With an enthusiastic, muscular sound, Bolton-based Unknown Refuge are starting to make some waves in the choppy waters of modern Hard Rock. Debut album ‘From The Darkness’ is set to be unleashed on March 26th and we spoke with Alex Mancini (vocals/bass) about the release, as well as digging deeper into his own personal music memories.
What are the origins of Unknown Refuge? How long have you been playing together?
An excellent question, Unknown Refuge originally formed in 2016 at a music service in Salford, I am the last surviving original member. Not that the others are dead, I just mean the only one to survive having to deal with our drummer. Morgan [Morgan Deveney, drums] joined not long after in the summer of 2017. From here we gained a few guitarists and lost a few, which has led to our current lineup with Harry [Harry Skinner, rhythm guitar] and Jack [Jack Tracey, lead guitar] on guitars. The current line-up has only been together for about 6 months having already recorded the album before finding Harry.
Regardless of whoever controls the purse strings at Number 10, The Arts are usually the first ones to suffer when cuts need to be made in education, so how important was the Music and Performing Arts Service in Salford?
More than anything I think it was just amazing to meet so many like-minded people and you really knew that they were all about providing as much as they possibly could to anyone interested. I think services like these are a great way to meet people and a great way to be productive, creative, learn, and have a mint time doing so. It shaped who I am today and I hope services like this are available to everyone indefinitely.
With the band all being teenagers: as a band, have you ever had to prove doubters wrong?
I don’t think that we had to prove ourselves in that sense, it was always more that people were shocked about how young we were after they found out usually after they had either seen us live or just talking about it
How did you feel performing your first gig as a band? And how was it?!
Nervous definitely, we all loved it but it definitely wasn’t our strongest performance to put it nicely. A lot of it just comes with time and experience or at least it did for us, it just one big learning curve.
What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe Unknown Refuge?
They should expect Kick-Ass hard rock.
Debut album ‘From The Darkness’ is set to be released on 26th March, what goes through your head in the run-up to releasing new music, especially your debut album? Are you excited? Nervous? – Both?!
Definitely both, it’s been something we’ve wanted for years, and it was making sure we had the right songs, knew where it was we wanted to record, and finding a time to suit us all to take two weeks out. So to see all this coming together is both exciting and nerve-wracking.
How long have you been developing the songs on the album?
The song ‘Wall of Lies’ was written over 4 years ago with ‘Journey’ only being written 4 months before we recorded the album, so there was a lot of going back, revisiting old songs, and changing.
Although ‘From The Darkness’ is not a concept album, there seems to be a strong theme of struggles, growth, and evolution throughout the album? What can you tell us about the themes behind the album?
A lot of it is to do with the progression of the band but also its progression in our lives, mine in particular. I take a lot of inspiration from the events that are happening around or to me and this often results in songs capturing a certain snapshot of my life at that time.
There’s also a strong use of Greek mythology and historical imagery throughout the album, especially on forthcoming single ‘Battle Hymn’, where does the interest in these subjects come from?
Personally, when I was growing up I used to read all the Greek mythology stories as I always found them to be really interesting. They also had meanings and lessons in them which I can relate to everyday struggles.
‘Battle Hymn’ is a bit of a banger! Was this one an obvious single? And who created the stunning video?
There were quite a few conversations about the single releases but this one was definitely up there from the beginning. The music video was done by someone we found on fivver, and it came out brilliantly.
Another cool video would be the fan video for ‘If The Gods Be Good’, it must have been quite humbling watching people really go for it and get into the spirit by dressing up in costumes!
Massively, but most of all to see people enjoying our music just makes me feel proud of what we have accomplished and what I believe we can do.
In what ways has the band grown over the last few years? For instance, do you see development in songwriting?
Massively, we’ve had a few members come and go for various reasons, so every time someone new joined they always brought some different aspects, we are all also listening to different things than we were back then so pull our influences from different places. I also believe we’re all more talented musicians than when we began so subsequently the writing ability has improved.
In terms of a similar audience: who would be the ideal act for Unknown Refuge to support?
I believe we would be a great pairing for either Alter Bridge or Volbeat mainly on the fact that both have strong metal influences whilst also being hard rock and I believe that’s a sound we fit quite well into, the mix of hard rock with the occasional breakdown and blast beat thrown in.
What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
I went to my first gig to see Slash, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators with my mum and I remember just thinking wow that would be amazing. Ever since then I had been interested in being in bands and writing and performing my music.
Personally, who has been the biggest influence on you becoming a musician? Would it be a teacher? A family member? Another musician?
I’d say it’s different for all of us but personally, I would say my mother, Alison Home, she was a music teacher who still works within a music service. I believe it’s a combination of this and my dad having a drum kit set up in the garage that I’d say first interested me in music.
What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
I believe it was me and Morgan and we went to watch Slipknot towards the end of 2019 at the MEN Arena. I absolutely love all of their stuff and the energy they give whilst performing is unreal.
What album do you have in your collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
My music taste personally is very versatile, however, I am a huge fan of early rap so artists like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Notorious B.I.G. I think sometimes it surprises people knowing that you can perform in a rock band and then drive home listening to Tupac.
Although 2020 was a year to forget, there was some great music released; what would be your album of 2020?
Ordinary Man – Ozzy Osbourne. I’m a big Ozzy fan in general so when he released a new album it was on repeat nonstop.
Who would you class as an underrated songwriter?
Christopher Bowes, he’s the frontman of Alestorm, and honestly, if you can separate the music and the lyrics both of them are incredible so when you put them together it’s unbeatable. More people need to listen to pirate metal.
What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?!
Should covid disappear then the first thing would be to get out and start gigging again. We’ve all missed performing partly because we love it and another part is because of the like-minded people you meet. Half of our mates we’ve met through music and over the last year we have gained fans and friends of the band who we haven’t been able to have a pint with.
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?
I believe that we are pretty active on socials, if you would like to find us we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and tik tok under Unknown Refuge.
Header image by Christopher James Ryan Photography