Set and Setting – Exploring Loss and Death

Monday, 8th September 2014

Instrumental bands have a tendency to be very hit or miss. Without lyrics to shift the attention of the listener, the music truly bears all of the weight and pressure. There needs to be a certain dynamic involved, and the simple verse-chorus-verse needs not apply. Veer too far in the technical or atmospheric direction and you may likely bore or not gain the listener’s ear. Florida’s Set and Setting are one such band able to truly capture the imagination of their intended audience.

Their second album (and first for label Prosthetic Records), A Vivid Memory, is a conceptual album focusing on death. A concept not only focusing on the individual dying, but the group of people that are impacted by said person’s passing. The album is full of ups and downs, and absorbs a number of different genres to help it in a way that stays fresh throughout its runtime without feeling like it is simply ping-ponging back and forth. With in intriguing concept and execution, we caught up with guitarist Shane Handal via email to discuss the finer points of the band’s newest creation.

Dead Rhetoric: The term ‘set and setting’ describes a context of psychedelic drugs. How does this play into the band?

Shane Handal: The original intent of the name has transformed over time. We originally set out to be a psych band but things change. However, we have always felt that the meaning behind the term set and setting applies to all facets of life and experience, not just a psychoactive one. Your mindset and environment is what shapes your reality, whether on a psychedelic drug or not.

Dead Rhetoric: I’ve seen you described as “post-classical,” what does that description imply?

Handal: I’m not sure if we are the first to use that as a genre or not, but we self proclaimed that as a joke a few years back. We were sitting around a campfire in Jacksonville after a show and someone described us as modern day classical music, and we all loved that. Being a few beers deep and always thinking that the term “post” in any genre is hilarious, one of us said, “yeah, we are post-classical”. We thought it was funny and listed it on our Facebook. I guess people thought it was serious, or thought it fit so we have always just ran with it.

Dead Rhetoric: How did you get hooked up with Prosthetic Records for A Vivid Memory?

Handal: EJ from Prosthetic reached out to us earlier this year after a good friend referred us to him. He offered us a 3-album deal and we had already started recording A Vivid Memory. It was perfect timing on both of our parts.

Dead Rhetoric: A Vivid Memory is based upon loss and death. Was this based upon any recent events surrounding the band or just a concept you wanted to explore?

Handal: No there wasn’t any recent deaths or anything for any of us. There has been some loss but it’s something that didn’t necessarily directly transcend into the concept. While brainstorming on the concept of the album, the idea of something tragic and heartbreaking (like death and loss) came to mind. The idea behind the final moment before death was then explored and the concept of the album was born.

Dead Rhetoric: Could you describe what is going on and the emotions involved as you go through a listen of A Vivid Memory?

Handal: The flow of the music on the album is aimed to explore all of the emotions surrounding such an event from the insider and outsider’s perspective. There are up’s and down’s throughout, dark places, signs of hope, etc. The songs and feelings felt while listening are hoped to be made personal though.

Dead Rhetoric: What made you decide that the album should be done from both perspectives (The individual dying and the people surrounding that person)?

Handal: The decision to bring both perspectives into the mix was made because it allowed more of an all-encompassing idea. I feel that death can sometimes be even more tragic for the loved ones then the actual person dying. I wanted to include the ideas of that and people dealing with that.

Dead Rhetoric: Were there any challenges, being an instrumental band, to convey the sense of loss associated with this album without being able to resort to lyrics?

Handal: It’s always a struggle to get a concept across without actual words telling people what to think it’s about. But that is the beauty of instrumental music too though. This concept is what we created, but we also like for the listeners to create their own meaning for the songs. We strive for our music to tell a story, but it doesn’t have to be the same story for everyone.

Dead Rhetoric: Would you consider doing another conceptual based album again? If so, what direction do you think you could go in?

Handal: Yes, I think it’s safe to say that all of our albums will be conceptual. Our first album, Equanimity is a concept album but I guess not too many people caught onto it as much as this one. Pink Floyd is probably my favorite band and the way that they created concept albums has been something that I’ve always strived for. As for direction, I have really no idea, but I assume it will be something personal.

Dead Rhetoric: Both of your albums feature gorgeous paintings, how much emphasis do you place on getting the artwork the way you’d like it?

Handal: Thank you! Equanimity was actually a photograph, but it is very painting like! Album artwork has always been something very important to us, especially with our albums being conceptual. My Dad took the photograph for the album art of Equanimity and it was a perfect match for the concept of the album, so that was super easy to accomplish. As for A Vivid Memory we were very specific in what we wanted. It had to be an impressionistic style painting and I just so happened to have a friend, Emily Miller, who is an incredible artist. After a few meetings discussing the concept of the album and potential artwork she began working on it. She totally nailed what we were envisioning and then some! We couldn’t be any happier. If you want to see more of her artwork go to www.femilykiller.com. She’s amazing!

Dead Rhetoric: What’s the vibe like for a Set and Setting concert?

Handal: When we play a live show we try to set an atmosphere. We have minimal lighting and try to turn off all of the lights in the venue that they will allow. “A wall of sound” has been thrown around as a description, and we like to play loud.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you have planned next for Set and Setting?

Handal: Right now we have plans to hit the road as much as possible to support A Vivid Memory! Some things are in the works but we have not announced much yet. Stay tuned!

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