Invictra – Winning the World Game

Thursday, 7th June 2018

Embracing a movement where thrash, heavy metal, and groove/modern strains can be acceptable within a band’s outlook, Rochester, New York is the home base for Invictra – a four-piece outfit aiming to put their take on those styles into the international landscape. Their latest album The World Game definitely contains old school riffs and hooks that make many think of Megadeth and Overkill – but there’s also a quality to some of the tones and transitions that veers into Machine Head, Metal Church, or even Judas Priest elements. The diversity aids the output, probably opening up their sound to multiple generations clamoring for those sounds to get out their frustrations and stresses of daily life in a healthy manner.

Firing off a series of questions by e-mail, we got answers back from guitarist/vocalist Josh Zalar, drummer Dylan Thompson, and guitarist Alex Dunn (latest bassist Jason Darling rounds out the lineup) regarding the origins of the band, the growth from their first EP to the latest album The World Game, outlook on live performances, and their love of sports, skateboarding, and documentaries.

Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the formation of Invictra in 2015? Did you know of each other through other local outfits, and did you know straight away the type of metal you wanted to develop? Also, how did the band arrive at the name Invictra?

Josh Zalar: Invictra formed in 2015 under my vision. I was/am a huge Megadeth fan, and I always knew I wanted to play some variety of thrash metal. In the original formation, it was all friends from high school infusing our influences to make our early demos. As for the name, Invictra started as Ammitra, which was a combination of Ammit, an Egyptian demon, and Ra, the Egyptian sun god. The old bassist I formed Invictra with read the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley and we took the first part and meshed it with the last part I came up with.

Dylan Thompson: I remember hearing about the band in early 2015 when they opened for The Misfits, I lived in the same town as Josh and thought that was really cool. I had heard the small demo they recorded and was interested in them for sure. It wasn’t until December of 2015 when Josh called me outta the blue and said they needed a drummer to record the first EP in 2 weeks. Right place, right time I guess. We jammed once, I learned the songs, and everything clicked. I knew Josh and I connected on a creative level right from the start.

Dead Rhetoric: You released your first recording, a self-titled seven song EP in 2016. What can you tell us regarding the recording and production sessions for this effort? How do you feel about the recording now that you’ve had time away from it, and is it a fair representation of Invictra or would there be things that you wish you could change in retrospect?

Josh: The band was in flux at this point. Dylan had played drums on it and was in the band for about a week, we had just parted ways with our drummer at the time and I initially tracked the drum tracks in my friend’s home studio. It didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, mainly because I tried to mix and master things myself without real means to make it sound up to par. But in hindsight, there’s a few songs I’m proud of compositionally, and it’s a fair representation of the bottom falling out from the original formation of the band.

Dylan: The way I remember recording that first EP for me was a lot of excitement. I had never recorded before and the experience of skipping school, going into a studio and getting shit done was awesome for me. It was all so new to me because Josh had asked me to be on board only 2-3 weeks prior. Looking back on it there’s definitely things I would change as far as production and some of the programs we used. All in all, I think it was a good representation of where we were at that point. It for sure got me stoked for the future because that’s when I really started to believe that there was potential in our band.

Dead Rhetoric: The World Game is the newest full-length. Where do you see the major changes between your debut and this release? Are you feeling more comfortable knowing where you want Invictra to develop within your songwriting and style?

Josh: Production-wise; this was a huge step up from our first recording. We worked hard to dial in an original sound that would still stand next to other new metal albums. The songwriting was much more dialed in as well. I still wrote about half the songs myself, but having the influence and writing help from Alex and Dylan helped The World Game become what it is, and I’m super proud of it.

Dylan: There’s definitely some giant changes from the EP to the new album. We brought our second guitar player, Alex, on board and watching him flourish with some of the stuff Josh and I had put together was awesome. I think that having Alex with us is a very important aspect of our sound. The majority of the record was written over the summer of 2017 and it all came together pretty naturally. Once we started writing everything was clicking and we were all just so stoked on it. We really wanted to make an impact.

