Muscular, mournful prog metal, anyone? In the Silence are a pretty new find for me, but they don’t fit the Frickin’ Label Hack pattern because they’re sittin’ pretty with a label already. Initially self-released, the band’s A Fair Dream Gone Mad saw a release through Sensory Records a few months back. That’s cool, though. I don’t need to find good stuff first, as long as I get to find it at all. On the band’s debut album, seven swells of burly distortion beneath pretty, meandering melodies and clean-sung lyrical excursions are in store for you. Seriously, they’re in stores, waiting for you to go get them.
Can’t wait? That’s fine. You can catch a listen of the whole album right here, along with an interview with the band’s vocalist/guitarist/creator Josh Burke about the band’s humble, rambling beginnings and how the album title’s quirky familiarity is entirely coincidence.
And if you missed the news last week, the band is starting a tour today with Secrets of the Sky out on the West Coast. If you live near any of the venues listed, get your ass out to a show and let me know how it was. Actually, don't. That'll just make me jealous and pissy. Have fun, though!
Who comprises In the Silence? What are the musical backgrounds and listening habits that have blended to create the band's sound?
The band right now is me on lead vocals and lead guitar, Nathan Higgins on lead guitar, Niko Panagopoulos on drums, and Biagio Guadagnolo on keyboards, Dennis Davis on bass, and once in a while we have the luxury of having Jarek Tatarek perform with us on GuitarViol. And we hope he becomes more a part of the band as time goes on.
As far as listening habits go, we all have a wide variety of things we like, from metal to very un-metal stuff. Personally, I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration as far as creating atmosphere and sonic landscapes from listening to Opeth, Type O Negative, Katatonia, and bands like that. I also really love stuff like the Cure, Depeche Mode, Dead Can Dance, Sisters of Mercy, and old gothic stuff. Dennis and I have known each other for ages, and he introduced me to a lot of bands like Cradle of Filth, My Dying Bride, Tiamat, Samael, as well as goth stuff like Switchblade Symphony, and so on, when we were teenagers. When I first met him I pretty much just listened to Metallica, Guns N Roses, and Alice in Chains! We’ve grown quite a bit since then. Nate brings in some of the heavier riffs, like the breakdown in “Serenity”, and a lot of tasty melodic touches. I don’t know where he gets that stuff from, but it’s like the icing on our cake. Niko is a big Dream Theater fan, and is the least metal of all of us. Biagio actually used to be in a band called With Passion (Earache Records) and was really into black metal and more extreme stuff, but still melodic. These days he and I are pretty much locked in as far as what we like. We’ve just gotten really into Riverside, Skyharbor, Alcest, etc. Jarek used to be the lead guitarist and vocalist (I think) of the Polish thrash-metal band Astheroth. These days he has band called Arcane Dimension, with his wife Teresa. They’re a really cool kind of world-music, tribal dance type sound, and they perform with belly dancers. Jarek plays a custom built bowed guitar called a GuitarViol. It’s easy to mistake for violin or cello on a recording, but live it just looks so much cooler to watch him play it! With all of this put together, I anticipate some new sounds in the future, while maintaining the In the Silence essence, which I like to think of as just trying to make beautiful, heavy, progressive music. I write most of the songs by myself at home, and then bring them to the band and we tinker with them until everybody is satisfied with the final result. Sometimes it’s exactly what I wrote in my bedroom, other times I just have a skeleton of a song and the other guys bring a lot to the table to flesh it out. And lately, we’ve been jamming more and building songs starting from maybe a simple melody or riff. So while In the Silence has always been my creation and my vehicle for expression, everyone in the band has his influence on the final sound.
What were the band’s early years like, regarding writing music, playing live shows, recording, etc.?
