If you haven't heard a good oddball metal record recently... well, then your head's been under a soundproofed rock and you haven't been reading enough Decibel reviews. Get out there and listen, man! And be sure to check out the new Pyramids record when Profound Lore releases it in the middle of next month. It's dark, it's melodic, it's full of cockeyed chords and chilly percussion. It's pretty great. We will always salute metal that is bloodthirsty, artless and Sataneriffic, but extreme music can also do this.
We asked ringleader R. Loren to help us make sense of the first Pyramids full-length in seven years, and... well, he tried. We also got hold of a new song for you to listen to while you cram your brain full of just a fraction of the art/artists that have become part of the Pyramids story in some way.
You seemed to be pretty prolific in the time shortly after the first Pyramids record, but it's been a while since your last full-length release. What were you involved in during that break?
Shortly after the first Pyramids record, having collaborated with a variety of artists on the bonus disc for that release (remixes from Jesu, lovesliescrushing, Blut Aus Nord, Birchville Cat Motel, James Plotkin, and more), I got swept away in an obsessive need to collaborate. That started with the Pyramids with Nadja release, which took a much more abstract direction than our first proper full length, in part due to the incredible chance to work with Faith Coloccia - a relationship that continued over the next few releases - and collaborating with Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins, Chris of Mineral, Albin of Der Blutharsch. That release just fed the fire that would knock down further dominoes: Pyramids/Horseback, Pyramids with Wraiths, a remix 12" by Ulver and Lustmord, a 5x cassette box entitled "Wvndrkmmer" which included over 50 artists manipulating the same set of files from us to produce something new (Across Tundras, Amber Asylum, This Will Destroy You, Burial Hex, etc, etc, etc), and the Mamiffer/Pyramids split.
Even that wasn't enough, so I took to side projects to feed that obsessive need to collaborate even more - Sailors With Wax Wings (featuring contributions from members of Unwound, Slowdive, Swans, Prurient, Katatonia, My Dying Bride, and a slew of others), White Moth (featuring contributions from Alec Empire, Lydia Lunch, Christoph Heemann, Dalek, Shelby Cinca and more) - and when the constant emotional demand of recording had taken its toll, I channeled my energy towards building the Handmade Birds record label to continue providing myself that outlet to collaborate with and/or aid those whose work inspires me.
A Northern Meadow had been a working title for our second full length since we completed the first record. Nearly seven years had passed since its release, so the thought of putting out yet another split or collaborative release felt like it would be one too many. The time had come for the second proper full length, and as you can see, there is still a thread of collaborators present.
Does Pyramids's music rise from very specific choices and ideas you want to tackle with the music, or is a more free-flowing series of ideas?
There is a definite, overarching vision, but there is an equally definite respect given to the process. The vision is largely tied to a textural, sonic aesthetic. There is a blend of styles and influences that I am explicit about synthesizing. But over many years in many projects, one of the most important lessons I have internalized is the need for the artist to respect the process and acknowledge when someone else in the process is better at something than I am. I wasn't going to be the guy standing over the engineer's shoulder at the board telling him how to mix. Too many bands do that, and by doing that they are dismissing the value of an unbiased third party who is listening objectively and thinking long-term.
How picky are you about tone and recording technique for the various parts of the music?
This goes back to trusting the process. Am I picky? Yes. But because I work with the right people that I trust implicitly for their professionalism, judgement, and musical ability, once the process starts, being picky is rarely necessary. So my picky-ness comes at the front end when I am deciding who to approach about working on the recording. Once the people are in place, it is time to let go and respect the process.
Are there specific artists who have influenced the Pyramids vocal style?
Yes, but listing them would just leave people puzzled. "Inspire" would be more the word because we certainly don't sound like Cocteau Twins, but that would be one sort of inspiration. Tim Buckley as well.
Does the band feel like four people who happened to collaborate with a few talented non-members, or do you feel like those collaborators became part of the band for this album? How close was the collaboration?
Anyone we collaborate with is going to be someone that we feel a natural kinship with. So there is no feeling of us and them. The collaboration, again, was about respecting the process (this record, cheesy as it sounds, is bigger than us), so once I communicated the loose parameters of the overarching vision, from there it was a matter of those whose professionalism and musicianship I trust to take over. The drum programming on this one was born from a dialogue that began back in 2010, took about two years to finalize, and then I sat on them for about two years for a variety of reasons like balancing life and launching Handmade Birds, being in the right head-space to continue the recording process, etc.
What kinds of art - musical or otherwise - is exciting you right now? Is there anything you can pinpoint as having an effect on your output right now?
I have been really into Cory Strand's reworking of soundtracks into ambient and noise compositions, specifically his work with Fargo (the series), Mulholland Drive, and Rebecca. Marissa Nadler's "July" record from last year continues to inspire me day after day. Josh from Vaura convinced me to give Gene Loves Jezebel another try, whom I had dismissed for years, but to my credit had never heard their first album, and it has instantly become an all time favorite. I am excited about what is happening in electronic music right now, and have been listening to a lot of Actress. Lycia has a new album on the horizon, Weeping Rat from Australia have really taken space in my head, and I keep finding myself meditating to a variety of HNW releases, specifically Willowbrook's "The Orphan and the Headmistress". Holodeck Records is killing it out of Austin, as is Black Horizons in San Francisco, who is releasing the cassette version of "A Northern Meadow". The poetry of Anne Sexton, the films of John Cassavetes, the visual and musical works of Scout Pare Phillips (who took the cover photo for "A Northern Meadow"), and documentaries on Netflix. And, of course, I am getting really excited about a new project I am working on that, you guessed it, involves collaborators, and I think may really throw people for a loop.