Apostle of Solitude Interview with Chuck Brown: Looking Forward to Go Back

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Where did the title come from? Was there a story behind that?

Yeah. Not a hugely deep story behind it, just the idea, I guess, that two people are committing a lover’s double suicide. As they see their last sunrise they’re gonna off each other (laughs). That was the only thought behind it. Two or three songs on the record deal with tragic love themes, so it seems fitting. It’s not a concept record, but there were two or three songs that have that vibe to them, so it seemed appropriate. I’d seen a movie – I forget what it’s called now – maybe called The Party or something, on the Independent Film Channel, and it had this scene where it’s supposed to be the last day on earth and these two complete strangers can’t get to their loved ones, so they decide to off each other before the world ends. They were sitting on the rooftop, pointing their guns at each other’s heads, so we spun some of that; lovers and that kind of thing. It kind of stuck from that.

Have you gotten a lot of response about the artwork?

(Laughs) We have, and most of it has not been positive. We somewhat expected it would be like, “What’s that all about?” We didn’t expect that people would hate it so much (laughs). I don’t know whether people dislike it maybe because they think it looks cheap. I don’t know. I’m not sure what it is. We really spent a lot of time thinking about it and dealing with it, and it was by no means like, “Let’s do something easier.” We had to have a photoshoot and think about it and have the design guy mess with it. We tried to make an attempt to do something creative and artistic and a little out of the ordinary and do something with a photograph rather than the skulls and blood and tits. We like all that stuff, don’t get me wrong. There’s a million albums that have that stuff that I like, but we were just trying to do something a little different. Swing and a miss, I guess (laughs). We all like it. It’s one of those things. We all dug it and thought it looked really cool, but so far the response has not been that.

That’s what you get for trying something different.

(Laughs) Maybe if we’re ever fortunate enough to re-press it, we’ll put a collage of skulls, fire, tits, swords, blood, and it’ll just be a big collage. We’ll make the band name completely illegible. Whatever. We dig it. Maybe it’ll grow on some people.

How do you feel about the album itself? Have you gotten a chance to sit with it?

I have. Admittedly, I didn’t listen to it for three weeks after recording because I was sick of it, but I’m very happy with it. I hear stuff on it that I’m like, “Man, I wish we could get this in back or this in front, I wish we tried this or that, I wish I could do that again,” but the goal was, on the whole, to make a better record than Sincerest, and that’s a matter of opinion, whether it’s better or not, but for us, we feel like we played better, wrote better songs, and in that sense, we felt like we found a set. Yeah, I’m happy. I’ll be honest, I’m ready to write some new songs and record again and try to do something even better. As a whole, yeah, I’m pretty happy with it.

Were you surprised at the reaction Sincerest Misery got?

I was, a little bit. Not that I expected anybody to hate it or anything, but I didn’t think people would like it as much as they did. That’s enormously flattering, it’s great. Not that I expected someone to say, “This is the biggest turd,” but I didn’t expect anybody to say, “This is my favorite record of the year.” That’s really flattering, that somebody digs it as much as you do. That’s pretty cool.

Other than topping Sincerest Misery, was there something different you wanted to do going into Last Sunrise?

I don’t know about a stylistic thing, but we just wanted to be more creative. Sincerest Misery, everything felt more to the point, straightforward. This, I think we definitely made a conscious effort to try and get a little more creative with either the arrangements or the second guitar part, or a harmony here, or vocal harmony there, just try to put a little bit more layer to it, because the person who is into the band enough that they’re going to listen to us more than once, that they can hear something new the next time and appreciate we went out of our way to do more than just write a verse/chorus/verse/chorus, then record. That’s the biggest thing we tried to do a little bit differently, just try and put a little more thought behind it, try to do something that a diehard could appreciate. I hope that most people will spin it more than a couple times and let it grow on them, because I think if they do, they’re gonna hear little things in there. They’ll hear little differences in guitar tones. We used some different amps on different songs. Justin used a different guitar on a song here and there, so there were some things that, if you’re a person who really listens to records and really gets into them, if you pay attention, they’re there.

