FeaturesFathom Farewell – Beware of Kraken

Fathom Farewell – Beware of Kraken

Encompassing an array of influences across the metalcore and modern/alternative rock landscape, Boston based act Fathom Farewell have been making an impression not only across the New England scene but extending into national/international waters. Through a solid songwriting philosophy that can be heavy, catchy, and melodic all within individual tracks, they also develop lyrics that people can relate to, think about, and digest in a thoughtful, reflective manner.

Their latest EP Kraken contains five songs that will make many think of everything from Breaking Benjamin to Sevendust, August Burns Red to Killswitch Engage. We reached out to vocalist Alex Cohen by phone, and he was happy to bring us into the lair of Fathom Farewell. Prepare to learn more about the subject matter of Kraken including thoughts on mental health and pit bulls/police situations, the latest lineup and outlook on the band, band chemistry and the importance of being on the same page, his acoustic shows versus his work in Fathom Farewell, and future plans.

Dead Rhetoric: Can you give us your personal journey when it comes to music – first memories surrounding music growing up, how you gravitated towards the heavier genres and when you first had the bug to start playing original music and creating your own thing?

Alex Cohen: That’s a loaded question. Some of the important parts are, when I was eight years old, I saw these guys playing drums, for some reason it made me want to play drums really bad, so I started taking drum lessons with one of those guys. There were three drummers playing in a park, they were syncopating, and they sounded really great. I never really got good at the drums even though I played for years. When I was sixteen, I had a friend who I had been playing drums with, he played guitar, and I started singing from there. I did lots of open mic nights for the next five years, I probably played hundreds of them. Sometimes I thought I was good, sometimes I knew I wasn’t. Over the years of doing that, I started meeting more people so the idea of forming a band came along.

Just doing solo material, from there a local promoter hooked me up with the original guitarist for Fathom Farewell. He’s not in the band anymore, he was younger and inexperienced. That is how I got to Fathom – through Fathom it’s been a journey in and of itself. Some of the people who originally joined, they didn’t want to tour as much and take it as seriously as I did. They think they understand what that means, and when they finally understand what it means, it becomes an unrealistic nightmare. I finally have a group of guys who want this to be their whole priority. I have wanted this to be my career, it is already through my solo acoustic gigs to pay my bills essentially all-over New England. I play three to five nights a week, which gives me the time to promote all of the music in general. It’s been an obsession my whole life. I listen to music constantly and I have wanted to do this my whole life. It was a relief to figure out I could sing, play guitar, and write lyrics. Once I got into writing music, I loved it. It didn’t come naturally at first.

Dead Rhetoric: Kraken is the fourth Fathom Farewell release – a five-song EP released through Blood Blast Distribution. How did the songwriting and recording sessions go for this release – and where do you see the differences in this set of material compared to your last release Consume the Earth from 2019?

Cohen: A considerable difference. It’s all about the group of guys that worked on Kraken is considerably different than the group of guys who worked on Consume the Earth. The guys for Consume came from a different band, we had a second guitarist that wasn’t doing that great, but we had a bassist and drummer. The bassist was in a band with a different guitarist, we brought him in instead of the other guy because we wanted to take Fathom to another level. We wanted our producer to be able to use samples in the production, they can bring more value to the table as far as sounding like an orchestra versus sounding like a garage band.

From the last two releases, it was Brandon and Jesse I did the writing with. The way Fathom does things will change because we have great new guys who want to contribute to the writing. Thus far it has been the guitarist will write songs, and I help write the lyrics, structure, etc. It’s mostly just been me and the guitarist doing the writing. For Kraken, I wrote this material with Steve Almon, who left the band just in the live aspect recently because he had a child but he’s still going to be writing with us. He had a ton of songs that just fit better than anything else I had worked with before. We took the best songs and refined the five out of those. We are super happy with the ones we’ve got, and we still have a bunch leftover to work on for the next release. It was easy going. Steve recorded every song except “Eulogy” on guitar. Casey (Albiero) recorded the drums, real easy going. Everyone was locked in by the time we got into the studio.

Moving forward, our bassist and both our guitarists write, I write sometimes, Steve will throw stuff in the mix. We are going to be getting together to refine and figure out the best ideas amongst all of us. Organically together in the room, and this will be an evolution. Kraken is a bigger evolution than anything we’ve put out before.

