Sacramento’s Not Your Style to Release Pop-Punk Debut In Season
Make no mistake about it: pop-punk as a revolutionary genre of music is quite dead. Even as a marketable way to sell skate decks, or dunks, or hair gel, it’s a goddamn apparition. But–and this is a big but–this is not to say that there aren’t times when you can relish in the finer glimmers in the flashes in the pan. Most everyone who digs pop music can appreciate the hook-y sensibility and heart-wrenching gloom of an old Saves the Day record, or a (A) New Found Glory EP. Where was I the first time I heard Blink 182’s Cheshire Cat? On Airport Road in Redding, Calif., after school on the way to Circuit City. See how that works? Those who experienced Lagwagon can’t tell fans of Panic! At the Disco about it and expect them to listen; just like those who wiggled to the spastic skate-punk of Descendents couldn’t expect Lagwagon disciples to “know” what it “really meant to rock!”
It’s for the reasons above that Not Your Style’s relatively tardy arrival to the pop-punk canon can be dismissed. Because inside all the premeditated naysaying hard-wired into critics who are interested in moving past frigid forms of expression, there lies that concession that every take is a new scene.
Not Your Style is resurrecting sunny melodies in Sacramento, and back-dropping them with crunchy riffs, four-on-the-floor rock drumming and saccharine-sweet lyrical imagery. It’s a formula that vocalist Laith Kayyali says has been honed over the last two years through heavy writing, recording and building a name for themselves. With a stated goal of becoming “the world’s greatest pop-punk band,” Kayyali and bassist Kylan Kegel laid the foundation of Not Your Style after the demise of their former alt-rock band, and a search through Craigslist to round out the crew.
“We wanted to take this more seriously and put a lot more time and effort into this band,” explains Kayyali. “We didn’t really go in with a lot of expectations. Things kind of just took off beyond anything we thought would’ve happened.”
After a couple of drumming substitutions, the band recorded their debut EP, …In the Conservatory with the Wrench, with Sacramento producer/engineer Jay Trammell after only six weeks together. The EP found its way into the hands of Mark Gilmore at 98 Rock, and around the same time, their song “Not a Star” was entered into a local contest for a set at the upcoming Rockalottapuss metal concert at Sleep Train Amphitheatre, to open for Judas Priest, Whitesnake and Saliva, among others. The band won the opening gig by popular vote.
“We were in a little over our heads, but we enjoyed every second of it,” remembers Kayyali. “Compared to the other bands, we didn’t have much business to be there. We were a brand new pop-punk band, playing with metal gods Judas Priest and Whitesnake. Obviously, that didn’t crush our spirits.”
That same resiliency led the band full-steam ahead into their second recording session with Trammell, to record the It’s Treason Then EP, with a much more refined focus on waving the pop-punk flag…unwaveringly.
“Our writing definitely matured,” says Kayyali of the second EP. “Our first session wasn’t as ‘pop-punk’ as our newest stuff. We sat down, and established we want to write fun, upbeat pop-punk songs, so our newest songs have followed that. We didn’t really put a timeline on it, but we’ve at least established what we’re trying to be.”
Kayyali reports the band is more interested in its songs translating well to the live setting. But that doesn’t mean the band’s debut full-length In Season is anything less than a sonically enjoyable listen. NYS spent all of November 2010 at Fat Cat Studios fine-tuning their sound, and grooming their new drummer–ex-Resolve to Burn skin man Ray Sisco–for what’s easily their biggest achievement yet. They’re currently gearing up for their official CD release show, set for Friday, Feb. 18, 2011 at the Boardwalk in Orangevale.
Blasting from the main speakers that night will be samples of Kayyali and Company’s affection for peppy riffs, big choruses, rapid-fire drums and lots of “whoa-oh” harmonizing. “Last Forever”–probably the most single-worthy track in this self-released collection–tunes up the schmaltzy cues of early Anberlin, replete with hook-heavy bridges and perfectly pitched vocals. “Hakuna Stigmata” clears the way for double-bass-as-brigadier metal-lite, with heaping helpings of layered choral effects and a never-ending lead guitar that showcases the fretwork of the ax men. The result of these and their companion tracks–diverse despite themselves–reinforces the band’s devotion to their goal. What was that again? Oh right: to be The World’s Greatest Pop-Punk Band.
