“The Poisoner” is here, the follow up to the highly acclaimed “A Funeral For The World”, and it’s pretty natural to get in contact with the New York-based trio for a chat about the past as well as the new offering. All members of the band, Jeremy (guitar), Erica (vocals and bass) and Nathan (drums) that is, contributed to this feature.
First of all, you debut release was a digital only EP through Bandcamp featuring four songs back in 2015. What kind of exposure and feedback did you get on the material?
J: – The 2015 demo was released for the purpose of promoting shows. We wanted to give people a taste of what we were about if they were going to come see us somewhere. We also made a cassette version to sell at the merch table.
Then in 2017 you released your debut album independently before Cruz Del Sur did a vinyl version the next year. Do you think the fact that you released this album as a CD helped, or do you think it would have gotten the same attention also from labels even if it was a digital release only?
J: – We wanted to release it on any format possible. Music fans consume music in all different ways these days, so it’s important to get it to as many of those channels as you can.
E: – We also self released 300 colored vinyl copies. We wanted that for ourselves and our vinyl head fans.
I guess the debut album is still rather fresh to you, but were there aspects about it you weren’t fully satisfied with and wanted to improve when you started working on this new one?
J: – I’m personally quite happy with “A Funeral For The World”. Of course there is a mistake here or there I’d fix if I could do my parts over again, but overall I am happy with how it has held up.
E: – “A Funeral For The World” came out just as it was supposed to. I don’t have any major regrets. We were limited in time and budget. I would love to have the luxury of time. To not have to press through feeling ‘maxed out’ during a session.
N: – We didn’t rush anything when we were writing the debut album. Because of that we were able to take a lot of care in writing those songs, and making sure they were concise and compelling. As far as being fresh for us? Some of the riffs date back to 2013.
Was the trio format something you where looking for from the start, or did it just materialize when Erica joined as she could both sing and play the bass?
J: – It’s just how it came together for us. Having only three people makes a lot of things easier in terms of songwriting and band decisions in general.
N: – In the beginnings, Jeremy and I were jamming with a few other people, and we had some serious delusions of grandeur, with Hammond organs and second guitarists, etc. I think once we got into a room with Erica, it became immediately clear that we could very easily get the point across with the three of us.
Cruz Del Sur is a label with a great and well deserved reputation in underground metal circles. Sanhedrin undoubtedly have a different musical approach and a bigger crossover potential than most acts on the label, do you still think the usual Cruz Del Sur-customer will check you out, and those who haven’t heard you before will give you a chance even though you are on a label mostly associated with a specific type of heavy metal-releases?
J: – Cruz Del Sur has done a great job for us to date in terms of helping us achieve certain goals as a band and expanding our reach. I’m sure that fans of their other acts will come check us out just as a matter of curiosity. I know that I will explore bands on certain labels simply because that particular label is known for quality releases and artists.
N: – With Cruz Del Sur, we’ve been able to maintain and expand our creative outlet. Enrico has been extremely pro active and energetic on our behalf, so we’ve been very happy with the relationship so far. Hopefully while Cruz Del Sur helps us gain some traction in Europe with their established base, hopefully we can help serve as a gateway drug to some of the more specific releases they’re putting out with our more diverse sound.
E: – Enrico is a brave and lucky soul to have taken us on. I am grateful for his participation and the work he does for underground music.
The deal with Cruz Del Sur means you can spend more time on the music and less time on the business side of things, is that the main reason why you are not releasing your albums on your own?
J: – There are many benefits to doing things yourself, but in our case the drawbacks outweigh them. For one, the amount of time it takes to get a record recorded, mastered, duplicated, getting the artwork together and so on takes a lot of work and time. I’d rather focus on making music. Secondly, the three of us in the USA cannot do as god of a job getting the band known across Europe without the resources of a label like Cruz Del Sur. They have a far better understanding of how to get us exposed there than we do.
N: – It was a no brainer.
E: – Self releasing and running a label is a huge amount of work if you want to do it right. It a never ending job. We already have employment obligations because we need to put food in our mouths, roofs over our heads and instruments in our hands. I think we would all rather be playing and writing music when we are not working our survival.
Both your albums strike me as very diverse. Is this something you set as a goal when you start the creative process? Do you write individual tracks thinking about the album as a whole and aiming for a certain kind of diversity?
J: – We start out writing songs by themselves, and as we accumulate songs we start seeing a bigger picture for an album. In terms of the diversity of material, that’s just who we are. We all like a variety of music, and we like to explore things outside the boundaries of a typical heavy metal band. While some bands are happy writing the same song or album over and over, we are happy trying to take our music to new and different places when we can.
N: – We write music we want to listen to. Having played in thrash bands and punk bands over the years, you get tired of doing the same thing over and over.
E: – I’m a music head, not just a metal head.
You got a couple of long tracks surpassing the seven minute mark and also a short one under three minutes. What are the different challenges you are faced with when you have tracks that are developing and growing larger compared to when you want to keep them to the point?
J: – Every song dictates its own arrangement. The three minute song “For The Wicked” came together very quickly. If you listen to it, one can’t imagine it plodding along for any longer than it does. However, other songs are more of a journey and take time to resolve. Every song is its own beast.
N: – I would say when we’re writing a song we actively try not to be formulaic. Not every song should be “Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge/Solo, Chorus.” Some of the songs on this record have been reworked, rearranged, and even frankensteined from other songs before they made the cut.