Dead Rhetoric: Your modern metalcore sound encompasses a wide array of influences – are there specific traits or trademarks that have to be there to make a Fathom Farewell song, or is the mindset that nothing is off the table when it comes to the music, the lyrics, the delivery, and little details?

Cohen: I suppose nothing is really off the table. I guess the only complete requirement is, can I write lyrics to it organically? The one main consistent feature to all of Fathom’s music are the lyrics and my vocals, which is by all means not the most important component of the band, at all. Anybody who has enough experience in a band and seen how it works knows that every member of the band is just as important as the other. I will say that the consistent thing that has kept long-time running fans with us is I’m writing the lyrics and the singing is always consistent. If I can work organically with whatever is thrown my way, I don’t want to put us in a box. I want a structure people can relate to – I don’t want to be the next Tool with these long progressive songs and try to impress all the jazz musicians. We want to make music that we both love but also the most amount of people can relate to and love.

Dead Rhetoric: You mention in a recent social media post regarding the lyrical/video content for “Save Your Breath” not just being about those who are misjudged, but specifically pit bulls who are often a product of their environment or temperament of their owners. Do you have personal experience dealing with this, and how have you grown from this process?

Cohen: I’ve known a great deal of pit bulls in my life. Thankfully the vast majority of them were in good homes. My ex and I had a rescue that very much felt like my own dog, every time I see her, she’s the one in the video. I’ve heard all kinds of first-hand accounts and known so many pit bulls that were so nice and raised in very sweet environments – I really sympathize for the dogs who have a very small space and they get very rambunctious. People really need to consider the animal when thinking about getting a pet and be honest with themselves about their living space. And then there’s the situations that make us so angry, when we see the rescue animals that are brought out with maggots in their heads, losing limbs and eyes, it makes me sick every time to hear people doing this. These are parts of our family, and they are living beings.

The parts in the video, the fact is that police come into the house on a false tip and you are completely innocent, they made a human error and you are minding your own business, and an innocent dog is also minding their own business, the law states if that dog so much as barks or walks towards the officer, which they know the dog is going to do, if they come into a house unannounced, or kick the door in… No officer in that situation if they shoot the dog is held accountable. They get two weeks paid leave and get off on qualified immunity because the way the law works is if the dog barks or walks in their direction, they are allowed illegally to kill the dog. Why that law is in place without any stipulations or nuances, I don’t know. I am guessing it’s a mistake that is made often, because I know people who have faced this situation. It’s a situation where some cops aren’t well trained enough to not kill the dog.

Another point of the video, it’s not just that. Not all cops are capable of committing atrocities of that nature. Some cops are good. There are good people in all walks of life, so to say all cops are bad is an ignorant statement. But there are cops, and they are given a level of authority and power, and the ones that are corrupt it’s so terrible that it makes them look bad. There are cops on the force in any precinct that will see the corrupt behavior, impulsive behavior to pull the trigger on a dog and worse – we want to shed the light on the fact that there should be laws in place to hold people accountable when they make a mistake.

If I make a mistake and walk into someone’s home where I wasn’t invited and their dog gets upset that I am there as an intruder, can I shoot the dog? I’m still paying a price for upsetting their dog. If I did that, I would be charged with just an unlawful seizure of property. That’s what dogs or any pet is listed under by law, which is disgusting. There needs to be nuanced conversation about the laws regarding authorities and pets in domesticated homes. Especially when it comes to cops making a mistake. It can change your whole life, and there is no reparation for that.

Dead Rhetoric: Hopefully through this song you can open up more of a dialogue not just for local laws, but on a national basis…

Cohen: That would be wonderful.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the other lyrical topics you covered for this new EP?

Cohen: “Nameless City” is the most specific, it’s a concept story based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story called The Nameless City. It’s from the perspective of the explorer in the story, going against all the warnings of the natives and checks out the ruins of the nameless city. I tried to provide in the lyrics the atmosphere that is provided in the story itself, also through the music without giving away too much of the story because I want to encourage people to read the story for themselves. “Eulogy” is about mental health, life is hard, and we all have issues we cope with, some worse than others. The fact is, if we are turning towards hurting ourselves or hurting other people instead of getting help, it’s really not okay. I’m trying to encourage people who feel an urge to hurt themselves to go and get help before it gets to that point.

