my top album of 2017. By harnessing a wide array of instruments, the band is able to capture the ambitiousness of the progressive rock legends of old along with the heaviness of modern day doom. Also throw in the dichotomy of black metal screams and clean vocals, and you have one, for lack of a better term, unique sounding band. I had been dying to catch the band live for quite some time; and especially after Durf's glowing review of their performance at this year's Fire in the Mountains festival. Fortunately, I was able to catch them this past week as they past through Chicago on their current tour. I initially thought I was only going to be talking to frontwoman Kelly Schilling, but the whole band ended up wanting to partake. What ensued was a fun conversation about everything from the band's beginnings to what lies ahead for them.
Read the interview after the break!
From left to right (referencing the header image above):
Jordan Clancy - Drums, Alto/Tenor Saxophone
Kevin Handlon - Bass, Mandolin, Lyrics
Kelly Schilling - Guitar, Flute, Clean and Harsh Vocals
Lauren Vieira - Keys, Clean Vocals
So tell me about the tour you guys are currently on. I had a friend who saw you guys at Fire in the Mountains so I'm sure that mixed with being on the road has been a fun experience. Thoughts on that to open things up?
Kelly : Tour's been great so far. It's really early. All the shows have been really good. We've seen a lot of good friends and we have many more wonderful friends to see. I believe we'll be a week in on Wednesday and then will have three more weeks to go; ending it all at Psycho Las Vegas.
Seems like it's mainly been bigger festivals for you guys this year.
Kelly : Somewhat, yeah. This tour is leading up to Psycho Las Vegas. So that's what we based this tour around. But with Northwest Terror Fest and Fire in the Mountains, we're kind of just trying to get on whatever fest we can and get out there a little more.
Kevin : Last month was a bit of a fest month. I wouldn't call it a tour. But it was still a crazy month where we were playing out a lot.
Would you guys say this is all towards the tail-end of touring behind A Wake in Sacred Waves?
Kelly : Definitely. We've already started working on new material. That's been really good. We've been playing a new song a little bit on the road. So if you're interested in hearing some new material, come see us. We have plans. I don't know how much I want to say about it yet. But we have a lot in the works for the new record.
Kevin : A release set for next year.
How would you describe the new material so far compared to your previous material?
Kelly : That's hard. It's definitely still Dreadnought, but we're toying in a new field a little bit. I want to say it's somewhat more technical but even that's not fully correct. There's a lot of moving parts, a lot of new colors, and a lot more dissonance. But there's also still a lot of beauty too and a lot of sorrow. We're really toying with drama and extremes in regards to highs and lows. So I think you'll see some of that.
With your songs being much longer and expansive, it seems like that would be a bigger palette for you guys to choose what direction to go in. That being said, I first heard about you guys when I was sent the promo for Bridging Realms. What caught my attention in that promo was the line "for fans of: Agalloch, Yes, The Moody Blues"...
and someone else I forgot. But my initial reaction was "man what the hell is this going to sound like?". How did your guys' sound come to be what it is? I realize that's a pretty vague question.
Kelly : We do have a lot of different influences and come from a lot of different backgrounds musically. We never really tried to be one specific thing or another. I think it just naturally formed towards what it was supposed to with like me having a lot of the black metal influences, all of us liking prog, jazz and all different kinds of things. There was never a deliberate "we're going to throw all this random stuff in here and hope it works". It just happened naturally.
Kevin : I think it was an experience of all of us exploring what we had been getting up to lately. And we all had previous bands that weren't really working out for us so we wanted something that really let us be creative. There was this spirit of exploring things that was very present at the start of the band. That allowed us to make space for things like Kelly bringing in the flute. Lauren added a whole other dimension when she joined the band. With that in mind, it became what can we do and now how do we do it well?
Jordan : We have one rule and that's the best sound wins. We don't care what that label is as long as it sounds good to us.
At the beginning, were you all in bands that were at different extremes musically? How did you all end up meeting each other?
Kelly : Jordan, Kevin, and I played together in Kastigation which is an old black/death band when we were teenagers. It's been like 10 or 11 years now which is kinda crazy. Lauren played in prog metal band called Recondite back in Colorado Springs as well. We ended up just meeting through the scene. After we had lost a few different guitarists in Kastigation we thought we should try something different so were like "Well our friend Lauren plays keys. Let's see what's up with that." So we did and it worked out beautifully.
Would you say then from day 1 of Dreadnought that you wanted to get really experimental with your sound right from the get-go or did it slowly grow into that?
Lauren : It was the space to give each other the space to try everything out, I suppose. We set a good groundwork for everyone to try it all out and that as soon as anyone contributes something new it's subject to being torn apart and dissected but best sound wins, ultimately. Having the space for best sound wins and that we can try it is what it was all about.
