Hey! How’s it going? Welcome to another addition of the Krakatoa blog where we talk about music, bands and that addictive, kick-ass grass roots alt-scene. Today’s addition is a special one- an interivew with and a close look at Battalion of Flies; one of Scotland’s rising grassroots bands, whose members Craig Costello and his son Zack were very kind to grant an interview following their spectacular and energetic performance on Krakatoa’s stage on March 4th. This was part of their 3 day mini-tour which was held in Newcastle, Aberdeen and Inverness.
Who are Battalion of Flies?
Based in Edinburgh, Scotland Battalion of Flies have helped to keep grunge kicking since the band’s formation in 2003, notably with their 2004 debut album ‘Blue Lips, Cold Kiss’, and despite taking a hiatus between 2005 and 2018, not to mention having to best the kiss of death for all musicians that was lockdown, they haven’t lost touch with their roots or their indomitable spirit. If anything, they have overcome the pitfalls and hurdles in their way and have risen above the personal afflications that can halt any musician’s momentum. But don’t take my word for it, let’s see what they had to say.
“When you’re a musician…I don’t think you grow up necessarily”
Would you Like to introduce yourselves?
Craig Costello: Hi, I’m Craig Costello. I’m the lead singer and guitar player.
Zack: Hi, I’m Zack and I’m the lead/rythm guitarist.
Craig Costello: And on base we got Tony Noble and on drums we got CK Gillon.
How long have you been touring as a band? What has that experience been like for you over the years?
Craig Costello: Well, I’ll just go back to the start. We formed in 2003, got signed and released an album in 2004.
We started to climb the ladder, but the usual problems started…we had to part company with our drummer…he’s a good drummer…but…you know…
We disbanded in 2005 and although we had a lot of material for a second album it just never really materailised so we went our own separate ways and joined other bands. But then in 2018 CK, the drummer, approached me about ‘playing the music again’ so we contacted Tony who played in the latter stages of 2005, so he’s a kinda original member, and we eventually got my son, Zack, to play as a second guitarist.
When we got back together in 2018 we decided to do an anniversary show to celebrate the release of our first album which by then was 15 years old. Afterwards we started writing material and just kept going.
We got to making the EP (In Dark Meadows…Chaos Reigns) and there was just so much there…we felt that we had learned so much. It gave us a lot to do over lockdown…we couldn’t play live so we just started writing loads of new material.
Tommy Gleasen from Feeder mixed the EP for us, but he also added lots of different guitars and backing vocals to it that made the EP sound massive.
“Nothings original anymore, you’ve just got to put your own stamp on it”
Let’s talk about sound inspiration then. Hard alt-rock/grunge…how do you feel about that being used as a description of your sound?
Craig Costello: Originally, I think that fit us pretty well, but we’ve gone harder since then.
Harder than the first album?
Craig Costello: Yeah, definitely. First album was very grungy. Bit of Alice in Chains inspiration there. But you know that was the era when that type of sound was popular. Something I would have been listening to in my teens. That was a massive part of my life and listening to these bands and going to see them live… it changed my life. And it influenced the stuff we write. That style of music really spoke to me when it came out. But also thrash metal. I used to listen to lots of Metallcia and Megadeath. Steal from everyone, chuck it in a pot and see what happens. Nothings original anymore, you’ve just got to put your own stamp on it. But I can’t deny that grunge influenced me.
Does that mean there’s an upcoming album?
Craig Costello: Yes! It is already recorded, just needs to get mixed. When we get home after the mini-tour we’ll get back to work on it. There’s still some songs we want to added to it, so we’re not rushing it but hopefully it will be released this year. Its called ‘To the End’
What is the new album about?
Craig Costello: The EP dealt with the situation in the world at the time of the lockdown…whereas the new album is much more personal.
“I’ve always been the kind of guy that writes what he knows, because if that’s how you’re feeling about something and its genuine then I think people can really relate to that”
So, I really wanted to talk to you about ‘Blue Lips, Cold Kiss’- in your single from that album, ‘Weight of the World’, listening to it I felt there was a lot of raw, emotional energy emanating from that song. I mean, the lyrics are rather explicit. Are they only grounded in personal loss or are you trying to say something more?
