An Interview with Cormorant…
Greetings over there. Hope all is fine with you. First, thank you very much for the opportunity of interviewing you. Please, I ask you to introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello and thanks for the interview! My name is Matt Solis, I play guitar and do vocals for Cormorant. We’re a four-piece progressive black metal band from the Bay Area. I live in Petaluma, about 30 minutes north of San Francisco, with Nick (guitar) and Brennan (drums) from the band. I work as an editor at a marketing company when I’m not writing weird riffs and screaming like a loon.
Cormorant has just released its new album, Earth Diver, now in April, 2014. Could you please tell us a bit about this album, how the composing/ recording process was, as well as the reaction of the fans so far?
We started writing the songs for Earth Diver around spring of 2012, right before we went on our first West Coast tour with Young Hunter. We did another U.S. tour right after that, so we didn’t start really focusing on the songs until we got back in September 2012. Arthur left the band shortly after, so Nick, Brennan and I spent the next six months writing and arranging the songs that comprise Earth Diver. We recorded with Justin Weis at Trakworx in South San Francisco in September 2013…we did about 9 days of tracking and 4 days of mixing. We broke up the recording time in 3-4 day increments, which was really helpful in terms of keeping fresh ears and limiting the exhaustion that can come with making a record, not to mention taking time off work. The album came out this April and we’ve been really stoked about the reactions. Our fans seem pretty happy with the musical direction we’ve taken.
I think I can safely say that Cormorant’s sound can be considered “amorphous”. It was mentioned on an interview that “it’s never been a conscious thing, where we all sit down and say, “OK, now this next album is gonna be black metal and the one after will be post rock.” It just comes out organically when we jam together and come up with riffs and ideas.” Having that in mind, can we expect anything, in the future, for Cormorant? And for those that aren’t familiar with your music, could you briefly describe each of your three full-length albums?
We’ve been interested in progression in this band from day one, and that will never change. Every new song we write contains new things we’ve learned along the way as musicians, and our arrangement process is 100 percent collaborative, so that combination always creates interesting music that has a lot of twists and turns. I don’t know exactly what our future music will sound like, but it will definitely continue this trajectory.
Our three LPs follow an interesting path. Our debut, Metazoa, is essentially a hybrid of melodic death metal and folk-influenced black metal, and it’s also a product of the four of us being in a real studio for the first time and going apeshit in terms of adding ideas and layers! Our second album, Dwellings, is much darker than Metazoa and leans more toward black metal and doom than death metal. Arthur switched his vocal style to be more black metal and the music just has a darker vibe than our previous work. There are more clean vocals and less extraneous instrumentation as well. We wanted to distill the Cormorant sound to its darkest, purest form. Our new LP, Earth Diver, is darker and more aggressive than anything we’ve done. Some songs have a driving ferocity while others have a suffocating heaviness. It leans even more toward black metal than Dwellings.
When it comes to Cormorant’s lyrical work, it’s also much acclaimed (and I completely agree). How is the lyric writing process for Cormorant? Do you sit down to start composing or do they “come from out of the blue”? What and who are the main influences when it comes to your lyrics?
The lyrics were probably the biggest adjustment that came from Arthur leaving the band. Marcus and I tag-teamed the lyrics for Earth Diver (Marcus did 2, I did 5), and speaking for myself, I found the process much less exhaustive than I originally anticipated. We’ve established a “story teller” motif with our lyrics up to this point, so we knew we didn’t want to stray from that on Earth Diver, but I think the approach was a little more relaxed this time around. We actually recorded all the songs in our in-home studio with placeholder lyrics instead of real lyrics, just to get a sense for rhythms and word placement. Those fake lyrics are pretty hilarious—there’s a story about a frost chicken that escapes from his pen and exacts his revenge on Colonel Sanders, there’s one about Brennan’s dog taking over the world…it got pretty ridiculous! But by having those placeholder lyrics, I was able to sit down later and fit real lyrics into the vocal skeleton that we had created. I was thinking about interesting topics and stories the entire time we were writing music. I ended up writing about a covert governement sleep experiment (Waking Sleep), the Oracle at Delphi (The Pythia), the Inuit folklore tale of Qalupalik (Daughter of Void), the Native American ghost dance (Broken Circle) and the “death with dignity” movement (A Sovereign Act). I seem to write best under pressure, so a lot of my lyrics were completed at the 11th hour, right around the time that we went into the studio. As far as influences go, I don’t really have particular writers that I try to emulate…I’m much more of a fiction fan, so I take inspiration from great writers like Cormac McCarthy, Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Carver.
The band has stated that its music is 100 percent self-funded labor of love. I know the feeling very well, since I work alone on this website whenever I’m able to, everyday to keep its quality, at time when I’m at home, sometimes only at 1 am, on weekends, etc (couting everything I did this way, it’s over a decade). So, I truly believe that there are many people out there making and promoting metal for the love of the music. Could you comment on that (concerning your DYI philosophy) as well as, having that in mind, have your ever thought or are you still thinking about signing to a label?
DIY is a two-headed beast. On one hand, the freedom we have to write, record, and release whatever kind of music we want is amazing. For creative people, that’s really all you can ask for—to make something that contains your essence and share that with people around the world. On the other hand, once you get to a certain point in a band, you’ve created a machine that has to be continuously fed, and that means a lot of money and time. We’re fortunate because we have an amazing fan base that has contributed greatly to our ability to make records, print merchandise and go on tour, but it’s still an incredible amount of work on our end to make anything happen. When it comes down to it, you have to love this shit…it’s that simple. We love playing music and being in this band, so we do what we have to do to keep it going.
We’ve never been opposed to signing to a label, but it has to be the right label and the right circumstances for us to feel comfortable, and that hasn’t happened yet. Our autonomy is very important to us, and our ability to do things on our own terms has been a huge part of our success, so we aren’t willing to compromise that just to have a record deal.
Connected to the previous question, your fan base has grown without the help of a label, being an independent band. To what do you credit this (besides the high quality of the music, of course ;))?
The Internet has been huge for us. We’ve always had a big online presence—from the Myspace days to GameFAQ’s Board 235 to Facebook and Twitter—and over the years that has translated to a great international fan base. The positive press from print magazine like Terrorizer and Decibel has been huge, too, as well as NPR’s support in 2011 when they named “Dwellings” the best metal album of the year. All these things have given us a positive reputation among fans of our weird type of metal, and those people tell other people who eventually become fans. The Internet is the best record label we could ask for!
In a way also connected to the previous questions, I’ve read that Blood Music will release the vinyl version of Earth Diver. Why did you decide to sign with them? And also, I know that this version will only be released in 2015, but are you already familiar with what they’re planning for Earth Diver? If it will be a vinyl with different colors, or anything else?
We’ve been trying to get vinyl out for many years, and the stars have never aligned until now. We came to Blood Music with an idea for a very simple deal, and they were excited to be a part of it, so here we are. The plans are still in the preliminary stages because Josh is balls deep in the Moonsorrow box set he’s putting out, but it’s going to be a great project. Colored vinyl will definitely be happening, and the packaging will be top-notch. There’s also some news on some older Cormorant stuff being released on vinyl, but you’ll have to wait a little while to get the details on that 😉
Tell us about the advantages and disadvantages of having to work a regular job in order to keep your metal band alive.
It’s basically a time issue. I’m lucky to have a great job that gives me a lot of personal freedom to do things like make records and go on tour, but even so, I still have to balance a full-time work schedule with a full-time band schedule, and that’s not always easy. But in order to keep my gear up to par and contribute to the financial aspects of the band, I need my job, so it’s a give-and-take relationship. Sometimes I wish I could just get paid to play music and tour, but until then, working as an editor isn’t the worst thing in the world.
What are your future plans when it comes to touring to promote the album? Do you have any dates already set? Also, you’ve already toured with Primordial and While Heaven Wept, how was it? Did you all get along well? What are the best and worst memories that you have concerning tours?
Touring for Earth Diver will definitely happen, but we’re unsure if it will be late this year or early next year. We’ve been playing some shows around the Bay Area, but we plan to hit the road as soon as it’s feasible for us to do so. Our tour with Primordial and WHW was awesome. We became great friends with all the people in those bands, as well as the crew members who were along for the ride, and it was definitely one of the highlights of our career so far.
My friend Ryan said it best: touring is the best nights of your life followed by the worst mornings of your life. Waking up on a strange floor in a strange town and missing home is not fun, but getting on stage in front of people who have been waiting years to see you makes it all worthwhile. My best memory of that tour is the final show we did in North Carolina. Cormorant, WHW and Vektor donned corpse paint and rushed the stage as Primordial played their final song. I think there’s video footage of that somewhere online. It was pretty hilarious…Alan couldn’t keep a straight face as he was trying to sing!
The usual question featured in 99% of the interviews, but, hey, maybe the readers of this website haven’t read your answers on another website interview. What are your main interests outside the metal world? What do you prefer most to do when you go home after working or on the weekends? Are there any favorite books, authors or movies that you’d like to share with us?
Most of my interests are music-related. I like going to record stores and finding cool albums to add to my vinyl collection, hanging out with my girlfriend and listening to records, watching music documentaries…I actually just saw the Ginger Baker documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker” the other night and it was fucking amazing! And I saw the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune” recently and highly recommend it. I’m reading Keith Richard’s autobiography right now and it’s pretty awesome. My all-time favorite author is Cormac McCarthy, so if I could recommend someone to start reading it would be him. Blood Meridian, The Road, Child of God, Outer Dark…the man can do no wrong.
And a silly question just for the fun of it. What would the best comeback for the ‘it’s not you, it’s me” routine?
I would hold up a picture of Bob Hoskins in the movie “Hook” and say, “It’s not you, it’s Smee? Are you fucking Bob Hoskins? Didn’t he die recently? I’m sorry, I can’t be with a necrophiliac, I’ll see you later.”
Alas we finish this interview. One more time, I’d like to thank you very much for taking your time to answer these questions. Moreover, I’d also like to wish the best for the band in the future. Any last words for our readers?
Thanks very much for the interview and the support! Check out cormorant.bandcamp.com if you want to order our new album or get a t-shirt…we have some cool package deals that we just put up. You can also stream our old albums for free on that site. Horns up!June 3, 2014