It does seem like the kind of record that the more time you spend with it, the more you hear.

Yeah. And we hope so. I really hope that some people are able to do that. And I understand some people won’t, some people just aren’t into that. They’re into pressing play and getting satisfaction right away, and that’s fine. But I hope some people will give it a chance and let it sink in a little bit.

How did the recording process go? How long were you in the studio?

We were in the studio for six days. It was down in Bloomington, Indiana, which is about an hour south of us, where IU is. We went down there, for the first three days all we did was tracking the music and the vocals, and then we went back down like a week later, two weeks maybe, and finished any solos or any vocal overdubs that needed to be done, then went to the mixing. Six days total, then we sent it off to be mastered and whatnot. That was nice. Sincerest, we only had five days, and this one we had six. I guess that was another goal, was to try and get another day out of it or a little longer to record. Hopefully it’ll be a goal next time too, to spend a little more time in the studio, which is all contingent on label support and everybody’s family schedules, because obviously all of us have families and things like that. Hopefully we can do that next time, maybe spend 10 days down there and get even more into the actual recording process.

Did you feel rushed with the six days?

Kind of, yeah. At least for me, I always kind of feel that way. I would love to have the opportunity the way bands on really large labels get weeks or months to sit there in the studio and just try different things. On this level of bands, for the most part, bands have written the record before they go into the studio, and they’re essentially going in there and hit record and trying to do different things. On a larger scale, a lot of those bands have just the skeletons of songs and they write the record in the studio, which, I don’t know if I’d want to do that for every single record, but that’d be pretty cool to be able to go into the studio and just experiment and try stuff for weeks or months or whatever, and really get into the recording process. Try different amps and mics and guitars, different song arrangements. Really write your record in the studio. That would be pretty cool. Hopefully one day we’ll get there, but I won’t hold my breath (laughs).

That’s what the home studio is good for.

It is, you’re right. That’s one of the benefits of technology, at least recording-wise, affording guys the opportunity to really craft songs well and try songs out. But even with that said, you’ve got to know how and do them well. We’ve got a four-track that we write songs with, but to be able to [record] well and benefit from it. That’s the nice thing about going into the studio. It’s a separate environment, it’s professional, and you have a third party there that’s just unbiased at least in the sense of they’re not in the band and have no stake in whether you succeed or fail and they’re going to help you record a record and try to get good sounds. That’s what’s nice about going to the studio and having an engineer there that can tell you, “That sounded like shit, man” (laughs). Can’t get that at home, I guess. Your wife might tell you that, but I don’t know if that counts.

What’s the story behind “Letting Go of the Wheel?”

“Acknowledging the Demon,” “Other Voices” and “Letting Go of the Wheel” actually go together, as far as the concept. Those are all three about the same thing. It’s not a concept record, per se, but those three songs belong together and when we do play out, we’ll probably play those three together, because that’s how they were written. They’re separate, but when we practice and rehearse, those are always played together. Those are all about the same thing, which is a combo thing of – I don’t know how familiar you are with Stephen King — but he had a book called Dark Half. I’ll try to keep it concise, but it’s a writer who writes under another name sometimes, and when he writes these books, he feels like he becomes another person and so on. In the book, the other person he writes as ends up coming to life, and so it’s a combination of that and the idea of someone who’s a serial killer and has this other voice in their head, this other half that takes over the wheel. We just fit those two ideas together, that someone has this dark half of them that takes control and makes them do things. That’s what “Letting Go of the Wheel” is: letting this other thing take control. “Acknowledging the Demon” is acknowledging this thing exists. “Other Voices” just has that small spoken word part, and “Letting Go of the Wheel” is just the completion of this good half letting go of the wheel and here comes the bad guy (laughs).

Were those songs written as one piece of music?

