By dancing with their demons and embracing the darkness, Tonight Alive have truly dived into their underworld. The band’s phenomenal fourth album empowers its listeners to do the same!
After experimenting sonically on their previous record, ‘Underworld’ sees Tonight Alive make a triumphant return to their heavier roots. The Australian rockers have always embedded inspirational messages within their songs and their lyrical honesty continues to break boundaries.
We caught up with the band’s vocalist Jenna McDougall backstage in Manchester last week. In our exclusive interview, Jenna spoke about: touring, creating ‘Underworld’, Tonight Alive’s musical evolution over the years, the album tracks she wishes were singles and much more.
You can read highlights and hear our full interview with Jenna McDougall below!
At the beginning of the year, you released your fourth studio album ‘Underworld’. How’ve you found the response to the record?
“Really positive. Everyone’s been amazing. It’s really exciting because ‘Limitless’ hurt the band in a way and it hurt us personally. We kind of felt like we got kicked in the guts a bit by our labels and the response to the album was pretty mixed. So it’s really nice to come back and be signed to new labels who encouraged us to make whatever kind of record we wanted. You know, to go on this journey of finding the authentic self, unveiling the shadow self and sort of doing this work in the underworld which is kind of a spiritual realm of all the rejected and neglected parts of your being that you’re not proud of. It was really nice to go on that honesty journey then bring it to our fans and have them respond so positively. Yeah, I think it’s really reconnected us.”
For people who haven’t yet heard ‘Underworld’, how would you describe the record?
“Well if people have heard our previous work, I think it’s got the polish and the cinematic sort of feel that ‘Limitless’ had with the edge and angst and emotion that ‘The Other Side’ had. So it’s kind of just a meeting of all that we’ve done in the past in a perfect blend. I feel like the essence of Tonight Alive is really captured with this sound on ‘Underworld’.”
You’ve now released three music videos from the record – which was your favourite to shoot?
“‘Crack My Heart’ is my favourite to watch but making ‘Temple’ was awesome because ‘Temple’ was a song I fought for to be released. It’s a song that actually the label nor the band pushed and I was really leading ‘Temple’ to come out. I really believed in the song and I had a vision for the video. It’s the first time we got to make a video with Neal Walters; we made all three videos with Neal and he’s one of my best friends. It was just really cool to be on the streets and dancing. I think dancing is something, for me, that I was never confident enough to do earlier in my life. It’s kind of like become this nice expressive tool for me and doing it in ‘Temple’ the way that I did in a quite manic and confronting way was really liberating. It was a really memorable experience.”
Are there plans to release a fourth single and music video from ‘Underworld’? If so, which song would you like it to be?
“Absolutely. Well we’re talking about it and we want to do another like heavy rock single. Honestly, one of my favourite songs on the record is ‘In My Dreams’. I don’t think that’s going to be chosen but each song has a place in my heart.”
We love the line ‘now that I’m dancing with my demons, I’m making everybody nervous’ in ‘The Other’ – are there any lyrics on the new album that you’re particularly proud of?
“Yeah, I think ‘Burning On’ is a song that really speaks to me even though it came from me. I think in a lot of ways, information is channelled through me or advice or guidance can be channelled through me as a songwriter. In ‘Burning On’, I say ‘you have spent your life avoiding pain but beauty lies in that which is not safe.’ So there are moments like that which really grab me and get my attention. I’m proud that I got to write and sing that lyric. I don’t even know if it was my idea. I don’t know if it came through me or was born within me but yeah.”
You’re currently touring the UK – how do crowds over here compare to the rest of the world?
“Oh man, these are really passionate fans over here. These are always our biggest and most exciting shows. I guess everyone seems to be in sync; you don’t have patches of the crowd that are more excited than others. There’s a real collective energy with our fans in the UK so that’s really nice when I want to have some crowd interaction. When I make a request to the crowd, there’s never that thing where I have to push them or ask too much or feel stupid for not getting a response. I feel like everyone’s on the same team and they’re really living and breathing to make the show happen.”
Your new album features collaborations with Lynn Gunn and Corey Taylor – how did those come about and how did you find working with them?