“Kraken” is another take on the mental health thing, but it’s less of a cautionary tale and more of empathizing with people who have extreme social anxiety, schizophrenia, depression. These disorders that keep people from going out and socializing, to be comfortable around people in society and functioning. They use the borders in their minds that keep them from being comfortable out in society. The Kraken is a metaphor, this sea monster that is laying waste everything in your brain that is allowing you to be okay. That is why the chorus is: ‘safety makes no difference to me/ I’m trapped in water whether I stay or I leave’. It’s like I’m struggling so hard, no matter what I do, nothing helps. I want to make people that have that feeling, and I sometimes have it too, feel connected to when they are in those times of desperation. “In Time” is specifically about people taking each other for granted, themselves for granted, society for granted. Allowing themselves to be exploited for the financial or emotional gain of others. Disregarding their own well-being. That seems to be a pattern for a lot of people. It’s a cautionary tale.

Dead Rhetoric: What is Fathom Farewell like in a live environment compared to what the listeners hear through the records? And considering the array of shows you’ve done – including the chance to share the stage with Sevendust, Devil Wears Prada, AFI, and Hatebreed among others – what have been some of your favorite or more memorable shows to date with the group?

Cohen: Some of those… Sevendust are our favorite band to play with, I would say. They are so amazing, amazing people, one of our favorite bands ever. It’s been an honor to play with them, we played at the Palladium in Worcester, MA downstairs with them, that’s one of our favorite rooms. In a live environment, we are on fire. We love to play music and show people what we can do. The recordings build up to that reward of being able to play live. We bring everything we have, no matter what or where we perform. There’s never a concern of whether we are going to be tight with this current lineup. They are great all around.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the career arc of Fathom Farewell to date? What are you happiest achieving so far – and what types of goals do you set for yourselves (if any) over the next few years?

Cohen: We always have new goals. I would say the milestones that we have been able to accomplish, performing downstairs at the Palladium – it’s a really big room and we are able to play there to a really substantial crowd with a band we all love in Sevendust. Another one is getting the deal with Blood Blast. Greg our manager, when we got him that was cool to have Extreme Management take us on. The label is cool, there are a lot of cool people working behind the scenes on that label that love what we are doing and have faith in us. It’s made the work we’ve done only feel more validated. We have people who support us both locally and nationally, it’s wonderful. Every time we see that we have a few more people seeing what we are doing, it never gets old.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of heavy music in 2021? What are elements and aspects that you enjoy most – and where would you like to see improvements made for the better?

Cohen: If my calculations are right, a separation of genres is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Or people are not trending toward specific genres, it’s more like what bands are good. People are choosing that for themselves, so I think heavy music is going to grow more and more, exponentially so. It’s been constantly growing. I know there is a narrative that its not doing so well, but that’s online in comparison to pop or country music. When we are talking about tickets, there are just as many people going to see Metallica or System of a Down as there are going to see pop or country artists you can name. The mainstream media is probably tied to the mainstream music industry, and mainstream music doesn’t make too much money off of metal. The metal musicians in the industry, many are their own label. In pop and country, there’s a lot less of that, the suits run the show and have the money. In heavy metal, the artists have more of the money. It feels like we don’t have as much of a say in what is popular.

Metal is going to exponentially grow; nothing can stop it. It’s harder to control, metal and rock music. The shows are harder to control, the artists are harder to control, it’s one of those things that you should leave to the artists. We care about the people, not about the profits. Most of my favorite bands, old school, they did things on a label for ten years or so and then did things for themselves.

What I love about Blood Blast, they only take a cut of the digital distribution. Everything physical we make, and everything past digital which is like 25%, we make. We get their distribution, their promotion, they aren’t saying, here’s fifty grand, but you have to pay that back. They are there to help build things in a natural, organic way. I think this is the future of labels.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the entertainment industry coming out of this pandemic after eighteen months of twists and turns? Do you believe people will have more respect and appreciation for the creative arts that may have been taken for granted in the past?

Cohen: It’s hard to say. People want to, since what they are coming back to is different than what they left, people are disgruntled. I’m not a scientist or doctor, I’m not here to tell people what to do. If they say they want people vaccinated, I get it, but I will say to people that don’t feel comfortable, if they have a medical condition, I understand their frustration of the industry asking them to be vaccinated in order to attend shows. I won’t have an opinion on the mandates themselves. I can see the frustration from some portion of the fans. We are all feeling this out. The music industry will always be there, and there will always be a market for shows. If vaccinated people save lives, it’s a good thing.

