The Offering – Welcome HomeSunday, 4th August 2019
Crushing the scene with a potent outlook past and present, The Offering aim to shake up the metal landscape a bit with their latest album Home. It’s very rare that a group of twenty-something musicians can inject the modern angst and aggression of say Slipknot or System of a Down, while still being musical interesting and engaging to bring names like Judas Priest or Nevermore to mind – but that’s just what you’ll hear out of these eight tracks. Originally based in Florida and now calling Boston, MA their home base, the intentions are clear that they hold nothing back in the hopes of attracting a fervent fanbase.
We reached out through Skype for this conversation with vocalist Alex Richichi and guitarist Nishad George – who were happy to discuss the lineup changes and recording of Home, what they’ve learned working with seasoned professionals, their determination to become road warriors, and genuine reflection on the trials and tribulations they’ve taken on and overcome even at this point in their careers.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been two years since the self-titled EP release for The Offering – but it’s not as if you’ve been idle in that time period before the full-length Home hits the streets. Can you discuss the lineup changes and touring experiences you’ve had in the interim – and how you feel about the growth and confidence within the band?
Nishad George: I think the last time we talked was right when we dropped the EP. Since then, we changed our lineup pretty significantly. We got Spencer (Metela) from Hate Storm Annihilation on bass and moved on from Yoav and Dan our other guitar player. This was us not reinventing ourselves, but being like what do we really want to do. We got our EP onto Century Media, we had this full-length album ahead of us to record and release and we could take two routes here. We could keep playing pretend and making music that we know is safe and appease record label executives and increase their numbers – or we could take a risk and say we are going to do this for the rest of our lives, and do something that we enjoy and play the music that we want to hear.
That was our (game plan) when we approached this album. Nobody compromised, everybody was really happy. That went into the lineup dynamic going forward, we enjoy playing these songs. We felt this kind of tension and going through the motions, but I feel that we have fresh legs now.
Dead Rhetoric: For Home, it appears that the band has injected a comfortable mix of heavy/power metal influences you’ve been known for along with a sense of modern/nu-metal aspects that make sense without compromising the integrity of your style. Did these advances happen organically due to seasoning and life experience, and were you worried how the label/management or outside people would accept this direction shift?
Alex Richichi: First of all, I really appreciate the thoroughness of this interview. Most people just throw stock questions, and it’s nice that you are asking us some serious things.
Alex: The EP from my perspective was just a body of work that would prove to the metal community and the big brother executives at the record labels that we were capable and able to write the music that they wanted to hear and prove to them we could play the music they are used to. We decided that after we made this impression, we were going to take a big risk on this album and make what we wanted to, if that makes sense. We got the opportunity to take a big swing. What we wanted to do on this album compared to the last one was make something that we always wanted to hear, and provoke an emotional response from the listeners rather than fitting into some type of metal sub-genre mold.
Nishad: We got really lucky with our label and the inside. The guy that pushed to sign us, Philipp Schulte, where most people have an A+R guy come and go and that determines what the relationship will be with the label, our guy turned up to be the general manager of Century Media. He took to our new sound, he heard our demos for the new album and told us to take as much time as we needed. We were so lucky that now the guy that signed us is now the GM of the label, he’s also calling the shots and wanting us to be the face of the label over the next few years.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you believe you put more time and energy into for this recording that sets itself apart from previous work?
Alex: What I think sets it apart, including me personally as a lyricist – I really put an honest approach towards the lyrical and musical content that I created. Essentially, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but heavy metal has turned into this cookie cutter, big data driven, keyword, cliched subject matters and song structures. What we wanted to do as a rebellion against the more tenured people and within the industry is to try to create a body of work that is sincere to how we actually feel, rather than to show who we are through some bullshit Instagram post or it’s equivalent. We are giving ourselves truly and honestly through the music.
Dead Rhetoric: Is the lyrical content conceptual and in a storyline format or are these individual ideas you elaborated on for this record?
Alex: When it comes down to the bare bones of the lyrical content, it’s an accumulation of frustrations and internal reflections of how I was feeling while we were writing the record. Looking internally and realizing one’s worth, every song is an off theme of that bigger theme.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you have any concerns about developing a 15-minute song as you did with the title track?
Nishad: Honestly, no – and it’s really funny. When we did the EP, the self-titled song on the EP “The Offering” was supposed to be a nine or ten-minute song, originally and we cut it down to a little over six. I think there was a conversation between myself and Steve (Finn), our drummer, where he was wondering if we were ever going to develop a long, epic song. I promised him that we would have a song on this album that only ends when it is supposed to end. That’s how that song started, which is the last song on the album. I started writing, and we are not stopping it until it demanded an ending. Around the four to five-minute mark, I thought it was going to be at least a twelve-minute song. It ended up being a fourteen and a half-minute song. We looked at the other songs, and they aren’t straightforward, but they are for lack of a better word, bangers where they hit you and shoving the point down your throat the entire time. We wanted a song that maybe had a different pace, we like the idea of a soft section in the middle – we were personally satisfied with doing a song like this, compared to the other seven that are on there.
Dead Rhetoric: One of the major difference makers within The Offering is the versatile voice and melodies you possess Alex – how much shaping and effort do you expend song to song to get things exactly the way you want them in the end? Are there certain songs that evolve from the demo process to the final recording where you make numerous changes to get things just right?
