Vatican – Metalcore’s Answer to Video Game Boss Music

Thursday, 24th June 2021

Recently signing with UNFD, Georgia’s Vatican released a two-song single Become a New God to give fans a taste of new material, as well as give new vocalist Mike Sugars a proper introduction. A massively heavy outing that pulls in quite a few directions in only a five minute time span, there’s a lot of promise to this aspiring act. We spoke with Sugars to discuss the new single, links to video games, writing new material, and more!

Dead Rhetoric: How does Become a New God advance Vatican’s sound?

Mike Sugars: The reception has been really awesome. We got more interaction and attention than we thought that we initially would. Those two songs give off the vibe of what we are going for in the future. We still have some stuff up our sleeves though, just to take things out of left field. A lot of production tricks and things that we want to do that are going to sound really phat and awesome. We want to do more of that on Become a New God, but we also want to do a lot more. We want to play around and have fun and level everything up.

Dead Rhetoric: As the new vocalist of the band, do you feel it worked as a nice way to introduce you as well?

Sugars: Definitely. We’ve seen a lot of different things, talking about me being the new vocalist. Mostly positive, and a few that say things like, “Miss the old singer, but this is cool,” so even when people say that, it hasn’t been negative or weird or anything. That’s been pretty cool. I was nervous about stepping into the role of a new singer. But this is definitely a good way to say, “Hey, I am here now” because it could have been one thing where a band goes on tour and the singer won’t be there and people are like, “What the hell? Who is this guy?”

Dead Rhetoric: What do you hope that people take away from this two song single?

Sugars: Really, what I hope people take away from it, it’s called Become a New God because the idea is to level yourself up, level up your game in what you are doing and trying to get to new heights. That’s at the core of what we are trying to do. Become a better band. We are putting a lot of energy into that. I hope that when people listen, they can hear that we are doing that. I hope that going into the next record, everyone can see that we are leveling up and moving past just playing breakdowns and riffs. Those are dope, but we are trying to get creative about. That’s what I am most excited for people to see – those kinds of changes in the future.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you have plans to write a more extensive release in the near future? Like an EP or full-length?

Sugars: Oh yeah. Actually on Friday – I am currently with the guys right now and we are just hanging out and chilling. But we are going up to New Jersey on Friday to record the album there. We will be doing that for a month, trying to get a whole full length ready for release – whenever that happens, I have no idea what the timeline is for that. But we are going in! We are going to sit there and make sounds, that’s the goal!

Dead Rhetoric: How do you define the sound of Vatican as the new guy coming in?

Sugars: I define the sound of Vatican as five dudes who are simply trying to tap into dopeness and find their way onto Devil May Cry 6’s soundtrack. That’s what I think the sound of Vatican is. We are trying to be metalcore’s answer to videogame boss music. That would be dope. Video games are really important to us as individuals, but it has taken on its own sub identity with the band. We want to make it onto a game soundtrack. That’s our move. We don’t know what that means, but we trying to go as ham as possible.

Dead Rhetoric: If you are shooting for a video game soundtrack, you just mentioned Devil May Cry. Is there a series that you would love to be a part of?

Sugars: Whether it is Devil May Cry or something else I would reference, I would love if we ended up on a skate game, like Skate 4 or Tony Hawk Underground…that style of things. But also, I think I would like to end up on any Platinum Game title. My personal favorite that they have ever touched is Nier: Automata. Granted, the way that game is and the way they mold their soundtrack around that series, it would probably never happen [laughs]. Their stuff is a lot prettier and a lot of atmosphere in that soundtrack. But definitely a Platinum Game like Bayonetta or something truly epic. If for some reason, Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance, the spinoff game for Raiden, if that got a sequel for some reason please God someone message me [laughs] because I want in!

Dead Rhetoric: What other video games have influenced the band’s sound?

Sugars: Games that we are playing right now that we are using to influence the sound, or even lyrically, we and most people in the world have all beaten Resident Evil 8. That’s been really dope. We pull inspirations from that. I recently just beat the Nier: Replicant remaster that came out last month. That has been a huge inspiration for me, lyrically and what we are writing for the record for sure. And always, Metal Gear. Metal Gear is extremely important to the band. On Become a New God, the song “Absolute Reality” that song is lowkey written about Metal Gear Solid 2.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel is key in providing something that is very heavy, but somehow memorable?

Sugars: There are a lot of bands that make extremely impactful and insightful music, especially lyrically and narratively, and then some things are memorable because they are entirely ‘zorbed out and goofy. I guess what we would want is to write a record that people can have fun to, but as you listen along and perhaps read along if lyrics are your thing, hopefully it’s impactful and makes you think. A lot of the stuff we are pulling inspiration from and repurposing/funneling into our own ideas are about existentialism and the implication of being a person that has desires and how that affects the world around you.

I think one thing I have thought a lot about recently in playing some of these games is that you don’t have to be an evil person to cause harm to somebody. You, simply just trying to do your own thing selfishly, without even realizing its selfish, has its own implications. People are affected by the things that you do. In the things I am writing currently, there is a – I don’t want to use the term ‘call to awareness’ but I can’t think of a different one. There is definitely something there saying you need to lean into the thought process of what you are doing and how it affects the people around you and maybe not just strictly think about yourself.

Dead Rhetoric: It’s nice, we have the fun video game talk, and the deep, existentialism talk!

Sugars: Yeah, and the thing is, those two always go hand in hand for me. To me, it’s just the name of the game – at least in the games that I like. But also, there is a fun, funny side of everything too. For the most part, when we are writing this, planning the music out and everything – things that make it on to the final track, chances are it only made it because we thought it was hilarious. Or we are like, “Oh yeah, that breakdown is stupid – drop it!”

Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that your sound gives you a wide range of acts to tour with?

Sugars: I think so, especially with those two songs. Granted, it’s only two songs – you don’t get that much time. Between both songs it lasts like five minutes. You don’t get a lot of time. Most bands have one song that’s five minutes. It’s not enough time to show off what we have got cooking. But I think with those two songs, and the previous record, it shows that we have our hands dipped in everything sonically right now. At least in a broad term of the whole subgenre. But to us, we would tour with hardcore bands, metalcore, deathcore, whatever. We are really into the idea of getting into those tours and popping around wherever we want to go. To us, we love this kind of stuff too. It may not be the only genre that we cater to, but we do love it and it makes it into the music a bit. It makes sense and it would be fun. We’ll show up. Hopefully you are down.

Dead Rhetoric: Could you discuss the use of Twitch for growing the band?

Sugars: With that, we haven’t been streaming as much the past month in moving around and trying to get ready for the recording, but once we get into the studio itself, we were talking about every Thursday – back again. Even if its just gaming or livestreaming us recording things in the moment. Between our Twitch and our Discord, which go hand in hand, if you join either of those and chime in for a bit, that’s where we share stuff early before it gets released. Or it may be things that may not be released. We demo a song and we show it live. People are able to react how they react. We also play around in the comment section with people and do jokes and stuff. We do our thing.

Not that no band has ever done that before, but the idea is that we show up and be ourselves. We show what we are interested in, whether its gaming, talking about the band, whatever just happens in that moment. Sometimes we just get on and play Bloodborne. People come in and are like, “I hate that part! It’s so hard!” And that’s it, that’s the stream for the day. Then there are other times that are strictly music. I think the idea between those two mediums is that we are pretty much a open door community on the band itself. We aren’t exclusively a band. We are gamers too. They can go hand in hand and there can be involvement from both communities. There’s a lot of crossover there. People will find out about us just because of our relationship with the gaming world, or vice versa.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you see as a reference in the crossover between the video game community and the metal community?

Sugars: I don’t know if you have ever played the new Doom games – the one from 2016 and then the new one last year [Doom Eternal]. Whenever you are listening to those soundtracks, I can’t think of the name of that person that did it [Mick Gordon], but they are into metalcore. That is an indisputable fact. That is someone who has their roots in the metal and hardcore community and it shows. That’s kind of the wave we are on. That game, in the sense of bands making music and touring, if you haven’t played it you should. You can see that this subgenre has more room to grow. The ceiling has been broken, but still not 100% on stage. It should be inspiring to you, because I think it’s inspiring.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s happening in the meantime for you all, outside of hitting the studio?

Sugars: We do have one show that we have announced on July 31. It’s Left to Suffer’s release party show in Atlanta. It’s going to be a good time. That band is seeing a lot of success for a record they released this year called On Death. That’s gotten them a lot of attention, and we are excited to support it and rock. How many bands are announcing tours right now? Those are things we are looking at. This fall or winter, you can definitely see us among the giant tidal wave of breakdowns that are going to be sweeping across the US [laughs].

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