Friday, February 22, 2013

... INTERVIEW with Brooklyn's graceful beast : ARCHON

There are signs that do not lie... When you receive a much awaited album - that is an immediate priority in your listenings , despite of plenty others that came in before, and then it's so fuckin'  good that you can not listen anything else (or so few) during long and long days, to the point that you become a bit embarassed towards other bands still waiting at your door for their feature !!!
Then come other highly positive opinions and you feel a bit more legitimate in this current addiction, cumforted in the idea that you've got here one of the future winners of the year. It's pretty rare when some of the most recognized webzines praise an album even before its official release like Cult Nation and The Obelysk did recently with "Ouroboros Collapsing" - the stunning new album from Brooklyn's graceful beast ARCHON !!!
Where "Ruins at Dusk" was a rough diamond which lacked a bit of homogeneity
and textures, this  2nd full-length is a big step forward in terms of compositions,  full of interlacements between malevolent sludge, graceful Stoner/Doom and more contemplative ambiences (nice keys for this), while still heavy and crushing as fuck !!!
Beyond some outstanding riffs and stellar solos that Andrew pill in his long bleak structures, THE main distinctive force of ARCHON consists  in a mind-blowing duo of vocals by Rachel and Chris. Songs like "Desert Throne" and "God's Eye" include to my ears the craziest vocal performances I've heard in a long time, from her most melodic kick to her sickest growls -  Rachel is more than once completely bluffing and the man's blackened intense growls are something much terrifying too !
Cohesive, rich, sick, beautiful, bleak and malevolent, ARCHON hits hard and high with this masterful album and it's now time for the underground sphere
to realize that this band simply killz !!!
I asked a few questions to Andrew Jude (AJ) and Rachel Brown (RB), thanx to both them for bringing such a massive amount of awesomeness to their music, plus being nice and interesting people.

Hey Andrew… finally this sophomore album “Ouroborus Collapsing” is about to be released, it was supposed to come out for quite some time now, so why did it take so long to see the light of day ?

AJ: Well, the writing and rehearsing process wasn’t so bad - although we were playing live a lot, so we were a bit limited in the amount of time we had to work out new material. However, once we went into the studio we hit a bunch of delays, usual studio bullshit, and the process took a lot longer to get everything tracked than we originally hoped. I may be wrong, but I think the recording process took something like a year, all in all. But there was a lot of down time and time between sessions, then we ended up re-doing some parts, etc. I hope it doesn’t take us so long to do the third record.

“Ruins at Dusk” was already a pretty stunning debut but maybe suffered a bit from a lack of homogeneity, certainly due to the line-up which was a little experimental, not meant to remain all steady… what’s your look on it now about three years after ?

AJ: It’s hard to choose. I really dig the diversity on Ruins, it very much accomplished what I set out to do. But, I think some people will like the consistency on Ouroboros more... They’re different, it’s hard to pick a favorite. We don’t really want to do the same thing over and over, hopefully listeners follow us on the journey.

Two guitarists (Ryan and Brett) who were playing alternatively along with you on “ruins…” aren’t here anymore but there’s now Nikhil (on bass and guitar) and all members of Archon played on all songs of the album, does it mean that this is the one and only line-up of the band today ?

AJ: Sort of, yes. When I started Archon back in 2008 I demo’d some songs myself and recruited Ryan Lynch (from NYC band 12 Eyes) to play guitar and Dan Kurfirst to play drums. The three of us formed the core of the band and also the core performers on The Ruins at Dusk. I then pulled in a bunch of other great guys (and girl) to flesh out the record - primarily Brett on guitars and then Rachel and Chris doing vocals (Ryan did some as well). However, over time, Ryan moved out of NYC and had to leave the band. We ended up solidifying a lineup with me playing live guitar, Rachel and Chris doing vocals (plus some keys, noise, etc), Nikhil on live bass and Rajah on drums. This group stayed the same for quite some time and really for the first time since the beginning of the band we had a consistent lineup. That said, Rajah recently moved out to California, so once again we may be adjusting lineups.

What about Nikhil on live performances , do you play with 2 guitars live ? if yes who’s the additional member then ?

AJ: No, recently only 1 guitarist live - Nikhil plays bass and I play guitar live. But this is something I want to address before we do shows promoting the new record. When we first started out we always had 2 guitarists live and I want to get back to that.

On “Ouroborus Collapsing” things have been pushed further in many aspects and we now feel the band is cohesive with a real identity… did you rehearse intensively for this ? for example the shared vocals between Rachel and Chris certainly needed some particular work, reflection … ?

AJ: We definitely rehearsed these songs a lot more than we did for Ruins. For Ruins a lot was done in the studio and there’s a lot more improvisation on that record. That said, we did rehearse for Ouroboros, got to the studio, decided it sucked or wasn’t working, and then changed parts. There will always be a degree of writing on the fly for Archon.

RB: Like Andrew said, parts were written and rehearsed, but many things changed over the year. What became Masks, started off completely different. There was a lot of experimentation with that song in particular. And as for Chris and my shared vocals, I don’t know how other bands do it, but we didn’t rehearse additionally, apart from the band.

All music from the 1st album was composed by yourself, how did you process for this new album ?

AJ: I write the riffs and the structures for the most part, but the other guys definitely contribute and give a lot of feedback. Also, I’d adjust the layouts of the songs based on lyrics/vocals for this record. For Ruins, I pretty much wrote everything, then gave it to the other guys to play on top of. In the studio, Rajah laid down drums with me playing scratch guitar, then I went back and did the real guitar tracks and bass. After that was done, Nikhil laid down his guitar bits and we moved on to vocals and overdubs.

