16. 11. 2014SUBROSA – I want SubRosa to be a soundtrack to heartbreak and grinding pain.
I want SubRosa to be a soundtrack to heartbreak and grinding pain.
Hi Rebecca, I´m really delighted that you´ve got some time for my questions. How are you and SubRosa doing this time?
Hi Petr, thanks for taking the time to interview us, we’re doing rather well. :-)
Early this year Christian left, and this wasn´t the first personal change in your band. Is SubRosa stabilized now, and is that new bass guitarist Levi the“ real deal“?
As much as I’d like this lineup to be dipped in silver and permanently fixed in place forever (just like I have with most of the other lineups we’ve had), people have lives and people’s paths change. However, I can say that everyone in the band right now is committed to SubRosa and very passionate, and every member has worked hard and made lots of sacrifices to make SubRosa happen, and I have no doubt they’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Is it hard for you to change and finding new band members that are tuned right? Is it exhausting for you or you always feel it like begining of the new era?
I never like it when band members leave – it’s always an adjustment and training new people can take time, and of course, band members in SubRosa are friends and almost always like a family. At the same time, almost every time someone has to leave, when a person comes along to fill the missing slot, it often feels like they were “sent” to us. A couple times in particular have been almost ludicrous in how strange and coincidental the circumstances were.
The main reason I decided to contact you is your last album„More Constant Than The Gods“, whichI consider to be simply perfect. It gave me really deep emotion feelings that I didn´t fell for a long time before. I felt the strong mix of euphoria and sadness. Album is full of hit moments, but also those that you need to listen more carefully and let the music to impress for a longer time. How would you like your music to be felt, like the author?
I think you have described exactly how I’d like people to experience the music of SubRosa. I see the music as being full of dark and light, “euphoria” and “sadness,” as you say. I especially want the music to drip down into people’s souls who are going through very hard times. People sometimes tell me this album and the one before helped them through some difficulty or other. That means a lot to me. Some music is meant to amplify our emotions when we’re happy, but I’m not interested in that for SubRosa. I want SubRosa to be a soundtrack to heartbreak and grinding pain.
Your „More Constant Than The Gods“ impressed me by every aspect. I was surprised by the track times. Except „Cosey Mo“ those are really long tracks, but they hasn´t some weak periods, and you don´t feel some kind of boredom, there is always something to happen. The prime example is my most favorit „The Usher“,, with it´s 14 min., whey I listen I wish it never ended. Do you think over the track duration when you compose or you don´t care? When I take a look back in time and compare playing times, I see your songs are getting longer and longer. Why do you think it´s like that?
My favorite track off No Help for the Mighty Ones is “Stonecarver.” After No Help came out, I decided that was the blueprint of the direction I wanted to take all the songwriting on the next album. I wanted to focus on the suite-like nature of that song, with different movements that flow into each other, and with themes that you might only hit upon once in a song and not return to. Naturally, because of that approach, the songs became longer on the next album.
I’m glad you didn’t become bored by the songs despite their length. :-) We worked hard on editing with this album, going over and over the songs with a scalpel, taking out extra parts that repeated too much, and really not firming up our live rendition of these songs until after the songs were recorded.
I ´ve mentioned in review, your songs are so strong that should be played even without violin, but with it it´s getting the new dimenssion that elevates it even higher. How did you get that idea to establish band with that strong role of violin?
The violins were a complete accident, actually. I started the band in 2005 with the vision of creating a very heavy, sludgy band with confrontational punk vocals. Sarah was learning violin at the time and wanted to join. I had serious reservations because I thought the violins would “de-brutalize” the vision, haha. It turns out the violins have not detracted from the brutality of the band, but have instead added layers of rich emotion to the music, which I humbly acknowledge would not be there otherwise.
At the end of the last year you atacked a lot of charts with your „More Constant Than The Gods“. It´s more than sure that your album really scored, i understand it, and for me personally it was the best I´ve heard last year. How does it feel to get positive feedbacks from all the world. Are you happy for that fact that people understand your music?
With More Constant than the Gods, I wanted to create a powerful piece of music that would stab people to the heart and disturb or stir people’s emotions against a modern cultural landscape as bleak, empty and bereft as the desert that lies just outside Salt Lake City. I’m not sure how, but I believe music carries the energy of the intention you put into it, and I think the acclaim the album got is perhaps simply people picking up on our sincerity. There are better bands than us, better songwriters, better guitar-players, better singers. But we were very sincere about the making of this album. We put every bit of ourselves into it, and we were very drained after making it. It’s only now, two years later, that I even feel like starting to write again.