Even the band’s name seems to suggest that they’re letting you in on a ruse–that though music listeners at large may sigh a collective “neeeeext” upon news of the pop-punkiness of the band, they’ve got a response to that covered by their very moniker. You lose. But, as Kayyali explains, that’s really not the case.
“[Not Your Style] fit our idea of what we wanted the band to be,” says Kayyali. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we know pop-punk isn’t the most widely accepted genre, especially in an area where pop-punk bands are few and far between. So it really works on all levels.”
As for the critics, the hipsters, the ever-present posh police, don’t expect NYS to bow to anything aside from the resonance of a timeless melody or a potent pop guitar progression.
“We always wanted to be known as one of the best live bands in the area,” relates Kayyali. “We feel pop-punk gives us what we need to make that happen. The genre definitely isn’t what it used to be, but we’re hoping to change that. I’d love to hear more criticism about our genre, band and what we’re trying to accomplish. Hopefully critics will watch our live show and enjoy it no matter what we’re playing. With criticism, we can only get better.”
Thursday, The Fall of Troy, The Dear Hunter
Boardwalk “¢ Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009
Words & Photos Russ Wonsley
Looking at the lineup for last Thursday night’s show at Boardwalk, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard of The Dear Hunter from close friends but had never taken the time to listen to them. With such a buzz surrounding them, I was interested to have the opportunity to see them live. When The Dear Hunter had finally finished setting up their equipment, I saw that I was in for a unique performance. Three keyboards littered the stage with dozens of effect pedals covering the floor around them. A tall, bearded man took the main microphone; and from the first note he sang, I knew that this band had a buzz for a reason. There was one point when all the members of The Dear Hunter were harmonizing with each other on stage. It was refreshing to hear vocals done without the aid of a tuning program.
Up next was The Fall of Troy, and their performance was everything I expected it to be. Thomas Erak (lead vocals, guitar) burst onstage with high energy and fast guitar riffs. He jumped up and down the stage and pulled the whole venue into the performance. It was thrilling to see a musician keep riffing while fully engulfed in a crowd of screaming fans. The set list ranged from familiar favorites to songs that had just been released on their newest album, In the Unlikely Event, on Equal Vision Records.
Then, the New Jersey post-hardcore group Thursday finished off the show with a solid performance. They started off their set with solid songs such as “Division Street” and “For the Workforce, Drowning,” and the crowd echoed Geoff Rickly’s (lead vocals) every word. It was apparent that Thursday still has a strangle hold on post-hardcore fans, even after being involved in the scene since 1997. With complimenting reviews backing up their newly released album Common Existence from Epitaph Records, it looks like we can expect Thursday to keep a strong grasp on the genre for many years to come.
Aroarah Returns from the Road with a Big Package
The party girls of Aroarah are home and back to their day jobs after a July tour, but in their minds their real jobs are on hiatus. These four ladies from Orangevale could teach a class on touring, proving they can rough it just as much as the boys—and still have room in the van for makeup.
“If we had our way, we would permanently be on tour,” lead guitarist Morgan said. Aroarah travels in “a big ol’ Chevy van,” an extended back version with a reclining bed backseat—the family vacation special, before RVs owned the road. Road habits include nights spent on campgrounds, friends’ couches and even rest stops. “There’s enough room for us to sleep in the van,” Lydia said. “If we can’t afford a hotel or no one is giving us a place to crash for the night, we’ll just crash in there and get really sweaty.” It’s a romantic lifestyle, but sometimes it yields unwanted results, like a giant moose carcass at one of the rest stops.
Bassist Chelsea compared their touring lifestyle to traveling gypsies, working the angles to live off the grid. To clean up after that night’s sweat smell out, they hit up chain mega-gym 24 Hour Fitness, the national chain they have memberships to. “We look like hobos going in there,” lead vocalist Lydia said.
After years of touring, the band has noticed significant touring differences between guys and girls—the most obvious was the lack of “smelliest balls” contests in their van. “We like to look nice and wear makeup on stage,” Morgan said. “Even though we have raccoon eyes at the end of the set.”
It might be odd to imagine, but even girl rock bands have groupies. It was the first query Morgan’s co-workers had when she returned from the tour—and of course, the follow-up question of whether she slept with them.
