Saturday 25 October 2014

Interview with SUMERU

Rising Aussie Sludge/Stoner Metallers – Sumeru – have released a stunning debut album – Holy Lands – if you're a fan of NOLA based bands and Zakk Wylde, then this album will rock you the fuck out.

These guys are getting quite a reputation in their native homeland. Getting support slots with the likes of Torche for starters means these guys have some serious talent where the riffs are concerned.

I described the album as:

Sumeru style of Sludge/Stoner Metal music is reminiscent of the legendary NOLA Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. Matt's vocals have a distinct Phil Anselmo vibe while the guitars are heavily influenced by the legendary riffsters from the NOLA Swamps. Holy Lands is one hard rocking party full of great riffs and grooves to chew on.

Sumeru have delivered an excellent debut album that should find them a solid fanbase over the next few months or so.”

I decided to catch up with the guys and they kindly agreed to this interview. So lets get started with SUMERU.

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

Pretty good thanks Steve! Thanks for the kind review, glad you’re digging the riffs…

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

Sumeru came about after our old hardcore band ‘No Apologies’ disbanded in 2008. I went overseas for a while, came back, had some riffs I wanted to jam and a desire to get something new started. Me and Andres started jamming here and there, got Chris in and wrote some songs. Matt and Reg came in much later. It took a while to get off the ground but once we had a full band things just naturally moved forward. We recorded our first e.p a couple years ago and we’ve just been playing gigs since. We put together ‘Holy Lands’ earlier this year, which is a mix of some of our old and new songs.

Q3 – How would you describe you music. As I feel it's it better for that description from the band themselves.

We put a big emphasis on heavy groove and there’s also some tough as shit riffs in there. I’m always looking for a combo of those two things that’s for sure. If we can sneak in a cosmic touch I’m even happier, but I guess a lot of that comes from the lyrics.

Q4 – Where did the band name SUMERU come from.

Sumeru is a Sanskrit word. In the Hindu & Buddhist traditions Sumeru is a central world mountain, extremely large, stable, reliable (‘su’ means ‘wonderful’ or ‘excellent’, ‘meru’ meaning ‘mountain’). I like to think of it as something that represents more of who we really are, and also going beyond just this body and mind. It speaks to me of potential. I like using cosmic imagery in this way, rather than just trying to trip out and get lost in space.

Q5 – Congrats on your debut album – Holy Lands – getting some major buzz within the Sludge/Stoner Metal community. Have you been surprised with the responses so far.

Thank you! I’m really happy with how it turned out for something that we put together ourselves. We let the live show and recordings speak for themselves and you either like it or not. Fortunately for us and everyone else the people have been really into the new album, it’s received some really great reviews worldwide and heaps of people are downloading it. At first listen I was a little unsure of how certain songs would go down, but you got some great songs with guys who can really play their shit to back it up. I’m very grateful.

Q6 – Was Holy Lands an easy or hard album to write and record for.

Some of the songs I wrote like 5 years ago and a couple others only got finished a week before the recording started so the whole process was a mix of certainty and uncertainty at times. When you’re playing with really good muso’s the writing is quick, and most of songs come together over 2-3 rehearsals. Then we fine tune stuff. The riffs literally just pop out of nowhere in rehearsal when everyone is there, which feels much more natural than actively sitting down to write stuff alone. The recording went relatively smooth. As we did it ourselves we had the luxury of taking our time and going back to fix things. Drums were done in an old studio room and the rest was done at our homes.

Q7 – Are you happy with the final version that was released. Or would you like to go back and change some things.

There’s always something one could’ve done or played better, but it’s a snapshot in time of something more than just music so for what we were capable of at that moment, that’s what’s on record – fuck it!.

Q8 – Congrats on Holy Lands being released on Vinyl. Did you have much input into the design and recording of the vinyl. Or was that left upto the labels.

