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Schemata Theory Discusses New Album "Unity In Time"

As soon as a band releases their first album, fans and critics alike can't wait to see, or more appropriately hear, what their next full length will be like. For a lot of groups, this comes pretty quickly, but the logistics and internal goings on can create more than a few issues when it comes to releasing an album. In 2012, British outfit Schemata Theory unleashed their debut, "Dry Lung Rhetoric," with an EP, "Words Not Seen, Read Or Seen" following two years later. However, only in the past few weeks has the Reading band been able to share their sophomore full length, "Unity In Time" and fans all seem to agree, it's been worth the wait!

With this new album, Schemata Theory display the massive changes that have gone on behind the scenes, channeled them all into some truly sublime music and expressed it in a fascinating way, with an album as rich and varied as any group could hope for. To find out more about "Unity In Time," Metal Underground caught up with guitarist Huw Roch and co-vocalist Luke Wright, who unveiled many of the inner workings when it comes to the album, as well as the themes, direction changes and much more. You can watch the interview in full below.

Diamond Oz: The new album, "Unity In Time" is now upon us. What was different about recording your second album compared to recording your debut?

Huw Roch: When we did the first album, the band was in a very different place. We had a slightly different lineup and we sort of had one guy, who's no longer with the band who wrote everything. It was very much a case of; come in, do what was written and then it wasn't until a year later that we did the vocals. That wasn't the intention, just sort of how it played out.

This time, it was much more collaborative in the sense that we went into the studio with room to improve the songs and collaborate with Justin Hill, who's a fantastic producer, as opposed to it being a bit more robust with what we were doing. The music itself lends itself to that too. The first album is much more technical than the newer album so the songs were sort of constructed in a way that we could craft them after they'd been written, as opposed to just, "This is the way they are." That's the only way we could have done it. The vocals were a bit more interesting.

Luke Wright: They were a bit. From my perspective... When I joined the band, it was during that year period between the music and the vocals being recorded and it was quite a challenge. The previous vocalist had stepped away and the guys were looking for someone to fill that space. Miles, who's currently the other vocalist, had recorded the drums for the album. I've known these guys since school so we had conversations and they asked if I was interested. I think they'd seen me at a late night karaoke, that classic audition technique that metal bands use! So I came into it and was told, "This is the entire album. We've written everything, we just need you to put vocals on top of it." I'd never written vocals before or recorded a full album in the studio before and essentially we had maybe a couple of months to write and record everything so that it would line up with the original release schedule that we'd planned at the time.

So, going from that to now, Huw mentioned working with Justin, I think that's a massive change since a different producer was used on the original album and Justin sits very much in that metal space, he'd recorded clean vocals of his own and it was a lot more collaborative. I was thinking about the album this afternoon, around the song "Mirrors," which is a seven minute track... The "Mirrors" that we walked into the studio with, is not the one that we walked out with! Obviously, we could go through the writing process more, but essentially, me, Huw and Miles would sit in his garage and go through vocals, workshop that together and then take those demos into the studio and trust Justin to put his flavour on it and give it his guidance, certainly around the vocals because that's an area that he really excels in. The two processes were night and day.

Oz: Very interesting. Like I mentioned, the album is called "Unity In Time." Where does the title come from?

Luke: I think it's a theme that runs throughout the album. There's probably a deeper question about themes within the lyrics and the various different tracks but the overarching idea of what we're trying to convey with the album was an idea of unity. There's different tracks that touch on different areas but one of the common themes is being unified and speaking together and coming together.

Certainly when we wrote it two years ago, our initial plan was to release this in 2020, we recorded it in January 2020, fully intending to release it in the Spring, which obviously didn't pan out but when we look back at all the things that have happened in the world since then, all of these lyrics and thoughts behind it are still so relevant. Even today, we released the album the day after Putin has taken troops into Ukraine. It's incredible what's going on and when you go down a more political route with your lyrics and messages, you can find yourself pigeon holed or in a space in time, which I think can date you, but looking back from two years ago, the messages are still so important.

Oz: I always think those are the best kinds of lyrics when it comes to political or social situations, ones which are vague enough that they can be applied to all different things. It's not like the world is running out of problems.

Huw: Unfortunately not. I think we'll have to retire if that happened!

Oz: As well as the album itself, you've done two music videos, "Voices" and "Mind Eater," why were these songs chosen to represent the album?

Huw: I think "Voices" was... All throughout the studio process, it felt like this was "the song." On the whole, everyone felt like this was a track that encompassed all the elements of the band quite nicely, while still remaining quite a good song to be a single. "Mirrors" is a good song as well in representing all the different aspects of what the band does, but it's not a single and we can't afford to do a music video for it! "Voices" felt right that it would be the main single.

"Mind Eater" was more of a challenge. I remember when we were recording the original demo with vocals, Luke did this really high, really catchy vocal line and straight away I thought, "OK, it's quite a bouncy riff, that's quite a cool chorus melody. This feels like it might be the single." "Voices" overtook it at a later date but it still had that vibe. There was some discussion over some of the other tracks as well. We have done a couple of other videos too, but they were sort of less primarily pitched, whereas "Mind Eater" and "Voices" were the main two. We had a sneaky one a couple of days ago for "Our Only Home" (see below,) which was quite cool too.

Luke: It becomes so difficult sitting in a room with the other four guys trying to figure this out, which I'm sure is a problem that all bands come across. You have a couple of problems but what it often boils down to is five different people all have their own opinion on what's the strongest song, which captures you the most and you also have to accept that you're only five opinions in that room. You're picking songs as "the single" for the album, as sort of a spearhead for your album into the mainstream and you also have to think, "it doesn't just have to be what we think is the strongest song. It has to be what other people will think is the strongest song." I think "Mind Eater" and "Voices" were two quite different tracks, certainly in the early days of recording, but they both showcase the different areas of the album quite well and what we touch on in the wider piece.

