Pale Flag are an emerging heavy band from Auckland, New Zealand, currently making waves in the underground deathcore scene. Their single Delusional Exhibition has racked up to 77k views on YouTube as of the time of writing, are regulars at the Ding Dong Lounge in Auckland and have made it over the ditch for a tour.
Made up of Liam Donald on guitar, Isaac Drakeley on vocals, Matt Hammond on bass, Jack Queenin on guitar and Cody Johnson on drums, we interviewed Liam, Isaac and Matt on their music, journey and what music means to them.
From left to right - Jack Queenin (guitar), Isaac Drakeley (vocals), Matt Hammond (bass), Cody Johnson (drums) and Liam Donald (guitar).
What got you interested in heavy metal and deathcore?
Liam: Learning guitar. I discovered heavy metal while learning guitar and found metal really fun to learn and play. started with Metallica riffs and then progressed to heavy stuff as i found it.
Isaac: Watching live performances of bands like Slipknot when I was very young.
Matt: Finding my dad’s AC/DC CD’s before I had even started playing guitar set me on a path that naturally continued down the rabbit hole once I did start learning music. I got into metal particularly as it was super exciting guitar music to listen and play to.
How did Pale Flag get together?
Liam: Myself and Cody wanted to start a heavy band - we have always wanted to play in bands- so we put an add up on a website called NZ Bands. We found Jack straight away and eventually found Isaac. Over the years we have been through a few bassists that didn't end up working out, but we have finally found Matt who has been the best fit for our band since he joined.
Isaac: I met the fellas for an audition after finding their ad for a vocalist on Facebook.
Matt: I was asked to join Pale Flag about a year ago as Liam and Isaac knew how well I gelled with them in Kimura (another band some of the band members are in), plus had seen me going hard at previous shows of theirs too.
How did you find starting out? What was your first show like?
Liam: Starting the band was pretty fun once we found all the members. Our first gig was a bands competition at the Ding Dong Lounge, which we ended up having a really great response for and ended up coming second. From then on we just kept getting asked to play gigs, and were really busy in our first year as a band.
Isaac: I immediately felt fairly comfortable with the rest of the band due to similarities.
Matt: Joining the band once they were already a tight unit made my entrance super easy. It didn’t take me long to be able to lock in with everyone, and my first show with Pale Flag was immensely satisfying.
How do you find the NZ scene compared to when you went to Melbourne?
Liam: I believe the NZ and Aussie scenes are very quite similar in nature, however, I believe there are more opportunities to be had in Aussie. Larger country and population, more cities to play etc. There is only so far a band can go in NZ.
Isaac: The NZ scene is very tight knit, and everyone attending seems open to the different avenues of metal.
Matt: From what I can tell, on a local scale it seems very similar. However in Australia bands have the ability to play to more different crowds more often, both considering the scale of the cities and having multiple separate states to travel to without having to go international.
What inspires you when you write your songs? Do you find there is a theme to your songs?
Liam: When it comes to writing, I generally don't have an idea or theme in mind (most of the time anyway). I just try to write riffs and songs I will enjoy and hopefully the audience can enjoy too.
Isaac: Day to day anger and frustration generally.
Matt: My biggest conscious inspiration outside of my musical influences is imagining an audience reaction to each of the parts as they come up in a song. This works especially well for a band like Pale Flag where we are big on getting the audience hyped up in different ways. For the new material we’re currently working on, my focus is on keeping riffs and song structure developing in ways that make each consecutive section hit big, even before production magic.
What does music mean to you, and how does it play a role in your life?
Liam: Music is everything. Ever since I was little it has been a dream of mine to play in a band, and now I'm doing just that. I'm dedicated to going as far as I can with it, hopefully I can get to a point where this is my paying job.
Isaac: Music is an escape from day to day frustration so I see it as cathartic.
Matt: Music is absolutely what fuels my life, it is beyond a passion at this point. I dream for and actively work toward the day that I can have work in music become my day job, whether that be through Pale Flag, my audio engineering work, or a combination of them plus more!
A lot of heavy metal and deathcore is associated with anger and rage, and then onto destruction and being anti-social: do you agree/disagree with this?
Liam: Agree and disagree - a lot of metal can be about that stuff, but much of it is not as well. I think that is just a common perception of people who don't really listen to metal or don't quite understand the genre. Heavy metal is definitely an angry sounding genre for sure, but it's more about like-minded people getting together to mosh their anger out in a healthy way.
Isaac: I completely disagree and believe that metal is a healthy avenue for people to get out their pent up frustrations and anger in a creative and energetic way.
Matt: Heavy music - which is not limited to just metal- acts as a catharsis for me. There is just something about songs that skip the subtlety and go straight for the gut wrenching emotion, the filth, the harsh reality. Music that hits on a visceral level can release everything that you’ve got pent up inside that you don’t even realise you are holding.
What are your goals as a band in the next 5 years?
Liam: Release more music that we can be proud of and try to organise more overseas tours. definitely in Australia and even Asia hopefully as well.
Isaac: We want to return to Australia for more shows, branch out beyond NZ and Australia and play shows beyond. And play larger venues and opportunities.
Matt: Record and release music that makes us proud, and tour for as long as we can with it.