Wednesday 30 October 2013

Interview with ENVOYS

Today on Sludgelord I am interviewing UK Instrumental Progressive Post-Metallers – Envoys

This awesome hard-hitting Post-Metal collective have won a great deal of praise for their amazing début album – Violescent. It's blend of Doom, Post-Rock and Post-Metal riffs is a winning formula from start to finish. And one you don't often hear from a début album.

It's different vibes gives Envoys a different take in the realm of Post-Metal. I originally described the album as:

“Violescent is an album that needs to be played on the loudest speaker system possible to get the full effect as believe me you will miss many noises and effects on your first listen. This album took me a few times to experience the full effect of it all. So don’t go expecting an easy listening. This is one of the most rewarding album experiences I have had the pleasure to listen to this year.

The album is a work of art. Just embrace this excellent album for all it’s worth. There are plenty of hard-hitting riffs to be had. This is a forward thinking album that people will still be talking about in the years to come. And I will end my review there.”

The band have kindly agreed an interview with us at Sludgelord. And it's a task I am more than happy to carry out as I am a huge fan of this great band.

Q1 – Hi guys, How are things with you today. Thanks for doing this.

Tom A: Thank you! Feeling like the weather, rain one minute and sun the next!

Q2 – For people not in the know can you give a brief history on how the band came about.

TA: I was tired of trying to get a couple of new bands off the ground and was urged by my friend to go onto Gumtree to seek new musicians to play with.. I'd thought for years that you know most of the musicians around here in Leeds who are into the same thing as you, but upon looking, the first advert I see is for heavy/doomy instrumental band needing a guitarist and bass player. So I responded to the add, got an email response from Steve (who I of course knew!) and I replied and went down to jam with him and Chris (drums) and it was also Dan, the bass players, first meeting with them too. Turns out, even if you know someone, you may not know that they're trying to get a new project together.

Steve Creek: Me and Chris have played together since we were at school. After our last band broke up, we had a few jams just the two of us and struck upon a sound we both liked, so went in search of musicians. The universe delivered Tom & Dan, which was a sweet deal.

Q3 – So you're new album – Violescent – really impressed the hell out of me earlier this year. It's won some praise within the Post-metal scene. Have you been happy with the responses so far.

TA: Cheers! We've been overwhelmed by the response actually - it seems to have really been "listened" to by quite a lot of people and they seem to get it and pick it apart which is what we'd thought may not happen. But people seem to get it and the comments we've had have been heart warming!

SC: The majority of feedback we've had has been really positive, which has been great. It's hard sometimes not to dwell on the negative comments we've had, but at the same time those drive you forward so it's all good.

Q4 – Was it an easy album to write and record for.

TA: The writing was quite organic in how lots of it came about. The recording was quite a task due to time/cash constraints. We found ourselves having to record at odd times in strange environments - it made it quite tricky it took a long time. But, for every Saturday we sat in a cold storage room re-amping guitars in the adjoining practice room, there were the days where we were recording exciting new instruments or adding layers to songs that were really tying everything together - plus the knowledge of having done it yourselves against all the odds is a good feeling.

SC: The album is pretty much the first set of songs we wrote together. We only wrote maybe two songs that didn't make it on there, so what you're hearing is pretty much the origins of the band. Starting a new thing is always challenging I suppose, but writing and playing together came pretty naturally. Tom did all the hard work in recording, so I can't speak about that!

Q5 – Is there anything you want to change about it or is it perfect the way it is.

TA: Personally I think the beauty of when something is done is it's done and there is no point lamenting over any details. I mixed it, which makes that an even harder thing to say, but I think it captures a time and place and I'm over obsessing about certain sounds/levels. The idea in my head was to make it sound like us, make it organic, capture the natural sounds and use as little processing as possible and I think that has pretty much worked. The cello we recorded in a mill and it's just the natural reverb and tonality from a couple of mics that you hear. It certainly has the warmth I think we have.

SC: I don't want to change the album. I just want to make another one! I think if you finish a piece of music and don't feel any urge to go out and better it with the next thing, there's something amiss.

Q6 – It's a very multi-layered album. You guys must of spent a lot of time discussing ideas in where to put a particular riff, sound or vibe. How did you decide on how the songs would sound the way they did. Any heated discussions of any kind.

TA: It was actually quite a peaceful writing process. The final song was one of the first that I worked on upon joining the band and that went through various changes over the year and a half before recording it, with more tweaks and changes going off, but it was quite a fun process that really wasn't too thought out, apart from maybe the weird polyrhythm bit in the middle which obviously has to be worked out. Admonition was probably the last song to be finished and seemed the most fraught to put together - but even that fell into place seamlessly once we were in the zone with it.

