EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SON OF AURELIUS GUITARIST CARY GEARE
In case you missed my review, I am really, really into The Farthest Reaches, the debut album from Santa Cruz quintet Son of Aurelius. Proggy, techy, brutal and infectious in equal measures, The Farthest Reaches is the most assured debut by a metal band I’ve heard in some time – and SOA only just formed last year. Imagine what the future holds for them!
The Farthest Reaches will be the inaugural release from the newly-formed Good Fight Entertainment next Tuesday, April 13. On the eve of the album’s release, SOA co-guitarist Cary Geare took some time to get on the phone and tell me all about these incredibly promising young upstarts. Read the full transcript of our chat after the jump.
Well, we all kind of got together to do a recording project. Josh [Miller, vocals] kind of assembled everybody to go work with Zack [Ohren, producer] on a three song demo. We all got really excited about it and got really into writing some cool tunes. We figured we’d start a band off of it and get going on it and write some songs for a full-length. We all started practicing together and became friends. We didn’t really know each other that well before the recording. We all kind of got to know each other writing the songs for that project. So it kind of just came out of nowhere. [laughs]
So how did you guys all meet if you didn’t know each other beforehand?
Well, Josh knew me kind of vaguely. He gave me a call because he knew some other folks that wanted to do the project, but they all flaked on him. He knew that I play guitar and gave me a call asking if I wanted to do this. It was super short notice – it was like a couple of days before we went in. He knew Max [Zigman], the bass player, from another band that he was in with him. I didn’t really know him; I knew of him because we’re all from Santa Cruz. The first time we met was at Spencer’s [Edwards] house – the drummer. We all met up and started practicing the songs.
So when you came into it, the songs were already written?
No. There were four days until we were going to go into the studio, so I wrote two songs and Max and Spencer wrote one.
What’s the songwriting process for you guys? The music is pretty complex.
Generally, we sort of write a song all the way through. We’ll take turns writing a song. Sometimes we’ll exchange a couple of riffs, but generally it’s one guy writing a song all the way through and then we’ll all learn it. So we just let everyone do their own thing, and then decide what song we want to use. Depending on if someone wants a riff here or a solo there, we’ll see who wants to contribute to it. It’s generally one person who writes one song.
Got it. So when you recorded those three songs, that obviously went pretty well…
Yeah, yeah. It was pretty smooth. I recorded the two songs that I wrote, and then Max did bass on them and Spencer obviously did the drums. Then on the song that Max wrote, he did bass and guitar because I just didn’t have time to.
So then how did Chase [Fraser, co-guitarist] get involved?
Well, we got the demo that turned out really well, and I was just showing it to all of my friends. He took a listen and was really pretty psyched on it. Me and Chase had been kind of jamming together and doing side projects before I got involved with those other guys. He was just really into it and was excited about it.
That’s cool. And you obviously have a relationship established with Zack Ohren at this point…
…can you talk a little bit about what working with him was like?
Yeah, sure. I always heard about him because I’m friends with the fellows from Odious Mortem and Decrepit Birth, who work with him a lot. I’ve always heard these stories about Castle Ultimate and what a great job he does and the other bands that he’s worked with and stuff. That was also a big part of why I jumped on the recording project, even with such a small window of time – just because I want to work with him. He’s got a new spot now, but his other spot was kind of small. He had a break room with an Xbox in it. We were all just there for a long time kind of kicking it, and everyone does their part. Working with Zack, he’s a workhorse, man. He takes his lunch break at the computer while working on the songs. He’s editing pretty much nonstop. He does eighteen hour days, and he’s just constantly working. He’s really patient, and he knows what he wants to get out of it. He’s been doing metal for so long now that he kind of just knows what he needs to get. I just kind of let him tell me what to do [laughs] as far as helping him get it done as fast as possible and using his expertise, because he’s been there and done that for so long that he has a really good idea of what he wants to get.
Does he contribute to the songwriting at all, not in terms of writing for you guys necessarily, but in terms of saying, “Maybe this would be better if it was longer/shorter” or “Put something here” or whatever?
Not really. You go in there with the songs pretty well done. He does have some contribution as far as what tone to use, obviously, and a few things here and there. If I’m doing some complex layering on a solo or something, I might ask his advice and say, “What do you think about adding this extra, extra harmony on top of that?” If he’s like “That’s overkill,” then I’ll generally just listen to him and leave it off. You know, just little questions like that. As far as song structure and the actual notes we use, they’re all kind of written [already], and he tells us what will sound good with what we got.
And now you’ve got your first album coming out, The Farthest Reaches. Did you have a goal in mind for your first album? Was there any kind of conscious direction or, a deliberate foot you wanted to put forward for this?
