The Agonist Singer Vicky Psarakis Discusses New EP, "Days Before The World Wept," The Band's Signature Beer And Recording Covers
Everyone knows that when a band starts out, it's a long way to the top and they'll have to endure some very hard times to get where they are. Some bands don't just fight their way to recognition and fame, they battle to stay there, which only makes them more endearing. Take The Agonist, a five piece from Montreal who worked damn hard to make it, and still had to keep the wolves at bay and deal with all manner of adversity. But fight they did and now, they're arguably better than ever with a legion of devoted fans.
At the end of 2019, the band released their sixth album, "Orphans," but touring for this magnifficent opus was sadly cut short thanks to the pandemic. Nevertheless, The Agonist has done what they always have and soldiered on and now, almost two years later, the metal world is being treated to a brand new EP entitled, "Days Before The World Wept."
To discover the meaning behind the title, why the group decided to release an EP instead of a full album, their recent partnetship with Vox&Hops/Brewtal and much more, we caught up with vocalist Vicky Psarakis. You can watch the interview in full below.
Diamond Oz: The new EP, “Days Before The World Wept” is out on October 15th. What can you tell me about the title of the EP?
Vicky Psarakis: Well the title is from one of the songs on the EP. It’s pretty representative of the lyrics on the album and I felt like it was just the strongest title. It’s a title that you read and you can’t help but feel something while reading it and when we were trying to think of an EP title, it was just the one that stood out the most to me.
Oz: It’s a very strong title and very evocative, as well as being appropriate for the real world right now.
Vicky: Funny enough, I actually wrote the lyrics to that song way before any of this craziness started with the pandemic and all that. I actually wrote it in mid-2019, so it has nothing to do with the current situation, however I can see how one would relate to it.
Oz: Yeah, unfortunately it seems it’s going to be one of those titles that people will associate with the pandemic.
Vicky: And that’s OK because I think the way I write my lyrics anyway, they’re always up for interpretation and I like writing in a way where anyone can relate based on their own experiences, because I think the song is stronger when you do that. If you write about something specific that you only relate to and no one else, then you’re not really grabbing someone and pulling them towards you. So I’m perfectly OK, like, when I hear other interpretations of my lyrics, it actually makes me smile.
Oz: I would imagine so. I think that’s a big part of the reason why The Agonist is still going from strength to strength. Why was the decision made to release an EP as opposed to a full album?
Vicky: It was a bit circumstantial. It wasn’t planned, we just happened to write a few songs and I noticed a bit of a theme going on with the lyrics and the music and I felt that at five songs, it was very cohesive and it concluded. On top of it all, from a practical perspective, we only released “Orphans” at the end of 2019, only had the chance to do one tour for that album and there was a lot of question marks this year as to whether things would be back to normal or if touring would be happening. So I felt like, on top of it being an EP, that I would have hated to put out another album and not be able to tour for it. Sometimes things just happen for the right reasons.
Oz: You’ve also done a music video for the song, “Remnants In Time,” which is a very cool song with lots of different elements to it. As for the video itself, how well do you think it represents the song?
Vicky: One hundred per cent. A few people noticed, there were a few reaction videos and friends of mine who saw it for the first time, a few of them noticed because I guess they were hearing the lyrics as well so they were kind of getting what was going on in the song theme and the visuals helped bring it out and there’s a reason that all that is happening. There’s a reason why I’m dressed in this white dress, looking all innocent, classy and then in the chorus I become this demon. I saw a few people who were a little bit upset about the demon look and thought it was unnecessary, because they made the association that I look like a demon because I’m growling so low in the chorus, but it has nothing to do with the vocals, it’s all about the lyrics. Most people caught on and a few people said that the video was the perfect visual for the song and that helps. So, a hundred and ten per cent!
Oz: Absolutely. It’s very much like The Agonist in that just like the music, it’s beautiful when it needs to be and it’s vicious when it needs to be. There’s also some very cool artwork for this EP. Again, how well do you think this art represents the EP as a whole and who was the artist behind this work?
Vicky: I’m really really happy. It’s my favourite artwork that we’ve done since I joined the band. I was really happy because we reached out to a longtime friend of mine from Greece for this. He’s very versatile in his style, depending on which band he works with and he just asked for creative freedom so we sent over the lyrics and I had no idea what he was going to deliver. He also did a full line of merch designs for us as well and I just think that it’s perfect. His name is Giannis Nakos from Remedy Art Design, he’s done a bunch of bands in the industry and he’s really really good and I’m happy that I was able to work with someone that I’ve known for like, fifteen years now.
