Theandric – Taking FlightSunday, 13th March 2022
Hailing from the Detroit, Michigan area, Theandric represent another recent independent act throwing around some solid heavy metal with traditional, power, doom, and classical flair for their latest EP Flight Among the Tombs. Originating from the abilities of vocalist/bassist Paul Tiseo, he has been able to expand things into a full-fledged outfit – adding everything from pipe organ and bagpipes to the mix of acoustic/electric instrumentation to fill out the aural landscape. Expect hints of Candlemass, Metallica, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to appear – along with 70’s throwback aspects like Uriah Heep or Deep Purple, in this adventurous material.
We reached out to Paul one afternoon on Zoom and had a very fulfilling chat. You will learn more about his early musical memories, expanding Theandric from a solo venture into a full band, the poetry, literature, and Christian themes around the lyrics, challenges to overcome as an independent band, plus plenty of Iron Maiden / metal talk.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your earliest memories surrounding music growing up? At what point did you discover heavy metal and eventually want to pick up instruments and sing/perform in bands?
Paul Tiseo: I remember I grew up in suburban Detroit, and my father was a big music nut. He had a big vinyl collection. This would be when… I was born in late 1977, I remember my dad always playing records in the den growing up. My earliest memory involved watching the record turn of Bee Gees- Live at Last. I remember seeing the RCA logo spinning around. Listening and dancing in the room, I was probably three years old. There was always music going on in the house. My dad is originally from Italy, so he also liked Pavarotti and classical, operatic music. Fleetwood Mac, John Denver, stuff like that.
There were two major watershed moments for me. One would be when I first heard Europe- The Final Countdown. I was probably ten or eleven when that came out. The drama, the power of the keyboard, the earworm theme, it was the coolest thing I ever heard. That was the first cassette I ever bought. And that was a gateway drug to heavier stuff, even with that poppy sound. When I was in sixth grade, I met a friend who had an Iron Maiden binder for his stuff. I asked him about it, he gave me a bunch of tapes to listen to and The Number of the Beast was my first one. That was like, I was in love with heavy metal. That same friend, we talked about forming a band – he wanted to play guitar, so he told me to play bass. I was like, what’s a bass? I looked in my liner notes of the albums to figure that out – I took lessons at the local store, and it was off to the races from there.
Dead Rhetoric: You were able to become proficient at multiple instruments – did you stick with the bass the most or switch based on the needs of these bands?
Tiseo: I had piano lessons for a couple of years at first – which were torture, as I didn’t want to do them (laughs). And then, it was around the time my friends wanted to start a band, I asked if I could learn how to play bass. My parents were paying for lessons. At the same time, I picked up an acoustic guitar, just trying to stumble my way through that. My piano skills laid dormant for a while, while I was getting into the heavier stuff. Eventually it all came full circle when I started to write my own songs and started to figure out I wanted to fill out the sound with these different instruments.
I also took pipe organ lessons for a little while in my twenties. That also helped in the opening track of the latest EP, you can hear that sound and vibe that I still like. Singing probably came last. I was singing in school choir, church choir, but it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I tried to develop my voice and embrace what my voice can do. It’s a work in progress but I’m enjoying what I can do.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the origins of Theandric – as it originated as a one-man outfit with the Up the Irons EP and The Door of Faith album follow-up to eventually blossom into a full-fledged band, correct?
Tiseo: That’s right. When I originally stumbled upon the name, it stuck out to me – one, it was a mysterious word. I think I heard it within a reading of theological text. To me the definition is a cooperation between God and man – human nature and a divine nature working together. That really resonated with me in terms of my philosophy and creativity. God gave me some talent, and I want to use that to make something good. It sounded like a cool metal name. It was just myself, but I had a premonition, there was a reason I just didn’t put out songs under my own name. The idea was I wanted this to be bigger than just me.
The first EP Up the Irons, came out of a fun, silly idea. I was playing some riffs at home, and this sounds totally like an Iron Maiden song. Rather than rip them off, how about I do a song about them, in tribute to their style? That was the idea for fun, let me try to outdo Steve Harris and do a 17-minute epic. I went into the studio with my friend Andy Patalan, he’s in the band Sponge, alternative rock band, just chipping away doing all the parts, drums, guitars, bass, vocals and stuff. The limits of my guitar playing are on there, I can’t play the guitar like Adrian Smith or Dave Murray. I can do Janick Gers, but I get a lot of hate mail for that (laughs). The other original song on there, I wanted to show I could do more than just a Maiden tribute song and have some original music I want to put that out there.
