Ancestors Sign to Pelagic Records; Stream Track from New Album Due this Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

You should take the five-plus minutes to listen to the new Ancestors track. Seriously. It’s beautiful. It hasn’t been all that long since we last spoke about the Los Angeles progressive heavy rockers around here, reminiscing and waxing rhapsodic about their 2008 debut, Neptune with Fire (discussed here), but even in that post, I had half my mind on the prospect of what a new full-length from them might hold. My reason for that is my enduring affection for 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), which I consider one of the best albums released this decade.

And yes, I mean that. Not just spouting hyperbole. You’d be hard pressed to find a better amalgam of thoughtful, sonically-rich and emotionally resonant heavy anywhere. If you want to put it in context, it’s on a pedestal next to YOB‘s Clearing the Path to Ascend.

I mean that too. Pelagic Records seems like a good home for them, but frankly their next album could come directly shipped from the moon and I’d be happy as long as I got to hear it.

The PR wire ignites the imagination with the promise of things to come:


ANCESTORS Joins The Pelagic Records Roster; New Track Streaming

Pelagic Records is pleased to welcome Los Angeles’ ANCESTORS to their eclectic roster for the release of their forthcoming new full-length.

ANCESTORS manifests mighty, modern music that dovetails innovative arrangement, crushing primordial riff interplay, and melodic instrumental passages with textural atmospherics. The band was forged in 2006. A deal with Tee Pee Records resulted in four critically acclaimed, expansive albums, which incorporated the heaviness of doom metal with the vast dynamics of post-rock, the structural elements of progressive rock, and the fluidity of psychedelic rock.

In the five years that have passed since the band’s last album, In Dreams And Time, they’ve continued to hone their craft in anticipation of their return to stage and wax.

“We’re honored to be joining the Pelagic Records family,” says guitarist/vocalist Justin Maranga. “We’re excited to start the next chapter of ANCESTORS and we believe that Pelagic is the perfect label to partner with on this adventure.”

ANCESTORS’ as-yet-untitled new full-length will see release this Summer. Stay tuned for details.

Ancestors, “Gone”

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Rosetta to Release Utopioid on Pelagic Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


One tends to think of Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta as being vigilantly DIY since their time ended on Translation Loss, but I guess when Pelagic Records comes knocking, you answer the door. The label helmed by Robin Staps of The Ocean has tapped the band for a release of their 2017 outing, Utopioid, that’s available to preorder now and due to ship before the end of the year. Time’s running out to hit that mark, but no doubt they’ll get there, as both parties involved are perpetually on their shit — pro-shop and whatnot.

I’ll be curious to see if the alliance will continue after this record, and if it might involve tour support to get Rosetta back over to Europe sometime in 2018, but either way, Utopioid‘s a cool album (you can stream it at the bottom of this post) and if this release gets it into more ears, then all the better.

The PR wire takes it from here:

Rosetta Utopioid

ROSETTA Joins The Pelagic Records Roster For The Release Of Utopioid Later This Month; Limited Edition Vinyl Available

Utopioid is the sixth full-length from Philadelphia’s ROSETTA. Written as a four-part song cycle that treads multipolar extremes of texture and dynamics, it reaches the highest heights and the deepest lows of the band’s career and serves as their most concept-driven work to date. An unflinching study of human aspiration, frailty, and betrayal, the album is equal parts mysticism and the band’s own biography, encapsulating and transcending their fourteen years of sonic experimentation.

Initially released earlier this year independently by the band, Pelagic will be releasing the captivating release on limited edition vinyl and CD. Secure your copy HERE.

Formed in Philadelphia in 2003 as a four-piece, ROSETTA’s first two albums — 2005’s The Galilean Satellites and 2007’s Wake/Lift — pulled together elements from ’90s hardcore, drone, doom, and atmospheric sludge metal. Informed as much by the minimal soundscapes of Stars Of The Lid as by the pulverizing weight of Godflesh, the band’s compositions had a spaced-out, exploratory feel, appropriately dubbed “metal for astronauts.” 2010’s A Determinism Of Morality moved on from celestial themes, focusing on increased melodic sophistication while honing a confrontational urgency.

