October 26, 2023

In what seem to be ever stranger and darker times, We Are Sovereign are a band with a simple mission: To reach out to people, asking them to believe in themselves as human beings, to find your resilience, stay focussed to whatever your dream might be, not to quit but to support each and every one of us.

You often hear similar well-meaning descriptions of folk but believe me, these guys wear their hearts on their sleeves and deliver the goods. With every song, this band set out to bring a strong message, identity and vision. Hailing from the East Midlands, They’ve brought out four singles, their debut album Step Out Your Comfort Zone was released in September and is already turning heads, featuring a twin vocal attack in a style that seamlessly blends melodic pop, rap, Metal, hardcore and synth, using scream and clean vocal extremely effectively along the lines of Linkin’ Park to stir both the heart and the head. Fans of Bring Me The Horizon, Killswitch Engage and Enter Shikari will love this, so this feels like a good time to catch up with them.

We Are Sovereign – left to right: Sandy (drums), Laura (scream vocals), Ed (bass), Ash (clean vocals)

It all started in 2019 in an apartment bedroom of co-vocalist and founder Laura Russell. After suffering with Gender Dysphoria since their teenage years, and having spent years battling mental health issues, Laura had a life changing operation to feel comfortable within their own skin. The emotions of Laura’s experience are where a lot of the inspiration for the music, concepts and lyrics come from. When Laura had recovered from a journey of healing and finding themselves, they began to recruit members.

The band spent the remaining months of 2022 in the studio working on the album and preparing behind the scenes to hit the stage. Despite the story and journey of the band almost playing out backwards, they now have everything in place and are set to conquer stages across the UK in 2023. With a view to bring their message of inclusivity and autonomy to the masses. Their mission is to encourage people to stand up to be who they want to be and yearn for people to be comfortable within themselves.

Catching up with the band, given they’ve been through more than their fair share of trials and tribulations, I was awkwardly pondering how to start the ball rolling. I stick to safe ground, starting with the basics about how the band was formed. Laura originally formed the band by advertising for like-minded folk to join them in their “mission”, and I was intrigued by what they had put in the original ad, and where they had placed it (given that it certainly worked!)

Laura puts my mind at rest: Hey Velvet Thunder, thank you so much for chatting with us! I actually advertised through a website called join my band, it’s a really cool website where you can find like minded musicians! If you want to have a look at the original ad I posted for members it’s actually at the end of our Don’t You Dare Quit (Resilience) music video (see the second YouTube video below) Haha, I managed to hunt it down and get it in there. It had something along the lines of I’m looking to take this all the way kind of vibe. It took me at least a year before I found Ash! It’s rare to find serious musicians who want to invest and commit at such a high level

I follow this by enquiring about Ash’s reaction to seeing the ad! Ash responds: “I’d come off the back of my last band falling apart. I browsed the join my band classifieds before surrendering to music all together and then came across Laura’s ad. In all honesty I didn’t expect much but when we finally met it was a genuine shock to the system to find someone so passionate and we clicked instantly. Before we knew it, We Are Sovereign was born!” I go on to ask about Sandy and Ed, the other two happy bandmates, and wondered whether the same ad had worked for them? Sandy gets in first: “Yes, I too joined the band after I found an advertisement on a musicians wanted website. I was actually looking for something else, but when I saw the ad, checked out the videos and music that was already released, I could tell there was something different about this band. The quality of what they had already  done convinced me they were serious, and so we arranged the meeting, and the rest is history!

Ed adds “I actually found We Are Sovereign from a flyer that was pinned to the Abbey Lane Studios in Derby’s notice board. I was going into the rooms with my partner to teacher her how to play drums when she saw the ad on the board. Immediately she pointed it out and told me to write down the contact details. At that time I didn’t know whether I wanted to join another band – this mentality was going to quickly change. Not long after, I messaged the We Are Sovereign band page with a brief summary of who I was, what I had done, what I’m capable of, and what I’m proud of. Before I knew it, I was heavily invested in We Are Sovereign as I saw the potential that this band had. I have never looked back.”

