Hyperia – Striving for Growth

Saturday, 22nd February 2020

Success comes to those willing to put the nose to the grindstone and do all the little things that make the difference. Even in their relatively short timeframe as a band since the fall of 2018, Canadian thrash band Hyperia have been establishing a strong work ethic, playing quality shows all around the country and recording and releasing a three-song EP plus a full-length follow-up. Their approach to the genre incorporates melodic singing along with screams and growls, plus a varied musical aspect that can have everything from traditional to death and technical influences.

Their latest album Insanitorium has been receiving great praise in the press, which led me to seek out the husband and wife tandem of guitarist Colin Ryley and vocalist Marlee Ryley for this Skype talk. You’ll learn more about the inception of the group, the mental illness content that goes along with the new album, thoughts on favorite shows that include pinata use, and heartfelt discussion on the metal scene plus the community aspect of things.

Dead Rhetoric: Tell me about your first memories surrounding music growing up – and how you discovered metal and eventually wanting to perform in bands?

Colin: I would say for me, I grew up in a really musical family. My mom and dad actually met in a band. I was around them playing music pretty much my entire life – both my brothers were pretty musical too. As far as my first memory picking up an instrument it would be, I picked up guitar when I was 11. My dad played the keyboards in his band and I remember sitting there, playing some old classic rock stuff on the guitar while he played the keyboards. At that time was when I discovered metal, which I listened to back at that time around 11 years old.

Marlee: I also grew up in a really musical family. My mom plays guitar, and then my dad played the piano. I’ve been playing piano since the age of five, I also played guitar but not as well as Colin, obviously. And vocals, I’ve been always singing since I was probably four years old. I grew up in a religious family, but religion has never been my thing, even as a small child I never really believed. It was kind of a good thing though, because there was a lot of music around that. Then metal, when I was around 11 – I think it was more classic rock that started me on that path, and eventually discovering Iron Maiden when I was 11.

Dead Rhetoric: Considering Hyperia began in the fall of 2018, you’ve been very active very quickly, releasing your debut EP Fish Creek Frenzy last year and now your latest album Insanitorium. What factors contribute to your quicker than normal productivity and songwriting output – and how critical are you as musicians to the development of the material from inception to final outcome?

Marlee: Colin and I were in a band together before, things just weren’t moving. We had a lot of passion and ideas, but it just wasn’t moving with the whole group of us. We quit the band and both quit our jobs and went traveling for 13 months. We just missed playing shows, so we both promised each other that if we did decide to get back into it, we would put our all into it.

Colin: Just from being in a previous band we had a lot of information and knew the first steps to getting to where we wanted to be. The traveling around was awesome, but I knew about six months in how much I missed playing in a band and making music. We had a little acoustic guitar we traveled with that I wrote the first three songs with. As soon as we came back to Canada, I wanted to get the ball rolling and not be a band that practices in their basement for two years and does a show every couple of months. We had a vision for it and we found members that agreed with that vision from the get go. They share that vision- everybody knew this was going to be a serious band and we were going to push things as far as we can. We’ve invested a lot of time and a lot of money into this over the past year. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of effort, but everybody has been super into it.

Marlee: Yeah, we have no free time. We don’t even have time to watch television (laughs).

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel the recording sessions went for Insanitorium compared to your debut EP? And how did the deal with Sliptrick Records come about after you went the DIY route for the EP?

Colin: The EP we recorded a little bit in a rush. Within a month we recorded it all, but I don’t think it comes off as really feeling rushed. You can tell a lot more effort went into the actual album. I think for the EP, we recorded that four or five months after we started the band. After we had the EP out, we decided we would like to get some label support, as far as promotion and marketing, to reach places like Europe and Asia where we didn’t have as much of a reach in. And the United States. I’d say the recording went quite well – we recorded everything in I’d say about two months. For some of the members, like Dave our rhythm guitarist, he had never recorded anything before in his life so it was a huge learning curve there. We just put our all into it – long days of recording, pushing people as hard as we could get.

Marlee: It sounds rushed when you say two months but we would get out of work and have a week of someone having a session. It would be easier us because we have our own studio, we were able to put the time in and not have to worry about paying for studio fees or how long it would take it. We could be in there from when we got out of work until however late we needed.

Dead Rhetoric: Were there any particular songs that had more challenges than others – or did you feel fairly well prepared before you went into the studio?

Colin: In my experience, I think “Dystopia” is one that everyone thinks is one of the most technical songs. That one took the longest time to get down.

Marlee: Vocals… I’m used to recording so it wasn’t difficult for me. But I’m a perfectionist so it was just getting the right sound, I did try again and again. Even the sound was good, when I first did it, it wasn’t good enough for me.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the video shoot for “Asylum”? Was it an obvious choice to represent the album, and how do you feel about the video medium and its importance in these social media driven times?

