Saturday, August 18, 2012

Earthrise: The Interview

Minnesota's Earthrise may not be a household name... yet. But with their new album, "Eras Lost," out and getting some serious attention, you might want to get on board now. Guitarist Rug sat down to talk shop, from topics about the humble beginnings, to what the future could hold.

Let's start at the beginning. What brought the four of you together, and what made Earthrise the perfect name for what you were about to do?

Earthrise started off as just something for me to goof off and pass the time with, as well as push myself outside of my comfort zone. My main band (of whom Jimmy - drums, and Smallz - bass were also members of) really wasn't practicing or playing much and I was just getting bored and needed something to keep me busy. I originally wanted to play with other people, just to make it easier to keep the two bands/projects separate, but Jimmy liked drumming along to the stuff and decided to be the drummer. One day, Smallz came to band practice early to hear Jimmy and I jamming on some Earthrise material, and immediately said he wanted to play bass for it. 

From there, we decided to get a bunch of material written before looking for a singer. We'd all kind of known Tom just from seeing him at local shows, and we saw him just do some fill in vocals for a random show and were very impressed. We didn't end up talking to him about it until months later when we had things a little more fleshed out. It was pretty painless though...there weren't really any tryouts. Everyone just really fits well together and gets along - it felt really natural.

Jimmy came up with the name Earthrise. He wanted something simple, instantly recognizable, and a name where we could integrate *everything* together - the music, overall story/lyrics, art, you name it. If I'm not mistaken, Earthrise was also the first name he suggested, so that was pretty easy as well!

Tell us a little about where the album title came from, and, along with the artwork, what you wanted to convey to the people discovering your music? 

Jimmy came up with the title as well, after the story and all the lyrics were finalized. We really wanted the artwork to really complement the songs and overall story of the album, and our friend Paul Friemel did an incredible job with the artwork and layout - we couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. As far as what we want to convey to the people discovering our music - there are a few layers to what we do and how people take that is up to them. There's no right or wrong way to interpret a song, it's just whatever you want to make of it. There's an overall theme and story to the album, but there is certainly room for additional interpretation on these songs as well. We knew it was a good sign when we were discussing the lyrics to one of the songs, and each of us had a different take on what a particular phrase meant, in context with the song and overall story. 

One of the elements of metal in general that gets overlooked far too often is the lyrical quality. You manage to create a musical style that is punishing, but infuse a lot of deeper, almost poetic, content. Where did some of the story of the album come from, and how important was it for you to make the lyrics more than just random grunts and three syllable phrases?
It was very, very important to us to spend the time to make the lyrics stand out. We're playing pretty simple stuff, musically, and most people are drawn to the lyrics anyway - we wanted to make sure we had something that was coherent, intelligent, and well written. The four of us went through SO many different approaches and themes during the writing process. We all had these different ideas and there was a lot of revision along the way - sometimes a story element that would occur in a later song that wouldn't make sense with what happened in an earlier song. We all worked together to make sure that the overall message was consistent, and Tom really did a fantastic job of inserting different messages and meanings in the lyrics so that there's a lot more to them than just what's on the surface. Plus, one of the things that immediately stood out to us was his ability to write "catchy" vocal patterns when it comes to his screams. 

Your musical style is very broad, with elements of sludge mixed in to a predominantly post metal edge. How did you come to the middle point of sound that you have on "Eras Lost," and who were some of your biggest influences in the early stages?

When we first started, my main band played very space-y, layered sludgy rock. We had three guitars, three vocals, keyboard, bass and drums - there was a lot going on, to say the least. With Earthrise, I just wanted to do the opposite of that to try and keep the two projects very separate and distinct. Only writing for one guitar and bass certainly made for a different writing style, but it was a lot of fun because we were doing things that we wouldn't gravitate towards otherwise - it was fresh and exciting, and challenging to try to do things differently than what was natural for me. I'm just hardwired to play space-y, pretty parts with a ton of delay, and play a bunch of notes in riffs to make them fun, challenging, and complicated. Smallz and Jimmy really acted as a big filter - they decided what was good enough to be Earthrise material. For example, the verse tapping part in Challenger Deep was pretty different before they got to it. Originally, I'd come up with a fun tapping lick that was roughly the same speed as the solo for Titan. When I showed it to them, they just kept saying, "Slower...slower, dude. Even slower." It's tough for me to write heavy stuff so we depend on them to turn my complicated stuff into something simple. And what we've found is that typically the stuff that we just stumble upon ends up being far better than anything that we try to plan out. 

