Latest release: Spiral Shadow (Riot!)
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Savannah, Georgia sludge metal/hard rock crew Kylesa has spent the past decade forging an enviable reputation for themselves the hard way – through relentless, often arduous touring, word of mouth and even more touring. With the band due to make their first visit to Australia in February/March as part of the Soundwave Festival juggernaut, Loud talked to guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants about new record Spiral Shadow, their work ethic, which bands she wants to see at Soundwave and more.

Q: The new album seems to be receiving great reviews across the board, and has perhaps been your most successful record yet. Does it feel that way for you?
A: I mean, because it’s so new, we’ll see what these reviews will bring. It’s still very fresh. Once we start touring heavily in 2011, we’ll see how this year pans out. As far as the good reviews (so far) go, it can only be a good start to a good year. I think it’s positive.

Q: The word “success” means different things to different people. What constitutes a “successful” record for you – personal satisfaction? Strong sales? Great reviews?
A: Well, certainly personal satisfaction is very important. I think after that, the critical satisfaction. But first and foremost is, are we as musicians happy with our record? And we are. Musically and as a band, I think it’s a success and that’s (what’s) most important.

Q: In what ways do you feel the new record is a step up from previous releases?
A: Well, I think it’s a little more evolved than our past records. You know, I think we really kinda got it together on (2009’s) Static Tensions and introduced some new ideas on that record. We wanted to take some of those ideas and expand on them even further. Really explore more of our psychedelic side on this record and not just have super straightforward, riff-y metal songs. I just think it’s a natural progression from what we’ve been doing. Maybe bringing in more elements to maybe what some of our musical influences are.

Q: Where there any new influences that impacted on you when writing Spiral Shadow?
A: I wouldn’t say new, per se, as we just let some of maybe some of our outside influences that hadn’t crept in before, we’ve let them creep in on this record. We’re just big music fans; love metal, love punk, love rock, 70s rock, indie rock, psychedelic rock, we listen to a lot of 90s rock, stuff we grew up on. It’s just kind of a culmination of it all.

Q: That’s a very wide range of styles you mentioned there – is it ever difficult to incorporate such a broad selection of influences into one cohesive sound?
A: I mean, I think if we were to consciously try to mix up a bunch of different sounds, I think it would sound forced and it would sound like you’re trying to mix up a bunch of stuff. For us, it really just comes naturally and organically.

Q: On the touring front, I’ve read interviews with the band whereby you’ve related stories about how difficult it was in the early years to try and build a profile, especially in the US. Close to a decade on, do you feel you’ve made some significant inroads in that regard?
A: Well, you know, we’ve been a band a long time. Touring the States is hard, just because it’s just so massive. It just seems like, from my experience, there’s more apathy here in the States and close-mindedness than maybe in some other countries. It was hard when we first started, because we didn’t fit into like a specific niche or genre and we were doing everything ourselves on a shoestring budget. So it was, you know, playing punk shows to metal shows to hardcore shows to shows with whomever we could hook up with. We were booking it all ourselves, so it was definitely from the ground up. But certainly, the musical climate has changed over the years and what we do is far more accessible than, say, when we first started.

Q: You built a following by playing shows with different types of bands. How do you view the current heavy music scene, which in some respects seem more segregated than ever? A lot of which comes down to fashion it seems.
A: Well, you know, there will always be fashion and fads in music. We’ve just never paid much attention to them. We’ve always just done our own thing and even if it was a longer road to take, I think it’s better in the long run to do your own thing and to try and make your own sound. That way, you’re going to stand apart. As far as music genres go, there’s been a lot of cross-pollination over the past five, six years and I think that’s great. I think it’s great for people to be happy to listen to all sorts of bands and use the different influences to make their own sound, rather than just playing straight punk or straight metal or straight sludge. I mean, those genres have been around forever, and as much as I love them all, I don’t think I would be happy playing just one specific style. I would have to mix it up to keep it interesting. For me as a musician and as a band that’s been around for a while I think it’s important to keep the listener involved. If we were to write the same record over and over again, I don’t think we’d still be a band.

Q: You’re also making your first trek to Australia as part of next year’s mammoth Soundwave Festival bill. What are your expectations of Australian audiences?
A: I don’t know, ‘cause we’ve never been to Australia and never been part of a large touring festival like Soundwave. I expect that it will be a lot of fun. We’ve got some of our friends’ bands playing, there’s some great bands playing and we’re excited to visit Australia. We’ve got a lot of love from Australian fans who are going to come out to support us. We’re very happy that we’re able to come out.

Q: Any bands in particular you’re hoping to catch at the festival?
A: Depending on how all the times go I want to try and catch as many bands as possible. I definitely want to see… I’ve seen Iron Maiden and Slayer a bunch, but you know, still love them. Definitely want to see Queens Of The Stone Age, Gang of Four, Melvins, High on Fire, who else is playing? There’s tonnes of bands I want to see that I think will be good. Oh yeah, Slash is playing and I’ve never seen him play, so that will be cool, he’s a sick guitar player.

Q: On a more personal note, any new releases you’ve been enjoying lately?
A: I’ve been enjoying the new Black Mountain record a lot, that’s probably the newest thing I’ve purchased.

Q: Any famous last words?
A: We’re just thrilled and happy to get to go to Australia and play and hopefully it’ll be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.