Samothrace Interview is up 12/11/2008
1. Samothrace is brand new to my ears give us a brief rundown of the project.
Dylan: In late 2005, Spinks and I started discussing the idea of our former guitarist Renata and himself moving to Lawrence KS from New Mexico where they were living. He and I had been entertaining the idea of jamming together since two old bands of ours played together in Oklahoma City sometime in 2002. So, when they moved to Lawrence in April of 2006, we immediately started trying drummers. By May of 2007, we were on the road with a demo CD. That same month we discussed collaborating with 20 Buck Spin while at Emissions from the Monolith Festival in Austin, Texas. In April of this year (2008) we recorded our full length album Life's Trade at Semaphore studios in Chicago with our good friend Sanford Parker. Currently, we're finishing up a 70 day full US tour for that album. Right now, we all need a shower and change of socks.
Spinks: Dylan’s summed it all up. We are very much still a fledgling band. We are new to a lot of folks ears.
2. Is Life's Trade your 1st release or was there material before this?
Dylan: We recorded a three song demo with our good friend Chris Hess in early 2007. We completed four tours with it over the course of a year before we recorded Life's Trade. The albums do share two songs and the demo has a really good track titled "When We Emerged" that we decided to leave alone when in the studio recording Life's Trade. We might try redoing that song one of these days, who knows? A major difference in the versions of "La Llorona" and "Cacophony," which appear on both the demo and Life's Trade is the tempo. We slowed it down on both songs when we recorded Life’s Trade. It opened them up a whole lot and elaborated the message.
Spinks: The 2007 demo was great, but we had always felt it a bit rushed. For “Life’s Trade” we were able to relax a bit and record the songs at the tempo, or close there to, we play live. This is our first official release and we are stoked folks are getting into the material. There has been a lot of positive feedback.
3. How did you come to sign with 20 Buck Spin, a newer label to the scene?
Dylan: Dave, who runs 20 Buck Spin, wrote us an email in early 2007. Apparently, he was at a house party in Austin, Texas where our good friend Theron from "The Roller" was playing the demo CD. He dug it! We met him a few months later at the Emissions From the Monolith festival and set the deal in stone. Since then, we've had nothing but a great experience with him! We aren't the only one's, either. It's not uncommon that some one will come up to me at the merch table and ask how we're liking 20 Buck Spin and Dave. They always share my high opinion and have plenty of good experiences as well.
Spinks: We couldn’t be happier with our experience with 20 Buck Spin. Dave put in a lot of work to ensure a solid debut. I gotta admit, we were all a bit apprehensive about a double LP release for the first album, but this was the only way to ensure a high sound quality on the LP version. Dave’s commitment to the underground and DIY metal community is very apparent to us. He definitely took a chance on “Life’s Trade” and all parties involved are certainly impressed with the outcome thus far.
4. To my ears Samothrace is a mix of Doom, Sludge and Post-rock elements. How did this sound come to be?
Spinks: It must come out of our proposal to play heavy music in a comfortably different way than we had before. I don’t think we can stress this enough. We obviously have some nods thrown in to the traditionalists but we definitely try to put our spin on it. Not necessarily on a conscious level, either. This is the music that comes forth when we play together.
Dylan: We all listened to a lot of sludge and doom over the years, so their influence was immanent. The Post-rock feel, which I haven't yet heard mention of but definitely agree, might have happened in a sort of natural progression. I think a lot of that comes from experimenting with effects and sound textures. For example, the older Samothrace gets the bigger our pedal boards have gotten. You might say we've grown into them. I had a period where I was experimenting with any effect I could get my hands on. This led to some terrible ideas, I should say. But, it has also led to some great ideas that I think are crucial to Samothrace's sound. I think a lot of the Post Rock "sound" relies on overdrive, reverb and delays. We incorporate a lot of these into our songs as well, which gives a Post-rock feel.
5. I don't much doom that comes from Kansas. Was it hard starting out there?
Dylan: If you spent enough time in Kansas, you'd understand the true meaning of doom. Some things seem to work backwards there, making life seem bleak at times. Remember the evolution getting banned from public schools thing? That was Kansas. And they’d go waaay further if they could. But on a music note, Lawrence Kansas, which is different from the rest, has a really good underground music scene. I don’t know why doom metal hasn't been more prominent. There's been a handful of metal, sludge, crust and experimental bands over the years such as Wormwood, Oroku, The Esoteric, Jumbo's Killcrane, Derailer, This Building is Cursed etc. Also, I-70 and I-35 intersecting between Kansas City and Lawrence helps. Having a good music scene along the beaten path of touring bands in a somewhat sparse Midwest is awesome. It's been a huge aid in Samothrace getting onto it's feet and touring.