Well I actually came up with the band name and first started writing songs way back in 2004 and got as far as jamming regularly with another bassist and drummer, but it didn’t pan out. At that time, I was looking for someone else to sing. I always thought of myself as just a guitar player, and wasn’t sure I could make it as a vocalist. The thought of singing in front of people terrified me, though I guess deep down I always wanted to do it! So anyway, that first lineup didn’t work out. I tried again in 2006, and got as far as doing a few shows, but the line-up just didn’t mesh the way it needed to then either I guess, because everyone quit! So, I shelved In the Silence for a year and tried to do something completely different. It was fall of 2006 and I was doing a lot of writing with the idea of doing a side-project with my friend Azeron, who happens to be an amazing singer and composer. He moved to Los Angeles with his brother Mike Grant, who had just signed a deal with Sony and was recording an album with his band Endeverafter. We were all sure we were gonna be huge rockstars! Well that didn’t work out either, and I came back to Sacramento and started In the Silence all over. But two of the songs that I had started writing for that project, “Endless Sea” and “All the Pieces”, ended up becoming In the Silence songs. And it was actually that same fall before I left for LA, when I was playing those old demos for a friend in the parking lot of a Denny’s after a night dancing at the goth/industrial club, that Niko walked up and asked what we were listening to. He mentioned he was a drummer, that he’d like to jam, and while at the time I wasn’t looking for a drummer, I remembered him. And as soon as I got back to Sacramento, I sought him out. Fortunately he wasn’t too hard to find! I ran into him at the same goth/industrial club we’d met at the year before. So that was really the beginning of In the Silence as it is now. We recruited Dennis about a year later after auditioning a number of people who just didn’t have the right chemistry. Having played in bands together since high-school, it just felt natural when Dennis and I finally started playing music together again. So, we got some songs down, recorded a couple demos, and started playing parties, and eventually some local bars as a three-piece. Once we got our feet wet, we decided to look for a second guitar player. Thanks to Craigslist, we found Nate in May of 2009. Next we added our friend Maureen Rhines on keyboards. She also had been in a previous band with Dennis and me, and we loved her playing style. We started gigging a lot, honing our sound and writing most of what would be A Fair Dream Gone Mad. Sadly, she Maureen ended up going down a very unfortunate path and left the band before we recorded the album. So we went on without a keyboard player until February of this year. We did the album at Fat Cat Recording studios here in Sacramento, with Jack Trammell as engineer and producer. He’s the best in the area, unquestionably, and working with him was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can’t see us being in the position we’re in now if we hadn’t done that. It took close to a year, due to scheduling and the fact that I just couldn’t seem to come up with a vocal melody and lyrics that I was happy with for Serenity until the last possible minute! But we got it done and self-released the album in June of 2012.
I think the artwork done by Nacho Galacho really helped us get people interested in listening to the music, as well, and he actually did quite a bit of promotion for us, which left to a lot of positive reviews and eventually, to the folks at Intromental hearing about us. We signed with them in October 2012, and Claus Jensen got us the deal with Ken Golden at Laser’s Edge group, to re-release the album under Sensory records. Biagio joined the band in February of this year. We’d been acquaintances for years, and he and Dennis had been friends for a long time, but he and I didn’t really know each other, so much as know of each other. I saw him at a Gojira show and gave him a copy of the album...which he didn’t listen to! It was a few weeks later that Dennis invited him to hang out, for the first time in years actually, and he and Niko played the album for him. I guess he liked it, because he asked if we were looking for a keyboardist. Within a week of that he auditioned, the chemistry was great, and we did our first show with him after just two rehearsals. the rest of this year has just been a blast, as it finally feels like we have the lineup I always wanted. Biagio has become one of my best friends and we write really well together. The final piece was Jarek, who came out to ProgPower USA with us to perform “Beneath these Falling Leaves”. We had an amazing experience there, and at this point we all just can;t wait to get back out on the road and play for some new people!
What did you set out to do with A Fair Dream Gone Mad? Are the lyrics/music very personal or are they more about storytelling and exploring?