After concluding a decade-long partnership with Translation Loss Records in 2013, ROSETTA embraced their newfound independence with the self-funded, pay-as-you-wish album The Anaesthete. The darkest, most unsettling album of the band’s career also marked their greatest success so far, recouping costs in twenty-four hours and remaining the top-selling release on Bandcamp for nearly a month. 2015’s Quintessential Ephemera, ROSETTA’s first effort as a five-piece, received widespread critical and audience acclaim for its energized guitar interplay and evolution of the band’s core sound.

With Utopioid, ROSETTA has again upended their stylistic palette. But as always, with ever deeper gratitude for the investment of fans around the world, they continue to search for the intersection of heaviness and beauty.

Rosetta, Utopioid (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Ecstatic Vision, Norska, Bison, Valborg, Obelyskkh, Earth Electric, Olde, Deaf Radio, Saturndust, Birnam Wood

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


It turns out that, yes indeed, I will be able to add another day to the Quarterly Review this coming Monday. Stoked on that. Means I’ll be trying to cram another 10 reviews into this coming weekend, but that’s not exactly a hardship as I see it, and the stuff I have picked out for it is, frankly, as much of a bonus for me as it could possibly be for anyone else, so yeah, look out for that. In the meantime, we wrap the Monday-to-Friday span of 50 records today with another swath of what’s basically me doing favors for my ears, and I hope as always for yours as well. Let’s dig in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury


Hard touring and a blistering debut in 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here) quickly positioned Ecstatic Vision at the forefront of a Philadelphia-based mini-boom in heavy psych (see also: Ruby the Hatchet, Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlsome Bells, and so on), and their Relapse-issued follow-up, Raw Rock Fury, only delves further into unmitigated cosmic swirl and space-rocking crotchal thrust. The now-foursome keep a steady ground in percussion and low end even as guitar, sax, synth and echoing vocals seem to push ever more far-out, and across the record’s four tracks – variously broken up across two sides – the band continue to stake out their claim on the righteously psychedelic, be it in the all-go momentum building of “You Got it (Or You Don’t)” or the more drifting opening movement of closer “Twinkling Eye.” Shit is trippy, son. With the echoing-from-the-depths shouts of Doug Sabolik cutting through, there’s still an edge of Eastern Seaboard intensity to Ecstatic Vision, but that only seems to make Raw Rock Fury live up to its title all the more. Still lots of potential here, but it’ll be their third record that tells the tale of whether they can truly conquer space itself.

Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks

Ecstatic Vision at Relapse Records website


Norska, Too Many Winters


Issued through Brutal Panda, Too Many Winters is the second full-length from Portland five-piece Norska, and its six tracks/48 minutes would seem to pick up where Rwake left off in presenting a progressive vision of what might be called post-sludge. Following an engaging 2011 self-titled debut, songs like the title-track and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” churn and careen through Sourvein-style abrasion, vaguely Neurosis-style nod and, in the case of the latter or closer “Fire Patience Backbone,” soundscaping minimalism that, in the finale, is bookended by some of the record’s most intense push following opener “Samhain” and the subsequent “Eostre.” That salvo starts Too Many Winters with a deceptive amount of thrust, but even there atmosphere is central as it is to the outing as a whole, and a penultimate interlude in the 2:22 “Wave of Regrets” does well to underscore the point before the fading-in initial onslaught of “Fire Patience Backbone.” Having Aaron Rieseberg of YOB in the lineup with Jim Lowder, Dustin Rieseberg, Rob Shaffer and Jason Oswald no doubt draws eyes their way, but Norska’s sonic persona is distinct, immersive and individualized enough to stand on its own well beyond that pedigree.

