Thursday, November 1, 2018

interview: Lost Tribes of the Moon

Earlier this year the Wisconsin, U.S. band Lost Tribes of the Moon issued its self-titled, independent debut album, which came out on September 18th, 2018. You could say that they are a doom band, and that is factually accurate, but this band focuses on interesting compositions and they are very serious about the music that it is worthwhile to look into this as much more than a curiosity. The album is organized as follows:
1.Intro / The Rise and Fall of Midian 03:34
2.Wych Elm 10:09
3.Revenant 08:06
4.Ka-tet 01:36
5.Lost Tribes of the Moon 13:22
6.Outro / In Search of a New Midian 01:27
total time 38:14
As you can see, the songs are on the longer side of the spectrum. The music varies in mood, as the band rejects the monotonous slow one-dimensional approach so popular in doom in 2018 and recent years. The guitar work offers good riffs and melodies that are attractive to the ear; and in case it matters to you, the guitar tone is not stoner/sludge/drone, but more in line with classic Candlemass, Trouble or 1980s Black Sabbath, more or less, but updated, heavier for 2018. In other words, there is a heavy metal heritage at work, even though the music is firmly rooted in super duper doom heaviness. The guitar melodies sometimes point towards that bluesy style of classic doom, and the melancholic vibes are an important part of the music, too. Expect the band to surprise you by picking up the tempo to a nice, steady doom headbanging pace. Another crucial element to be mentioned is the fact the Wisconsin band prefers to have melodic, traditional, strong heavy metal singing that features a powerful set of lungs that carry a tune big time. You can try to sing along, of course, but you might find that you are embarrassing yourself by trying to keep up, but that is ok because you are alone anyway so there’s no one there to judge you. This is between Lost Tribes of the Moon and you, and no one else. Anyway, find out for yourself about the band in this interview. The band is Jeremiah Messner (drums), Jon Liedtke (guitars), Janine Rhode (vocals), and Ben Wright (bass).
Greetings! Who is answering this interview?
Jon: guitar
Janine - singer
The debut album is a good, quality recording. This is an independent album, right? It was recorded at Howl Street Recordings. Is this a studio in Milwaukee, and how did you manage to make it sound so good?
Janine - Howl Street is in Milwaukee and is our friend Shane Hochstettler. He’s a great engineer, a great drummer, and a great guy. Shane’s great to work with in that you can bounce ideas off him and he’ll have ideas of his own and it’s fine to try stuff to see how it sounds. He’s very relaxed and easy to work with on that front but he also is aware of time constraints and how to set everything up and keep things moving at a good clip. We paid for it ourselves.
Jon is also a great “master-planner” and he had the intro and outro mapped out with many different instruments. I ad libbed my violin and vocal parts in an hour or two, mostly after everything had been done already so I did have an idea of what was already there and what might stand out or blend in musically. So between Jon and Shane I think we were able to layer things really nicely.
Jon – Most of us have worked with Shane in our previous bands and he is the best person to work with around here for all the aforementioned reasons and more. He has had lots of experience working with heavy metal bands of all different genres but also has recorded a lot of music that isn't at all metal related. We value that almost as equally, because there's elements to our music (particularly the supplemental tracks on our album) that don't sound like metal, which makes it ideal to have someone behind the controls who understands music in multiple genres and not just within metal itself. It helps that we can call him a friend, because he allows for us to feel very comfortable while working with him. He has an excellent balance of professionalism and personable approach.
How long was the album in the making? Did it take a long time to find the right singer?
Jon: I started writing the music for what became the material for our debut album in late 2015. Once I had the compositions ready to share with a group, I started seeking out proper bandmates. By the time we became a live unit, we went though a couple of drummers until we got Jeremiah, our current drummer. Jacob who was the original bassist and recorded on the album, was around from the beginning of the process and left after the album to focus on his personal life. We had another singer originally, for whom we only did one show with. She didn't work out too well, and left shortly thereafter. We had a gig that we did as an instrumental 3 piece while still figuring out our future and after the show I realized that if we were going to continue with this material, that I needed to find someone who could do the music justice, or just abandon the material and try to move on in a different direction. I knew Janine from a couple bands she had been in around town, and I always really admired her range and powerful vocals. To me, she was the perfect fit. Coincidentally, she came to the show that night and while I didn't necessarily look at it as a “sign” I didn't hesitate to ask her right then and there to join the band. She really added a lot more focus and attention to the vocals for this band, and upgraded it from it's previous version. She stepped in pretty quickly and completely rewrote 2 of our 3 songs' lyrics and performed 2 big shows with us only after being in the band for 2 months! We recorded the music a little ahead of Janine just to get it out of the way and give her time to work up final versions of her lyrics and vocal patterns. From the time we started recording til the time we finished mixing and mastering was about 6 months so it really wasn't too long considering the time it took to secure a proper lineup and work up the material. It was all worth the wait though because we are pleased with how the album turned out.
