BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA
He describes himself as “a geek in rockstar’s clothing,” and has no problem admitting his love for Science Fiction and History.
This geek extraordinaire, however, is more commonly known in the music world as Matt Brooks, guitarist and one-quarter of Like A Storm, the only known band that combines heavy baritone guitar riffs and hard rock songs with a didgeridoo.
The formation of what was to become Like A Storm began in New Zealand by Brooks and his two older brothers, bassist Kent and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Chris, who also handles didgeridoo duties. (After a succession of drummers, American Zach Wood joined the band in 2014.)
The brother’s decision to join musical forces was a mutual one that brought out the best in each other, according to Brooks.
“It’s kinda cool, actually,” Brooks stated. “We all grew up playing in different bands. Each of us was the lead singer and songwriter in our own respective bands. We would just jam together, never any kind of formal thing, really. We had this amazing chemistry where we all knew where the other person was going. We all had a sheer vision of the kind of music we wanted to make. After a while, it just became apparent that we should get together.”
While some make it a rule never to work with family, Brooks said the brothers actually embraced it.
“My brothers and I have pretty strong personalities and pretty strong ideas about the kind of music we want to make,” Brooks said. “That in itself has broken up a lot of bands. But we really believe that the three of us together is better than each of us on our own. The fact that each of us can be headstrong has been our greatest strength once we found a way to harness it.”
STUPID QUESTION OF THE DAY: Okay, I’ll give you $20 if you tell me stories on how rotten your brothers were to you growing up. MATT BROOKS: “Are you kidding me?! I have to tour and live with these guys for 10 months out of the year!! Nothing dirt-worthy is coming out of MY mouth!!”
Early in their career, the brothers made the decision to move to North America in an effort to get the music out to a wider audience.
“New Zealand has a lot of awesome bands and great musicians,” Brooks said. “But the best thing about New Zealand is also the worst – it is so small and geographically isolated for a rock band. Being so far away from North America and Europe, you really don’t have the same opportunities to extensively tour, especially with the bands we got to tour with during our career.”
Moving to North America enabled the band to grow its audience base via touring and recording. Like A Storm released its first album, The End of the Beginning, in 2009, which featured “Chemical Infatuation” as its single. During this time period, the band toured with Creed, Shinedown, Alter Bridge, Skillet, Puddle of Mudd, and Drowning Pool, to name just a few, before releasing Like A Storm Unplugged in 2011. A DVD entitled Southern Skies was released in 2012, followed by an EP, Chaos Theory Pt. 1.
In 2013, the band released a live double album, Worlds Collide: Live from the Ends of the Earth. The year 2015 saw the release of Awaken the Fire via Century Media Records, which included newer versions of songs found on Chaos Theory Pt. 1: “Love the Way You Hate Me,” “Wish You Hell,” “Break Free,” “Never Surrender,” “Southern Skies,” “Six Feet Under,” “Nothing Remains,” and Coolio’s cover, “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
Alter Bridge and Tremonti Project’s Mark Tremonti, for example, has sincerely promoted the members of Like A Storm whenever possible.
“We love the guys and we love the music,” Tremonti said in a recent interview. “Now they’re off and running and doing well. I’m so glad to see it happen to good people.”
Tremonti also singled out Brooks, stating his steady course to being classified as a guitar god.
“He’s brilliant in his technique and method,” Tremonti said. “He’s a world-class musician and I expect to hear more from him…he’s constantly evolving.”
Like A Storm has been classified in numerous categories such as Alternative Metal, Hard Rock, and Heavy Metal, so it was a surprise to many that the band went down a different musical avenue with “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Like A Storm’s version was a hit with audiences and especially struck a nerve with lyrics that seemed to speak anew to the alleged police brutality accusations currently raging in the United States.
Brooks, however, was quick to say that the cover was not meant to make a political statement about the aforementioned crisis.
“The cover wasn’t really intended to be a political or social statement, although I could certainly see why people might think that, with what is going on right now,” he stated. “Actually, it just came out of a song that we always loved. We were out one night, taking a break from recording, and the song came on the radio. It just seemed like it was the time to take this song that we always loved and see if we could reinterpret it as a Like A Storm song. It was a crazy experiment that ended up on the album.”
