When As Lions came together in 2015, singer Austin Dickinson recalls, “we had a mission statement to each other and to the music. And that was to create the biggest, baddest hard rock we could, and on an almost cinematic scale.”
The London-based five-piece offers dynamic tracks mixing thick, grinding riffs and rhythms with majestically sweeping strings, stately piano tinklings and a hefty dose of atmospheric electronics, all of it shot through with Dickinson’s soaring vocals and introspective lyrics. The result is music that runs a gamut of emotions, capable of sounding beautiful and hopeful one second and angry and aggressive the next.
Recently, As Lions set out for a headlining tour throughout the UK, we caught up with PRS artists Stefan Whiting (bass) & Will Homer (guitar) below.
PRS: What inspired you to pick up the bass / guitar, and at what age?
SW: I grew up on my mums’ music, which was very RnB, Funk and Disco orientated. So a pumping groovy bass line has always been etched into my playing. I always wanted to play Bass over Guitar for that fact alone. I mean let’s face it, without the bass, no one is dancing… Right? I was never a sporting kid so I never joined any team that took up my time. For me, music was my calling and it had to be bass.
WH: It was my best friend from my childhood who inspired me. I was 12 years old, a week before my 13th birthday, and my friend had just started. He showed me how to play the intro to Paranoid by Black Sabbath, and a week later I'd pleaded enough with my folks to get me an electric guitar for my birthday. They did, and it all started from there!
PRS: When did you realize that you could do this for a living? Was there ‘a big break’ for you?
SW: Like most musicians, I’ve been in and out of bands for as long as I can remember. I even went and studied Music at a University in London for a while, in my mid 20’s. Whilst I was at University, I was offered an opportunity to join a new band on bass and something had to give. There just weren’t enough hours in the day for me… So I dropped out of my course and joined As Lions on bass and never looked back.
WH: When I played my first festival in my first "real" band, back in the summer of 2008, it was a taste of what I had aspired to be able to do. It might sound weird but I've never felt like I've had a "big break", I suppose that's just my attitude towards playing and writing; even if this wasn't a career, it's a passion and it's something I'll always do. The day I stop is the day it stops being fun, and I doubt that day will ever come around.
PRS: Who are your three biggest influences?
SW: Cliff Burton was definitely my first main influence as a rock Bass Player. I remember the first time I heard “Anesthesia, Pulling Teeth” and I nearly lost my mind! As a young teen I had never heard anything like that on Bass before! It was truly inspiring. Growing up on Funk and Disco, I would have to say my next main man has to be Verdine White. I could play along to his bass lines all day long! So much funk and Soul its unreal! Picking three is hard because there’re so many great players out there! However, going across my whole spectrum of music, I would have to say Marcus Miller is also huge influence on me. Not only is he a great bass Player, he’s just a great musician all around! His back catalogue is astonishing and I’m always finding new work that he’s performed and composed. It’s insane to think that he performed with the legend that is Miles Davis and produced one of the most influential bass lines with Luther Vandros, “Never too much” at such an early age! Incredible!
WH: Growing up, my guitar-specific influences were Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine), Mike Einziger (Incubus) and Matt Bellamy (Muse). The fact that they could be the only guitarist in their bands and yet still sound massively diverse and take up so many roles and a huge amount of sound space in one package, it was a style of playing I thoroughly enjoyed learning about.
PRS: If you had to name one song (or record) that changed your life, what would it be?
SW: That’s a hard one! There are so many great records out there; it’s definitely a very hard choice to make! However, I would definitely say “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath is a very strong contender. The tunes on that Record are untouchable for that time!
WH: “Conspiracy” by Paramore. I probably wouldn’t be as determined as I am to have a career in music if it wasn’t for that song.
PRS: What advice would you give to all the young and emerging guitarists out there?
SW: Be open minded about everything. Truly great Riffage comes from exploration of many styles and genres, and above all… Practice, Practice, Practice. You’ll be surprised how little time you get to practice the older you get! Take advantage of it whilst you can!
WH: Never stop working. There will always be room for improvement, always room for development, and time will never change that, no matter who you are. Many roadblocks can & probably will come up, and only hard work & determination will get you through them. The satisfaction you’ll receive from recording a song or from playing a show will always be more than worth all the effort you could ever put in.
PRS: When you aren’t writing music or touring, what do you like to do during your free time?
SW: I help manage a tattoo Studio in North London, UK which is very handy as tattoos are something I’m very passionate about and have a very large collection myself. I love live music and I try to see as many friends as I can whilst I’m not on the road. I’ve also recently tried to look after myself a lot better, so I’m training and working out a lot as of late which is great because our set time keeps getting longer! Need to pick up that cardio!
WH: I’m quite a simple person in my own time; I’m a barista who works with specialty coffee at a coffee bar near my house, I like to play a few video games, watch a load of YouTube videos, and see my friends. I suppose you could call me kinda boring, haha!
PRS: Why do you choose to play PRS?
SW: They’re all-stunning and feel amazing to play! Exceptional tone and playability also! Very crisp and clear! Live, I throw myself about a fair bit, so having a bass around my neck that is comfortable without having to compromise any other aspect of performance and sound is very important. PRS has my back!
WH: Easy; they encapsulate everything I could want in a guitar. They’re visually stunning, they sound amazing, and they’re so incredibly easy to play. I’ve yet to encounter a single PRS I’ve had any problems with, and I doubt I ever will.
PRS: What’s your “go-to" PRS model?
SW: The SE Kestrel is my go to model. This single coils and the through neck design gives the bass unstoppable sustain and power! Love it!
WH: This is hard as I've played quite a few over the years and I love them all! At the moment, I'm absolutely loving my S2 Singlecut. It's huge enough to deal with the drop B and drop A tuning I use, yet it can pull off calm clean sounds with ease. My S2 Vela is a close second though, as it's just so fun to play.
PRS: What’s the rest of 2017 looking like for you guys?
SW: We’ll be finishing the year with yet another incredible tour of the states with our good friends in Nothing More and Hell or High Water! This tour is not to be missed I can tell you that! So make sure you all buy tickets guys! We will be back home in Mid November where we will be doing a two week run of the UK to round the year up nicely, just in time for spending the holidays at home with our families! I can’t wait to get back out on the road! See you soon!
WH: We have a few UK festivals to play, then we head out to the US with Nothing More, Hell Or Highwater & My Ticket Home, as well as a few stateside festivals. We have some other things planned, but you'll have to keep an eye on our website to see what they are when we announce them!
Stefan Whiting photos courtesy of Lizzy Davis Photography
Will Homer photos courtesy of Jörg Schnebele