The Offering – Beware of the ElephantTuesday, 8th November 2022
Once establishing yourselves as artists, the challenge becomes satisfying your own creative itch while hopefully maintaining (as well as expanding) those who want to become a part of your following. For The Offering, Seeing the Elephant as the second full-length experiments more in terms of diversity, sonic landscapes that include darker/heavier material, including more sound samples and progressive twists, traversing many styles of metal (and beyond). Making you think on multiple levels for the lyrical concepts and musical constructs, it’s a modern whirlwind not to be forgotten.
We reached out to guitarist Nishad George and vocalist Alex Richichi to get the scoop on the outlook behind the new record, the cover concept/ story, viewpoints on handling social media, the many hats the band wears while being in a band these days, favorite memories with Wacken and Instagram, plus future collaboration plans.
Dead Rhetoric: Seeing the Elephant is the second full-length from The Offering. Beyond conceiving the record during an unprecedented pandemic and period of civil strife/discord, where do you see the major differences in this outing versus the last record Home from 2019?
Nishad George: This (album) feels way different. On Home, from my perspective, things felt perfect, and things were in place where I felt they were supposed to be. On this album, we wanted this really measured disorganization, if that makes any sense. A lot more chaos, a lot more feedback here and there, a lot more random samples. Make it feel a little bit less controlled.
Alex Richichi: A little less gimmicky. With the first album, we had a lot on the line, it was the first album on Century Media, so rather than continue with that type of plan, we just decided to out-crazy what we did on the last album.
George: It’s not that it was anti-power metal, but we did our best to drop all the -isms. We drop tuned the guitars even lower, we had a few more slower songs on this album, more moderate pace, more modern breakdowns. We wanted to not be put into one category like with Home.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the lyrics, was there a different approach in that regard as well?
Richichi: I just allowed myself to look externally rather than internally for the inspiration. It wasn’t very hard to look out the window and see a lot of injustice. I allowed myself to take from the collective ether, the anger, the fear of everyday life. Rather than on Home, which was by design a very introspective album.
Dead Rhetoric: Which songs do you believe took on the greatest evolution or transformation from the initial idea/demo stages until what the listener will hear on the final outcome? The tracks that made the biggest impression on me so far include “WASP”, “Rose Fire”, and “Esther Weeps” …
George: Probably “Seeing the Elephant”. Because when Alex sent me the vocals first for that one, we had just that vocal track…
Richichi: And a metronome! I gave you a metronome! (laughs).
George: We met up in person for that, we had this kind of script, how we wanted to carry this like a movie soundtrack. He had just sent me something coming off of a protest, and how do we capture all that? The other demos, we just had to redecorate certain things. That one, from beginning to end, we had no idea what the final thing was going to be until we put all the sprinkles on it.
Richichi: “Esther Weeps” was an interesting song to record. I think just because of the lyrical content of that song, it was hard to not only perform, but allowing yourself to feel that type of empathy was tough. Ultimately, by the time that we are deciding on demos, the melodies are already in the songs, I just have to find them.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover concept come about – the color schemes and imagery providing a mysterious aesthetic that probably goes hand in hand with the diversity of what listeners can expect when they press play?
Richichi: I think that it started off with the idea of trying to get a hanging elephant on the album cover. It’s a historical event that has happened in America more than once, where an elephant is misbehaving in a circus setting, kills somebody, and then the town goes into hysteria to then publicly hang the elephant. There is a picture of one, a dead elephant named Mary, that Nish and I have talked about trying to get on an album cover. We probably couldn’t get a high enough resolution photo; everybody thought it was public domain. Ultimately it came down to finding an artist that was capable of drawing an elephant, you know? We went through a couple of artists; we landed on one that was interesting while keeping the main theme in mind.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to the instrumentation for The Offering, how does the band tackle the differentiation between technical abilities versus playing for the needs of the song – as I’d imagine it can be a challenge sometimes to allow the proper space for Alex’s wide array of melodies/screams?
George: When I am putting together demos, everyone can testify to it that it is the worst guitar playing, the simplest drums, absolutely basic bass. If I can give Alex a skeleton of a song, without all the little decorations, and he can still go off of that. I won’t give him any lead guitar parts, I’ll give him some synths, usually, with the foundation. Once we are good to go with that, then I decide how to reface these riffs to be a little more characteristic. I will have a conversation with Spencer and Steve, how do we get these bass and drum parts to spice up back to that original idea that Alex develops.
