Interview conducted by Zax
Exulansis are a post-black metal trio from Oregon here in the United States that fuse lots of folk into their sound. They released their debut full length titled Sequestered Sympathy, which I actually reviewed here on Noob Heavy. I’ve also praised it a handful of times on my socials, as well as rewarding it a spot on my best albums of the year list. I’ve never done an interview before, but I figured it’d be cool to test it out with these great folks.
Hey guys, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions today! The new year is a time of reflection for everybody, how do you all feel 2019 went for you as a band? Any favorite memories from the year?
Andrea: Thank you! 2019 was an amazing year for us. Besides recording with the incredible Patrick Hills of Earth Tone Studios and releasing our debut album, some of my fondest memories are of playing Litha Cascadia, playing shows with bands such as Vouna, Atriarch, Dead to a Dying World, Dawn Ray’d, CHRCH and Squalus as well as our tour with Eye of Nix.
You released your amazing debut record Sequestered Sympathy this year, and I have a few questions for you about it. Of course I’ve heard the record, and I know it’s an incredibly unique black metal experience, but for our readers who haven’t, what do you all think makes this record and the band as a whole stand out in the black metal scene?
Andrea: For me personally, my connection to James musically has been rooted in our love of folk music, and my brother Mark and I have always shared a love for a wide variety of extreme music, and after years of being a classical musician, it just seemed like the three of us and our contributions musically melded together in this way so seamlessly without a particular intention of making it a “unique black metal experience” but that’s sort of the way it turned out. I think it was also important for us to not be stuck in one particular genre so that we could continue exploring the depths of our ensemble communication. So for those expecting a strictly black metal album, I would caution prospective listeners that they might be in for some unexpected moments upon their first listen.
Can you tell me a bit about the lyrical content on the album? I can’t make out all of the vocals, but the music is incredibly emotional and powerful, so I can only imagine the lyrics are as well.
James: The lyrics I wrote for the title track Sequestered Sympathy, were triggered by massive humanitarian injustices caused by our country, specifically the separation of families at our borders, that persists to this day.
Andrea: The themes present for me are derived from past and recent loss, allowing those spirits to truly rest, of the reverberating injustices of our time and how it affects all of us at micro and macro levels simultaneously. Of the inability to save another from their own destruction, of the silence only heard among the trees below the stars, and somewhere laced in there, the idea that there is only so much time here, that we should use that time to cultivate love, drive out hatred and be true to ourselves while it lasts…
The cover art for the album – done by the amazing Adam Burke – is absolutely beautiful. How does the imagery relate to or tie into the content of the record?
James: The Raven has long been a representation of loss, ill omen, prophecy, insight, and psychopomp. We touch on all of these respectively throughout the album. The landscape in the art is highly reminiscent of the Colestin Valley at Mark and Andrea’s childhood home, where we wrote and practiced this album.
(To Mark): Lastly, the drums sound amazing on the album! What kit did you use in the studio for this album?
Mark: thank you so much! I used a five piece Forum series Pearl kit.
(To Andrea): I’m a big sucker for violins in metal, and your playing is truly great. Who are your inspirations in playing violin? Do you have any favorite metal records/bands that feature the violin?
Andrea: Thank you! There are quite a number of composers, performers and other artists who inform and inspire me. My playing style is reflective of influences ranging from late-romantic and early 20th century orchestral/chamber music through bluegrass, folk, country and psychedelic music. But as far as modern genre influences are concerned, I was struck by hearing Subrosa’s Sarah Pendleton and Kim Cordray for the first time. Seeing them live gave me hope that what I wanted to do musically was truly possible and tangible. I am also very moved by Sophie Trudeau of Godspeed You, Black Emperor. Some other violinists that have heavily influenced me are Tai Murray, Anne Akiko Meyers and Sarah Chang.
You guys are pretty openly antifascist, which is amazing! Myself and the rest of the Noob Heavy team also identify strongly with antifascist ideologies. How do these beliefs affect the way you guys make music and the reactions people have to your band, if at all?
James: Antifascism is a constant undercurrent in my writing process. In our earlier releases, our lyrics were more vehemently anarchist, anti-civ, and deeply nihilistic. Our lyrics are not overtly antifascist on this release, but we ourselves are creating music and space in which xenophobia and fascism are not tolerated. In regards to how others have responded, people have shown their true nature, on the Internet and in real life. Lost some toxic people yet also gaining community and friendship from others. It’s amazing to find that you’re not alone.
The new album got a cassette pressing from Transylvanian Tapes upon release and will be getting a vinyl pressing from Alerta-Antifascista Records in the coming months. As a collector, this definitely excites me. What does it mean to you all, to have your music pressed to physical formats? Do any of you personally collect?
James: I am cloud 9 level stoked to have our record pressed! I love the DIY approach we’ve had on past releases. Personally designing layouts, dubbing with my tape duplicators, holding the finished product and knowing you made it. But having people I respect, like the amazing folks at Transylvanian Tapes and Alerta-Antifascista look at your labor, want to be a part of it and help release it, is a huge honor. I am an avid collector. I have a modest vinyl collection and a raging cassette obsession.
Andrea: I’m definitely partial to vinyl for both the sound quality and aesthetic. I have a pretty modest vinyl collection compared to many of my friends (mostly comprised of classical records and other weird stuff) so to have this release become a reality with Alerta-Antifascista is a dream come true. We just received word that our records will be done soon. Pre-sales are now available on doomrock.com.
Y’all are playing Seattle’s Northwest Terror Fest in May, on your Instagram you mentioned that some of the band’s biggest influences were playing the festival. What’s everyone’s favorite band on the lineup?
James: Haunter. Sacramental Death Qualia was the only release last year I bought on cassette and vinyl. Just an amazing band.
Andrea: I’m honestly the most excited about Miserable. I am obsessed with everything Kris Esfandiari creates. I’ve also been a long time fan of Suffocation and can’t wait to see them again as well. Very excited to share the stage with Obsequiae on the last day of the festival. I’ve also heard really great things about Harakiri for the Sky and Mizmor…
I just want to thank you guys again for taking the time to answer these questions today, I have one more for you. Aside from the new vinyl pressing and the Northwest Terror Fest, what can we expect from Exulansis in 2020, any other plans?
Andrea: Thank you. There are several things in the works for us this year that we are very excited for and very grateful to be apart of. We have received such an overwhelming outpouring of love from people who were touched by our latest release, and it’s my hope and intention to keep those folks engaged as we ascend to our next phase of music making