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Het was in de nazomer van 2016 dat we voor het eerst kennis maakten met het Amerikaanse 1476 als zijnde het geesteskind van het in New England woonachtige duo Robb Kavjian en Neil DeRosa. Hun intrede bij Prophecy Productions werd bekrachtigd door het heruitgeven van hun backcatalogus, maar nu is er uitstekend nieuw werk in de vorm van ‘Our Season Draws Near’. Het was een waar genoegen om de eloquente en diepgravende muzikant Robb Kavjian zijn zegje te laten doen.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder post rock / post metal

I hope you are doing well and the making of ‘Our Season Draws Near’ happened to be a fine adventure for you. First of all, what was your state of mind when writing this album? When did you actually composed it?
The album was composed from the end of 2013 to the beginning of 2015. From June to September 2014, we stopped working so we could write and record our last album, the soundtrack ‘Edgar Allan Poe: A Life Of Hope & Despair’. The state of mind constantly changed, especially because the writing happened over such a long period of time. It was very challenging and stressful most of the time but definitely positive. The album was inspired by the state of mind I was in following ‘Wildwood’ in 2013. I feel that a lot of the subjects we explored on that album led me down a very cynical path in my personal life. I became very lost, withdrawn, bitter, unhappy, isolated, depressed, and confused. Making this album was a way to get to the bottom of these feelings and take responsibility for my own negativity and bad states of mind. As I was sorting myself out, I slowly started to feel much better, stronger, and changed in many ways. This allowed me to reflect better on this time period while writing. I cannot write when I feel horrible. I’m not a subscriber to the “tortured artist” philosophy. I want to feel enthusiastic, light, and euphoric whenever I make music. I would like to think this brings a spirit of positivity to balance out the darker nature of the subjects here. Even though the album was a tool to help me sort out this negative mentality, the ultimate goal is to overcome this. The longer we worked on this album, the more positive and enthusiastic we both felt. By the end, making music was genuinely fun and I felt the same way I did as an adolescent, making music for the pure love of playing and creating. This is the first time I’ve felt this with 1476 and I’m very happy to have arrived there. I guess the ultimate goal for us in music and our personal lives is always growth and transcendence. This is what we strive for.

A winter’s theme runs through the album. Can you tell a bit more about the inspiration for the lyrics this time?
When writing, I really enjoy taking a concept and finding a filter or lens through which I can view it. I love for each album to have its own vocabulary and imagery, so that everything we do stands as its own world apart from our other releases. As I mentioned above, the lyrics are about a time in my life that was very stagnant and difficult. I felt very isolated and disconnected from other people. I couldn’t see past my own insecurities, weaknesses, and arrogance. I wanted to confront these things in a very direct and confrontational way. I really started thinking about the idea of winter because it is cold, harsh, and unforgiving but, at the same time, it’s cleansing, refreshing, and rejuvenating. I started thinking about the concept of the ice age and stagnation, where everything freezes and comes to a stop. I started thinking of withdrawal, resignation, and entropy. To me, these ideas were inspiring because everything we’d done up to that point in time was very much based on motion, fluidity, and strength. After years of basically building a wall around myself with some bullshit elitist ideas, I found it very refreshing to just admit weakness and to just stop fighting and give in for once. The idea of winter as a backdrop for all of this felt very right to me. It is a dark, quiet time where many of us are alone with our thoughts. It’s an introspective time for me. I also used the vocabulary of mythology and Runelore. I chose these specifically for this album because these are two things that play a heavy factor in my personal life and the closest I have ever felt to being truly spiritual. They were also key factors in helping me work through this period of my life. In the past, we’ve used metaphysical themes on our albums. These are also very important to me and are very active in my daily life. I would say the difference between these practices/ideas and the mythology/runelore of ‘Our Season Draws Near’ is that the latter is what I identify with in a way that is much deeper and more personal than anything else. The former topics are things that I love but I’m drawn to them from more of an intellectual and aesthetic angle where the mythology/Runelore aspect is deeply spiritual for me. And, as this album is meant to look inwards, I thought it more appropriate to make this part of the language here, where ‘Wildwood’, for example, uses the other imagery more and looks outward at the world. I hope that makes sense!

