Friday 18 January 2013

Interview with National Sunday Law

Now it's my pleasure to be interviewing National Sunday Law who are one of my fave underground bands of recent years. And a band who I have featured a few times now. Most recently with their excellent new EP - Festival Of The Horned God.

Every release they have unleashed upon the world so far has literally blown me away each time. So I thought I hit these hugely talented duo for an interview.

Well National Sunday Law have agreed an audience with myself and this is what they had to say.

Q1 – Hi Guys, Thanks for doing this. For people not in the know can you give them a brief history of the band and how it came about.

Derek: Originally, we were trying to create a 4 piece band with both of us playing guitar and singing. While we were searching for other musicians, we continue to write and record music with me playing guitar and drums, Darin on guitar and keys, and we'd switch off on bass.

Darin: The band was called Lux Medium and the music was a bit different. We started as more of a math rock, post-hardcore, noisy 90s indie type of band. But the music evolved over time, with some of later stuff sounding closer to NSL, but not as heavy. Our final recording as that band can be download for free on bandcamp:

Derek: After a few years of recording as Lux Medium and not succeeding at creating a live band, we started exploring ways to play as a two piece without sounding like just two guys. That's when we got looping pedals and started incorporated more keyboards.

Darin: I bought an guitar called a Celloblaster used from a local shop in LA. It was a revelation. Its basically a 5 string baritone, but tuned in 5ths. One day I showed up to our usual practice with it and started playing slow heavy riffs. The riffs turned into our first song called Seconds Left. Then I heard about the Moog Taurus, a foot controlled synthesizer. Although they weren't be made at the time, I thought it would be the perfect compliment to the Celloblaster. So I found a midi-controller that had a similar foot pedals to the Taurus and hooked it to my MicroKorg. So I could play guitar and keys simultaneously.

Derek: After just a few months of starting NSL, we had written most of our first album. Since then, we've played more than 50 shows and recorded two more EPs.

Q2 – How would you describe your sound.

Derek: I usually end up saying something like, heavy at times, quiet at times, with screaming, singing, keyboards, and ambient textures. I guess you could say we're a progressive metal or post-metal band with bits of ambient, math rock, psychedelia and progressive rock.

Darin: I like to call it "weird metal" as sort of a joke. We like a lot of music and try not to limit our creativity. But we'll always be a heavy band regardless.

Q3 – Which bands and artists influence you directly as musicians.

Derek: My biggest influences as a drummer are dudes like, Brian St. Piere of Hum, Tim Dow and Jason Gerkin of Shiner, and Rob Smith of Traindodge. Later I became more influenced by bands like Kayo Dot, Grails, Jaga Jazzist, Do Make Say Think, and Del Rey.

Darin: Thats a hard one for me as I'm all over the place with influences. But my earliest influence is Pink Floyd. As a child, their mid-70s era hooked me. As an adult, the stuff before Dark Side kept me interested. Probably due to their influence, I'm into all kinds of prog, early electronic, Krautrock, ambient, psychedelic and some 60s folk rock. At the same time, metal was a huge influence on my guitar playing. But I never saw myself as metal guitarist…or at least a good one!

Q4 – Are you all full time musicians or do you have regular jobs to pay the bills.

Derek: Hahaha, yes we both have jobs. We don't make any substantial money playing music. We do sell CDs, T-shirts and accept donations for downloads. But we basically break even on shirts and CDs, and then recoup about a third of our recording and mastering costs.

Q5 – Are your family and friends supportive of your music.

Derek: Yes very. We are very fortunate for that.

Q6 – What is the song-writing process in the band. Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual.

Derek: I think after our first full length we realized that Darin writes about 90% of the guitar riffs, then we get together and jam on them and once I've got a grasp of each riff I'll start to rearrange parts until the basic flow of the song is mapped out. Then we'll record the rough guitar and drums to a click track, take some time to listen back then we'll work on keyboard and synth and vocal ideas together. I wrote most of the vocals for the first record but since then we've been writing words and vocal patterns together. This whole process has been slowed a bit because we currently live on separate coasts. It's essentially the same process now, just with more emailing of tracks involved.

Darin: Yea, I write a lot of raw riffs and some fully composed stuff. In addition to writing most of the vocal parts and taking on all of the recording/engineering/mixing, Derek helps create transitions and arranges my ideas into a fully realized songs.

Festival Of The Horned God cover art

Q7 – Your new EP – Festival Of Horned God” - has just been released. Such a great title. Was it an easy EP to write and record for compared against your previous releases.

