Q&A with The Boxer Rebellion

By: Brent X Mendoza

Saturday, April 30 London based indie rockers The Boxer Rebellion descended on The Roxy Theatre, taking the stage in front of a sold out house of enthusiastic “fans in the know.” One of the quintessential buzz bands of the moment, the boys boxer, are currently wrapping up the U.S. leg of their world tour, promoting their latest musical effort The Cold Still.

Fighting road fatigue and pondering their dinnertime plans, the rhythm section (bassist Adam Harrison and drummer Piers Hewitt) was kind enough to donate some of their post-soundcheck time for a sit down interview in The Roxy’s famed V.I.P. lounge, On The Rox. Here’s what they had to say…

So sold out show at The Roxy?! How does that feel?

Hewitt: Definitely holds some significance for us. I mean, it’s a legendary venue. Our sound guy is super excited. He’s from Texas, so he’s a little more knowledgeable about American history… He’s been excited all day, like a little kid.

… but yeah we’ve been to L.A. a few times and it’s definitely been noted by a number of people, what a historic place this venue is. L.A. has so much entertainment history that it’s hard not to play, and not have history surrounding you.

Last year we were out here for a feature film called Going The Distance, which had Drew Barrymore in it, and we wrote the song for the end scene and we appeared in a couple of gig scenes in it; so we came out for the premiere of that…

Speaking of films, I noticed in your bio that you guys have a ton of placement in features and TV. Do you think there is a certain quality to your music that lends itself to storytelling?

Hewitt: Absolutely! All my favorite bands, lend themselves to that as well, much more than being able to get on radio regularly… It’s a bit of an impossible game, writing to get on radio; and we’ve never really done that… but all our music to me really suites images, television, film, a lot more than just coming out of a radio.

Harrison: We kind of create big soundscapes that are cinematic, so that’s probably why so many music supervisors enjoy putting our music to whatever they’re working on whether it’s TV or film.

Hewitt: Yeah, I’m a little bit weak when it comes to watching films, and it doesn’t take a lot for me to sort of “well up,” but it’s got to have some music to it… something to get me going.

Harrison: Well, I definitely think we made a few ladies cry with our thing on Grey’s Anatomy. That was a tear jerker. [laughter]

Any sort of buzz band at your level, naturally starts getting comparisons to whomever/whatever bands came before that have a sound similar. You guys seem to be sort of getting the Radiohead, early Bends era thing? How does that sit with you?

Hewitt: Absolutely fine. It’s probably the easiest thing to do as a journalist, when describing another band; at least on paper with words… you know to reference who they sound like and who they’ve been influenced by. So I think with a new band these days, all you can sort of hope for is that the band they’re referencing is a band that you love; and Radiohead doesn’t get much more loved than that.

Come to think of it, not many bands that I can think of get referenced to Radiohead… and I kind of like that we do in a way. They’re definitely an influence.

Harrison: I think the best thing that you can do these days as far as creating art, creating music… cause so much has already been done, is to draw from as many influences as possible. And we have such a wide range of influences individually and bring so much to the table that we create something that we hope is original as it can be for what we do.

A bit of a unique, or original band name, The Boxer Rebellion? Referencing the historic Chinese uprising..?

Hewitt: [Laughter] we picked it out of a book. Seriously!

Harrison: It’s one of the hardest things you can do, is come up with a good sounding band name. And for ages we were going through names that could have been relevant, but they all sounded crap, so it got to the point where we were just looking through encyclopedias and history books.

Hewitt: I like that fact that it represents something but has nothing to do with us. There are an awful lot of crap band names out there that mean nothing; and I like our band name. I like it as much as the first day we decided on it.

Your third record The Cold Still was recently released. How would you describe it? What was the recording process like working with producer Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams)?

Hewitt: After our second album, which did pretty well, I was always aware that we would have to do something similar, but different; and the approach we took, and the recording process that we embarked upon, (which was playing everything live; which we’ve never actually done before… getting in a room and facing each other) brought a lot of different elements to what we were doing, but also still keeping elements, that people coming to our live shows have/had come to like.

Really? Recorded live? Yet the album sounds so polished. I would think in a live recording situation you would get a bit more of a “raw” sound?

Hewitt: Well it only sounds raw if it’s not done properly, or unless you’re a punk band and going for that kind of sound… when you’re from that caliber of producer stock (Ethan Johns), you can capture that thing that you can’t put a label on; that thing, when four people play together at the same time… It’s a dying art actually in the current age of Pro Tools, recording to tape you know…

Harrison: A funny analogy, you can have varying different qualities of burger, but if the source is good, which is basically Ethan, you can make something pretty average taste really good, or you can make something really good, even better. And seriously, he was just the missing ingredient that we never had, that I could never put my finger on, even up until when we finished.

…It was very natural. We got on with him from day one; and we just fell into the groove of things very quickly. And it was only really once the sessions were over, did I reflect upon it and realize just how good he is, and was, at what he was doing. It was just a breath of fresh air for us in recording terms.


For more on The Boxer Rebellion and their new album The Cold Still, check out www.theboxerrebellion.com