I went through a phase where I got deeply into playing acoustic guitar with alternate tunings, and not into a metal mode for a while. My bass was gathering dust, enjoying the exploration of different sounds. It led to the acoustic record The Door of Faith. It was explicit with Christian themes and lyrics; it was satisfying to do but not indicative of what Theandric is now or imagined it to be. It took a while to explore different things that were interesting to me.
In 2017 I went to a local metal club here to see Spirit Adrift. They were promoting their Curse of Conception album, it was awesome to hear new heavy metal that also captured the spirit of traditional heavy metal – a great Metallica vibe, Ozzy, with all that stuff. I missed this, I wanted to make some noise again. After that show, I was inspired to start writing heavy stuff again. Around the same time is when I connected with the other guys in the band.
Dead Rhetoric: The latest EP is Flight Among the Tombs – tell us about the songwriting and development of this material, how the recording sessions went, and where you see the major differences in the influences and sound for these songs versus the past Theandric catalog?
Tiseo: I think when the guys got together, I had met Bill and Matt through they needed a bass player to fill in for a gig where they were playing all 80’s pop music. In our discussions, we discovered a mutual love for metal. I sent them some song ideas I was working on, and they were into it. In the fall of 2019, we started playing Maiden covers and then tried to work on the original things. It was thrilling for me to hear these songs come alive in a full band context. It was a steady clip, I had new ideas flowing. Once the pandemic hit, oh well – we can’t play any shows, so we kept on the rhythm of writing songs and rehearsing. The majority of 2020 that was writing, rehearsing and seeing which songs floated to the top, the best that we had right now. I also knew, I wasn’t prepared to tackle a whole full LP. The way we are as musicians, we are meticulous – we don’t do things half-assed, every song we wanted to polish and make it as close as we could to what we envisioned.
Especially for a young band, it was a way to present again Theandric to the world. Our thought was, let’s do an EP and let them hear what we are working on now, give them a sense that we are back with the metal sound. We picked a couple best songs, and these four rose to the top. It helped me think about each song being its own thing- and not worry so much about being too similar in style per se. I like to write songs based on grand concepts and think as whole albums – so it was a good change for me to think about a song at a time. We picked the title that sounded the coolest and give some (sort of) theme to everything. Three of the songs I wrote, but the title track, Aaron Wienczak the other guitarist had some old riffs he shared with me that were floating around since high school. That turned into the title track.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe you kept things as an EP because of being an unsigned, underground act that with the way things are moving, it’s easier to consume material in shorter formats before putting out a full-length?
Tiseo: Yeah. I think there are pluses and minuses. We wanted to put everyone on notice that we are alive, and we are working on something new. Like a lot of independent bands, it’s all self-funded. Investment-wise, biting enough but not more than we could chew. We know we can spend this time in the studio to get these four songs sounding awesome. It’s harder to make a dent in the scene with an EP – LPs are going to take priority. But we have really been pleased with the response so far for this release. The music speaks, even if it’s not a full-length record. We are hoping this will be a good appetizer for a full-length release.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you like to come from on the lyric front for the band – as your work seems to combine a mixture of literature, historical, poetry, and Christian-related themes?
Tiseo: The religious aspect has been there from the beginning. Growing up Catholic, and after college I was contemplating a life of ministry, and I spent a year training to be a priest in the Catholic Church. Ultimately, I realized I wanted to get married and have a family, and music of course was still probably my ultimate passion. It’s so much a part of my worldview and heart that it comes out in terms of writing lyrics. Sometimes I’m in the minority when it comes to this – most metal fans are used to the occult and darker realm of things.
