Aether Realm – Redneck Vikings Raising Some Hell

Sunday, 26th April 2020

A case of some hard work paying off, Aether Realm have slowly been moving their way up the ranks since first releasing One Chosen By the Gods in the earlier half of the 2010s. It was a melodic death and folk mixture that leaned in a European way, and over time the band has developed more of their own identity and sound. This can certainly be said of the upcoming Redneck Vikings from Hell [Pre-order HERE], their third full-length, and first for Napalm Records. It takes the core of the Aether Realm sound and augments it in a way that’s both personal and most importantly, fun. We chatted for a bit with vocalist/bassist Vincent ‘Jake’ Jones about the band’s progress, ending up on Napalm, the band’s fun factor and interactions with fans, and much more!

Dead Rhetoric: I’ve been really loving the new album. It’s a bit different obviously, but I think its right up there with Tarot.

Vincent ‘Jake’ Jones: Thanks man. With this one, we went into it with the goal of seeing if we could write a ‘bangers’ album. Usually we are kind of long winded with our musical compositions. You know, 6 minutes, 8 minutes, 19 minutes, but we wanted to see what would happen if we tried to write short songs for an album and condense the same things we were doing down to a shorter format. And I think it worked alright. But that was one thing we were definitely trying to do.

Dead Rhetoric: You can correct me if I’m wrong on this, but as I’m listening to it, it feels like a pretty personal album.

Jones: Yeah. I do almost all of the lyrics, and it always varies between this short story fantasy format. On the first album, we had “Swampwitch” and “One Chosen By the Gods,” and those are short, fantasy stories about battles and bloodshed. But even on the first one we had “Hourglass,” which was less of a story and more of a ‘feeling.’ It was more describing a feeling. We had a little bit of that on Tarot too, with “Death,” but we still had the short story stuff with songs like “The Devil.” I think this is the same sort of deal, except maybe we are just leaning more into the songs about feeling. We still have “She’s Back,” which is “Swampwitch 2 –the Boogaloo.” But yeah, I think maybe coupled with short songs, it sort of naturally came out lyrically with writing songs about how I was feeling.

Dead Rhetoric: So with the new album, do you feel that the band has come into your own?

Jones: It’s hard to say. I like to wait and see. My perspective is that I want to see what people think, and how it does. I don’t want to think, “Yeah, this is our big dog album boys!” But in listening to it, I feel a lot more confident that every moment on the album has a purpose. There’s not a whole lot of goofing around without direction. Which is a result of us trying to write shorter songs. So yeah, I’m certainly proud and excited about it. It’s not that I feel that Tarot was worse, it was just different. I know we didn’t want to do Tarot II. So we didn’t, we did Redneck Vikings from Hell I.

Dead Rhetoric: I was looking at the last time we did an interview in 2016, and talking about the nightmare of doing the crowdfunding stuff. You had mentioned that the Alestorm tour may have been a label audition – was it, in the end, considering you ended up on Napalm?

Jones: Yeah, what happened with all of that was that Napalm actually hit us up before Tarot came out. I’m not sure that they weren’t even sure that we had an album done, since they said that our songs “The Magician” and “The Chariot” were good and they wanted to talk with us. So I said that we had a whole album of songs they might be interested in, and we started negotiating with them before Tarot was released – about having them release Tarot. But what happened, was that we reached an impasse. They wanted the usual amount of time to promote it and do what they needed on their end. It would have been several months…4 or 5 more months. We wanted to release it fast, and they wanted to release it in like August/September. To me if felt like a problem because fans had already paid for the album – fans were acting like the label for that album.

So it seemed like it wasn’t an okay choice to continue to delay it arbitrarily because we wanted to get signed. So what we ended up doing was saying that we wanted to release it earlier, but told them to please not forget our info. We said that when we are working on our next thing, we would hit them up. So we put out Tarot as we planned to, and the Indiegogo thing was awful. Don’t get me wrong, it allowed us to do it, and the support we received was unbelievable. But the execution, and being in charge of the execution, was such a stressful time in my life. I’m just not built for logistics.

