Jonny McBee is tired. Not surprising really; he’s coming towards the end of a month-long European tour. And much of today has been spent on the 250-mile drive from Plymouth to London by way of Stonehenge. But he’s not about to let something like lack of sleep get in the way of a good show.
“Once you go up on stage, you don’t care about anything,” the singer says, three hours before The Browning perform at Dingwalls. “Even if you have a bad back that day and you have to be on stage, your bad back is gone. If you have to pee like crazy before you go on, when you get on stage you don’t need to pee anymore.”
And, true to his word, the band put on a ferocious show. The frontman, especially, isn’t one to stand still, headbanging even as he sings, holding his hands aloft like a DJ as the synths kick in, or clenched into fists when things get really intense. Which is more often than you’d think: the entire set sounds darker and heavier as they’ve dropped the tuning of their back catalogue to match the songs from their adventurous new album.
“I think it’s just a natural progression over the course of playing metal way too much,” says McBee of ‘Isolation’, released in June and written under the influence of rock bands like 3 Days Grace, As I Lay Dying, Papa Roach, and Rammstein.
“lt’s almost like falling back to your roots,” adds drummer Cody Stewart. “A lot of the bands we’re listening to now are the bands we were listening to when we were 13, 14 years old, first breaking into metal. So it’s kind of nostalgic and refreshing, trying to be more influenced by that kind of thing and not trying to keep up with the latest big thing in metal,” he offers.
“I don’t care about sounding like anybody else,” continues McBee, who’s been working on a rock side-project with Stewart for the past two years. “So what I appreciate about the music I grew up with is that they were being truly creative back then. Obviously they have their tendencies but they’re all so unique and they didn’t care what anybody else was doing. And that’s how it should be.”
Which helps explain why, despite the rise and rise of EDM since The Browning’s 2013 album ‘Hypernova’, electronics don’t overpower ‘Isolation’.
“The whole point of the band was to fuse EDM with metal and, over the course of the years, it’s now melding more and more as an actual fusion, rather than two separate things,” reveals McBee. “And realistically I can’t picture myself playing techno-metal when I’m 30, so having that progression is something I, personally, need.”
What’s not changed as much is his approach to lyrics.
“Hatebreed is a big influence to me so, especially in the beginning, I wanted positive lyrics but done in an angry manner. Our bassist coined it perfectly: ‘positive change driven by anger’.”
And not just anger, but movies and sci-fi and aliens too.
“I’m not some kind of crazy lyricist that comes up with all these crazy things,” admits McBee, “so a lot of the time I’ll have the plot of a movie and look at the movie quotes and kind of twist them into lyrics.”
He’s also written songs inspired by video games, like ‘League of Legends’, ‘Final Fantasy’, and, back in 2010, ‘Pokemon’.
Which prompts the inevitable question.
“We all play ‘Pokemon GO’,” confirms McBee.
“Heavily,” Stewart chimes in. “Only ‘Pokemon’ could get my generation out of the house. All my friends who are homebodies and sit at home wanting to play video games all day, are out walking the streets of their neighbourhoods.”
But, although the band have found the time to walk Europe’s streets in search of Pikachu and Mr Mime, their focus is on blowing people away with their music. Based on their performance in Camden tonight, they’ve been doing exactly that.