Posted on May 04 2017
INTERVIEW BY MATT RODRIGUEZ.
Can you give me a bit of history of how the band formed? I know that band was originally named Stryker before changing to Spell.
Yeah – my brother Al and I decided to start a heavy metal band in 2007 after our previous projects fell apart, and we quickly got our friend Graham on board. It's been the three of us ever since. We started out as STRYKER, with a more direct '80's influence, until we decided to change our name to 'SPELL' in 2013 to reflect the more diverse and experimental sounds we wanted to explore, and also to reduce confusion with the other 'STRIKER' from Edmonton.
In 2013, the band released the debut EP entitled The Full Moon Sessions, with all the tracks recorded, mixed, and mastered under a series of full moons over a three years’ period. Could you explain the process the band took to record this EP and why Spell decided to produce this release in this manner.
Recording “The Full Moon Sessions” was a really bizarre process. We booked our first session under a full moon, just to set the mood for what we wanted to do. We recorded all night, however, towards dawn our engineer suffered a nervous breakdown and left, taking our money and files with him. We tried to be patient and understanding, giving him time to recover, but it wasn't until a month later – coincidentally, the night of the next full moon, when we were able to get him back in the studio with us to resume the process. Again, we recorded through the night, but as morning approached, to our dismay, our engineer suffered an even more severe mental breakdown, perhaps a schizophrenic episode. He left, once again taking our files with him. This time, despite calling and emailing, we were unable to get in touch with him at all for many months. Finally, I received an email telling me that he had been suffering from debilitating mental health problems since the night of our first session. He agreed to give us the files on a portable hard drive but refused to resume work on the record. Luckily, a good friend of ours, Hard Travelin' Marc Mrau, agreed to take on the project. To our great surprise, the first night that we were all able to get together to begin work also happened to be a full moon, and after this, we decided to carry on in that respect. Luckily, Marc managed to keep his head on straight throughout, and we're very grateful for his work. We feel that “The Full Moon Sessions” carry closely with them the desperation, confusion and lunacy that each of those sessions held.
The band has a very unique sound that reminds me of various artist in Hard Rock/Heavy Metal world. What are some of the Spells major influences that you guys listen to?
We have diverse tastes, and we love both old and new music – rock, soul, blues, prog, jazz, etc. Lately, we've been really into some bands like Tribulation, Wytch Hazel and Danava. We love what In Solitude and The Devil's Blood have done. Also, bands like Uncle Acid, Graveyard, Cauldron, Blood Ceremony, and Black Trip are great. We're big fans of all the bands on our label, Bad Omen Records!
The Full Moon Sessions EP was released on the great Canadian Label, Hard and Heavy Records. What was the relationship like with that label?
Inti Paredes and Hard & Heavy Records are absolutely fantastic, I can't say enough good things about them. Hard & Heavy gave us the support to get off the ground when no-one else cared. They went way out of their way and took a big risk on us – that's what they're about – working from the ground up to give new heavy bands an opportunity to grow. Anyone who has the chance to work with Hard and Heavy is very lucky.
In 2015, Spell had embarked on their first US tour through the West Coast. How was the experience like and how were the audience’s reactions?
We had a fantastic time on this tour, and our response was pretty hot and cold. Some shows were played to empty halls, while others were full and packed. So far, we've booked all our own tours for ourselves, so it's always a bit hit-and-miss when going places we've never been. We're planning to tour back down the West Coast in Spring of 2017, and we hope that this time it'll be even better.
Regarding to the last question, does the group have any plans to tour in the near future again in the US and possibly other parts of the world?
Right now, we're working on West Coast USA and Mexico tours for the Spring of 2017. We're also working on a Europe tour for the summer of 2017. We're booking this all from the ground up, so if anyone reading this has any connections to good bands, promoters, venues, festivals, etc, and would like to help us, we'd really appreciate that! Drop us a line at email@example.com
In late 2015 Spell announced that they had signed with the label Bad Omen Records which also has great groups like Wytch Hazel, Satan's Satyrs, Amulet, and Flight signed to its arsenal. Was there any other interest in the group from other record labels and, if so, what persuaded the band to sign with Bad Omen Records?