Norska on Thee Facebooks

Norska at Brutal Panda Records website


Bison, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient


Think about the two choices. You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient. Isn’t it the difference between something acting – i.e., an object – and something acted upon – i.e., a subject? As British Columbian heavy rockers Bison return after half a decade via Pelagic Records, their fourth album seems to find them trying to push beyond genre lines into a broader scope. “Until the Earth is Empty,” “Drunkard,” “Anti War” and “Raiigin” still have plenty of thrust, but the mood here is darker even than 2012’s Lovelessness found the four-piece, and “Tantrum” and closer “The Water Becomes Fire” bring out a more methodical take. It’s been 10 years since Bison issued their debut Earthbound EP and signed to Metal Blade for 2008’s Quiet Earth, and the pre-Red Fang party-ready heavy rock of those early works is long gone – one smiles to remember “These are My Dress Clothes” in the context of noise-rocking centerpiece “Kenopsia” here, the title of which refers to the emptiness of a formerly occupied space – but if the choice Bison are making is to place themselves on one side or the other of the subject/object divide, they prove to be way more ocean than patient in these songs.

Bison on Thee Facebooks

Bison at Pelagic Records website


Valborg, Endstrand


With its churning, swirling waves of cosmic death, one almost expects Valborg’s Endstrand (on Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions) to be more self-indulgent than it is, but one of the German trio’s greatest assets across the 13-track/44-minute span of their sixth album is its immediacy. The longest song, “Stossfront,” doesn’t touch five minutes, and from the 2:14 opener “Jagen” onward, Valborg reenvision punk rock as a monstrous, consuming beast on songs like “Blut am Eisen,” “Beerdigungsmaschine,” “Alter,” “Atompetze” and closer “Exodus,” all the while meting put punishment after punishment of memorable post-industrial riffing on “Orbitalwaffe,” the crashing “Ave Maria” and the noise-soaked penultimate “Strahlung,” foreboding creeper atmospherics on “Bunkerluft” and “Geisterwürde,” and landmark, perfectly-paced chug on “Plasmabrand.” Extreme in its intent and impact, Endstrand brings rare clarity to an anti-genre vision of brutality as an art form, and at any given moment, its militaristic threat feels real, sincere and like an appropriate and righteous comment on the terrors of our age. Fucking a.

Valborg on Thee Facebooks

Valborg at Prophecy Productions website


Obelyskkh, The Providence


Probably fair to call the current status of German post-doomers Obelyskkh in flux following the departure of guitarist Stuart West, but the band has said they’ll keep going and their fourth album, The Providence (on Exile on Mainstream) finds them capping one stage of their tenure with a decidedly forward-looking perspective. Its six-song/56-minute run borders on unmanageable, but that’s clearly the intent, and an air of proggy weirdness infects The Providence from the midsection of its opening title-track onward as the band – West, guitarist/vocalist Woitek Broslowski, bassist Seb Fischer and drummer Steve Paradise – tackle King Crimson rhythmic nuance en route to an effects-swirling vision of Lovecraftian doomadelia and massive roll. Cuts like “Raving Ones” and 13-minute side B leadoff “NYX” play out with a similarly deceptive multifaceted vibe, and by the time the penultimate “Aeons of Iconoclasm” bursts outward from its first half’s spacious minimalism into all-out High on Fire thrust ahead of the distortion-soaked churn of closer “Marzanna” – which ends, appropriately, with laughter topping residual effects noise – Obelyskkh make it abundantly clear anything goes. The most impressive aspect of The Providence is that Obelyskkh manage to control all this crunching chaos, and one hopes that as they continue forward, they’ll hold firm to that underlying consciousness.