Marlee: We had kind of a disagreement. It was myself against the band, they wanted to do “Dystopia”, and I just disagreed because I thought “Dystopia” had a totally different theme than the entire album, and I thought “Asylum” was a perfect storyline for a music video. Sometimes with music videos, you don’t necessarily need or want your best song – you need a catchy song, and it can be simple, but it’s more about the visuals. I think it’s okay… it’s not that we think that “Asylum” is our worst song, but at the same time it worked perfectly for the video.

Colin: As far as the video shoot, we did it over one weekend, but we were pulling 14 hours days for both days. We lucked out by finding a videographer who shared our vision – he took the idea we had and amplified it a crazy amount. We’ve gotten a lot of exposure from that music video alone. It’s important to have a really well-produced music video, just to help draw people in. I think people are more willing to look at a music video than listening to a song just streaming by the audio version. I think we captured a cool video aspect of the song, it helped the reach and get it out there.

Marlee: It really brought the song to life. Seth did a really good job of telling the story. And usually music videos don’t make a lot of sense, but this one has a legit storyline. If any of our fans have any questions, I’m sure they can look at the lyrics and see it coincides to get the connection.

Dead Rhetoric: Marlee, as a vocalist your abilities definitely shape Hyperia in a particular way that may different from other melodic thrash bands. How would you define your abilities and what you hope to get across vocally and lyrically to make an impact on the listener?

Marlee: To be honest, it’s really hard being a vocalist. People are very picky about what the sound is, especially in heavy metal. But at the same time, for me, I’m just going to say it – I get very bored just doing the same vocal styles. If I was just doing growls… I would just get bored. I like to do tons of different vocal styles, just to change it up a bit. I think it would be less boring. We have a lot of people who don’t like that – at the same time, this is who I am and this is what I want, so I’m going to show this to the world.

Colin came up with the idea for the lyrics, but I’ve pretty much struggled with mental illness pretty much my whole life. A few different things run in my family. It’s a little bit extreme, the stuff I talk about – but at the same time, it’s an outlet to get things out. With mental illness, you know the movie The Joker? I really liked it, because everybody has a story. You can think that somebody is such a horrible person, maybe they are – but society sometimes shapes who people become because of mental illnesses and if they don’t have the help they can get. I thought the movie was awesome because it raised awareness that we need that kind of coverage in our society to keep our society safe. Government funding for medication, stuff like that – or something. Just because not everybody can have that. In the overall picture, it will keep everybody safe if we look after our own, the mental health issues.

Dead Rhetoric: Oh definitely. I work in a group home and social care for twenty years of my life. I understand the stigmas that are attached many times with mental illness. I feel like for adults, it’s not taken as seriously as other forms of health care…

Marlee: Yes, and I don’t think people realize as I said the impact that it can have on the whole society. That’s interesting that you say that, we’ve had foster kids since I was 15, and my dad works for social services. I’ve been exposed to this for a long time, I have two sisters that are from China and they had a lot of struggles. I feel like a lot of that goes through the lyric process.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Hyperia on stage versus in the studio? What do you want to get across to the audiences you play for, and what have been some of the more memorable moments or shows in the band’s career to date?

Colin: We talk a lot amongst ourselves for the live performance about the visual aspect of putting on a good show. With stage performances we think this is as important if not more important than sounding good. You see a lot of bands that just stand in one place and we don’t want to do that too much. We try to have as much high energy interaction on stage- and we’ve been told we do that from other people as well. As far as most memorable shows, it would be when you get the chance to open up for the band Hatchet in Vancouver – one of my favorite bands for a while.

Marlee: There are a lot of local, smaller shows where we have a lot of people. Any show that we had the pinata, that was a gimmick that we would throw a pinata out there. The first time that we did it, the audience would destroy it and candy would just go everywhere. But the first time we did it, we had a Spongebob Squarepants pinata that we colored in the eyes to make him look like he was super high. The crowd just loved that, and I just felt a lot of the energy. Also, this one kind of could be a bad moment but it was one of my favorite moments. The sound guy wasn’t really paying attention and all of the mics, even my own, stopped working – so I couldn’t be heard. I tried to use the back up mics, and they were just gone. I jumped into the audience and just crowd-surfed, and that was pretty sweet.

Dead Rhetoric: Canada has always had a very fervent metal scene – even on the local level in multiple genres. What are your thoughts on your local scene – especially when it comes to the bands, venues, promoters, and fan support?

