Interviewing the great and the good of the world of rock and metal from bands of all sizes is one of the things sites like Rock Sins love to do. And while zoom and MS Teams and various other means of doing online video calls have been a linelife and a godsend since the COVID pandemic began, there’s nothing quite like being able to ask someone about their music and their band face to face. The Download Pilot was the first chance for many of us in the industry to start doing that again.
Step forward Rock Sins’ first in person interview for almost eighteen months, Charlie Rolfe – frontwoman of UK metal rising stars of 2021 As Everything Unfolds. “AEU” have had an absolutely stellar last twelve months, heading back to the release of the single Hiding From Myself in Autumn 2020 and bringing them crashing into this year with their debut album Within Each Lies The Other, which landed with us all back in March. It was a pleasure to catch up with Charlie – like ourselves, doing her first in person interview in a long time – so we’d like to thank her for being a fantastic reintroduction to in person interviews. As Everything Unfolds had just played their first show in a very long time to a packed Download Pilot Festival tent only a couple of hours before our interview, and it was something we were very keen to discuss with her..
Rock Sins: Lets get the first very obvious question out of the way, what does it feel like to be stood here at an actual festival?
Charlie: A bit weird! But really exciting! It’s been such a long time, it was a bit weird at first just getting used to being around loads of people but you know what? Personally I’ve just kinda swung back into it like it was yesterday, which has been really really nice because I thought I’d be quite anxious, but it’s actually been really nice and relaxing. It’s so well organised, all the testing and all the “pre” stuff, so it’s all been really reassuring.
We were very impressed with how well organised it’s all been.
Charlie: Yep. On the artist side, even like all the training, everything was all done online so you just turn up, get your wristband and off you go. We didn’t have to do any testing on site which was nice. I do testing twice a week anyway but some of the boys were like “oh god, what do I do, I don’t wanna do it in front of everybody” laughs
So when did you first find out that the Download Pilot was happening and that you might be invited to come and play?
Charlie: Honestly it was only about a month ago (mid May). Obviously we’ve been invited for next years’ (Download Festival proper in 2022) which was incredible enough – we heard about that on our album release day in March which was like “OMG, this is amazing!” and then a few weeks later when this all started getting organised. They were literally like “oh yeah, there’s a pilot event coming up, do you want to come and play it?” so obviously we were “uh, yeah, DUH, OBVIOUSLY!!” so it’s really really cool. Also, for me personally, I’ve actually never been to a proper festival – I’ve been to Slam Dunk as it’s a day event, I don’t really do sleeping in tents, I find it very claustrophobic, I’m a bit funny about my sleeping space. I’ve just always wanted to go to a festival and play it, for the first time, it was a personal thing that I just wanted to do. So for me this is very cool, especially as it’s a scaled down version, as a first timer it’s quite nice. It’s a good introduction before next year.
So how do you think your performance went? From what we saw the tent was rammed.
Charlie: It went far better than I was expecting it to. Before we’d said if there was a thousand people or whatever it would’ve been amazing. We are so used to playing to smaller crowds, before the pandemic we were used to playing to about 50 people max. We’ve gained a lot of traction online but for that to then translate to live and to see a tent full of people, I couldn’t really see the people at the back. It was so surreal, it almost didn’t feel real…it was so much fun though! It was nice to be on a stage where I don’t bump into anybody. With 6 of us we’re normally confined to such a small space, I normally have to dodge guitar heads and things laughs.
Rock Sins: Is that the biggest crowd you’ve ever played for?
Charlie: Oh yeah, yep, yep, 100%, not even close in terms of anything before.
You (As Everything Unfolds) had the full band live stream last weekend, was that planned before you found out about the pilot? Did it almost turn into a live Download rehearsal?
Charlie: So we actually pre-recorded it months ago, during the Winter. When we released the album back in March we couldn’t do any shows or anything, even socially distanced, and everything was still quite unsure and we weren’t really sure what the best steps were. But we knew we wanted to do “something” so we were like let’s do that, let’s do a live stream. Of course then suddenly all these show offers and tour offers started coming in and we were like “oh my god what is going on??” but we still wanted to do it because a lot of our fanbase is overseas. So we thought as well it was something for them because it is probably going to be a long time before we can get out, especially to America, so that was a lot of our thinking around it. We had such a great time filming it, and it was also really nice to hire sound people and lighting techs that hadn’t had any work for such a long time and they were so thankful when it was us who were thanking them. It was really nice to feel like we were doing something worthwhile.
So if that was a few months back, has it been very stop start for you with the last lockdown?
Charlie: Because of the album coming out we’ve had videos and a few things where we’ve managed to make it work with social distancing. Because we had the album coming out we couldn’t stop – the band is registered as a business so we were allowed to work – obviously with masks and social distancing – all of our videos being done completely socially distanced. So we’ve seen each other in and out but it’s been very weird for us because we’re quite a close band and we normally spend quite a lot of time with each other. Only now have we recently been able to start seeing each other properly again, started writing again, hanging out, it’s been weird. Sometimes I would see one or two of them here and there but that’s been it so this (being here at the Download Pilot with all of them) is very nice. It’s honestly been like a family that has been ripped apart (not seeing the other members of As Everything Unfolds) and now put back together again, so it’s been really really nice. I’m hoping this is it now and that we can all move forward. Our album campaign is done, releasing it in a pandemic has had its up’s and its down’s. We’ve done really well online but obviously we’ve not been able to tour, but we’ve just agreed to do a tour with Holding Absence and that’s just been announced – would that have happened had we not released our album? So there’s definitely been positives and that’s how we want to look at it.
To follow up on what you just said, you must be delighted with how the album has been received; millions of streams, features in about every big metal related publication you can think of…
Charlie: It’s been absolutely mad. We were just saying to our press rep guy, he was saying thank you for all the hard work and we were like, no, thank you, you’ve absolutely smashed it! I’ve had loads of messages from people going “how the fuck did you get AltPress?!?!”, things like that that, we never dreamed of getting stuff like that and it’s incredible. You know, the streams and the online following we’ve built up has been so insane. Hopefully that will now translate into real life shows which is obviously a different thing altogether.
Coming onto something else you’ve got coming up – Holding Absence, As Everything Unfolds and Yours Truly is one hell of a tour package.
Charlie: The Holding Absence album is absolutely incredible. We weren’t here yesterday so we didn’t get to see them, but October will be here soon!
Going back to the album, you had quite a long album campaign. Hiding From Myself (the first single) came out back in September / October, so the full campaign was about six months. The response to that first single seemed to be really huge, was that the point when you all thought OK maybe we’re onto something here more than you’d expected?
Charlie: It’s weird, because we’d been away for so long. I think it had been 2 years and we hadn’t released anything. We’d done some weekenders but no real big tours, and we’d do the odd medium sized show and we’d pick up fans here and there. So when we released Hiding From Myself, we’d prepared ourselves thinking well if it’s a throwaway single – not that the song was throwaway, but it was a low budget video, lets just get something out there and the label were like yep we need to get you back out there. All of a sudden we were getting insane traction on this video and on Spotify and online and it was like “oooo OK!”. We were expecting the second single to be more of a builder, and Take Me There did well but Hiding From Myself was still above it. That single really was us coming back in, we wanted something quite high energy because it was a case of “hi, we’re back!”.
Rock Sins: And On The Inside has done really well as a single too.
Charlie: Oh god it’s so weird. It’s on I think 1.3 mill now (streams) which is like Whaaaaatttt?! We never thought we’d hit a million on anything! It’s just so weird, like when we played earlier, watching people sing it back to me, way more people than I expected and I was like “hey these people know the words!”, there were crowdsurfers and all sorts and thinking about it the song popped off far more than I realised. But I’m really glad because it’s one of my favourites on the album.
Just finally to come back to your Download Pilot set today, you only had twenty five minutes or something like that, it definitely felt like you left everyone wanting more.
Charlie: You know what that’s the better way to leave it. Leave them wanting more, rather than have them going “oh god my back”, you know? laughs Just like when some people go to shows and they see a five band line up and they’re just makes a huge sighing noise. We always think about if we were in the crowd, what would we want? I think it’s something a lot of bands don’t necessarily think about and it’s something we’ve always tried to maintain. Sometimes people don’t want to hear you play for the full time slot. Let’s just do twenty five minutes, bang out the big songs, don’t make yourself too tired because when you’re tired you don’t perform to your best – it’s taken us a long time to learn that. I think as well given the set up and being our first show back going in and doing a slightly shorter set today was the best decision. If we’ve got people wanting more, well, come to the tour! laughs We’ve got the tour with Holding Absence, we’ve got Download next year – there are a few other things being talked about but nothing concrete yet – but even if those are the only shows that happen, I’ll be happy.
As Everything Unfolds can be found on tour with Holding Absence and Yours Truly across the UK in late October and early November 2021. Before that, they will appear at the Heavy Music Awards this evening (2nd September) in London at The Forum In Kentish Town (which is being streamed live on Twitch). They will also appear on the line up for the 2022 Download Festival next June at Donington Park.
As Everything Unfolds’ debut full length album, Within Each Lies The Other, is out now on Long Branch Records.