Download 2017: No. 48 - The Contortionist - 50 bands in 50 days

By Eric Mackinnon


The Contortionist

Download Festival

The Dogtooth Stage

Friday, June 9, 2017


The Contortionist vocalist Mike Lessard is urging any Download revellers who come to their Dogtooth Stage set this Friday to fasten their seatbelts, nestle in nice and tight and prepare for a musical ride.

Speaking to the New Rock Times ahead of their Donington Park debut Lessard explained: “Playing both (venue and festival shows) does give us an opportunity to try slightly new things, but, truthfully we are somewhat new to arena and outdoor shows.

“What always affects our song choices, however, are the bands we are playing with that night and what songs we can use best as tools to keep the audience’s attention. We are lucky in that respect; we can fit in dynamically with many different types of shows.

“From one perspective, because our shows try to immerse our audience in the experience and not “break the trance”, so to speak, it almost doesn’t matter whether or not the crowd is huge or small; but only important that we can bring them equally ‘along for the ride’.”

The prog rockers will warm up the crowd before Exodus close The Dogtooth Stage on night one of Download which Mike reckons will provide ‘a fresh crowd for us.’

“There are so many bands on the bill I’d like to see,” he beams.

“Even though I will only be able to catch a few, just being billed next to some of these hero-level bands has me excited. Some personal highlights are Mastodon and Baroness, bands I have loved since watching them play 80 capacity clubs in my home state of Georgia to massive stages like this, Suicidal Tendencies, Krokodil, of course hugely formative Opeth and System of a Down.

“Perturbator would likely see me partying hard and trying to dance out front, while Steel Panther would probably have me boozing in the crowd and laughing with all their typical antics.”

A recent tour of the UK has given The Contortionist ‘a nice change of pace’ continues Mike with the band enjoying the chance to win the hearts, and ear drums, of new fans on the opposite side of the pond.

“It has offered a nice change of pace, when compared to our American tours and our last EU/UK run with Periphery,” he reflects.

“We have been able to meet some of the most gracious and hardcore fans every night, and the intimacy of some of these smaller clubs and markets creates some really fun shows, even if it’s on a different scale. It allows for a more special show for the audience and a more honest interaction with the band, so it’s more memorable for everyone.”

It's been three years now since the band dropped their last studio release with 'Language' but a fourth album is fast approaching and this time it has been more of a collaborative effort than ever before.

“We have finished ‘Clairvoyant’ and this has been the first record with every member fully immersed in the process of writing and recording, and the combination of the musical identities in the band really shine through,” says Mike.

“Language and the subsequent Rediscovered opened up a lot of unique territory for the band, and we tried to accentuate the best characteristics of that sonic shift. It is coming out September 15th and we couldn’t be more excited to introduce this next iteration of our sound.”

Musically, The Contortionist are a band who never stand still, with ever-evolving styles and sounds and this is something Mike believes they will continue to explore.

“This is, in my mind, absolutely woven into the character of The Contortionist,” he says. “We want not only every record to be a journey in itself, but in a larger sense, we want to take our audience on a long-term voyage with our progression.

“Since this has been a characteristic of the band since the beginning, our best and most cherished fans, I believe, will be excited to see where we go with it next.”

He added: “We wanted to create a situation like that for ourselves, but ultimately we are simply grateful that our fans have been receptive enough to our creative efforts so we can keep moving forward.”