Colin: Our city Calgary, we have noticed the scene get so much better, even in the past five years. I remember five-six years ago we would go to shows where you would be lucky if there was 50 people there. Now there’s at least one show every weekend, and every show there is at least 50-60 people there. There are so many new metal bands coming up, bands are starting, bands that have been around more than ten years. We did take a hit a couple of years ago when one of the better metal venues shut down, and we lost a really good promoter as she moved away. I think everybody didn’t know what to do – but from the ashes rose a better Calgary metal scene. We have a couple of good promoters that are doing bigger shows – a lot more venues that didn’t do metal before are now starting to do more metal shows. It’s one big family, everybody gets along, not too much drama…

Marlee: Except with me and Dave, our guitarist (laughs).

Dead Rhetoric: What types of hobbies/ interests do you have outside of band activities that you like to pursue in your free time?

Colin: For me, I literally have very little free time. I really enjoy doing sound for films, editing music in general. I own my home studio, so I like working on mixing music. Free time hasn’t really been a thing for us for a long time.

Marlee: I’m trying to even think of what I used to like to do. I was always an outdoorsy person – we live like an hour from the mountains. I love hiking when I did get the chance. Playing guitar, piano – I’m sure there’s a lot more.

Dead Rhetoric: Considering you are a married couple, are there any specific challenges that you face as bandmates beyond your relationship – and how do your fellow bandmates handle those possible personal/professional debates?

Colin: I would say it’s the opposite, where it’s better the fact that we are married and being in a band – just because, for both of us music is such a huge part of our lives I would feel that if we were in separate bands, we never would even see each other.

Marlee: Of course we have our little bickering, but I bicker with everyone. I actually bicker more with our other guitarist Dave than I do with Colin.

Colin: I don’t even think about the fact that we are married within this band. I don’t think anyone else in the band does either, we are all equal and we pull our share. There’s no favoritism. I think it’s an advantage that we can go over lyrics and music together pretty much any day. Our trip we were on for 13 months, if we can survive 24 / 7 for 13 months, hopefully what would have happened would have already happened (laughs).

Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to setting goals, where do you see yourselves going one to three years from now?

Colin: I wish we could talk about it more right now but we have a really big tour planned for this year. We have around 40-50 dates in a few different countries. Everybody in the band agrees we are willing to take this as far as it goes. I feel like everybody has the mentality where if we were to get lucky enough to be successful everybody would drop their lives for it. When we started the band, that was our main thing – we want to take this as far as we can.

Marlee: We are so lucky, everybody is putting in the exact same effort. Whenever we have something we want to do, we just do it. I can’t believe it.

Colin: It’s hard to find somebody who is monetarily stable, not tied down by kids or too much debt, and can play their instrument. I think we lucked out in that regard.

Dead Rhetoric: What worries you most about the world that we live in today? What do you think the average person needs to spend more time, effort, and energy on to make the world a better place overall?

Colin: I would say like selfishness. People have a certain mentality that it’s them versus everybody else. They put themselves ahead of other people – and I think if people realized we are all in it together, I think the entire world would get further ahead.

Marlee: There are people that would disagree, but anytime you work together and take care of each other it works out for you. I have some people that complain to me about not having kids that go to school, why do I have to pay taxes for them to do this? Or why should I have to pay for public school taxes? I’m thinking, why don’t you want those people to be educated? They could be doctors, end up being the people that serve you at McDonalds, and those people are important too because you need someone to serve you. I think people don’t see the big picture on how the world works and if we were less selfish things would work out differently. We might have better health care.

Colin: Even on a smaller level regarding the Calgary metal scene. It’s such a good community here, a lot of people want to help bands out, it has that feeling. It’s one of the many reasons why the scene has been growing so much around here lately. People realized the more you help other people, the more it helps you in return. The more you go to other shows, the more people are going to want to go to your shows. It’s just a give and take thing for sure.

Dead Rhetoric: What are the three most important records that shaped your outlook on the metal genre?

Colin: I would say I learned how to play guitar to the album Hatebreeder by Children of Bodom. Maybe some Carach Angren – Lammendam…

Marlee: I’m going to be honest, I have a hard time because there is so much music and so many albums out there to name just three. That’s just me. I read a lot and listen to podcasts.

Colin: One more out there… Havok – Conformicide.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s the game plan as far as activities for Hyperia over the next twelve months?

Colin: Coming up is our Calgary album release show. We have two more in Edmonton which is north of here and another in Lethbridge which is just south of here. On February 15th we are lucky enough to open for Soulfly and Toxic Holocaust. That is a big show. After that tour will be starting around the springtime into the summer. And hopefully one or two Canadian festivals at the end of the year. That’s pretty much the game plan.

Marlee: The crazy thing about the Toxic Holocaust show, to show how dedicated we are, we had to change our flights because we were going to Taiwan for two weeks, Colin and I, and we changed our flights to play that show.

Colin: We will play that show and leave at 4 am that morning to Taiwan. It’s worth it.

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