“It’s different,” she said. “We’re not out there partying, doing drugs and having sex with them. They usually offer us a place to stay. It’s a far cry from the clichÃƒÂ© male role.” Even the girl groupies who love Aroarah are not getting a chance backstage. “We’re not sluts, yo,” Lydia said.
The pranks that come from countless hours cooped up in a van together are manifested through getting their groupies drunk, convincing them into embarrassing antics, and inside jokes too contained to be understood outside the four-girl circle. Several times during our conversation, odd catch phrases were echoed amongst the girls, making them laugh and me feel left out.
“It helps that we were friends before we were a band,” Lydia said. “Two weeks into being a band we kicked Chelsea out, only to regret it minutes later. At this point we’ve got a deep family bond that if any of us tried to quit, the others wouldn’t let it happen.”
Drummer Mackenzie is described by her bandmates as the designated road warrior; fueled by weed and pomegranate Rockstar energy drinks. “We have to make her stop driving to eat when she gets too wound up,” Morgan said. “Someone also has to stay alert in case she crashes [from the Rockstar].”
Chelsea broke down the post-show routine. “Morgan and I are usually wasted,” she said. “Lydia has to sleep to rest her voice or she’s wasted as well. So Mackenzie and Carl, our tour manager, are driving.”
The furthest Mackenzie has driven is South Dakota, which led to a gig overshadowed by the Sturgis motorcycle rally. To boot, the bar was so small the band could not fit its equipment on stage, forcing them to use the house gear.
“I had a 15-inch bass amp, which was blown,” Chelsea said.
“Kenzie actually had a toy monkey with cymbals as her kit,” Lydia joked.
Since Sturgis stole Aroarah’s core biker crowd, the van rolled through to see what all the fuss was about, only to find American Idol‘s Chris Daughtry. Oddly enough, Daughtry haunted the girls’ tour schedule, playing the night after them each stop. “We might as well have opened for him,” Lydia said. “Sorry Chris, we were headlining this tour, maybe next time.”
Even so, the girls managed to sell a few CDs to a few Hells Angels they encountered at a rest stop outside of Sturgis, and have gotten some rave reviews from them on their MySpace page.
Aroarah seems to operate best in the seedy underbelly bars. The band played at the Hellbent Clubhouse biker bar in south Sacramento this June, winning adoration from the counterculture’s most intimidating sweethearts. Minutes before the set, Morgan got a tattoo on her wrist that reads “patience” as she frantically insisted the tattooist finish so she could plug in. “It was pretty intense,” Morgan said. “We had security, but they were all so unbelievably kind.”
“Whiskey” is all Chelsea had to say regarding their stop in Fresno last month. My first interview was a phone call after this night. “We just got out of IHOP this morning,” Lydia said, even though it was 2 p.m. The Fresno venue hooked it up with a $75 tab that, to Aroarah’s knowledge, was well surpassed. “We’ll definitely be going back,” Chelsea said. Sadly, Lydia’s vocal troubles kept her from partaking as she stuck her nose in a book and indulged in her vocal remedy of honey water and Chloraseptic strips.
States such as Utah that wield a cap of 3.2 percent alcohol by weight on beer sales get outsmarted by the raging ladies of Aroarah, who discovered an exception—Icehouse. “It’s 5.7 percent alcohol,” Morgan said. “But you have to get it from a specific liquor store at a specific time that’s run by the state”—making Icehouse not only difficult to swallow, but a chore to obtain.
The ladies of Aroarah spoke appreciatively about the promoters that gave them food, booze and sometimes a place to sleep and shower. But the band is anxious for bigger tours that come with full tour riders, and would love to stretch further east. What’s their first ridiculous rock star request? “Pink M&Ms,” Lydia joked. “I’ve decided that when we do get to have a decent tour rider, I’m requesting rainbow farts.”
Until the road calls again, Aroarah is back on its dull daily grind. In this down time, the band members are focused on recording and shopping new songs to labels in hopes of getting picked up by a major indie.
If the plan sticks, Aroarah will have another album ready by next summer, even if it’s self-released again.
This week the Boardwalk, the same venue that gave Aroarah its first gig, will commemorate nearly eight years of dedicated rocking with Aroarah’s The Big Package CD release party.
