Chris Alfieri Recalls Signing with Century Media and SXSW Experience
Newly signed to Century Media Records, the name Vattnet Viskar has yet to be paired on disc with the popular label. However, the group has already made a name for itself on the internet. They sent a demo and a self-titled EP all around the internet, which eventually led to their signing with Century Media. Their name alone has found appeal with black metal and pagan/folk metal fans, particularly fans of atmospheric/shoe gazing bands such as Agalloch and Wolves In The Throne Room, although the group hails from the opposite side of the country—New Hampshire.
Metal Underground linked up with cinematic guitar master, Chris Alfieri at SXSW to talk about the band’s signing, their take on the festival and choice of band name. The following interview took place outside of the Mohawk bar during the Vans/Pitchfork showcase before the band played on the venue’s indoor stage.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): Welcome to Austin, Texas. You said you played here before?
Chris Alfieri: Yes, we never played SX, just Austin. We did a two-month tour in the fall and we stopped in Austin for a couple days. We really enjoyed it. Right when we did that, we decided we had to play SXSW, so I hit up Brendon. Actually, when we were in Austin the first time and asked him “are you doing a showcase?” He said yeah. I told him he has got to get us on it. He immediately said yes. Thanks to him we’re here again.
Cowan: Vattnet Viskar is currently on tour. Tell us about this tour.
Alfieri: We’re doing an East coast run right now—down and back, basically around this SX showcase. Basically, we’re just doing some dates, nothing crazy, just a three-weeker. We got to play some new spots. We played Raleigh, which is our favorite city to play. We love Raleigh so much. They always treat us so great. There is a great promoter there who always takes care of us. There is a great metal scene out there, which you wouldn’t really expect. Raleigh is awesome. I’ll tell anybody to go to Raleigh.
Cowan: There are a few heavy bands from North Carolina.
Alfieri: Yes: Between the Buried And Me and some real heavy bands, too. I can’t think of any right now.
Cowan: I believe Weedeater is from there.
Alfieri: Yes, Weedeater. They are like the West coast from the East coast, which is what I hear. They have a big, growing population of marijuana and what not.
Cowan: Your band is here doing the Vans/Pitchfork show. Is this your only show at SX?
Alfieri: Yes, we were supposed to play Hoek’s (Death Metal Pizza) but it got shut down yesterday. We were suppose to headline tonight (March 13th), but the guy running that hit me up last night and told me it got shut down and he was really sorry. It’s this guy, James, who has been doing great stuff for us down in Austin as part of the Texas Metal Collective. We love supporting them. They’re trying to bring back the scene to what it used to be. That’s a really respectable thing. No hard feelings there.
Cowan: I went down there with a friend and talked to the guy who was suppose to put that on, probably the same guy you’re talking about. There was an issue with permits. Sx wants every venue to be part of SX and if you’re not, they’ll shut you down.
Alfieri: He said they got the permits and they got approval, but they didn’t get the physical permits yet. So they showed up at the venue and they didn’t have a permit. They looked it up and saw they had paid for a permit, but I guess you have to have a physical one, so they used that against them to shut it down.
Cowan: Are there any shows you’re excited to see or play this year? Have you enjoyed Austin’s fruits—food, sight seeing, etc?
Alfieri: We haven’t been able today, but we went down this street where all the houses have been converted to bars. I don’t know where it is. There were all food trucks down there.
Cowan: Probably down on Congress.
Alfieri: Yeah, it was great. I just like Austin. I like the layout. It has a community vibe, which is really cool. Even though it’s a big city, it’s kind of built on small ideas. It kind of has that quaintness to it, even though there are a ton of people here. [Laughs] there are a lot of people here, everyday, not just during this. Nick (Thornburn, vocals and guitar) has been enjoying some Austin micro brews, although I can’t give you any of the names. Nick’s a big beer nerd. Every time we come down here, there are a few beers that he tries to grab. We tried an Alaskan beer from Alaskan Brewing Company. That was pretty good. We’re all big beer nerds.
Cowan: When you were here last, were you signed to Century Media?
Alfieri: Yes, we came through in the fall. We had signed in late spring. We tried to get on a few tours, but things kept falling through, so we decided to DIY it. We booked it ourselves. It was brutal, but you’ve got to go through it. If you’re in a new band, the best thing is to get yourself out there and go on a two-month tour because that will tell you if you really want to do it or not. It will break you. The music industry will break you real quick, so be ready!
Cowan: What does Vattnet Viskar translate to in English and why does this phrase perfectly represent your band?
Alfieri: It translates to “the water is whispering.” We put the two words together in a weird way and realized it sounded cool. When Nick and I started the band, it was more of an environmental type deal. We were into bands like Wolves In The Throne Room. So the water is whispering was like a metaphor—listen to the environment and stuff like that. We’re really deep, obviously as you can tell, listen to the environment. I think it was an organic name, something we wanted. It wasn’t like stupid, satanic stuff. We wanted something we could actually stand behind.
Cowan: It sounds very European.
Alfieri: Yes, it’s in Swedish.
Cowan: I think your name made me think you are a Swedish band.
Alfieri: Nick claims to be a quarter Swedish. He doesn’t look Swedish.
Cowan: Vattnet Viskar started in 2010 and released an EP. Did that EP lead to your signing to Century Media?
Alfieri: Yes. We released that demo. We recorded it in Nick’s kitchen. We put it everywhere on the internet. We sent it to blogs, any terrible blog we could find and we got links. We met up with some people in New York who owned a small record company. They liked what we were doing, so we put out 80 copies of a vinyl. We said alright and that was way more than what we would ever want. This was kind of a hobby for Nick and I when we first started it. Then, we were like “let’s write some music because we haven’t written anything for a while.” We put out the EP. Then, about a month or two later, I was driving to work, and I received an email from Steve Joh over at Century Media. He said he really liked our record and wondered what we had planned for the future. What? I’m driving to work and I’m freaking out. I had to pull over and email him back. I probably emailed him 46 times that night. From our first email exchange we went from “what are you planning” to “I’ll get you an offer before the end of the week.” It was extremely quick. Once the ball got rolling, it took only about a month. You have to have a little patience. It was definitely a shocking experience for us. I grew up on Century Media and Nuclear Blast stuff, so for that logo to appear on something that my name is on is just stupid to me. I don’t know what’s wrong with all of these people. Whether it works out in the future or not, it’s working for us right now. We’re super stoked. They’ve been taking care of us. We haven’t even released anything yet, and they’ve already done wonders for us. Only good things.
Cowan: Are you working on a new album? When will we see your first full-length recording?
Alfieri: Yep, we have about six songs done. We want to do maybe eight, so it will be about an hour long. After we get back this month, we’ll probably go into the studio in mid-April. We’ll hopefully have something out by the end of summer. That’s the plan and then tour, tour, tour nine months out of the year.
Cowan: Do you already have other tours booked?
Alfieri: We’re in the stage of very early emails. We’re on this weird time table of not knowing if it’s definite or not. You’re gonna release your record but you don’t know if it’s going to be in August or October, so you can’t really plan much until you know those specific things. From the looks of it, they’re going to back us really good. They’re going to try to give us the hardest push they can. For a new band like us, that’s all we can ask for. We don’t have anything really planned, but the early talks are like “ok, we’re going to tour with that band. I’ve been listening to that band since I was 12. I can’t say anything right now. Most likely, they’ll fall through, these things usually fall through. By the time that tour is booked, there will be three other bands plus us. They’ve been very supportive so far, opened a lot of doors that would have never been opened before.
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