Smoulder – Epic Empowerment

Sunday, 16th June 2019

Dead Rhetoric: Members of Smoulder recently got the chance to visit Europe and attend the Keep It True Festival. What are some of your memories of this long-running festival, and do you believe you were able to make some in roads into getting some festival/touring situations going for Smoulder down the line in mainland Europe?

Sarah: Yes- we got a European booking agent at the festival. A lot of people were walking up to us and offering us everything under the kitchen sink, basically. (laughs). It was great – we’ve played four shows, and we’ve already been able to open for Coven, Witch Mountain, While Heaven Wept, and that’s a big deal for us. Next year we are going to be planning a bunch more things, and we have more in the pipeline that we haven’t announced yet.

Keep It True, and Olly the guy that puts it on, is awesome. He’s really professional, and he knows exactly how to book a festival. Despite there being a couple of hiccups with Agent Steel, which everyone is talking about, and the fact that Candlemass had to cancel, it was still an amazing festival. It was packed, everyone had an amazing time, people were there from the opening band until it closed. It was like Heavy Metal Parking Lot- the record selection was so good. Solstice was amazing, Idle Hands was amazing, Sacred Rite, Manilla Road tribute was great and special. It was really fun – we have a lot of friends in Europe and we have a lot of friends in bands around the world. Keep It True is the kind of thing where you get to see everybody from the internet that you like.

S. Vincent: It’s been a goal of mine for many years to go to that festival. I’d purchased tickets to go to the 2010 edition of it, but it never worked out because I couldn’t get the funds together. Every year I see the lineup and I knew I needed to see it. To finally get to go, was really special.

Sarah: The fact that we will be playing Up The Hammers, if we weren’t playing that festival, we would still be going to it. When we were asked, it was so exciting. I can’t believe we are going to finally get to see Atlantean Kodex. And Wytch Hazel, I’m so excited. We keep having those moments – the Owen Wilson like ‘Wow!’ (laughs). Over and over, which is kind of ridiculous.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe there’s a kinship between the Canadian metal scene and the European metal scene, that could different from the US scene?

Sarah: I feel like the kinship is more sonically based than it is location based. We are based in Canada, we have some really incredible band friends from all over the world- a lot of them play very similar to us. We are good pals with Gatekeeper, Old Mother Hell, Visigoth are really good friends of ours. It’s a combination of all the above- Canada is definitely getting more attention which is great. Canada is such a big country that you can’t always have a camaraderie – if you live 4,000 kilometers from a band that sounds like you, you may not even be able to know they exist! (laughs).

Dead Rhetoric: Sarah also has her hands in numerous metal related activities as a writer in her own right, activities related to Banger TV, and also your day job working at Bandcamp. Do you believe this diversity has also helped you gain more insight and perspective that can be applied to developing the band and brand of Smoulder?

Sarah: Oh yeah, of course (laughs). I think the guys can speak to this – I do all the band management.

S. Vincent: Not just in the metal scene, but in journalism for fifteen years.

Sarah: Booking, photography, promoting, touring – I did my master’s degree on music and musicology, I wrote my thesis on extreme metal. I’ve lectured, I’ve toured- my last job even, prior to working at Bandcamp I worked at a record label here in Toronto, I did some band management. I’ve seen all the ways in which labels operate and how to work things. There are so many things that bands don’t get to learn and it’s really hard because a lot of bands just aren’t business-oriented. I try my best to keep us as business-oriented as possible, and when I say that I mean… hey guys when you record an album, rather than do what a lot of bands do and get over exuberant and release a single on the internet a week after the recording’s done because they are so stoked they want it out, we are not doing that. The album is going to have to be mixed and mastered, we are going to have to bring it to the pressing plant, we need a guaranteed release date, then our press cycle can begin. We have to make sure we have a hi-resolution band photo, make sure our band image is consolidated- where S. Vincent’s expertise comes in as he’s been doing all the graphic design for the band. He’s really talented at that.

Everyone in the band has talents – and band management is one of mine. I’ve done it before with much, much more famous bands. I just try to apply the same principles to it. I know that Smoulder has benefited from the fact that I’ve devoted the last fifteen years of my life doing anything possible to make other bands popular. I champion unsigned projects all the time, I buy music pretty much every single day, I share stuff on social media, I write articles, I book shows. Everything I’ve done has been to make smaller bands gain some fans. I know for a fact that the thousands of people I’ve encountered from doing that for the last fifteen years, a lot of them want to help Smoulder in the same way.

