Hi! Congratulations on releasing 'Dark Future'; I consider it your best work so far. Before we start off, though: how have you been?
Thanks! Much appreciated. I've been great! We ended an awesome tour in mid-December, so I've had some time off since then to rest and recoup.
You've been on tour with Whitechapel, Carnifex and Rings of Saturn for some time now. Quite a varied billing, how's the tour been treating you?
This was one of my favorite tours for our band at this point in our career. The package was stacked with incredibly talented bands who all hold their own, and the crowds were incredible. We've been able to see a lot of growth for our band. Beyond that, everyone on the tour is great. It's been awesome to hang out with everyone for the past month.
I'd look to zoom in on a couple of songs from 'Dark Future' that really stood out to me, if you don't mind. Starting out with opener 'Black Static' and its follow up 'White Noise'. From the very start it becomes apparent that your sound has become a lot darker. Was that a conscious shift or did it happen naturally?
It wasn't a totally conscious decision for the material on Dark Future to take a “darker” turn, it's really just what came naturally out of the four of us during the writing process.
Also, those leads at the beginning of 'White Noise' sound amazing. What can you tell me about the recording process for this song?
'White Noise' as a song came together about midway through the writing process. It was originally written on its own and placed before ‘Black Static (I)’ as the part one to the song, but when we listened back to the arrangement, it was obvious to us that the song structures fit so well together flipped around. We really just wanted to write an obnoxiously groove-oriented song, and that's what came out of it. The leads kind of poured out after the initial song structure took shape.
'Pulse of a New Era' starts out with this brooding electronic intro and there's more electronics sprinkled throughout the album as well. Do those elements in your sound typically come into play at the end of the writing process or are they integrated way earlier?
Synths happen at all points of the writing process. Navene, our drummer, writes all of our synths, and because he is a major contributing songwriter for our band-- both on guitar and drums-- there are times when he will write a riff and immediately place a synth on it, and there are times where the synth won't be written for certain parts until we are well into the final tracking stages for an album.
'Melancholia' features more of those electronic soundscapes and also houses an amazing fusion-esque solo (of which there are several on the record). Those solos are new to me; how did they come to be? I can imagine they have something to do with the acquisition of Travis LeVrier as the new guitarist?
Travis and Navene are both responsible for the solo sections on ‘Dark Future’. Usually one of them will have an idea for a solo and the other will help manipulate the part.
Speaking of Travis – I never expected him to write songs this dark and heavy, seeing as how he came from Scale the Summit. What were your expectations like for him when he joined?
I'm not really sure what I expected out of Travis coming into our band. I knew that he would definitely contribute a more “progressive” voice on guitar, but to what extent I had no idea. Travis has a very cool progressive/rock melodic voice on guitar that blends in really well with both Evan and Navene, who are both incredibly well-rounded players, who come from very diverse musical backgrounds. It was important for us to find a guitar player who was equally as interested in finding ways to incorporate a plethora of genres and playing styles into a metal band. There are parts now that I cannot even recall who wrote the original riff idea for, and to me, that speaks volumes about how integral Travis has become to our band. Adding him into the fold really helped to produce a more well-rounded record than our previous releases. He is undoubtedly the perfect fit.
'Inverted Earth' starts out with this great main riff that sounds unlike any other band out right now – I love how it almost pops when it comes to the mix and it has become a staple of your sound almost. What happens in the mixing process to really make these riffs explode?
I'm not sure that I could totally explain that, as I'm not the person who mixes our albums, but a lot of it definitely has to do with not only the mix, but the tone of our guitars. That was one thing that Travis really strived to improve on this record. He spent a few days with our friend Tim Walker to produce the tones on the record. We really wanted something that had a lot of clarity, but could also maintain the intensity of a heavily distorted guitar. I think they hit the nail on the head.
'Sunshift' most prominently features strong effects on your vocals, creating a unique atmosphere. It also features some strong lyrics (Like lead in my lungs/I'm burning the wick of candle from both ends/Isn't it obvious blow the flame out). What are the lyrical themes of the album?
The Dark Future as an album is about the uncertainty of the future of our lives as a whole. Inverted Earth and Sunshift are a two-part song, dealing with the ups and downs of depression. The first song, ‘Inverted Earth’ is a moment of clarity in a downward spiral. ‘Sunshift’ covers the descent into the haze of depression in the late hours of the night, which often seems to be the case for me.
'Sunshift' also features an amazing rhythmical shift coming in at around 2:23 minutes, where you transition from 3/4 into 4/4 – I've never heard that done so naturally before. Do these progressive shifts come natural to you or do they take a considerate amount of effort?
We never write a song with an intended outline, those kind of shifts come pretty naturally in the songwriting process.
'Suspended Animation' features a section with a beautiful bass soundscape that's mostly tapped. I feel bass guitar is often treated as an afterthought in modern metal and you guys are a clear example of what great focus on bass can sound like so how did that come to be?
Evan, our bass player, is a really great songwriter and has a strong melodic voice. He's written two solo albums on bass. Having him and the bass be an integral part of our songs has been intended since the inception of our band. One of the cool parts about adding Travis to the band has been the way that he riffs on guitar - it really tends to lead to more “open” chordal sections, if you will, which really leave a lot of room for the bass to shine. It's really important for each instrument, and each member to really be highlighted in a tasteful way.
You shot a video for 'The World Without Us'. What was that like?
Shooting the video was an awesome experience and the team that we worked with at Enlighten Creative Studio really helped us nail the vision that we had.
'Resonance' closes out the album in quite a mellow manner with another aforementioned bass-soundscape paired with a lot of electronics. I feel these kind of songs are in perfect harmony with your heavier material. How did this specific song come to close out the album?
Resonance was originally written as an extended intro for ‘The World Without Us’. When we finished writing the song and decided that it would be the closing track on the album, we decided to shorten the intro to ‘TWWU’, and extend the outro - we ended up enjoying it so much, that we made it into a full song.
What can you tell me about the gear used for the album?
On the album Travis used his Custom shop Jackson 7 string soloist, laney iron heart studio 15 watt amp, and Mesa boogie 2x12 vertical cab. Navene played Tama drums and Meinl cymbals, Evan plays MTD basses, and vocals were done using a Shure 7b as well as euro rack synths for vocal modulation.
Like mentioned before, you've been on tour with some great bands recently. Are there any plans of hitting up Europe and maybe even Holland soon?
We definitely plan on hitting Europe as soon as possible, we're really pushing for 2018!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Is there anything else you'd like to say to close out the interview?
Thank you for the interview, check out ‘Dark Future’ and we can't wait to make it overseas to play!