E: – The long ones are long because thats what it took to tell that story. Same with the short ones.
The new album was recorded during August of last year. Are all song of a newer date than the material on “A Funeral For The World”, or have you reached back and revisited older ideas as well? Do you see a kind of development in your own songwriting when you compare the new songs to the old stuff you wrote?
J: – “The Poisoner” was recorded in the same studio with the same engineer, Colin Martson, as our first album. Colin has done a great job of getting our vision to come through the speakers and is very easy to work with in general. Some of the songs were born of ideas going back a couple years while others were written after the first album was recorded. In terms of development from the first album to this one, there is definitely an evolution. That said, fans of “A Funeral For The World” won’t be in shock by what they hear on the second one.
N: – The songwriting process hasn’t changed, but our working relationship is definitely stronger. For “A Funeral For The World”, there was no buzz, no pressure, no legacy to maintain, and the only limiting factors were what we could afford to do, so we took our time and made the best record we could. This time around I think we may have been a little less prepared going into the studio, but there’s something to be said about having your proverbial back against the wall.
E: – I feel really lucky that these guys keep throwing great music at me that inspires lyrics and vocal lines in my head. It is a prolific relationship.
You have chosen “The Poisoner” as the title of the album. Is that because you feel strongly about the titletrack, or because you think the title is relevant and has something to say about the lyrics on the album in general?
E: – Maybe so… I hadn’t thought about it that way, not consciously at least. It felt like a special song for a couple of reasons. When Jeremy brought in the chord progression he suggested it needed strong vocal support because it was so stark and covered so much territory musically. Secondly, the lyrics came to me channeled from beyond. All of a sudden I had a poem in my head, when I listened to our rehearsal of Jeremy’s new chord progression I realized the poem was for the song. It’s rare when that happens and it is good to take note of it.
Album titles like “A Funeral For The World” and “The Poisoner” sends a pretty strong hint that the views presented through the lyrics are not very optimistic, some might rather say realistic? Is the state of the world today perhaps one of the main inspirations for the lyrics?
E: – Artists always reflect the state of the world in some way. It’s part of the job. But I think I am genetically pre disposed to seeing the Dark Side perspective. My paternal grandmother had a saying: “ Life is a bowl of shit you eat one spoonful at a time.” It sounded better in French. While I don’t live my life by this I can’t escape it either.
“Meditation (All My Gods Are Gone)” is not only the first track you made available as a taster from the album, it’s also the opening cut. Why do feel this song ticks both these boxes?
J: – When looking at this group of songs as a whole, every song was placed on the album where we thought it was have the most impact. Song order is very important on a record, and “Meditation (All My Gods Are Gone” being the opening track is what made the most sense to us while choosing a running order.
N: “Meditation” takes you on a journey. It has heavy riffs, triplets, a 6/8 rhythmic bridge, a killer guitar solo, and to top it off Erica’s performance is simply sublime. It was kind of a no brainer for us.
You have said about the artwork on the new album that it captures the the essence of the album. What’s the link between the artwork and the musical and lyrical content?
N: – We are extremely fortunate to have found someone like Jack (SeventhBell) who we can give music and they can translate it to visuals. In both cases we gave him rough mixes, and some very vague starting points, and he’s just knocked it out of the park.
E:- When we were throwing idea’s around for the cover the I listed snakes, blood and arrows as things I talk about on the album and Jack came up with that. None of us are visual artists, unfortunately. I draw like a five year old and how album art gets sorted out has always been vague for me. Jack has made it easy.
You have performed live with a whole host of different metal acts. What have been the two most different experiences for you when it comes to the other acts on the bill? What are the type of bands you feel you make the best bill along with, and which of the bands you have played with have impressed you the most?
J: – I think the benefit of having a diverse sound that’s a little harder to classify is that we can play with a wide array of bands and not seem out of place. On one hand, we have played with Eyehategod, then after we played with Coven. Two very different acts. Ultimately though, it’s not that different for us. We do our thing when we’re on stage and hope it reaches people in the audience.
N: – We’ve played with solo acoustic guitar/soundscape acts such as Aerial Ruin, dynamic occult inspired acts like Sabbath Assembly and Coven, and with heavy metal bangers like Khemmis and Magic Circle. I particularly enjoyed our run with Sabbath Assembly last summer because in addition to them being wonderful humans, they play with such power, conviction and skill that it’s a real treat to be a musical counter point.
E: – To date one of my favorite shows we played was with Magic Circle and Crypt Sermon. Our sound makes us compatible on a lot of different bills. Playing with Sabbath Assembly was another highlight. I love Jaime and she and I are both alumni of Hammers of Misfortune. Another favorite show we played was Aerial Ruin and Insect Ark. Both ambient and at the time. Both one piece bands.
This spring you will be hitting the road with Gatekeeper for many dates in Europe. What are your expectations for this tour, and how do you view the combination of Sanhedrin and Gatekeeper when it comes to drawing a decent audience and so on?
J: – I think it’s a great tour package. Both bands bring their own style to the stage and the audience will be the real winner. In terms of expectations, we hope to play well for our current fans and gain many more new ones in the process. All of this recent success has been a surprise to us, so we’re really just going along for the ride.
N: – My only expectations are of myself. We’re dragging our asses all the way out there, you’d better believe we’re going to deliver.
E: – I’m with Nate, my only expectations are of myself. I have wanted to tour Europe as a musician for a long time.