Why the title ‘Our Season Draws Near’?
I honestly don’t know. We had a few other titles based on a runic idea. The main one was Isa/Jera. The first rune, Isa, representing stagnation, entropy, literally ice or freezing, and the second rune, Jera, representing the yearly solar cycle and reaping what you have sown or a good harvest. Putting the two together was a symbolic way of referring to an ice age, literally a frozen cycle of time. While we really liked this concept, the title itself leaves a lot to be desired, I think. One day, ‘Our Season Draws Near’ just appeared in my mind for no reason. I really liked it. It felt refreshing and new to me, like nothing we’d ever done before. I didn’t mention it to Neil for a few months because I thought he may think it sounded stupid and I had no way to connect it to the concept. When I finally told him, he was okay with it haha. It’s important to mention this though because most of the album was made in this manner which is one reason why it took us longer than usual to write. Most of the ideas arrived for no reason and with no context, most of the music, lyrics, imagery ideas, etc. But, after awhile, we just accepted these things and worked with them. After everything was done, I thought the title was very appropriate and endearing. I was able to incorporate the album title into the lyrics of ‘Winter Of Wolves’ and gives it some context for myself. But, like everything we do, we like to leave things open to interpretation.

As you said earlier: every album is another experience. What can you say about the approach this time in comparison with earlier works?
As I said above, most of the ideas appeared to us out of nowhere. In the past, everything we did was very rigid and controlled. We had a reason for every word, note, and sound on an album. We tried to do that with this album because that’s how we work. We actually tried to make a completely different album with a different concept at first… But all of the ideas I had didn’t work in any way with this other concept. So, I thought that maybe we could make an EP with this material...but, no. It ended up dominating the writing process and became ‘OSDN’. The more I focused on these ideas and sounds, the more they arrived. This album was 90% intuition. We both tried to force this album to sound and feel a certain way but it wouldn’t let us. It really had a life of its own haha. Whenever I tried to write (which was almost every day), I couldn’t do anything. I would get frustrated and stop. Then later, I would be in my car and all of this music would flood into my mind. I would have to race home panicking so I could play it and figure it out. Most of the music and lyrics came this way. This was very new. We even tried to make this album more experimental. On ‘Wildwood’, we have a lot of sounds that make the songs fade into each other. We tried to do that again here. I spent a day trying to incorporate samples between a lot of the songs - old radio broadcasts, some classic, etc. - but the album just wouldn’t let us. We tried to be weird and it said “No!” haha. One thing that is also very different from the past is that we demoed and rehearsed everything for months before we recorded it. Literally, from ‘Smoke In The Sky’ through the ‘Poe’ soundtrack, we recorded while we were writing. We didn’t rehearse much and we had no idea how the songs would sound until we finished recording them. This time was the opposite and it made the actual recording very fast. I think it took us about three weeks. Neil did the drums in one day. He records in silence, playing the songs from memory, and then I go in alone and do the rest. Everything took place from about 5:30am-noon everyday in May 2014. This was a very positive and beautiful time for me, one of my fondest memories actually.