My brain doesn’t seem built for logistics. I spent a lot of time sitting in my basement surrounded by packages. A lot of these times, because every band is like “yeah, we are going to do this, this, and this,” but when you look at the shipment fees, they are really something! We ended up well into personal funds to make it all happen. We got a lot of help from Laura Greenwood, who was running a regional label [Primitive Ways Records]. She was who we worked with before moving to Napalm, so a big thanks to Laura for digging us out of our mess. I would very much like to not be in charge of shipping hundreds of packages myself ever again [laughs].

But it ended up fine, since we established contact with Napalm, and when we finished our first song – the first one that was completely recorded and mixed was “Goodbye.” I had gone through a breakup in maybe May of 2018, so I ended up having to move out of where I was living, and moved in with Donny [Burbage – guitar] and we just were grinding on a new song. So we did, and thought it was good. So we sent it to Napalm and said, “Remember us? We were talking a while back, and here’s a new song. We’d like to do a whole album of songs.” We went from there until we signed with them and did it.

Dead Rhetoric: Is it important to you to keep the music fun?

Jones: It’s vital. You can only decide a certain aesthetic – you can have an evil aesthetic and maybe be like Behemoth. Or we could have a different aesthetic and sound similar to Insomnium. Both of them are fantastic bands that are absolute big dogs of the metal world. I don’t want to say that they are one-dimensional or anything, but going back to what we talked about earlier with writing about feelings – part of writing about how I feel is that sometimes I feel like goofing off.

Spending a lot of time with Chris Bowes and the Gloryhammer troupe and all that – it just kind of makes me feel like it’s okay to goof off sometimes. You can even goof off in your music and have it still be good and elaborate music. It can still produce strong emotions – even if it is ‘fun,’ which is sort of a bad word to many metal bands. So I would say, that at the end of the day, when I am writing music I want to serve the song. That’s a phrase you hear a lot of musicians talk about nowadays. I want to do what the song is demanding, and sometimes the song demands silliness. Of course, I am always happy to oblige.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that the band has evolved from the early days?

Jones: The first thing we ever did was to play shows with no recorded music, for like a year/year and a half. We did the Odin Will Provide demo, which was 2 songs and an intro. That rolled into One Chosen By the Gods, and from that to Tarot, I just like to think that we are getting better at making every second count in the songs. I think that is the learning process for a lot of younger bands. So us, as a younger band too, is getting a riff that you like – that means you feel something, and makes you feel proud. So you want to amp on it for a long time, with no variation. Playing a riff 4 times, or 8 times, or 16 times – just keep it going with the same drum beat. How about no vocals too? Let’s just play the same thing 16 times in a row! I think we do a little bit less of that now. Even from One Chosen to Tarot, I think we got better at making sure that the song was always moving.

There’s a place to lull the listener into an atmospheric trance, or playing the same thing over again, but it’s got to be very intentional that you want to be repetitive in that section, as opposed to just wanting to play ‘the cool part’ a bunch of times. You have to look at it from the perspective of the listener, instead of what you just want to do as the player. I think we have gotten better at not being boring in sections of songs. We’ve gotten better at making sure we are always moving along.

In terms of genre, I don’t think we’ve changed too much. I think maybe on this one we were more willing to lean into singing than we have previously, but it’s always been there. It’s just a matter of proportions of singing to screaming. But our most popular song of all time is “The Sun, The Moon, The Star,” which has got a great deal of singing in it. Every now and then we will get a comment on “Goodbye” or something where they will say, “I remember when this band was only screaming and that was when they were good.” It’s like, when was that? I don’t know when that was?

Dead Rhetoric: Along those same lines, how do you feel that you have grown as a musician and person through the band?

