Sunday, 23 March 2014

Interview with Nick from BIBLICAL

I hadn't heard of today's guests so I checked the band and reviews for their album and it was generating a lot of buzz. So I kindly asked for a promo which the band arranged for me. And after one listen I was blown away by their excellent début album – Monsoon Season.

I am talking about hotly tipped Psych Rockers – BIBLICAL – who have just released their incredible début album – Monsoon Season. A intriguing mix of Blues Rock, Hard Rock, Psych Rock, Proto-Metal and Stoner Rock. A more trippier and heavier version of Queens Of The Stone Age is the best way to describe them but with bags of personality and originality to match.

I said this about the album - “the band unleashing some finely tuned riffs that will have you begging for more. This is the true picture of Biblical showing their arrival to the world of rock. This is a band who knows how to command the listener’s attention with a breathtaking tale told through the power of music. It ends the album on an epic high.

This album is already causing a storm with the Hard Rock press and it is not hard to see why. Monsoon Season is simply unmissable. An outstanding début album.”

I am happy to say that Nick Sewell (Vox/Bass) BIBLICAL has agreed to talk to us here at Sludgelord HQ.

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

Fantastic! Thanks for having us.

Q2 – Can you give our readers a brief history of how the band started and where it is today.

Biblical started as a casual, musical get together back in the fall of 2009. Andy (Scott, guitar/organ) and I had been touring extensively with Sebastien Grainger’s band The Mountains for a couple of years and we suddenly found ourselves back in Toronto. Jay (Anderson, drums) and Matt (Mclaren, lead guitar) had a practice space and they invited me down to just hang out, drink beer and mess around making a racket. Through the winter months it became more and more of a regular thing. By the early spring, we had started to bolt together ideas for songs and by May of 2010, we played our first show opening for Danko Jones. The following year, we released our 10” EP and started making little forays out west, scoring festival slots with the likes of Red Fang and The Sword and a little mini tour with Death From Above 1979. At this point, we’re a much more mature band. We’ve spent the past couple of years playing and recording and we’ve really solidified our sound.

Q3 – How would yourselves describe your sound. As you guys have had a lot of descriptions thrown your way. How would you best describe it yourselves.

Because we’re a loud guitar-based band, people like bandy around terms like doom and stoner etc. But really, we’ve never considered ourselves anything other than a rock band. Any other description seems unnecessarily limiting. We pride ourselves on mixing a lot of different flavors into our sound. We appreciate it when writers take the time to sift through all the layers, even if it means they come away without a short, snappy description. Music should be something to explore and we consciously strive to craft our material in that fashion.

Q4 – Now lets talk about your new album – Monsoon Season. Why the name Monsoon Season. Does it have a specific meaning to the band.

Funny enough, originally we were going to call the record something different. I’m not going to say what, because we think we might use it for the next one. But the origin of the title Monsoon Season was the song of the same name. Once the whole record was near completion, Monsoon Season seemed to capture the flavor of the entire record better than the original title. Lyrically, Monsoon Season represents what has been a turbulent time in my life over the past 5 years. There has been a great deal of illness in my family that has regrettably resulted in a number of deaths. So the Monsoon became a shorthand for those dark periods of life that inevitably arise. It also had a nice ‘biblical’ connotation, so it seemed like a good fit.

Q5 – Was it an easy or hard album to write and record for and are you happy with the final result.

I’d say it was a challenging record, ultimately. Coming up with the material wasn’t really a problem. But finding the right mix of songs and creating a cohesive whole took a good deal of thought. There are so many examples of records where you have some amazing songs but for whatever reason they don’t come together as a complete listen. We wanted our record to have a continuity. So even while the songs themselves take different forms, there’s a running theme unifying the work.

In terms of the result, we’re beyond happy. This is a record we made ourselves with very modest means. Large chunks of it were recorded in our bare bones practice space that resides in an unheated garage in the dead of winter. It was out of necessity, but in retrospect I think working that way lent the record an extra layer of atmosphere. Credit for the overall polish of the album goes to our good friend Matt Dematteo who mixed the record and provided general guidance on the recording process. Matt is a preternatural talent and he took the tracks we gave him and shot them into outer space. When the first mix came back, we couldn’t believe how powerful it sounded. And when we got to the mastering stage where you really sculpt the sound and remove unnecessary frequencies, we were floored by the spaciousness and detail that Matt had achieved with the tracks.

Q6 – What is your favourite track off the album and why. Mine is definitely the epic title track. Shows what your music is all about.

I’d say overall, Monsoon is probably our fave too. As you’ve noted, it really is our signature sound. When we play that song live (and we tend to go along with that number!) it’s amazing to see the crowd react to the dynamics of the song. Hitting the loud parts with the whole band freaking out and then suddenly dropping back into that hypnotic main riff never fails to get a response. But honestly, music is almost always about moments, and in that regard there a bunch on the album that make me smile.

Q7 – Now you have read my review of your new album. How would yourselves describe it.

That’s a tough question. For the sake of brevity, I’d describe it as a vibey rock record. One reviewer described it as cinematic and I’m quite fond of that description. One of the things people seem to like best about it is that you can’t quite put your finger on the sound. There are familiar qualities to it, but there’s no easy “Oh they’re this kind of band”. It always seems to take a few more sentences to accurately describe the influences at play.

Q8 – Why did you choose the name BIBLICAL for your band. Any particular reason behind this.