Kudos to everyone for sticking with it, because these (songs) never seem the same as to how they start, getting to work on it. That initial skeleton though has to be right for Alex, or else we just trash it. Why would I spend a lot of effort on something if it’s not going to pass the vocal test?
Dead Rhetoric: You also shot a video for the song “WASP”. Can you tell us about the video shoot, and I’ve noticed lots of interesting comments in YouTube regarding the aspects from Alex’s shirt to a lot of people being upset they thought this was the new The Offspring single?
George: I mean that’s every song with The Offspring! (laughs) We have an awesome director that we work with, James Spivey, he’s just so chill. He’s doing our next video as well, he’s a super professional guy. We just wanted something that was more in your face, we got a ton of flashing lights, a ton of strobes. We also put in some imagery that corresponded to Alex’s lyrical content for the album here and there. I thought that is what would piss people off – but everyone just got so… the premiere itself, people hammered away at the t-shirt, and that isn’t even what the point of the (song) is.
Richichi: The idea behind the shirt is it would offend the people that the song would offend. Turns out, it totally did dude. It started a little buzz; I like conflict amongst metalheads. Idealistic divide, it’s interesting.
George: I thought people would be pulling at the lyrics a little bit there. It just shows the eye test, you look at what you see and that’s your first judgement. If you were thinking super hard, and would dissect the song, you would have gotten super pissed off at the lyrics, but you stopped at the shirt. And what can we do about that?
Richichi: What was surprising is how loud the Christian metal community is. I didn’t know they have this much of an outlet. We will see when we move forward, a lot more stuff is to come.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe the instant communication technology that exists with the proliferation of social media platforms has been a stronger benefit for bands like yourselves to increase your global reach beyond what the record label can provide for promotion/publicity?
George: I think it’s great. I do miss some of the mystery that bands used to have, for sure. Some bands can still pull that off pretty well. You would say back then, they would have paparazzi. There are always different ways that privacy and publicity can be manipulated. For me, it’s great as a listener because I get to have a ton of access to other bands and what they do, a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff for what they do. Back in the day, if you wanted to see a band like Children of Bodom in the studio, you had to wait for them to release some terrible 480i resolution video maybe tracking two minutes worth of riffs. Now you can document everything, and we are getting to an era where bands can have a little more control over where their imagery is presented. We are working on this ourselves.
I love doing playthroughs, stem breakdowns at some point too. We have an unspoken rule in the band, don’t give away too much. We won’t say what we are eating for breakfast. Before an album cycle, you used to have a few music videos and a tour. We can now playthrough every single song and show a different visual to every single song. There is a video where I snuck into a church and played “WASP” on the main stage, an idea like that would have never seen the surface ten years ago. You can get more creative with stuff like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel like Century Media as a label understands what The Offering is all about, promoting you the best they can?
Richichi: They fund the project, so they must believe in us, right? That’s our hope – our relationship with them continues because without the capital from them we can’t make the quality production and product. I think they help us to the best of their abilities. The entire industry is in a state of flux, and I am sure everybody talks about that. What everyone’s new roles are. If it wasn’t for Century Media, we definitely wouldn’t be a band. We need them.
George: Props to them, we know this stuff is controversial and they haven’t batted an eyelid.
Dead Rhetoric: Who are some of the bands/musicians that you look up to and model yourselves after in terms of maybe their discography, professionalism, or personal integrity when it comes to their craft?
George: It’s difficult nowadays, because if you say you like somebody today and you find out tomorrow that they are actually terrible people… I would have said Marilyn Manson for his creative vision, but now that things have come out, it’s controversial. I love Steve Vai, anyone who makes art for the sake of making art, the personal exploration – everyone tells us that he is that nice of a person. As far as metal bands, it’s tough. There are so many bands who have way too many opinions and say way too much.
Richichi: If I had to pick people, Randy Blythe is great. I like his activism. I find the longer I stay in metal, I tend to shy away from idolizing people because I find I am disappointed every time I meet them.
George: I like Korn, they’ve had a long career – but it’s a lot of time to have a lot of slip ups. It’s how you roll with them. Dave Mustaine had so many moments where you were like, ‘are you sure you want to say this?’, and now – dude, he beat cancer, he has a nice career ahead of him, finish your obligations with your contract, it’s cool. Alex is right, it’s hard to idolize people, everyone is human, and there are lot of decisions you can make that one year you look great, another year you don’t. We just do our best to roll with the punches as well.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think are some the most difficult things for the average fan to understand about the decisions a band like yourselves has to make?
