When it comes to my musical interests, I find myself very prone to phases. Someone will ask me what’s good, and I’ll always have to qualify that I’m in the middle of some phase or another. I can spend months listening to nothing but prog rock (e.g., Yes, Rush, The Mars Volta, etc.), weeks researching post-punk (e.g., Joy Division, Talking Heads, etc.), post-rock (e.g., Mogwai, Jesu, God is an Astronaut, etc.), or a year digging the depths of black metal (e.g., Wolves in the Throne Room, Fall of Efrafa, etc.). Two genres seem to remain stable through all of this: Hip-hop and some strain of metal, and Mouth of the Architect has been in regular rotation since The Ties That Blind (Translation Loss, 2006). Along with Cult of Luna‘s Vertikal (Density Records) and Deafheaven’s Sunbather (Deathwish, Inc.), their forthcoming Dawning is one of my most anticipated records of 2013.
One night in the summer of 2010, I was driving to my parents’ house in Alabama listening to The Violence Beneath (Translation Loss, 2010). I was zoning out on the back roads, marveling at the many stars and massive moon in the sky. When the last song came on, I was surprised to know all of the words. It took half the track for me to realize it was Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Like any good cover song, it was true to the original version while being wholly its own.
While they get lumped in with the usual suspects of post-metal (e.g., Neurosis, Isis, Pelican, etc.), Mouth of the Architect’s sound is subtly different in distinctive ways. It’s metal and majestic, heavy and heavenly, gruesome and graceful, and difficult to describe in detail, but you’d be hard pressed to confuse them with anyone else. In what follows, I asked guitarist and vocalist Steve Brooks about the new record, cover songs, and their place in the loose subgenre they find themselves in. With families and the subsequent responsibilities, Dawning set for release from Translation Loss on June 25th, a tour imminent, and ten years honing their sound, it’s a new day and high time for Mouth of the Architect to rise and shine.
Roy Christopher: What did you guys do differently on Dawning from on previous records?
Mouth of the Architect: The process of writing and recording this new record was drastically different from any other record we have ever done. I guess the biggest difference would be that we recorded it all ourselves at our guitar player Steve’s studio, so a lot of it was worked out during the recording process. Also, we are almost never all in the same spot at the same time so a lot of it was written in short bursts, when we could get together, and then revise over the internet. We all have jobs, wives, other commitments, and now kids… so we can’t sit around whenever we feel like it and jam all day like we used to. So, we resorted to recording bits and pieces and emailing things back and forth… and it actually worked out pretty well! From the standpoint of songwriting, we did the same thing we always do but with a little different perspective. We are a little older now and while we still appreciate the heavy, doomy genre that we have always been classified in, we don’t necessarily feel that way all the time now, so we made the songs a little more laid back… a little more accessible… added some cool singing harmonies and whatnot. Surprisingly enough for us we found it more fun to play and sing these new songs, even if it is more difficult than screaming our bloody heads off on every song.
RC: Mouth of the Architect has been together for 10 years. Has the world changed or have you changed?
MotA: Yes and yes… I would say the band as a whole, us as individuals, and the world have all changed a lot over the last 10 years. Mouth of the Architect has continuously undergone member changes like it’s our job. Not to say that we like to change members all the time, but that is just the way it goes down. So, Jason and Dave are the only two original members left in the band now, though Steve and Kevin have been in for six or seven years now, too. As individuals there has been a marriage, a military deployment, serious injuries/surgeries, new businesses started, new bands started, and a new child born… So lots of big changes going on with us that has changed our attitude about life in general a bit. The world still sucks as much as it always has. We have just gotten a little older and more accepting of the suck.
RC: It seems like there’s more of a space for what you guys do now than there was early on.
MotA: I don’t know if I would say that there is more of a space for “post-metal” now or if there are just an abundance of bands doing it. We’ve been tagged with the “sounds like Neurosis and Isis” thing forever, and it’s just stupid. While I do see how Mouth of the Architect and other bands like Neurosis, Isis, Pelican, etc. would be considered to be in the same genre, I don’t make the connection that any of them are trying to sound the same or to be categorized. Every band is influenced by the music they like and there has been a lot of good stuff coming out in the last 15 years in this genre. So there have been more bands coming out that are influenced by all that good music, thus creating more of a “space” for it in the scene. You could say the same thing about “nu-metal” as well–even though everyone knows it’s garbage. I think our kind of doom/prog/post/rock/metal whatever has been relevant to the way a lot of people in our generation feel about life, and that is why it has become so prevalent and successful in the last 15 years ar so.
RC: What prompted the Peter Gabriel cover on The Violence Beneath?
MotA: We just like to do cover songs for fun. We had been going back and forth for a while about what song to do and couldn’t make a decision, so Jason and Steve kind of just decided to do a version of “In Your Eyes” to see how it would translate. Everyone was into it after they heard the rough draft so we just made the decision to do it and started jamming it at practice a little. That track was more of a studio project, like the new record. I think we only played it out twice. We have been trying to find another good one to do for a possible split release later on this year too. It’s just a lot of fun to do covers of songs we grew up with and make them our own.
RC: What else are you guys working on?
MotA: Musically, Steve has a solo project called This is What I Believe that you can find on Facebook, and Jason has a solo project called Rusted Hammer that you can find on Facebook as well. They merged those 2 projects into an audio visual show a couple of times that was pretty cool. Kevin Schindel is the frontman for Neon Warship and they have been doing really well lately. You can find them pretty much anywhere online. Right now we are just getting ready to hit the road with Mouth of the Architect for two months solid. Check out our Facebook page or our website for tour dates and any other updates. We are really excited to be going out with our good buddies in Intronaut again this year and getting back to Europe again.
RC: Anything else you’d like to bring up here?
MotA: We are really happy to be working with Translation Loss Records again on this new record, and I’d like to give a shout out to John Lakes, who will be filling on for Kevin Schindel on the upcoming tours. Check out our guitar player Steve’s recording studio, Sound Architect Studio, in Detroit on Facebook. Dave Mann also blows glass: Check out DaveMannGlass on Facebook as well. Really looking forward to seeing all of our friends from the road again this year. Thanks for the interview as well It’s been a while since we have done any touring, album release, interviews, and the like. It’s good to be back!