Musically it is also different, yet recognizable as 1476. For example the music and vocals are more raw and direct. What else would you like to add as typical characteristics?
We really wanted to focus on being minimal and raw on this album. Most of the recordings are first and second takes. On ‘Wildwood’, I was very lost and insecure about my vocals, so I did a million takes for every song trying to get my voice to sound perfect. When I hear ‘Wildwood’ now, I think I just sound unnatural. I was trying to be a “good singer” from a technical perspective because I wasn’t comfortable with how I sounded. With this album, having a vocal performance that was very honest and real was the most important thing to me, especially because of the subjects I had to sing about. The result is that a lot of the vocals are more organic sounding and very close to the register in which I speak. In the past, I felt like I had to sing high and acrobatic but I was just trying to mask insecurity. When I did the vocals for ‘A Circle Is Eternal’ on the ‘Poe’ album, I was very happy with the result. I explored this approach more fully on this new album. I also do a lot of screaming/yelling types of vocals which I’ve never done before on a 1476 album. Once again, this just seemed suitable for the things I had to sing about. It conveys the proper emotion. The opening song, ‘Our Silver Age’, begins with a quiet acoustic guitar and vocal. There are no effects on these. This is just me playing and singing in the room. There are many quiet moments like these throughout the album and the flaws can be heard. We felt that was appropriate for the album’s concept. We wanted to use this style of transparency and minimalism - sections with only one instrument, little or no effects, empty spaces, very quiet sections, etc. - to create the moods and atmospheres of this album. Another thing that’s different for this album was the approach to writing the drums. On ‘Wildwood’, every aspect of the drums was written to flow seamlessly throughout each section in every song. We gave a lot of attention to every single transition and the most effective ways to keep them fluent. ‘Poe’ was more orchestral and electronic regarding the drums. With ‘OSDN’, we wanted transitions that were more choppy and abrupt. The words we used when approaching the drums were “minimal, militaristic, and oppressive”. It’s important to us to find new, small ways to approach our instruments with each album in the hopes of growing as musicians. The theme of the album can help dictate this approach. The last thing I’d like to mention here is that some sections of music are from pieces that I wrote over ten years ago. I had a black metal/ambient project that I did by myself for many years. They were literally cassette tape bedroom recordings that I shared with a few friends and were never really public. It was important to me to reference some of these ideas on this album, because they represent a time in my life that is related to the themes on this album. A lot of the issues I was dealing with are rooted in this period. It seemed appropriate to adapt some of these guitar sections into brand new songs. I believe there’s three songs where these appear. This music is also very special and deeply personal to me. I would never release it so I’m very happy to share some of it with the world in this context.

I agree that there is no need in putting your music in a pigeonhole, while diverse influences like punky heaviness against a kind of soaring guitar leads leap to the eye. But there is one influence I’d like to mention – US guitar rock: like The God Machine, Sophia, Replacements, even Mark Lanegan – can you find yourself in that as well?
Honestly, aside from Mark Lanegan, I’m not too familiar with these bands. I actually just heard The God Machine and Sophia for the first time today, because someone else made the same reference! I have to spend some time with these artists. It seems like most of the bands we love are European. I really love the interplay of guitars between Mick Jones and Joe Strummer from The Clash. A good example is the song ‘Police & Thieves’ where they play off of each other through the whole song. Enslaved does this a lot too and they are also a huge influence on both guitars and drums. I really love the guitarist in Iceage a lot too: Johan Wieth. Amebix is a big deal for us… Alcest and Katatonia as well. Bathory! Iron Maiden is important in this regard too. I should stop… I could do this endlessly!

Solitude and isolation are core words on this one. Do you prefer solitude when writing or do you soon gather as duo to work everything out?
We work mostly alone and apart from each other. I think 90% of the work is done separately. When I write something, I’ll show the basic structure of the song to Neil and explain my ideas. He takes notes and asks questions. We usually spend a lot of time talking about the mood and feeling that needs to be achieved in the song. Then he takes his notes and works on drum ideas alone. When he’s ready, we go over it together with guitar and drums to make sure it all works. We record the drums and then I build the rest of the song on top of that. This is usually the process. We find that the result is much better if we can focus on our parts separately and spend more time talking about them. I must say that I feel like I was more controlling and demanding on this album than anything we’ve done previously. Neil and I have talked about this and I think it’s because the subject matter is so personal to me that I was less open-minded than usual. We didn’t have any problems because of this. I felt this inside before it ever became an issue, so I brought it to Neil’s attention before it became noticeable. He understood where I was coming from and I tried to stay vigilant of my thoughts and actions as we carried on. Thankfully, it worked out fine.

