If you read my review for Loathe‘s I Let It In And It Took Everything album, you will have seen how intensely curious the experience made me. Throughout the entire listen, I wanted to know how the album and its scenes, characters, moods interplayed. So of course I jumped at the chance to get on the phone with Loathe’s vocalist Kadeem France.
Wondering how to condense my curiosities into a short chat, thankfully Kadeem had time to spare and we were able to move through the album in detail. Despite the sense of mystique surrounding the band, Kadeem shared that the members of Loathe enjoy talking about the inspirations behind their music.
I Let It In And It Took Everything
Beginning with the album’s title, I wanted to know what “it” was, and understand the inspiration behind this really grand and vulnerable sounding sentence. Kadeem put it simply to begin with, saying “The ‘thing’ is the world. We let the world in. [laughs]”. Elaborating, he revealed how the experiences of the band, including the release of The Cold Sun album are a driving force behind this.
“A lot has happened since The Cold Sun. Because of The Cold Sun, we’ve toured a lot, we’ve seen the world, and it’s changed us as people. It’s for the better of course, but there’s been a lot of sacrifices made through that time. For me personally, that title really sums up that entire time.” Seeming determined to not be misunderstood or to seem ungrateful, Kadeem reiterated that it can “go both ways” in terms of good times and challenging ones.
On the topic of the songs themselves, I asked if they each tied into this same theme and the experience of being a musician. While they’re not specific to this in terms of a broad story, the songs of I Let It In And It Took Everything relate to personal experiences along the way for the members of Loathe. Kadeem shared that it feels like it’s the first time they’ve shared genuine sentimental songs, without any kind of shroud of conceptual approach. “With this, we like to see it as a collection of different stories from Loathe that are also actually sentimental to us.”
On the topic of concept, I shared how I was trying to work it out – whether it was a conceptual album or not – given that there’s songs that sound like they’d be at home in horror movies or even scene-setters in more romantic movies. “We take a lot of inspiration from movie scores and the whole comic world and anything that’s in that vein of entertainment we are all over. Especially Erik [Bickerstaffe, Loathe’s guitarist and vocalist]. Erik’s a really big fan of David Lynch. Silent Hill was a really big influence for us back in the day, and even still now every now and again. And just different movie soundtracks and stuff, we take a lot of inspiration from that, and as you said, you can tell!”
Though the fourteen songs range in sound and style, I Let It In And It Took Everything has a flow of connectivity through it. When I asked about this, wondering how they managed to give the whole album a cohesive feel, Kadeem related it to the fact that the songs are stories that occur “in the same universe”. Explaining, he shared “You know the way Pulp Fiction has all these different storylines going on but it’s in the same universe, and it all kind of affects each individual character? That’s kind of the vibe of this album.”
I asked about the universe in question: How fleshed out is it? Can they visualise it? What features does it have? “Oh yeah, no definitely. I feel like the artwork sums it up a lot for us. We were in Japan when we did the artwork for the album. That’s captured that moment of us being out on tour in a new place for the first time ever like Japan.” Kadeem spoke about the culture shock and having many new experiences.
Elaborating even more on the meaning that the artwork carries, Kadeem shared a conversation he had had with Loathe’s bassist Feisal El-Khazragi. Kadeem explained that Feisal had taken a lot of photos for the album, and had happened to be holding a vinyl copy of the album at the time. “I was saying ‘All these memories and everything that we’ve had, everything we’ve created, you’re holding it physically in your hand right now.’ [laughs] It’s so crazy, you know what I mean?”
Theme & Aggressive Evolution
The album’s opening track begins orchestrally and sounding quite majestic, and I was curious about the appearance of footsteps and the sound of a door. Laughing while explaining, Kadeem described it as “kind of like going through a portal, and then coming out the other side and instantly “Aggressive Evolution”, like BOOM! In your face. The name of the title track says it, you know what I mean? It’s just like straight in. This is us now. [laughs]”
It was at this point that I asked Kadeem if he minded us talking about each song of the album, and he kindly agreed.