So, Laura, had you in effect already drafted the whole album by the time the others joined, or was it a case of you all putting “meat on the bones” of songs that you and Ash had written? “All of the music demos were ready before Ash joined in ‘midi’ form and we then sat down to work on the vocal demos together. There were changes in the studio to the demos and the album definitely progressed over time with a final input by everybody including our producer! It’s an album that means so much to us all. The concept of the album was already made before everybody joined with the whole thing, breaking the album down to represent an individual part of life.”

an earlier shot of the band

I wasn’t sure whether the band were a foursome or fivesome at that point, Laura clarifies: “No, we’re a four-piece now and have been for a long time, although we did have other members in the early days of the band. Things didn’t quite work out but no harm done!”

I move on to look at the band’s musical background, and ask if the four have all been on the same sort of journey, stylistically, on the basis that they’ll have previously been in other bands – Laura laughs: “I’ve been in bands since I was 15, and I’m coming up to being 34 at the end of October! I originally started out as a drummer, first band I was ever in it was just doing covers in secondary school, then I moved on to drum and scream in a couple of original bands before I moved on to being solely a vocalist. We all have such a wide varied music taste overall! Band-wise I’ve always swayed towards post-hardcore/ metalcore, me and Ash have pretty much the exact same music tastes and grew up with the same favourite bands!” Ash confirms “It’s crazy how similar mine and Laura’s music taste is, I think it’s why we work together so well! Sure it varies from time time but when we were writing it’s like we’re tuned into the same frequency!”

Sandy (Bass) comes in at this point: “I’ve always enjoyed listening to music, even though I didn’t understand what I was hearing for years! I took keyboard lessons young, but the theory didn’t quite sink in, even though I managed to get to grade 5. I discovered a love of heaviness after the Prodigy released Breathe when I was about 12, hadn’t heard anything like it! It would take a while to relate the whole musical journey, suffice to say that heavy and groovy have become my key words. I’ve played styles from prog rock and technical metal to Irish folk and chilled blues, in a number of bands, and I’m going to be making music well into my old age!”

Ed (Drums) completes the picture: “I have been in a few serious bands throughout my life. Genres ranging from Pop-Punk through to Melodic Death Metal, I have always had a passion for fast music. However, ultimately my passion was found in music that had emotion which opened up so many avenues for exploration into vastly different genres I wouldn’t have otherwise tried. Over time my influences grew and I now find emotion in more than just lyricism and melody, I find it in everything. This is what drew me to We Are Sovereign – the emotion!”

Hah! – from what I’ve heard of your material, there’s a few competing styles in there! – most notably two singers who are quite different – how did that come about? any squabbles over roles? Laura smiles: “Nah, not at all, I knew when I started the band I was going to be the screaming vocalist so when I put the advert out I made it transparent I was looking for a clean vocalist and I was taking the scream role so it was all clear on our roles from the word go!

It’s at this point that I have to confess I’ve not heard the full album yet (gulp!), but it’s clear that it’s getting decent reviews – I ask whether they’re slightly surprised at that positive reception, given that so much of the material is so personal? Laura: “We 100% believe in the album we’ve made and the message it brings so we’re really happy it’s had a good response and some good feedback!! We’d be worried if people attacked us for making a personal album as that’s what music is all about – expressing yourself and being true to yourself!”

Fair play! Okay, now the tougher bits – a lot of your material stems from Laura’s life experiences. How do you feel about “baring your soul” to the band when offering new stuff and explaining its background – that must be quite hard for you, and perhaps quite tough on the band? “I’m just a very open book and I believe in the whole thing of ‘if people know they’re not alone’ in what they’re going through then it helps them survive. It almost doesn’t feel like baring my soul, it’s more of a ‘I’m just an honest raw musician’ who writes about real life experiences and brings the emotion through and out in We Are Sovereign.”

It wasn’t tough on the band at all, the rest of the members are all very open-minded people who are right behind me in telling the story through our debut album. It was a bit nerve-wracking meeting new people and explaining what I went through, as you never know what kind of views people have. So I’d say explaining it for the first time was tough. Luckily I met three incredible people who understand and have my back.