While noting that many see Like A Storm’s songs as angst-ridden and cathartic, Brooks said that the underlying theme the band seems to trend towards is one of “survival of the fittest.”
“On the surface our songs might look like they are filled with defiance,” Brooks stated, “but, for us, the underlying message has always been about overcoming the obstacles, which have been many, for us as individuals and as a band.”
Like most musicians, Brooks reiterated that the music always outweighs the obstacles.
“There’s a great quote by Winston Churchill that I love: ‘Never, never, never give up!,’” Brooks laughed in a pretty fair imitation of the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister during World War II. “Playing music may not be the hardest job out there, but it’s certainly not the easiest, especially when you are trying to get heard. Sometimes,” he continued, “it feels that the odds are against you. I think just having belief and perseverance in what you do and loving what you do…I think that’s the main thing that keeps a band together, especially during hard times.”
Like A Storm is a band with convictions that, Brooks stated, comes from doing what the members truly believe in.
“Like anything in life,” he said, “there are times when people are trying to scare you in going in a different direction and you find yourself in a place that does not feel like it is the right place for you. I think it’s a huge honor when people say our music is heartfelt, passionate, or that it connects because it’s just validating the fact that we decided to do exactly what we wanted to do. You hope that people like it, but ultimately I think if you’re true to yourself as an artist, that’s what really connects to the people.”
Brooks said that he has advised young musicians just starting out of the need to maintain the passion throughout their chosen profession.
“Really, I think if you don’t have the passion for it, as soon as the going gets tough your heart isn’t going to be in it,” he stated. “If you truly love what you do – and that’s certainly been the case with us – if you love the music, it doesn’t matter what obstacles you come up against. You can, and will, overcome them.”
ABOUT THAT ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING THING…
One obstacle Brooks admitted the band is still attempting to overcome is illegal downloading. Brooks emphasized that he has no problems with the format changing to digital music which, in turn, allows the consumer to download or stream music as opposed to physically buying a CD.
“I think the issue as musicians is that, unfortunately, people have stopped paying for music,” he said, “stopped paying for the very thing that keeps it going. It puts the musicians – and the music industry itself, in a pretty tough place.”
Brooks himself said he has no real answer, except to ask consumers to stop doing it.
“The hardest thing is,” Brooks stated, “is that it’s impossible to police. It’s just become acceptable, especially with the latest technology out there. People do it and don’t realize the complications they are putting on the bands they are downloading from, the implication on the industry as whole, and how it affects new bands trying to get into the business.”
SECRETS OF THE CATACOMBS
Currently, Like A Storm is writing and recording for the band’s latest offering, Catacombs, which is expected to be released sometime this year. The newly released first single, “Pure Evil,” gives an excellent example of what is to come. The song is currently climbing up U.S. Rock Radio and has given the band another Top 50 single in a row.
“Pure Evil” definitely addresses the dark side of religious and political power. According to a recently published article in Screamer Magazine, Brooks stated that “Those members of our society who are supposed to be a shining example of morality are so often revealed to be corrupt, immoral, and even dangerous. The cover ups, scandals and exploitation that pervade the highest levels of church and government are just sickening. So ‘Pure Evil’ seemed like the perfect way to sum up this absolute hypocrisy – these people appear so righteous, but at their core they are the worst of the worst.”
Like A Storm has used Biblical analogies in many of its past songs.
“We’ve always kind of loved Biblical imagery,” Brooks agreed. “When we’re writing, we’re always trying to find powerful images, ways to put things that conveys the idea you have in your mind. We keep going back to this Biblical imagery! It not only seems to sum up the point we’re trying to make but also gives extra power and meaning to the lyrics.”
“Pure Evil” just might be the only piece that the band is willing to give of Catacombs until its release. Brooks, in a recent social media posting, wrote that the band is “working on some badass ‘Pure Evil’-type riffage for our new record…can’t wait to show you guys.”
Like A Storm is scheduled to perform in its native New Zealand in March before continuing its tour trek throughout the year. And that’s okay with Brooks.
“We keep getting booked!” he laughed, “We keep getting offers. We’re very grateful to be as busy as we are.”