LET US PREY – “We’re Doing Exactly What We Want”
August 18, 2020, a month ago
It is one of the more dynamic and genre-bending records of 2020. The debut LP from New England’s Let Us Prey, the melting pot that is Virtues Of The Vicious, dropped through M-Theory Audio in late July.Anchored by the team of frontman Marc Lopes (also Ross The Boss) and “riff master” Jon Morency, Virtues of the Vicious features high profile collaborations from Jon Donais (Anthrax, Shadows Fall), “Metal” Mike Chlasciak (Halford, Testament), Jimi Bell (House of Lords, Autograph) and the late great Oli Herbert (All That Remains). Lopes caught up with BraveWords for a deep dive into Virtues Of The Vicious, his love of all things metal, working with Ross The Boss Friedman and plans for a sophomore Let Us Prey record in short order.
BraveWords: Fans have had a few weeks to digest the record. What is the impression you get and the feedback for both yourself and the band?
Marc Lopes: “The reaction is interesting. A lot of people don’t know what the hell we’re doing. But I don’t consider that a bad thing (laughs). I mean reviews are reviews, you know? You can take them for what they’re worth or whatever, but of course you always want to see what people think of things. But the thing I found interesting was there’s a lot of reviews, especially from overseas, thinking that we don’t have a direction and that we’re lost and we’re trying to find our way. And I think that’s funny because we’re doing exactly what we want. We don’t have a direction, so to say we just do what we do, in that sense, we’re very happy, because if you’re getting that reaction then we’ve accomplished what we wanted.”
BraveWords: Diversity is definitely a major takeaway from the album. So many different layers and influences shine through. Did you consider that to be something you wanted to explore early on? Not just a straightforward metal record?
Marc Lopes: “Absolutely. Me and Jon, we have so many influences, especially myself. One week I could be listening to In Flames, the next week I could be listening to Pain Of Salvation. The next day I could be listening to Cradle Of Filth, and then the next day I could be listening to TNT or ABBA. I love Boston. Boston’s one of my favorite rock things ever. For me I don’t think there should be any boundaries. What’s the use of making music and art if you have to be restricted? I mean, that’s why we do it in the first place, you know?”
BraveWords: Take me through that chemistry between you and Jon. This band really is a passion project between the two of you.
Marc Lopes: “I mean, honestly, he’s probably the best writing partner I’ve ever had and the longest I’ve ever worked with. I’ve had many, many different people that I’ve worked with in the past, which is great. I mean, everybody’s been great. But there’s a thing and I can’t even describe it. It’s one of those things where sometimes when you write something with somebody, you kind of have to go to an outside source to get an idea or an inspiration for something. And it’s really strange in a good way. He’ll send me these risks and that’s how everything starts. They have this vibe and life of their own where I’m influenced by what I’m hearing solely. Sometimes we’ll go through different spells where he’ll write really, really insane, heavy Gorguts type of riffs and stuff and then go through a spell where it’s all these like melodic moody things. And it’s kind of a cool’s thing. It’s almost like Christmas for me every time he sends me riffs because I never know what I’m going to get.”
BraveWords: The record features so many fantastic guests and collaborations that really may open up the band and album to outsiders. Take me through the idea of bringing on board so many fantastic artists.
Marc Lopes: “These guys are my friends. I know a lot of times you’ll get people and guests and they just hire them, you know what I mean? But I would never do that. They’re my friends and it’s weird. It just happens, you know? I’ll be like I have a song and hey, man, Jon and I got this tune? You want to play on it? The Metal Mike thing was cool because I had this title track and it was like this monstrous epic song. It was just insane, crazy. And I’m like, I need a ridiculous, insane, chaotic type of thing. And Metal Mike came at me with this almost Meshuggah abstract type of solo. And I was like, this is perfect. I mean, each person that I picked for the songs was on purpose for what I was looking for with their style melding into that tune.”
BraveWords: Obviously your work with the late Oli Herbert on the record is something that draws attention due to his untimely passing. What were your impressions both working with and knowing him?
Marc Lopes: “He was an amazing guy. The funny thing is how I met him was great because, obviously he was like a local legend type of thing. I did a lot of playing in Western Mass with my cover bands and stuff like that. I had a cover band with the guys in Shadows Fall and stuff like that. One of my cover bands would do like Helloween and King Diamond and stuff, and he came randomly to a show. He was out there jamming as we were playing King Diamond, because he’s a huge King Diamond fan and Helloween, and we just became friends that way. We were actually trying to put together a symphonic power metal band together as a side project, but he never had the time to do it at that point. We always wanted to collaborate. So I had this total power metal, double bass thrasher type of tunes and I said hey, would you like to play on this? And he’s like send it over. He said oh my God this is great. And it would be an honor to play on this. I said no, the honor would be mine. Obviously they were on tour and the whole nine yards, so he just said come up to the rehearsal space on such and such a day we’ll record it there. So I went up to the All That Remains rehearsal space and brought my portable studio and we thrashed it out there and he wrote this amazing solo and he was very, very thorough. He’s the musician, musician kind of guy. All about his playing and guitar and the melody and all the structure. So in tune with that, plus he was a fellow movie, comic book nerd. So we get along on that level, too.”
BraveWords: Outside of Let Us Prey you’re also the frontman for Ross The Boss. How has that entire experience been, working and touring with a true metal legend?
