Purveyors of bleak, choke-you-out black metal, Old Soul are the type of band that could soundtrack a violent thunderstorm over an empty ocean. They are monolithic movers of shapes and sounds, yet despite their tongue-in-cheek self-classification as ‘dreamo’, they avoid genre tropes through the injection of taught technicality and hidden concepts. We caught up with them for a quick chat during the middle of their recent European trip to discuss tour life, the Czech Republic and Deafheaven.
Noted: You’re right in the middle of a European tour at the time of writing, so how’s tour life? I imagine a lot of last-minute changes of plan, hard floors to sleep on and energetic, tight-knit live shows?
Old Soul: Tour life is pretty wild – what you imagine isn’t too terribly far from the truth. Being out for so long means that you experience a real roller coaster of different situations, [and] we certainly had some scrambling and last minute changes to deal with. We ran into a situation where we needed more than thirty shows booked only a month before we left for tour, this meant we were still booking shows while we were on the road. This proved to be complicated, but luckily for us there is a beautiful DIY community in Europe that was willing to help us out. We learned a real lesson about trusting booking agents to take care of things; the other bands and our lovely new friends really saved us from having this fall apart before it could get started.
Almost all of the shows were special in their own way, we loved how each place had its own vibe. It was cool to play a squat one night, a bar the next and then have a few fests sprinkled in. It was really the best way to experience as many of the aspects of touring in Europe as possible.
Noted: On that note, how has Europe treated you? Which city have you become enamoured with the most, both musically and culturally?
Subject: It’s so hard to put into words how well we’ve been treated here. The time and care people put into shows and hospitality for bands is truly something unique. The difference between touring in Europe and the U.S. was evident almost immediately – there are a few wonderful people back home that really go out of their way to take care of us when we’re touring, [but] everyone in Europe was like that. Not one night did we have to sleep in our van or be concerned about when our next meal would be.
It’s impossible to pick one city, when we’ve been to so many incredible places. There wasn’t really a day where at least one of us didn’t say “I could live here the rest of my life”. I can certainly say that all of us are in love with Czech Republic and we’ll be making sure to come back as much as possible.
We learned a real lesson about trusting booking agents to take care of things; the other bands and our lovely new friends really saved us from having this fall apart before it could get started.
Noted: Are there specific nuances of your shows that you have noticed compared to American audiences? I find there’s a wider appreciation and higher level of bonding.
Old Soul: People here just genuinely love music. It was rare to hear someone say “I came to this show, for this band”. There is an open mindedness to music that was really something special to experience.
Noted: One of the bands you were out there with was Czech screamo/metal band Nic, who you recently released a fantastic split with. How did your relationship begin, given the long distance between Plzen and Michigan? What are they like to tour with?
Old Soul: A friend of ours showed us their demo online a while back, [and] we loved it pretty much immediately. We decided while hearing it that we should attempt to contact them about a split before someone else beat us to it. It only took a day or two to contact them and they were excited about the idea.
They are, of course, wonderful to tour with. We had a fantastic time with them and it’s created a friendship that will last forever. Luckily we have been able to meet up a few times since our section of the tour ended. We played Creepy Teepee fest in Czech Republic together and now we’ve all met up again during Fluff Fest and plan to hang out for a couple of days before we finally head home. We’re actually in one of their homes right now doing this interview.
The difference between touring in Europe and the U.S. was evident almost immediately
Noted: You’ve also released a split with Lentic Waters, which contains arguably some of your heaviest material to date. Do you find splits a little easier to produce, particularly after three narrative-heavy full lengths and a packed touring schedule?
Old Soul: They are easier in the sense that there is less material to record. We’ve wanted to record splits for a long time and we have a few more planned in the near future, but it’s also harder in a way because we really love all the bands we are doing the splits with. We want to put great stuff on them because we know these bands are fantastic and will record great music.
It was pretty overwhelming trying to finish up the splits in time for tour, when at the same time our first record is being pressed. We really lucked out and found a bunch of cool labels to help us through the process. It was really good for us to do splits with Nic and Lentic Waters before we came to Europe; we wouldn’t have made it without all the guys from both bands helping us.
Noted: You’ve been compared to Deafheaven, which I feel is somewhat inevitable given your ‘dreamo’ sensibilities, but what did you make of the ‘elitist’ war that Sunbather stirred amongst metal extremists who deemed their music to be watered down?
Old Soul: We had never really heard this comparison prior to our tour in Europe. A couple of us had never even heard Deafheaven prior to this tour. We actually spent one of our drives checking out their records. They are a cool band with a lot to offer, though we think the comparisons are a little misguided. We feel like we’re rooted in screamo and punk and the metal or black metal stylings are sort of flashes in the pan on our records. We can’t really comment on what other people thought of their albums. We’re unfamiliar with any controversy they may have stirred. Just sounds like another great band to us.
We have to mention too, how funny it is to us that the whole “dreamo” thing has caught on. We started using this as a bit of an inside joke one day when we were talking about the comedy of screamo being called “skramz” in some places. We were tickled to see it on flyers when we arrived in Europe.
We feel like we’re rooted in screamo and punk and the metal or black metal stylings are sort of flashes in the pan on our records.
Noted: With your next full-length on the horizon, will there be a differing approach to its creation compared to your previous works? Have you a specific narrative or concept that you’re attempted to explore? Does literature and art works like film and theater inspire your creativity?
Old Soul: The next full length is already in the works and we’ll be working on it heavily for as long as it takes. We have a target time for its release but wont rush the process. All of the records, splits included, contain written fragments of a larger story; these will continue to be released with every record. The next full length does have a concept and like every record we’ve released it will have a bit of a different sound and feel.
Noted: Finally, walk us through your musical equipment and recording process. Which pieces of kit have made the biggest difference in your sound?
Old Soul: We play around with several different instruments and amplifiers when we record. Alex Larson from Bright Black Earth Recordings has some great gear and is really good at helping us find the sound we want. We mess around for hours finding the right tone for each record, [and] we also use instruments that we don’t use live, like pianos and different percussion, mostly for interludes and things like that. The pedals that we use play a big part in our sound, and puts the ‘dreamy’ layer to it all. We have been accustomed to using rough gear in the past/present. Being able to pick and choose what we use for recording gives us an opportunity to find sounds we might not be able to reach with our live equipment.
Affording gear is a pretty constant issue for us. Most of our stuff is used or picked up through online trading sites. We go through drum equipment pretty fast and it’s always hard to have all fresh stuff for us when we play live. Really, we have all of the same problems any DIY band encounters with gear.
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