We see a lighthouse on the cover. Can you tell something about the artwork and the surroundings in your home place that had a direct influence on making this record?
I love winter, I love lighthouses, and I always feel drawn to the ocean. Because this is such a personal album, I really wanted all of these things incorporated into the album art. When I was taking the original photos, it was just for pleasure. I actually took them long before we finished writing the album. When we decided to use this imagery, I returned to the location a few more times to try to capture it more effectively. Originally, we talked about editing the photo so there would not be a Christmas wreath on the lighthouse. As time went on, we decided to leave it in the photo. I feel like this is a perfect visual for this album. The setting is cold, stormy, lifeless, and unforgiving but there’s this small, green Christmas wreath in the center of it all. To me, there is something very fragile and endearing about this. It really gives life to the photo. In a way, it’s a symbol of resilience and hope in this setting. That’s what this album is to me: it’s winter, it’s unforgiving, it’s solitary, but there’s a delicate sense of hope and forgiveness throughout the album. It’s subtle but it is there. There is something very refreshing, real, and endearing to me about this. The locations for all the photos are in Salem, particularly Winter Island and Salem Willows which are right next to each other. We make jokes that this is our Christmas album.

You produced the album yourselves, but then Markus Siegenhort (Lantlos) comes in the picture for mix. Please tell us about this cooperation. Did you know him before?
We didn’t know him before but I knew his music. Prophecy introduced us to him and we’re very happy with his work. We talked on Skype to get to know each other and to discuss our vision for the album. He is truly a force! He said he likes to work fast and that once he starts, it should take about two weeks to finish. It ended up taking most of the first half of 2016 haha. I gave him very detailed notes for each song. I also had my own mixes as references and would explain how certain sounds should remain the same or be enhanced in some way. Some of his mixes are very close to mine, others are so different that one might think we recorded new versions! I must give him all my respect because he started the project over three times. We were happy with what he was doing but then he would come back to us and say, “No, I think I can do better… I will start over…” He did this a few times on his own. He had no complaints from us. I admire his dedication, talent, and work ethic. He did not have to do this for us and waste half of his year on our album, so we are very grateful to him. I hope to pay it back some day. This album is as close as humanly to sounding like our vision of it. This is largely because of what Markus contributed. I would like to mention Philipp Welsing from Original Mastering as well. He also did an amazing job, was very kind, and extremely fast in his work, a true wizard! He was recommended by Markus.

Can you go a bit deeper into the lengthy occluding song ‘Our Ice Age’?
This is a song about resignation and walking away. This is the most forth-coming song I’ve ever written. I always try to present myself in a strong way but ‘Our Ice Age’, in many ways, is about coming clean. More often than not, I can be quite weak. I can spend so much time working hard in different areas of my life only to fail or burn out before I reach the goal. This song questions these things. As I get older, it gets harder to pick myself up and start over again. How many more times can I put myself through certain situations? There are references in the song to Odin sacrificing himself, hanging himself, for the knowledge of the runes. The idea here is that one must give in order to gain. One must go through the underworld, literally go through hell, in order to come back wiser. In the song, I present it as a failure; falling away just before success, contemplating having to start over again, and the mental/emotional exhaustion that comes with this. The concept of Ragnarök is used as well. Contrary to popular assumptions, Ragnarök is not an equivalent of the Christian Armageddon. It’s not the end of the world but a rebirth. It’s a renewal or a purification, out with the old, in with the new, as we say. In the song, it is a reference to a personal rebirth - overcoming my old, destructive patterns - saying, “Maybe this time, I’ll get it right.” The idea in the song is that, as this begins to take place, it’s disrupted somehow. Thus, it fails and I’m back where I started again. So, I withdraw into my reclusive habits, in my home, inside myself, questioning myself as to how I could be so arrogant to think I could actually change. And, ultimately, I walk away. I give up and give in to the forces around me because I have no energy to fight anymore. As we finished making the album, I began to become much happier and actually overcame many obstacles. I suppose this was the purpose of making the album. It was a healthy tool to work through many issues and confront myself honestly and publicly. I needed this because I don’t really open up to people. The act of just talking openly on this album was such an enormous help. The lyrics may not be obvious to people in some cases but, for me, it’s what I needed. As always, with 1476, we never want to make the same album twice. Because of this, we have to give absolutely everything to each concept and theme. There will never be a Wildwood 2, Poe 2, or OSDN sequel. Thus, it was important that I gave all of myself here. There’s no second chances.

