Amidst band practice, day jobs and hectic life schedules, friends Rachel Brown, Chris Dialogue and Andrew Jude of New York’s Archon took the time to talk with me about their new album “Ouroboros Collapsing” and the creative process behind it all.
How do you feel that Archon’s progressed with “Ouroboros Collapsing,” since your last release in 2010?
RB: We became more of a band over the last two years, keeping a consistent line-up, playing shows, writing and recording, and I think this album demonstrates that cohesion.
AJ: Yeah, I agree with Rachel. The Ruins at Dusk was written and recorded very piecemeal – very organically, whereas the new record we rehearsed, played live before recording. That said, there were definitely elements of improvisation and studio creation done on Ouroboros Collapsing as well.
CD: I couldn’t say, I haven’t been sober since ‘07.
I really enjoyed how you allowed the colossal impact of the instrumentals to outweigh the vocals at times, considering you’re all so talented. Are choices like this usually something you’ve premeditated, or do you end up doing more of the production during the mixing process?
RB: I consciously chose to sing or scream over particular parts, and let the music speak for itself at other times. Plus, I don’t think anyone wants to listen to a 15 minute song with constant vocals. As for the vocal levels, we figured that out while mixing.
AJ: My mixing style is to treat vocals the same as any other instrument – they serve the purpose of the songs, rather than the songs existing for the vocals. We’re not some band where the music is just some background noise for the singer. I’ve mixed all the Archon records because outside producers and engineers don’t always seem to understand this.
How is it having two vocalists in the band? I know you both to have pretty dominant personas are excellent at what you do. Have egos ever got in the way of writing and performing, or have you managed to strike a balance at this point?
RB: Well, being that this is my first band experience, I can’t really compare it to anything. I guess we’ve figured out a system.
CD: More than anything it’s a pain in the ass. Rachel gets caught up in specifics and I generally give far too little shits to be productive at all. Somehow, it works, and everything gets done in the end.
What’s your favorite style to sing in?
RB: That’s a difficult question for me. I think when I first joined, I would’ve said screaming. But over time, I increasingly enjoy crafting and executing the melodies. Growling is still fun, though.
This album seems more lyrically dense than “The Ruins at Dusk.” Was it just a matter of having more material for this record or did you and Chris write your lyrics based on what vibrations you felt from your band mates’ composition?
RB: Is it more lyrically dense? I guess it’s two things. Chris and I only really wrote for 2 of 4 tracks on ruins, and we wrote for all 4 this time. And yes, maybe because we had more time to work with the music, we were able to do more with it.
CD: Desert and Eye were the only two songs we really wrote directly hand in hand. Worthless and Masks were more of Rachel sticking to a structured songwriting style which I could incoherently fill in the blanks for on the spot when it came time for recording.
AJ: When we started Archon, vocals weren’t a big priority. We were focused on atmospherics and whatnot and the original vocalist didn’t do a ton of vocals (he played guitar as well), which was fine with me. Over time, this evolved – with Chris and Rachel joining. This album we definitely took a very different approach and the vocals play a more prominent role in the song structures for sure.
I notice Andrew has always been cited as an engineer on the Archon albums. Is this a personal passion, a way of maintaining more creative control or both?
RB: I’d say it’s both. He’s been making music for a long time: writing, recording, mixing and mastering his own stuff, and knows how he wants it to sound. That said, he did agree to my friend Dave Johnson at Bad Back Studios in Cleveland, mastering this album. Thanks Big Metal!
AJ: Yeah, definitely about maintaining creative control. I enjoy the process of mixing and being in the studio, but really, first and foremost, it’s so someone else doesn’t fuck up our records. There’s plenty of “technically great” engineers in New York City, but I’d rather do it ourselves than trust it to someone outside the band coming from a different background. That said, I’ve definitely wondered a bit what it would be like to work with an outside producer/engineer that we really respect in the future. Unfortunately, there are very few of these, none I can think of in New York, and probably the cost would be prohibitive. Working with Steve Albini, for example, would be an incredible experience, I’m sure. That said, there’s no way we can afford that at this point.
CD: Andrew needs to be in control to get off.
RB: Just for the record, there are people I’d work with in NYC, who I think we could afford.
Tell me a little bit about Jacob Hansen’s cover art. The Goat’s head on the ouroboros was quite an unexpected twist to the traditional imagery.
RB: We just told him we wanted an earthy or spacey ouroboros, and that’s what he came up with. We love it.
CD: There needed to be more Satan.
Is this the kind of band you saw yourself being in when you were younger?
RB: Not really, but honestly, though I’ve listened to heavy and dark music since middle school, it was more of a dream to do vocals in a band until a few years ago. Despite being friends with so many musicians and being involved in the underground scene, it was hard for me to make it happen.
CD: I was never younger. I crawled out of my mother’s vagina as I am today.
What’s your opinion on the resurgence of cassette tapes in underground music as a viable format?
RB: It’s an affordable option, but not a lasting one.
CD: Love it. Cheap, accessible, sounds fucking great despite tapes degrading over time. 100 tapes printed at 125 bucks is fantastic for artists who don’t want to have to deal with any shit and just get things done on their time.
Side Note: If anyone has one of the 50 cassette copies of Column of Heaven’s “Soldiers Field” I’ll trade you Archon for it.
Where will Archon be thrusting their energy next; shows, touring or is a new album in the works already?
RB: Hopefully shows and touring!
CD: I’ll be thrusting my energy into daughters across America. With Archon touring, that is.
AJ: We definitely appreciate everyone who has taken the time to check out Archon and supported us through buying records and/or coming to shows so that we can keep doing this and put out another record soon! And yes, hopefully some touring as well.