Broken Vision Rhythm
I complimented the great title to this song and Kadeem shared that Feisal came up with “Broken Vision Rhythm”. On the threatening and machine like oppressive existence the song seems to detail, Kadeem said “It’s kind of like an observation of the state that we’re in right now, but obviously more extreme. It’s our view on how we’re living right now, it’s almost like a dystopian world. I don’t want to go too much into it, like [puts on a voice] ‘UGH, social media, UGH! The government!’, but it’s kind of like that in a way.”
Two Way Mirror
Kadeem shared that the song is sentimental to him, as he wrote it about a phone call he’d had with his father after a long time of not connecting. Describing their relationship as ‘rocky’, he says “It was probably one of the first times we’d spoke man-to-man, as adults, as opposed to me being younger. It’s just about me speaking to him, we’re both talking about each other, and sharing the similarities in the way we are as people. And it’s like ‘I’m literally looking through the eyes of a life lived twice’, if that makes sense.”
While talking about “Two Way Mirror”, I complimented the band’s approach to the song in terms of sound and how beautiful it was, as well as unexpected. “Oh thank you. It’s kind of like the first time that we’ve been no holds barred and created what we wanted as opposed to what people will expect of us. Because sometimes you can get locked in that and not actually experiment with music, so I wanted to do that with this album.”
I acknowledged the line “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” and my appreciation for it. I wondered if it was specific to that no holds barred approach to creativity, to which Kadeem answered “Yeah, in a way. It’s almost like ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid to confront LIFE?’ [laughs], if that makes sense, and just do what is true to you as opposed to being scared of what others would say. It’s pretty much that. And that is such a key thing for us. I don’t know if you’ve seen the music video, with the little conversation, and ‘I’d be happy’. That’s.. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it! [laughs] That’s definitely a huge huge thing for us.” A great moment indeed.
The fearlessness shows up in “451 Days” also and I asked Kadeem if they were linked. Talking about the Nina Simone quote that appears on the track, Kadeem relates to it most fully with the experience of performing music live. “It’s so well described, the way she describes that feeling. I love feeling like that, playing live when it truly feels free. Just letting yourself go and expressing it. I feel like it’s a really big thing for us, because it’s our escape and that’s what we hope it does for people who come to our shows.”
New Faces In The Dark
Kadeem shared that the song was a personal one for him, that relates to a relationship with him and a family member. Initially struggling to put it into words, he described it as “two sides of us as people, to put it broadly, and how you can take the love from one side of someone and there’s the harsh side, and it’s just figuring out how to balance that, knowing that they don’t mean things that they say when they’re heated. At the end of the day, it’s all love, you know?”
Red Room & Gored
I straight up described this song to Kadeem as “just scary” with its haunting, menacing tones, and breathing sounds, and asked if that was what they were going for. “Yeah, definitely, definitely,” he replied, and explained how the song came to be. “That song was kind of like a heat of the moment kind of thing. Red room – the room that we recorded it in – was Erik our guitarist’s shed in his back garden, where he does all his production and stuff. There’s a massive red light in there and we were just vibing off this song when Erik was writing the instrumental to it. I don’t know, do you know in a moment there’s just fire to it? Like, there’s fire in a room, if that makes sense? [laughs] It was just one of those moments and we fully captured it there and then.”
Asking if this all-in approach to experiences as they happen is how Loathe create their music, as it can seem inexplicably different from one moment to the next. “If it comes naturally to us, we want to do it. If we’re forcing something, then there’s no point in doing it. It’s not true to you, you know?”
