INTERVIEW: Rituals | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Ash Macrae

As Storm Franklin lashed the land, causing rivers to rise, roofs to raise, and tempers to fray, Rituals — taking a much-needed post-gig break at a service station between Nuneaton and Sheffield — are suddenly hastily evacuated as the whole place floods with rancid sewage.

“We’re not a very rock and roll band, unfortunately,” bemoans drummer Matt Dix from behind a thousand-yard stare, “it’s mostly just really stupid shit that happens to us like doing a tour during three consecutive red weather warning storms, or somehow going to the only service station in the UK where someone had shit themselves, taken their pants off and shoved them down the toilet.”

Bursting in, bombastic vocalist Lewis MacRae still can’t believe what happened. “We went up against insane winds, snow, sleet, rain, sun, hail; it was absolutely mental!”

“We played in front of about 50 topless men doing crab dances in Nuneaton,” Dix muses. “We still don’t know the reason for that.”

Rituals is the local metal four-piece boasting Lewis MacRae on vocals, Matt Dix on drums, Dom James on bass, and Ewan Lee on guitar.

Years before all of this trauma, the band was forged in 2018 when Lee and MacRae came together in college with the ambition to do nothing more than play a few gigs and have some fun writing music.

A year later, Dix and Lee came into each other’s orbit working on a soon-to-be-abandoned metal project. “It didn’t quite get off the ground,” reflects Dix, “but I wanted to keep working with Ewan as he’s an insane guitarist. Fortunately for me, Rituals needed a drummer, so I joined in 2021.”

After a few more shuffles of the line-up, bassist James was on board, and Rituals took final form. With their debut EP Awake dropping late last year and the lads recovered from their knockabout tour, the band is blazing into 2022 with new songs, festival appearances, and even their own beer.

Lee is chomping at the bit. “We have some new songs we can’t wait to release. Each track is slightly different in style, and we feel it’s the most complete sound we have had yet. We’re collaborating with a brewery to make a beer to coincide with one of the single releases, so to say we are all excited is an understatement!”

“We played in front of about 50 topless men doing crab dances in Nuneaton,” Dix muses. “We still don’t know the reason for that.”

Touring from March, Rituals kick off in York followed by turns in Middlesbrough and Newcastle before dipping down south then circling back to Durham to appear alongside Cradle Of Filth at Dominion Festival. For the room-filling MacRae, as inextinguishable offstage as on, the moment they set foot back in front of their current and future fans can’t come soon enough.

“We are stoked to get out and play shows and meet people around the country. It’s what makes all the work in the band worth it — seeing how people react to the music live. We are meticulous about our live set. We spend hours running it, making sure it’s as slick as possible. We pride ourselves on having a tight and energetic set.”

With influences encompassing Decapitated, Depeche Mode, Killswitch Engage, Tom Misch, Lebrock, Oasis and more, Rituals fuse their broad taste in music with meticulous rehearsals, boundless energy, and an all-consuming stage presence that is starting to make their live shows the stuff of local legend.

“It’s the love of music!” exclaims Lee. “We are all absolutely obsessed with it, and it’s all we know. We bring big riffs, choruses, and solid craic!”

“As cliche as it sounds, all four of us have a passion for performing that undeniably transfers into our shows,” said Dix, clearly dying to be back on the road. “If you come down and you’re as stoked about metal as we are, you’ll get to have a good time with us in a way that can’t be done through headphones or a phone screen.”

“Tour preparation is going great. We have a couple of new songs which are giving us a real buzz, and they fit great amongst our others.” Lee continues. “It’s just four lads up there having it and giving it all the energy they’ve got!”

As pre-tour checks continue in their local base, the band are thrilled to see the post-Covid recovery of the live metal scene across the North East, not least since their acceleration since last year has seen them become part of the hype themselves.

“The music scene in the North East is a buzzing community,” said MacRae. “There are loads of awesome bands playing gigs and recording music, and it’s ace to be surrounded by such a collective of talent.”

“In terms of the North East and the scene we’re in, I think it’s often brilliant,” Dix agrees. “There’s some great bands here from a very broad spectrum of genres. We also have some amazing promoters who frequently help local bands play to bigger audiences with more established artists.”

Days away from hitting the road again — and seemingly unphased by the storm-ravaged literal shitshow that kicked off their year — it’s clear how passionate the band are about what they do and what keeps them going.

“It’s all we’ve ever been good at!” beams Dix. “We put so much planning, preparation and rehearsal time into making sure our set is as good as it can be. I don’t think I’ll be able to be content with my life until I’ve ticked off at least a few more things from the bucket list and know that I’ve tried absolutely everything I can to chase my dreams. When I’m old and fucked — not long now — I want to be able to say I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.”

For Macrae, it’s a full-time job. “Ultimately, we want to make Rituals our whole life. We love writing, playing, touring, and meeting folk who dig our music. We bring a total blend of melody and full frontal heavy metal. In short, we want people to sing our choruses at shows and then mosh like hell to our breakdowns!”

Rituals play Disgraceland, Middlesbrough on Saturday 26th March and Newcastle’s Head of Steam on Wednesday 6th April.


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