Latest release: Search Party (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.facebook.com/InterloperOfficial
US progressive metal band Interloper are gaining attention worldwide with a debut album that combines stellar musicianship with tight song writing and a mixture of musical styles. The new album, Search Party, has an excellent pace with different arrangements that ebb and flow between moments of intense energy juxtaposed with more sparse musical interludes. It creates an interesting musical dynamic that fans of Opeth in their heavier earlier days will likely appreciate and also demonstrates a musical maturity in approach.
Front man and co-guitarist Andrew Virrueta is well versed in technique and with the band currently a three piece, is looking to expand the line-up for the live front. Given his experience in being part of the touring band for The Faceless, he knows what is required to deliver at that level. Loud Online spoke to him via the world of Skype to discuss Interloper’s album and what went into creating such a strong debut release.
Your debut album has a lot of variety. That one must have taken a while to complete, all things considered. Is there anything you’d tweak?
Yeah, I’d say so, it took a while dude. There were probably two years of writing for that thing. It was a bastard, for sure. There is definitely a list of stuff that I want to change and I will change for the next album, man. But I am really excited about it, you know, I don’t think that I would have thought about the things that I do right now if it weren’t for having that album to look back on.
I imaging that with the creative process there is a prospect of things never being complete.
Ah yeah, there is always that. You can just revise and edit, and edit until you’re a crazy person. So, you ‘ve got to make sure that you don’t turn into a crazy person so you’ve got to know when to call it quits, say that song is done or whatever. I actually don’t really have a big issue ending a song or saying, ‘Alright, this is done,’ I am usually pretty good about that but the other guitar player in the band, Miles [Dimitri Baker], he definitely has a difficult time turning it off and just saying, it’s done. That is what I am here for and that is what Aaron [Stechauner – drums] is here for.
How are the guitar solos arranged?
Miles and I both have solos on the album. There are songs that are where I’ll have my solo section and then he’ll have his solo section. Then there are songs where it is just his solos on there. It just depends, man, because there are some parts that I’ll write and I’ll think, ‘I need to write a solo,’ and that is usually what happens. I’ll usually take the spot if I really like it, ha-ha, but, yeah, usually we write to make space for that – for both people to play solos.
There’s certainly an Opeth influence but there’s also a touch of Allan Holdsworth’s style in there.
I think that he lives in the playing of all of my heroes so by proxy, yeah, that might be true. My favourite guitar players probably would be Marty Friedman, Eric Johnson, Ron Jarzombek from Blotted Science and people like that. That is the kind of stuff that I try to adopt into my solos.
Indeed, there is certainly some Marty Friedman in there, stuff from the Shrapnel Records era.
Yeah, dude, that guy was on fire. That Rust in Peace era for Megadeth – you cannot beat it, you cannot touch it. Not to compare them to Metallica or anything but I think that overall Megadeth have put out more consistently good records than Metallica. They’re discography has gotten stronger and I wouldn’t say worse but different because they have explored different things. Youthanasia is one of my favourites but that is not one of their more popular records.
Speaking of guitar, what got you into Legator guitars?
One of the old dudes that works there, Justin [Harris – designer], contacted me and asked me if I wanted to play the guitars. I said, ‘Yep, I do’ and they sent me a guitar. The first one they sent was one of their headless models which was freshly released; it might have been one of their first headless models that they released. I really enjoyed that guitar [Ghost model] and so I played it for a while. I loved playing that guitar but I am just not into headless guitars. I like it when Paul Masvidal from Cynic does it and stuff, I think that suits him but for me, I don’t know, a guitar for me has got to feel bad ass, it didn’t feel that way, it felt more of a toy or like a practice guitar. It really does, they’re so small and I’m like six foot three, so it looks way silly when I play it. I got one of the Ninja models which is like their super Strat and I am amazed at those guitars. The people there are absolutely wonderful people and I don’t see myself playing anything else for the distant future.
I thought you might have gone for Ibanez, especially with the song Idle Years having that Meshuggah triple style riff.
Yeah that is true, man. I’ve played Ibanez guitar before so they definitely have a special place in my heart especially given they have the five way switch where you can do the coil split and that is one of my favourite sounds ever. So, I mean, I have a Strat style guitar to compensate for that but I would like to have. Maybe one of my Legator guitars will have a passive pick up with a five way switch so that I can do that again. All mine are active right now, with a three way switch.
How does the song writing work on this album, given your brother [Joey] contributed as well?
