Forming in 2019 and starting as the solo endeavour of Maxwell Jeffries (previously of Rage Cave), the project soon began to broaden in scope. After enlisting the vocal talents of Dustin Burmeister – the Nottingham/Arizona based Underking began recording their debut project. Not one, but two debut albums have been released and we spoke to Maxwell about why two is better than one, as well as his love for the NWOBHM movement, and his own personal musical memories.
It’s not often that you see a band listed as “Nottingham/Arizona based”, what’s the story there? What are the origins of the band?
Funny story! When my old band Rage Cave split up in the Spring of 2018, I still had a bunch of material that I would’ve liked to turn into some fully fleshed out material. I quickly decided to go it alone and turn it into a solo project – based out of Nottingham. However, when some of the material was turning out heavier than expected, I knew I wanted to have some screamed vocals on a few of the tracks. Knowing I couldn’t do this myself, I started looking for a vocalist online who could help me finish the six tracks that needed harsher vocals. After months of searching, Dustin answered the call and lent his voice to the songs from all the way over in Arizona!
What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe yourself?
They should expect a number of things: variety, catchy choruses and riffs, a DIY charm, some occasionally cheesy lyrics but most of all, I hope, a clear love of metal as a genre – whatever form that may take! As the band is kinda split in two with the different styles, I would describe Underking as a metal band plain and simple, with some of the music being rooted firmly in classic rock/NWOBHM and some being thrash/metalcore influenced. I just love metal in all its forms and I think the music reflects that – however, the direction Underking is taking going forward will be slightly more uniform!
New single ‘The Throne’ has just been released, a tribute to NWOBHM I believe?
Yes! My favourite genres of music will forever be NWOBHM and thrash, and I wanted to reflect that on the singles releasing after UK’s first two outings. ‘The Throne’ definitely reflects bands like Demon and Judas Priest in particular with its no-nonsense approach to the riffs, chorus and solo with a short runtime. However, upcoming single: ‘The Mask’ reflects more of the thrash side of things with a mix of various thrash styles from across the decades!
Which band would you class as one of the unsung heroes of the NWOBHM movement?
If I had to pick just one, it’d have to be Tygers of Pan Tang – who’s recent output still rivals some of the classics. However, there are so many underrated bands in the genre like the aforementioned Demon, the often forgotten Raven and Satan – the list goes on!
Underking recently released not one, but two, debut albums; ‘Amongst the Dead’ and ‘Ghosts of the Past’, what was the thought process behind this move?
Originally, the two releases were part of the same album which ran at about an hour long. I decided to split the project into two when I realised there were quite a few songs that I wanted screamed vocals on and thought the overall album would get confusing tonally if I constantly mixed both styles. So I split them into a NWOBHM/Classic rock influenced album and a thrash/metalcore styled release. In future though, I think I’m going to try and produce something more tonally cohesive that mixes both styles!
The cover art on both are stunning, who created them?
The ‘Amongst the Dead’ artwork was done by a fantastic artist by the name of Mark Erskine (Erskine Designs) and it turned out absolutely perfect – I think it suits the tone of that release down to a T. ‘Ghosts of the Past’s cover was a picture taken by myself actually! I really liked the vibe it had and it fit the lyrical themes of the album well!
Judas Priest celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, what would be your favourite Priest album?
I have to go with the absolute stone-cold classic Screaming for Vengeance. It’s a perfect record front to back for me! Although I do also (perhaps controversially) think that Firepower, Turbo and British Steel deserve a shout too! Those would definitely be my top 4!
What band out there at the minute do you feel that you would be best suited to open for?
I would love to open for Ghost one day – that would be a dream! They are my favourite band and I think that the music I sing on personally would be a great fit as an opener for them!
The new music scene is bursting at the seams with fresh talent, in what ways do you feel that a band has to stand out from the others trying to build a name?
Bands these days need to have a solid social media presence and a steady stream of content. I feel like live shows as an upcoming act aren’t as important as they used to be – as from my experience, performing (and attending) a variety of local/underground gigs, people don’t want to ‘discover’ bands quite like they used to. So I’d definitely say a solid, unique online presence, coupled with music that stands out from the crowd is the best way!
Who do you feel is the next band to break out?
I hope the next band that breaks it big is either Puppy or 1914. Completely different acts in terms of sound but both have recently released phenomenal albums in their genres that I think stand alongside the best there is!
What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment like that but a highly influential one was when I went to see Rammstein in 2012 at the NEC. It was such an incredible show that blew my mind. Before that, I didn’t really know how much music meant to me and how much I wanted to do it – after that I definitely remember feeling like music was the way to go!
What was the first and last gig that you attended?
First gig was Rammstein at the NEC and my last gig was, I think, Nekrogoblikon at Rescue Rooms in Nottingham!
What current issue are you particularly passionate about?
I’m currently very passionate about drawing attention to how local venues are struggling during these unprecedented times! Smaller venues like Stoke’s Underground and Sugarmill were/are in serious danger of closing and that doesn’t sit right with me. I’m glad the government have finally announced an investment but I’ll have to actually see it in the hands of grassroots venues before I believe it.
The album that you have in your album collection/spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
I listen to a lot of Owl City, MIKA, Florence + The Machine and Frank Turner – which, for those who know me isn’t that much of a surprise but I can imagine listening to my music, you definitely might be surprised by that!
What are your plans for the remainder of 2020?
‘The Mask’ releases on the 31st July and I’m already in pre-production of Underking’s next full-length release – with the hopes of having something out early 2021!
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?