Interviews : An interview with Sydney gothic doom band Lycanthia
Canadian label Hypnotic Dirge Records have an absolutely stellar roster of bands, especially for those who love the darker, slower side of things. And one of their latest signings, is Australia’s very own Lycanthia. The Sydney-based gothic doom band will be re-releasing their latest album Oligarchy through HDR, and while they’re doing that, we thought we’d have a chat with vocalist and bassist Lee Tassaker to find out what the band are currently up to
So I guess the most exciting piece of Lycanthia news lately is that you’ve signed with Hypnotic Dirge Records, joining quite a fantastic roster of bands. I gather you’re stoked about that?
Yes, absolutely. We are over the moon about this. We’re really looking forward to the future with them.
You’re re-releasing “Oligarchy” through the label, which you put out independently earlier in the year. I know that wasn’t too long ago, but has there been any progress on even newer material?
Yeah we have about an hours worth of demo’s that we are working on at the moment.
How is it sounding in comparison to the material on that album?
At the moment it’s still in primitive stages. You’ll find certain riffs, even the odd song has been written before Oligarchy and it’s only just now that they’re starting to take light. With time I guess they will take a form of their own. I’m guessing it will be a fusion of old and new, with a few surprises.
There were 12 years between your debut “Myriad” and that second album “Oligarchy” (and of course, the EP “Within the Walls” between those two), what was happening in between them?
Although we do take ourselves seriously and professionally, we like to move at our own pace and we have never been about churning out mediocre album after mediocre album. When we do an album or an EP, we take the time to reflect upon it and let the songs grow on us, even trial songs live, before we get to the recording process. In between those releases, we have spent many years touring and playing gigs, playing in various side projects, and even at some stages we have taken a year out from Lycanthia. We took some time out and even toyed with the idea of disbanding between Myriad and Walls, although there was never any official break up and we still got together and jammed, even wrote songs now and then. The result of which was ‘Inferno’, a single that we released in 2001, we plan to re-record it for our next album. Oligarchy was actually meant to come out 2 years prior to what it did, but there was a plague of technical issues and we spent a long time trying to save it before we came to the hard decision that we needed to start again from scratch. As you can imagine, we lost a significant amount of money on that and had to recoup before we could start again. Obviously in the duration that the band has been around, we have had the odd line-up change, such as member end up having families and needing to have more spare time or they’ve moved overseas for various work commitments. When that has happened, we take our time to make sure that we find the right replacement.
Should we expect a more active Lycanthia in the future?
Yes absolutely, there will be more touring, hopefully overseas too. Of course once we are happy with the new demo’s we will take them to the studio to lay down.
There really is a wide range of different elements to your sound, and obviously an array of influences. What does each member bring to the band stylistically? Or do you all share similar inspiration?
Everybody brings something to the table writing-wise, however it fits into one collective vision. Myself, I come from a Death Metal background, originally anyway, but I always prefered those elements where there would be something really heavy mixed with classical music or operatic vocals. Which I guess is what made me lean towards Doom being my favourite genre and inevitably became the main style that Lycanthia would play. From a writing stand-point, often Lycanthia songs start with the rhythm section, either myself or one of the guitarists, will bring a lose foundation of a song, riffs and structure, and we build it all on top of that. I didn’t have formal training when I started playing an instrument, so I tend to steer away from the traditional rules in regards to structures, scales, timing etc – or so I have been told anyway. This has been something that for example Vanessa and Megan have always loved about Lycanthia songs, that they flow perfectly in spite of that. Vanessa comes from a classical background, having been classically trained in both vocals and violin, whereas Megan has had classical training in Piano and Contemporary Vocal training. We have found that it creates a great sound having them both harmonise together, coming from such different places vocally, of course they are both obviously huge Metal fans too. Steve, Mat and Lachlan have similar musical influences to myself.
Are there any plans to tour to celebrate the re-release?
Absolutely, we have no set dates at the moment but we plan on hitting several venues around the country within the next 12 months. I want to be rather picky and choosey with the line-up for these gigs and pick bands that are more suited to our genre, as much we are big fans ourselves of Black and Death Metal, we find we get a better response from the audience when we play with similar bands on the bill. It just creates a great atmosphere for the evening.
Do any of the band have other musical projects as well?
Yes. Megan is vocalist/keyboards and composition in Avrigus (Atmospheric Doom/Gothic Metal). Mat’s plays guitar in Bleakwood (Black Metal), and Blatherskite (Prog Rock). Lachlan is in a rcording band called Dark Epoch (Doom) and I do session bass for Avrigus an as of recently I have been jamming with Cruciform (doom) for the reunion.
Moving away from Lycanthia, what other Australian bands have you been spinning a lot recently?
Myraeth, Futility, The Veil, Okera, Paramaecium, The Eternal, Virgin Black, Murkrat, Scuurvy, Subterranean Disposition.
How’s the Sydney scene going at the moment? Are gig crowds strong?
Yeah I think there’s a pretty decent number of people attending most gigs in Sydney, I know we always get a decent response. I guess at the end of the day, it always seems to depend on what venue that gig is being held at. There seems to be a few dead spots, but overall there’s some really cool venues that pull really big crowds. It always pays promote any event in Sydney really well, and preferably with a decent amount of time beforehand. That usually guarantees a decent crowd.
To finish off the interview, tell us the one thing that you love most about doom.
I love the power of really heavy metal fused with light classical elements and melancholic atmospheres.
You can check out Lycanthia, and the other bands on the Hypnotic Dirge roster, over at Bandcamp.