Lagerstein violinist and keytarist Joel Orford, AKA Mother Junkst is animated when we speak on the phone. The band’s just decided to expand their jam room and there’s a new mixing desk to play with as well as a hole in the wall with leads running through to the new office space next door.
The award-winning pirate metal outfit has had its international touring wings clipped thanks to COVID and so more time at home means more jams and with seven people in the band that means more room is essential.
Expanded office and jam space isn’t the only impact COVID has wrought on the band. Cancelled and postponed shows mean the band has had to innovate.
“We’re trying to get creative,” Joel tells me. “I feel like the one thing we’ve learned this year is that the Company we built is reliant on live shows and touring. That is why we’re renovating the room,” he said, hinting at props and full sets aplenty, as you’d expect from a band that prioritises visual pleasure alongside sonic pleasantries.
While Lagerstein marks ten years of music-making this year, Joel’s journey began when he was eight and demanded piano lessons from his piano-playing mother.
“I’ve always been this personality where I have to do everything,” he explained. “So after a year of piano lessons, I went to my first concert and the teacher pulled out a violin and played it. And then I had to have violin lessons.”
He played “a lot” of classical and jazz music growing up and stepped away from violin when at university studying philosophy and when he started out with Lagerstein focussed on the keyboard.
“No-one in the band even knew I played violin,” he said. “And in my head, I didn’t know how violin could be a heavy thing.”
But four years into the band’s existence that all changed. They recruited another keyboardist and that was that.
Of course it’s not unusual for metal bands to include violin and Joel says it’s not uncommon to run into other violinists when touring (including in the Czech Republic where he met an Irish metal band who couldn’t speak a word of English but had totally nailed the sea shanty).
From jamming to sea shanties in the Czech Republic to performing at festivals in front of tens of thousands of people, Lagerstein have played all over the world. Wacken in 2019 is a particular highlight.
“It was the last one,” Joel said. “They had to cancel this year. It was special because it’d been a real dream and I’d been watching the festival since I was 16 so to get there was great. But… it was very stressful. It was so big and there were so many people.”
“We also played Aaargh Festival in Germany. It was more of a black metal kinda pagan event and we had this triple festival weekend and had to go Friday, Saturday, Sunday – three festivals in three countries.”
“We got there in the afternoon, we were the last band after headliner and we didn’t know what that set would be like. The headliner was this intense grindcore band and it felt like we came on and got the headliner energy show. It was great. The owners came on stage and we had three encores.”
“When we came backstage there was this big German guy wolfing down our rider and food and we’re like stuffing his face with sausages and he’s wasted and can’t speak English, and then we had to kick it out of there and get to Italy.”
It’s weird because you rock up, have this huge party vibe and then just walk away.
And while the live music highlights are obviously significant, Joel says his personal highlights are more about the camaraderie.
“Learning about music and the industry and being able to take control of an amazing adventure with our best friends and to create a Company together and to do festivals and create music from our hearts and have it all coming together with fans all over the world, and to be hungry every day to be better… that’s the real highlight,” he said.
And that people-first focus is obvious as Joel speaks. When he talks about how the band formed, he talks about it being a family-band. Lagerstein’s original incarnation included three brothers (there’s now two). He met the original bass player at the Conservatorium, and they were all playing in symphonic metal bands at the time.
“We were doing a lot of gigs and everyone was so serious,” he explained. “But we always loved the after-parties at those gigs. Lagerstein was borne out of that. We wanted to take that after-party energy [ie. beer bongs] and bring it to the stage.”
With three studio albums and a live-recorded album and DVD under their belt, Lagerstein are equal parts mischievous and assiduous. And COVID hasn’t meant a battening down of hatches, but rather an exploration of new horizons.
“In keeping in line with Lagerstein being pirates, we’re experimenting with how we’re going to release music in the future,” Joel said. “And step away from albums, focus on more content more often.”
And for fans, that means more songs, more regularly.
“It’s an interesting challenge. You put so much love into this music and it takes so long to make an album and you grow so much over those years. You make those songs, you release them, and it’s kind of old news.”
Now we’re thinking about how we can serve our fans. They want to hear from us more regularly and get more out of the songs.
“Lagerstein was born as a family band and I really feel like that’s what our fans are like. A big family and a community of people who you can count on, but who don’t mind being silly and laughing at themselves.”
“Our fans love the feeling coming into a group as outsiders and leaving as friends.”
“We want to be the best band to be a fan of,” Joel said, explaining that it was written as a major goal and stuck on the wall in their band room.
And it’s not just Lagerstein fans that appreciate their artistry. Last year, the Gold Coast music industry also lavished praise on the band, who took out the People’s Choice Award, and responded in kind with the first ever on-stage shoey at a Gold Coast Music Awards event.
“What I enjoyed so much about [the Gold Coast Music award] is that it’s a nice feeling to get a reminder that we’re appreciated at home. With Australian metal and the Lagerstein journey it’s like we have to prove ourselves overseas to get respect at home. Lots of Australians feel that. We’ve done so much work OS that the recognition is really nice, it’s something friends and family could connect with a bit more. It was great to be appreciated and see people enjoy it and go to the Awards ceremony and meet interesting people who are involved locally and be a contributing member to that community.”
Which brings us to the band’s next live show which is the catalyst for this whole conversation. Lagerstein will hit Mo’s Desert Clubhouse with Virtues (BNE) and Dirty Brew (Gold Coast) in support.
“Virtues, they’re like a deathcore band – they’re pretty heavy. And Dirty Brew, they’re a bit like a stoner rock vibe but with that really fun party energy.”
“I’ve been watching Mo’s grow and it’s been a bit of a journey and it seems to have a big of magic about the place. I’m really looking forward to getting down and experience that ourselves.”
And with 22 countries under their belts, you know that this 100-person show is going to be one for the books.
_ _ _ _
Lagerstein + Virtues + Dirty Brew | Mo’s Desert Clubhouse | 8 August 2021. Doors 7.00pm. Tickets tinyurl.com/ThirstyNightAtMos