The Sweet Brag Tour w/ The Devil Wears Prada, A Day to Remember, Sky Eats Airplane, Emarosa
Club Retro, Orangevale | April 19, 2009
Words and Photos By Russsell Wonsley
Club Retro has not seen or felt such a concert for sometime. Before the show, a line of kids wrapped around the building and then continued onto the back of the church’s property. All of them to soon witness the chaos that would take place within the walls of the venue. Crammed against the newly added barriers, the kids waited for the show to begin.
There was almost a nervous chatter among the crowd of people. No one knew what to expect of such a dream team lineup the Sweet Brag Tour had to offer. Suddenly the lights dimmed, and the men of Emarosa took the stage. Leading the group with his recognizable voice, Jonny Craig started off the show with a great quality performance. Warming the crowd with songs such as “The Past Should Stay Dead” and leaving them wanting more with the song “Set It Off Like Napalm.”
Next to take the stage was the electronic-powered band Sky Eats Airplane. The band brought with them more of a hardcore sound that would continue into the rest of the night. With high stage jumps, Jerry Roush got the kids to start moving within the depths of the pit.
A Day to Remember were next to the stage for an anticipated performance.
They dropped their third album (and fourth overall) with Victory Records, Homesick, just about a month ago. It seemed as though the crowd had already caught on to the many gang vocals that the record contained. With beach balls flying into the crowd, ADTR took the stage playing the first song off the new album “The Downfall of Us All.” Jeremy McKinnon (vocalist) took control of Club Retro with his catchy lyrics and overwhelming stage presence. In addition to new material, the band pleased the crowd with classic hits such as “A Plot to Bomb the Panhandler” and “Why Walk on Water When We Have Boats.” Nearing the end of their set, Club Retro had become a sauna of sweaty teenagers.
Exhausted from what ADTR had just thrown down, the bustle of crew members preparing the stage for what everyone had gathered for beckoned the audience to reach back for more energy.
It looked as though the new label has been taking care of The Devil Wears Prada, as the stage was littered with professional lighting. The set opened with just purple ultra violent lights that casted an almost solid column of light up into the ceiling. The scene was chilling, as the battle was about to break out between good and evil.
It all began out of nowhere. The Devil Wears Prada took the stage and without wasting a second Mike Hranica pulsed the crowd with his heroic growls; he held the energy of the stage in the center. To his left fellow gutarist Jeremy DePoyster sweetened the songs with his soft harmonizing choruses. You could feel the whole band in tune with one another as they pummeled the venue with breakdowns and grueling guitar riffs. Playing every hit song from both records, the band even treated Club Retro to a new song from their upcoming album With Roots Above and Branches Below titled “Dez Moines.” Fans stretched out to the stage hoping that this would bring them closer to the madness.
Also check out our interview with The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil You Know
Two nights in New York City have taken its toll on Jeremy DePoyster. America’s largest city is a lot to take in for new visitors and longtime residents alike, but for a member of a band whose star is on the rise, New York’s hectic pace can reach exhausting levels. DePoyster, guitarist/vocalist for Dayton, Ohio’s The Devil Wears Prada, has been shuffled from meet-and-greets to photo shoots to interviews, not to mention playing two shows at The Fillmore at Irving Plaza, which he says were “probably the craziest New York shows we’ve had.” DePoyster doesn’t mind all the fuss, though.
“I’d still take this over any other job,” he says through intermittent yawns, early in the morning after the band’s second show.
The Devil Wears Prada won’t have much time to rest in the coming months. As of this writing, the band’s latest album, With Roots Above and Branches Below, is just a month away from release. Recently, the band leaked a song, “Dez Moines” onto their Myspace page. In less than a month since posting, the song has already received close to 1.8 million plays, whetting fans’ appetites for the new material. DePoyster says the song is a good bridge to The Devil Wears Prada’s new songs as it closely resembles the sound of the tracks on the band’s previous effort, Plagues.
“The further we get into the tour, it seems like the more the kids are into that song,” DePoyster says of fan response to the new track live. “I don’t know if it’s getting more popular on Myspace or something like that, but it seems like the further we get into the tour, the more positive the response is to that song.”
Though DePoyster describes some of the songs on With Roots“¦ as having a Plagues-ish feel, he also believes the album is more mature and sees the band branching out (pun intended) in new directions. For example, With Roots”¦ marks the first time the metal-core group has opted to write songs in a tuning other than drop-D, dialing their tuning as low as drop-B for some songs.