Obelyskkh on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website


Earth Electric, Vol. 1: Solar


Former Mayhem/Aura Noir guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Ericksen leads breadth-minded Portuguese four-piece Earth Electric, and their devil-in-the-details Season of Mist debut, Vol. 1: Solar, runs a prog-metal gamut across a tightly-woven nine tracks and 35 minutes, Ericksen’s vocals and those of Carmen Susana Simões (Moonspell, ex-Ava Inferi) intertwine fluidly at the forefront of sharply angular riffing and rhythmic turns from bassist Alexandre Ribeiro and drummer Ricardo Martins. The organ-laced push of “Meditate Meditate” and “Solar” and the keyboard flourish of “Earthrise” (contributed by Dan Knight) draw as much from classic rock as metal, but the brew Earth Electric crafts from them is potent and very much the band’s own. “The Great Vast” and the shorter “Set Sail (Towards the Sun)” set up a direct flow into the title cut, and as one returns to Earth Electric for repeat listens, the actual scope of the album and the potential for how the band might continue to develop are likewise expansive, despite its many pulls into torrents of head-down riffing. Almost intimidating in its refusal to bow to genre.

Earth Electric on Thee Facebooks

Earth Electric at Season of Mist website


Olde, Temple


After debuting in 2014 with I (review here), Toronto’s Olde return via STB Records with Temple, proffering sludge-via-doom vibes and a center of weighted tonality around which the rest of their aesthetic would seem to be built, vocalist Doug McLarty’s throaty growls alternately cutting through and buried by the riffs of guitarists Greg Dawson (also production) and Chris “Hippy” Hughes, the bass of Cory McCallum and the rolling crashes of drummer Ryan Aubin (also of Sons of Otis) on tightly constructed pieces like “Now I See You” and the tempo-shifting “Centrifugal Disaster,” which reminds by its finish that sometimes all you need is nod. Olde have more to offer than just that, of course, as the plodding spaciousness of “The Ghost Narrative” and the lumbering “Maelstrom” demonstrate, but even in the turns between crush and more open spaces of the centerpiece title-track and the drifting post-heavy rock of closer “Castaway,” the underlying focus is on capital-‘h’ Heavy, and Olde wield it as only experts can.

Olde on Thee Facebooks

STB Records webstore


Deaf Radio, Alarm

deaf radio alarm

Based in Athens and self-releasing their debut album, Alarm, in multiple vinyl editions, the four-piece of Panos Gklinos, Dimitris Sakellariou, Antonis Mantakas and George Diathesopoulos – collectively known as Deaf Radio – make no bones about operating in the post-Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures sphere of heavy rock. To their credit, the songwriting throughout “Aggravation,” “Vultures and Killers” and the careening “Revolving Doors” lives up to that standard, and though even the later “Oceanic Feeling” seems to be informed by the methods of Josh Homme, there’s a melodic identity there that belongs more to Deaf Radio as well, and keeping Alarm in mind as their first long-player, it’s that identity that one hopes the band will continue to develop. Rounding out side B with the howling guitar and Rated R fuzz of the six-minute “…And We Just Pressed the Alarm Button,” Deaf Radio build to a suitable payoff for the nine-track outing and affirm the aesthetic foundation they’ve laid for themselves.

Deaf Radio on Thee Facebooks

Deaf Radio on Bandcamp


Saturndust, RLC

saturndust rlc

The further you go into Saturndust’s 58-minute second LP RLC, the more there is to find. At any given moment, the São Paulo, Brazil-based outfit can be playing to impulses ranging from proggy space rock, righteously doomed tonal heft, aggressive blackened thrust or spacious post-sludge – in one song. Over longform cuts like “Negative-Parallel Dimensional,” “RLC,” “Time Lapse of Existence” and closer “Saturn 12.C,” the trio cast a wide-enough swath to be not quite genreless but genuinely multi-tiered and not necessarily as disjointed as one might expect in their feel, and though when they want to, they roll out massive, lumbering riffs, that’s only one tool in a full arsenal at their apparent disposal. What tie RLC together are the sure hands of guitarist/vocalist Felipe Dalam, bassist Guilherme Cabral and drummer Douglas Oliveira guiding it, so that when the galloping-triplet chug of “Time Lapse of Existence” hits, it works as much in contrast to the synth-loaded “Titan” preceding as in conjunction with it. Rather than summarize, “Saturn 12.C” pushes far out on a wash of Dalam’s keyboards before a wide-stomping apex, seeming to take Saturndust to their farthest point beyond the stratosphere yet. Safe travels and many happy returns.

