Los Angeles's own THE FUNERAL PYRE releases its fourth LP next Tuesday on Prosthetic Records. If you're a fan, you will not be disappointed. If you're new to the band, do yourself a favor and check out this carefully crafted slab of black metal. It's always a revelation to find this much quality in your backyard. We sent vocalist John Strachan a few questions as he was savoring the Lakers' Western Conference title and preparing to hit the road for a lengthy tour that kicks off Friday night in Fresno. The band makes an early hometown stop on Saturday to celebrate the record release with a whole host of excellent local bands.
Vultures At Dawn was recorded at your bassist's studio (Awkward Studios). Did that allow you to take your time with the recording process?
Absolutely, in fact, we tracked everything in our rehearsal spot. We also liked how the place sounded so we figured that tracking in there might give the record a comfortable feel.
We read on your blog that this is the first time that you've tracked a record. Why change the process on your fourth full-length?
Yeah, this was the first time we had ever really tried to be completely hands on with the recording. What it did was it gave us a little extra time to run over certain songs, maybe change arrangements, and just fine tune the record before we sent it to mixing/mastering. We also played the record a bit more fluid because we had all the time we needed while tracking, so it definitely just put our minds at ease.
You also wrote about the new album: "Is it different than our previous record? I guess so." Now that you've had more time to reflect on that question, do you have a different answer?
Honestly, I'm not too sure. It's definitely different than our last record Wounds but there are still elements of that record. I just think on this one we changed up some song structures and also wrote some much shorter songs, so it is different but then again there's still a lot of the same that we always like to have in our songs. Some kids will probably think it's much different and others will think that it's just another extension of our December EP. But who really knows?
Guitarist Justin Garcia's status in the band has seemed tenuous. Is he committed to the band for the long term?
Well, he actually left the band only once before. He wanted to go back to school and try and figure his life out. Little did he know that he can't live without us and was calling us sometime later asking to rejoin. He missed the touring and just the beligerent lifestyle. So we're glad he's back and he isn't going anywhere anytime soon!
The band's sound harkens back to the traditional Scandanavian roots of back metal, while to some people's dismay, many other USBM bands are incorporating a lot of other influences to create something less familiar. As you guys write songs, do you guys think about those issues much?
We actually never think about this. It's not something we can get caught up with and trying to always "outdo" ourselves. While we always set personal goals, we'll always just write what we like with no regard for how "original" it is. It's just not something we care about it. If it happens to be something new and people dig it, then awesome. But we're not out to write a record that will change the world, We're just writing some music we like to play live.
Speaking of influences, we follow your Twitter feed and have been surprised by some of the musicians you mention, for example, Jose Gonzales, Burning Spear, The Smiths, and Oingo Boingo. Is there anyone you like that would really blow us away?
Listening to different styles of music is super important, aside from the bands you mentioned, I'm a huge Vicente Fernandez fan as well. People really always ask why I like him--I mean I don't even speak spanish--but i have friends who translate and vicente is just amazing in every way. He has an awesome band, he's an old man and still can sing with the best of them. The fact that he'll be performing and touring till the day he dies is quite incredible. So yeah, we listen to a lot of different style of music in the van, from blues to brit pop to mariachi to black metal. Our band honestly loves it all.
This is the second full-length in a row without the keyboards that were a big part of your early sound. The guitar sound you're getting now is amazing so we don't miss the keys, but do you see that instrument finding its way back into the band in the future?
Nope. we won't be having keyboards ever again. It was something we messed with in the beginning and while some kids love songs that we have that had keyboards, it's just not something we want in our music anymore. We concentrate on chord riffs and crafting the song with the feeling of the guitar.Wwhile keys always add an element of ambience, we'd rather try to achieve that same feeling with just the guitars.
You are about to embark on a pretty extensive US tour, crossing back and forth the continental US. Are there any places you're not hitting that you wish you could play?
Yeah, I'd actually like to go to New Orleans. I love haunted cities: Nw Orleans, Savannah, cities like that. I don't even care about playing those places as much as I just want to see old haunted buildings. Other than that we just like to play any city that will let us set up and play. Most cities are fun and have something great to offer, but not all of them!
You played SXSW for the first time. What were your impressions of that festival?
I thought it was a clusterfuck and a mess. Granted, I had a fun time, but i don't really like big crowds and loud people. It goes against the whole "playing shows" thing, i know, but when it was on such a scale of ridiculousness that while i definitely would do it again, I'm not really going to go out of my way to try! haha.
It's obvious that you live and die for the Lakers. Give us your prediction for the finals.
The one thing that's more important than music is the Lakers. For the finals, well since they just got rid of the Suns last night and now the Lakers are meeting up with the Celtics, I'm going lakers in 6!