Yeah we had full control over everything which is the beauty of these independent labels, especially in Australia. Greg, Ben and Shaun at Arrest and Whitewinter were super laid back with everything, in the end they just wanted to see if we would actually finish the darn thing!

Q9 – How did you hook up with Arrest Records and White Winter Records to release the albums on vinyl.

I think they read an interview we did over here and I said that we were hoping to release some vinyl somehow. Both guys got in touch at around the same time expressing interest and finding out they were mates I suggested they split release the album, putting out two different colour options for the vinyl. They were keen and we made it happen. Each label is on opposite sides of the country which is cool, a nice big Sumeru cloud rug covering the whole land!

Holy Lands cover art

Q10 – Who designed the fantastic album cover for Holy Lands and how much involvement did you have with the overall design.

Chris Panatier did the artwork. He did a fantastic job. I basically just sent him some ideas and links to give him the overall feel and message I was trying to express and let him do his thing.

Q11 – Do you feel the album cover is the perfect representation for your album. What does the cover say to yourselves as a band.

It definitely works for the album I think, especially the lyrical content. On the cover you have a pyramid representing Sumeru with some Sanskrit writing on it that says ‘Acalavidyaraja’ and ‘Prajnaparamita’.

Acalavidyaraja means ‘immovable wisdom king’ and is a wrathful diety in Buddhism. It represents the quality of wrathful compassionate action. Prajna-paramita means the ‘perfection of wisdom’, and can also be personified as a goddess, like the one holding the pyramid on the cover. The four old dudes with beards are the four wisdom kings. So there’s all this ‘wisdom’ stuff going on with the cover. Don’t really want to say much more other that!.

Q12 – What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

Most of the riffs for Holy lands I wrote myself but Chris(guitar) also has quite a bit of input on some songs. I’ll also pen most of the lyrics, but Matt(vox) will arrange it to fit the music and his voice a little better. For me what inspires good songs to come forth is the guys I play with, especially Andres(drums), his groove oozes some sexy shit.

Q13 – Can you tell our readers what is your musical setup when performing live and recording new material.

Orange guitar heads, I play an old beat up esp guitar, Chris has a couple home made guitars. Andres uses a massive DW John Bonham style kit, he also uses ride or crash cymbals as hi-hats, he is filthy. Bass wise I have no idea regarding amps but its Fender p-bass all the way!

Q14 – Australia has a lot of brilliant Doom/Sludge/Space/Stoner Metal bands to call their own. What is the scene like in your own words. Do you gig much in Sydney or do you have to travel further afield.

We just finished an Aussie tour playing with so many different types of bands so we try and mix it up a little wherever we go, not limiting ourselves to one genre of bands. Doomsday fest in Melbs with Windhand/Beastwars had a really good vibe though. I like it when it’s just all about the riff and having a good time, it takes you to some really nice feel good places ya know? That’s the reason bands play and its why people follow bands they like. Anything else tends to stray from the point. Australia has world class bands all throughout the country, in particular heavy music acts, we’re very lucky.

Q15 – Though Congrats on your recent support slot with Torche. How did the gig go with Torche. Bet you guys had a blast. Awesome guys as well.

The Torche gig was lots of fun, we played well, had a good response. Lo! Also nailed it and Torche were great. Really nice dudes and a really unique sound that sounded even more unique live. Great band!

Q16 – Apart from your new album, what other plans do you have in store over the next 12 months or so.

We just started booking the tour for the ‘Holy Lands’ record which will see us touring Australia again starting next March. We really wanna get to the west coast of Oz as well as hook up some some sort of Asian tour. Europe would be a fun place to get to as well. The only thing limiting us is cash so if someone wants to bring us over there, get in touch! :-b

Q17 – Before we go, Do you have anything else to say to your fans.

Seriously thank you everyone! Worldwide, you’re all fuckin legends.

Well guys thanks for doing this interview. All the best with the album and future tours.

Words by Steve Howe

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