Thursday 16 August 2012

Interview with SUMMONER

Today I am interviewing one of my fave bands of 2012 – SUMMONER who released a contender for best album of 2012 with PHOENIX.

A brilliant Sludge/Stoner Metal album that been making a lot of waves in the Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. We are at Sludgelord are big fans of this band and album. You may remember these guys as Riff Cannon who released another great album back in 2009 called Mercury Mountain.

The guys have kindly granted me an interview.

Q1 – For people who are unfamiliar with your band, can you tell them little bit about the history of the band? Where you're from, band members, when you formed?

A J - Chris, Joe and Scott all grew up in Hanson, MA. They have all been friends since they were in high school. Scott and Joe have been in bands together in the past, and Chris always played in bands when he was young. I believe Chris and Joe were in a band together for a short while as well. I moved to Boston, from outside of Detroit, after high school to go to college and met Scott at a screen printing shop we worked at together. That’s how I eventually got to know Chris and Joe. We formed the band while Joe was in the army and left a spot open for him when he returned. I think it was 2006 when we “officially” got the line-up together.

Q2 –How would you describe your sound.

Joe - That’s always a tough question to answer. What i'll usually describe our music as, is heavy rock with space and doom elements. We have a really thick, heavy, and loud sound, especially live, but there is still a focus on being melodic. I think another key thing to set our sound apart is the use of harmony parts. I'd say most of our songs feature a duel harmonized lead part or riff. We try to make the music interesting and well structured while keeping the sound powerful.

Q3 – Is The Band a Full Time Project or do you have regular jobs to support Summoner

Scott - We all have jobs to support our bills, drinking and drug habits.

Q4 – Are your families supportive of what you do 

Chris - I would have to say yes, though I'm sure they would prefer we pursue more worthwhile activities sometimes haha.

Q5 – Was it a hard decision to re-name your band into Summoner. As much as I love Riff Cannon and Mercury Mountain. I think Summoner suits you guys better and Phoenix leaves the last album in the dust.

AJ - Haha, thanks! Renaming the band was something that I think we all had on our minds for a while. It was Scott who actually worked up the balls to bring it to the table as an actual option. We had become increasingly discouraged by the name because it seemed to close a lot of doors for us. We actually had labels tell us that they loved the music, but hated the name. 

As well as that, we found we got mixed reactions to it from fans. It was great when we played to our core group of fans here in Boston, but when we went out of town we felt people didn’t take us seriously. The name Riff Cannon was meant as a joke in the first place, and to the people that know us and our personalities it was funny. But to the guy in the crowd in bumfuck middle of nowhere we sounded like a bunch of clowns, until we started playing of course…haha. 

Once Scott mentioned changing the name at practice one day it was an easy decision. I think he was surprised at our reaction and was expecting a little more push back on the idea. But we all just kind of went with it. 

Q6 – You must be pleased with the praise you have been getting for Phoenix. I have not seen one bad review yet. Its like you written an album that everyone loves.

Joe - So far we have been very pleased with the response. I can't say that we've written an album everyone loves but I will say that we feel very proud of how it turned out. As far as recording goes we have a pretty strict standard that the songs must meet before they are allowed to be put out on the album. 

There have been a few songs that we recorded or wrote intending to be a part of the record that ended up being scraped. Our motto for the final album tracks is usually to "cut the fat." All in all I think the reviews have been really great so far and we hope people continue to get into itand follow our band.

Q7 – How has the reaction been like to your music overall. At home and abroad.

Scott - Some people like us and some don't. We like what we do and that's what counts. I just like to hit things hard... And I like broads not abroad

Q8 – What is the song-writing process like in the band. Is there one main songwriter or does everyone contribute to all the songs.

Chris - Usually, one of us comes into practice with a riff, or a song partly together and we all fill in the blanks around it. Generally, Joe or I will have some lyrics waiting to be put to music, but everyone contributes to lyric writing and arranging in the end.

Q9 – You originally released the album digitally as stated if it was successful enough it would be released on Vinyl. Well with album being released on Vinyl has the record passed your initial expectations.

AJ - We are beyond happy that it finally got released on vinyl. We wrote and recorded the entire album with the intention that it would only be released on vinyl. We decided to self release it digitally because we were tired of sitting on it waiting for a label to bite. 

We were really lucky to have Mike Vitali of Magnetic Eye Records think highly enough of us and our music to help us get it out on vinyl. He did a great job on the packaging and layout.

