Latest Release: Order of the Mind (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.facebook.com/Iristband/
Irist are a new metal band whose combined heritage infuses a variety of musical influences, but their sound is filtered down into a hammering onslaught. The band consists of members from South American and North America, who are united in their purpose create an urgent, pummelling debut of metal that fans of Gojira and Mastodon should quickly take to their hearts. Inspired by Sepultura’s escape from Belo Horizonte and rise to the world stage, Irist have relocated to Atlanta in the States and have been working away to create a stunning debut album, titled Order of the Mind.
The cracking debut was recorded at Ranch Production House in Southampton in the UK where Lewis Johns engineered, mixed and produced the album. It was then mastered at Sterling Sound by the legendary Ted Jensen who has worked with artists such as Megadeth and Dream Theater. Loud Online spoke to co-founding guitarist Pablo Davila about what might end being one of the more powerful debut albums for this unique and extremely challenging year.
The debut album is very good. How are you holding up, given world events?
Yeah, we’re happy with the album, man. But it is weird with the current state of affairs in the world right now. We’re super happy with the album but it is also a little strange because the songs on the album we were finished so long ago that we’re really getting a chance to distance ourselves and actually, we have been working on other material now.
Getting it mastered by Ted Jensen was a masterstroke. How did that come about?
That actually happened at the last second. We finished up recording with Lewis Johns in the UK and we were looking at options for mastering, really. We just asked and it seemed like a really long shot given all of the people that want to work with Ted Jensen. But, I guess he liked the songs and we somehow made it work. We never actually met him or anything but it was just a matter of asking, to be honest. Beyond that, we heard from the label and they said, ‘No, Ted wants to do it,’ and we were like, ‘Well, shit, good thing that we asked,’ and so, he did it, man.
There are some pretty cool panning effects within the mix. Was that something that you decided upon initially or was it a production afterthought?
Ah, that was a little of both because before going to the studio, we had spent so much time already getting involved in the production side of the songs and things like panning and other stuff like that. So, a lot of those ideas we had already executed on our demos or when we go to the studio, we had it all written down with notes. But, also, Lewis Johns, who is the guy that mixed and produced the album, had a big role to play in that. So yeah, all of that stuff is intentional and hopefully acts to push the vibe of the songs and generally, the overall album.
It works really well in a song like Dead Prayers, particularly with the dynamics and also in the instrumentation.
Yeah, I’m glad that you picked up on that. If I had to think of each specific song and what we decided to do, I wouldn’t be able to remember, but yeah, we like to play with space a lot. You can probably tell that with most of the songs there is a lot of push and pull. There is a lot of going from parts that feel really small and intimate to bits that are super expansive and making getting a little spacey, just kind of following where the song takes you and try not to stagnate. We are already very, kind of uneasy people that cannot be still so a lot of that is also reflected, I think, in the way that we structure our songs. But yeah, I’m happy that you can pick up on that sort of stuff from listening.
Both the songs Severed and Creation have that sort of atmospherics to begin before it pretty much becomes a musical thump in the head.
Yeah, that’s true. We don’t necessarily push that. When we start a song, we usually have a lot of sections completed and then we try to create that effect of just having the rug pulled out from under you by having something unexpected come in. The trick with that and the thing that is also the hardest about doing that is that you also want it to stay being cohesive. You don’t want it to just be a song that sounds like a collection of riff after riff or part after part where there is no order to it. So, that is where it can get a little tricky and that is why we have to spend so much time ruminating on all of this because there are a lot of sections that early on, may sound like it belongs on a different album or that a different band should have done it. But, over time, you get more sensitive to the details and the nuances of each section and what instrument is doing. So we just keep massaging away at it and eventually we reach a stopping point where we can see a cohesive song and then later, a cohesive album. We’re pretty happy that we are able to reach that stopping point because, for us, it usually requires a lot of time to finish a song and to then let it sit for a few weeks before coming back to it. We’re happy to be done with all of that and so now we can send it off into the world and see how people receive it.
It is interesting to note that a lot of people are seeing influences from Gojira and Sepultura. Having said that, a track like The Well has a lot of black metal influences in there.
Oh yeah, there is a little bit of everything. It is just hard to say…one of the things that I keep in mind if I am reading a review or a comment, is that we don’t have anything else out yet. This is the first album so if there is a song that is released, they cannot compare it to a previous album or barely to the previous song so if you are telling somebody about it, you are going to compare it to something else. That is the way it should be and that is what I do but in the writing process, it is rare that…just thinking about it now, there is never an intention to say, ‘Okay, this part is going to be black metal, like this or like that,’ and even if there is, we will always end up colouring it with something else. I mean, certain things may end up sounding like what you mentioned but we will have another layer to the song and we try to keep those things vague. If you do think for a second that, I don’t know, maybe, ‘Hey, that sounds like a hard core breakdown’ or something, we pull it in another direction in the next section or by the next song. Of course, everybody is going to hear it differently and everybody is going to compare it to something else. That’s fine, you know, I wouldn’t want for everyone to hear it the same way because that is boring. We have spent a lot of time creating different layers and maybe little sounds that you hopefully wouldn’t pick up on the first time but maybe you’ll pick up on it during the second or third listen. I don’t know but for us that is really important because if you listen to the records that we grew up listening to and still appreciate to this day, they have a lot of that depth.