I´m really enjoying your vocal and Kims and Sarahs„accompaniment“. It´s nice to listen. Your vocal is just that kind I really like. Nice clear voice colour, no artificial ballast. Did you study how to use your voice, do you work on it or you feel it just like a god gift?
It’s funny you should say this, because a lot of people hate my vocals. :-) I can’t even say I love them much, either, but they are what I have to work with, so I guess we’ll all have to live with it! But you’re right, I do try to avoid artificiality when I sing. I strip extra flourishes, affected intonation, and things like that from my vocals deliberately.
I have taken maybe two voice lessons in my life, back when SubRosa was beginning. I want to take some more over the next few months. I’m not too proud to admit I have room to improve.
Did you study music? I guess that Kim and Sarah have some „school singing backgroung“. And what about your giutar playing, are you self-taught or you had some school background too?
I have studied music. I took a few years of violin lessons starting at age 9 or so and was in school orchestra. I started piano lessons at age 12 and a year of snare drum lessons around the same time (for marching band). Then full drumset lessons at age 19. I took a few guitar lessons in 2005 when SubRosa started, from Dave Payne and Eli Morrisson, both very good Salt Lake musicians. I took another year of guitar lessons from a formal teacher a few years ago, but don’t think I got much better. I basically have developed my own style of guitar playing. To this day, I can’t play anyone else’s songs on guitar, only SubRosa songs.
Kim is a classically trained violinist and has taken years of lessons. Sarah took a few violin lessons when SubRosa was starting, but her teacher basically told her that the things she wanted to do with her electric violin, were taking her in a direction she couldn’t help with. Sarah wanted to get crazy experimenting right away. :-)
If we talked about your vocal, what do you think about the bands that are „swinging on the retro wave“ with charismatic female singers (JEX THOTH, BLOOD CEREMONY, JESS AND THE ANCIENTS ONES)? And what female singer is your „cup of tea“?
Probably my favorite female singer of all time is PJ Harvey. In pure innovation, artistry, personal style and boldness, she’s unsurpassed. Sarah is also a huge PJ Harvey fan.
As far as the retro doom wave with female vocals that’s happening currently, the ones you mentioned are high on my list. I also just discovered the lead female vocalists of Ruby the Hatchet, Electric Citizen and Mount Salem at Uninvited Fest in Brooklyn last month. Uta
Plotkin from Witch Mountain is a favorite of all of ours. I love the female vocalists for Ides of Gemini (Sera Timms and Kelly Johnston) and Worm Ouroboros (Jessica Way and Lorraine Rath). There are just too many to name, really.
I often meet some artists which don´t listen to that type of music they play. What about you, do you listen sludge/doom bands at home? If yes, what band on contemporary scene engaged you?
Yes! Sludge, stoner and Southern rock music has been my favorite genre of music since at least 2000 or so, when I became aware that there was an entire scene dedicated to it. This gradually morphed into a love for doom, ambient black metal, blackened doom, death metal, underground metal, goth, neo-folk and dark music of all shapes, colors and sizes, basically. However, my favorite genre right now is what I like to call the “Wolvserpent” genre – an emotional atmospheric black metal genre my friend from India asserts very few bands can pull off, and I agree – Samothrace and Corrupted, Alda, Falls of Rauros and a few other bands like that are really destroying my world.
I know you are from Salt Lake City. How it looks like with culture life in general there? Is there enough music clubs, galeries, theathers? Is there something like „music scene“? Would you recommend me some local band that should interest me?
We have an incredible music and art scene here in Salt Lake City. There are theaters, galleries, amazing restaurants, clubs, bars and venues. There is a lot of diversity here, and a huge counterculture. I estimate that there are several hundred bands in the area, and a core of about 30-40 that really constitute the “heavy music scene.” Some that I’d recommend are: Dwellers (on Small Stone Records), INVDRS (Corruption Recordings), Cult Leader (Deathwish), Eagle Twin (Southern Lord), Visigoth (Metal Blade), Moon of Delirium, Huldra, Cicadas, Making Fuck, Die Off, Settle Down, Worst Friends, Gravecode Nebula, Oxcross, Light/Black, Obliterate Plague, Stargrazer, The Ditch and the Delta, Jetty, and the list goes on and on.
If I hear SLC, I automatically get some memories on Winter Olympics that took place there back in 2002. The City become world famous and even Czechs got 3 medals out there :-). Did that monster sport performance influence you somehow? Do you remember what you had been doing? What do you think Olympics gave and took to and from SLC?