He contributed but I wouldn’t say nearly as much as you might think. Before the songs went to Joey, most of the bells and whistles that we wanted in the songs, like beat-aways, reverse cymbals, impacts and all that extra stuff, in the arrangements were so wrestled over that there was no option to change any of that. We like to be very prepared before we go into any recording situation just because it is forever once it is tracked so it was a no stone left unturned sort of idea. With that in mind we had Joey mixing and mastering the record for us and every now and then he would come up with a cool idea that we hadn’t thought of yet and I was just like, ‘Okay, let’s try it,’ because I was so used to listening to it in one way and so trying it out might have meant it was a great decision that he made. I definitely really value his ear and not trying to seem reluctant but I really never am when he makes a decision, it is usually a case of, ‘Okay, let’s see how it sounds, we’ll give it a shot.’ I trust him so much and we grew up doing this together and writing music together so I know that he has a good ear. We have similar ideas and visions when it comes to wanting a song to be as good as it can be.
A lot of progressive metal has many layers in recording. When do you draw the line so that the music remains clear with the song?
Oh man, you know the problem child in the band with that is definitely Miles. He likes to stack guitars and stack and stack too many guitar tracks. So, sometimes, I’ll say, ‘Dude, we’ve got to take some of these and turn them into something like a synth or a string layer instead,’ and it is just so that there is room because with that many guitar tracks, it becomes a nightmare for anybody that is mixing it. You want to have a solid foundation, like a band foundation and then all of the bells and whistles go afterwards, you know. He is definitely the one that likes to just texture and texture. I also like to texture the music that I write but I definitely use MIDI instruments to do that and not so much guitar.
By comparison, Cheshire has quite jazzy passages and has sparse arrangements. That dynamics makes the incoming wall of sound work well.
You know what, that is true man and once again, that was a song that Aaron and I wrote together. That bridge section of that song is definitely a lot of MIDI instruments, it has a lot of strings and a lot of poly rhythmic stuff going on under the hood and you know, maybe it was too much. I don’t know but I think that the song or the message of the song comes across still. It is not so convoluted with texture that you don’t know what is happening.
A fascinating aspect of the music is even with complex parts, the vocal melody line might be a slower, sustained part.
Yeah, you know, that’s a song that Mike [Semesky] our old singer who wrote the melodies for that part when he was in the band. So, I don’t have any part in the writing of the vocals, I just tracked the vocals that he wrote so that is basically what happened. I definitely respect and try to do the same thing where you have to be aware of what the song needs, always, right, so if the song is getting really hectic and busy with all the guitars or the drums are getting tense or doing some crazy stuff, you’ve got to lay back on the vocals. That’s very important to not fight with something that is trying to make a point. Once that is over with and can then be back to me again, ha-ha, does that make sense?
Duran Duran is a curious choice of band to cover but the song selection of Rio actually works.
I know, it is a pretty random one, right. But that is a song that myself, Miles and Aaron all love and we always play that song whenever we hang out and are just drinking and stuff. So, you know, bonding bro time, we always put on Rio and a lot of 80’s stuff because that is what we love. Stuff like Tears for Fears and Soft Cell. So, yeah, man, that song is one that we all really loved and the bassline is kicking. We all just agreed that it was going to be on the record. I don’t really remember whose idea it was or who suggested it but it was just that we’d so that and wanted to put it on the record.
Andy Taylor is an underrated guitarist.
Yeah and I think the reason why is because he knows his place in the music and he doesn’t call attention to himself which I have a lot of respect for – it’s that power with restraint kind of thing.
You mentioned bass, what is the story with a bassist vacancy in your line-up?
Well, on the record, one of our good friends, Jacob Umanksy, tracked bass for the full length and he plays in a band called Intervals. I met him through playing with The Faceless because he did a tour with me playing in The Faceless and that is how I got to meet him and just see how insane of a bass player he is. So we needed somebody to do bass for this album. I tracked bass on the EP but I really wanted to have somebody who is an actual bass player and get their take on these songs. I thought he was a perfect fit so he is the one on the record. Regarding the line-up and stuff, we want a bass player and I really am a big proponent of having live bass. It is so funny that I am mentioning that because we now have the option to do live bass or tracked bass, like, how spoiled are we, right? But I think that there definitely is a magic there that tracked bass or back tracked live cannot replicate, you know, seeing it. It is like having a guitar back tracked the whole set, nah, it doesn’t feel right. Or having a drummer on stage playing an electronic kit instead of an acoustic kit. Sure, you can do it but do you want to do it?
There are many bands, especially in the symphonic metal genre with dense layers in songs, that use backing tracks where it’s just standard.
