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Sylvan Realm - Not Following Any Blueprint

By: Mike Sloan

Blistering.com: Sylvan Realm is obviously your band. It has your name in it, so obviously itís your baby. With that said, how does the band dynamic work? Do the rest of the members simply follow your lead and do as you say, so to speak, or is it a full-on collaborative effort between everybody? How much input on the music do the rest of the band members have?

Typically how it works is that pretty much everything starts with me. Iíll come up with something on guitar and it starts out as really one layer of guitar, the rhythm riffs. Sometimes the songs will take a long time to complete; sometimes years. Iíll eventually write lyrics to the riff and maybe some bass lines, but I donít always write bass lines for it. Once I have the main part of the song together and ready, Iíll call up Jason [Ian-Vaughn Eckert, bass] and Evan [Madden, drums] and I kind of let them just do their things. Theyíll come up with their own parts. I try not to be some sort of dictator. I want them to put in their own input into the band, and to not have it so controlled or formulaic. I like to have that studio magic of sorts where they come in with ideas Iíve never even heard before and I let them go with it. If something really stands out and itís different and I like it, I go with it. But if something really changes the vibe of a song or itís just not something Iím looking for, Iíll let them know and ask them if they have any different ideas or weíll work together to change a few things. But overall I donít ask those guys to change their parts too much.

Also, I donít have any rehearsals or practices with them because they both live out of state. We pretty much do everything in the studio; we meet up to record. Thereís quite a lot of on-the-spot or in-the-moment music creating, which gives the music a live, kind of experimental vibe.

Blistering.com: Youíve mentioned in a few interviews that when you enter the studio to record the follow-up to The Lodge of Transcendence, you donít want to make the same album twice. What can we expect from Sylvan Realm moving forward and onto album #2?

Absolutely. Itís going to be a bit more focused and a bit more straightforward. The Lodge of Transcendence was really an emotional and musical rollercoaster ride. Itís really all over the place in terms of style and influence. The next one is going to focus a lot of doom, neo-folk and dark metal. Itís going to be a much more mellow, slower album. The guitars are going to be really clean but the vocals are going to be pretty much the same. Itís not going to be as aggressive as the last one as it will focus more on the mellow, more acoustic moments that were on the last one.

One thing that can be said is that itís not like this is going to be a new direction for the band, like all of a sudden weíre softer or focusing on these new influences. Thatís just how this album kind of came out. With the last year that I had, with the mood and inspirations Iíve had, this is just how these songs came out. Theyíre more mellow, but definitely darker than whatís on The Lodge of Transcendence.

Blistering.com: With the year youíve recently had with personal loss, how much of a stronger person has it made you? Also, how drastically has it altered the way you view both life in general and your music?

Pretty drastic, pretty major. After having a few people very close to me die and witnessing death right up there close and in person, and losing such a close friend as well as some other tragic events, it was really a fight-or-flight situation. It was either I was going to change my perspective and outlook on life or sit there and be pretty fucking depressed. Iíve had a lot of moments, a lot of thinking and soul searching and for whatever reason, it made me reevaluate my own life, how I view life, my own spirituality, and philosophies. I guess all the years before I was pretty negative and depressed and for whatever reason, it sort of forced me to turn around and lead a more uplifting and productive life, to live the life of my dreams.

I guess itís more metal or cooler to talk about how angry or depressed somebody is or that theyíre suicidal, but I look at it like someone like Ronnie James Dio did and his message was that of being uplifting and one of empowering your fellow metalheads. I decided to go that route instead and decided to live a much more uplifting, productive life. Why not try to make my own dreams come true instead of wandering around in depression? Why live day-to-day and just do my job without being passionate about it? I donít know but experiencing death up close and personal with people very close to me two times in a row in the same year just made me rethink my way of living.

Blistering.com: You mentioned about working on the new album. Are the songs pretty much completed or are you still going to arrange things once youíre in the studio?

The rhythms are all pretty much done, set and followed, but a lot of my recording process is kind of last-minute, piecing things together so some things might change. Some of these songs Iíve been working on for a few years so theyíre quite old. But in terms of the solos, the drums and the vocals, all of those are going to be written as theyíre being recorded. The only things set in stone are the rhythm riffs.

Blistering.com: When do you think the new one will be finished and released?

Iím not entirely sure. Iíd like it to be done and ready over the winter or spring, but Iím not really sure at this point.

Blistering.com: What about touring? Itís a challenge for virtually every band, but with your other bandmates being out of state, Iíll assume thatís going to be a difficult challenge for Sylvan Realm to get any real touring done.

Thatís another thing Iím not really sure about. Iíd really like to do some local shows in the near future. But if something really good comes up, the other guys donít live too far. Iím actually in the middle of them here in Maryland. Jason lives about two hours south of me in Virginia and Evan lives about two hours north of me in Pennsylvania. It is possible for us to some shows down in like Baltimore or Virginia or Pennsylvania but thereís no concrete plans or anything. Iíve been meaning to contact the guys and try to get on the (next) Maryland Death Fest because I think that would be a great venue for us to play. The band is a Maryland-based band and I think it would be a tremendous opportunity for us to play that show. However, playing live at this point is more just an idea, but definitely in the future Iíd like to play live.

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