Jeremy Allingham and Ben Henthorne like to rock. One listen to As Long As You Don’t Get Caught, the new album by the 28-year-old cousins’ band Like a Martyr, makes that abundantly clear. It’s all raucous, straight-up guitar-bass-drums action, recorded live with fervent vocals and, when needed, a bit of the ol’ feedback.
The two come by their penchant for the glorious noise of cranked Les Pauls and Strats honestly. Allingham’s father was a high-school music teacher with a curriculum straight outta School of Rock. And Henthorne’s pop just plain rocks.
“My dad didn’t bother with modes and all that stuff,” says singer-guitarist Allingham, sipping black tea in a Kits coffee shop. “He just taught kids how to play CCR, Tom Petty, all the classics. And Ben’s dad still plays in an ace cover band that’s got these amazing five-part harmonies and is just bustin’ out the Van Morrison and Springsteen.
“So rock ’n’ roll was pretty much bred into us at the earliest age,” he adds, “on road trips and over at each other’s houses and stuff. It was like vinyl on the turntable and rockin’ out, basically.”
Though immersed in guitar-rock from day one, Allingham and lead guitarist Henthorne didn’t actually start making it together until 2005. And the collaboration wasn’t an instant melding of the minds.
“I remember being in the rehearsal studio the first time we ever played,” recalls Henthorne. “Jeremy had sent me a bunch of copies of his songs and I had come up with some lead lines and stuff over top of it, and the first time I played them he shot me this look across the room like, ”˜That’s not how the song goes!’?”
“We’re pretty much best friends and brothers outside of the band,” says Allingham, “but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty in the studio, we’re not afraid to just let it out there. We’re usually recovered from it within 10 to 15 minutes, but the other people who aren’t used to that relationship of 28 years are made to feel pretty uncomfortable.”
“He likes to make sure everything’s perfect,” adds Henthorne, “and I like the mistakes. I like the sloppiness, I like the noise—I like chaos, basically. I like to do three takes and that’s pretty much it.”
The spontaneity Henthorne craves is evident on the new disc, which was recorded at Factory Studios with bassist Matt Denny-Keys and drummer Dominic Coletta. The same lineup performed on the band’s 2008 debut, The North.
“I think we honed our sound a bit more on the new album,” explains Allingham. ”With The North we had an inkling of where we wanted to go with it, but we weren’t there yet, and now we’ve fully decided we’re gonna be a rock ’n’ roll band. From the first songs we wrote that made it to this record, we knew it was gonna be live off the floor, on your turntable, sounding raw.”
The Like a Martyr members were adamant that, as with The North, their latest release get the full-on vinyl treatment (iPod owners needn’t fret, though: the 12-inch version comes with a digital download of all 11 songs).
“That’s how we consume music,” says Allingham of the LP format, “so from the get-go, when we sat down with our engineer, Marcel Rambo, in preproduction we were like, ”˜This is gonna be on vinyl—that’s the sound that we’re going for.’ We used like the AC/DC mike setup: drums in the middle, me on the left, Matt standing here, and Ben across the room. Just four guys in a room playing rock ’n’ roll tunes—that’s what it sounds like to me when you drop the needle on it.”
As for expressing that vinyl-friendly sound on-stage, Allingham says that his band has gotten to the point where it’s “not super-tough” scoring gigs around town, his fave venue so far being the Railway Club.
“It’s just an absolute blast every time you play there,” he raves of the venerable Dunsmuir Street joint. “I mean it’s a confined space, so it’s a real bitch to carry your gear through there when you’re setting up, but once you get up there it’s so much fun. People are just generally getting loose and dancing it up.”
Rich Hope and His Evil Doers, the British Columbians, Yukon Blonde, and Red Cedar are just a few of the Vancouver indie acts that have impressed Allingham of late. The one that most inspires his group to stick to its guns is Lions in the Street, another straightforward guitar-rock band searching for its rightful place in the local scene.
“As far as media’s concerned, we’re kind of in a no-man’s land,” says Allingham. “We’re not modern enough for the Fox, and we’re not indie enough for Radio 3, so we’re kinda floatin’ in space. But you can’t get away from what you love and what you do.”