In some cases, yeah but I think it is just easy to now find a bass player because there are so many plug-ins and nobody is a bass player. They are like the hardest band members to find. All of the ones that you know are already in bands. Same with drummers, you’ll find drummers in five or six bands at once because everybody needs a good drummer. The fact that you can replace one of your two rhythm section instruments, it is like, ‘Hmm, yeah,’ it is tempting and we’ve done it with the tours that we have done. But, moving forward, with this album out and I’ve talked to the guys about this too, I really feel that we need somebody, at least a session player for live and I eventually want to have a bass player in the bass with us. I think that is a really important approach to the songs that we don’t really have fluently yet. We are kind of like guessing at it.
You mentioned The Faceless, they might have to use tracks because it is now one member.
Ha-ha, I mean, I still play in the band and our drummer still does as well. Then there is the bass player thing. It is all new members right, and we have been playing with Michael [Keene] for three years now so we are kind of members but, yeah, I get what you’re saying. We do the tracked bass thing live as well. But you know, Michael feels the same way and he has the same thoughts that I do about this, you know, we want a bass player but they are so difficult to find and when tours are pressing, what option do you have? You have the dirty little secret option, the one where you track your bass.
You kind of fell into doing vocals in the band and your vocal timbre reminds of Fear Factory, even a little bit of Jeff Buckley. Did it present challenges to play and sing simultaneously within this style of music?
Oh dude, yes, it is rough, for sure. Singing and playing guitar at the same time is rough. Screaming and playing guitar at the same time is not really a big deal for me and that is something that I do in another band that I play in. I have been doing that for years so I am already pretty comfortable doing that so that’s fine. Once singing gets involved, there is so much texture and so much more a wider margin of error when you are singing cleanly. It really forces you to focus more and you have to pretty much turn off the idea that you’re playing guitar in order to sing properly. I have to have these songs so locked in on the guitar that I am not thinking about it at all and I can just focus on the vocals. That has been a new challenge, for sure, just getting a lot tighter on the guitar end of things. That is a good thing though.
The title track’s animated video is interesting. How did that come about?
Yeah, Anthony [Simon – Zen Beast Media], the guy that animated it, did animations for our first single, Drift that we put out. He did all the backdrop and stuff so he did all of those animations. We really liked how they looked and we thought it was super cool. I think that it was Miles’ idea for this video to have it 3D animated like that, whereas I think Aaron and I were more for a 2D illustrated kind of thing but Miles really wanted to explore the full 3D idea, and I’m happy with how it turned out. One of our good friend, Paige [Alsborg], she storyboarded the whole video and so basically throughout all the storyline and all that good stuff and then she worked very closely with Anthony on the animation. The fox is symbolic of something, I don’t even remember but Paige knows. I am so bad with that stuff man, there is some sort of metaphor in that somewhere, you know.
Aaron’s drumming is pretty substantial, particularly with the way the time signatures change. Is there a lot of rehearsal required?
Oh dude, like pretty crazy amounts, I would say. But Aaron plays every single day. He is like one of those people that have such a drive and he has his priorities so straight that he is unwavering in what he does from a day to day basis. That definitely shows in his drumming and yeah, he is one of the best drummers that I have played with, for sure.
What is the metal scene like in LA these days? I know there are a bunch of legacy bands kicking around. How are young bands getting attention?
Yeah so, I don’t know that it is as much of an LA community of musicians thing, as it was before. At least I am not part of any circle that is but I might be on the outside circle but I know that the people who are in LA and in Orange County, where I am at, it is all pretty isolated man, we all kind of just work on our computers, just talk on the Internet. You know, just like you can talk to anyone else across the country in another city or even in another country, so yeah, I am not really sure.
Following this debut album, what would be the plan down the track? Is the direction plan to get heavier? Drift is certainly heavy but varied as a showcase track.
Yeah and in my mind, the guys might not agree with me here but I definitely want to take it into a more progressive and explorative path. I definitely want to create cool, fun sounds that we haven’t tried before and do things like that. But, I also want to maybe get a little heavier. I want to have, on the next album, maybe some more screaming stuff because I really enjoy the songs on the album that have screaming and I think that we almost maybe under-utilise it a little bit. It is one of those things on my list, you know, of changes, I wish that maybe some of these songs had the stage set to where I could scream over them more. But, at the time some of these songs were written, our thoughts were that we have a front man who is only a singer so everything needs to have melody and a chord progression to be sung over. Now that that kind of boundary is broken, I think that we can get a lot more creative with what we want to do from section to section in the songs that we write.
Is there a song you’re most proud of on this album?
I’ll probably say either the title track or Cheshire. Those two songs to me, are arrangement wise, the most air tight, I wouldn’t change a single thing in any of those songs. Yeah, man, I really, really love those ones. I think that Search Party is little higher than Cheshire on the list. I don’t know why, I just love that song. I remember when I first wrote that song and when I put it down, I would just listen to it over and over and never got tired of it. Even now, I can still listen to it because I didn’t wear myself out on it.