Xanthochroid – A Journey through Etymos

Monday, 14th August 2017

Xanthochroid have never been much for convention. Adding layer upon layer to the music from the beginnings, they have designed a fantasy world all to their own and each release has served to broaden the scope of their tale. But it’s not just the lyrical content that separates the band from many. Their particular brand of metal takes influence from so many different sources that it’s hard to sum it up into a few words to do it justice.

On the horizon sits their double-album Of Erthe and Axen. Act I is set to be released at the end of this month, and Act II in October. Some of the most expansive and accomplished work the band has done to date, and that’s just at hearing the first half. Those who like their metal to be a bit cinematic and sweeping would do well to check it and give the band your full attention. In preparation for these releases, we were able to talk with vocalist/keyboardist/acoustic guitar player Sam Meador, who sheds some light on what the band has been up to over the past few years – everything from dissolved label contracts to cover songs to the recording of this double-album and beyond.

Dead Rhetoric: What happened to the band’s deal with Blood Music?

Sam Meador: Back in 2014, we signed a deal with Blood Music so we could put the album out on vinyl and all this. I don’t like giving percentages of this and that to someone, basically just for the promise of exposure. We had this deal, and as time went on it felt limiting. When we signed the deal, it wasn’t even officially a double album at that point. It was going to be a really long album, but as time went on we needed it to be a double album. Then Blood Music actually contacted us and said, “The deal doesn’t really work for us anymore either.” Either we could write up a new contract or we could just go forward by ourselves. That [dissolving the deal] was just what I was feeling at the time. I’ve put so many years of my life into this, I kind of wanted to maintain control.

I view the promotional, marketing, and everything like that as part of my artistic process in a way. Especially with us doing the double-album the way we want to do it – we are releasing them far enough apart that people hopefully soak up the first half before the second half happens. It actually correlates to the story – there’s a gap of a few months in between Act I and Act II in the timeline of the lore behind it, so I thought that was kind of cool.

Dead Rhetoric: What inspired the Xanthochroid Global Ambassador Program (XGAP)?

Meador: As I was saying, I view the marketing of it as part of my process so my wife and I were talking about what we could do that would suit the album as far as how we want people to experience it, and how we could engage our fans since touring at this point in our career is a little bit difficult. I’m in Florida and the rest of the band is in California. So tying that into the whole album being a story, we had the idea of treating it more in the way that they promote a movie. Obviously, budget-wise that’s impossible for us, but if it was like a documentary screening…I had thought of a few documentary screenings that I had been to. Either people just put them on at their house, or they rent out a community center and they put the word out about this special documentary that they are screening, and that’s what inspired the whole idea.

We thought it would be really cool to have people in a given local area come to experience the album and have an exclusive peek at the album before other people are able to. I just thought that would be really unique. I also put it in the perspective of if one of my favorite bands was doing this, let’s say, Wintersun had done this for The Four Seasons. If my friend was doing a Wintersun party, of course I’d go.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel the program has been a success so far? Was there a certain day that the parties were supposed to happen?

Meador: People have actually been able to choose their date. . The first ones are happening this weekend (August 12). Mostly everyone chose a weekend date. So this weekend and next weekend (August 19), the two proceeding the official release is when they are happening. It’s been a success – we have people that have signed up in over 20 countries. In that way, it was supposed to be the Global Ambassador Program – it’s been very global. I think, honestly, the reach wasn’t as far – we still have a lot of people who are going to find out down the road and be like, “Wait, what was this?” I look at the video and there are like 2,000 views. Our engagement, I don’t think it reached as many ears as possible.

But the great thing we have with this album is that we have Act I and Act II as well. So I’m regarding Act I parties as a bit of an experiment. We’ll see how it goes and take feedback from people who do host a party and we’ll see what we can do better for Act II. But I think what I envisioned is that people would be hosting a lot of public events, and it seems to be a bit difficult for people to do. Especially if they are opening up their home – they would like to keep it private. In that way, we only have maybe 10 or so public events. I was hoping for a lot more, but the people that are doing are really excited about it. I’m stoked that people care enough about it to get their friends together and do this. Going forward, I hope that Act II, with the traction of Act I, will bring a bit more awareness to it.

Dead Rhetoric: It is pretty cool that you set it up that way – you can go back and see what works and what didn’t and you can develop it going forward. I think it’s a novel idea – if bigger bands were doing something like this, it would be interesting to see how it could go…

Meador: Yeah, I absolutely think so. The one big, logistical concern is piracy obviously. But we kind of filtered…there were a few people that we said no to. I had a form for people to fill out and they didn’t take it seriously, so I said they could not do it. So based on people’s answers, and we’ve got a Facebook group to communicate…it came down to a personal trust thing. There’s almost no way to stop piracy, so I figured, if a few people leak the album…everyone will eventually be able to stream it and download it, so I figured, “Why not make the most of it before that happens?” We can get some valuable interaction on it before everyone is just stealing it [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: With going back and wrapping up a prequel story to the rest of your material, will you expand into new areas using the established lore in the future? Or do you want to try something entirely new?

Meador: I think the idea behind Xanthochroid was to take the idea of a concept album and push it into the stratosphere. Xanthochroid is a concept band, so all the music that we release under that name, except for the covers, is going to have something to do with the world of Etymos. But in the future, we may focus on different areas and characters in the world, like a Star Wars expanded universe kind of thing. With Xanthochroid, all the music takes place in that world [Etymos], so going forward there is no limit to the musical variations, or genres, or even characters and places. It will all based in this fundamental, fantasy world environment.

Dead Rhetoric: What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing all the work to create your own entire world in which to tell stories?

Meador: Honestly, at this point I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t doing that. What would I write my lyrics about? I went way too far down the rabbit hole and don’t know how to get out [laughs]. To me, I went through a good chunk of college studying music. Although the world of music is infinite and unlimited, it counterintuitively serves your best interest to limit yourself in a way. Work with in a set of confines. For example, if you are scoring a film…let’s say I’m scoring Finding Nemo. I’m not going to write the most over-the-top, epic, horrifyingly tragic music for Finding Nemo. I’m going to write something that suits that story.

All the lore in Xanthochroid, it came from my own personal experiences. It’s limiting in the sense that I have to change this place to a fictional place. I have to change this name to a fictional one, or I have to change this experience to represent a different time period. There’s still a lot of satisfaction in taking my experiences and putting them into the world of Etymos – it makes them universal. People can read the story, they are taken in by the imagery and sound of the music, while at the same time you are getting this dose of reality, disguised in all this fantastical universe. There are limitations, but I never feel like, “Oh I really wish I could write this type of song, but it doesn’t work;” I always find a way to make it work. Every time we do something outside of the norm, I think it just grows the world in a new and unique way.

Dead Rhetoric: With the focus on story, what comes first usually – lyrics or music?

Meador: It’s a bit of give and take. The music is always first, in the sense that we don’t want the music to lean on the story, or the story to lean on the music. We want the music to stand on its own. If someone was to listen to Xanthochroid, who had no idea what was behind it, we still want that music to be engaging. Not for it to seem like its wandering or not going anywhere. As far as chronologically, for this album, the music was all there. Maybe not the entire structure for all the songs. I had like, “Oh, I have this idea that could be a song. Or I have this guitar riff that I know could be a song.” I guess in that sense, I developed a bit of clarity, as far as the timeline of the story. Then I could see where each song would be. But the musical ideas came independently of the story.

Dead Rhetoric: Part I comes out in a few weeks. Once it comes out and people soak it in, what’s the expectation for Part II in comparison?

Meador: For people who listen to Act I and say, “Where’s the metal?” It’s in Act II, trust me. If you could compare the two, Act I gives you a lot of breaks…time to breathe. Act II does not. Luckily you won’t have to wait long to after Act I is out to start hearing some singles from Act II as well. You’ll get a good sense of what you are going to get in Act II. Act II is longer, darker, deeper, harsher, more brutal…it’s more musically varied, although Act I is huge at times too. We’ve just got some pieces on Act II – it’s some of the most metal stuff that we’ve done, and at the same time, some of the biggest and most tragic stuff that we’ve done. If Act I is your appetizer, then Act II is a big dinner that you can’t finish [laughs].

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