When we wrote them, we knew we wanted to put three songs together. Yes, they were written together, but they had their starts and stops. They were made separate, but when we wrote them, we did “Acknowledging the Demon,” and said, “Okay, now we’re gonna write part two to go with it, then when that is over, we’ll write this third part.” They were all written together, yes, but it wasn’t that it was one long song that we decided to put space in between or anything like that.

How much time went into the flow and sequence of the record?

It’s funny you mention that. Yes, that was one of the other little details that we did, that we really thought about, “What should the order of the songs be?” We knew the three would stay together, but we really thought about what was appropriate, what should start it, what should finish it, what should come after what and how they should flow one into another, should there be a dead stop or should we let one cross-fade into another. Yeah, we put a lot of thought into what the song order would be and how one would or would not fade into another. And the studio affords you the idea of playing with that, because you can say, “What if we put this song in this place instead? Nah, nah, nah, keep it this way.” Again, those little details that I hope people will recognize that, yeah, there was a conscious effort to start this record with “Last Sunrise” and go forth with the rest of it. We didn’t consciously think, “These are the shorter songs, these are the longer ones,” but we definitely wanted to make sure these songs went in this order, faded into each other this way, or dead stopped into this and stuff like that.

How about the covers? Picking the cover songs. Last time you went with “Electric Funeral” and this time you went all out with it.

Since we had two labels – part of the reason for that is we liked both labels, both are really good independent labels, and the other reasoning is we’ll go all out and try and do a separate cover for Eyes Like Snow, a separate cover for Profound Lore, we’ll put separate bonus tracks on each, the layout will be a little different. Hopefully you’ll get copies of both and you’ll see that the cover art, obviously the concept is the same, but it’s a little different. The color’s a little different. The actual layout is a little different. One has handwritten lyrics, one has typed lyrics. The bonus tracks are different for each one. We did that because we knew, going into the recording months ahead that, “Let’s do everything we can to make each label’s release unique.” One of the things we had told the labels is the benefit of it is twice the promotion. It’s good for everybody. It’s good for us because it’s twice the promotion, it’s two different records and cover arts out there, and it’s good for them because then if somebody wants these bonus tracks or these bonus tracks or somebody likes this cover art or that cover art, that was the whole reasoning behind it. That’s why we did six bonus songs instead of just one, was to help make each label’s respective release unique.

What’s planned show-wise? I know you said everybody’s got families, everybody’s obviously got jobs. I’m not asking when does the five-month world tour start, but what do you have coming up?

In March, we’re gonna be playing a show with Priestess and Bison B.C. They’re coming through Indy, so we’re going to play with them. That’s before our CD release show, but we wanted to play with them, so we took the show, that’s on the 25th or something of March. Our actual record release show, here in Indy, is on a Saturday night in April, and then in May we’re playing with Black Pyramid and Let the Night Roar here in Indy, so those three are all local, then we plan on, June or July, going out for about nine days. From where we’re located in Indy – we’ve done this before – that affords us to make a loop. We can get all the way out to the East Coast and back in those nine days, so we’ll probably do something, I don’t know, Chicago and Cleveland, then get over to New York City, D.C.-area and maybe Philly and Pittsburgh. It makes a nice little loop. Unfortunately, from where we’re at in Indy, to get out to the West Coast, you’d need to go out for two or three weeks just because of how long it takes to get there. We would like to do that at some point, it’s just we’d have to really coordinate everybody’s schedules so we can be off for two or three weeks at a time instead of just the typical, short mini-tour of eight or nine days. That’s the immediate plan. Those three shows that are already booked, then we’ll start trying to book the summer tour in the next couple months. We’ve talked about it numerous times and we’d love to get over to Europe for a couple weeks, and the same applies as for the West Coast, if you’re gonna go, you need to take a couple weeks. But we’d love to get over there for a couple weeks, because there’s a good reception over there. I went over there with The Gates of Slumber, and that’s a real different reception of how they treat you in clubs versus the US. Looking forward to going back.

Apostle of Solitude on MySpace

Profound Lore

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