We feel very lucky to be a part of the Bad Omen roster! While we were working on the album, we were researching and shopping around a bit for our favorite potential labels. Hard and Heavy Records encouraged us to set our sights on a bigger label with wider distribution for our second release. Right from the start, Bad Omen was at the top of our list, so we were very happy when we received an unsolicited email from them offering to release our record. We had interest from a few good labels, but Bad Omen was our first choice. Every band on their roster is high quality, and we're happy to be among them.
Ok let’s talk about the new album, For None and All, starting with the artwork done by Adam Burke who has done work for bands including Vektor, Diabolic Night, and Eternal Champion. How did you come in contact with him and were you satisfied with the piece?
We'd been looking at his art for a while and we're all fans of his – his sense for colour is unlike anyone else we've seen, as is his ability to depict urgency, haste and desperation. We love how his work effortlessly combines form and abstraction, mental and physical, conscious and subconscious. We're very happy that Adam was able to work with us, and I'm proud to have the original painting framed and hung in my home. The album cover concept comes from our song, 'River of Sleep', which is about finding beauty and joy within horror. We asked Adam to try and depict the relationship between the subconscious and the physical, each inferring and defining the other. We wanted to combine both of these in such a way as they would actually be experienced and navigated by the protagonist of the song – the physical housing the mental, and the mental interpreting the physical. Both together make up our reality, and they cannot be experienced individually. Adam did an incredible job, we're very happy with the outcome.
When I first heard this new album I was kind of shocked by the slight change of sound going form straight forward Heavy Metal to become a more mystic and atmospheric group that reminded me of 70’s Prog/Hard Rock. Were all the band members in agreement to have the sound go in this direction and what artist influenced the sound?
his wasn't really something that we talked about and consciously decided on. We spend a lot of time together, and we're always searching for new music and inspiration and sharing with each other, so that was just the way the album turned out. We're not interested in playing any one specific genre of music – we plan to keep exploring and finding new inspiration, and you can expect the next album to sound quite different from this one.
Can you briefly talk about the production process the band when through for this album such writing, recording, and mastering of For None and All?
Absolutely. It was important to us to record this album completely to analogue tape. We did the whole album with live bed tracks, and without any digital editing or manipulation of any kind. There are imperfections, but everything you hear is us, live, toiling in the studio. Before recording, we all moved out to a farmhouse in the suburbs where we rehearsed daily for 8 months leading up to our studio session. We were very happy to work with Felix Fung at Little Red Sounds in Vancouver. Felix helped us out a lot and pushed us to our best performance. It was not an easy task – we were in the studio for long days, playing dozens of takes on each track. A few days in, my fingers were bleeding, but I believe that we're actually much better players now than we were when we went in.
What are each band member’s personal favorite tracks from the albums?
We don't feel that it would be right to pick specific tracks – the album is a cohesive piece. Though it's not lyrically a 'concept album', it was built as a unit. We worked to fit each part together. Every song on the album is very meaningful to us in different ways. No song is less important than another.
Things look like they have been going well for the band, what does the future hold for Spell?
Well, aside from the tour plans we mentioned, we're interested in covering as much ground as we can in the coming months! If you'd like to book us, get in touch. We're hard at work on the next album – and it's sounding very exciting so far.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! Do you want to give any plugs or shout outs?
Thanks so much for having us! Sure, we'd like to give a shout out to Felix at Little Red Sounds for putting real soul into our record, as well as Will at Bad Omen and Inti at Hard & Heavy for carrying us through and risking it to get new bands out there. Also, Europe – we're comin' for ya!
BY MATT RODRIGUEZ.