“I really felt like we’d done two CDs in the same thing, and I really didn’t want all the choruses and chord progressions to sound the same as the last two records,” he says of the decision to drop down. “I didn’t want to write the same album again I guess.”
The band will be touring the country headlining the Sweet Brag Tour with A Day to Remember, Sky Eats Airplane and Emarosa until May 1, just four days before the album hits shelves; after that, they will fly to Russia for a couple shows, before returning to the states to join this summer’s Vans Warped Tour—not bad for a band barely 4 years old. Sacramento-area fans will be able to catch the Sweet Brag Tour when it rolls through Orangevale’s Club Retro on April 19, 2009. The Devil Wears Prada will once again visit Sacramento on Aug. 21, 2009 when the Vans Warped Tour comes to town.
Submerge rustled DePoyster out of bed for the following interview.
What did tuning lower do for your songwriting?
We could still write our same style and still do our same thing, but it had a different feel to it, just because we’re not used to playing in that tuning. Playing our same style of things and our same style of writing in a different tuning, it added a different feel to even the singing parts and everything like that. It was heavier.
Do you think it opened you up creatively?
Was there a particular song that was really benefited by using the lower tones?
There were two songs, I’d say, “Assistant to the Regional Manager” and “Wapakalypse,” that would have suffered if they weren’t in that lower tuning because of the style of the riffs and stuff like that. They were definitely helped by being in that lower tuning. There was this other song that we did that had this really epic singing part at the end of it that I thought was cool just because it was in a different tuning with different chords than we would normally play. I could do some different stuff with it, and if we had done 10 or 11 more songs in drop-D, it would have just been too monotonous. It would have been just like Plagues.
I read a quote by someone in the band that said the new album is “more mechanical” than what you’ve released before. Would you agree with that?
I don’t know who said that. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s more mechanical. Maybe they meant better structured because I think we’ve become better songwriters together than our last two records. Plagues was a big step forward in our songwriting, but I think this one even more so. The songs flow better through out. Other than going into some weird tempos and things like that. We’ve done that before, and that was cool, but it’s not really what we want to do now. We want to write better songs and not just breakdowns and big metal riffs and stuff like that. I think it [With Roots”¦] is easier to listen to and it’s more catchy because they flow so well all the way through. My favorite songs on the last record were songs like “HTML”¦” and “Hey John”¦” and stuff like that, because they flowed pretty fluidly throughout the song. We tried to do that with all the songs on this record.
So it’s less about seeing how much you could cram into one song than it is making the songs cleaner?
Yeah, exactly, and I think we were a lot more apt to, like, if it didn’t make sense in the context of the song, we would just scrap it. As opposed to before, we would be like, “What should we play here, this weird little thing? Yeah, let’s do that. Why not?” This time we were stricter on what made the cut and what didn’t.
I was reading the lyrics for “Dez Moines,” and one of the lines goes, “Profit zero, achievement zero.” I know the band’s name deals with materialism, and that seems to work into that song in particular, as well as being a recurring theme within the band. Do you see materialism as one of the biggest problems this generation has to overcome?
I don’t even know if it’s necessarily this generation. It’s just one of those things where”¦well, it’s hard to say. As a Christian band, we’re working for God first. I know myself, in my own personal life, it’s easy to get wrapped up in other things, whether it’s guitars or video games. I collect DVDs and stuff like that, but none of that stuff really matters in the end of it, by any perspective. It’s not important. It’s just something that’s always been important to us, and Mike [Hranica, vocals] really dove into that again lyrically.
Given what you just said, are any of the songs on the new record inspired by the current financial situation? What’s your take on that?
Reading through the lyrics, I wouldn’t say any of the songs are inspired by the financial situation. We haven’t really talked or thought about that whole business too much. I know we have one political song, but it’s a little bit different than that. It’s obviously a scary time for everybody. Even before all this crap happened, it’s been really hard to sell records, because everyone downloads, and the labels are suffering, and the bands aren’t selling as many records. Someone’s record just came out, I don’t know, Kelly Clarkson or something, and it only sold 250,000 copies the first week, which is insane that she would only do that many, where if it was three years ago, she would have done a million or something. It hasn’t really affected us, because we still have a lot of people coming to shows. We’re really lucky in that. Obviously, it sucks. Industries are crashing—the auto industry and all that stuff—and that’s not cool.
