Welsh four-piece Sigiriya garner immediate interest based solely on their pedigree — all four members of the band used to be in Acrimony — but on their debut album, Return to Earth (released Sept. 1 on The Church Within), it’s the songs themselves that hold the attention. Likewise, one listen through Return to Earth, and it’s plain to see why the members of Sigiriya, when they were getting this project together, decided against just making it a 4/5 Acrimony reunion: Tumuli Shroomaroom this ain’t.
Rather, Sigiriya takes the riffy center that was always under the resin-caked grooves of Acrimony and brings it to the forefront. Songs like “Robot Funeral” and “Tobacco Sunrise” offer more straightforward heavy rock, and though Return to Earth gets even heavier at times (“Dark Fires” borders on metal), the album is precisely as Sigiriya wanted it to be in that it modernizes the approach of the members’ prior band without sacrificing what made them want to get back together in the first place.
Guitarist Stuart O’Hara, drummer Darren Ivey, bassist Paul “Mead” Bidmead and vocalist Dorian Walters took the moniker Sigiriya from a sacred mountain in Sri Lanka, and though that alone might lead one to think their songs would be spiritual explorations rife with sitar and vague interpretations of ancient mysticism, Return to Earth isn’t that at all. True to its name, the album keeps its head down, it’s amps up, and wants much more to kick your ass than to trip you out. Either way, it’s a killer ride. Full review is here.
In the discussion that follows, Ivey talks about what made Sigiriya come together some eight years after Acrimony‘s last studio release (a split with Japenese masters of mayhem, Church of Misery), why they did so without the involvement of former Acrimony second guitarist Lee Davies, now of the more commercially-minded rock outfit Lifer, how they got hooked up with The Church Within, their plans following the release of Return to Earth, and much more. As theirs is one of the more impressive debuts I’ve heard in 2011, I’m thrilled to be able to bring you this interview.
Please find enclosed the complete email Q&A with Darren Ivey of Sigiriya, and please enjoy.
It’s been eight years since the last Acrimony studio release came out. What happened to end that band, and what made you decide to get together and play again? How did everything come together to form Sigiriya?
From a personal point of view playing in Acrimony was always about the magic you create jamming with your friends and the creativity that come from that process — I love that — but I think by the end of the best part of 10 years together we’d lost the spark a bit and needed to do other things as individuals. You can try and analyze it and pick out reasons why, but that’s just the way things go sometimes and perhaps if we hadn’t split up then we did we wouldn’t be playing together now?
We had obviously thought and talked about reforming Acrimony but so much time had passed it just felt more natural to do something new rather than trying to go back in time and recreate or capture something from the past. Saying that, we’ve had a lot of offers to reform Acrimony but for us that would just be a short- term cash in or ego boost and then “the scene” would just move onto the next “trend,” you know?
Sigiriya is its own entity and we wanted to start from the beginning and grow and nurture it for the long term. I think the idea was that we would just get together and see how it was to play together. It was like, “I want to do a band again and who are the people I feel most comfortable playing music with?” When I jammed with Stu again it felt very natural and we locked in very well straight away and the same with Mead and Dor. I’ve played in bands since Acrimony and enjoyed it but never felt as “at home” as I do when playing with these guys. So in many ways it’s like a reunion but also a rebirth — a phoenix from the flames!
What was it like to play together after (presumably) so long? Did you come into Sigiriya knowing you wanted to have a different kind of sound?
There was never any bad feeling about Acrimony splitting and we’d always stayed friends. Stu, Lee and Dorian played in Black Eye Riot and Mead and I did this and that so we were all still pretty much in touch. I mean, like any family you may not see one another for ages but when you do it’s like no time has ever passed. I think that’s why it was easy to form Sigiriya. Playing together after so long was/is great and I think we enjoy it more now than ever. Okay we’re 10 years older but it felt like we just picked up where we left off in a lot of ways.
Musically, I don’t think it was a conscious decision to say we’re going to be different or the same but more just a natural result of time going by and the influences of playing and listening to other bands on us. Sigiriya’s sound is a natural progression from the Acrimony stuff I’d say — if you listen to Acrimony’s split EP with Church of Misery on Game Two Records, I think you’ll be able to track how the sound has developed. Saying that, we’ve all come to this new band with the experiences of playing in other bands, Iron Monkey, Dukes of Nothing, The 9ine, Black Eye Riot, so people are bringing those experiences to the mix too — which is great and has influenced the sound of the new band for sure.
How would you describe the musical differences between Acrimony and Sigiriya?
That’s hard to answer because there’s a lot of blurring of the lines. Recording Tumili with Acrimony was one of the maddest experiences of my life — I mean we would just party all day and get as wrecked as we could and just go into the studio and jam a track in one take and then go back out to party all night. We must have been a nightmare to work with but it was all about pushing your limits and creating and capturing that vibe in the studio. I think the vibe with Sigiriya condenses all that energy and expression into a denser more earthy sound. Sigiriya has a more positive vibe and a lot more energy and adrenaline going on I’d say which carries over into live shows as well.
Return to Earth is heavy, but also very modern. Are there newer acts out there who may have inspired some of the songwriting for the album?