What was the Denver scene like for you guys? A friend of mine and I interviewed Ethan from Primitive Man a while ago and he said that it was a great place to become a band in but that everybody also had their own pocket. Like you guys have your own, Khemmis has their own, and Primitive Man has their own. Would you agree with that?
Kelly : I mean, kind of. Different bands bring out somewhat different crowds but for the most part I would say the scene is very intertwined.
Jordan : There's a lot of cross-contamination. Everyone supports everyone.
Kelly : It's grown that way moreso over the years.
Lauren : It's very much a big community. You might like a certain band more than another but ultimately we'll end up at the same places almost every show.
Kevin : It is a family when it all comes down to it. The fact that you can go out to a show and hang out with Ben from Khemmis and Taylor from Abrams and Ethan will be there too. It's a really big community.
Back-tracking a little bit from a thought I missed....did you guys individually go to school for music or grow up in musical families? When I see a band that makes effective uses of all the instruments you do, I figure it's one of those two things if not both.
Kelly : Yeah, a little different for everyone. Some of us went to school and studied it. I started playing when I was 10. I think Jordan was in school for a while. We all kind of studied it on our own. (laughs) I don't know I can't really remember Lauren and Kevin's story.
Lauren : Kevin and I went the private lesson route. We got into teaching and that helps breakdown your technique even more. I don't think any of us went to school officially though did we?
Kevin : Kelly did. She minored.
Kelly : Yeah I did.
Primarily classical training?
Kelly : Yeah, for me it was. I did classical training while I was in school. But I started taking private lessons in high school too. I don't think it was strictly classical for everyone else.
Kevin : I was jazz trained.
Since I have you all here, what was the album for each of you that opened you up to heavier music and made you want to take your creativity in that direction?
Lauren : I gotta go last. I have to think about this one (laughs).
Kevin : I'll go first. For me it was Blackwater Park from Opeth. That was the first album that I really got that bass was an instrument that I could get creative with and that heavy music was a platform that I could do that in. It was really exciting for me and I enjoyed all the grooves in it. I can still go back to that record and play through it at home.
Pretty timeless album right?
Kevin : Oh absolutely. Yeah, love that one.
Kelly : That's hard. I feel like I always say the same thing. They're probably sick of hearing me say it but it was definitely Moonsorrow's ummm...shm...uhh I can't even pronounce it. But V: Hävitetty by them definitely opened my mind to the atmosphere of it and the way that it moves. There's not too many different riffs but it's packed together really well and is really emotional for me and really made me want to start getting into heavier music.
Jordan : For me, it started when I was a youngin' listening to System of a Down.
Jordan : Toxicity, man. That spurred everything. Then when someone showed me black metal in high school I was already open to it. So without System of a Down I feel I wouldn't be where I am today in really enjoying heavy music.
Lauren : So it wasn't an album for me. It was all power metal and most video game soundtracks. And it's not a whole lot different now I guess (laughs).
Well to start wrapping things up, you guys said you were doing this tour leading up to Psycho Las Vegas. Does it then go into recording the new album or are there more plans in between that?
Kelly : That should be some of the last live performances we have, unless another offer comes up, who knows. But the plan is to finish writing the album and record it at the end of this year and then to come out with it next year. So that's where we're at.
So for the final question...I ask bands this a lot but I feel it would be particularly interesting for you. If you could set up your own bill that you guys are playing on, who are maybe the three other bands your bring along with?
Jordan : Well I think all of us would pick Moonsorrow.
Kelly : Just for nostalgic purposes.
Lauren : Not even. I'd still love Moonsorrow. You kiddin' me?!
Jordan : I don't know if it could be just a bill. It would have to be a fest.
Lauren : Could it be Koji Kondo also?
It can be whatever you want. It's your bill.
Lauren : Ok. Then it would also be the gentleman who writes all of the Zelda soundtracks and probably Moonsorrow and umm....
Kelly : I think all four of us would have a different bill to put together, which is great.
Lauren : Kendrick Lamar. I want Kendrick to play.
Kevin : Oh dude, fuck yeah. Kendrick Lamar. Absolutely. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City from front to back.
Kelly : We'll do Kendrick Lamar and then we'll have Deathspell Omega and put them on the same bill and that'll be epic.
Kevin : And they can play to the light of a single candle.
Have they ever played live before? No, right?
Kelly : Deathspell? Oh no I don't think so. That would be amazing. They'd probably sell out every show ever (laughs).
Well guys thank you so much for your time.
Kelly : Yeah, of course!