For anybody who saw the last tour of Slash, Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators one thing lingered in their mind after the show. Sure we were all thinking about how amazing the main act was but we were all expecting that – the other thing in our mind was just how impressive the opening act were. For many that was the introduction to Devilskin – a four piece hard rock outfit from New Zealand, fuelled by the amazing vocals of one Jennie Skulander who can only be described as one of the best female vocalists in the heavy music scene today.
Now for all of those that fell in love with the music of Devilskin that night the band return with their brand new album, Red, and we recently had the privilege of being able to chat to Skulander while she was caught up in the current Covid-19 lockdown in New Zealand.
“We really just wanted to make a kick-ass album,” says Skulander with a laugh when I ask her whether or not the band had any plans of wanted they wanted to achieve with this album. “We really thought the best way to achieve that was to make sure that every song didn’t sound the same. We’ve got our heavier songs and we have our ballads and then we have our emotional songs and that really is our formula. We like to mix it up a little bit and I think we really achieved that once again with Red.”
As the interview goes on I also learn that there is no set writing process for the band either. “We’ve kind of been working on these tracks since our last album, Be Like The River, so we ended up with quite a lot of songs” she explains. “We also had some older songs that didn’t make Be Like The River that we had kind of forgotten about as well. So we had those that had to be completely re-written. We had done some song-writing weekends though where we had just gone away to the beach and try to come up with some stuff.”
“But a lot of the time it would just start with somebody having a riff,” she says continuing. “Or sometimes Nic (Martin – the band’s drummer) would have a whole song because he can play everything, and he would sometimes present us with a whole song without vocals. But it is always different – I always have lyrics and Paul (Martin – bass guitar) will always have lyrics. But yeah it isn’t always the same – we all have different approaches all the time.”
One of those song-writing weekends also resulted in one of the most heartfelt tracks on the album – but not in the way that anybody would have expected. “We were coming back from one of those weekends and out in the middle of nowhere we came across a car crash,” she says sadly. “It had just happened and there were two kids laying on the road because they had been thrown from the van. We were there before any of the emergency appliances could arrive and yeah that took a toll on everyone. Everybody was affected by that and in the end we ended up writing about it.”
There is no shortage of personal lyrics on Red. On the track “Endo” Skulander talks about suffering from endometriosis and she says it does help to put such emotional lyrics into a song. “Sometimes I will just put lyrics to a song and not tell the rest of the band what it is about,” she says as I ask whether that kind of song-writing leads to it feeling like the band is reading her diary. “But then they will be like – what are you saying there and I will be like ‘oh blah blah.’ Or they will be like ‘what does that mean’ and I’ll tell them and they will be like ‘woah, woah, okay.’ But everybody is really supportive.”
“I mean there is also our song “Sweet Release,”” she says again talking to me about one of the most personal tracks she has written. “I came up with some of the lyrics and that made it really sad song but then Paul came up with the rest of the lyrics which was about this guy here in Hamilton named Matthew Stevens who was under mental health care in a hospital. He was let out for an unsupervised smoke break and he pretty much took off and killed himself. His family have been trying to get an apology for five years because what happened is wrong.”
If you a lover of hard rock then Devilskin is certainly a band that needs to be in your album collection. Start with Red and then work your way back their back catalogue and you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Red is out now.