Janine: I joined the band after the first singer left. I knew Jon from around and knew that he was a killer guitar player and nice guy. One night I wandered into our “home base” bar, Frank’s, to see a band. Jon came up and asked if I wanted to be in the band and I immediately said yes. So that was it, no auditions or demos or whatever. The songs and lyrics were already written, bur my singing style was very different from what she had done. For the title track, I mostly left what she had in place.
Are there plans to get a label involved with this album at this point? Would there be an advantage in getting a label involved?
Janine - No plans yet, but sure, that would be awesome to get label support, but we’re not psychos about it [laughs]. All of us know different people whose obsession to “make it” has made them more of a cautionary tale than anything. We do our music because we love it and people seem to like listening to us and we all have lives, families, careers, and interests outside of the band. That’s not to say we don’t give it our all on stage or even at practice, but we’re rooted in reality. And that’s actually a good place to be working from, in my opinion. We’re all mature enough to read the fine print and wait for something that will work for everyone and not allow what we do to be compromised.
Jon – As Janine said, we are realistic about our goals and expectations. We do however dream big, as any serious band should do, but fortunately most of us have been around the band merry go round more than once or twice before and thanks to those experiences (both good and bad) we are mature enough to not jump at the first sign of any label support unless it's something that makes sense and will benefit our goals. Proper label support is something we aspire to have and we know in order for that to happen, we need to establish our name. We figured that putting the album out ourselves and promoting it in our various grassroots forms would be a good way to start as opposed to recording an album and shopping it around until someone agreed to put it out. We probably wouldn't be doing this interview right now if we went that route! Speaking of which, we are currently working with Clawhammer PR to help promote our debut album past our own abilities. I've worked with them in the past, and they do great work helping a band get their name out to reviewers and various forms of press.
Speaking of the future, this is not a studio project, right? What are your plans for the rest of 2018 and for 2019?
Jon: We are all pretty heavily involved in this band as our main musical focus, and we've been making a conscious effort to get our name out there and make people aware that we exist. Our plans for the next year is to promote our debut album as best as possible and get out and away more from our hometown and play in some cities we have yet to visit. We've shared the stage already with a lot of awesome bands and it would be nice to go play with them in their own neck of the woods. It is also our goal to work together with this current lineup and develop the next bulk of compositions.
How would you describe the inspiration behind Lost Tribes of the Moon? What type of emotional connection might your music offer to people reading this interview?
Jon – My inspiration for this band musically was to take a sound that for lack of a better description had a doom rooted style but to mix it up with various other forms of metal from classic late 70's and early 80's stuff as well as some black metal and then add more progressive style song structures and formats. Theme wise, the band was initially inspired by the Nightbreed comic book series based on the movie and concept by Clive Barker. We're all big comic book fans, and to me it seemed to serve as a good theme to start with songs based on mythological creatures and dark tales. It seemed to fit the sound of the music quite well to me. I think the music we have currently represents feelings of loss as well as gain but at a cost along with a sense of wanderlust and deep-rooted feelings of uncertainty and wonder.
What can you tell us about the lyrics on the album? Lost Tribes of the Moon certainly sounds like a cool title, but is there an overall concept at work on the album? Are the lyrics the work of several people or just one person in the band?
Janine – The songs were written when I joined. I had a very different singing style than the last singer so I wanted to write them how I sang naturally. I also didn’t like the idea of just using what was there already. The title track I left alone save some additions and edits, but on the other songs, those lyrics are all me. Lost Tribes of the Moon is actually from the Nightbreed comic series. The very general overarching theme that we work with is from the Nightbreed universe. We were actually lucky enough to get artwork from Martin Mercer who worked on that series. However, I like to put layers of different meanings in each song. Being a big ol nerdy Maiden fan, I gravitate towards historical and mythological themes.