Thinking out loud, I said “It’s like you’re just using music to express different feelings.” And Kadeem felt that this is the ‘main thing’ for Loathe. “If we’re feeling a certain way on a certain day, it can come off so many ways. Like if we’ve had a bad day, or someone’s said something to us that’s made us feel a certain way, it’s like.. yo. [clicks fingers] For example “Gored”? We showed some friends our album and they were like ‘Yeah, it’s sick, it’s sick!’, but in this moment, we were like ‘Yo, you know what? Let’s just get in the studio and write the heaviest thing. Let’s just go all out.’ And in that moment it was just like.. that’s what came off. The feedback gave the feeling that created something, if that makes sense. [laughs]”
I shared with Kadeem that I’d enjoyed “Screaming” and the lovely and captivating journey through its almost 6 minute duration, adding “especially the end!”. “Oh yeah, the end. I love the end so much. Our drummer Sean [Radcliffe] actually wrote that song, like the whole instrumental to it. Originally that was one of the songs that was done near the end of the writing of the album. That was when that song came about, and we just had the instrumental. Sean had sent it and been like ‘Yo, check this out’. And we were like ‘Nah, this HAS to be on the album’. [laughs]”
Is It Really You
“Is It Really You” is a firm favourite of mine, probably my most favourite song on the entire album. I love the unexpected dreamy, floaty, and almost romantic sound. I asked if that was what they were going for. “Feisal and Erik took a lot of that, and Sean as well, but mostly Feisal and Erik were the ones writing the song. They took a lot of inspiration from Tame Impala, The 1975, those type of bands. It’s about family and the passing away and still having a connection with that person regardless. It was a very sentimental song.” Just beautiful.
Heavy Is The Head That Falls With The Weight Of A Thousand Thoughts
Appreciating such a great title that comes with a headache inducing sense of pressure, I wondered what inspired it. “Just having a lot on your head, a lot to do,” Kadeem shared. “That song really reflects just how our whole cycle of the album and writing it and having to do so much, because we produced the album ourselves, recorded it all ourselves, but it got mixed and mastered by George Lever. Just dealing with that for the first time ever, and having so much on your plate. Like Erik was.. [laughs] we were all under so much pressure but a lot of it laid on Erik’s back and he had a lot to do. It was a heavy time, a lot of pressure, but in a way it’s like the pressure made the diamond. [laughs]”
Kel: “I love that. So would you do it again that way? Like, was it a good experience to do it that way?”
Kadeem: “I think now we’ve done it for the first time, we’ve learned a lot from it. I’d definitely be up for doing it again, but just having someone who’s on our wavelength of creativity and someone who gets it to work with us. It was a lot of responsibility to always have our back when we were trying to create, you know? I feel like we’ve learned enough to do it again. 100%.”
A Sad Cartoon & A Sad Cartoon (Reprise)
Another one of my favourites of I Let It In And It Took Everything, “A Sad Cartoon” came across to me with influence of 90s rock. Kadeem shared that Erik, Sean, and Feisal created the track, so he wasn’t entirely sure of the inspiration to the song’s meaning, but felt that sonically it was “just being inspired by 90s rock and stuff like that and being able to incorporate that into our own sound. It was the first time we’d ever properly done that, so it was cool to experiment.” Hooking into the movie-inspired sounds of Loathe, Kadeem described the reprise as “almost the credits of the song, if that makes sense”.
I Let It In And It Took Everything
Surprised at how dark the title track and final song was, I asked about its inspiration as well as acknowleding its great ending. Kadeem shared “I feel like that track in a way explains the journey that we’ve been on, and everything we’ve been through. It’s all coming out at the end and realising that everything we’ve sacrificed and done, we were right to do, because this is 100% what we want to do. It’s a journey, man.”
We then spoke about how in Australia the album would be coming out tomorrow (today), and Kadeem said “it feels insane, it feels like Christmas!”. The band leave for tour and play their hometown Liverpool on the day of release, and with their friends there on such a momentous occasion, Kadeem was clearly looking forward to it. “Being together, we can fully celebrate it. And play the songs! Ah! [laughs] I can’t wait.”
He’s also looking forward to seeing the response to the album’s songs in a live setting, enjoying reactions to the new singles that Loathe have played so far. Talking about playing in Australia, Kadeem said “Oh we’d love to. That would be a dream come true. The scene in Australia is so sick compared to anywhere else, so I’d love to go there.”