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Since we did not hear the exclusive bonus track ‘Brim-Runar’, some words about this one would be amazing too…
Before we contacted Prophecy, we finished recording ‘OSDN’. We wanted to present a full album with artwork. I couldn’t be confident just sending a demo. I wanted something completed to the best of our abilities to increase our chances of working with them. Once we made the deal with Prophecy, we had the option of making a special edition with bonus music. We didn’t have any extra songs. When we’re done with an album, we are literally done. We know it’s finished when we realize we are starting to repeat ideas. For this reason, we usually don’t have extra songs and anything we don’t feel good about, we usually throw away before we finish writing it. We did have some extra music that was unfinished, however, guitar ideas that never became songs, unfinished lyric ideas, etc. We decided to sort through these and see if we could finish them for the special edition. We put together four songs. One of them, we didn’t record. The other three, we did record and ‘Brim-Rúnar’ is one of those. It’s definitely more abstract sounding than anything else on the album. It’s less direct and more mood-oriented than the album tracks. It has the same feeling as the album but I think it would sound out of place if it was actually included. So, in a way, it’s a perfect bonus track. I see it as the epilogue to the album. This one was recorded and mixed by us. It was mastered by Sean Glonek at SRG Studios in New Jersey who has done mastering on all of our albums and side projects since the beginning. We decided against using the remaining two songs for different reasons. One of them was because of what I mentioned above, the repetition of ideas. It sounded too much like another song from the album but more abstract. When we write, I like to have the purest, most distilled ideas for the album. Once we start repeating ideas, it gets weird. I’m conscious that it’s similar to another song so I try to add things to make it different. The result is just a subpar version of the original idea. When this happens, it’s time to find a new theme and new vocabulary for a new album. The other song was actually much different musically than anything we’ve ever done. Neil loved this song and I was quite happy with the music but my vocals were absolutely terrible. The problem was that I tried to fit unused lyrics over this music. They were lyrics that I was very happy with but were written for another song. This song ended up getting scrapped in the recording process but I wanted to save the lyrics. The lyrics were too busy for this music and I ruined the song haha. So, ‘Brin-Rúnar’ remains unscathed. What I like about this song too is that most of the lyrics and half the music were written during the writing process for the album. It wasn’t written afterwards like these other songs. So, the spirit of the album is truly there.

I saw an answer on your social media one month ago that gives us hope for live gigs. How far are you in the process of recruiting live musicians?
Quite far actually! We’ve been rehearsing with a bassist named Cory Flintoff since last fall and it’s been going very well. He’s a very talented and interesting person. He doesn’t give himself enough credit. He’s quite funny with a peculiar sense of humour but we don’t know if he’s aware of it, which makes him even more funny and interesting haha. Last week, we auditioned a second guitarist named Adam Luca. He’s someone we’ve known for a few years and almost worked with before we even finished the album. We weren’t quite ready at the time. So, we revisited it last week and it went very well. Last night, we played as a full band for the first time ever and it felt great. We’ve played live as a two piece and a three piece in the past but it was never what we wanted. We always felt incomplete and compromised. Our plan is to be ready with this lineup by April or May to begin playing live regularly and touring. I recently talked with Mei Ohara who played violin and cello on our ‘Poe’ album. She has agreed to join us for some live performances in the future as well.

Are there plans to shoot a music video clip for one of the new songs?
We were actually supposed to shoot a video for ‘Winter Of Winds’ but it never worked out with the directors we were in touch with. This was mainly because of time, location, and availability. Instead, we made a lyric video. “We” didn’t actually make the video but the artist Alexandria Noël did. She is someone we’ve worked with very closely for years now. She’s done so much for us that I consider her a member of 1476. She’s been heavily involved in the visual aspects of 1476 since ‘Wildwood’. She’s done all of our album designs, web designs, silkscreens shirts for and with us, etc. Actually, I could say she is involved in every aspect of the band to some degree aside from the actual song writing. So, she made the lyric video for ‘Winter Of Winds’ and she also made the “Introduction To 1476” video that is on the Prophecy media sites. This is a good example of why she’s so valuable to us. She will say to us, “I know you. I understand what you’re trying to do. I know what you need.” I’ll say, “...can you just make our video..?” She says, “Yes.” I ask, “Have you ever made a video before…?” She says, “No.” I say, “Okay….” And then one week later, we have a high quality video. This is just how she is with literally everything. She gets the job done (usually with little or no experience) no matter how challenging it is. And it seems she does it easily too… We’ve talked about trying to make our own video for one of these songs with her once we finish a few other small projects relating to the album’s release.