Jon: While The Nightbreed theme served as a main inspiration and catalyst for the themes of this band, we don't feel it necessary to stick to just that, rather to open the window further into other themes of mythology and dark tales. Janine has really helped stretch our lyrical universe since joining the band and helped add more layers to our themes.
How much live work has the band done in Milwaukee at this point?
Jon: We've been playing out as a live band since Sept. of 2017, but we've played 15 shows already in that time, so we do like to get out and play. We've all been in a number of bands in the past, but I started writing the material for this group in late 2015, and after some lineup changes, was able to achieve the lineup that currently exists, which I believe is the best suited one to progress and move forward as a unit. A few shows have already been out of town and moving forward we will make that our primary focus for playing out.
How did your singer discover that she could sing?
Janine – In grade school they lined everyone up and told us we had to pick a music class to be in – choir, band, or orchestra. I tried to get into choir since that’s what my friends were doing but the teacher told me I couldn’t sing because I’d never had a choir class before and I got put into orchestra. I did alright playing violin and actually got a scholarship to music school but the competitiveness of that scene was a real bummer to me and I got more involved in sculpture and visual arts. Meanwhile, I grew up singing along to the radio and my parent’s record collection. It’s just something I always did. Later on I jammed with a handful of people but nothing that ever made it out of the basement. I used to do karaoke with some friends in the basement of a VFW hall and I realized “I don’t suck at this”. I didn’t have any luck finding any heavier bands to play with and needed a part time job during school so I joined a 70’s cover band and did Heart, Joplin, Carole King, Pat Benetar, that sort of thing. After that, I started being able to find bands that I could work with and here we are.
Your guitarist Jon Liedtke has several music degrees? Could you tell us about what music Jon has studied? Is Jon currently involved a bunch of other music projects?
Jon: I took private lessons when I was younger and learned scale shapes and chords and how to play solos. When I was 14 I got a subscription to Guitar World Magazine and it helped me learn a lot of different guitar skills from some of my favorite guitarists. I started off when I was younger progressing through more extreme forms of heavy metal and playing in various types of metal bands.. Later on I took a 90 degree turn and got really into blues and old rock, especially prog rock and psychedelic. I've also always had an interest and involvement in experimental/noise music as a different way to exercise my musical brain. In my later 20's I went to college for music, and it really helped me fill the gaps of things I didn't understand or care to know, and it opened up a lot of newer avenues to approach music. I studied a lot of jazz and classical and learned a lot of new methods. Lost Tribes Of The Moon is my main musical priority. Even though I've played in a lot of metal bands over the years, I was never able to start my own and create a sound from scratch. I wanted to do a band like this, because I felt like it allowed for me to use a wide range of influences and writing techniques. In prior bands, I sometimes was only able to use certain specific types of influences and writing methods because that's what suited best, but in this band I can use more palettes of style than any band I've ever been. It took a lot of work to get the band to this point and I realize how lucky and grateful I am to have gotten this far and to have this amount of talent in our lineup, I don't want to take that for granted. I'm pretty excited for new material, because it will be approached at as a group effort from earlier stages in the writing process.
Now that the album is finished, what does it feel like to finally have it all done? Do you worry about whether enough people will get to hear it? If you could tell a new listener some words of advice or preparation for listening to Lost Tribes of the Moon, what would you tell them?
Jon: There was definitely a feeling of relief when we finished putting the album together, because even though it's our debut album, I've been with this process since I started writing the material 3 years ago, and it felt like a very important end to the first chapter in this band. I think it also set the tables for an exciting start to the next chapter for us. I think we've made some good decisions on getting the word out about the album so far, so I know if we keep doing what we're doing, and continue to play out more, that we will get our name out there and hopefully the music will do the talking for us. If I were to give any advice to a new listener, I would tell them that this music may sound like a lot of things that might sound familiar to you if you've ever dabbled in late 70's and early 80's metal, but there is also some black metal and progressive influences in the mix. Our music is a culmination of influences that go beyond those sounds as well so expect to hear a doom style sound of metal but upon intent listening the layers of multiple influences will unfold to show our uniqueness.
How can fans support your music?
Jon: We currently have our debut album out now on CD and digital download. You can listen to our music for free on our Bandcamp page, and if you like what you hear, you can purchase a digital download or CD from there. Here's the link.
Thank you for your time!
Jon: Thank you, it was fun answering your well-thought questions!

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