Purposely for this release I wanted to broaden my perspective with the lyrics. That’s where you mentioned some of the literature and poetry that came in. We were all stuck at home for the pandemic, I started getting back into reading a lot. There is a book of poetry by Anthony Hecht, called Flight Among the Tombs. He wrote a series of poems reflecting on the idea of death in different incarnations. Death as a poet, death as a Mexican revolutionary, personas of death. That was an inspiring idea, as we were in the midst of our death and illness every day in the headlines with COVID-19, it was scary times. Each song had a different literature origin. “The Battle of Sherramuir” was a poem that talks about that battle, it has a Celtic/Scottish flavor. “Ozymandias” is based on the famous poem by Shelley, “Condemned the Death” is one song that has its basis on a future concept record, based on stations of the cross. A doom metal version of that. I’m hoping metal fans in general will love the music and riffs, and that they can get into the lyrics without thinking its cheesy or preachy, anything like that.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover concept come about with artist Sean Simmons? Was it a collaborative process between yourselves and Sean to get to the outcome, and where do you see the importance of art/imagery in heavy metal currently?
Tiseo: To take your second question first, imagery and art I would venture to say is as important as the music in this genre. Certainly, Iron Maiden is an example of you can’t separate Eddie and the art. We knew we wanted something that was – part of my joy of doing new records is just getting to commission new art. I was a little challenged, I didn’t know where to start this time around. I did a little Google search, hiring an illustrator. I saw some of Sean’s work, and he has talent. It was great to work with him, he’s in the UK.
We did this all through email, and we corresponded and talked live. It was great. The first hurdle was to find the title, and then find the idea of how to picture that. I had the idea of the ruins of a church with some tombstones in the foreground, this mysterious dove floating overhead, something that would show this vast, epic kind of scene. I want our music to suggest something grand and majestic, but also there is light, dark, good and evil. I didn’t want black, dark art- I wanted to show there’s some light and hope in there, but not to deny the fact that death is real.
I described how we were able to find a way to tie in each one of the songs with the elements of the art. It turned out awesome I think – I hope one day we get to do vinyl to see the big artwork.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider the greatest challenges the band is facing in your status today? Have you put thought and energy into where you would like to see the band develop and grow over the next year or two?
Tiseo: I think our challenges are like so many other underground bands. There’s only so much music that people can listen to, and there’s so much. There are many, many options for listeners. The first thing is to just give people the chance to listen to our music. It was great this time around to work with Clawhammer PR, to make these connections. Because we felt if people got the chance to hear this, they would really dig it. That was important. I would like Theandric to be known on a worldwide scale. I want people to get the chance to enjoy our music wherever they live. We want to keep writing, write more songs for a full record to come out maybe next year, hopefully. In Detroit, the scene is opening up, we’ve been able to play some shows already. Last year we played with Paladin and Immortal Guardian, which was really cool. The first show after the lockdown was with The Iron Maidens, the all-female Iron Maiden tribute band. That was a lot of fun.
Right now, we want to try and get out there and play, as much as we can, sharpen our craft on the live stage. Hopefully garner some more loyal fans in the process.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the live performance outlook for Theandric compared to what people hear on the recordings?
Tiseo: All the songs are written in a way where they are meant to be played live. Not everything is done just like the record – we don’t have a bagpipe player! (laughs). Definitely you can hear the epic and powerful elements of the music when we play live. Our guitar players are masters of their craft. It’s a great joy for me to watch them do their thing while holding down the bass. It’s thrilling, but it’s great to hear live. As a new band, we get to play thirty-minute sets – enough to get in, get out, melt faces. If opportunities grow, there may be longer sets and we can show more facets of the songwriting. I would like this to be an event, an experience.
Dead Rhetoric: Name three albums that you believe had the biggest impact on your outlook for heavy metal, and what is your most treasured concert memory that you’ve taken in as a fan – and what made that so special and memorable to you?
Tiseo: Off the bat, Iron Maiden is the number one heavy metal band of all time in my mind. For me, my favorite album is Seventh Son. I loved the concept, the mysticism of the record, the integration of the keyboards to the melodies, everybody was on fire on that record. Maiden in their prime, I still get goosebumps listening to that record. It can’t be denied that Metallica has become the biggest heavy metal band, and surpassed Iron Maiden commercially. I tried to play Cliff Burton lines growing up. Bringing in different textures, they didn’t stay just doing one-dimensional thrash metal. Acoustic guitars, orchestration, different types of sound. There’s a place in my heart for Master of Puppets. Another band that’s influential is Death. My friends and I when we heard Individual Thought Patterns we were like, what is this? It blew me away, I like Symbolic the best – the great production, the melodic stuff he was doing with punishing death metal riffs. I love the heaviness of that.