Saturndust on Thee Facebooks

Saturndust on Bandcamp


Birnam Wood, Triumph of Death

birnam wood triumph of death

Massachusetts doomers Birnam Wood have two prior EPs under their collective belt in 2015’s Warlord and a 2014 self-titled, but the two-songer single Triumph of Death (kudos on the Hellhammer reference) is my first exposure to their blend of modern progressive metal melody and traditional doom. They roll out both in able fashion on the single’s uptempo opening title-track and follow with the BlackSabbath-“Black-Sabbath” sparse notemaking early in their own “Birnam Wood.” All told, Triumph of Death is only a little over nine minutes long, but it makes for an encouraging sampling of Birnam Wood’s wares all the same, and as Dylan Edwards, Adam McGrath, Shaun Anzalone and Matt Wagner shift into faster swing circa the eponymous tune’s solo-topped midpoint, they do so with a genuine sense of homage that does little to take away from the sense of individuality they’ve brought to the style even in this brief context. They call it stoner metal, and there’s something to that, but if we’re going on relative balance, Triumph of Death is more doom-stoner than stoner-doom, and it revels within that niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche sensibility.

Birnam Wood on Thee Facebooks

Birnam Wood on Bandcamp


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Bison to Release You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient this Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


Five years after their third full-length, Lovelessness, Vancouver, British Columbia’s Bison return on Pelagic Records with the cumbersomely-named fourth outing, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient. The band mark a decade since their first EP this year as well — their debut album, Quiet Earth, was released by Metal Blade in 2008, and Dark Ages (review here) followed in 2010 — so it’s a prolonged absence from which they return even when one factors in the 2014 One Thousand Needles two-songer. As to how that might’ve affected their sound one way or the other, the new album seems to be… gray? I don’t know. We’ll see, I suppose.

Preorders are up and they have a teaser posted now for You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient that doesn’t tell much more than the artwork, but if you want to set a mood, it seems to do that well enough. Check it out:


BISON: Vancouver Metal Veterans To Release You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient Full-Length Via Pelagic Records; Teaser Posted, Preorders Available + Tour Dates Announced

Vancouver metal veterans BISON are making a devastating return with their brand-new album, You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient.

Set for release in Europe on June 23rd followed by a North American release on July 7th, the crushing new offering follows the band’s 2014-issued 1000 Needles EP and serves as their first full-length to include bassist Shane Clark, former lead guitarist of 3 Inches Of Blood, who joined the band following their Lovelessness full-length (2012, Metal Blade).

“It was important that the songs fit together to tell a bit of a story,” relays guitarist and vocalist James Farwell, “a story of a new life and escaping the city, while still being tethered to it. Life is a constant fight, and though I have taken the fight to a more natural and beautiful place, that struggle persists. This is an album of daily living. It is for everyone.”

BISON’s You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient was captured in the band’s hometown with long time friend Jesse Gander at Rain City Recorders. “I wanted to also steep myself in music that was not necessarily heavy in the obvious sense,” Farwell continues, “so I was listening to lots of blues while writing the album: Peter Green, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf. There was also lots of instrumental rock music playing on my long commutes to Vancouver for work and rehearsals.”

“The new songs still sound like ‘us,’ whatever that means,” vocalist Dan And adds, “but we aren’t concerned with shying away from whatever influences creep up. The older we get and the longer we play together, the less we give a shit about trying to sound like anything in particular.”

You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient will be available on CD, vinyl and digital formats. For CD preorders point your browser to THIS LOCATION. For vinyl, go HERE. For US orders go to THIS LOCATION.

