Surprises come from the most unexpected of places – case in point being Texan natives Vesperian Sorrow and their very European symphonic black metal attack. Stormwinds of Ages has taken many in the metal world by storm and for the long-tenured and DIY prone band, they’re more than happy to hear it. Guitarist Will and drummer Kristoph were happy to answer at length a bevy of questions on the writing process, the joys of geography, and the brutal nature of long-term silences and the DIY world.
Blistering.com: Six years is a long time to survive in the dark underbelly of the trend-happy musical world. Was there a particular reason for the quiet-mode that followed in the wake of Regenesis Creation?
Will: Honestly, holding a band together in the DIY world is one of the hardest things to do. We haven’t technically been “signed” to a label or have had a label’s support since 2001’s Psychotic Sculpture. After that release we pretty much took every show or festival that we could get on without the proverbial door being opened for us. We chose not to re-sign with Displeased Records and look for a better deal that could get us more exposure. Unfortunately, that deal never came to be. So we recorded Regenesis Creation on our own, in our own studio that we built from the ground up. We shopped RC around to the labels with no real offer being made. That still did not deter us from marching onward. At this point we are starting to get better at the recording arts and are recording a lot bands here in Texas.
After RC was recorded, we did a few short self-financed tours and I think with all the pressure of doing everything on your own, it usually brings out the worst in people. We had a few member problems on the way, none of the core members, but people that were difficult to replace nonetheless. It’s very difficult to find people who really want to play this style of music. That slowed us down a bit, and then I think in 2008 we finally decided to start working on the next album. It took us four years and lots of trials and tribulations, but we have such a passion for what we do that I truly don’t think we can ever stop doing it. We’ve had a really solid line-up for the last five years as well, so I would predict that our next album will be out in 2013 this time, not five years down the road. At this point in our history we are at our most creative, and are having a ton of fun.
Blistering.com: Given the pains of the DIY world and your sticking with it, are there any inherent regrets in walking that path? Is it something you’d recommend to ‘newer’ bands?
Will: Kind of, yeah I have a few regrets. Looking back over the last 10 years or so I sometimes think that we could have done more to get our name out there, or done things differently. There was a point in time in this band where we thought all we really had to do was just write cool music and the opportunities would present themselves to us. That never really happened. I feel we’ve written some very cool songs over the years, we just never took the responsibility to promote them like we should have. We were always looking for the elusive record deal. That was kind of the mentality for a while, “if we could just get signed.” Now we have taken more responsibility for our own futures and have been focusing our attention on promoting the band properly, within our own budgets of course.
As far as recommending taking this approach for newer bands I would say yes, absolutely. If you have something special to offer and no one is taking notice, you truly can’t wait for anyone to open the door for you. You have to kick that motherfucker down sometimes. Really, it’s your only option, because if the labels aren’t taking notice, your only choices are pack it up and quit or stay in obscurity and maybe live with the fact that maybe one day you’ll develop into some cult status band. We have been that band for some time now. Nowadays, bands really have the opportunity to promote themselves with a very small budget and reap most of the rewards for it. We have never wanted to quit because we love what we do some much, it truly defines who we are as people. So quitting has never been an option. Now, we have kind of shed the “getting signed” mentality and are very happy going at it alone. Not to say if a bigger more reputable label was to come along, we wouldn’t entertain the idea, but we definitely aren’t waiting around holding our breath.
Blistering.com: Stormwinds of Ages is a burly and fantastic release. Did that six-year gap allow you time to hone and fine tune the songs or was the album largely a spontaneous creation? Both?
Kristoph:SOA came to be over several years. Half the album was written between ‘06-‘08, but as Will mentioned earlier, member issues hindered us a bit. The final songs of the album came to be in 2010 with some serous late night writing sessions. During those years I spent a great deal of time writing and arranging the songs. I also spent what time I had left honing my engineering/production skills. The final phase of preproduction, and the beginning of tracking was in summer 2010. The album actually took us a year to finish, but here we are finally!
Blistering.com: Symphonic black metal, no matter what other subgenres the sound might fall into, has seen better days. Right now we sit long removed from the genre’s ‘peak’ and perhaps that more than anything that has provided the most intense shock in light of how good Stormwinds of Ages is. Is it a conscious decision to carry the proverbial torch as a statement, or are you simply continuing to do what you love?
Will: Well, thanks for the compliments on the album first and foremost. We truly are happy to hear there are people still interested in this form of extreme metal. Really, we are not trying to carry any torches or be the poster boys for our little genre of music. We are just doing what we love to do. I would say from day one, we have always wanted to write really epic moving riffs. With the exception of a few newer members of our band, we are all getting into our thirties and we still have that fire in us, the same fire that we first got when we were high school kids in the early-to-mid-90s when we first heard the Scandinavian explosion of bands. Those bands had that sound, and that’s exactly what resonated with us on so many different levels. I really can’t see ever playing or writing any other style of music, it’s that ingrained into every fabric of our being.
Blistering.com: Of those trend-based sounds, like the infusion of post-rock into everything in 2006 (Agalloch’s Ashes Against the Grain being a prime example) and the more recent ‘cascade’ sound prevalent in bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, did any of it stand a chance of finding integration into the VS sound? What were some favorite listens for the band over the past six years?
Will: I personally would say not a chance. However, speaking of Agalloch, one of my personal favorite bands that inspire me even today is a band called Thy Serpent from Finland. I believe I remember reading an article years ago about how he was inspired by that band I think. So on some level, I can see how they would fall into that “post rock” category considering the influence if I’m correct, which I might not be, my memory has faded over the years! I have incorporated a lot of that bands influence (Thy Serpent) into the VS material with how he does his chord voicings and sweeping passages. I still listen pretty much to the same bands that I listened to ten/fifteen years ago. I do however like a few bands that popped up over the last ten years like Wintersun for example. My influences and favorite bands spans from Blind Guardian all the way to bands like Summoning or Abigor. Anything epic and fantasy based is usually what gets me inspired to write.
Kristoph: For me, and speaking for a couple of the other guys in the band, I’d say no. I want the VS sound to come from within. I’ve never been one to write a VS song based on any other bands sound. In fact prior to writing I don’t even listen to music, and try to avoid contamination of outside influences, even on an unconscious level. Now after tracking was finished, and I had time to have a life, I threw on everything from Dark Tranquility, Dark Funeral, Vader to Sirenia, After Forever and The Birthday Massacre. I tend to vary my listens, and it’s not always music. Talk radio does wonders after a day in the studio.
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