My favorite memory concert-wise. So many shows, so many bands. The Spirit Adrift for more recent shows but thinking back to younger days. This is not a metal answer, I had the chance to see Jeff Buckley perform in a small club in 1995. He wasn’t huge yet, I didn’t know who he was, he was the opener in a small club in Detroit. It was phenomenal, I am watching him, and I knew he was a star. That was one of the things I like to brag about, that I saw him in a small club. Respect for an amazing artist that sadly is not with us anymore.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the state of heavy music in 2022 – what excites you most about the global scene, and what improvements (if any) would you like to see made?
Tiseo: To me, it seems like the love and appreciation for heavy metal seems strong. It’s always going to be a niche thing. Maybe it won’t be the days of having… I know when I look at Billboard, there isn’t much new stuff that pushes up there. Metal, the people that love it love it through thick and thin. It’s great to be a part of something where people really love the music, and it’s secondary to fame, fortune. Metalheads have a good b.s. meter, they want to hear good music, no matter what style they like.
One challenge would be, in an industry like this with talented young artists, how to find a way for them to develop, instead of flash in the pan disposal things. We envision things, we write songs, and we want this to be our career, and the industry is different because of so much music being released. The plus side as an independent artist like us, we are just going to do what we want to do with what we have. Write the best songs we can, share them and see what happens.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries you most about the world that we live in? If you had the power, resources, time, and unlimited finances to work on a specific issue or two – what do you think needs to be tackled the most?
Tiseo: This is a good question. It seems to me what the world lacks is the ability to have civilized discourse in a non-polarized way. In America we are experiencing what it’s like to get through a severe health crisis and being thrust in the middle of these extreme views. People get stuck in their echo chamber and start to view people as the other, and it’s always somebody versus somebody else. People have fear or anger about things they don’t understand or are unfamiliar to them. Rather than being open to learning from people from different backgrounds, religions, etc. I wish there was a way to re-cultivate of sharing and talking about perspectives without meaning I have to kill you if you don’t agree with me.
Some of the songs I end up writing, that’s coming out a little bit in some of my lyrics. Injustice, people trying to speak their truth, often the world can’t tolerate that and people feel they have to destroy it.
Dead Rhetoric: What hobbies, interests, and passions do you and the other members of Theandric pursue away from music when you have the free time/ energy to do so? And do you have the proper support from family, friends, and significant others in relationship related to your activities in the band?
Tiseo: I’m a father, I have a wife and three children, plus a day job. The front man challenge is integrating this musical life into my whole life. My dear wife does love and support what we do – and there are required sacrifices on her part, and mine too. Everybody has been happy and proud of us for our achievements so far. It’s still a thrill to hear our songs played on the local Detroit rock radio station. Juggling the real-world tasks, as an independent artist it’s not me waking up every day and writing new songs and going on tour. A lot of professional musicians who tour all the time, also miss their home life- so I try to take it into perspective.
In term of other hobbies, I don’t have too much other time. I mentioned reading, history and poetry, it inspires new music. I like some movies and shows, but I’m usually exhausted by the end of the night. Bill our guitarist, he’s a health nut, he eats well, he knows everything about diet. Aaron our other guitarist, he’s into sports – golf, fishing, he works in hand rehabilitation – physical therapy. I work in social work, a prevention program for youth who are at risk with getting involved in the juvenile justice system -middle school, high school age kids who need some help and support.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Theandric over the next twelve months?
Tiseo: I definitely want to tackle a full LP. This year is looking like, some good local shows coming up the next couple of months. One of them supporting a progressive band from around here called Imminent Sonic Destruction, they have a new album coming in April. We are going to play again with the Iron Maidens in May. Sharpen up our live set, and I have a couple of new songs I’ve been chipping away at. There’s a song we have been playing live that’s not been recorded yet, more of a thrash song called “The Valley of Dry Bones”. We are looking at recording that as a single and get that out this summer. Some shredding dual guitars in that one. I want to continue writing, and by year’s end have a sense of a good track list for potential in a full-length album.
Whatever happens, I want it to be a masterpiece. We’ll see what comes up.