Oz: Something I've noticed while watching the videos, looking at each band member is that there's no bassist. Am I just ignorant or is there no bassist in the band?

Huw: As far as recording, it's me, but we don't actually have it played live. When we went through the member change, almost seven years ago now, adding someone into a group of people who already get on really well and have a great dynamic is something of a challenge. We sort of decided that we quite liked it without trying to introduce someone, not that we couldn't find someone who would be fantastic and get on with us and fit in immediately, but we just felt, there's already four of us on stage walking around, on top of Josh behind, it was always a hassle with the six of us. So what we do is we just run the bass track through our backing track live. We try and be a bit clever with it so we get stage noise for it as well as having it come through the PA. Sometimes in smaller venues, it gets a bit lost through the PA, particularly for the people in front of the stage. So yeah, essentially I write the bass parts with the guitars and then record them.

Oz: I've noticed quite a few bands doing that now. There's quite a few groups or duos with no bassist.

Huw: Yeah, I kind of feel bad for bassists. You don't see it very often with guitars. You never see a bassist on stage but the guitar coming through the backing track. Bassists need to start a revolution. Have some bass only bands.

Oz: We mentioned the videos, but something else very eye catching is the album artwork. What can you tell me about the artwork? Who was the artist behind this?

Huw: The artwork was done by this graphic designer whose name is Make North, well the guy's name is Daniel. We came across him because essentially we saw other bands artwork and thought "This guy's got some cool artwork. Does anyone know him?" We spoke to our manager, Rachel and she got in touch and it was great. I think it was the Our Hollow Our Home artwork he did and the Defences artwork we saw, so we looked at the rest of his stuff.

When we got the artwork back, we were completely blown away by the amount of thought he put into it. We try and be quite vague with the people we work with because we want them to bring their thing. We'd much rather get as much as we can out of their creativity. So we basically just sent him the lyrics and said, "These are the themes of the album; unity, time, connection and general challenges the world's facing" and he came up with the image that you see and also an essay on all of the themes and meaning, which I don't want to butcher trying to repeat, we're going to have to do something, some kind of commemorative print, but essentially it says that everything has a reason for being there.

So, it's a modern design of an hourglass to sort of encompass the modern theme of the music and everything. The cracks in the hourglass are to represent the fractured nature of things but also mental challenges and the flower in the middle is an iris, which, we didn't know this, is the flower that represents hope. There's so much going on and obviously we expected it to be good but we didn't expect it to be that in depth which goes with the themes because quite a lot of our lyrics are in depth, which is really sort of Miles' rant, but it's well constructed, he doesn't just write everything down and think, "That'll do."

Oz: It's quite interesting because like you say, he's packed so much into that artwork but it's not overcrowded or anything. It's funny because I was talking with InVisions the other day and he's done their album art as well...

:Huw: Oh, did he? We are following each other around! Same PR, same distribution! (laughs)

Oz: But they're totally different. I had no idea. I wouldn't have looked at "Unity In Time" and gone, "Oh that's the same guy that did InVisions' album," hence why I asked!

Luke: It was a really enjoyable process actually because previously we'd used one designer to do a lot of our artwork, like the debut album and the following EPs but he doesn't do album artwork anymore, which sort of pointed us in the direction of this new route, but also we wanted to take the opportunity to kind of re-establish what our brand was a little bit. We as a band have changed quite a lot in the last ten years since we released "Dry Lung Rhetoric." Obviously, Huw's alluded to changing members, the core writing members have stepped away and what we've become now is a very different beast and what we wanted was some artwork to reflect that and he absolutely smashed it, I love this piece and also a lot of the merch designs he does.

Oz: Just to wrap things up, obviously the album is out now, so what's the plans moving forward? Are you looking at live dates or are they still very difficult to book because of so many tours being postponed that venues are pretty much booked up?

Luke: Both of those things are true. We are definitely looking at dates. On our website we've got gig dates that we've got currently got booked, so we're taking some time from the middle to the back end of March to do a bit of a tour. Huw's done a lot of the logistics in getting gigs so he can probably tell you how difficult it's been during this process. I know from various conversations that we've had that there's been a lot of irons in a lot of fires and some of them have come to gigs and hopefully those gigs will actually go ahead when the time comes.

So that's our main focus at the minute, getting back into the rehearsal studio and doing all of that. Huw mentioned earlier about "Mind Eater" so now I have to make sure I can actually do that vocal line which is always an interesting experience going from perfect conditions in the studio to a rainy night in Stoke. I'm massively looking forward to it because I took some time out at the back end of last year because me and my wife had a little kid, so the guys did a bit of touring without me, which they quite enjoyed but it probably brought its own challenges, mainly for Huw who had to take a good chunk of my vocal parts but because of that, I'm really excited about getting back out there.

I haven't played a gig since November 2019 so I'm really looking forward to seeing people's reactions to this stuff live. It's really cool seeing people share stuff about the album on Instagram and all of that sort of stuff, it's awesome after two years of waiting to release the product to get it out there, but I absolutely can't wait to get out there and see that reactions and experience that interaction.

You can see Schemata Theory this month during short run of tour dates:

March 18 - Bracknell, The Acoustic Couch
March 20 - Bristol, The Gryphon
March 25 - Workington, Lounge 41
March 26 Whitechurch, Percy’s Cafe Bar
March 27 - Nottingham, The Angel Microbrewery

Diamond Oz's avatar

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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