Very nice, what were the two Czech medals in? (Aleš Valenta 1x, Kateřina Neumannová 2x) I wasn’t extremely involved in the Winter Olympics, but the part I remember most about it is that a member of my family came out to volunteer for the Olympics and was staying with me. She had some very difficult problems with her health while she was here and because I was so busy, I didn’t really notice until it had gotten very bad and she had to fly home and go to the hospital. So I always have a sense of guilt associated with my thoughts of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, sadly enough.
Altought I don´t feel it like that, sometimes you must be percieved like exotic band from time to time. Anyway, three beutifull girls in band and they play the main roles. I don´t believe You didn´t heard some sexual harassment notices from tose 100 % machos that visited you concert with some little help of alcohol. And they are amused more by what they see and don´t care much about what they hear :-) Don ´t you feel sometimes an audience attitude like: the band full of nice girls and that music is a „side issue“?
The truth is, no, not in the underground metal scene. I feel like people sense we take the music very seriously, and I’ve never been heckled or anything like that. However, I have been in other bands in other genres, where that did happen. I was in a female punk band called Stiletto and we were heckled a few times onstage. I’m not going to be mad at a guy for appreciating the female gender, but saying “Take off your shirt” and “Chicks rock” just feels… dumb.
How often do you perform and what does it mean for you? Do you work on some image or style or you perform like civil persons? I mentioned that some costumes on you pics from US concerts were visible.
Sometimes we dress up and wear veils and long black dresses and mesh collars and sometimes we just wear band T-shirts and pants. It just depends on our mood. It seems the bigger the festival, the more casual I want to be, I’m not sure why. :-)
We perform about every other month in Salt Lake City on average and so far have done maybe six weeks of touring this year in Europe and the US, and a few one-off festivals.
Is it hard to arrange Euro tour for band like you? I mean that it´s not easy even in USA. And what about the relationship between tour activitties,personal and professional lifes. I suppose that music is not your only job, althought I wish i was wrong.
Four of five of us in the band have other jobs. We are all trying to find a way to tour as much as possible while still having some semblance of an income. We luckily have great booking agents in the US (June and Nate of Nanotear) and Europe (Nanouk of Avodado) who ease our burden of tour-booking using their wit, experience and connections. I hugely appreciate them because we have booked our own tours and nothing has the power to crush my soul with black despair more because it is sooooooo hard. Haha.
You´ve visited Europe for a second time in your history. Your this years tour was quite short. The most important thing was your invitation on Hellfest in France, isn´t it? Aren´t you regretful about the fact you didn´t stay in Europe for a longer time with more countries to play in?
Yes, we wanted to play a longer tour in Europe, but we faced some delays and had to scramble a bit to pull it together, with only about six weeks’ notice. Nanouk did an exceptional job booking our tour in that timeframe, but we had to cut it short. We are planning to come back next March/April and do a three-week tour around Roadburn. So we will definitely be able to hit more countries and spend more time there.
This year it was the first time you´ve visited Czech republic, where your performance was kind of „secret action“ and lot of people were sad that they missed your performance. How do you judge that concert in squat. There shouldn´t be bigger contrast between the giant stage on Hellfest and the plain cement floor in squat. It was something new for me too, first time in squat ever… What is more comfortable for you, to play in classic small clubs or on the giant stages?
We like playing both, honestly. We’re as comfortable playing in a squat or dive bar as on a giant stage. For us, what makes a show special is the connection we feel with the audience when we play. Some nights, that connection is stronger than others, but it doesn’t have to do with the size of the venue or the amount of people there. Hellfest actually felt more intimate than I thought it would. I just looked at individual faces in the crowd and pretended I was singing to those people, and it helped me to stay focused and not overwhelmed by the size of the crowd.
We had a great time playing at the fest in the squat in the Czech Republic and can’t wait to come back. I’m not sure where we’ll play, but hopefully those who missed us last time and who wanted to see us, will be able to come next time.
It´s about one year the album has been published, lot of performances away. What are your future visions? What can we expect from SubRosa?
Besides playing Roadburn next April and the European tour around that, we are also taking a big break from playing shows for the next few months (starting in November). During that time, we’re going to start writing the next album. We wrote the last album in a big burst, and I think that’s going to happen again with this one. It seems like forever since More Constant came out, even though, you’re right, it was only about one year ago. I don’t know what the next album will be like. I look forward to finding out what it will sound like.
Thank you for your time and your answers. Hope to see you in Czech republic again.
We look forward to coming back … hopefully next spring!