Wayfarer – “I Think a Song Should Tell a Story”

Sunday, 14th December 2014

Something that has always taken root in heavy metal is that of extended length tracks. Because of the nature of the genre (read: no one is offering up ‘made for radio’ singles), there has been that exploratory ability where bands can take a song and truly design how long they want it to be. A well-crafted band can make 20 minute long opuses and no one is going to be complaining about it. Fans of the lengthier tracks were given a new hope last month, as Wayfarer’s debut, Children of the Iron Age, was released.

Taking the ‘back to nature’ mentality of the Cascadian black metal movement, but keeping some other prevalent influences to keep things more dynamic (and less copycat sounding), Children of the Iron Age is an impressive debut from the Colorado-based band. Pushing towards the very limit of the compact disc holding capacity, you also get a lot of bang for your buck in the eight track album. With the release date just around the corner, we were able to have a discussion with guitarist Shane McCarthy about the band’s origins, set-up, song writing process, and future. Read on…

Dead Rhetoric: You describe yourselves as “music for mountains,” could you detail what that means?

Shane McCarthy: Most of us grew up in the Rocky Mountain area here, and spent a lot of time hiking and there’s a visual element and a feeling element that’s inspired us on many levels. Even without words or lyrics to a song, it can still be about something. Before we have a general idea of what the lyrics might be about, the song is shifting in that sort of landscape, because that’s what we know and love. And we are impressed by the power of it. I think a mountain is like an unconquerable force, at least to human beings.

Dead Rhetoric: How did you end up signing with Prosthetic?

McCarthy: We have been writing the debut album since we got the band together. At first, it was just me and the other guitarist [Tanner Rezabek], and we were playing instrumental metal along the same lines. Some of the same riffs ended up on this record that we had recorded on the demo before. But once we got the band together and started incorporating vocals and basically focused on writing this record, we finished it last winter and recorded it in January. We tried to send it out to several labels, including Prosthetic, but in this day and age, no one gives a fuck. You have to have them notice you first, which I understand. There’s so much shit out there. But we put it out ourselves as a small release.

It’s no secret that the label is choosing to market the album as a new album, because we basically pressed 200 cds of the album and sold them out on tour over the summer. When we played in LA, through a connection of a guy who was touring with us, kind of running merch who runs a venue here, has a friend in LA who works at Prosthetic doing graphic designs and he got wind of our stuff and sent it to the label head. So it was basically because of the touring really. Prosthetic contacted us when we got back from the tour and they were interested in working with us and negotiated, and went ahead with a three album deal.

Dead Rhetoric: As you were saying, there is a lot of music out there to digest with that “post” or atmospheric black metal tag. What do you do differently to help you stand out?

McCarthy: I think it’s important to not really care or think too much about what’s going on and what’s getting big. You have to start writing music about things you are into. One thing that has always has been a priority with us as far as writing music, is to never have a specific direction in mind. Like, “oh cool, we want to write a cool atmospheric, folk black metal album”, it’s just like, I like a lot of those elements, we all like a lot of those elements, but we listen to all sorts of shit. We listen to the heavier, more brutal stuff and the prettier stuff that’s not even metal. So it’s just writing the music that you want to hear, in that you want all of these textures and letting it come out and not inhibiting anything. It doesn’t need to be one specific genre or sound like some specific band. It should be everything that pleases you musically coming together.

Dead Rhetoric: You touched on this too; the initial demo didn’t have any vocals. Was it because it was just the two of you?

McCarthy: I think it was always kind of a plan to eventually incorporate the vocals. I’m pretty obsessive about writing and I have been working on this kind of stuff for a long time. The other guitarist and I had been playing together for years, so when we finally felt we had something worth going with, we started putting in calls saying, “hey we are forming a band,” and when you get people together you just see what happens, but we already knew what we wanted to do. We decided we were going to use the means that we had in order to record the demo, and we didn’t really work with the vocals much; none of us were vocalists before coming into this band. We tracked it with a friend of ours and the drums are actually programmed. We just wanted to get something out that sounded decent and it came out better than we expected, and he was just learning how to record and produce. It was a work in progress at that time. We never really tried to distribute the demo, we were just trying to find a band. We wanted to find a drummer and a bassist and we were going to figure out the vocals from there.

After we all got together and once we had a bassist and a drummer, we decided to do the vocals ourselves. It got to the point where we felt like we were getting what we wanted. Another thing that made it unique and helped to keep it interesting with 12-13 minute songs was that there were several different voices doing vocals, sometimes more than one at once. It keeps the pictures kind of changing. We were always supposed to have vocals, but it’s been a long work in progress.

Dead Rhetoric: There’s three of you that are involved with the vocals. How do you determine who is going to sing at which times?

McCarthy: Sometimes it’s kind of a feeling thing. We have a song written on instruments and whoever is feeling something will just go for it. But other times, especially when we have lyrics written, we know the strengths of each individual person, as far has who does lower vocals, etc. So then it usually goes like, “I like your lower parts, this is a lower, heavier part so why don’t you try this and see what works from there.” On the album actually, all four of us do vocals; the cleans that show up on the last track, our drummer Isaac did a couple lines just because he wanted to. But yeah, we just try to go with individual strengths, and it’s gotten easier over time as we have worked with vocals and have more of an idea [about doing them]. Having a feeling of the riff, and who would nail it the best. And a lot of times there are more than one of us on it. I’ve always liked the intensity of that kind of thing. One of my favorite bands is Neurosis, and they always trade vocals and do [multiple] vocals at the same time. I like that “coming at you from all directions” bigger vocal sound.

Dead Rhetoric: When you are making these 10-15 minute songs, it’s not that you improvise but you are going with feeling. Is there anything you really try to aim at or is it more of a natural process per say?

McCarthy: I think it’s really a natural process. We never go into a song with a couple of riffs and are like, “okay let’s stretch it out a bit.” It just kind of happens that way. It feels like it should develop more. At a young age, in like 8th grade I got into Opeth got to see them live and that was a big turning point for me. I was into Slayer and whatever else, but then seeing someone that fleshed out the song and made it into a whole story. I think a song should tell a story. With straight-up thrash riffs or blasting, it takes a while to develop. It usually happens naturally.

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