Q10 – How is the Metal Scene in your home town or surrounding areas. Are there a lot of places for bands like yours to play at on a regular basis.

Joe - The metal scene in Boston is pretty varied i'd say. You have everything from stoner-type bands to death metal to doom, etc. There is a group of bands that we are friends with and have played with quite a bit like Elder, Olde Growth, and The Proselyte, etc. I don't know if i'd say there are a lot of venues that feature heavy bands in Boston but there are a good core group of them. 

It seems like lately there are more places sprouting up and we are branching out to them. Its usually fun to play somewhere new that we haven't tried before. Our focus shows-wise now is to get as many out of state gigs as we can. This summer we've played Connecticut, and have some in New York and New Jersey coming up also.

Q11 – Do you tour on a regular basis. What has the reception been like to the band performing live. Have you toured with any famous bands.

Scott - We haven't done much touring but we travel out of state when we can. Personally If I was on tour a lot I think I'd kill my bandmates and or self from drugs and sexually transmitted diseases. 

Q12 – Do you have any plans to tour abroad or is too expensive to do at the moment.

Chris - We would love to, but the other guys all have jobs that don't allow taking enough time off to tour extensively. Maybe someday!

Q13 – How do you feel the blog/webzine exposure has been important to Riff Cannon/Summoner. I intitially discovered you through the legendary Sludge Swamp and downloaded the album right away. Apologies I know I shoudn't but I did buy the CD right away.

AJ - Honestly, we just appreciate that you liked our music enough to want to have it for yourself. Whether you buy it or “steal” it, at this point in the game we just want people to hear our music. This is a labor of love. We know we aren’t going to pay the mortgage with royalty payments any time soon. 

But to answer the question, I’d say blogs and web exposure have been key to getting our stuff out there. Like we’ve already said, our personal situations don’t allow us to be on the road all the time so we don’t get that touring band exposure. So people writing about us on the web is all we really have.

Q14 - How do you feel about blogs and websites giving music away for free.

Joe - It seems like a double-edged sword sometimes. On one hand you feel ripped off because people can just download for free music that you've put a lot of hard work into. The other side of the coin is that people are listening to your stuff and hopefully playing it for their friends too. I'd say that if you were a true fan of our band or any band for that matter then you would purchase the album at an official website and support the bands.

Q15 – You have said that Phoenix is an accurate representation on how you guys sound live. If that is the case I would love to see you guys in concert. Was it hard making the album to get that live and raw sound to stand out from the crowd.

Scott - I just showed up, set up my drums and beat them like a red headed step child.

Q16 - What are the most/least rewarding aspects of participating with the band.

Chris - For me, the most rewarding part of being in the band is the feeling I get playing live. It's always been my favorite part of playing music. It's very satisfying to see people getting into the music that we put so much into.

The least rewarding part, I would have to say, is not getting paid for it haha. It's something you know going into it though. We are not the type of band that is going to tour half the year in order to scratch a living off of our music. This is something we do simply for the love of it, and that will probably always be the case.

Q17 – What are the future plans for Summoner.

AJ - The goal going forward is to keep on producing music we are proud of and play where we can, when we can. We love writing and want to be able to put out a new album every year from here on out, so we are devoting a lot of time to writing new material. 

We will be releasing our next album via Magnetic Eye Records and hope to start recording later this year. We have basically the entire 3rd album written, minus a few tweaks here and there. As far as shows are concerned we are focusing on our little weekend warrior tours of the east coast and playing Boston shows every few months. Out of market shows are our main focus at the moment though.


Q18 – I have to ask this one but who designed the awesome cover for Phoenix. As it's my fave album cover of the year. Hits the albums tone brilliantly.

Joe - Thanks a lot , we are really happy with the album cover too! The cover is actually a painting an artist friend of ours in Philadelphia named Alyssa Maucere did. We've known her a few years now and are big fans of her style. What we did is send her the lyrics to the songs that eventually made it onto the album and have her take bits and ideas from those and incorporate them into the art. 

What we would love is for those who buy our vinyl release is to look over the cover art while they listen and check out the lyric sheet and put everything together. That’s a huge reason why were so thrilled that our label Magnetic Eye Records is putting Phoenix out on vinyl also. I think that all the different parts should all form one big picture of what the band is all about.

I want to Thank You for participating in this interview. As you know we are massive fans of your great band and wish you all the best for the future

Well Thanks to the guys for an excellent interview. You can check these great Sludge Rockers Below: