Aether Realm – Keep Your Metal Hands TinyTuesday, 22nd November 2016
Being a smaller, folky melodic death metal band from North Carolina (NOT Finland) hasn’t stopped Aether Realm from finding their way into Dead Rhetoric’s web-space repeated over the last few years, and for good reason. They capture the essence of melodic death metal musicianship with the fun and energy of folk, and can balance the two with ease. Whether it’s been one song or one album, it’s always worth looking into if Aether Realm are involved – as is catching them in the live arena, where their enthusiasm and fun sense of humor provides the perfect atmosphere.
About six months ago, they decided to initiate an Indiegogo fund for their long awaited (by those in the know at least) second album. The fund was wildly successful, with the act asking for $5000 and ending up getting over $11,000. An Impressive figure for even a signed act nowadays. Now with successful campaign in tow, and writing/recording underway, the band announced that they would be heading out on tour with Alestorm and Nekrogoblikon in the fall. Catching up with vocalist/bassist Vincent “Jake” Jones after their set in New York City, we were able to discuss all of these things, and of course, investigate the origins of the #tinymetalhand.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been a few years since your last release [One Chosen by the Gods], how do you think the band has changed in that time?
Vincent “Jake” Jones: When we did the first album, it was me really wearing influences on my sleeves and nothing has changed about that [laughs]. But I think we have learned a lot about what we want to sound like. It changes in some songs – sometimes we want to sound like this or sometimes we want to sound like that. But we found a guy, Kyle Odell, who really gets what we want to sound like. Jamie is also fantastic, but that first studio experience was us being overwhelmed at how good everything sounded – because we had never heard it other than playing it. So now we know – this sounds good but it could sound better, so let’s keep it going and keep trying to hone it in and make it sound perfect. So we are working again with Kyle again this time – he has his own band, he is out touring right now with a band called Failure Anthem. He’s ruining his health – he is touring and playing shows during the day and then he is mixing at night, and then he’s sleeping on the bus until the next show. I’ve told him, “I’m really glad that you are dedicated to doing it, but don’t hurt yourself.” But he’s working on it – he comes back on the fifth and then he’s mixing it in his home studio – it’s an actual studio but it’s also his home. So sometime between the fifth and the twenty-fifth, it is going to be done. I cannot believe it! It’s been a long time and we’ve done a lot of work on it!
It sounds a lot better than the last one. Dan Müller, from Wilderun, has taken all my orchestra stuff and fixed it, and made it sound really good. I worked with a real choir in Athens, Georgia to do some of the choir stuff and it sounds great. Heinrich [Arnold], Donnie [Burbage], and Tyler [Gresh] have been absolute champions, because I will write stuff and then I’ll change it and I’ll be like, “let’s see where this went” and just not knowing exactly how the songs would go until the moment before we went into the studio…and still managing to work through that. Heinrich spent every hour of every day in the studio in his own separate, hot room tracking guitars. He still wasn’t done at the end of the session so he went home and kept doing it – two or three weeks of starting at 10 in the morning, just him, until like 3 or 4 AM every day tracking guitars and getting them perfect. I think it’s paid off in a big way.
Dead Rhetoric: What were your thoughts on the Indiegogo – were you shocked at the level of what the response was?
Jones: It was nuts! I didn’t think we were going to make $5000. I thought we might get close and then I’d have to call my parents and be like, “hey can you help me out so we can do this album?” But the fans just blew it right the fuck out of the water. Even then, we have ended up spending a lot of our own money, because having a choir do things and having a good orchestra sound, and having the production sounding perfect costs money, and getting merch costs money, but it’s all worth it! We’ve got a real long album…79 minutes! We actually have to cut “The Chariot” from the album and only including it on the vinyl version, because 79 minutes will not fit on one CD! So we are just going to give it out for free on the Internet. So basically there is 70-minutes of new songs, so I hope people like it!
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any goal in terms of where you want the band to be? Would you like to do another album the same way [independently] or would you rather go through a label?
Jones: The stereotype is that you do an Indiegogo and all of the band dudes are lazy. I have never worked harder in my entire life than I have in the last six months, getting all of this to work. I would love to give all of that up, and let a label handle it for me, because this sucks! I mean, it’s great but the work is hard – it’s hard, hard work, and I’d love for someone else to just handle it. We’ve talked to a couple labels – I’m not going to blow that gasket yet. But some of the bigger ones have at least talked to us. Nothing firm has been offered, but hey, maybe this [tour] is like an audition and they’ll see us and they’ll want us.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of which, how did you become a part of this Alestorm tour?
Jones: I’m friends with Chris Bowes, and that is the only reason. Elliot [Vernon] from Alestorm listened to us back in the day, and we opened for them in 2012 at Paganfest, and he showed us to Chris. Chris then moved to Johnson City, which is about an hour away from my house so we started hanging out. So he said, “Hey Jake, do you want to go on tour?” So I said yes! So that is why [we are on the tour] – all of your dreams are crushed…it’s just about knowing the right people. I would love to think that we are a fantastic band and that they were like, “hell yeah, Aether Realm – let’s get them on tour with us.” But it was like, “hey, Jake Jones, I like that guy. Let’s bring them with us.”
Dead Rhetoric: Well, at least you are getting your name out there…
Jones: It’s blown us away so far. I’ve sold more merch than I ever have in my life [3 days into tour] and it’s great!
Dead Rhetoric: So do you think that momentum will carry over to the new album once it comes out?
Jones: I’m hoping we can release it while we are on tour, but if not it will be right afterwards…fingers crossed! The people that already know about it are the people that I really want to hear it, right now at least. I’d love for the world to hear it, but you know, the people that cared…I at least want them to hear it. I’ve already got the next EP written. As soon as we can go, we’ll just keep putting shit out and see what sticks.
Dead Rhetoric: I have to ask, where did the “tiny metal hand” idea come from?
Jones: I’m going to take this chance to give a shout-out to Brian Shields, from the West Coast. He’s no longer with us…Rest in Power Brian Shields. He is the first person that I ever saw do it. He always did it in pictures with the bands he was hosting. Back in the day, I went on tour with a band called Lorelei, and we were touring with Ovid’s Withering. Don’t listen to them – their guitar player is a pedophile! All the other members of the band quit, and it’s for a reason! They all have new, better musical projects. But we were on tour with them and we stayed with Brian Shields and then it kind of infected all of the people in those bands. We did it on the Wilderun tour that we went on, and it became the tour meme. We had Joe Gettler (from Wilderun) draw us up some artwork for it. Then we had Nick Rowlett, he did some other art for it that was good and we started hash-tagging it. Now it’s like the Aether Realm meme!
Dead Rhetoric: So do you hope that it starts to spread as well?
Jones: I would love for it to! Someone told me that they were in Chicago or somewhere, wearing an Aether Realm shirt and someone flashed them the tiny metal hand. I don’t think anything has ever made me happier than to hear that it’s associated with us.
Do you want to know a fun tidbit? About 8-9 years ago, Heinrich and I were in a band together, and we covered “Nancy the Tavern Wench” by Alestorm. There’s a video of it on my Facebook…it’s really, really bad. I posted it on the Alestorm forums, and all of the Alestorm fans told us how bad it was and laughed at us, but Chris was really nice! He was like, “hey you guys are kids – keep doing it!” And here we are, still doing it!
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of Bandcamp and using it as a tool, has it allowed you to have more of a world-wide view?
Jones: Yeah, for sure! Surprisingly, I think YouTube has really helped us out a lot. I think all of the action was happening on YouTube page for the first album. The Internet in general – Facebook, people talking about us on forums – that’s really the way it spreads when you aren’t signed and you are putting out music and hoping people like it.
Dead Rhetoric: What comes next for Aether Realm once the album comes out?
Jones: I’m going to give you one phrase and I’ll let you make of it what you will: Redneck Vikings from Hell! And that’s all you get!