You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient Track Listing:
1. Until The Earth Is Empty
2. Anti War
3. Drunkard
4. Kenopsia
5. Tantrum
6. Raiigin
7. Water Becomes Fire

BISON will embark upon a short run of Canadian dates next month with additional live incursions to be announced in the coming weeks.

6/09/2017 The Palomino – Calgary, AB
6/10/2017 The Capitol – Saskatoon, SK
6/11/2017 The Windsor Hotel – Winnipeg, MB
6/12/2017 The Exchange – Regina, SK
6/13/2017 The Vat – Red Deer, AB
6/14/2017 Brixx – Edmonton, AB
6/16/2017 The Rickshaw – Vancouver, BC

You are not the ocean. You do not orchestrate a beautiful cacophony of life and death, struggle and destruction, creation and dependence. You are not the sole reason for the existence of nation of creatures to live and abide by your stark and simple rules. You are not married to the moon. You do not allow the constellations to be moon. You do not allow the constellations to be your map. You do not destroy cities and drown your map. You do not destroy cities and drown their citizens. You do not embrace land’s golden their citizens. You do not embrace land’s golden hem as your child, with calm and tenderness. You do not crash and spray craggy shores with fury and passion. You are not unstoppable. You are not powerful. You are not necessary.

You are the patient. You are controlled. You are cared for. You are maintained with medicines and examinations. You are met with cold hands and protocol. Your most with cold hands and protocol. Your most intimate self is put on a form. You are questioned about pains and thoughts. You are dependent on those with knowledge. You are helpless. You are tired and bed ridden. You do no harm and you do not help. You are monitored and caged. You are kept away from others. You are contaminated. You are sick. You are keeping yourself sick. You do not know how to recover. You do not want to recover. You do not know what recovery is.

Bison, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient album teaser

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Six Dumb Questions with Family

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on October 16th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

True to their evocative moniker, Brooklyn progressive noisemakers Family arrive not without their share of tumult and dysfunction. Led by founding guitarst/songwriter Steven Gordon and vocalist Kurtis Lee Applegate, the four-piece has already replaced 50 percent of their body ahead of the Oct. 30 release of their debut full-length, Portrait, self-released in the US and on Pelagic Records in Europe with cover art by Eric Diehl.

Guitarist Owen Burley and drummer Phil Sangiacomo, who both played on Portrait, have since had their respective roles in Family filled by Josh Lozano (also Cobalt, Man’s Gin) and Jody Smith, so while the album will no doubt give some sense of the direction they’re headed in, Family‘s sound is destined to be different the next time out. All the more interesting, then, to get an idea of what got the band started and the ideas behind the themes they’re working with on the debut. In a way, the moment has already passed, and that only makes it more awesome to wonder what might come next.

I’ll admit to some trepidation in sending out these questions to Gordon for this emailer. It’s one thing to interview a band and quite something else to interview someone who also writes about music. I felt a bit like Gordon, who scribes for MetalSucks under the pseudonym “Kip Wingerschmidt,” would probably know everything I wanted to ask before the sentences were even over. I’m not exactly trying to trick the dude up, but it puts a little more pressure on me to not make some gross grammatical mistake like, “Where is in your band?” or something like that. Maybe I’m being neurotic.

Either way, the record — some of which you can hear on the ReverbNation player that follows the Q&A — lives up to the band’s motto of “Family slays,” and has already earned some hearty endorsements from the likes of The Ocean‘s Robin Staps, who just so happens to be the brains behind Pelagic. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

1. Tell me how Family got together? When did you guys start up and how did you wind up bringing Josh and Jody into the band? Has their inclusion changed the songwriting process at all?