Aww, that’s good to hear – but I can’t resist following up and asking, if Laura proposes doing another song about something in their past, whether that might make it harder for the rest of the band to say “nah, don’t like it”? Laura confirms how well all four work together: “I wouldn’t say so, because we’re all in the same position of wanting to make music that’s close to our hearts – and from the album we’ve all been through at least one topic covered, if not more, as individuals. As much as the album was about my journey of overcoming the dark place, we feel it’s something so many people could relate to We’re all on the same page as a band and rooting for the same outcome, we want to make raw real music from our own experiences. If we’re writing and one of us doesn’t like something we’re just all respectful and are honest but it’s very rare that happens!”

I know Laura had a cancer scare at one point, I gently ask whether that is a thing of the past, or whether it’s still something Laura has to deal with – happily, they found out it had cleared but how it definitely was the scariest moment of their life so far: “It happened just before I went into the studio to record vocals for the single “Bridges Burnt, Lessons Learnt”. I couldn’t sleep or think straight, I was terrified! I was extremely lucky to have the outcome I did”.

I then apologise for intruding a little further, and ask about the song ‘Time Can Be So Short’. The lyrics are searing and I can empathise with the overwhelming sense of shock that is created, and that Laura so openly shares. Laura tells me the song itself represents all steps of grief and is dedicated and about all the people we have lost along the way in life. “We’ve all lost family members, friends and pets, being at the age we’re all at now. For me personally it means so much to me as I lost my cousin to suicide in 2021 and I know in my heart I will never heal from that given the circumstances in which it occurred. I’d say it’s a song I can really use as an outlet to deal with the emotions and grief I carry with that.”

Laura goes on to say: “Really, the song is about accepting that nothing lasts forever – life is brutal. Eventually, we all have to go through the pain of losing someone we love. This song came from moments of intense loss that I just couldn’t rationalise. How people can be here with us one minute to being a photograph or a memory the next. That haunts me. In the song, we take the listener through all the emotions and stages of loss. Loss is a huge part of life and we really wanted to be as raw as we could with it, both in the song and the music video. We feel the music video is definitely going to shed some tears.”

I ask whether it makes it particularly hard to sing this “live” when on tour, Laura tells me “We’ve performed it live now on many occasions and I’d say ‘Time’ and ‘These Four Walls’ are definitely a challenge live, because of the emotions they carry – more than the others. I have had to hold back tears a few times I’ll be honest for sure!”

As a follow-on, I ask how plans for a tour are going? – from what I’ve heard of the album it flows from theme to theme in a very specific way, does that mean the band aim to reproduce that in live shows? “We’re in the process of getting ready for 2024 and a tour is definitely a possibility. We’ve played the album live in full a fair few times now but weirdly, the way the tracklist on the album itself isn’t the order we play it in live – simply because of how it works. For example we open with ‘Reflection’, then follow with ‘Keep Going’ and then we play ‘Bridges’ so it’s definitely a different order but it still works really well!”

I make the point that the album gives the band a platform of material to share more widely, using the full energy generated in live venues – but how that in itself could be a very draining experience for them. I wonder whether they might need to ‘drip-feed’ gigs to keep the emotional levels “high but stable”? Laura however is happy that “Our plan is to be as active as we can and consistently let people know we’re here and work hard. We love playing live and definitely want to keep the momentum going.”

Fair enough! What’s next, then, a global tour? (hah)! Is there anywhere in particular the band would love to play live? Laura: “You never know what the future holds haha! We’d love to play absolutely everywhere, we’ve all said we’d love to venture out to America and aim towards towards bringing We Are Sovereign to a global scale. Nothing is impossible if you work hard and believe in what you’re doing!”

Coming back to the album, I suggest that those debut songs were Laura’s creation, but that they might now be collectively moving on to creating shared material? Laura enthuses: “A lot of the preparation for We Are Sovereign was certainly done before the final members came in, but moving forward it’s really exciting to write together and collectively work together!”

How’s that going? Laura goes on to say: “We’ve been writing together yeah and it’s definitely different. The more minds and creativity involved the better is what I say! I sometimes think it doesn’t really matter who writes what in the band as long as the final product is what you set out to achieve. If we make music we love and put our heart and our passion into it you can’t lose really. It’s definitely weird having more members in the writing process this time around but in a positive way – haha!”

And we end on that note, positivity being very much Laura’s signature. Given that the band’s motto is “We speak for those who feel like giving up, we speak for those who feel like they have lost the way, and we speak for those who fear the unknown”, I don’t think I need remind them to look after themselves – see the two videos below!