Alex: We should start by how we do the demoing process. Usually, Nish sends me a demo and I do a marked melody line – I send him something that has no lyrics, no intention, but showing him what I’ll do. While we go into the studio and I start singing the lines for real, the lyrical content is being created and the melody lines are getting put down as we are writing it in order to keep it at an EP energy level. There’s nothing better than a demo, raw vocal take. We need to make sure we represent that in the recordings. Because of the style I do, I’m constantly singing each song with hundreds of takes. I’m singing each line a lot.
Nishad: Alex will do a majority of the vocals by himself. I know when we get to the collaboration stage, we are scrapping stuff at least three or four times before we say the right thing. There’s a huge emphasis on this record compared to the last record on sonic purity. Not looking for the perfect vocal take in terms of prettiness and technique and hitting the note, but the element of getting his voice out right now, do you really feel the emotion behind what he is saying and do all the other seven-eight vocal harmonies share that same sentiment so that people can understand that. We did a lot of things in post-production to add stuff that enhances some of the lines he was saying. The ending of “Ultraviolence” for example we have, you may not hear it but there are actually strings and cellos that are mimicking the harmony as he rises up. It’s small decorations like that that the listener may not hear, but we are putting a ton of emphasis on the melody that he’s singing to get that very epic and you want to really feel that emotion. There are so many small things to be sure that his message ends up being very clear to you.
Alex: It’s really about the intention of the line or the lyrics and trying to find the timbre that best matches the content. I don’t care if it’s screaming, a low growl, a fried scream, or operatic, or super high Judas Priest style, it sets the intention of the content.
Dead Rhetoric: For this album you used a mixture of home studio and professional studio means- including Carriage House Studios and mixing with Fredrik Nordström from Sweden. Can you tell us about this approach and why it’s important to still consider using professional studios for a better final product?
Nishad: Theoretically, we could probably do our records in house if we want to. I think that’s a terrible idea, not for the obvious reasons but there’s an element of learning that I want to have. It may say produced by myself, but I’m pulling on information and knowledge from everybody that we work with. Carriage House, the engineer there John Montagnese has helped me out a ton with getting Steve’s drum tones perfect. My mic selection, what we were looking for that wouldn’t have been easy. Metal artists should really avoid home studios for drums because the drums are the most pure thing on every single album. People, you may use beat detective to do some small tinkering here and there, but the sound of the drummer hitting a cymbal or tom is as authentic and pure that shouldn’t get touched until the very end of the album. That room that you get from a studio to capture the drums is super important, the right vibe.
Guitars, vocals and bass we do those in our own set ups. It’s Alex and I dynamically, we have to scratch and redo over and over until we have parts that very much compliment the melodies and harmonies of the song. I might give him a part on guitar that works, and he’ll come back and sing something that makes me say I can match him to scratch that part. If you put it in the studio, that’s hundreds and hundreds of dollars spent wasted, potentially thousands depending on how much time you spend recording these things. When it comes to Fredrik, that guy is a legend. He has so many years of experience right off the bat – if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have this sound. He was so versatile and accommodating to what we wanted to do, and letting me take some kind of control over the mix even though it’s his mix – let’s get this together. If you had us do all this in house, we would have gotten 30-40% of what you actually end up hearing. You need those guys, those veterans with experience in audio to capture all of these things properly.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe you offer something to the metal scene that can gain wide appeal from multiple generations of fans because of your diverse outlook?
Alex: I’d like to hope so. What I really want to try and inspire if it’s not convoluted to say, is to try and inspire other metal bands to get the genres together. There’s something disconcerting about the grouping of sub-genres and it’s leading to the stagnation and conservation of heavy metal rather than the progression of it.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s your outlook on The Offering concerning live performances versus your studio abilities? To you, what are the ideal factors that make for a memorable show, and what have been some of your favorites to date with the band?
Nishad: A lot of modern bands try to sound exactly like they do in the studio. For the way music is recorded these days, sometimes that’s okay. Despite all the decorations we have on our recordings, we like to have that rock and roll element – we like to embellish a lot of stuff and change it up live to really give a fully unique experience. People going in expecting to hear every note point on perfect, they will be surprised.
Alex: My favorite shows of all time have been about energy more so than proficiency. There’s nothing worse than watching a group of metalheads stand in one place and watch the guitar player’s fingers (laughs). There’s something so fucked up about going to a show where everyone is trying to learn a dick size rather than just get in and get lost within the energy of a show. That’s what The Offering tries to do live- bring the energy of our recordings so we can get an emotional response from our audience.
Dead Rhetoric: How does the band handle the ever-evolving changing music business model – where do you see the importance of a record label even as you try to accomplish as much as you can through social media and networking yourselves?
Nishad: There’s a huge movement today of the artists that is very prominent- and it works for a lot of people. Some musicians can do things without the help of a record label, use crowdfunding and their fan model to make something happen. I know Patreon is becoming a huge thing now for independent artists. Especially for a band like us where our sound is marketable, and we use melody, so that tends to be something that people can sell very easily. People in record labels are amazing salespeople, and they are amazing marketers. What they’ve been able to do with us in such a short period of time is fantastic.
I know some people don’t like the trade-off of control, but these guys have been super collaborative with us. They’ve been like what do you guys want to do, here is an opportunity – do you want to take it?
Alex: It’s also one thing to go and be independent and make a full-living as a musician in one country or one region of our country – but this band is trying to be an international band. By teaming up with a record label like Century Media we went from a band that nobody ever heard of outside of playing local shows in Tampa, Florida to now going to Europe to playing festivals. The trade-off is there, and it’s worth it if your goal is to become an international band.
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