With tracks like "Relentless," which has a more melodic approach, and "Mirovia," which kicked our ass pretty soundly, coming back to back, how difficult was it to find a sense of balance between heavy and melody, and stay true to what you wanted to do?

That goes back to the push and pull between what I instinctively play, which is pretty and melodic, versus the slow and crushing stuff that Jimmy and Smallz go for. There were a lot of things that end up not making the cut because they are too pretty or whatever - we just try to keep very focused in what we do. We can usually tell what sounds like Earthrise material and what doesn't at this point. That same sort of focus we applied to the lyrics as well, as mentioned above - just because we don't end up using something doesn't mean it's just doesn't fit with the scope of what we're trying to do. There's definitely give and take though - we keep things very democratic and try to not get too attached to parts, which isn't the easiest thing to do - I'm definitely the worst offender when it comes to that. As long as we continue to stay focused on what we're aiming for I think we'll end up with something that we're happy with. There will always be some form of inherent heaviness, but there are a lot of things we can do to keep things interesting within that umbrella. 

How has Bandcamp worked for you, as a tool for spreading your music, but also as a way to support your musical habits through digital sales?

Bandcamp has been incredible, to say the least. It's hard for us to overstate how much that website has helped us out in terms of spreading our music. All of the money that we've received from people purchasing our music on the website has gone directly back into pressing the album for cd and other merch which will be coming out shortly, I hope. That kind of support has been very great and surprising to see, as a new band, and it will just allow us to snowball all of that into more fun designs, shirts, posters, and all that. We've got a lot of cool things already in the works!

Where do you think Minnesota falls in the pecking order of American metal? What is happening in the local "scene" that has allowed you guys to find a niche there? 

You know, I honestly have no idea where Minnesota falls in the pecking order for American metal, it isn't anything I've ever thought of. Minneapolis has a lot of great bands in the rock and metal scene though that you can go see pretty much whenever you want - all you have to do is head out to a couple shows and it'd be pretty hard *not* to find something good. There are a lot of really great metal bands right now, and one recurring theme with those bands is that a lot of them recorded with Adam Tucker and Steve Henningsgard at Signature Tone - bands like Morality Crisis, Nerves, Blue Ox, The Crinn, Orwell...I could go on and on. Those guys just really know what they're doing and are great at putting bands in contact with one another to play shows together. We're all just regular dudes that like to drink and play metal, so everyone has a lot in common.

The biggest question in metal today is about the entire Randy Blythe fiasco. So, let me ask you: When was the last time a fan jumped on stage at one of your shows, and what happened? Is it safe to assume he/she live to tell the tale?

The last time it happened was a few weeks ago - it was actually the singer and guitarist for our old band, before Earthrise. Both of them did some guest screams on the album and they came up to scream along on a song or two. I think Tom ended up in the crowd at several points, our old guitarist was mashing the cymbals with his hands for some "extra" percussion, and I got Silly String in the face after the song was done. Despite that, everyone is alive and well!

Now that "Eras Lost" is ready for consumption on your Bandcamp site, what is next for Earthrise?

The physical copy of Eras Lost should be coming out shortly - we will hopefully have it back from pressing soon, and have a release party planned for September. From there, we just plan on playing out as much as possible in the Midwest and beyond! As time permits we'll continue to work on new material - we already have some ideas to play around with, so we'll just have to flesh things out and see what really grabs us. Additionally, we're all really looking forward to getting some limited edition vinyl copies of the album as well, we're all really excited to see if we can make it happen!

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