Marc Lopes: “Well, first of all, it’s an honor to play with them. When I first got the gig it was very surreal. The first Manowar album, like for so many people, was just so influential to me. As a singer, Eric Adams was a hero of mine. I always admired that he could carry melody but sound like he was ready to rip someone’s head off and go into battle. That’s how I always imagined it, which is exactly what they were about. Growing up, the music kind of was a positive hope vibe. If you’re a teenager and you might be getting picked on or whatever the thing and you put on “Hail and Kill”, “Carry On” and there’s just that triumphant feeling, you know? It had that effect on me and getting to work with the guy that was such a part of that creation of something that I grew up with, it sometimes still doesn’t even click. It’s Ross!
“Being in the Ross The Boss band and doing the classics was very, very stressful for a long time. Manowar diehard fans are relentless. I had to learn how to just totally let that bounce off of the thick skin because they can be just plain assholes. And so that took a long time. It’s been earned respect, which is great. Now it’s nothing like that. I mean, it doesn’t even bother me anymore. I’ve kind of come to the point where I do what I do and know that I play those songs with honor and respect to the source material. But I also have to do it my way. And that was the one thing that Ross told me that kept me going was Marc, just do these songs your way. No one’s Eric Adams and no one will ever be Eric Adams. So why bother? That’s me saying that. And I was like, well, we’re gonna have to put my own spin on it. And as time went on with constant touring, that’s what it became and people started to really gravitate towards the energy and the tribute to the source material and that’s where we’re at now.
“He’s really super easy to work with. And on the first album, I probably didn’t have as much freedom as I did on this one, obviously because I was new. Even though I wrote all the vocals lyrically and melody wise, the first album there was definitely more of an agenda to try to stay in the Manowar vein, which was restrictive for me. Challenging. I always like a challenge, so that was cool. But even though we tried, I did what I did. One of the songs off that record, “We Are The Night”, I wrote that with Jon from Let Us Prey. So that’s probably the oddball of that record, because that was the least amount of Manowar-ism. Then on the Born of Fire record, being in the band for three years, I had a lot of creative freedom, and that’s probably why it sounds so different. I worked with Mike on a couple of songs. I worked with Ross on a couple songs, and then me and Jon from Let US Pray wrote four songs on this record. Lyrically and melodic wise, it was less of we don’t want it to sound like Manowar. We want it to sound like Ross The Boss in 2020.”
BraveWords: Speaking again on influences, is there a definitive album for you that stands out as an all-time great metal record that really left a lasting impression on you?
Marc Lopes: “Number Of The Beast. That’s the record for me. I might be showing my age here, but I just remember seeing Iron Maiden on MTV, when they played videos, and going, wow, what is this? I’ve never seen anything like this before. Look at them running around. It’s crazy. Listen to Bruce, I’ve never heard singing like this before! This is nuts! And that was it. I was done after that. I was like, this is what I want to do. This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s funny because I started by playing drums before I sang, but even though I was playing drums it was like I wanted to be Bruce. And then I just evolved because I got so involved in writing and I like to sing anyway. So I actually started by playing drums and singing like the Night Ranger dude, and then I jumped off the drums and started singing. “
BraveWords: Obviously COVID-19 has really changed the landscape for artists in 2020. With all things being equal, how would you have liked to see the next year or so go for Let Us Prey?
Marc Lopes: “It definitely has changed the game plan. Before all this happened early in the year, we were already looking into different touring opportunities and different strategies of what we were going to do. We had a couple of different offers we were weighing out at the time. That’s all gone now because no one knows what’s going on. I mean, I’m supposed to be going out on the road in November to Europe with Ross, but I have a weird feeling that isn’t going to happen again. But it is what it is. What are you gonna do? But as far as the Let Us Prey thing goes, the plan right now is we are going to do probably two or three videos for the record to keep content fresh in people’s faces. We definitely were working on putting together a livestream show from one of the venues that’s near my place back in Massachusetts that we are friends with that is gonna let us use it to do something cool there. We’ll see how that works out. But if anything we already have the next record written. We’re right now in pre-production picking the songs that we want to use for the record, or we’re gonna end up with a double record. And then the plan is to tour next year when the second record comes out and just have two records to play when we go out and keep building and getting the word out with word of mouth and just build it from there. Social media and all that other stuff is really the only place for us to do anything right now. So we’re just going to keep going that route while we are working on the next record.”
BraveWords: Not to get too far ahead, but in these early stages how do you see this follow-up record? Just as diverse as the first?
Marc Lopes: “Absolutely. We’re going to add more. I’m really into industrial. Fear Factory is one of my all-time favorite bands. I love that stuff. I’ve always been into electronic. I love software. I love gear, and I love that robotic dystopian, Blade Runner vibe, which is some of what we were going for on some of the stuff like “Ghost Echoes” especially. So we’re going to be definitely adding a little bit more of that element. This album is a lot of thrashy, fast stuff going on, but there’s also some strange dynamics. We haven’t even finished all the ingredients in the soup yet, you know? We got some pretty interesting stuff coming up. I mean we’re not going disco or anything like that. It’s going to stay within the metal realm. There’s more melodies, but there’re also heavier heavy’s. We’re just going to keep building on what we did. We could streamline everything, we’re more than capable of doing it if that’s what was going to happen naturally. But it’s just not happening. We write what we write. I don’t want to start editing stuff to appease anybody. It’s just the wrong thing to do, I think.”