How to Survive a Funeral, Australian symphonic metalcore outfit Make Them Suffer’s fourth LP, dropped last June, just in time for the band to spend a year inside… However, during a recent chat with guitarist Nick McLernon, he tells me that, despite the circumstances, the album was far-from lost or glossed-over, and very well received in the metal community. And two weeks ago, Make Them Suffer released a follow-up, non-album single, “Contraband.” The song is their first-ever collaboration, featuring guest vocals from Spiritbox’s Courtney LaPlante. Check out their ultra-bloody video for the single (in addition to “Bones,” from How to Survive a Funeral), and read about how the band managed to survive the pandemic.
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city. You’ve played here a few times. Do you have any memories of those gigs or your time in the city before or after playing them?
Nick McLernon: We’ve been through Philly a few times! Will never forget the [Philly] cheese steaks. We once did a US headliner and Philly was the last date on that tour. During the supporting act’s set, a couple of us (won’t say who) jumped on stage naked with masks and did some dance moves. Happens a lot where we’re from, although apparently over there this is a big no no! My memories were of people looking really confused.
Izzy: You just released “Contraband,” featuring Courtney LaPlante, which I understand is your first time ever collaborating with another artist. How was working with her, or even just the process of collaborating with someone outside of the band in general?
Nick: We were on tour with Spiritbox in Europe right as COVID hit so the idea of the collab would have happened shortly after. Sean would often come up with his ideas while driving, to then stopping at the side of the road to contact Courtney with his ideas! It’s the first time we’ve collaborated with anybody outside of the band but as far as my understanding goes, this was more than just a “Hey, can you record this over this part?” kind of deal.
Izzy: Since we’re talking about it, do you have any particular favorite musical collaborations in your record collection? Off the top of my head, I thought of White Zombie’s “Black Sunshine” with Iggy Pop and Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod” with Gibby Haynes.
Nick: Personally, I think one of the more interesting ones of recent times has to be between Bring Me the Horizon and Amy Lee on the song “One Day The Only Butterflies Left Will Be In Your Chest.” In summary, on a previous record BMTH had unintentionally written a verse that was too close to an Evanescence track and were sued by them (for lack of a better term). After they agreed to share a songwriting credit, Amy (who was already a fan of the band) reached out to collaborate. You hear really cool stories surrounding artist collabs, though to me that one has been the most interesting as of recent times!
Izzy: I understand that, amongst other things, the song is a bit of a reaction to the pandemic and basically being locked up for well over a year. So, I’m curious, how did you spend your days throughout COVID? Did you discover anything new, whether something you’re newly a fan of or just something you enjoy doing?
Nick: The song serves a catharsis to our hibernation over the pandemic. Without the pandemic we would definitely have been touring the record. It gave us the opportunity to take up new hobbies and just take a break from music for a while. Eventually some of us went back into doing other music projects anyway. Booka formed another music group called Internet Friends, Sean recorded and released his project, Onslow, and I put out some of my own stuff on music platforms, too.
Izzy: Your last album, How to Survive a Funeral, has been out for about a year now. I’m sure it was a bummer not getting to tour it in a traditional sense, but did you have any favorite reactions to it, whether from critics or fans who reached out to you?
Nick: There were a lot of people from bands we look up to and admire to send us messages of support, which was really nice. The ones that stick out to me were being humbled to have our music in Metal Hammer’s (UK) top 50 albums of 2020. Another one might be being nominated for an AIR (Australian Independent Record Labels Associations) award here in Australia. There was overwhelming support from fans new and old too, which always takes the cake.
Izzy: For that matter, what have been some of the highlights of the band in general, for you? Your debut LP came out almost a decade ago and you were active for a good handful of years before that as well.
Nick: It’s hard to pick out single moments because there are so many. My favourite part of being in a band is simply the opportunity to travel. It might not be travelling in a general sense, though it certainly is a unique way to see parts of the world you would not otherwise see!
Izzy: Finally, what are you most excited about in the second half of 2021? What are you hoping and planning at the moment?
Nick: In Australia we are beginning to see things get back to normal. We haven’t performed in around 18 months so we’re just keen to get back into it again. We would never have expected to be out of music for so long!!