Dead Rhetoric: Growing up with the tools of the internet and instant communication at your disposal, what are your thoughts on the use of social media, cell phones, etc. in order to build the brand of the band? Are you conscious as well as cautious as to how to present yourselves accurately and fairly while not offending your audience?

Cohen: For sure. Everybody has personal opinions, but we keep those separate from the band itself. We want the band to present us and our music. We want equal rights and people to be happy and comfortable. We don’t have crazy, outlandish opinions. We don’t share our individual opinions as much on social media. There are very few, productive opinions that occur on social media. Especially to get involved from the standpoint of the band, it’s going to take attention away from the music, and that is completely counterproductive from what it is we are trying to do.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the relationships and band chemistry within Fathom Farewell? Is it important to not only share the same outlook musically but also be on friendly terms outside of the activities of the band?

Cohen: It’s extremely important. I’ve met plenty of people who say this is just business, you shouldn’t try to be too close with your bandmates. That’s so ridiculous. From personal experience, if you don’t get along and one guy has an issue with another, actual drama or beef, it will arise at the worst times and it’s going to take away from the music. The band is what’s most important. It’s most important that everyone is on the same page and gets along. Everybody should also understand that the band is bigger than just one person. This is the first time I’ve had a lineup where everyone gets it. I don’t think I’ve had an argument with these guys. When they have a concern, they communicate. I’ve had people in the past that were intimidated to bring up certain concerns. And those concerns ended up being the reason why they would leave the band. I was never told about them.

Some people are resentful that I book all the shows, have all the contacts, and they wanted to be let in on that. What they don’t know, and I would explain to them, is I’ve spent all those years building those contacts – if they were to book the shows, giving them those contacts, some of the people would ask why they would have a second person from the band for booking? They need to establish their own contacts if they want to book things and go that way. It’s an ego thing. Jealousy, I’ve had that happen before and it could have been mitigated if they brought the concern to me. We don’t have egos with these five guys. We have chops and pride in the musical ability, but we put ego aside in order to listen to each other.

Dead Rhetoric: You also enjoy doing some solo acoustic shows from time to time – what can you tell us regarding these shows, and how does it feel to stretch out into other territories through these stripped-down gigs?

Cohen: I’ve been doing this longer than Fathom, and it’s great. Sometimes they feel like a job, but they also pay like a job. It doesn’t bother me as much. Once I got to a point where I was good, going to Faneuil Hall and make $150 in front of people who had never heard me before, that was valuable. The problem is, a lot of people will try to charge before they really are good enough to do that, and they are going to have a bad experience. Music is very personal, and it’s hard to be honest with yourself until you are very experienced with the music. You want to tell yourself you are good; you don’t want to accept that you are bad. It’s been really great to have this, I can work anywhere. It takes a lot of emails, phone calls, and so forth to make a very solid schedule where you can pay your bills with it, but it is possible if you have good material, and they will look at it.

Dead Rhetoric: What are three albums that mean the most to you personally, and what’s the best concert memory you have, purely from a fan perspective?

Cohen: Unplugged in New York – Nirvana. That was the first influential album, my mom got that for me on cassette when I was three years old. I listened to that a lot and still to this day. A lot of classic rock is what my dad had me listening to. A Bob Seger Greatest Hits tape. In terms of songwriting, singing, presentation. Mer de Noms from A Perfect Circle. That and Meteora by Linkin Park, those two were very important for heavier music. They were the bridge to eventually like stuff that is a lot heavier.

When I started going to concerts, I was playing in bands. I was in a town in the boonies not going to concerts. I started going to shows in college. As a fan, I was a huge Sublime fan for many years. I went to see a Badfish show – the best tribute band to Sublime, at the Palladium. It wasn’t the best show I’d ever seen, but it was my first show and I was there with my best friend at the time. It was so refreshing, the second I saw that stage and the band, I loved it.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s next on the agenda for Fathom Farewell over the next twelve months? Have you already been hard at work behind the scenes on the next set of songs – and if so, how are they shaping up as far as style compared to Kraken?

Cohen: We have the next batch of songs already in the works. It will be interesting to see where things go. It’s going to progress and change a little bit, but still maintain what people love about Fathom Farewell. It’s going to have the grooves, hooks, vocals, and top-notch musicianship. Our next goal is to get on tours. We want to find an agent and get on the road. We are all about that right now.

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