Oz: Like I said, it’s an awesome piece. It’s kind of open to interpretation even though there’s solid figures. As for the recording of the EP itself, was it a relatively smooth experience where you were able to get together, or was this done more with file sharing and that kind of thing?
Vicky: This took a while unfortunately because of the pandemic. This was done in Canada and at the time, restrictions were really severe there. When I crossed the border I had to quarantine for two weeks, I had to take three COVID tests and prove that they were negative. The drums and the bass were done in the studio, but all the guitars were done from home and sent in and thankfully, I got to live with the producer for those two weeks of quarantine. I stayed in his basement and we were able to track while I was in quarantine, so it was nice but it wasn’t the same sort of feeling you get when you record an album, where everyone’s in the studio together and there’s this big thing happening. We did the best with what we could.
Oz: Like you said, it does help to all be together and have that option to brainstorm and exchange ideas but needs must and listening to “Remnants In Time,” you wouldn’t know that you weren’t together because it does sound very cohesive.
Vicky: Thank you. Obviously we spent a good amount of time beforehand on the demo and just file sharing months before the recording, just trying to finetune all the details and make sure that it does sound as cohesive as possible given all the different changes in the songs.
Oz: As well as the EP, The Agonist has branched out a little bit into the brewing world. You have your own signature beer now. A lot of bands seem to be doing this nowadays, launching their own beer or whisky or whatever else. What was it about this idea or this opportunity that appealed to you?
Vicky: Right. It was really cool because it was done in collaboration with Vox&Hops, which is a podcast by Matt McGachy, the vocalist from Cryptopsy who is also from Montreal and a good friend of the band and he just had this idea to bring a bunch of bands together with a bunch of their own local breweries and create a beer. Just kind of sharing that love for craft beers and metal music, which I think is strong. I’ve met a lot of metal musicians that love their craft beer. So it was really cool, first of all as an idea and secondly we actually got to go to the brewery as he was preparing it and he showed us the process, how it’s made and that was really interesting, it was like a lesson. When else, or how else, would you get this knowledge without going to the actual brewery?
Oz: And as well as that, you also do a YouTube channel which has a fantastic variety of cover songs. Have you been able to focus on that a little bit more during the pandemic?
Vicky: Yeah, last year for sure. 2020 was a big year where all I was doing was covers because we didn’t have any new music yet and I just wanted to fill my spare time and find a way to still practice my vocals. It can be a bit boring to just sing your own songs over and over again, so covers for me was a way for me to just practice and experiment and see what I could do with my voice, that’s why you have that variation. So 2020 I did a lot of covers. I’ve done a few this year as well but with this release and other things happening, I’ve not had any time for covers, plus I stream three times a week on Twitch now, so that’s kind of my platform where I do covers, just live in the moment instead of actually producing a cover and filming a music video for it. It’s a long process and I guess many can’t tell but it takes a long time to do something like that.
Oz: Definitely, that’s one of the things that makes the channel so appealing. You can tell that a lot of work has gone into it.
Vicky: Yeah, I’ve always been like that with everything that I do, even if it’s not my strong suit or my comfort zone. I want to do the most professional job that I can possibly do. It’s a blessing and a curse! But I guess I learned from many years of watching other videos, seeing what kind of mistakes people make and just trying to avoid those myself.
Oz: Like you mentioned, part of the reason for doing an EP was being unable to tour. Things are starting to open up, very slowly, so at the moment, does The Agonist have any plans to get back out on the road, or even for a local show?
Vicky: We had a potential European tour for November that isn’t happening anymore because Europe, I think two or three weeks ago, closed their borders to Americans and the band we were going to tour with is American, as am I, so it just can’t happen and Europe is a no for us right now. We are looking into the U.S., possibly in Spring and if we’re able to, this Fall or early Winter, we’d like to play some local shows, some Canadian shows. However, as of now, I feel like Canada’s the only country that’s just not there yet. The restrictions are still very high in comparison to the U.S. and Europe, so it’s really hard. I think they have a twenty/twenty five capacity rule, so imagine booking a venue that holds six hundred people, you can only have one hundred and fifty people there, what would the ticket price have to be and would people pay that money?
Oz: Sure, could you not have told the European authorities that you’re Greek and just get in that way?
Vicky: I could have but again, the band we were going to tour with are all American. We thought it was happening until a few weeks ago so it’s such short notice that it’s virtually impossible to find other bands to do the tour with us.
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.
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