Indeed. Even just with rhythm guitar parts were your twin guitar approach has one guitar doing the rhythm figure but the other playing a droning type of figure so something else that is different.
Yeah, we do that at times. Some other times, maybe you’ll do a little fly on the guitar but you want it to be a little more exaggerated so maybe you’ll layer it in at an octave or do the same thing with some kind of effect pedal. I think that one of the benefits with the taking that time with everything we do and for with the songs specifically, is that once you’ve heard it enough times you’ll start hearing all the little nuances and you’ll want to create accents [emphasis]. For me, those little accents wouldn’t be possible if I listened to it only once. Even when we are done with a song, it is amazing because just the process of putting it away and then coming back to it, two to four weeks later, you’ll hear it completely differently. That is something that musicians and audio engineers; people who spend a lot of time exposing their ears to the same songs and the same riffs – they will recommend to take breaks. We try to do the same thing when we’re putting songs together.
That variety is evident in songs like Insurrection and Nerve where it is really very tight going from a full-on barrage to an almost quiet interlude part.
Yeah, those tracks for sure. Nerve didn’t take us as long to write as Insurrection but there is a lot of atmosphere in those tracks. Another thing that we try to do which was especially the case with Insurrection, is that we try to strip things down. We try to get them down to the bare minimum so even though it feels like there is a lot of atmosphere and a million layers of guitar, there is actually not that much going on. If you place things just right, it works to our ears so if the riff that we used to come up with for say the verse for Insurrection had five notes, we’d say, ‘okay, let’s try to get it down to the minimum so that we still get the point across,’ and I think that is the approach that we take with most things. We just try to cut the fat and not be too flashy. It sounds better to us and it works when there is a specific mood or a vibe that you are trying to convey, if you see that is getting cluttered by other things or flashiness, I think that we try to shy away from that a little bit.
The title track has a lot of time changes happening going between half time and into double time.
Does that sort of thing take a lot of rehearsal to get right?
Ah, yes, there is because we’re usually…I mean, just like a lot of bands and musicians, you’ll rehearse things in a certain way to prepare for the studio and then once you’re done there, you have to do the same thing only you might not have to play it as a band. Certain things will feel a little different or need some polishing up but yeah, for both studio and for playing live there is a lot of doing things over and over again. That is not a problem for us because this is what we live and breathe and we’ve put everything aside for this band. So, even though that it can be stressful or you can become tired or moody at times, it is still a pleasure to do this, you know. I think that means that we should keep going.
What sort of guitars are using? Is it different tunings or a baritone guitar?
It is drop C tuning. For this album, everything was in drop C tuning. Yeah, now I’ve got the itch to start experimenting with alternate tunings with some of the newer stuff that I have been working on. But, no crazy tunings and I guess it is not secret at all by today’s standards that everything is in drop C tuning. We still try to use a moderate amount of gain. We don’t want any issues from the guitar tone side of things. We want to be overly modern but you want it to be thick enough sounding but that is a five hour conversation in itself. I can talk your ear off about that.
Well, just quickly, few bands can do seven string sounds really well without getting bogged down into an endless chugging riff.
I can’t say I’ve never played a seven string guitar, be it at a music shop. I’ve found it amazing and super heavy but for me, I’ll get bored with anything if I do it too much. I’ll move onto something else and I don’t know that the seven string guitar pops its head up in too many different genres or sub genres of music so, at least for me, it seems a little bit limiting. Perhaps I am just more familiar with the six string guitars and just deciding to experiment with a different tuning is already a lot for me.
The artwork on the album is quite striking. It’ll look great on a vinyl format.
Yeah, we love it. We came across Alex Eckman-Lawn how is an artist based in Philadelphia. I think that Adam [Mitchell], our other guitar player in the band, found him. We got in touch with him and he sent us a handful of options and the one we picked stood out immediately for me. He agreed to work with us and that was smooth interaction. We love the artwork and I don’t think there was very much talk because fortunately we had already recorded all of the songs in the UK. So, we were able to catch the vibe more easily to see the artwork to link with the songs. For me, it was very obvious and the more I look at it, the more I love it. So, yeah, I’m very happy about it.