Dead Rhetoric: What sort of topics are important for you to convey lyrically on these tracks? It seems that you like to discuss political and socially driven events that maybe have had some impact on your lives personally…

Josh: Those are really the two main talking points I had on the album, and I got a lot from both of those. Speaking for the socially driven ones, they come from a personal place that I try to make relatable for listeners and those who read while they listen. Politically, it’s a little harder to do that, but I still try to connect with universally agreed thoughts or observations I make and feel like talking about. Our political climate is very corrupt and there’s still a bunch of people out there that don’t realize or care about it. Think of my songs as a warning!

Dylan: Josh wrote most of the lyrics for this one, but we talk about certain issues on a daily basis and all agree that people really need to not be told what to think. People are misled all the time by tons of things; their peers, the media, and religion. I think people just need to be more aware. Reading the lyrics Josh had written, and knowing the way we write songs really inspired me to start writing lyrics. You’ll definitely be seeing a lot more of my words on the next album.

Dead Rhetoric: How did the band decide to add two bonus tracks for those who purchase the digital version of the record? As I would imagine recording “Tornado of Souls” from Megadeth is a little tribute to one of the main influences of the band, correct?

Josh: Megadeth is my favorite band, and Tornado has been a song we’ve covered live for a long time. Invictra would certainly exist if Megadeth wasn’t an influence, but things would be a lot different. As for “Crushing the Bones”, that song was off of the self-titled EP, and was always a favorite composition of mine. We felt like it deserved a better quality recording, and since Bandcamp was our first means for a music release we decided to throw a couple tracks on there for fun!

Dylan: Man, we’ve been jamming Tornado for years. It’s no secret that Megadeth is one of our influences. Fuck, I wear a Megadeth arm band on stage that I caught from Kiko at a show! I can play that song in my sleep, and it’s always fun to jam it because we can just go wild with it.

Alex Dunn: In 2017 we wanted to get into the studio a bit to give the fans a few songs at better production quality, even though we didn’t have enough to put together a full-length album. At the time, we felt “Bones” & “Tornado” were the songs we felt we played best, and we felt it gave listeners the closest idea to the sound we wanted to aim for. Megadeth is definitely a major influence on all of us. Although individually the influences may vary, there is no denying the major impact they have on our sound.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Invictra when it comes to your live show- what do you hope the audience is able to take away from your performances? What do you consider some of the best shows for the band to date – either on a local or non-local basis?

Josh: Energy is the first word, relentless might be the second. We’ve got a take-no-prisoners mentality on stage, when we play we want people to see how passionate we are about what we do. The Misfits show in Rochester we played back in 2015 was the first real highlight for me, playing in Syracuse with Havok in the summer of 2017 was definitely another one. Winning Battle Of The Bands in our hometown of Le Roy was another big one too, that helped us pay for a good chunk of recording the new album.

Dylan: I go as hard as I can at every show. I always love trying to convey the intensity of our music through my performance. I want people to not have any questions after a show; what we are is what you see, thrash till you pass out and then some getting stoked! We’ve had the opportunity of opening for Havok a couple times and both of those shows were so sick. Crowds were hella loud and we played great.

Alex: An Invictra live show is one we really hope nobody will forget. We try to bring the same high level, energy driven show every time we take the stage, no matter the audience. My hope is that the fans will go home after one of our shows and truly believe that they had never seen a show like ours before. To date, some of the best shows I think the band has had were the Battle of the Bands finale last October, and The World Game release show this past March, as well as the Havok show in Syracuse last summer.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about social media outlets such as Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube in terms of helping to build the profile of young metal bands such as yourselves? Are there specific tactics and tools you use to try to stand out against the myriad of artists also trying to gain consumer attention?

Josh: Having a social media presence as a young band is a requirement if you want to play more than bar gigs. You have to know what you’re trying to sell to people and stick to your guns because nobody cuts you a break in this business. Posting a lot before shows, getting people involved not just on the band pages but on your personal pages as well. We’re planning all kinds of outside-the-box things that we’re gonna be trying this summer in terms of advertising that we think will help even more people catch on to us.

