Glasgow-based pop-rockers Altered Sky are well on their way to superstardom. The last few months have been huge for them, seeing the release of their debut album, Without Wonderland, and a headlining UK tour bring their infectiously catchy anthems to a bigger audience than ever before. So we sent Ryan down to their triumphant hometown show at Glasgow’s G2, where he caught up with frontwoman Ana Nowosielska, drummer Amy Blair, guitarists Rich Passe and Ryan Zdrojewski, and bassist Ross Archibald.
This tour might well have been a career-defining experience for Altered Sky, but for guitarist Rich it could have got off to a better start. “Before we even started, I left my guitar in the house.” Bassist Ross groans, “Yes, he forgot his main one. Not the spare.” Ana, the vocalist, continues, “And what did you do in Cardiff?” Rich, embarrassed, replies, “I left my cable box, with what I worked out was £300 worth of cables, all the good stuff, in the venue, we think. So I’ve been running around guitar shops the last couple of days trying to get all the bits back together again. But the guy from [guitar kit suppliers to the stars] Blackstar came by yesterday and gave me this impossible to buy pedal.”
“Blackstar are great in that aspect, ’cause you would have been completely screwed otherwise!”, laughs Ana.
Fortunately, that seems to have been the only major hurdle in what’s otherwise been a successful tour for the plucky young band. Drummer Amy sums it up: “It’s been great so far. Really busy, and all the bands [we’ve played with] have been great.” Ross continues, “It’s been more consistently busy each night. So, with previous tours we’d have a busy night then a more quiet one. With this tour there’s been more people through the door every night. The organisation of the shows and stuff has been top notch as well. This tour’s just gone as smoothly as possible.”
Ana agrees: “We’ve worked with Bedlam Bookings this time for this tour, and they have been absolutely phenomenal, they really have. There was something fantastic last night: we were set to go on stage, to headline, at five to ten. But we were speaking to a couple of people who came to see us and they were saying that they’d have to leave before that to catch a train. So we asked if we could switch and go on early and that was no problem at all. So they got to see us and I was really happy it worked out that way.”
Commitment to their fans is definitely a key ingredient in Altered Sky’s rapidly growing popularity, and there are few bands who can match them in the way which they treat their fans. When we arrived, Altered Sky were in the middle of one of their popular meet-and-greet sessions. The range of people in attendance – everyone from schoolgirls excited for their first-ever rock show to tattooed biker types with grey beards – showed the broad appeal of the band. These sessions are something which the band take great pride in: “It’s so fun!”, Ana all but squeals with delight, “It’s great to meet and talk to people in that kinda way where you might not get the chance to at other shows. On our previous tour that might happen every single day, and it’s amazing that people are just so supportive. It’s so humbling, it really really is.”
Even when they’re not on the road the band are committed to keeping the fans involved through their social media channels. Ana explains: “When I was growing up you didn’t have Facebook, you didn’t have Twitter and stuff like that, and you could only really imagine what [members of bands] were thinking. But if we’re getting back to [the fans] every day and actually saying ‘oh I like Attack on Titan‘ – that’s something I was talking to someone about recently – it kind of makes us more human, and it just feels more natural to talk to people.” Rich continues, “[When] we started the band I remember making the decision, ‘we’re going to talk to the fans’. If they take time out of their lives to talk to us, buy our merch, listen to our music, then we’ve got no right to block them out. Cause they’re as much a part of us as we’re a part of each other. It’s never stopped from that, in fact it’s something that’s kept on growing. I don’t know how All Time Low do it with 1000 Tweets a day. But once we’re at that stage we’ll chat about it…”
This openness with their supporters places Altered Sky in a unique position, but it isn’t without it’s challenges. Ana tells us, “We’ve had a lot of fans who send us messages saying that they’ve had dark times and they’ve found help listening to our music. And I don’t know what to say to that.”
Rich shares her concerns: “We struggle to empathise, cause we’ve never been in that situation, y’know?”
But Ana is keen to emphasise the positive aspects of keeping fans involved through social media: “It’s an amazing thing. And at the same time we get fans who say ‘Ah Ryan [Altered Sky guitarist], what Blackstar head are you using?’ and stuff and ‘How can I get that sound?’ And it’s just about pushing them towards their dreams and saying ‘you can do this!’ We never thought we were gonna get here.”
Rich agrees, saying “We started ’cause we thought it would be fun.”
“And it is!” Ana agrees, “And it’s weird, and it’s changed so much over the past six years. But we’re not going to stop, we do want to keep going, keep pushing as far as we can go. But yeah, you’ve just got to tell them to keep pursuing what’s in their head and their heart.”