You’re headed out on the Warped Tour, and I guess it’s a nature of the beast, but there’s a lot of marketing that goes on during the tour, in the tents between the stages, does the commercial aspect of the tour bother you at all?
Not really. We’re not a punk rock band or anything. It doesn’t really matter to me, I guess. I come from a different background. I used to go to Warped Tour when it was in the new shape of things—Fall Out Boy and all those bands—and I was really into it. I was telling someone the other day that Kevin Lyman is a genius, and he’s done a really good job of keeping the tour current. He could have kept it all old punk bands just to please people and appease people, but he hasn’t really done that. He still brings back those bands every year, but he also brings in a lot of the new things. We didn’t know what to expect going into it. We thought it was either a pop-punk tour or a punk rock tour, but we went in on the first day and had a huge crowd and that happened the entire tour—the craziest shows we ever played. He does a really good job of building a broad package that still does really well.
You already mentioned that you and the members of the band have strong Christian beliefs, but many bands in the metal genre have a decidedly anti-Christian message. Did you listen to a lot of metal growing up, and why did you choose this form of expression?
Yeah, I definitely listened to a lot of metal growing up—and even more so now. I love Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Slayer, all that good stuff. Musically, I love those bands. I don’t necessarily agree with what they say, but I can appreciate the music. I think the same thing applies to us. I mean, obviously we’re a Christian band, but we’re not preaching. We’re not shoving things down people’s throats. If they do come from a metal background, and they’re really anti-Christian or whatever, I still think they can find something in the music that they like.
Also read The Devil Wears Prada at Club Retro in Orangevale on April 19
I recently interviewed Giant Squid’s Aaron Gregory. The interview will appear in issue #26 of Submerge (our one year anniversary!), which will be out Monday. This portion of the interview didn’t make it to the print version, because we’re limited by space, and I thought it would be more prudent to leave in all the nerdy bits about metal, the sea and comic books. You know, all that important stuff. This bit didn’t really fit in with all that, but I thought it was a funny story. Here, Gregory recounts the not-s0-fun time he and Giant Squid had opening for the Melvins at The Boardwalk last summer.
Giant Squid’s new album is due out Feb. 3, and it’s really good. It’s called The Ichthyologist and will be released by the band, limited to 1,000 copies. So get on that before it’s too late. [Photo by Renaud Sakelaris, courtesy of the Giant Squid Myspace page.]
I saw Giant Squid play last summer when you opened for the Melvins and Big Business at the Boardwalk”¦
Oh, I’m sorry about that, man. That was the worst show we’ve played in our life. Absolutely, the worst show Giant Squid has played to date.
Why do you say that?
It was a fucking train wreck from the beginning. We got there, and it turns out that the Melvins and Big Business never, ever, ever have opening bands. Seems like the promoter forgot to read the contract that made that explicitly clear. The Melvins were pretty upset when we rolled in and said we were going to play. Then, of course, we were pretty upset because we came out for the gig. We were like, “Fucking A, open up for the Melvins, that sounds killer—and Big Business.” Luckily, the Melvins really manned up and let us do it. They were actually really gracious after a bit—after talking to the promoter and kind of chewing his ass out.
There was a big mix up with that, and we just didn’t feel wanted in some ways. It was a really last minute gig with our new drummer, too, so we didn’t have a lot of rehearsal, we didn’t have a lot of time to get our own fans out there. We pretty much learned about that gig until a week and a half before. On top of all that, we thought it would be a really good idea to try out all these brand new fucking songs we’d never played live, ever, that night.
[Laughs] Yeah, I guess at that point, why not?
Yeah, yeah. They basically gave us five feet of stage space to set up and play. We couldn’t move a single piece of Melvins/Big Business gear, so that was a little difficult. All those things combined, I don’t know. It was a little bit of nerves, a little bit of frustration and anger. You saw it. We played. We choked through it, but we really fucked up a lot. Luckily it was all new songs, so people probably wouldn’t be able to tell too much. But it was bad. We’ve had some bad luck with Sacramento shows. Our show with Earth was bad like that. By the time we’d gotten up there, we were too tired and drunk, and everyone was falling asleep by that point too.