Dylan: I mean social media is a part of people’s daily lives nowadays. It’s a great way to interact with the fans and get some feedback. As much as I love playing music and doing it for myself, it’s always awesome to see it impact someone else in a positive way.

Alex: Social media outlets are really, in my eyes, incredible assets to any band or local/small business trying to get a start in a world filled with instant gratification mindsets. We try to post a steady balance between informative posts (show/merch details, business) and more humor-based posts (practice videos, funny posts about one of us) in hopes that people will always find a reason to stop and see what we post.

Dead Rhetoric: Where would you like to see Invictra in terms of development as a band in the next twelve to eighteen months? Does the band have specific goals or bucket list items they would like to check off?

Josh: The only thing I can think about us checking off is hopping on a tour. Any bands touring the East Coast that read this and want a support act, contact me!

Dylan: A big goal is definitely to get out on the road and spread our music to further places. One of my longtime dreams is just to pack all the homies in a van and hit the road, play a show every night, and have a good fuckin’ time. We’ve also already started writing more so you can expect some more music from us in the near future. We definitely wanna play as much as possible though to spread the word about The World Game and Invictra.

Alex: In the near future, we’d really like to see our popularity take hold in areas throughout New York state and beyond by playing out and putting our music into as many hands as possible. There have been talks about a potential tour for us, and of course begin writing music for our next release.

Dead Rhetoric: What types of hobbies or interests do the members of Invictra have outside of music when they have the free time to pursue them? And do you have the support of immediate family in terms of your metal endeavors?

Josh: I’m a big sports fan, mainly baseball and football. I do love to golf as well, and before practice we like to toss a ball around. It’s good for stage endurance! I enjoy reading as well, lots of history and biographies on musicians or people important to history. The occasional video game from time to time as well! My family are huge supporters of the band, I love them to death. My uncles are big metalheads and you can find them headbanging in the front row for most of our shows!

Dylan: Skateboarder for life. Whether it’s in music or on my board I’m always out there trying to get some. I’m a Baker Skateboards and Piss Drunx die hard so that whole attitude is really influential for me; loud and in your fuckin face. As for my family, they’ve all been super supportive. My brother Daley especially, because he’s always playing some new music for me that I’ve never heard, real experimental shit and real abrasive shit. I got a lot of my grindcore and harsh noise influences from him. Cheers matey!

Alex: Outside of music, I enjoy learning. I spend a lot of time watching documentaries and learning about the physical world around us in the form of science. I also enjoy most sports and follow many pro leagues closely.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the local scene in Rochester and Western New York? Do you believe there is a good network structure between promoters, venues, bands, and the fans themselves – or does it differ from the local end to national/international touring packages that come through?

Josh: Rochester really likes their national/international acts a lot more than their local ones from what I’ve seen in my time trying to network out there. Our first show was in Rochester back in June 2015, and besides a few gigs at RIT, we haven’t been able to get on any bills. My favorite local show experience to date was out in Ithaca, when our buddies Ire Clad asked us to play with them. That show was a great time, and we met a lot of great people that night!

Alex: The local music scene, as far as metal goes in Rochester seem to lack a bit of appreciation. However, in other cities we’ve played (Syracuse, Ithaca, Corning) support for the metal scene has been overwhelming! As we travel farther South or East, we’ve found people welcome us, our music, and our style much warmer than they do here in Rochester.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Invictra for the rest of 2018? Has work already begun in assembling material for the follow-up – and if so, where do you see the material going as far as a direction?

Josh: Shows, shows, shows. We gotta play the hell out of gigs so more people hear the album! I always have material on the back burner, and new stuff I come up with all the time. As for a direction, I can promise you it will be heavy and it will come from the heart.

Dylan: We are always writing so there will definitely be more shit that will come out. We are maturing even more in our song writing so I think a lot of the new stuff will break the conventional song structure standards. Testing out what works and what doesn’t work. If you can’t take risks and experiment, then what’s the fun?

Alex: We’ve started the writing process a little bit, but are still very early in any efforts. We’ve discussed as a band what direction we want to take our future music and want to take what we did on The World Game to the next level.

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