We just wanted to have it be really varied as far as the songs. I wanted to have straight-up death metal songs on there, some catchier tunes, and we wanted to do some proggy stuff. Our main focus was to make the songs really different from one another. So we have a lot of variety on there, and a lot of different people may be big on different stuff on the album and it wouldn’t get too stale or boring too quickly. That was the main thing we were going for.
“The Farthest Reaches” is also a song on the album, but is there any particular thematic reason why that became the album’s title as well?
Not specifically. That song we all really kind of dig. As far as Josh goes, he takes care of the lyrics and all those thematic ideas. It was kind of his idea to do it, because the lyrics on that song have more of a story in there. The rest of the songs are more based on mythology and history from ancient Rome and stuff. That song is kind of a more fictional story to it about a crazy guy who tries to steal Zeus’ power and stuff like that. [laughs] He kind of wanted to focus on that epic song with all those epic lyrics that he wrote.
I was going to ask, because Son of Aurelius, I’m guessing, is a reference to Marcus Aurelius? Am I way off base there?
Yeah, you’re right. That’s kind of part of it. It’s in reference to Commodus, who is the son of Marcus Aurelius, but in our sort of band world, he’s this guy that’s kind of crazy and not really historically [accurate to] Commodus. Commodus was kind of a punk and wasn’t really a bad-ass. He was just crazy. We made fictional him a little bit. It’s kind of hard to explain.[laughs]
No, I get it. He was a crazy motherfucker, as I understand it.
Yeah, he was just nuts. So we thought that was good, but we also took liberty with it. I think that song “The Farthest Reaches” is actually about Commodus stealing Zeus’ powers or something like that. We’re basically fictionalizing it, but it’s a mix of fiction and history and mythology.
Is there something about that era of history or mythology that is particularly appealing to you guys? Karl Sanders is obviously obsessed with all sorts of Egyptian shit… is ancient Rome to Son of Aurelius the way ancient Egypt is to Nile?
Yeah, it’s kind of something like that. We just were all kind of digging on having some kind of theme for the band. One of the songs off the demo was called “Son of Aurelius,” and the other songs didn’t have any mythology in them or anything. That song was about gladiators and stuff like that. We were all kind of digging on that as far as a direction for the band. It was kind of a fluke thing. We were like, “Let’s make that the band name and have this mythic, ancient Rome theme, because I don’t think there’s a lot of bands that have that theme.” It’s kind of why we liked it. We thought it was kind of original and had an epic vibe.
Well, his name is Joshua. It’s this guy that Josh got hooked up with. Josh is really into the art thing, and he has this network of artists that he’s known for a long time and this is one of those guys. I think he’s done cover art for other bands too. He really went all out on it. He also did the art for our Myspace page, which is really cool, too. We just had this idea of doing Pandora’s Box opening up and all this chaos spilling out. We wanted it to be really busy, crazy and really colorful. He kind of really ran with the idea and got really crazy with it. He took it pretty far. The sketches that we saw coming out of what he was doing was really, really cool. We were really stoked out, so we told him to keep going and make it as crazy as possible. It came out really well.
Yeah, no kidding. And how did you guys get hooked up with Good Fight Entertainment? You’re going to be their first release, which is an interesting position in which to find yourself…
It’s funny, because we hit up [graphic designers/Good Fight creative directors] Sons of Nero to do our MySpace layout months ago, like months before we even heard from Carl [Severson, Good Fight co-head honcho]. We never heard back, and we were kind of in discussions with other labels and trying to figure out what our best options were. Out of the blue, Carl sent us an e-mail saying he was really interested and was wondering if we wanted to get on his new label and all this stuff. It was just kind of out of the blue, and it worked out perfectly because we had the recording done, the art done, and he was doing this new label. It was just really convenient as far as putting it out there and getting a quick release for his new label. He really got behind us and really dug on us. We were just stoked to do that. It was obviously the best option for us, to be kind of a baby band on a brand new label like that.
Did you feel any trepidation about being a baby band on a brand new label?
Not really, because Carl was really upfront with us. He put our mind at ease. He has so much experience, and he made Ferret into the label that it became, so we knew he was going to do Good Fight in a really big way. We were really especially stoked from the onset. When you’re a new band on a new label like that, you’re going to get a lot of attention and a lot more hype, as opposed to being on a bigger label that has a million bands and you’re just another band on their label.
So what’s next for you guys once the album comes out? I know you’re doing some dates out west with Whitechapel in May…
Right. We’re supposed to be doing that stuff with Whitechapel, and then I think we got some stuff going on April – I don’t know if it’s confirmed yet. I know the Whitechapel dates are confirmed so we’re definitely doing that. Hopefully we’ll be doing some stuff right when the album comes out in April.
And I assume the plan is to be on the road as much as possible for the foreseeable future?
Yeah, exactly, especially when the album comes out. We want to make sure we’re out there playing.