Somewhere you mention influences from Pink Floyd and Solstafir. Well, now I’m eager to ask what these bands mean for you personally?
Are you sure you want to go down this road…? Hahaha. What can I say about Pink Floyd that hasn’t already been said? There is a reason they are one of the biggest and most influential bands of all time. I guess I will say this. My favorite album of all time is easily ‘Wish You Were Here’ and the title track is my favorite song of all time. I do not say that lightly. As I’m sure you know, choosing one favorite above everything else is almost impossible, especially when your life completely revolves around music. Everything about this album is completely perfect to me: the songwriting, the performances, the production, the lyrics, the packaging and visual presentation, the themes, the sequencing, the folklore surrounding the recordings, the turmoil and jaded feelings in the band and how that contributed to the album’s theme, etc. It’s endless. I’ve been analyzing and listening to this album intently for at least 25 years. I’ve listened to it on so many formats: cassette, CD, remastered CD from the 90s, remastered CD from the 2000s, a shitty vinyl pressing from the 70s on both low fi and hi fi sound systems, new vinyl remasters, shitty mp3s, hi res mp3s, in headphones of studio quality and the poorest quality available. I worship this album. I know every single sound. I’ve analyzed the mixes and taken notes on them: how they pan the delay of Rick Wright’s synth lead to the opposite speaker of the original sound in ‘Welcome To The Machine’ to create this unbalancing effect. Or how when David Gilmour sings “a smile from a veil” and goes to the A minor chord in the title track a very distant note of a brass instrument sounds in the background for a moment heightening the emotion… Everything I know about songwriting and production, I learned from this album. It gives me chills every time I hear it and I can’t listen to it unless I’m alone usually...’because it demands my attention every single time and I will ignore whoever I’m with. I’ll even say that it would be an insult to the album if I talked to someone while it was playing. This is what Pink Floyd means to me and that’s just one album… I will spare you and move on to Sólstafir haha. My relationship with this band is much different. I had never heard them until a few years ago but I knew their name. When Neil and Alexandria were married in Iceland a few years ago, I kept visiting a record store in Reykjavik called Smekkleysa. Sólstafir had just released ‘Ótta’ and that captivating album art was displayed in a very large fashion on the side of the building. I would go into the shop and this music would be playing. I asked the person working there what it was and he said it was the new Sólstafir album. Almost every day, I went in the shop and it seemed like this album was playing. I saw it everywhere I went. It became the unconscious soundtrack of my stay in this most perfect country, easily the greatest place I’ve ever been to. On the day I was supposed to leave, I decided to run to Smekkleysa quickly and buy the album before I drove to the airport. I did it and I’ve been in love with it since. It’s another perfect album and, to me, this music sounds like Iceland. It’s large, epic, spacious, and haunting. Some of my biggest influences and favorite bands are Icelandic artists: first and foremost Björk as a solo artist and her previous projects the Sugarcubes and KUKL. I’m also a huge fan of Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson. Sigur Rós is amazing too. But Sólstafir was my first discovery of an Icelandic artist while I was in Iceland. They’re about to release a new album and I don’t think I want to buy it unless I go to Iceland again. I’m hoping to attend Prophecy Fest this July. If I do, maybe I can make a quick visit to Iceland before I go home and get this album haha.

What are the plans or wishes for the near future?
I wish that our new live members don’t quit! We hope to tour as much as possible and truly enjoy the performances. We hope to travel a lot and become better musicians. We hope our relationship with Prophecy continues to grow. It’s been amazing so far. Our plans are to focus on live preparation, performing to the best of our abilities, and promoting this new album while working towards making our lives exactly as we’d like them to be. I’d like to spend the rest of the year playing as much as possible and collecting ideas for our next album so I can hopefully begin writing/recording sometime in 2018.

If there is anything you like to add, please feel free to do it here…
I would just like to thank you for this heavy interview and giving us this opportunity to talk. It means a lot to us. It was a pleasure.

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