Lionize: Guitar Trek

Seven guitars, eight beards, many gallons of beer and an almighty fistful of rock ’n’ fucking roll. It could only mean one thing: Metal Hammer’s own Lords Of The Riff – the most riff-soaked, hirsute tour on the planet – had returned to reap guitar-fuelled havoc on the UK. Boasting an impressive lineup featuring US brethren Kyng and Lionize and Greek riff kings Planet Of Zeus, it was all set to go off spectacularly and, as Metal Hammer discovered when we were invited to join the fun and games for a day as part of the Lionize crew, it also meant some new friendships were born. Here’s how it all went down. As best as we can remember it, anyway…

12pm Bleurgh. It’s the night after Metal Hammer’s Lords Of The Riff 2 ploughed through Stoke, and while Hammer is passed out on the specially mobilized ‘Krakenmobile’, which has been home to Planet Of Zeus, Kyng and Lionize for this most rocking past couple of weeks, we appear to have rolled into Highbury, London for the final night of the tour. A bus full of rum seemed like a gift from the gods of rock last night; this morning… not so much. There’s already a fair bit of movement while we’re desperately Googling ‘hangover cures that actually work’./o:p

12:15pm We had best make a move. An unbelievably chirpy Nate Bergman, singer and guitarist of Lionize, is ready and raring to go explore London. Although he and his fellow bandmates – bassist Henry Upton, drummer Chase Lapp and Chris Brooks on keys – visited the UK with Clutch earlier this year, this is their first chance to really go and explore the capital. All four of them are up and heading for the station while we’re still struggling to find our pants./o:p

12:55pm After the guys navigate London’s tube system for the first time, we arrive at Oxford Circus and make our way through the living hell that is the crowded streets of Central London in its busiest shopping season. “Hey, that green cross sign means you can get weed in America,” proclaims Henry. We have to explain that Boots don’t stock any marijuana alongside the toothpaste and tampons.

1:22pm Our stomachs are making the sort of noises that have got tourists pointing and staring and children crying and running away, so it’s probably best we eat something. We find a good old British cafe and buy the boys a decent breakfast.

1:28pm While tucking into some much-needed bacon and sausage sandwiches, Nate talks to us a bit more about their relationship with Clutch. “They’re great guys. Obviously we’re very tight with them; we’re on their label, and they’ve been big champions of ours for a long time. We’re very fortunate; they know the business and they’re very generous with their time and advice.”

2:03pm Seeing as they’re a band with a rich and diverse taste in music, we decide to treat Lionize with a trip to London’s legendary Sister Ray record shop to get stuck into some vinyl. As soon as the guys enter, their eyes light up like kids losing their shit over a PlayStation 4 on Xmas morning. Nate is flicking through the heavy metal section, Henry is browsing reggae and Chase is getting stuck into the blues vinyls, while Chris is so overwhelmed he doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself. “I’m a musician; I can’t afford to buy music. It’s a great irony!” You get the impression that if they could have their way, half of the shop’s stock would be going with them and the dude working behind the counter could take an early retirement.

2:22pm We start getting angry text messages from the tour manager, annoyed at us for running off with one of their bands. Guys? Guys! We need to go soon. No? Ah. We’re not going anywhere for a while.

2:50pm We eventually manage to drag the guys away, Chris buying Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life, Chase taking home Clutch’s self-titled album, while Nate has kindly picked up an Etta James singles collection for his girlfriend. “She’s my favourite female vocalist ever,” says Nate with a huge smile on his face. Er, Nate, is this really a present for your girlfriend? “It’s actually for my record player.” Hmmmm./o:p

3:10pm While we assure an increasingly irate tour manager that we’re definitely heading back to the venue, we talk about how well they’ve become friends with the other bands on tour. As it turns out, hitting the road on the riffiest tour around is a good bonding experience. “We didn’t know what to expect, but everybody’s more than cool. It feels like we’re lifelong friends now,” Chris tells us. You’re welcome, bud!

3:43pm Back at the bus and it’s time to tackle the important tasks of the day, like loading in the gear and, erm, washing up?! “We’re the cleanest band in rock’n’roll!” Nate proudly proclaims while scrubbing away at mugs and plates. While tackling the housework, he tells us an anecdote about a famous fan the band made while touring the States. “[Comedian] Danny McBride came to a show recently,” he recalls. “He ended up hanging out and we talked about videogames and Thai food for two hours.” You read it here first, folks: Kenny Fucking Powers is a big Lionize fan!

4:12pm When the band do go to load their gear into the Garage, it turns out their tourmates Planet Of Zeus have already done it for them! Needless to say, they promptly rip the piss out of the Maryland four-piece for being stuck on the bus doing domestic tasks while they did all the heavy lifting. Hey, they won’t be taking the mick when they need a clean mug later.

4:47pm The band set up their merch and perform a soundcheck; they’re already sounding great and it’s safe to say that everyone arriving in a few hours’ time is going to get one hell of a show. This being in a band lark sure looks like thirsty work, though. Fancy a trip to the pub, guys?

5:20pm We look for a local pub and, after giggling like school kids for a good five minutes, we settle for The Famous Cock. Over a few pints, the guys reflect on the unique aurora that Lords Of The Riff curates and the reflection of our culture’s core values that it consolidates. “This tour creates a community; it’s not a competition, we’re not clawing for each other’s territory,” Nate tells us. “We’re creating a unity, that’s what it’s supposed to be about.” Turns out that Lords Of The Riff is a lot more than a bunch of beardy blokes rocking the shit out of venues, eh?!

7pm It’s finally time for the show as doors open and a whole host of punters hungry for riffs spill into The Garage, so it’d be rude not to keep the drinks flowing at this point.

9.50pm After Planet Of Zeus and Kyng have got everyone’s necks well and truly limbered up, it’s time for Lionize to hit the stage and get heads really banging. Be it the smooth grooves of You’re Trying To Kill Me, the trippy, reggae-tinged Sea of Tranquility or the sassy rock’n’roll swagger of Reality Check, it’s all lapped up by a crowd having an all-out party! Damn, we’re good at this whole putting tours together lark.

10:26pm Lionize’s set comes to an end with a splendid rendition of Breather where they are joined onstage by some of their riffwielding brothers in arms and touring pals. Everyone onstage is having as much fun as those off, and it’s so great to see the very real friendships that have been formed on this tour beaming into the audience.

10:35pm As much as we could watch this go on forever, the aforementioned jam brings the show, and the tour, to an end. The guys are positively bursting with massive smiles. “That was awesome, so much fun!” says an elated Chris. “I don’t know how you could expect much more,” adds Nate. “I feel like a show like that is definitely inspiring.”

11:00pm This, in turn, means it’s time to crawl into bed with a good book and get a nice quiet night. Oh wait, it appears there are a few bottles of Kraken that are crying out to be polished off. Uh-oh. What a tour it’s been! Roll on the next one.



Lionize’s Chris guides us through his tour essentials…


“The most practical use for it is writing down our setlists! I just tend to take a bunch of notes when I get some ideas.”


“Noise-cancelling headphones, that is. They mean you don’t necessarily have to listen to everybody all the time.”

Clean Socks

“I don’t think there’s any worse feeling than having wet, smelly socks. A pair of clean socks takes away the discomfort of not showering.”


“It’s essential to life! The first thing you do, before you brush your teeth, before you do anything, is have coffee.

Jack (Lionize Manager)

“Well, somebody has to know what we’re doing, so we look to management for the answers.”/o:p