A few years ago, I was working on music with a couple difficult guys but furthermore we were having a very hard time finding the right bassist. When that situation fell apart, I began to look for new collaborators and ironically met three solid bassists almost immediately, one of which was Kurt. I didn’t realize at first just how mighty his scream was, but once I heard that power it was apparent that there could be no going back. I had recently moved into a new rehearsal space, having been ousted by my neighbors from playing music in the loft space where I live, so I asked Kurt if he wanted to move his amp into the space and we started auditioning drummers.

Phil appeared pretty quickly thereafter. He immediately grasped all the complex time signature changes and frankly was hilarious and a joy to hang out with, but for some reason kept his chops under wraps initially in lieu of playing more simply, which gave us a bit of pause. So we were initially on the fence about whether it would work. Then he serendipitously cracked a cymbal that belonged to another drummer that we shared the practice space with and needed some time to make the money to pay for it. So we were stuck with the guy! And his amazing skills quickly showed themselves. Best accident ever.

We didn’t start gigging until after Owen joined the band and really rounded us out both personally and musically. That chance to have dual guitarmonies and counter parts helped develop the sound and brought my song structures to life in a more vibrant way. But unfortunately just before we started playing shows Phil decided to leave Family to focus on his other band, Grandfather. Thankfully Jody appeared almost immediately, through a recommendation from a singer/guitarist that both Kurt and I had both been in touch with but never met. Phil and Jody have such different styles that the sound shifted pretty dramatically right away and we began working on new tunes that fit Jody‘s feel a bit more. But overall it was a smooth and rapid transition, and there was no lag time.

A similar thing happened when Owen left the band. Literally the day after he told us, Josh (who we knew from having played with his band Fashion Week) sent me a text simply stating: “I play guitar.” I quickly responded “You sure do, buddy!” and we instantly had a replacement. Ironically he was the only person I thought of before he even sent me that text, so I guess it was meant to be.

Josh and I have only recently started collaborating on guitar parts for newer songs, and despite a natural fretboard kinship and similar work ethic we’re still finding the common musical ground. Josh himself claims to only listen to music from the ‘90s, and I’ve always felt like a lot of Family‘s style derives from classic rock influences, so there’s plenty of room to fill in the gaps between those varying elements. Furthermore Josh is very open to experimenting with different gear and sounds, which I look forward to exploring more together, especially in the studio. The next album will no doubt benefit from his and Jody‘s unique contributions and evolve our sound dramatically.

2. Is there a philosophy behind the band’s name? The word “family” is evocative of so many things, but what does it mean to you in terms of the band and in general, and how are you using the idea as relates to Portrait?

I was looking for a word that meant many different things and was open to wide interpretation, which was no easy feat — on top of it being extremely difficult to find something that fits and communicates the mood you are going for, most words are already taken as band names! I thought of “family” as an option before I even met Kurt, and tried to convince the guys I was playing with prior that we should use it, but the hesitation was always that it was perhaps too soft… In retrospect I realize now that maybe it was more the music we were working on at the time that was too soft, because given how the band sounds now I don’t see it as an issue whatsoever. If we were a jam band the name would be too on-the-nose but for a heavy group the contrast seems to sit well. Frankly, I enjoy that kind of juxtaposition of moods anyway, but obviously there are plenty of dark connotations to the word “family” as well as the sunny, togetherness aspects.

Naturally there is a family within every band, and we are no exception. We bond and bicker at times like brothers, and moreover do our best to bring forth a familial vibe to our audience. The goal is to bring people together through the music, and as a frontman Kurt always makes a concerted effort to communicate with the crowd. Despite the band’s personnel changes, we are still close with our former members and support their bands, and it seems perfectly normal to hang out with our old and new guitarists and drummers. We’re all still in it together.

There’s an obvious kinship between the words “family” and “portrait,” and for me it works on a couple different levels: on one hand, with our first album being anchored by the concept of a dysfunctional family that develops supernatural powers, the title is meant to suggest that we are offering a glimpse into the family members’ lives. From another perspective, this being our debut album, we hope it encapsulates the band’s message from the outset and offers a substantial portrait, if you will, of our sound. Having since changed our lineup, I see the first album as a time capsule of sorts that captures the combination of the initial round of players in the band, and we are all very proud of how it turned out.