From Concept to Creation
With numerous critically acclaimed albums already under their belts, Mukilteo, Wash. progressive rock trio The Fall of Troy are gearing up for their next release on Nov. 28. Phantom on the Horizon is a 37-minute-long collection of work divided into five chapters. Previously known to fans as Ghostship EP or Ghostship Demos, this album is a new take on old material.
“The songs that were on the demo are quite spruced up and the way they were supposed to be initially,” recalls lead singer and guitarist Thomas Erak. “We were a little too young to pull off some of the shit we were trying to pull off.”
This highly anticipated conceptual album will not see a traditional release, however. The band is only pressing 3,000 copies and will take them on a two-week-long West Coast tour that will bring them to the Boardwalk in Orangevale on Dec. 10. There are rumors of an East Coast record release tour to follow; but other than attending live shows, the only way to get it will be to download it.
“It was just very spur-of-the-moment,” remembers Erak of the decision to re-record and release the songs in such a manner. “We were trying to figure out a way to go on tour and have something new to play instead of just going out and playing the same songs.”
Every night the band will play Phantom on the Horizon in its entirety. Erak hopes this will help the experience feel like “more of a show than a concert.” He elaborates by saying, “You don’t stop a movie or a Broadway musical and ask them to do another one. This isn’t karaoke hour.”
Submerge recently caught up with Erak as he prepped for the tour from his home and talked about everything from the concept behind Phantom…, to message board trolls and his love for certain Sacramento bands.
How do you guys prepare yourselves for a tour like this?
Our bass player gets back in town from San Diego today and we’re going to start practicing. This tour is a lot different from the other tours we normally do, because the other tours we normally do are a mix of songs that span three or four records’ worth of material and on this one we’re going to be playing the new record front to back.
Tell me about the story behind Phantom on the Horizon.
It’s a fantasy story that has a lot of parallels; it’s very open to interpretation, though. I’ve been working on it for the last four-and-a-half years, as long as we’ve been working on the songs. It’s about a sailor that is on a ship with a crew of guys and they encounter a ship from another dimension, and he kind of gets trapped on that ship and encounters a lot of things in all these other dimensions that he passes through. I’m thinking about writing the whole short story out like maybe in a couple months and maybe try to put that out in one way or another.
How did an idea like that come about? Are you guys into comic books or sci-fi or what?
Our drummer is a sci-fi nerd, but I’m just a writer, you know? I play music and I write songs, but I used to write a lot of short stories and poetry and stuff like that. I guess it just kind of came from the love of writing and art; you know what I mean?
Yeah, it makes perfect sense for you at this point in your career to put the two together: the story and the music finally together to create a “concept record.”
Right. It’s also not your run-of-the-mill concept record, either. It’s very open to interpretation and you can kind of take whatever you want from it, and that’s kind of the way I like things. I don’t think anything with music should be too black and white; there should be some color in there. That’s what art is; it’s what it is to you. It shouldn’t be just straight up like, “This is what it is, and this is how it is!”
Are there any new tracks included that weren’t on Ghostship EP?
Well, in between every song there is a segue that we actually took from a long session of improv that we just rolled tape on. Everything totally flows together. There has never really been a good recording of “Part II” and there’s never been a recording of “Part III.” It’s just very mature, and the songs are in their entirety now as opposed to being demos of them.
I read some message boards online where kids were getting kind of pissed at you guys and saying things like, “They shouldn’t re-record those songs, they will fuck them up!” How would you respond to them?
Um, “Fuck you!” [Laughs] Quite honestly, fuck them, and they don’t know what they’re talking about because those demos were never even made to be heavily in syndication in any way, shape or form. They were demos we did when I was 19 years old that were supposed to just be for us and they got out. I mean, this record crushes those demos.
If you’re going to sit on the Internet and bash anything, go outside or go read a book or go to a concert or listen to a record. Do something other than sitting on a message board or Myspace all day.
I guess they’ll find out, won’t they? There’s always going to be haters, man. The haters are going to hate.
You’ve toured with two of Sacramento’s more notable acts, Tera Melos and Deftones, on different occasions. What’s your take on Sac? Have you spent a lot of time here?
Oh yeah! The whole Northern California area we are pretty familiar with and have a lot of friends. There is a lot of good music going on in Sacramento. You know, Hella and stuff like that; there is a ton of good shit. Yeah, I love the Deftones, and I love Tera Melos.