SC: Having two effect-laiden guitars and an effect-laiden bass occasionally led to moments where we had to step back and give each other room in the mix. But on the whole we're usually really into each other's ideas, so fights and tantrums were kept to a minimum.

Q7 – How would yourselves describe your sound as you have a lot of great sounds going on at the same time.

TA: Dynamic & textured with flourishes of vocals!

SC: Heavy noodling.

Q8 – Which bands and artists influenced you as musicians.

TA: For me it's a definite blend of 90's metal/rock that was challenging such as Tool & Soundgarden et all. But I was also majorly into the stoner/doom side along with some homegrown hardcore stuff. Mix all that up with the ethereal qualities of Sigur Ros and it's led me down some strange paths!

SC: Deftones, Pelican and Tool are big influences for me. Also less well known proponents of heavy, progressive and experimental stuff, such as Rosetta, Mare, and Kayo Dot.

Q9 – What is your fave track off the album. As I am torn between too – Bread & Bullfights and Ego is the Mankiller.

TA: Probably Ego as I really like the vibe and the way the writing came about. A very collaborative effort which had Steve bring in a not far from finished piece of music and after learning it, I came up with the ending and it just all fit. It took very little time for a song that is quite varied. Also, due to the odd conditions of the recording, a lot of the cleaner guitar sounds on the album were done in the early hours of the morning as it was the only time we could find to use the studio and not be at work, and Steve hit some great spacey tonal parts on that song at 2am in the morning whilst we were struggling to keep going. Always reminds me of that.

SC: I think Admonition is my favourite. I've got a soft spot for Miyagi too, which was one of the earlier songs we wrote.

Q10 – I am big fan of your hometown of Leeds musical scene. Got lots of great bands within the Sludge, Post-Rock and Post-Metal scene. Plus you have loads of great venues. What's your verdict on the Leeds music scene and the UK Sludge/Stoner/Doom/Post-Metal scene as it's thriving at the moment.

TA: Leeds has always been a great place for loads of styles of music, but the heavy side of it seems to be undergoing a resurgence of the last few years. There's some great people working towards putting bands on from all over - such as Stew & Kerrie @ Bad Owl Promotions and Paul Priest with 'Kin Hell Fest (amongst other things!) plus so much more. Lots of amazing local bands which we're fortunate to be able to see and play with, but also nationally, the whole scene seems to be spewing up more talent than is normally feasible at the moment. I just heard Tidings from Edinburgh for the first time last week and they were great!

SC: Loads of my favourite bands are from Leeds, which is a great thing as a musician. You can walk into your local and find yourself chatting to your favourite guitarist over a pint! Having bands like Red Stars Parade and Humanfly living on the doorstep has been a huge inspiration over the years, and the likes of Sunwolf and Himself are keeping that alive for me.

Q11 – Do you get regular gigs in your home town. Or do you have to travel further afield to perform regularly. As Instrumental Post-Metal Music can be a hard sell if your not as well known as Pelican, Russian Circles and Mono.

TA: We have played Leeds a fair few times and are "yet" to have a bad show in terms of crowd/reception. As I said, the whole scene up here is healthy and we have seemingly managed to cross a few boundaries. We've been the heaviest band on the bill and also been the virtual pop band at some gigs! But we have been over to Belgium recently which was a fantastic experience, our lovely buddies from Lost in the Riots hooked us up in London earlier this year and we are hopefully making our first trek across the border to Scotland in a couple of weeks too to play with Celestial Wolves from Belgium & Vasa - this is all happening with some awesome bands and really good promoters making the shows worthwhile.

Q12 - What are your favourite bands you are currently listening to. Any bands that myself or our readers should check out.

TA: I'm sure you already have, but Sunwolf from Leeds are dirge kings, Tidings as I mentioned I thought were great. Bands we've played with/playing with recently such as Lost in the Riots, Eye of Daw, Celestial Wolves, Alright the Captain… all making for a very exciting crop of bands out doing some cool stuff. I could highlight one accidental happening at Santiago's in Leeds.

Went to see what turned out to be an uninspiring band, only to be dragged up to the other gig room by local sound hero Eden Townsley - up there, a colossal noise was being made by Selenites - who upon talking to, we found were from France and had ended up at the venue by chance after having another gig cancelled. They were absolutely brilliant and their recorded stuff is too! Honorable mention to my buddies in Monolith Cult also, played in Khang, Threads & Silverburn with members of that band and have always had massive respect for them all, but they released an album called Run from the Light this year which blindsided me in how good it was!

