So Hideous – Of Symphonies and Sevens

Sunday, 1st November 2015

With all of the available metal out there within a keyboard’s reach, it can be a challenge to find bands that do things outside of the box. The driving need to be “metal” often dictates a band’s sound or feeling, despite the genre’s overtly non-conformist attitude. So Hideous has been doing their thing for eight years at this point, and it appears that people are finally becoming hip to it.

With their writing more geared towards a symphony than a metal band, it’s no wonder that So Hideous have been able to occupy a niche all to themselves. Their latest effort (and first to label home Prosthetic Records), Laurestine, is an intriguing concept album. Guitarist Brandon Cruz describes it best below, but the way the band pays attention to the details is really what allows them to shine. Cruz fills in all the gaps for us, along with some thoughts about further conceptual material, taking the First Light Orchestra on the road, and more!

Dead Rhetoric: The album [Laurestine] is now out and available. How’s the response been so far?

Brandon Cruz: We are truly thrilled to finally have it out and the positive response has been really overwhelming in the best way imaginable. All of us are very, very grateful to the listeners and reviewers for participating in this release with So Hideous and sharing the conversation about this album with others.

Dead Rhetoric: This being your first album signed to Prosthetic, was there any added pressure to make sure you had something special to release?

Cruz: Nah. The pressure in our camp is the same on each release in that we always try for something “special” whether independent or signed. We simply aspire to work the hardest we can to write the best stuff we are capable of at that time.

Dead Rhetoric: Laurestine is a concept album – how would you describe the album for those who may be unaware of it?

Cruz: The album is our approximation of a symphony, conceptually based on the purported 7 minutes of brain activity after the heart stops. Our protagonist starts to drift off during the opening piano of “Yesteryear” and awakens in a sensory landscape that is both rooted in memory and something both vast and unfamiliar. From there he travels sometimes peacefully and sometimes violently through these dreams and memory in pursuit of both this evergreen and woman named “Laurestine” to find a place of repose. Easy listening, light reading.

Dead Rhetoric: Could you elaborate on the importance of the number 7 throughout the experience, without giving too much away?

Cruz: We tied the 7 minutes of remaining cognitive function into the fabric of the album. There are seven movements and we’ve intermittently used 7/4 and ⅞ time signatures as a sonic callback to the 7 minute theory and also to create the destabilizing feeling the man has as his mind collapses around him when he moves into the unknown. It was also really fun working these concepts in lyrically.

Dead Rhetoric: You take a different approach to songwriting compared to other metal bands – initially writing songs out on piano. Do you tend to think of yourselves more as an orchestra with guitars than a “metal” band per say?

Cruz: We honestly just want to make music, the other stuff doesn’t really concern us in writing the songs. If people want to waste their energy pontificating on what they think we are or aren’t; go ahead. I know that it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows us personally if in two or three years’ time LP 3 is either a continuation of the sounds and themes we’ve established OR a complete break with it/sonic departure cause we’ve never really made any claims to align with anything other than the idea that we like to get in a room together and make the noise we like together.

Dead Rhetoric: Is the metal piece really all that important in the grand scheme of things? Would you consider abandoning it if the music called for it?

Cruz: In the grand scheme of things; no the metal aspect is not a priority. I suppose the easiest and most direct way for us to pack the power of a symphony or large film score into a small rehearsal space with only four guys was to use those loud dynamics but we’re completely open to pursuing and excited by the idea of moving into other areas. It’s more about working to be the best band we can be and not about being a band. This is not some willfully perverse disavowal of the genre or an attempt to be “difficult”, we’ve just always thought there are so many wonderful stylistic devices and sounds in other types of music to both explore and absorb as well…so why place any limits?

Dead Rhetoric: Laurestine at its core almost sounds like a soundtrack. With the band’s dynamics, does it make sense to continue albums in a conceptual route moving forward?

Cruz: Great question and something we’ve been talking about recently…When we started this band the idea was baroque and modern minimalist strings paired with insane, passionate screaming over it and we gradually built it brick by brick to finally get to where we are and there is a very strong aesthetic running through all four of our releases but in adhering to a concept and in working to see it through you often have to cast aside ideas that don’t necessarily fit in but are still very strong, they just have no place in that particular framework. It always comes back to the songs themselves, if they work as a cycle and have a thematic thread, then fuck yeah follow it through but it’s also freeing to simply go back to the playground and write a few songs cause you just like the way they sound. I think we’ll try both approaches on future releases.

Dead Rhetoric: Having a more intricate sound than many of your peers, how much importance do you place on the emotional resonance (as opposed to the standard anger/rage) of a particular moment?

Cruz: It’s everything. Having that diverse and colored emotional palette IS the band.

Dead Rhetoric: Doing this for the last 8 years, do you feel some people are finally coming around to what you have been doing all along?

Cruz: It has certainly been a very slow burn but we can feel the ground shifting beneath our feet a little and look forward to continuing this effort and making the most of whatever opportunities come our way as a result.

Dead Rhetoric: Is it tough to take the highly symphonic sound of your albums and translate it into the live setting?

Cruz: Fortunately up to this point we’ve tried not to get too far ahead of ourselves and compose in a way that the orchestra is not really doing anything we can’t make work as a four piece. With respect to the record, some listeners couldn’t pin point truly as to where the guitars end and the orchestra began which means we did our job. Looking forward, maybe we’ll try different things that require some additional help for the sake of pushing the sound a bit but we don’t want to be hamstrung by it. We prefer it punk rock; plug and play.

Dead Rhetoric: Would you like being able to take out the full First Light Orchestra with you for a special concert at some point?

Cruz: Making this happen is unfortunately always a monetary issue. There would have to be a confluence of factors working in our favor and a bit of luck to pull it off. With that said…it’s definitely on the to-do list.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s going to be happening within the So Hideous camp for the next few months?

Cruz: After our record release show at ABC no Rio several shows and tours will be announced on our socials. We’re also starting to work on some of the loose compositions we have lying around but that’s in it’s infancy and depends on the touring cycle. In any event, lots of shows behind Laurestine!

Thank you for the questions and thank you to all the readers of Dead Rhetoric. We appreciate every chance we get to communicate with you all.

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