S. Vincent has a history in playing in a lot of bands over the years, and people want to help him. Same with Adam, Collin, and Kevin. A lot of band success comes from who you know, which is the reality of how it is. We’ve made a lot of really good connections and they’ve helped our band a lot.

Dead Rhetoric: Even in this digitally driven music times, vinyl, tapes, and CD’s still provide value especially in the metal realm. Do you have a preference for digital versus physical media, and what would you say are three of the all-time favorite epic doom metal albums that the members of Smoulder treasure or debate about?

Sarah: I think we all prefer vinyl.

S. Vincent: Vinyl is great.

Adam: I just like having it on display in my home so people know I’m a hipster. (laughs). Where I can have a wall full of records and put them on display nine at a time, I can point to one and explain the story behind it. You can have posters and inserts with them, I like having the artwork nice and big.

Sarah: Even with our album, people have said it’s short – but whatever. It fits on a metal LP – and tons of metal albums are around 35-40 minutes. All of us were like vinyl – it’s happening.

S. Vincent: I like the way our vinyl sounds as well. I finally got my own copy of the vinyl and I was very excited to hear how it sounds.

Sarah: Our philosophy on (the short album) was all killer, no filler. Just because you can write an hour- long album, doesn’t mean you should! (laughs). Our album is short and punchy, and as soon as it’s over- you want to put it on again. When I think of battle records, Omen- Battle Cry, the second that is over, I’m ready to play it again. I feel like that with King of the Dead – Cirith Ungol, hundreds of other albums that are short, punchy and to the point. The ultimate goal is to have someone finish your album and want to press play again – and if your album is too long, that’s not going to happen, unless you are Reverend Bizarre and then I will listen to you for two and a half hours because I worship you. (laughs).

S. Vincent: As far as albums, Gates of Slumber – Conqueror.

Sarah: Tales of Medusa – The Fatal Wounding Gaze.

Adam: I’ll throw in Procession – To Reap Heavens Apart.

Sarah: Yeah – or Destroyers of the Faith. They are both killer records. I think it’s obvious Candlemass – I love the first album. I was super butthurt when they had to cancel their show at KIT because of the airline strike. I’ve seen them live three or four times.

Dead Rhetoric: What types of goals do you set for yourselves as a band? Do you believe that the quality of your audience and followers matters more than necessarily the quantity?

Adam: I’m all about just the quality of the music. My primary goal is to make music that is good, to play live shows that are good and solid. Everything else is a bonus and a welcome bonus when people love it. If we want to tour, that’s a goal.

Sarah: We are getting offers.

S. Vincent: The more fans we have, obviously the better.

Sarah: I just want people to listen to us and dig it. I really like that the people who are our fans seem really into it. We are really lucky, we set ourselves up as a very analog band from the start. We had our first run of 150 cassettes and it sold out, our first run patches and shirts sold out. We did 300 of our 7” single, they sold out- we did long sleeves, they sold out. We are now with the album – the vinyl, the first print is sold out. People want to support us monetarily, and whoever that looks like is fine by us. We’ve had a lot of cool interactions from a lot of cool people – of various different walks of life. People who can be black metal fans that like us, and then epic metal diehards. They are equally cool.

Adam: I’m all about being an open-minded metal music fan. I love old school heavy metal, epic doom, black/death – and stuff that’s far from metal too.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your views on the metal scene at this point- are there things that you enjoy or wish would change, and if so what would you change?

S. Vincent: The Nazis…

Sarah: Metal is great, and there are so many awesome pockets of it. Metal does have a Nazi problem, and a Nazi apologist problem as well which is disappointing.

S. Vincent: I see a lot less of that in the epic doom genre. It’s a lot more chill and being a lot less serious about your corpse paint.

Sarah: The crowds that go to Up the Hammers and Keep It True, dozen of metal festivals that happen in Europe, it seems more of an attitude that metal is fun – and that’s a philosophy that I think all of us share. We shouldn’t say that metal is isolated- the Nazi problem in metal is not isolated to just the metal genre. The world has a problem with Nazis. There are good metal people everywhere, just as there are bad metal people everywhere.

Adam: If a band isn’t good in my opinion, I just don’t have to listen to it. There’s a lot of good metal bands out there. There’s hundreds of other albums to check out.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Smoulder over the next twelve months to support this record?

Sarah: We will play in May with Cirith Ungol and Liege Lord in Chicago. We are playing with Pagan Altar and Blood Ceremony in August in Toronto. And then we have a whole bunch of other things that are a little bit away from being confirmed, can’t talk about yet. In the spring we will be at Up the Hammers in Greece, and then a European tour. We are working on a split which we hope will come out early next year, we have all sorts of stuff going on.

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