George: I don’t think they realize how many different hats you have to wear. A lot of things you have to balance. We have management and a label that takes care of a lot of stuff on that end, but we still have to be present for all the video stuff, music, post-production, handle that in house. Keeping track of all of this as well – merchandise too. Each one isn’t… one may pay for the other one, one might not. A lot of people think this is a thing where they look up a band and see a certain area may suck. Well, yes it may suck, but more energy may be put into something else. Bands have way more responsibilities today than they did say fifteen years ago.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that people will have more appreciation for the arts and live entertainment coming out of this prolonged drought due to the pandemic? And do you have any thoughts on the global ramifications of this – especially when it comes to personal well-being and mental health?
George: I think we are going to enter a bit of a creative renaissance. Because if you look at the macro of it all, we are heading into a recession, we have this crazy crisis of people who have shifted jobs two or three times in a year and a half. We have a generation of kids who are growing up having not socialized in years or are used to not seeing facial expressions because of having to wear masks all the time, not seeing each other in person, Zoom classes. We are about to hit a really interesting change in the human race, how we emote really, how we express ourselves. We had a two-year lockdown on that. As far as that effecting music, we’ve seen extreme growth in YouTube, streaming, tons of things on Twitch. Live streaming content. I see this industry shift, how people are marketing themselves, as well as different types of collaborations between artists too.
Richichi: As far as the mental health aspect, I’m not sure we have any idea what the long-term effects are. I still think festivals are still being sold out, people want to see live music. People need the everyday interaction. Our generation feel sick, boomers are loving it.
George: One thing that concerns me that I’ve noticed is, there needs to be on metal’s behalf… there needs to be a little rising on the ticket prices. I know there are so many cancellations happening because of the pandemic. Some bands are playing bigger venues and still keeping the prices at the same rate they were five years ago. The longevity of these acts to be able to stay on the road, there needs to be a level of comfort when you fund yourselves going on the road. A lot of these bands don’t realize how much they are valued. I would love to save a few bucks, but if it means that The Black Dahlia Murder or Whitechapel, bands my age or older, I want them to be on the road still and comfortable, deserving it. Otherwise, we won’t have many more metal acts touring consistently anymore.
Dead Rhetoric: What have been some of your favorite moments when it comes to looking at the career of The Offering to date? Either special shows, tours, festival appearances, or other moments when you knew you were making a mark with your music?
Richichi: Before COVID, we released Home, and we played Wacken. There was a moment in the last set, unfortunately for me I blew out my voice within the first scream of the first song, I was so hyped up. We played “Failure”, our most popular song. I stopped singing in the chorus to catch my breath, the crowd took over. It was the first time I think in the band’s history we ever heard the lyrics screamed back at us. For me, that was the big moment.
George: There is a guy called The Writing Guitar on Instagram. He posted a cover for the solo for “Glory”, he has a helmet on. I never released tabs for that, he just learned it on his own, made a whole video series about it. I put that song together when I was 17 or 18. Seeing that song make all of its mileage, and now being covered by guitarists, that’s huge.
Dead Rhetoric: If you had the opportunity to develop a high school or college level course that you would teach outside of your expertise as a musician, what would you like to teach the younger generation – and why do you think this subject matter is important to learn?
Richichi: That’s a loaded thing. My first thought is to go to understanding literature.
George: I would love to teach health and fitness to kids. Anatomy was a huge life changer for me growing up. It’s not okay to eat french fries and drink soda. I see a ton of musicians today that live like dog shit as far as what they put into their bodies. I love seeing music acts in their forties and fifties with a ton of energy, and you can’t do that if you kill yourselves in your first twenty years of your career. It’s important to be healthy.
Richichi: It would be a class that would inspire a love for literature. We introduce complicated ideas in English classes, but we don’t inspire the kind of love and understanding for it that leads to complex thought as a society. I’ve been lucky enough to have great English teachers, but I know a lot of people who haven’t. I’d focus on that. It took me a long time to love literature. I had a friend once tell me in college that I hate reading because I am bad at it. He would tell me to practice, it changed my whole perspective.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for activities related to The Offering – or any other side projects, bands, special guest appearances – over the next twelve months?
George: We just got to start working with Breaking the Law PR, they are a powerhouse. We have a music video coming out for “My Heroine” the day the album comes out. Formats are changing, we are making this active push to promote this on podcasts, YouTube collaborations. We have some things up our sleeves, more of the digital personalities and working with them. We will open some of those ideas going forward for the next year. I can see us on the road over the next year.