Spinks: Starting out, nah. Getting folks involved, yes. There is a fledgling community in Kansas for the doom and stoner movements/communities, as I like to call them. If we have had any part of that community growing then we are honored. Folks in Kansas have been very supportive of us and our music. I come from Oklahoma City originally, so it has been interesting to observe the community in Lawrence not only from a fan standpoint, but an active musician as well. Lawrence, KS is a great spot for music of every type. We happen to prefer it loud and heavy.
6. You seem to have some things in common sound wise with bands like Deadbird, Kylesa and SALOME. Is there a new wave of Sludge Doom coming out of the US again?
Dylan: That’s tough to say. I'd say it's never left in some cities. In others, sludge/doom might be having its first exposure. As far as the greater US, I've heard people describe a lot of the influx of sludge/doom bands playing in the underground now as "third wave." I personally try to stay away from labels like that, but maybe they're inevitable? I do see a growing number of sludgy bands playing over the past few years. Even between previous tours and the current one we're on now, there seems to be a growing number of doom, sludge and heavy psychedelic/stoner type bands around the US. I've heard people complain with the attitude that this "trend" is diluting the scene. But people should always be playing good music, so fuck yeah! More sludge/doom bands are quite alright by me. I look forward to seeing them.
Spinks: Definitely tough to say. I feel like a good handful of the old crust and hardcore punks have truly embraced the heavy side of things. I remember seeing pre-Deadbird and Kylesa bands BG and Damad, respectively, years ago. It is awesome to see where these friends have gone. Likewise, there is a large influx of fans and bands in the stoner and doom movements. Right on, but we gotta be careful it doesn’t get too stagnant. I’m not sure if it’s a wave of new bands as much as a wave of new ideas. There are many great bands out there pushing the boundaries of doom and stoner metal. This I definitely support.
7. You seem to have some members on the CD that are no longer in the project - what happened?
Dylan: After we recorded Life's Trade, Renata moved to Philadelphia. She had been contemplating the idea for a while and finally felt like it was the right moment in her life to do so. We were bummed! But what could we do but respect her choice? It was awesome to see her earlier this fall when we played in Philly! Our good buddy Daniel Nokes took her spot and has done great.
Spinks: It was sad to see her go. She is a great friend of ours and an integral part of Samothrace coming together and beginning to come into its own. Again, we had no choice but to respect her wishes and support her decision. She is an amazing guitarist/riff master. We wish her the absolute best. As for the replacement, we brought on our good friend Daniel Nokes, a.k.a. Roach. He and I have been great friends for years thru our involvement in the Oklahoma City underground/DIY punk and metal community. We played together in the band Oroku for some time so we were already comfortable with each others playing styles. It’ll be interesting to delve into the writing process with him and see what comes into being.
8. Do you prefer to record or to tour? is there one that you enjoy more or is it a mix of both?
Spinks: Recording is such an amazing process to undergo, but it is serious work. Not that touring isn’t, but I’ll take the road over the studio any day. If recording is the labor then touring are the fruits of that labor. I will say, we hit the road early on in our inception and have all toured with previous projects, but having just completed a 9 week Samothrace tour with an official release I realize the balance between the two is fairly equal. Tour is fun but it takes some hard work and some serious gusto. Especially in these times. We are very much more organized and watchful over tour expenses these days. We have to be.
Dylan: If I can forever teeter between one or the other, please show me where to sign up. Touring is great. Recording is great. In a perfect world, I would prefer to tour extensively a specific set then record it before writing another. Wash, rinse, repeat.
9. Were did the unusual name of Samothrace come from?
Dylan: "The Winged Victory of Samothrace" is a statue found on said island depicting the goddess Nike, or victory. What we found very alluring about the statue, is that her head and arms have been removed by either age or force. Who knows? We thought this gave the personification of victory an eerie twist. I find it intriguing that something could have such a definitive meaning at one point in time only to represent the exact opposite later. Along with this, we all preferred the name "Samothrace" over "The Winged Victory of Samothrace." I'm really glad we didn't pick that.
