Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spotlight: Xanthochroid


Country of origin: United States
Location: Lake Forest, California
Status: Active
Formed in: 2005 Genre: Epic/Melodic Black Metal
Lyrical themes: Self-created Lore
Current label: Erthe and Axen Records Years active: 2005-present



THE INTERVIEW (With Sam Meador (Keys/Vocals)

1. First off, I'm curious as to how such an ambitious project as this got started. Not only is it an impressively complex musical work, but it's also a very thick story in a fantasy land, told like no other before it. Explain to me the birth of Xanthochroid.

Well it's a long story that began almost eight years ago; but I'll try to keep it short. Back in 2005, myself, Sean Culver ("The Ancestor"), and Harrison Reese (who was my neighbor) began to play together at my parents' house. At first we jammed on our own versions of certain video game themes, and I think we still retain a lot of influence from that music. It wasn't long before I'd started to write some original music, and Sean brought in his brother William Culver III to play bass with us. For many years we were an instrumental band; although I still don't see my approach to music as much different from those days. The composition of the music has always been first and foremost with us. I think by 2010 we had found our "sound" as most people know it today, and we'd had a lot of line-up changes, Sean had joined the Army in 2006, but Harrison and Will were still around, as well as our old guitarist Chris Levack. We were in need of a drummer; this was also the year I began to develop our Xanthochroid "lore". Enter Matthew Earl, our current drummer/sound engineer. Matthew joined the band at a very critical stage; our guitarist Chris left as Matthew joined, and Harrison was leaving to continue his schooling. We had needed another guitarist for a while, but now we needed two. Brent Vallefuoco came to audition and was instantly accepted into the band, and with a little persuasion he got his friend David Bodenhoeffer in for an audition; and we were very happy to accept our youngest members Brent and Butter into the band. In 2011 we released our "Incultus" EP thanks to Matt's production expertise, and directly after that began recording Blessed He. Quite recently, WIlliam Culver III also left to finish his schooling and we brought in Brent's cousin Bryan Huizenga on bass. Hella tight!

2. Describe the recording process for Blessed He With Boils. How long did it take to record? What was the most difficult part of that process? Are you pleased with the final product?

I suppose we were not quite satisfied with our release of "Incultus" in 2011; since we had put so much work into it but we weren't getting much recognition. Matt and I were working on some new material almost as soon as we released the EP, and we just decided to start recording again. In early 2012 we had decided that we would be recording a full length album titled "Blessed He With Boils" a song that our old guitarist Harrison Reese had started to write several years ago; the name struck a chord with us. I suppose it took about a year in the studio from start to finish, but that's not counting the time it took to write most of the songs. I had been working on songs like "Deus Absconditus" and "Leper's Prospect" for as many as four years.

I like that you ask what the most difficult part was because really I cannot think of anything that was terribly difficult. We were all surprised at how smoothly the recording process was going, and how gratifying it was to be working on such awesome music! I don't know, maybe the other members had a different experience; and as far as the actual recording and engineering goes, Matt was doing most of the work; but I think I would be right in saying that it was a "labor of love".

Ok, but here's a pretty shitty moment in the studio haha: Matt was laying down his drum tracks for "Long Live Our Lifeless King" and I was handling the recording (mistake #1). We laid down the whole track after several takes and many hours, only to find that I had the snare mic inactive the whole time. Hahaha Matt was pretty mad, but we laid it down again and I think it was all for the best.

Yes, I couldn't be more pleased with the album!

3. Next, let's talk about the story. All I've been able to entail so far is that it revolves around two brothers, one who apparently is or believes himself to be divine. What is the story thus far, and what might happen in later chapters?

Well I'm not going to explain the whole story right here; we do plan to release the story itself piece by piece accompanied by some artwork. And if anyone is interested in helping us out with artwork we are always looking for more artists!

The story of Blessed He takes place over a very short period of time; it's essentially the story of the final outcome of brothers Thanos and Ereptor's long power struggle that has been going on for some time. Thanos is immortal, and in our world Etymos he is called a "Relic". Ereptor, who is mortal, has forcefully claimed the throne in the holy city of Thule, and it is Thanos' destiny to dethrone him. The crown that Ereptor wears carries a weight he cannot bear; causing him to become weak and sickly, and ultimately covered in painful boils and a myriad of other illnesses, yet he continues to rule until Thanos comes to dethrone him. Instead of killing Ereptor, Thanos banishes him. Ereptor, disfigured and alone, seeks to trade his soul away in exchange for eternal life and beauty, traveling to the Putrid Sound where his mind is lost to the spirit of the swamp. When Thanos hears of his brother's fate; he realizes that he is alone.

Our next release will actually deal with the events leading up to those outlined in "Blessed He With Boils" and "Incultus"

4. What instruments did you play on this album, and what was it that first made you decide to start playing music? How long have you been playing these instruments?

On this album I played all the piano, acoustic guitar, and clean electric, and did all the orchestrations with the help of Matt. We all shared vocals, you can hear Matt doing some really high clean vocals at the end of the title track as well as some vocals at the end of "Winter's End"; and we all did the choral vocals. But otherwise, I did most of the vocals, except for the low death growls by Rhiis Lopez of Ana Kefr.