The main reason we chose Biblical was because it seemed to be a good fit for what we were doing sonically. We wanted a name that conjured scale. But getting down to the nuts and bolts of the name, back in early 2010 the movie Ghostbusters was playing on TV a lot. I was watching it one day and during the scene where they’re trying to convince the mayor of New York to let them fight Zuul, Bill Murray exclaims: “This city is headed for a disaster of Biblical Proportions!”
I heard that and thought Biblical Proportions would be a cool name for a heavy band. I brought the idea in to practice and Jay, in his infinite wisdom, suggested we just go with Biblical. Good call.

Q9 – I love the album cover. Who designed it and did you have much input into the overall design of it.

I work professionally as a designer, so I do all the design work for the band. I have a real soft spot for midcentury modern graphic design, so for the Monsoon cover I wanted something that referenced that style and those palettes. The hands rising up out of the water was meant to convey two tidal waves that represent Matt and Andy’s opposing walls of guitar, with the churning ocean being the rhythm section.

Q10 – Which bands and artists influenced you all as musicians.

This is a big question. The honest answer is we’re influenced a huge variety of music both directly and indirectly. There is so much fantastic music out there to draw inspiration from. We all dig heavy stuff but it’s not really what we draw upon to create our heavy stuff. I think that’s a mistake a lot of contemporary bands make. We look to other genres to give us ideas which is why you’ll find the syncopated rhythms and less travelled time signatures like 6/8 turning up in our stuff. In terms of specific artists, we each have our preferences, but we all agree on early Funkadelic, the MC5 as well as Brazilian psych samba like Os Mutantes or Marcos Valle. We’re certainly indebted to 70s guitar rock and metal but we’d probably go for Sir Lord Baltimore or T2 before Sabbath.

Q11 – What is the song writing process in the band? Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual.

There’s no set formula. For this record, I had the initial ideas for the riffs and such but they are absolutely the product of hashing stuff out collectively. Take a song like Second Sight. To me, that song hangs on Jay’s drum pattern. It’s the soul of the tune. Likewise, when we were recording the guitar parts that song, Matt just happened to pick up a slide. Guess what? We ended up rewriting a big chunk of it as a result. I think it’s important to be open to new ways of working at all times. If your process is set in stone, how are you ever going to stumble on something new?

Q12 – What is the live BIBLICAL experience like.

One of things we’re most excited about is the opportunity to play these songs for people. It’s been really fun to explore the material and open things up. I don’t want to say that we’re a jam band or anything, but we give the songs plenty of time to breathe. It’s like a jazz show: it plays out differently each time we perform. But all the heaviness, the dynamics, the spaciness—don’t worry it’s all in there.

Q13 – What are you thoughts on the crowd-funding scene where bands and artists ask fans to help fund their latest album, tour or release. Are you fans of this medium. Would yourselves ever go down this 

I’m not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, it’s an interesting idea to have fans and artists interacting directly. But I’m also in my late 30s. Every record I’ve ever made has been out of pocket and I don’t know if I’d want it any other way. I consider it a privilege to make music and I’m astounded when people come to shows or buy our stuff. The thought asking for support before hand and then having to deliver something would be a dynamic that I’m not necessarily comfortable with.

Q14 – If you could change anything about the Stoner/Doom/Hard Rock Scene What would it be and why.

The biggest thing I’d like to see is more ideas. Across heavy music in general, there’s a resistance to new ideas and new flavours. I find a lot of heavy music to be needlessly derivative. If you’re in a doom band and all you listen to is other doom bands, how are you ever going to find your own voice and cut through?

Q15 – Your album is winning a whole load of praise from just about everyone. Are you pleased with the responses so far. Did you realise you had something special on your hands before releasing the new album.

We were pretty sure we had something special, but the response has been amazing. For a weirdo rock band from Toronto, we’re simply blown away that the record has been so well received.

Q16 – How did you guys hook up with record label – New Damage Records.

New Damage began as an offshoot from a pretty well-known indie label called Dine Alone Records. Dine Alone was founded by a dude named Joel Carriere came up in the screamo scene, promoting shows and managing Alexisonfire. New Damage is Dine Alone’s imprint for heavy stuff and is run by a gentleman named Richard Fernandes. Rich had previously managed the label Distort, working with bands like the Cancer Bats and Comeback Kid. We’ve known Joel for a while and when we’d finished recording Monsoon, he thought it would be a good fit for ND and passed it over to Rich. The rest is history!

Q17 - They have did a stunning job on your Vinyl Packages. Did you have much say with the design of your Vinyl Record. Plus are you vinyl record fans yourselves.

As I mentioned, I handled all the design. Rich was cool to let me go wild. That said, I don’t think our LPs are too ostentatious! But we are indeed fans of vinyl. There’s something so pleasant about the ritual of playing a record. It’s just a really nice way to enjoy music. Not that I’m down on digital though—my phone is ever present and I love the convenience of having a massive library with me when I travel.

Q18 – If you could give any advice to people wanting to start a band what would it be.

My advice would be: open yourself to genres outside of what you’re playing. There’s tremendous pressure to conform to an easily classifiable genre or convention. There are already way too many orthodoxies in heavy music.

Q19 – Apart from the new album what else do you have in store over the next 12 months or so.

Really, we’re just trying to rustle up touring opportunities. Certainly having all the great feedback on the record is making things easier. But we’re really gunning to make it over to the UK and Europe. Touring North America is tough — its an insanely large land mass and things are really spread out.

Q20 – Well guys thanks for talking to us here at Sludgelord HQ. Do you have anything to say to your fans.

We hope to be over to see you soon! We’re dying to play these songs for everyone!

Thanks to Nick for taking the time out to talk to us at Sludgelord HQ. And to Zach Shaw over at The Syndicate PR for arranging this interview.

Monsoon Season is available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl now from New DamageRecords.

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Written by Steve Howe