Derek: It was generally pretty easy to write but hard to record since we're on separate sides of the country. We learned a lot about how to speed up the process though. So hopefully the next one will be easier.

Q8 – How do you come up with the names for both album and individual songs. Some great titles you have in your catalogue so far.

Derek: They come from all our other interests in life such as films, documentaries, books, science, and different types of religious/spiritual beliefs.

Q9 – Now your both involved in a whole range of musical projects or have been involved in with. Derek – Bereft, Graviton and The Cruelest Animal. Darin with Graviton. Is National Sunday Law your full time band or just one of many.

Derek: I'd say NSL is my main band, we don't tour or practice regularly but it's usually my main focus. Graviton is basically dead. The other dudes in Bereft have their main bands so they're busy with recording and touring most of the year. That leaves me with plenty of time for The Cruelest Animal, which is basically a recording project with my friend Alex who writes almost all of the music, as well as my solo stuff You Big Ox of which I released 2 EPs on Bandcamp in 2012.

Q10 – With you being involved in so many superb musical groups. How do you find the time to feature with them all. Or is it just being involved with one band when the need arises.

Derek: It's worked out nice to shift from one band to the next, it makes for constant new perspectives on each project and and a kind of forced creative routine. So far it's been a couple months on each project when the other people are free and in between I work on You Big Ox.

Q11 – Is there a scene for Post-Rock/Post-Metal bands to perform in your home town on a regular basis. Or do you have to travel further afield to perform on a regular basis.

Derek: There is a scene but it's small. But we haven't been a part of it since Darin moved to Baltimore. When we toured in Northern California and Oregon, we got a lot of praise from the three to 15 people who came to the shows. We did have a few regular people who'd come see us in LA, but it wasn't much more than the five people at once. There are a bunch of great local bands in LA such as Hurt Model, Solar Wimp, Pigeon Wing, Behold The Monolith, Exhausted Prayer and of course Intronaut.

Q12 – Have you toured with any of those great bands or know them on a personal level.

Derek: Not toured with, but I know Intronaut pretty well. Sacha and I played hockey together when we were like 12. We're both part of Graviton and Bereft. I also went to high school with Joe and Dave and I recently recorded the bulk of Intronaut's new record.

Q13 – What are your favourite bands around at the moment. Do you listen to modern day rock/metal or do you just listen to the classic era of Stoner/Sludge/Doom/Post-Rock/Post-Metal.

Derek: My current favorites are Vaura, Jaga Jazzist, Grails, East of the Wall, Opeth and Deathspell Omega to name a few.

Darin: I'm sweating the new Swans record, Loincloth, and Kowloon Walled City recently. But I'm always listening to all kinds of classic stuff too.

Q14 – What are your views of blogs such as Sludgelord featuring and reviewing your records, as opposed to mainstream music magazines? Has your music reached the mainstream mags at home or around the world?

Derek: I love it, it's where I find a lot of new bands. We have not reached anything mainstream.

Darin: Agreed. We really like meeting new people who are truly passionate about the same kinds of music.

Q15 – What is your view of bands and blogs giving away music for free. Lot of bands and people have different perspectives.

Derek: It's a bit different for each band I suppose but for NSL it makes the most sense to me to give the music away and allow fans to pay what they want. We have minimal recording costs because I have a studio, so our only real expense besides our time is the mastering. With this release we were really surprised by the amount of donations we've received. It was enough to pay for mastering and get a small fund started for a future vinyl release. Ultimately we make music because we simply have to. It's a form of expression that both Darin and I have a life long commitment to. And Bandcamp makes it incredibly easy to release music ourselves.

Q16 – What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with the band.

Derek: When ever people buy something, a shirt, cd especially donations. It's really cool to know that someone liked our stuff enough to pay us for it. There is no down side that I can see.

Darin: It really makes me happy to know that others enjoy our music. We try not to repeat ourselves or write anything too generic, so its nice to know people appreciate our hard work.

Q17 – Do you have any future plans for the upcoming 12 months or so. Anything we should be excited about.

Derek: We're going to spend 4 days in the studio together in Feb to start the next recording which we plan to finish before the end of the year. All we know so far is that it'll will be more Celloblaster based then the last EP. Ideally, we'd like to put out one new release per year for the foreseeable future.

Q18 - Finally, Do you have anything to say your fans

Derek: Thank you for listening to our music and please check out our other bands. A lot of it can be downloaded for free:

Well thanks for talking to us guys. I really appreciate it. There you go folks. If you haven't heard how great National Sunday Law then now is your chance. Brilliant band involving two amazing musicians.

Check This Great Band Below: