Etherius – From Chaos to RenewalTuesday, 21st April 2020
There are few times where it can truly be said that an instrumental act is not like the others. Etherius being one of those cases, with a sound that is thrashy and altogether energetic while still allowing the band to have some standout musicianship. Nothing is too over-the-top, and it’s friendly to all listeners, even those who may not dig instrumental metal. It has plenty of hooks to sink into as well. So with the band’s latest release just coming out, we had a chance to chat with guitarist Jay Tarantino about how Chaos. Order. Renewal. compares to their last EP, their tour with Allegaeon [now postponed], the band’s strengths, and more.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the process compare in writing Chaos. Order. Renewal. in comparison to Thread of Life?
Jay Tarantino: This was definitely more of a collaborative effort. With Thread of Life, I wrote all the music for it, and the guys helped with some of the arrangements – but all of the music was already written. With this album, it was more collaborative. Chris [Targia] brought in a full song; Zaki [Ali], our drummer, had a song that didn’t actually make it onto the album, but it wasn’t because it was a bad song – it just didn’t fit the vibe of the album. Then Jon [Perkins], our second guitarist, he brought in little bits and pieces here and there. The four of us were more involved this time compared to Thread of Life.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss the concept of Chaos. Order. Renewal.?
Tarantino: The concept is kind of loosely based on ancient Egyptian imagery. Even the song titles for the album allude to that. We didn’t have a concept in mind when we started writing, but as the music was coming together, it had a little bit of that Middle Eastern vibe, so we decided to take that and run with it. Even the album cover is kind of based on some imagery from that time. So we didn’t set out to create a story, so to speak, but it’s based upon Egyptian imagery.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that you’ve grown as a band over the last few years?
Tarantino: I think we know, now that we have been playing together for a couple of years, and Jon has been in the band for almost two years – we know each other’s styles more. We know how each one of us plays. So when we write and we bring ideas – I know when we are writing, especially me, I am already thinking about what the other guys can do to complement what we are doing.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel successful in your attempts to separate the band from other instrumental acts that tend to border more on the djent/prog side of things?
Tarantino: It’s hard to say. We’ve definitely gained more fans since the last EP. Then we were still a brand new band, so no one knew who we were. But I think, just from playing live and talking to fans at shows, it seems that people who like all genres are into it. There’s the ones that like djent, progressive, and people who are more into stuff like Shrapnel and Yngwie Malmsteen. Then were are more trash and old school metal fans. So we’ve had a cross-section of different people, who like different subgenres, have been into it.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s great. I know last time we talked, some of it was about getting away from just even the other instrumental-only fans – moving past just having the fans who are also players who ‘get it.’ So it’s cool to see you’ve expanded.
Tarantino: Yeah, I mean we still flex our chops here and there but this has always been my motivation – not trying to impress other guitar players/musicians. I just want to play for people who like good music, that’s all I care about is reaching those people.
Dead Rhetoric: I see that Angel Vivaldi is on a track. Has his support been important in getting the band off the ground?
Tarantino: Absolutely. The one thing with Angel – everyone knows what a great player he is, but it’s also knowledgeable about the business side. He even loves it. A lot of musicians, we are creative and we hate dealing with the business side of music, but he loves it. He really enjoys getting into numbers and digging deep into it. Because of that, I’ve learned a lot myself too. It helps us not make bad decisions. It steers us away from decisions that will not be good for us. Overall, just having him play on our album – he played a guest solo and co-producing. He co-produced the last one too. Just having him do that is kind of a validation. Like, we are a serious band and we aren’t going anywhere.
Dead Rhetoric: Did anything special go into the making of the album?
Tarantino: We were going to do another 4-5 song EP, and this was like last year around this time in March/April. We were getting ready to record, and we started the recording – we do everything on our own so it’s not like we were spending money on studio time. So we started tracking drums and getting into the guitars, and we all started having a feeling, that the songs were good but they could be better.
So we went back to the drawing board to re-evaluate everything. When we did that, we decided that if we were going to re-do some of these songs, we might as well do a full album. So we took the extra time, and even dropped a song. Again, it wasn’t because it was bad, but it didn’t fit the developing sound. So we might revisit it on a future release. But we decided after that to do a full album, which meant it took longer but it was definitely worth it.
Dead Rhetoric: What are you looking forward to with the Allegaeon tour [ed. note: tour has been officially postponed due to COVID-19 after date of interview]?
Tarantino: I just hope we can hit some new people – some that might not be into instrumental guitar. There will be a lot of musicians at the shows, since the musicianship in each band is top notch. They are all technical metal – whether it’s death metal or prog…whatever you want to call it. So there will be a crowd of musicians that come out to these shows, and hopefully the non-musicians will get it too. Hopefully we will reach a new audience that’s not just the instrumental guitar crowd.
Dead Rhetoric: I think it’s a good fit – I feel like this is a tour that could really give you a good push.
Tarantino: Definitely. Even though we are instrumental, stylistically we fit in. We aren’t so much into death metal territory, as say Allegaeon or Fallujah is, but we come from the same place musically.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is important in performing your music live?
Tarantino: I think what is important is not necessarily being perfect in the execution, but putting on a show. It’s not just standing around and trying to play perfectly, but moving around and trying to get the crowd into it. At the end of the day, it’s still metal, and it’s still rock ‘n’ roll, and there has to be stage presence. It’s just as important as the playing.
Dead Rhetoric: Given that the music is instrumental, do you think that makes it more accessible to someone who doesn’t like extreme music – since there are no extreme vocals around?
Tarantino: I think it could. I don’t know for sure. I think some of the other gigs we’ve had with other bands saying that being instrumental kind of hurts us. The one thing that we get sometimes is that we are a great live band, but not having vocals limits our audience. I don’t necessarily believe that. But I do think that if you are someone who isn’t into the harsh vocals in extreme metal, we could be sort of a gateway band.
Dead Rhetoric: I don’t know that I would agree with that either. When I hear Etherius, I don’t feel the need for vocals. There’s always some sort of energy that is moving things forward.
Tarantino: Yeah, and I think too, with a lot of modern metal bands – there are so many newer ones and then the vocals kick in and it ruins the experience for me because I’m not into the vocals. That’s what we try to stay away from. I think if we were to do a song or album with a vocalist, it would have to be an absolutely amazing vocalist. Nothing half-assed.
Dead Rhetoric: What is Etherius’ biggest strength?
Tarantino: I would say our biggest strength is our songwriting. Like I said before, we have spots where we flex our chops, but it never takes away from the arrangement. Every song has a hook. Every song has at least one riff or melody that you can hum. You won’t be able to get it out of your head. I think that’s important. Every pop song – every major song, whether it’s pop, metal, or whatever. Any major song that has been a huge hit, it has a catchy melody or a vocal line, there is something that catches on and I think we have that in every one of our songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Definitely. I think, in my opinion, with some metal bands the problem is that they deliberately eschew from that. They are afraid to put it in because they fear losing their underground cred if it’s too catchy.
Tarantino: For me, I don’t care about that. I want to reach as many people as possible. But we aren’t doing to do something to simply follow a trend or ‘sell-out.’ We are going to stick to what our vision of the music is, but we are going to try to reach as many people as we can.
Dead Rhetoric: What is something that people might not understand about bands that are supposed to be going on tour with all of the COVID-19 stuff occurring right now?
Tarantino: The one thing you have to understand – a lot of these bands aren’t making huge money. We are putting out thousands of dollars of our own money before we make a dime on merch, promo, and press – all of that stuff. We have spent a bunch of money just getting merch pressed for the tour. Renting a van – that’s a lot of money that we have already spent. It’s like that with every band. The expenses of just preparing for a tour – chances are, a lot of us are going to be out of that money. Tours are already being cancelled.
Not to mention, if you look at LiveNation – they announced that all tours they are involved with are going to be cancelled indefinitely. Just think about how many people that affects – the road crew, the tour managers, production managers, the people that run the venues, the security guards. That’s a lot of people that are affected. It really goes beyond just the bands. To a lot of people, it’s their source of income. Me, and the guys in the band, we all have day jobs. So we might lose money, but I still have a job. I still have some income coming in, in some way. A lot of people don’t have that. The scary part is that we don’t know when it is going to end. Will it end in one month? Two months? Three months? We just don’t know.
Dead Rhetoric: That said, what else is planned for the rest of 2020?
Tarantino: I hope we can do some more touring later this year and keep pushing this album. Maybe later this year we are going to start writing and putting ideas together for the next album. I would like to tour as much as we can.