10. Is Samothrace embracing the digital age? Do you feel it helps or hurts a band more things like myspace, mp3s and internet radio, press etc?
Dylan: I've talked to several people at shows that say they found Life's Trade online for some sort of unregulated download. They're always either holding the album in their hand, or buying it at the table when telling me. Now, I dont know how many people dont tell me they downloaded it for free, but it's selling well regardless. If anything, I think the internet has really helped a lot of bands out. Spinks books our tours almost exclusively on myspace and emails. I think there are thousands of other bands doing the same thing.
Joe: Press, no matter good or bad, is going to benefit your band, that is just how it goes. I personally believe sites like myspace, purevolume, and hxcmp3. com have had an immeasureable effect on underground music. Any band you want to listen to at any time, it is all a few clicks away. There is still the whole issue of file sharing programs too. As far as I am concerned, if you hear a new band you like because you download their stuff and you pay to get into their show and buy a shirt 6 months later, file sharing is nothing you can complain about. There is no way to control it so if you want to compain about it my response is, "waaaa."
Spinks: Man, I remember booking tours thru snail mail and phone calls (pre-cell phones that is). It is much easier to either keep in touch with contacts or find new contacts in the “digital age.” Much faster results. That being said, I’m not sure how I feel about file sharing, etc… I would never deny someone that right, but I suppose I find it a bit frustrating. I personally do not download music from the internet but I have certainly listened to and enjoyed plenty of bands from folks that do. That’s all I wanna say about that.
11. I there a theme or story behind Life’s Trade CD?
Spinks: Not lyrically, but definitely musically. We wanted the album to flow along as a whole. The lyrics are all interconnected in that they are all socially aware and deal with abstract ideas of change and perseverance, so to speak, but this is just the way it is. Again, not a conscious happening. The music seems to portray a continuous theme to me more so than the lyrical content. So, while the album does flow it is not consciously themed or in any way trying to tell a story.
12. With who and when will Samothrace be touring the US?
Dylan: We're finishing up a full, 70 date US tour right now! After this, we're gonna do a few dates in December surrounding a doom fest at Kuma's. We're planning another big tour in the spring/summer, and entertaining the idea of going over the pond to Europe sometime before 2010.
Joe: We have had some very preliminary talks about doing some dates with Nachtmystium in the spring but anything can happen. We really like those guys and hope we can work that out. Regardless, we will be on the road quite a bit next year and a trip to Europe, as Dylan mentioned, is being eyed for summer/fall '09.
Spinks: We definitely have plans to tour the U.S. again in spring/summer 2009. We’d really like to go to Europe, but want to make sure the time is right.
13. Are the members of Samothrace working in other projects? If so talk about them a bit if you will.
Dylan: I'm in an instrumental stoner rock band called "Lethe." We have a full length album coming out on Reptile Records sometime before the end of 2008. It’s sort of like a proggy post-rockish take on The Melvins, Kyuss and Mastodon. Check it out at www. myspace. com/lethecult
Joe: I play guitar in a band from Lawrence, KS called "Sentient." We have just finished a full length that will be released soon via Sun Sea Sky records. It is space/doom/shoe-gaze. Think Jesu meets the Deftones. Unfortunately, these days I can't spend as much time doing that as I would like but I intend to focus on that again once I get home.
14. Do you feel the Doom metal sound and style will ever have the push or respect that Death and Black metal have gotten?
Dylan: I certainly hope so. For one, I think some of the initial "metal" bands were playing music that is more similar to doom than it is to death or black metal. Take Black Sabbath for example. The bluesy riffs and slower tempos are things not so common among death and black metal bands. Yet, these genres do seem to have acquired more respect than doom. I think this is due to the nature of art in that it is constantly changing. Everyone loves Sabbath of course, but everyone also wants to hear something new. But to be completely honest, at the end of the day, it’s not about the push or respect from the metal masses. It’s about playing what feels right at the right time. Of course, everyone wants to be respected, but that needs to come from within the individual before it can be properly taken in from another. I say the same applies to metal genres. So whatever that means about doom, so be it. Seems to be doing pretty good for itself these days as far as I can see.
Spinks: Damn. Dylan nailed it.
15. thank you for the interview any closing thoughts here.
Dylan: That last question was a ballbuster! Thanks for the interview!
Spinks: Thanks for the continued support!