Latest release: Weightless (Prosthetic/Rocket)
Band site: https://www.facebook.com/animalsasleaders
Instrumental prog-metal maestros Animals as Leaders are headed back to Australia, on this occasion alongside their buddies and fellow Americans Periphery for what is certain to be a series of uproariously received shows. Loud had seven and eight-string guitars at the ready while chatting with axeman Javier Reyes.
Q: So, what’s the latest on the next Animals as Leaders album?
A: Things are good, most of the writing process is pretty much done and we’re just tracking some now. Hopefully we’ll have a mixed and mastered album by Christmas and New Year’s, that’s the plan as of now. It’s pretty good, we’re pretty happy with it. I think there’s a good variety of stuff. There are definitely sounds from the first album, there’s a lot of new stuff as well. There’s a new technique we’re doing, even some acoustic guitar stuff. We’re going to have real drums that we haven’t had in the past, so I think overall people are going to be as stoked as we are.
Q: So can we expect something more diverse, heavier or more melodic perhaps compared to previous releases?
A: In a weird way, it’s more of each thing. There’s a lot of melody stuff, but there’s some really heavy parts in the music too. It’s a lot more of kind of the same, but just with new twists. Like I said, there’s new techniques; we’re putting some acoustic guitar stuff. We have Matt Garstka (drums) playing on it, so there’s definitely going to be a level of… stepping up the game in the drums on it. So we’re very excited about that. Overall, it’s a heavy, heavy album. We’re hoping to release it by early spring, so maybe like April-ish, ideally.
Q: Can Australian fans anticipate the road-testing of new material throughout this upcoming tour?
A: Potentially. Ideally we would like to do it, depends on the release date. If it’s too far from the tour, then we probably won’t play any, but we’d like to. I think it would make sense considering that we’ve been playing the Weightless stuff for two years and stuff from the first album for nearly four years now. Just for the sake of us not being bored with playing the same material we’ll want to, but again, it just depends on how close it is to the release date. We don’t want necessarily tonnes of videos of some of these iPhone recordings of the first performance of this new song, and people are criticising it off of that. Not that we care too much what people say, but it’s just not the presentation we would like to have for the new material.
Q: That’s the major issue with trying out new material live in the digital age, because if you do so, you’re effectively releasing it, as it almost instantly winds up online.
A: Yeah, absolutely, and then usually it’s like, you know, the guy was standing right in front of the biggest speaker in the venue, at some weird angle, and as soon as he’s done videotaping he’s uploading it. Doesn’t even listen to it, and you go watch it online and it’s just distorted and sounds horrible, and it’s like, ‘okay, that’s the experience to the world, what the new Animals as Leaders sounds like’. We like to avoid that; there’s only so much you can do, but we’re going to do it regardless. Ideally we want to play new stuff, but again, it just depends how close to release it is.
Q: On the topic of your next LP, what’s the writing process like for Animals as Leaders – do you primarily tend to work on ideas individually and then bring them to the rest of the band?
A: Songs usually start off with a riff really. Tosin (Abasi, guitars) will have a riff, or myself will have a riff. With some of the material he actually went out and worked with Misha (Mansoor, Periphery guitarist) in a similar manner that they did the first album. So he produced some of those songs, and he then would come back here and we would make any adjustments to it that we see fit. And like I said, we also put in real drums. So what was programmed won’t necessarily be what the final product (is) as far as the drums. It’s definitely built in pieces, I would say. And everything’s usually written inside the box or in the laptop; we don’t really jam out parts or write out the songs by jamming. Everything is written on the laptop, and then we’ll learn the song as a whole.
It’s been extremely effective, and I think it’s very efficient too. We were all fans of jamming and stuff like that, but as far as… Considering the level of intricate parts and the weird odd meter stuff, to teach that in a jam session environment, sometimes you spend hours just doing it. A lot of the times if there’s some crazy rhythm or some crazy technique, each of us has to go and sit on it for like a day before we’re ready to play it along with everybody. When I was learning some of the slapping stuff, I literally had to start practicing the slapping maybe like a year before we started playing any of these songs, just because I knew, ‘okay, I’m going to have to know this technique in order to play these songs’. So yeah, jamming and writing in that way wouldn’t necessarily work for us. It hasn’t worked for us; we see it as just more practical and efficient to run everything on a computer and learn everything afterwards.
Q: Interesting. Back to the tour, you’ve visited Australia once previously with Between the Buried and Me, but your return must be an exciting prospect.
A: Yeah, that was an awesome experience; going to a foreign country with your homies is definitely a great experience. They (Australian fans) were definitely into it. Australia for us at this point is like a market that we have to cater and take care of, because it’s definitely an audience that will be there for the long haul. That’s definitely something that we don’t have here in the US; people are kinda quick to find the next new thing.
Q: Well, you’re in good company again when you head here with Periphery.
A: We’re really good friends with those guys. We just got to do Summer Slaughter with them, and we were really excited about that. “Nolly” (Adam Getgood), the bassist from Periphery, he’s actually hanging out here in my house and he’s producing the album. So we’re all like really good friends, it’s good to be able to do that. There’s even talk about going back to Australia later on in the year, or in early 2015.
Q: When playing as a support act, do you encounter many punters who aren’t expecting a virtuoso instrumental band, or that aren’t accustomed to that type of approach, but are pleasantly surprised by what they witness?
A: Yeah, there’s always people who are, they’ve never heard of us. It’s surprising; we just did this tour with Meshuggah earlier in 2013. And we thought that it was like the majority of Meshuggah fans knew who we were, but it was actually the opposite experience. A lot of their diehard fans had never heard of us and they were just like, the new thing, blown away, so that was really cool. Then we’ve done a lot of tours outside of immediate metal. Last year, we did Thrice, their farewell tour. They’re essentially rock, and we toured with them and this band O’Brother, and completely outside of our normal djent, progressive scene. And we were super well-received, so it was definitely cool to see that kind of thing, considering we don’t have anybody screaming or singing, definitely it leaves a lot of room for people to interpret what the music… Or actually start listening to the music, even if it is distorted guitar, just the fact that the lack of screaming isn’t getting in the way or… There’s no political meaning or partying meaning behind the music. It’s just art music. I compare it to seeing a pianist at some concert hall, or an orchestra somewhere. We’re just trying to take that concept and do it in the metal scene.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Where can I get a good kangaroo burger when I’m in Australia? (laughs) I’ve had it one time, but it was only here in the US, and it was actually amazing. So I want to go to where kangaroos come from, and have one there.
You can catch Animals as Leaders and Periphery on the following dates-
31/1: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD
1/2: Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW (Lic. A/A)
2/2: Billboard the Venue, Melbourne VIC