3. How did you get hooked up with Robin Staps for the album release, and what does it mean to you to have someone like that interested in putting out your music in Europe? Will you guys tour over there to support the album?

Robin and I met briefly years ago outside the old Knitting Factory during a MetalSucks interview that Editor-in-Chief Vince Neilstein was leading — I may have asked a question or two, but doubt Robin even remembers me from that! Last Fall I was able to help put together a successful Brooklyn show for The Ocean with Family on the bill. That night he mentioned his label Pelagic and when we finished the album a massive email chain began between he and I to discuss all the details.

It is a huge honor to be working with Robin – his band has meant a lot to me over the years and it’s tremendously encouraging to have his stamp of approval. I believe we are the first American band to be signed to Pelagic so hopefully we can help spread the word in the States about what they are doing.

We would love to tour in Europe, so hopefully there will be an opportunity to do so in 2013.

4. Eric Diehl’s paintings seem to be commenting more on suburban or rural life, and with Family being from Brooklyn, how do the two relate for you? Both the front and back covers are kind of undercutting what looks superficially like a serene setting or scene. How did you come to select his works for the album and how do you think the art factors into the overall atmosphere of the record?

I came to Eric with a specific artwork concept in mind for an indoor family dinner scene with cosmic/supernatural elements added to it. But as we discussed the idea further, the more it seemed we’d be better off working with an outdoor, backyard-type setting. When the “family” concept evolved into two different paintings, Eric was essentially presenting two options for the cover artwork but I felt they worked quite well together and couldn’t imagine one or the other being the sole piece we would use. The way I see it is that the back cover painting is more of an abstract representation of the dysfunction and inner emotional turmoil that the family on the front cover is feeling. The rural house is the common thread that links the two paintings.

Suburbia was always the focus, in an effort to portray the nature of heartland Americana as much as possible. I get how that may sound ironic coming from a city-based band, but as much as I wouldn’t want the sound of our music to be pigeonholed into simply having an “urban” flavor I feel similarly about the artwork that represents us. There’s obviously infinite room for evolution in a band’s brand and design, and I for one hope our artwork takes many different forms as we progress.

5. There are so many different facets to Family’s sound. Do you hear anything in particular on Portrait that you know you’d like to develop further in the next round of songwriting? Is there one direction or another you have in mind for where you want to take the band?

Well in a way our sound has organically evolved automatically with the lineup changes, most specifically when we added Jody. As we all know a band is only as good as its drummer, but I also like to think any band is only as distinctive as its drummer as well. Thankfully we’ve had the chance to work with two very unique drummers that sound quite different from each other and that evolution will absolutely be noticeable and even highlighted on our next recording. Chops are one thing (and don’t get me wrong, both Phil and Jody have chops for days), but I’m talking more about style and feel, two elements that often take the backseat to backbone and flash in metal. So it’s exciting to think about already having a new version of our sound that still falls in line with the general vibe of the band. And going back into the studio this shift seems even more crucial than changes to the songwriting – case in point, some of the tunes that will appear on the next album predate Portrait, even…

Having said that, I always think there is room to get more brutal and more beautiful, and varied instrumentation can help open up the sound on recordings, so it’d be great to experiment with that. We are coloring the newer tunes with more complex structures as well as a bit more melody, both of which I think will give the sound a denser feel overall.

6. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

The main plan is to keep moving forward. We are about halfway done with the songs for the next album, and are hoping to go into the studio to record that early next year. It’d be great if some good tour offers came through and we were given the opportunity to spread our wings a bit more. But for now we’re just trying to spread the word and are looking forward to hearing people’s reactions of the album when it comes out. Despite all the work that’s been put into getting this project off the ground, I feel like it’s only just beginning…

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