Twelve Foot Ninja: Outliers On A New Path
The curse of the second album hangs like a plague over bands trying desperately to emulate and capture the sound and aura that was provided by their debut release. Many bands try to downplay or ignore the stigma of the sophomore album, but all too often fall prey to its enduring legacy whether they admit it or not. Twelve Foot Ninja are now in the precarious position of facing this potentially career shattering moment with their new release Outlier, and vocalist Kin Etic doesn’t try to shy away from the enormity of the task.
“Absolutely!” he exclaimed when asked if the band was affected by the pressures of nailing the follow up to Silent Machine. “We didn’t plan on it – we all thought it would be a breeze, no worries [laughs]. We’d heard of the Sophomore Syndrome as they call it and we thought it would be okay and all the songs would fall in to place and it ended up taking us three years and it was intense! It was the most intense creative process I’ve ever been involved in my entire life. We had approximately 60 or so sketches, ideas, and beds for songs -which is a lot of material – and we managed to whittle them down to ten we could agree on but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t arduous at times, but we all love creating so we were enjoying it as well. It was kind of both.
“You love to hate it, but yeah, unfortunately, it was harder than we expected – but I’ve heard that’s healthy. I’ve heard that’s natural and I think most of that pressure was from us. I don’t think the pressure was really external. A lot of bands I think perceive it as external or place the responsibility in the hands of their fans, like, ‘the fans are expecting something bigger’, but I don’t think that’s the case. We’re kind of our biggest critics… Actually we are definitely our biggest critics and I think the pressure was solely our own which helped push us as well. Just when we got comfortable that’s when we realised maybe it was a bit too safe so we had to push ourselves a bit more and get uncomfortable again. I think when you’re uncomfortable you are more likely to take risks and to reach out in directions that you normally wouldn’t. It’s like throwing yourself in the deep end of a pool when you don’t know how to swim and trying to stay afloat and I think that’s really healthy.”
One of the things that Twelve Foot Ninja set out to achieve on Outlier was a bit more experimentation, and when you are already a band who pushes the boundaries musically there is a limit to how many different ways you can test yourself.
“This time we decided to try out some new flavors,” Etic explained. “There’s a song on the album called “Monsoon” that has kind of a classical Indian element to it. It’s got lots of tabla in it, lots of percussion and that’s different for us. You’ve still got elements of funk in there and there’s jazz based elements still. I think it’s a natural step up from Silent Machine but I wouldn’t say it’s too different although to me I guess it feels a little more consistent. The songs are not as ADHD. I think the reason for that is with Silent Machine we were trying to find ourselves; still attempting to identify who we were as a band whereas after touring that album and becoming intimate with our own songs we started to realise who we were. I think this album is a little bit more indicative of who we actually are. I guess we’re a little more comfortable with the concept of changing things up and experimenting with different styles and flavors now. Back then if felt like a risk, this time it feels like who we are.”
Twelve Foot Ninja certainly has a unique sound. Blending elements of funk, metal and rock into a hybrid sound that shouldn’t work on paper but magically comes to life to the ears, their sound is unlike anything put out before – a big call in a music world where almost everything has been done to varying degrees in the past.
“I think our sound is just experimentation,” Etic mused. “We’re all in to a lot of different styles of music other than just heavy music. We’ve all got eclectic taste. A lot of the times a song is seeded in the heavier element first and then we kind of feel it out and see what it can lend itself to and other times – there’s a couple of tracks on the new album where it was actually seeded by an idea formed with a completely different style and then we built the heavy music around that style. It depends, but usually we just see what feels right; what feels like the next natural step for the song. Stevic, our guitarist, has a very short attention span so that’s where the idea of chopping and changing styles comes from really because he’s the mastermind. I think it was chop and change more to appease him so he doesn’t get bored when we play them live [laughs].”
While a sense of humor permeates through the band and their music, Etic says that finding the right balance between the two is an important part of the bands success and is essential in the continued growth of their sound. While it is important to find the right balance it is equally as important to follow some semblance of structure.
“I think the music comes first,” he said after a pause. “We take the music very seriously but we don’t take ourselves seriously. I think when writing the music we want to write the best material we can. We want the music to sort of stand up for itself and to be the proof in the pudding so we don’t plan anything other than that, just getting a good song together. Once we’ve got that then we can start having fun with it. As I said before, Stevic is the mastermind. When we’ve got a single we wanna go with he has this ability to be able to generate an incredibly out there idea for a clip companion and as you will see coming up we filmed one recently for one of our singles and it’s really out there, it’ s very different but that’s his style. So the music is serious but then Stevic takes that music and he’s able to warp the content and the context into something so strange and bizarre and I think the humor just naturally grows out of that.”
It seems that everything Twelve Foot Ninja does follows some pre-determined path to success, but in reality Etic says that things are a little more chaotic behind the scenes.
“I’d love to say we were calculated with what we do,” he laughed. “It is as far as the direction of where we want to go but probably with a lot of bands it would appear things are completely calculated but a lot of bands, including ours, fly by the seat of their pants. Opportunities can open up that you didn’t expect quite often and if it’s advantageous you jump in and that in itself can change your course. I think you have to be adaptable. I think its half strategic planning and half improvisation and I think if you can straddle that balance between the two then your band could end up taking you in directions you hadn’t perceived before and that you couldn’t possibly plan for either. I think for us it’s a bit of both. It’s a healthy balance.”