcases the need for those in pain to speak up as well as those who may know someone who is struggling to get help. Will you sing the siren song or will you save someone?
Directed by Austin Peckham www.createnash.com featuring…
Sego Genesis https://bit.ly/2vtWxAw
Emma Vickers https://bit.ly/2M9Pqrh
Burden of the Sky is: