At The Soundawn Guitarist Andrea Explains The Dynamics Of "Shifting"
Band Photo: At The Soundawn (?)
Italian band At The Soundawn is an extremely tough band to peg down, which defaults them to genre titles that could mean anything, such as "Post Rock." The group's latest jazz and rock influenced hardcore outing "Shifting" hit stores in North America on April 27th through Lifeforce Records.
At The Soundawn's Andrea Violante shared the story behind the band's recent changes and the work they put into making "Shifting" into a single stream of sound. Andrea commented, "We would like the songs to be fluent and there should be a constant flow you follow. It’s not always easy to do it. Sometimes we have to do the sudden changes, but our aim is to do a slow composition." Andrea also went on to explain in detail the concept of the lyrics and the difficulties in playing the band's local scene.
xFiruath: What are you guys currently doing as far as live shows?
Andrea: We just had one week in eastern Europe and we had two shows with Long Distance Calling. Right now we are at home and we are going to leave again next week on Friday and play at Wave Gotik Treffen. I think it’s the hugest Goth festival in the world there in Germany.
xFiruath: Tell me about the origin of At The Soundawn. When did you guys get together as a band?
Andrea: The band was born many years ago, but it was just for fun for many years. That was a different lineup actually. Then we had another singer, who was the one that recorded on the previous album. From 2000 to 2005 was just for fun. Then we started trying our own music and writing songs and we entered the studio in 2007, just to try and see what we could do. It ended up getting us signed with Lifeforce and here we are now with a second album and a multi-record deal. There is this new album “Shifting” and I think you should hear and love.
We changed our singer because he had his own job and he was traveling for a week at a time and couldn’t continue with the band. We stayed instrumental for six months and that’s when we started to write “Shifting.” That’s also why there are a couple of songs where the vocals could instead just be instrumental. We went with Luca De Stafano for our new singer. The songs “Black Waves” and “Prometheus: Bring Us The Fire” were composed while we were instrumental. You can hear it especially in “Black Waves.” If you take the voice away the vocals the song stays on anyway. “Prometheus” is a bit different. We changed something here and there for the vocals.
xFiruath: How long have you personally been a musician and what bands got you started on that?
Andrea: For me I started playing guitar when I was 8 or 9. I started with the classical guitar my father used to play. It was in some corner of the house and I found it and started to play on my own in my room. Then I started taking lessons and moved to the electric guitar. I got into Guns ‘N Roses first off all, and from that band I got into Iron Maiden and then I discovered the Swedish death metal with bands like At The Gates or In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. I loved the way they could meld different parts in the songs. Like that folk thing they had going on in the earlier releases, like “Jester Race” by In Flames or “The Gallery” by Dark Tranquillity. That’s really what got my attention, and that’s what I’m doing now with this band. We’re melding together different kinds of music and trying to make a unique form. It’s not made just like a copy and paste. I love all kinds of music and I think you can hear in our stuff that we all love many different kinds of music. In one way or another they all enter our music.
xFiruath: I’ve read a lot of different descriptions of At The Soundawn’s music, and most of the various reviews have called it “post rock.” I’m wondering how you feel about that label and how you would describe your sound.
Andrea: That’s your job man, I don’t know how to name my music. It’s like progressive I think. In the seventies in Italy there were many bands doing progressive music and were popular all around the world. We have the same spirit that they had. They melded together many different things. The difference is that they weren’t mixing things in a very smooth way, and we’re trying to do that in a very unique way. We would like the songs to be fluent and there should be a constant flow you follow. It’s not always easy to do it. Sometimes we have to do the sudden changes, but our aim is to do a slow composition. I think that’s why I’d probably call it “progressive hardcore.” Post rock is mainly instrumental. I think the voice is very important in our album. There aren’t many vocal parts, but they are all solos. It’s not like a refrain, it’s something that goes back into your mind. The other instruments go in the background with the vocal parts so it’s truly a solo. Many people have said that the metal parts aren’t that different from The Ocean’s new album “Heliocentric.”
xFiruath: On the subject of the vocals, what are the lyrics about on “Shifting?”
Andrea: “Shifting” isn’t a concept album, but it could be. We didn’t start it as a concept, but all the songs match a unique sense of shifting and a condition of moving. We live in Italy and it might be quite different for you, but there are many different cultures like Chinese and African that are coming here. We’ve got all the problems and all the good things that come from that. We tried to focus on the good things. We tried to think and understand that maybe our way isn’t the best way. It’s just one way to do things and there are many other solutions. “Mudra” is about the conditions of women in India. It’s not very direct lyrics, so it’s not something that can necessarily be understood by reading. “Hades” is about the Greek culture and Persephone who was kidnapped to hell by Hades.
These two songs have close lyrics because they are both about the condition of women. In both stories the woman is just an instrument. In “Mudra” the woman is a dancer and a tool to get divinity. In “Hades” the woman is just an object of love and desire, it’s something more passive. We don’t want to criticize anyone directly, but we’d like to make people think about things. On “Caofedian,” the third track, it slowly rises from a very soft spot to something more metal or hardcore. Its about a project being designed by the Chinese government that is a totally self sufficient and green town.
It has an energy tower in the middle of the city that feeds energy to every single building. It’s a very good project but it shows how the Chinese are falling into the trap of the Western culture of always challenging nature and going beyond our limits. We wanted to think about that theme of going beyond our limits, such as immortality, the final desire for everyone to live forever. The story of “Caofedian” is really about the man building the tower, which could also be considered the tower of Babel, and the higher it goes into the sky, the less oxygen he has. So eventually he blacks out and begins to fall from the sky.
xFiruath: What is your local metal and hard rock scene like?
Andrea: There are many bands in Italy. In our home town there are a few bands but we aren’t really linked with those bands. We mainly play abroad and it’s quite tough to make your own way in Italy with this kind of music. We have many talented bands, but the crowd is always the same. We are our own crowd. When we go play a show, 60 or 70 percent of the people attending are playing in a band and we know each other. It’s difficult to go out of this circle and reach more people. It’s not so much as a scene as a circle of bands. There’s the circle of Rome and the circle of Florence. It’s tough for a band like us to play in our own country, which is sad because we’d like to play in our own country.
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