About the lyrics, on “ruins…” Rachel wrote lyrics for one of the songs she was singing on, Chris wrote both of his songs but “Ouroborous…” where they sing both on all songs, how did they write? You write that your music suggest devastation, disillusion and despair, is that the main lyrical themes used ?

RB: Chris and I would discuss themes for each song, but mostly we wrote independently. Then, we’d bring our parts to practice and put them together. Sometimes they just worked, and other times we would fight about sections and how to make our ideas fit together for a while. As far as the themes go for this album, there is definitely some personal struggle, but that is connected to societal and galactic degredation as well. And then there’s Desert Throne, which was inspired by the women of the Dune series.

The vocals of Rachel took impressively another dimension on the new album, more diversity both in the clean and harsh fields… she can now compete in the clean despaired or melodic ranges of doom with any girls around, she even surpasses a great part of them, also her sludge shrieks are sicker and filthier, did she surprise and/or impress you ?

AJ: Honestly yeah, when she first joined the band I didn’t really know how it would work out or what she would bring to the table. I was somewhat skeptical of female vocals for our music, but now I’m completely sold and couldn’t picture our music without her voice.

RB: Aww, thanks guys!

The musical environment in which Archon developed a now distinctive identity favoured certainly a lot this enriched vocal expression… as I said things are pushed way further in the extremities could it be in furious blackened blasting riffage, traditional doom heaviness with rumbling bass and gloomy vocals, psychedelic soaring solos, crushing droney riffs à la Yob, etc… there’s also some more refined soundscapes which sound to me slightly Post-Metal tinged, some synths by Rachel, this is very very rich and full of variations, how did this complexity progress ?

AJ: I like layers and interesting textures but also I want the songs themselves to be memorable. Essentially, I started these songs with what I think are memorable riffs, arranged them in structures that flowed nicely, then spent a ton of time thinking about how to layer on more texture that really builds the songs and makes them unique - that’s where stuff like Rachel’s synths and some of Nikhil’s guitar parts really make the songs what they are.
About gigs now, the songs of this album make it lasting the exact length of a normal gig about 45 minutes if you’re headliner but if you open for another band with a 30 minutes performance you’ll have to remove a song from the set-list, I would say “Masks” certainly, but maybe I’m totally wrong and your next set-lists will still include 1 song off “Ruins…”, can you let me know… !??? is there limits to some of your interpretations when thinking about playing them live ?

AJ: Yeah, there are definitely a lot of limitations when it comes to playing live. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been holding off on gigs. I want to bring back 2 guitars to our live lineup so we can stay more faithful to the recording. We’d been playing the last couple years with only one guitar which maybe sounds a bit more “immediate” but doesn’t allow us to do all of the complexities on the record. For the shows we were doing a mixture of songs - Desert Throne, Worthless, Nature is Satan’s Church were definitely staples but we threw in Mendregard and God’s Eye a couple times as well. I may be forgetting some, but those are the usual tracks. I’m not sure what we’ll play next time we play out. When we first started playing, our shows from around 2008, we’d usually only play 2 songs - Helena and either Fate of Gods or Forgotten City - so that was a bit different vibe, lots more atmosphere and jamming back then.

You didn’t play dozens of gigs yet but have shared the stage with quite many sexy names like Earthride, Coffinworm, Unearthly Trance, Cough, Apostle of Solitude, etc… did you make interesting encounters ? who did impress you the most as a musician and as a person in its approach of the scene ?

RB: I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but the show that will always stand out for me was with Unearthly Trance and Coffinworm in the basement of the Charleston. Amazing dudes and musicians.

AJ: I’m a big fan of Apostle of Solitude as well - I’d played with those guys before when my previous band Agnosis was touring and played in Indianapolis, I was really blown away by them then and they’ve only gotten better.  

I’ve read about something in the works with Path Less Travelled rds, are they going to release physically “Ouroboros Collapsing” ? Are you intending to find out some deal for a vynil-edition ?

AJ: Yes, we’re releasing the CD version of Ouroboros Collapsing through The Path Less Traveled Records on Feb 19. I’d love to do vinyl, but right now it’s cost prohibitive to do it. Maybe if there’s enough demand we will be able to. 

So, how do you see the next coming months/years with Archon, is there any envy of becoming more important, touring, crossing oceans, etc… ?

AJ: We’d like to do more shows, we haven’t really played much recently. I’d say we’re still in the process of looking into our options, but definitely check and for updates on tours.

I couldn’t end without some words on Agnosis that you reformed last year, how is it working by now? any new release planed for 2013 ?

AJ: Things have been a little quiet there recently, but definitely check out our digital EP if you haven’t yet at - one of the highlights of that was our Pentagram cover, featuring guest vocals from Dave Sherman (Earthride, Spirit Caravan). Austin (Agnosis guitarist/vocalist) and I are working on some new songs and will hopefully have plenty of music ready this year. We haven’t been able to pull off any live dates yet, but it’s something we are talking about!

Thanx a lot Andrew, all the best to you and ARCHON, add something you feel important I may have forgotten to ask you about …

AJ: Cheers! Thanks for the support. We really appreciate everyone who takes time to listen to our music and maybe buy something - we definitely depend on our supporters to keep recording and producing records. I hope it won’t be 2.5 years before we can put out another one!

check out the Bandcamp page for all Archon's merch (including a special package with all previous releases, there's cool shirts too !!!)

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