Well, it wasn’t really a concept album or anything, just 7 songs that we felt were the best material we had, and then “Close to Me” was something I felt was really pretty and I wanted to record it, even though we’d never played it as a band. It seemed like a nice break in the album. Some people think it’s a low point, but whatever. The lyrics are both personal, and esoteric in some ways. I like to write about concepts that I think are spiritually or conceptually interesting, and things related to the world we live in and how we can evolve out of fear and chaos and self-destruction to hopefully something better. “17 Shades”, for example, is about going within and finding your inner truth, and rejecting the lies and dis-information imposed on us by exterior forces who have a vested interest in what we all are thinking. “Endless Sea” is more of a cosmic love song...like going into the embrace of a lover and finding a sense of wonder and oneness that enables you to overcome fear of death and to be inspired about life’s possibilities. “Beneath These Falling Leaves”… pretty obviously is about Mother Earth. “Your Reward” is the one really personal song, which I wrote about my ex-girlfriend who had a problem with heroin. It was a really sad situation and writing that song helped me deal with it. I hear she’s doing much better now, but it was really painful to have to deal with at the time.
What was your recording experience like?
Well, it was all good honestly! It was time consuming, but it was just a lot of fun overall working with Jack (or Jay as we called him). The excitement of finally after so many years, getting to do a proper recording of our music and have it sound fantastic is one of the best things you can get to do as a band. And having Jarek come in to do “Beneath These Falling Leaves” was a lot of fun! I honestly can’t think of anything negative about the whole experience.
What differences do you see between the way you approached album recording and the way you approach live performances?
Well they’re two very different things. Recording an album is a very slow, deliberate, careful, and repetitious process, almost to the point of being tedious at times when you’re recording the same guitar part 4 times, exactly the same! Live is live, you go up there and just try not fuck anything up, and put as much energy into it as you can. It’s a very interactive thing because you’re feeding off of the energy of the crowd and using that to fuel your performance. In the studio, it’s just you and a microphone and the engineer in the other room. Also, live we can’t always do all the same things. We don’t have 5 guitar players to do all of the layers at the end of “Endless Sea”, or all the vocal harmonies. Right now I’m the only singer, but we’re working on that to hopefully be able to do the harmonies live at some point.
Is the album title a direct reference to Last Fair Deal Gone Down?
It’s kind of funny, but no. Not consciously anyway. Obviously I’ve heard of it, but in fact, that’s one of the Katatonia albums I still don’t even have...and I know it’s a good album! But for me, A Fair Dream Gone Mad is kind of about the state of things in our world...a beautiful world was dreamed up that has been twisted into something crazy and dark and on the edge of annihilation. The funny thing with Katatonia is, I would say there the one band whose style we’re closest to, but I didn’t even start really listening to them until Night is the New Day came out, by which point almost everything for A Fair Dream Gone Mad had been written. I’ve been a huge Opeth fan for a long time, and of course I’d heard Katatonia before, but I didn’t have any of their albums, and no one else in the band listened to them. Now I’d say they’re one of my favorite bands!
What other bands do you feel kinship with, either in sound or because you've worked with or toured with them?
Well we’re getting to know the guys from Secrets of the Sky, and I love what they’re doing. This is actually going to be our first tour. And, we also have to give a shout out to David Vincent of Morbid Angel! Dennis met him at Maryland Death Fest, gave him a pre-release copy of five songs from the album, and he actually listened to it, messaged me on Facebook, and bought the album on Amazon when it came out! He’s a really cool guy, and we got to have dinner with him when they came through Sacramento last year. So cheers to you Mr. Vincent if you happen to read this! I will say there are some bands we’d like to tour with, that I feel are amazing bands who fit our vibe either musically, lyrically or both: Opeth, Alcest, Gojira, Katatonia of course, Riverside, and many many more.
What is In the Silence looking forward to in the near future?
We’re doing this tour with Secrets of the Sky, and when we get back, we have a lot of new material to work on! I can’t wait for people to hear it actually. So hopefully we’ll be recording this winter and release something next summer or fall. We’ll see. And, I am sure we’ll be doing more touring. There’s nothing I can officially announce just yet...but I do have a secret that will be announced soon!
Check out In the Silence on Facebook also.