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Interview

Nashville-Based Invicta Debuts New Video Now, New Album In 2013, Described By Vocalist Mike Schii

The Nashville-based progressive metal band “Invicta” (featured in an edition of Unearthing The Metal Underground) has announced the debut of a new music video (see below) for the first single from a new album, due out in January of 2013. Along with the music video for “The Peripheral Sound,” the band also announced the addition of two new instrumentalists to the band in an exclusive interview with MetalUnderground.com’s Frank Serafine.

The band’s first album, “Split by the Sun,” was recorded in Cleveland by acclaimed producer Tony Gammalo (Chimaira, Drowning Pool, Misery Signals) and the band has since undergone several lineup changes with regards to their drummers, bassists, and second guitarists. Now solidified, the band looks to break through to a larger audience with an even more progressive sophomore release, detailed by vocalist and co-writer Mike Schii.

Frank Serafine (Progressivity_In_All): Who doesn’t know you yet?

Mike Schii: Everybody.

Frank: Who needs to know you?

Mike: Everybody.

Frank: What’s your background story, without any gruesome personal details of any weird kick-outs, and who are the original bandmates?

Mike: There are a couple of original days. We’ve been through a lot of transitions. The original one is DJ. When I joined, I was just supposed to do some screams for them. They had another singer. They had a bassist and a drummer. The other singer was also playing guitar. I was just kind of poking around, just being like “Well, I’m sure God put me here for a reason.”

It turned out that DJ got so fed up with the other guys’ lack of…

Frank: Motivation?

Mike: Not motivation. They just weren’t ever practicing or going to things…

Frank: Dedication?

Mike: Yeah. No dedication at all. He kicked everybody out except me and him. We spent the next bunch of months writing stuff. That was then. Since then, pretty much, it’s still just me and DJ. The other people that were brought in afterwards ended up leaving. One got married, one guy went to go pursue other musical things. We did just bring on a new drummer, Ian Nagy from Murfreesboro, TN. He’s phenomenal. We have a new bassist, as well.

Frank: What are some of your main influences as a band?

Mike: We’ve got a bunch of them because our music is so eclectic and diverse. We’ve got a lot of jazz influences like Chick Corea – kind of progressive funk/fusion kind of stuff – and Pat Metheny, George Benson, Miles Davis, and those guys. Also, a lot of melodic influences from bands like Alice In Chains that have really progressive harmonies and melodies. On the metal side, a lot of Between the Buried and me kind of guitar riffs and August Burns Red kind of breakdowns.

It’s a grab bag of all these things that we stuck together. If I had to pick three, I’d say August Burns Red, Between the Buried and Me, and Alice In Chains.

Frank: Do you focus first on the riff or is it coming from the standpoint of “I want to convey THIS idea – how’s it going to sound?” applied to the instrument?

Mike: The way the writing usually goes is… DJ is a ridiculous songwriter. DJ’s our primary lead guitarist who also does background vocals, screams, also played all the piano on our albums, and actually recorded a lot of the bass on the albums, which we then have other people play live. He’s written about 170 songs.

When we’re writing new stuff, for almost all of them, he’s got a full layout already, including riffs and everything. Usually, he’s got rough lyrics for the ideas he wants to convey. He’ll present that to me, and then I’ll rewrite the lyrics, sometimes really extensively, sometimes not at all, and then we’ll work on harmonies and melodies together. That’s usually how the ideas come about.

For our video, those kinds of ideas are like, “We have these really abstract lyrics. What are we going to put there? What fits?” We’ll determine the meaning for that later.

Frank: Now, the video just came out.

Mike: That’s correct.

Frank: Can you explain a bit of the story behind the video?

Mike: “The Peripheral Sound” is actually the first song we ever recorded with Invicta, in all of our iterations of the band like four years ago, and it’s almost unrecognizable from that point now. It’s a very abstract song, kind of about a person that has lost their light in their life. They’ve lost their desire to live, and it’s about their quest to regain that – To kind of get themselves out of it. It could mean a thousand things to a thousand people.

For this video, we decided to make it a little more personal and a little heavier, so it’s got a guy that wants to kill himself, because he just can’t see any light left in his life. The light is personified in the video by this angel, that I’m sure people are going to assume is his girlfriend – she’s not, but the majority of the video is him underwater and in this dreamscape, where he’s trying to find her and she’s trying to find him.

At the end of it, she pulls him out of the water. Luckily enough, our actor actually has a tattoo – it’s a real tattoo – that says “carried out of death.” It’s a symbol that this light has rescued him, and he is at the cusp of this new life that is awaiting him.