I’m not sure there was ever a moment when we’ve ever sat down and said we want to sound like this or like that because songwriting has always been a much more spontaneous thing about jamming ideas and riffs and an organic process of putting them together into a song structure. We tend to decide on a feel for the track first and try and write stuff that fits around a vibe we want to create.
Saying that, we’re all big music fans and listen to classic and new stuff all the time so inevitable you take things in through osmosis. I’m sure the other guys would give you their own thoughts on this but for me bands like Scissorfight, Baroness, Kylesa, Kvelertak inspire me with their energy. I like the dark vibes that come from good pagan black metal like Moonsorrow and Enslaved and I think there’s a hell of a lot of great bands in the doom, psychedelic, stoner genre — bands like Ufommamut, The Wounded Kings, Black Pyramid, Eibon (France) and many others. I still love listening to The Obsessed, Hawkwind, Yes, early Maiden, Skynyrd, Sabbath and I’m sure all their influences are always there somewhere.
What happened with Lee? Being the only one of the original five from Acrimony who isn’t in Sigiriya, he’s conspicuously absent. I know he’s got a band called Lifer going. Was that what prevented him from being a part of this new project?
With Sigiriya we just started playing as the three of us initially (then Dorian joined in a bit later) and we liked the more open and roomy sound and didn’t feel it needed an additional guitar to fill in because it just felt ‘right’ as it was. I know Lee was doing other things at the time (jamming with various people) and wanted to progress into a more aggressive style of playing. I think Lifer is a great band and Lee is happy with them. It’s worth saying that if we were going to reform Acrimony then Lee would certainly be part of that- because it wouldn’t be Acrimony without him — but Sigiriya isn’t Acrimony and we don’t play Acrimony songs.
How much did the different sound of the band play into the decision to proceed with a new band name? What’s the significance of Sigiriya to the band? Has anyone visited or spent time in Sri Lanka?
Yes definitely, new sound, new band so new name, that was always the intention.
As for the name, Stu got married and spent time in Sri-Lanka so he came back with the name. Sigiriya is the holiest mountain there and means “throat of the Lion Rock.” We liked the Vibe of that and also fact that no one had the name already or would be able to spell or say it — we’ve got a twisted sense of humor you see.
Has the songwriting process changed at all since Acrimony?
Not really, although I think we’re a lot more honest about what we like and don’t like these days. Stu would be the main riff writer and then the rest of us will just jam ideas or riffs and wait for the magic to come. We’ll then get whatever we’ve come up with and record it on a single microphone or something in the room and then keep it as a rough sketch to work on another day. As I said, it’s quite an organic process and I don’t think anyone has ever come in with a song written ever — it’s always just all of us working on things together and always was with Acrimony too. Mead has always been the lead with lyrics working with Dorian ever since the Acrimony days. I think if mead wasn’t in a band he’d be a priest or something — he is the stone’s emissary on earth.
Tell me about the time in the studio to do Return to Earth. Where was the album recorded? How long were you recording?
A friend of mine, Gethin Woolcock (who engineered the album), told us about this amazing place called Mwnci Studios about an hour or so west of where we all live in Wales. It’s an old mill that has been converted into a studio and is a kind of trippy-surreal place in the middle of nowhere with lots of character. So we decided to go there and stay for five days and do the record. I remember Geth saying, “It’s not enough time,” but we got there just! So we recorded the tracks there and had a great time all staying in a small cottage on site and getting smashed every night. I think someone was documenting all this on film but I’ve no idea where the footage is (probably being used for blackmail!). As I said we only had a few days there so we worked our bollox off the get it done as live as possible with only some guitar and vocal work as overdubs really and then Billy Anderson agreed to mix it for us which was great. We wanted a live and raw sound for the record and, through the way it was recorded and the mixing, I think we got what we wanted.
How did you get hooked up with The Church Within? Do you have a release date yet when the record will actually be out? Any chance of a vinyl release?
We self- financed the record and had it pretty much ready anyway so it was a matter of talking to different labels about options for putting it out. We had considered a few other labels and also putting it out ourselves.
We met Oli [Richling] who runs The Church Within Records when we played the Dawn of Doom Festival in Switzerland last November. It’s quite funny actually because he said to us, “I love the band and would love to work with you but you’re all too mad for me.” Well I thought this was brilliant and that was that — but seems he changed his mind and wanted to put the record out for us, ha ha. We’re really happy to work with him on this record because the other stuff coming out on his label is quality. With Orchid, Lord Vicar and Serpent Venom (all really good guys), it’s got the feel of a family on the label which is rare these days.
Vinyl is something we’ve talked about with Oli and hopefully once the CD release happens we can see if there’s demand for it. The album will be out before the end of August or beginning of September.
Will you guys tour in the UK or Europe?
Yes, we’re planning to do a few mini tours in the UK and Europe this year and maybe something a bit longer in Europe next year with our labelmates Lord Vicar. It’s been a bit slow since last year because my knee got fucked up and I needed an operation but we’ll be making up for it the send half of this year!
Anything else in the works you’d want to mention or closing words?
Work on the next album is well underway and we’ve got around four-five tracks nearly done. I think we’re finding the sound of the band even more now and believe it will be a bruiser of a record with a lot of light and shade. So, hopefully between gigging we’ll continue to write and would be excellent to get into the studio sometime around spring next year to record again.
Tags: Sigiriya, The Church Within, UK, Wales