I've been playing piano for 14 years; I always had an ear for it so my parents had me take some lessons at a young age. I liked playing piano because I was decent at it, but I didn't see music as a life path until the end of high school. I started to study music theory and that opened so many possibilities to me. I saw how I could realize an original idea through music, and all the endless creative possibilities that music provides. I decided that writing music was what I wanted to do.

5. Obviously, Opeth and Emperor are huge influences in your band's music, but who else would you consider to be influential to the band's sound?

Moonsorrow is my biggest influence as far as composition goes. Listening to their album Viides Luku – Hävitetty opened my eyes to the way one can develop and combine musical themes throughout a composition. We make use of this idea heavily on Blessed He. If you listen closely you will notice melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, and lyrical themes that recur throughout the album; this is one of the cornerstones of our sound.

Wintersun is another major influence for us. Their musicianship is unmatched in my opinion and the work they put into every aspect of their composition, production, musicianship, and performance is something we aspire to.

6. What bands are you listening to right now? Are there any other acts that you'd like to promote?

Ana Kefr is one of my favorite bands. They are a progressive death metal band from California, but they share a lot of stylistic elements with us. Ne Obliviscaris is definitely on all our playlists right now, an awesome extreme progressive metal band from Australia. Another band I just found the other day is Wilderun. They are an awesome folk metal band from Massachusetts, I listened to a few of their songs and I'm really impressed with their approach and compositions.

7. Being that Xanthochroid's music is based around a vivid fantasy world of sorts, one would think that you gentlemen might be avid readers or film buffs, or maybe even play quite a bit of video/computer games. What are your favorite books, films and video/computer games? Is there anything that you would consider influential to the story?

The original idea behind the story was to make a video game. I realize that's pretty ambitious but it's still something we want to do. For me, the most influential games are the Legend of Zelda series, since the music is so integral to the game, and the games were a huge part of my childhood. As far as our story, I suppose there are some elements from the Lord of the Rings, but no trolls or elves or orcs or anything. Many of the elements of our story are simply metaphors for events, places, and people in my own life.

And yes, Brent is a huge film buff, but he's also pretty good with cinematography himself, and it's thanks to him we have all our awesome videos on YouTube.

8. Are you currently touring for this album? If so, where have you been and who have you shared the stage with? Is there anywhere in particular that you'd love to tour, any certain bands that you'd love to share the stage with?

We are setting up a small West Coast tour for the summer of 2013, we are meeting local bands along the way that are interested in playing with us, it should be a lot of fun, and hopefully a lot of new people will get to hear us! We are looking to hop on some bigger tours as support. I think it would be awesome to play with Wintersun, Opeth, Moonsorrow, Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Ne Obliviscaris.

9. Being that your band is an "epic" black metal band, what are your stage shows like? Would you ever consider bringing the story to life on stage like a sort of theatrical black metal stage performance with actors and costumes?

We've discussed it, but really I don't think I could keep a straight face while doing that. Hahaha it would be fucking awesome though. I think it would make a great video.

10. Who or what is Xanthochroid? I'm apt to think of an alien cyborg of some sort, but that doesn't seem to be the case. The dictionary tells me that it's linked with xanthoma, a type of skin lesion. Who came up with the name for the band and how do you represent this image?

I found the word "Xanthochroid" a long time ago on a list of unusual words. It's a scientific classification for pale skinned people with blond hair (like our drummer Matthew). But that meaning is inconsequential, in our lore Xanthochroid is the formal name of the relic Xanthos, the rightful ruler of Septentria and the holy city of Thule.

11. Who designs the album art for the band? Their work is brilliant. Are you thinking about creating any merchandise out of this artwork like shirts or hoodies? I would certainly purchase one.

Yes we are absolutely working on merchandise. Natacha Nielsen is the artist. Check out her page:

12. What is your opinion on file sharing? If it wasn't for certain sites, I would have never even known about your band, but because of them I've discovered your music and have been able to promote and even purchase your work for myself. Still, some bands abhor it; while others embrace it.

We embrace it for exactly the reasons you just mentioned. We appreciate the support our fans have been giving us by buying the album and we hope that if you really love it enough, you'll help us out by buying a copy. But any promotion is good promotion for us!

13. What do you hope to achieve with this project in the future? Have you been approached by any big labels? Do you see Xanthochroid as being the "next big thing" in metal? Or are you fine with just playing awesome music in an independent sense?

We have not been approached by any big labels; and honestly we are pretty happy with keeping all the proceeds from our record sales. I don't think labels are as necessary as they once were, and our desire to "get signed" has slowly faded away. We simply want to be able to continue to make music and make it financially viable; I think we are capable of that, and we have projects besides Xanthochroid that will help us get there. That being said, we are searching for a manager who could help us on the touring end of things, getting on a tour with some bands that will help us reach our audience.

I don't want to be "the next big thing"; we aren't some kind of fad, we are one of those bands that will be around for a long time; and even if we aren't around, our music will be.

Thanks for making a breathtaking disc. Really, it's one of my favorite albums of the last couple years. Definitely get yourself a copy at the band's bandcamp. If you buy the digipack, you get the full album as a digital download for free, so you don't have to wait on the physical disc to hear the band's awesome music. That's a great deal, so take full advantage of it and support a great band. You can even have the guys sign it for you. The band's first EP "Incultus" is also available for the mere sum of five bones, so check that one out as well.

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