Frank: That scene at the end, where he’s getting pulled out of the water, is very much like the scene in Inception. Is there a little bit of an element of that going on?

Mike: That wasn’t the intent, but the dream that he’s in and part of it with us all frozen, we tried to create a very ethereal and weird vibe for these scenes. So, I guess you could say it is. It’s almost like his life is flashing through his eyes, with all these other experiences he’s had. Finally, he gets woken up with her at his side. Don’t ask me about the glasses scene at the end, because that was kind of an extra. (laughs)

Frank: …So, about the glasses scene! (both laugh) Just kidding.

Mike: That was all DJ. He actually wanted to add some dumb breakdown just to do it, but I thought silence was a little more powerful.

Frank: Speaking of powerful, you have something like 8-person or 8-part layered harmonies.

Mike: Yes. That’s where most of the progressiveness of this song comes in, because, rhythmically speaking, it’s in 4/4 most of the way through, which is not the case for most of the songs on this new album, but that part in particular features four of us singing, with two separate vocal parts for each one. So it’s a very thick harmony, and DJ did all the arranging of that. Eric, our mix engineer, did just a phenomenal job putting it together and making it sound like… not… a million parts. (laughs) I just don’t know how to say that eloquently!

So it’s really powerful.

Frank: We didn’t talk about your first album yet. I believe it’s called “Burnt by the Sun,” right?

Mike: You were close. It was “Split by the Sun.” Actually, oddly enough, the picture that we got for the artwork, we bought it from a photographer that let us commission it from him, was called “Burnt by the Sun.” I don’t think that was ever posted anywhere, but that’s an interesting aside.

Frank: (jokingly poking fun at superfan reviewers in a nerdy voice) “Hmm, really? You didn’t know I did my homework? Huhuhuhu!”

Mike: (laughs) Yeah, there you go! (jokingly) “I’m very impressed with you!” Anyway, it was called “Split by the Sun.” It’s loosely a concept album. It’s kind of a cliché concept, but it’s this whole idea of a journey. Taking a sort of tangent, a lot of our music is about a struggle between hope versus really depressing dark times. Our first video, “Magnolia,” is about child abuse, and how, even through this terrible stuff, there’s still hope at the end. This whole first album is about that, through this imaginary person that is going from a great time in his life to just totally in circles, doesn’t know where life is leading him, stuff everyone can relate to, and then how that leads out into him finding his home again at the end.

We recorded it in Cleveland with Tony Gammalo, who’s produced Drowning Pool, Chimaira, Misery Signals, It Dies Today, and a lot of really well-produced bands that we wanted to emulate in the sound. We went up there and recorded the six songs in as many days, which was pretty brutal, but it turned out really well. Then we had Jim Demain here in town at Yes Master do the mastering. He’s doing the mastering on our second album, too, to hopefully keep the final sound similar.

Frank: Would you call this sound a “peripheral sound?” Oooh (jokingly)

Mike: (laughs) I would call it a peripheral sound if I knew what a peripheral sound really was! We don’t actually say the words “peripheral sound” anywhere in that song. The closest is “peripheral silence,” which is somewhere in that choir section.

Frank: On that subject, how many bands do you know of that have songs with asinine names that you really love? Because there’s a whole subgenre of those…

Mike: (laughs) I don’t know! I guess Opeth! (laughs) They do that ALL the time! I think the reason that we do it… Some of them look like, at first glance, like they’re abstractly named, like our second single, “Magnolia.” That word never appears anywhere in that song, but, originally it was called “I Will Never Leave You,” which is the worst name for a metal song ever. We scrapped that and DJ named it “Magnolia” because there’s a movie with Tom Cruise that has child abuse in it, so we linked them together.

Most of our songs are titled with relevant lyrics.

Frank: Where exactly can people go to get your first album?

Mike: The first album is available wherever music is sold. iTunes, Amazon, you can find it on Spotify, Rhapsody, pretty much everywhere digitally. The second album is going to be in all the same places. You can find the first single, “The Peripheral Sound,” in all those places, and there should be a link on our YouTube page to all of that.

Frank: The second album is dropping in January 2013, right? Is there a date on that?

Mike: Hopefully. We want to have it in digital stores by January 14th, so watch out for that. We’re heavy in production and it sounds unbelievably good – better than the first song does. We’re really excited.

Progressivity_In_All's avatar

Frank Serafine is an avid writer, music producer, and musician, with five albums to his name. While completely enamored with metal, he appreciates a wide range of music. He also works full-time at the American-based performing rights organization, SESAC.

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