Ryan expands on this sentiment, “Main thing I would say is just believe in yourself, cause if you believe in yourself you can do anything. If you have a dream go for it.”
“You’ve only got one life”, Ana interjects.
“We’ve only got one life so you might as well make the most of it and just do what you want. You need to leave a mark on this planet, cause who else is gonna remember?”
Rich says, “I feel all inspired now…”. He’s not the only one.
The band’s attitude, openness, and charms haven’t just won over their rapidly growing fanbase, but have attracted the support of a number of influential companies too. Amy gives us a scoop and tells us, “So I’m pretty much an endorsed artist with Premier [in Ana’s words, “A solid drumming company”]. So that’s a new, awesome thing that’s just [happened]! Yeah, so we’re using the kit tonight, and it’s pretty unbelievable. Should be getting a custom one, very very soon. So that’s the big thing. They’re [a] British [company], they’re the best Britain has, probably one of the best the world has.” Ross continues, “The benefit that, apart from all the free stuff, the guys we’re dealing with; Blackstar, Premier, that level of company; they’ve got such good industry contacts and stuff, so they can pass on our details to other brands of other bits of equipment, so that really helps grow the endorsement list.”
Ana gives an example: “I found that Vocalzone [throat pastilles for singers], for me, has literally been a lifesaver. It’s not about getting free stuff cause I’ve been using Vocalzone for ages. It’s being able to represent them. Because they’re amazing, they really do work. And it’s something that every singer definitely needs in their lives.”
So how did they go about landing these high-profile endorsements? “I think we approached Blackstar.”, says Ross, “And they had a listen and were like ‘OK, we really like these guys, let’s do something with the guitarists.’ And I think it was VocalZone who approached us, and Premier?” Amy reveals, “Premier sent me a Tweet saying ‘keep up the good work!’ And I said, ‘well I really like this kit…’, so they said ‘get in touch!’”
Ana advises, “You need to be kinda ballsy with them. Because I remember that Tweet: I jumped on that and was like ‘oh well why don’t you go halfers on that kit with Amy?’ It was the playfulness which got them to take notice as well. Such an awesome company! I don’t know if they’ve just got one person on the social media or if it’s a bunch of them but the connections within the company just run so well. Brilliant, really brilliant.”
That said, Altered Sky’s popularity is not just due to their networking skills with fans and businesses: they’re true masters of their craft too. Tonight’s gig is everything a great rock show should be. A high-energy performance, full of memorable, hooky anthems that the crowd can’t help but chant along with. Every member of this band has a flair for showmanship, not least the commanding yet charming presence of Ana as a frontwoman. The band is just so likeable that even technical issues, which would derail lesser bands, just becomes an opportunity for the band to riff with each other and the crowd: which while not quite the euphoric heights of their music, is still really entertaining.
They also have a genuine commitment to their craft, and a workmanlike attitude that’s every bit as inspirational as their motivational words to the fans. Despite releasing Without Wonderland a matter of months ago, they’re already looking to the future.
Rich tells us, “We kinda decided before this tour that after this run of shows we’d devote some time to writing new songs. So definitely new tracks in the next few months. We’ll be writing and rehearsing in the studio But as for pinning a date on the next album? We haven’t reached that stage yet.” “It’s weird, cause it feels like we just released [Without Wonderland].”, says Ana. “We released it in HMV, just a couple of weeks ago: [I think it was] 11th of March that we did an acoustic set in-store. We were in Birmingham yesterday and we found it in Birmingham HMV, we found it in Southampton HMV. It was insane! It was so crazy that we’re ready to move onto the next thing. I’d definitely say that before we do that I’d like to release two more singles from the album. I’d like to do that. So two more music videos coming. Cause we’re not going to disappear while we’re doing this new stuff: we’re gonna keep pushing. So over the summer we’re playing a few shows. We’re going to go down to London and play with a band called Beyond Recall and they’re coming up and we’re gonna do show-swaps. We’re going to be playing some schools as well to promote the album And we’re also going to be doing a big, big, big show nearing the end of the year: that’s going to be our next main event. We’re also really involved with This Is Pulp: a clothing store which kits us out with all the [fashion label] Jilted Generation gear that they do and there’s also talk of helping us design a T-shirt which we could maybe get in store. Our US PR has also been kicking off. We were charting in I think four colleges in the US, so I’d love to get over to Amercia!”
If there’s any Scottish band poised to achieve that age-old dream of breaking out in America it’s Altered Sky. With their sharp business skills, absolute dedication to their fans, flair for showmanship, and sheer talent for writing awesome, catchy, pop-rock anthems, it’s only a matter of time.
Without Wonderland is available now.
Altered Sky embark on an acoustic UK tour in July and August.
Photographs courtesy of Katie Frost Photography.