“Well neither of the songs were recorded together. Unfortunately, we weren’t in the same cities let alone studios when we did them. Lynn and I have been friends for about three or four years now; since we toured with PVRIS and Mayday Parade in America and Canada a long time ago. So we’ve always talked about collaborating but it was only last year that we got the chance for the first time. With Corey Taylor, he’s someone I’ve been in touch with on Twitter on a friendly casual level. I hadn’t spoken to him for a year and I decided to message him and try my luck asking if he’d be interested in singing on our record and he wrote back within minutes to say that he’d love to. Before he’d even heard the song. Really beautiful, really engaged and accommodating. He didn’t even want our management to be in touch with each other because he felt they would get in the way. He thought let’s just keep it personal. It’s been awesome. I love how those songs turned out.”
Back in 2014, you released ‘The Edge’ for The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s soundtrack. Are there any other films that you think one of your songs would be perfect for?
“Yeah. I mean ‘The Other Side’, as a song, we always imagined it on a teen movie. We always imagined it on like how we would have watched American Pie growing up. There’s movies like The Edge of Seventeen and stuff like that. I think Tonight Alive’s music would suit these coming-of-age movies. I’d still love to see if that’s possible for us.”
If you could go back and release another single and music video from each of your previous albums, which songs would you pick?
What Are You So Scared Of? – “Probably the title track ‘What Are You So Scared Of?’ because that song is so meaningful to our fans. It’s such a connective song when we play it live. It’s so dramatic and epic and dark. It has a lot of energy and a lot of fire. There’s a lot of fire on my tongue. In that song, I say ‘don’t pretend you’ve worked so hard, you’re just scraping by’ and that’s about people who feel sorry for themselves. Then obviously on the next record, we went on to say I don’t feel sorry for you in the song ‘Lonely Girl’.”
The Other Side – “I wish we made a video for that song ‘The Other Side’. I had a treatment written. It was ready to go but the label didn’t fund it.”
Limitless – “On ‘Limitless’, I would loved to have released ‘Oxygen’. I had a treatment written for ‘Oxygen’ as well. I wanted to go to Ireland and have like gas masks coming out of the earth as if there was no oxygen left in the world but you had to like reconnect to the earth to breathe again.”
If you could make one thing ‘Disappear’ in the world, what would it be?
“Separatism. I think separatism is a source of like hatred and judgement. The idea that anybody is different from you is inbuilt in so many of us. It’s like we’re conditioned to see each other as different. So I think if that didn’t exist, there’d be a lot more peace and a lot less hate.”
What is one of your favourite moments in your career which made you stop and think ‘wow, I thought this would only happen ‘In My Dreams’?
Jenna: “Oh man, that’s a really cool question. I guess it’s just this life in general. I wish I could think of one specific moment but my life is a blur because this is what it looks like every day. When I think of the things we’ve achieved that I didn’t know would be possible, I always think of the UK like playing two KOKOs.”
CelebMix: “You played ‘The Other Side’ in full on one night, didn’t you?”
Jenna: “Yeah, exactly. It’s moments like that and like playing Reading and Leeds twice now. They’re just really special. Having that response, feeling received, feeling understood, feeling accepted, and feeling celebrated. It’s so cool. The reason I’m in a band is because I felt like an outcast as a teenager. The reason I write songs is because I didn’t understand myself and because I couldn’t relate with people. I didn’t feel connected. To think that this is all born from that is really cool.”
If you could leave a message for your fans, what would you say?
“You are limitless. I would just say that there’s nothing that’s not possible. We are so conditioned to believe that life should be small, that it should be restricted, that you’re not good enough and that you’re not capable. I just think we’re actually a little bit fucked up in that way but we don’t have to be and it’s our choice. Once you have the information, what you do with it is what makes you powerful. I just want to say that I’m really proud of all of our fans and they inspire me just as much as they tell us that our music inspires them. It’s a really synergistic beautiful relationship and I just want to see you guys thrive.”
‘Underworld’ is available here on iTunes and here on Spotify alongside Tonight Alive’s already incredible discography. With so many brilliant tracks and so much energy on stage, the band never fail to put on an electrifying live show. The loving reaction from crowds all over the world is a testament to Jenna, Cameron, Jake and Matt’s spectacular virtuosity.
As mentioned in the interview, Tonight Alive will spend most of this year on the road. Their main focus for the rest of 2018 is: performing, connecting with people and sharing the message of ‘Underworld’. A fourth single from the record may also be on the cards so watch this space.
With a loyal legion of fans and powerful songs that resonate with people on a truly personal level, Tonight Alive certainly won’t ‘Disappear’ any time soon. Long may their success continue!
What do you think of ‘Underworld’ by Tonight Alive? Which are your favourite tracks on the record? Make sure you let us know over on Twitter @CelebMix!