Craig Costello: Yeah, definitely super personal. And its weird because I didn’t realize what I was writing about until afterwards… and then the band are going, “you do know that this is about your ex-wife (chuckles) oh yeah, so it is. You know, I was just writing stuff about how I felt and then you get caught up in arrangements and the music. But with ‘weight of the world’… yeah, its really personal. It’s a song about loss and feeling that you’re not good enough and people leaving you and how you feel like the lights gone from you. I was married before and there was a lot of shit happening, and a lot of it came out in that album. It has to be slightly cryptic, but then people can interpret it how they want. If you think its about climate change then it is. Lots of bands have really vague themes to their music that makes it really bland. If you can listen to something and go “oh fuck, he’s really lived through something and its come through the song” then I think its so much more powerful. Yeah, I’d say that album is very biographical.
So, you would be okay with dying as an author?
Craig Costello: As soon as its released, its no longer up to you as an artist.
One of my favorite songs from your first album was ‘Unclean’, particularly the lyrics: ‘I feel so inclean unclean watching TV screens- what were you watching?
Craig Costello: Hahahaha! Well…I think I’ll just let you decide that. You make up your own mind and I’ll just take the meaning of that to my grave.
Respect. Fair enough
Craig Costello: With ‘Unclean’…that was during when reality TV was popular, you know Big Brother and stuff, and it all just felt so voyeuristic and watching people sleep…its just weird. And its worse now, you know, people are getting married and they’ve never even met before and it’s a tv show. Its ridiculous.
With the advent of social media and spotify, along with the slew of various musicians that the general public has easy access to, have you found it difficult to get your music out there or does that not really concern you?
Craig Costello: It’s a double edged sword I guess because you don’t need a label anymore you can just do it yourself, but also the markets kinda flooded so you have think up of ways of standing out. And I think that’s particularly the case in the last couple of years with not being able to gig. We were building up a lot of momentum and then lockdown just hit, and that wave just crashed. But hopefully things will start getting back to normal just now and we’ll try and build it up again.
What’s your take on contemporary rock and/or metal bands on the scene right now? Anything that stands out to you in particular?
Craig Costello: I like a lot of it. There’s a Scottish band I’m really into just now they’re called Bleed from Within- they are absolutely amazing! There’s lots of good bands going through Scotland just now. Obviously the bigger bands – Gojira, you know, Meshuga…and the older ones like Machine Head are still sounding great. I really love Nothing but Thieves as well. Slaves to Gravity… they were amazing and they really should have been bigger than they were. What about you, Zack?
Anything about contemporary rock/metal that stands out to you?
Zack: Just…everything my Dad said.
Craig Costello: Plus he’s a massive Dream Theatre fan.
Craig Costello: Yeah, I mean they’ve been going a long time now, but I saw them back in the day as well before they were really big. Thre’s lots of stuff and, really, we listen to a lot of the same things even though he’s considerably younger than me. And, especially when you’re into music you should keep trying to find new stuff and we try and do that, especially at the local level as well.
Craig Costello: For example, Darkness Divine, 6 Years Silence- we’ve played with them and thy’re a good emerging band. There are lots of good bands that are on our level that are trying to break through.
What’s it like trying to balance being on tour with the struggle to party, or not to party?
Craig Costello: I don’t know. I don’t actually try and set any rules for myself other than being faithful to my wife, but with everything else, you know, you’ve only got one life. I’ve been to Ireland and Northern Ireland playing and when someone asks, “Do you want to go to a house party?” I says, “yeah”. I have no idea where I’m going and despite the risks, you know, its just life experiences and you’ve got to experience life. Now I’m dragging my son along with me on my adventures
Zack: Yeah, its great! A really good way of gaining experience.
Have you ever played in Krakatoa before?
Craig Costello: First time here. The last time we were playing in Aberdeen was 2004. But I checked Krakatoa out before we came, and its great venue, great set up and we’ll definitely come back.
What do you like to drink?
Craig Costello: In the house I like to drink Gin and Tonic. I kinda stopped drinking beer a while ago, but I normally drink lager and I tried Budvar in the bar and its really really nice. The other two members are into their craft beer and ales, but I don’t really like it to be honest.
Zack: I tried a Cider here. I don’t know what it is, but I really liked it. I’m mostly into Rum and coke, especially Kraken and coke.
“And I cry like the sun is gone…”
And so Krakatoa’s time with Battalion of Flies came to an end (for now) with Craig and Zack, as they told me they would, staying on till late after the show, enjoing very modest amounts of Budvar and Kraken and cola…naturally. And as the party was winding down, on was struck with just how personable they both were as individuals. Despite the numerous obstacles that have been hurled at them, whether they were personal ones or out of their control entirely, they were clearly over and done with it. More so, they had ascended beyond their afflictions-thrusting forward towards new horizons. If it does feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, then this experienced band have proven that they can easily carry it. Highly looking forward to their newest album ‘To the End’ and hope you are too! See you in the next one.