Jones: Well, I certainly still get stressed about things, even though I tell myself I shouldn’t. Especially in the final days of getting the album done. When we were mixing the album, I took a couple days off of work and was just sleeping on the couch at the studio with Kile and Zach. We ended up being like 10 days late in submitting the album. So every day I was getting emails from the label asking us how we were doing, and it was like, “[stressed] We are doing fine, but the album the album isn’t done yet, we have this new song that we aren’t done with yet. Please don’t fire me!”

So I would like to say that I get less stressed than I used to. I have gotten better about when we hit a problem, and just going with it instead of going “ahhh!” But I still get a little bit “ahhhh!” sometimes. I am trying, and I think I am doing better about this, but I’m trying to care less about the odd, negative comments on things. I think that’s also a sign, talking to other artists that are far more successful than us, that you are doing good. It means that people are seeing you doing good. Some people see that and are like, “I don’t want you to be doing good, I’m going to sit down and type up some mean shit!” I think I’ve gotten better at accepting that as part of the business and laughing at it a bit.

We have our band chat always going, and anytime there is a good, incredibly negative comment we will throw it in there and laugh about it. Like, “Hey, this guy is really mad! I thought we were just writing a song but this guy is really mad!” But yeah, I’m still working a day job, and paying the rent with a regular job and not music. So there hasn’t been a progression from ‘ole regular job Jake’ to ‘rock and roll million dollar Jake’ – that certainly hasn’t happened yet [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: I know there’s the TMHC group for fans. Is there anything you can kind of toss out towards those interactions?

Jones: I definitely could never have predicted it anytime before it happened – developing this creative, supportive fan base of people that like to interact with each other and sort of create their own content. We have a fan named Kyra, who has made all of our albums into wall art in Animal Crossing and then posted the codes for other people to use. There’s things like that. We have fans that are always making things, like knitting the AR logo into a hat – that was recently. There’s fan art and things like that too. I could have never imagined something like that.

As it has grown, it’s become important to us to try to provide and nurture that aspect of the fan community, and encourage it as much as we can. I feel like that is a really good outlet to have. A community where you can make something and show it – and have people be excited about it. I mean, that’s all we are doing as a band. I want to provide that feeling for the fans as much as possible. For the most part, that has been them by themselves. We just try to encourage it and amplify it when we see it. But I would say, having the privilege of seeing it all go down has been a great morale boost – people really like spending their time enjoying our stuff and making things that all within that Aether Realm universe. Shout out to the TMHC – they all know who they are. Put your tiny metal hands in the air. Y’all got a song on this one that you’ll hear soon.

Dead Rhetoric: Your tour is being rescheduled – is there anything else going on in the future? I know we are in uncertain times right now.

Jones: For the rescheduled tour, we had dates leak in the fan group from one of the venues. I saw it, and I hadn’t even been told that date yet! I had to go in there and say that I didn’t know if it was actually right and said to not get too crazy over it yet. We just don’t know. We are trying to be responsible about announcing dates before we know that they will actually be happening. We live in very uncertain times – we have been hit by this COVID-19 pandemic, and it has taken much of the government leadership around the world by surprise. To that end, it means that it hit people that should have had a plan without a plan. There’s only so much you can do to mitigate these global disasters.

It doesn’t seem like we have a good timeline that we can say, with confidence, when things will be back to normal. Because of that, we don’t want to announce any dates for rescheduled shows until we are absolutely certain that they will work. We are working on rescheduled dates, and we are hoping to do it this year. That’s where all of our perspective dates are, but we haven’t nailed anything down. Once we have that, we still don’t want to announce until we are sure that they are going to hold up.

We do have other tours that have been in the works as well. We might be heading overseas this year, but we can’t say much else about that until the big dogs of that tour give us the ok. We might head into Canada for some dates, beyond what we planned to do. Maybe do a west coast thing. We are trying to tour as much as we can. We are trying to walk that line between planning and setting it up, and overcommitting to the point where if things continue to be bad, we have dumped a bunch of money in and can’t do it. We are trying to tentatively plan as much as we can, without setting ourselves up for a bad time if the pandemic continues to squash a lot of events.

Photo Credit: Bryce Chapman

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