ThisIsNotAScene‘s Gilbert recently reviewed the great debut record from Sonance, entitled “Like Ghosts”, he enjoyed it so much we sent him off to chat with Ben and Will of the band to find out a bit more about Sonance.
Could you indulge us in a bit of history of Sonance? How did you come to be?
Ben: We’re a reasonably new band, we’ve been together maybe two years. Like Ghosts is the first thing we’ve written and recorded. We’ve known each other for years and the need to write music was there for us all.
Will: Yeah there was definitely a collective urge to be making this music, we spent quite a while working away in earnest on it, in a cellar drinking Country Choice and Thatchers.
Your record “Like Ghosts” has two songs each around optimal length for vinyl and called Side A and Side B. How much was releasing a dark, intense record on vinyl a goal from the start?
Ben: It was never intended to work out that way. The main piece (Side A) was written and we had the end of Side B almost ready to go so we just jammed it out when we recorded the drums. We had various song titles in mind but in the end we just went for Side A and B.
Will: Dark and intense were the only things we thought out initially. Once it felt like we’d finished writing it, it became a goal to get it onto vinyl. We were very lucky that Doognad came along at just the right time.
What sort of experiences and inspiration do the different members bring to the band?
Ben: Hard to say really. Will and I have played guitar in bands together for a long time; I think we provide a good foundation for the material. We all read a lot of the same books and listen to the same records, I think fundamentally we collectively enjoy that ultra heaviness we achieve in rehearsal. It can be quite special, almost physical.
Will: We have a dropbox folder that’s sync’d between us all, any and all ideas go in there, practice/gig recordings, bits of artwork, so ideas are flowing around from us all as much as possible. Other than that and what Ben has already said, I find Tom’s words pretty inspiring, he’s a great lyricist.
You have said you are influenced by Sonorism – it’s a movement that gets little recognition for its impact on doom, drone and other experimental rock and metal. Can you tell us a bit more about what Sonance has to do with 1960s Polish music?
Will: I wouldn’t have said it does directly, but then composers associated have certainly soundtracked a fair few horror films so maybe there’s something inadvertent going on.
Sonorism was something I mentioned in a previous interview, because personally I’ve drawn a lot of influence from how masses of sound were put together by composers like Penderecki; the stark shear dynamics and uncomfortable atmospheres. I see it as really similar to the stuff I get into with this band, where you’re focused on the sounds you can get out of your instrument, what they feel like and how you put them together, rather than thinking about chords/harmony/melody – It helps stop slipping into a music by numbers trap and keeps things visceral, which is where we want them isn’t it?
Plus, even if like me you can barely read music, the scores are relatively easy to go through whilst listening.
There are a couple of basic string techniques used on the record that I picked up from reading through, but really it’s all down to the arranger’s skill there. She demo’d the parts by multi tracking her voice and then transposed it for the players, amazing stuff.
Imagine a scale in experimental music between playing around with your gear to discover new sounds, and dreaming up sounds then finding ways to reproduce them. Where does Sonance sit on that scale?
Ben: Somewhere in between. Imagine a dictaphone played with a screwdriver.
Will: That’s an interesting question. I think individually the components of our playing are riffs/technique we’ve worked out and brought in, or happened on from being in the room at the volume we play at. As a group things are imagined or discussed and then put into action.
Most bands that play post-metal, doom, sludge and the like use the contrast between light and shade to create depth. Hell, even death metal bands like Suffocation have sprinkles of lightness. Sonance, on the other hand, feels like a battle between evil and evil. It’s all tense, dark and heavy even when it’s quiet, yet there are still two sides working against each other. Why does it work?
Ben: I’m not sure they work against each other, more with each other. There is no night without day, no white without black etc. I think the key is to take each extreme as far as you can; quiet parts to almost silent and heaviness to the point of obliteration. That is what we strive to achieve. Nothing forced but equally nothing held back.
Will: Yeah the tension in the music for me is in its contrast, quiet doesn’t necessarily mean backed off.
Your music is dark, but according to NME’s 50 darkest records of all time, not as dark as Coldplay. In fact, Black Sabbath, Swans, NIN and Sunn O))) seem to be the only heavy bands that made the list. Why does the popular music press need clear mournful lyrics from pop groups to find music bleak?
Ben: I don’t read the NME, and this reminds me why.
Will: In a previous band whilst on tour the singer bought a copy of NME. When he got the shits we hid the toilet roll so it was the only thing he had available to wipe his arse with.
Are you gloomy people or does playing this sort of music serve as catharsis?
Will: I feel better when we play. Well, I’m not sure that it releases anything.
How many times have you played live now? Is there a movement in the UK underground away from clubs and pubs and into record stores and homes?
Ben: About six. From what I can tell the heavy scene is thriving, especially doom, sludge and stoner. Vinyl releases and sales seem to be on the up, but I still think a variety of formats is the way to go.
Will: I’m not aware of such a movement, but would be very up for getting involved in something like that, especially as we’re a band that can play with just a vocal PA.
Do people shut the fuck up during the quiet bits or jibber jabber, and if the latter, does a loud burst of noise serve as some sort of revenge?
Ben: I’ve never heard any noise, I hope that’s because we capture people’s attention and provoke some sort of emotion or reaction. If you watch our video at The Cube in Bristol on Youtube, during a quiet section one of the crowd mutters “this band’s insane”. That’s the reaction we’re after.
Will: I try to focus on what I’m playing so don’t really notice, but it seems mostly silent, people get really drawn in by the projections I guess.
Playing doom doesn’t seem like the #1 tip for picking up girls and I imagine it’s a sea of beards out there in the crowd. Have you at least got some free beers out of all this?
Ben: No free beer yet, but please feel free to buy me one. Ale is good, or Guinness. Or brandy.
Will: Why would you try to use playing doom to pick up women?
Have Bronies infiltrated your fan base, and do you have strategies in place to prevent this?
Ben: I had to Google that…….I think the answer is no.
Will: Throw up on your unhappy face.