SC: Sunwolf, HImself, and Palehorse.

Q13 - What are your views of bands using websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund their new album releases. Some people and bands are for it. Some are not. Would you consider doing some thing like that yourselves.

TA: I think it's down to the individual band. There is definitely going to come a point where there's too many people doing it and it becomes the norm and people don't get involved as much. We toyed with it for Violescent, but just ended up doing a pre sale to help us fund the Vinyl pressing which we did via our own page setup with PayPal. It cost us less in terms of fees, butttt... if it hadn't have worked we would've had to concede defeat and refund everyone whilst losing the PayPal fee. Luckily it was ok and it achieved what it set out to, which was a decent percentage of the Vinyl pressing funded!

Violescent cover art

Q14 – Who designed the excellent album cover. Did you have much input into the overall design.

TA: My ex-girlfriend is a photographer/artist called Ruth Stanley who created the images. Steve actually saw it on her Instagram and put it forward for the artwork. It's a couple of dead Bee's that have been enlarged onto film, not as simple as that but without giving too much away. Apart from a filter, the images are the original film developed images - we put it together onto the artwork templates with Chris from the band using his skills there. Again, we worked with each other doing it and managed to get it all done ourselves and it has the same natural feel we were going for with the album.

Q15 – In 5 words or less describe the Envoys live experience.

TA: Tall, hairy, ginger, brown and noisy.

SC: These guitars are really loud.

Q16 – What is the songwriting process in the band? Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual

TA: Generally, Steve starts with all the ideas, riffs, song structures, feels etc. Then he puts them together with Chris on the drums or with me in my attic, where I write my parts over the top or maybe some additional stuff. Then we start to hone/change stuff if it's needed, adding, subtracting, envoysying it - vocal ideas tend to dive out at me personally either at the rehearsal space or whilst listening to a rehearsal recording. I make sure I'm not really listening to what Steve is (and therefore be influencing him somewhat) so that when I add guitar parts they're cut from a different cloth to hopefully keep things unique. Bread & Bullfights was slightly different as I blasted out those riffs to complement the intro which I'd had sitting around since I first started using our tuning, took it to the room and we put that together very quickly.

SC: I write the songs and then the other guys make them worse. It's a case of damage limitation.

Q17 - Has BandCamp been a big help in getting your music across.

TA: I think BandCamp is excellent actually after initially being a bit frosty to it. People are into going and listening on there but also have the ability to download or buy the physical copies. We've even had people overpay, bless em! All that stuff has helped us do things like get our new T-Shirts made, which we can then put on Bandcamp, which helped fund us go to Europe etc.

Q18 - What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with the band? Obviously, the reality of how expensive it is being in a band could be considered as a negative aspect

TA: The most rewarding aspect is probably feeling part of something - we're all pretty different but all feel quite close and tied together by doing this. That's my opinion and the others may say different! The least rewarding aspect was probably part way through the recording where I personally was tiring of it due to the process and my personal situations. The day we recorded the big drum intro to Bread & Bullfights and all the Cello parts changed that though as it was very inspiring!

SC: Writing new music is always the most rewarding thing. The least rewarding aspects relate to claustrophobia of our underground bunker practice room and some of the wind emissions that occur therein.

Q19 - If you could provide words to wisdom for people wanting to start a band – What would they be.

TA: Make sure you enjoy it and push to do something extraordinary. You may not get another chance!

SC: Don't fall into the trap of thinking something is good just because you made it. Step back from what you're doing frequently and challenge yourself to be better. Something I'm still learning!

Q20 - What pisses you off most in music. Or do you not let the bad things in music stop you from performing and writing songs.

TA: People trying to capitalise on it who have no right to. We're really lucky, but I have been at the hands of some unscrupulous types in the past - I still see it now with maybe the odd promoter/venue, but it's just time to avoid them. Luckily, every band/promoter we've been involved with have been amazing - we hope to keep it that way!

SC: Bands that I love continuing to make music long after they stopped being good.

Q21 - Finally do you have anything to say to your fans.

SC: I love you, Mum.

Well guys thanks for your time. I hope you continue to release great music and I hope to hear a lot more from you guys in the years to come. If you want to see these guys on tour then check the Tour Poster below.

Check this excellent band from the links below.