Wilderun – Beyond the VeilTuesday, 29th October 2019
It’s been four years since Wilderun made quite a splash with their second album, Sleep at the Edge of the Earth. US-based folk metal often doesn’t seem to get the credit of their across-the-seas kinsmen, but Wilderun hit the sweet spot between progressive and folk and the album was quite well received. With the release of Veil of Imagination right around the corner, We caught up with vocalist/guitarist Evan Anderson Berry to find out what took the band so long to release a third album, if they’ve come to terms with Wilderun’s sound, as well as potential new material in the works.
Dead Rhetoric: Given the success of Sleep at the Edge of the Earth, was there some trepidation in following it up?
Evan Anderson Berry: A little bit, as is to be expected. You want to make sure people are pleased with what you make. The energy in the band still felt really good, and it was still feeling exciting and fresh for all of us, so that’s all that ultimately matters. I don’t think we were worried about making a shit album – I almost think it was more excitement than trepidation. But there’s always a little bit of uncertainty. We also knew that we wanted to make this album something a little different – we felt like we have naturally been moving away from the more standard folk metal sound that we started with the first record. It hadn’t been a super-intentional choice, but I feel like with this record we were thinking less about things like what it genre it would fit into or what mold it sits in. We just wanted to make some stuff and put it together without much expectation.
I think that led the whole process – it made it more relaxed, in a way, than the previous album. I think that made us worry less about the expectation. I’m always going to be a little worried about the expectation and how people respond to it, but that’s more now. During the process of making the record, it was more excitement. Now that it’s done and people are starting to hear it, I’m getting a little nervous about it [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss using Dan Swano and Jens Bogran for the mixing mastering job. That’s quite a powerhouse combination.
Berry: It was great. We knew that we wanted to just try something different and reach out to some new people. Just like we wanted to make an expansion and change on the music, we always like to try new things as far as the production and recording process, so that we aren’t just doing the same thing every time. On that note, the first two records were produced and mastered by the same guy, Jocko Randall at More Sound Studios, and we were super happy with his work. We loved it, and would like to work with him in any capacity in the future. But we just wanted to try something different – trying to work with people that we didn’t know personally.
It’s a little bit of a risk, as you are reaching out to someone you have never met, and you don’t know how they are going to react to your sound and what exactly they are going to do. There’s a little bit of letting go of that control by sending a record halfway around the world and not being in the studio while it is being mixed. But it was totally worth it. It was exciting.
Obviously, Dan Swano is like a legend – we had a short list of people that we wanted to mix it. A few people got back to us about mixing it, and we had a few conversations, and it ended up making the most sense to go with Dan. The whole process was great. He’s really nice and accommodating. We can be pretty picky with our mixing choices – it’s pretty dense music as far as the number of different things going on. I’m sure it’s not the easiest record to mix. But he was really accommodating with little tweaks, and where we wanted adjustments. He would be totally down to try whatever, and try different things. It was nice to work with someone who you have admired for a while and have the process go so positively.
With Jens [Bogran] – the mastering process isn’t nearly as in depth, so our interactions where much more limited. But he was also totally nice and accommodating. He did like two passes of the master and we were happy with it. Overall, we are very happy with how it all turned out.
Dead Rhetoric: I did notice a difference in sound on the new album, and though I’m not sure how to exactly phrase it compared to the last album, it was great to hear.
Berry: Dan’s history and experience with metal in particular helped – compared to the last record, it’s a bit beefier. That low end kick was a bit heavier, with some more meat to it. Again, I was totally happy with how Sleep at the Edge of the Earth turned out, but I think it was for a different reason. I’m not sure how to explain it, but the sonic change is more in the punch of the record.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there any particular meaning behind the name Veil of Imagination?
Berry: It was a combination of a couple of things. The songs were titled before the album was, so we had the song “The Tyranny of Imagination” first; it’s not a concept record or anything, but for me it was about diving into my own head and analyzing the crazy way that my brain works. Just analyzing my own neuroses, and my own life and anxieties, and diving into the overthinking/overanalyzing brain that I have. It’s kind of giving a microscopic lens into that, from a third-party perspective.
The ‘veil of imagination’ can be taken a few ways, but just generally it has to do with how it is easy for people to get completely lost in the story that we create for ourselves, and as life goes on, getting sucked deeper into that without realizing that we are slowly exiting the real world. We are exiting the feelings and emotions that come with being alive, and we are just falling into an inward, false reality. That trap that is kind of easy to fall into – I’ve found myself falling into it, and I’m sure other people have too. Losing what it means to be a living person. So it’s a veil, because it takes over everything, and it’s easy to let your imagination run to when you aren’t really existing properly in the world anymore. That’s generally what the record about, and each song is like a different take or different perspective on that idea.
Dead Rhetoric: Going back to what you were saying before with moving away from the more standard folk metal sound – do you feel that you have come to terms with Wilderun’s sound or what you feel defines the band?
Berry: I don’t know, it’s hard to say. It’s one of those things where I am totally happy with how this record sounds, and it feels the most natural of the three records so far. I’m totally happy with the first two records, but at least for me and I think I can say for perhaps the rest of the band, is that we had this idea in our heads that we were a ‘folk metal band.’ It was our initial assumption, and of course we wanted to expand upon it and change it.
I would say that Sleep at the Edge of the Earth does a number of twists and turns, but it is still very much folk metal. I think for this record, we stopped putting that framework around it in our heads. There’s still a lot of things that come across as folky, but it wasn’t so much of a pre-conceived “okay, this is a folk metal thing.” The parts that are folky just naturally came out that way, and then there are parts that aren’t.
I would say that we are feeling natural and good about this record sounds, but the way that we work is that I doubt it will be a thing where we find a sound, and then stick with it for all of the rest of our records. We may, or we may not. We are a bit restless in terms of the way we make music. I don’t know if this is the sound that will define the band for a long period, or if it will simply define this one record. I guess we will see.
Dead Rhetoric: Based on how Sleep was received, I would imagine that you must have gotten at least a couple of offers for record deals. Do you aim to stay independent as a band?
Berry: The main reason why we have been sitting on this record for so long, and honestly would have released it earlier – we had talks with a few pretty good labels and unfortunately nothing came about with it. We are very open to looking at contracts, and talking about collaboration, but sadly nothing ever stuck. We had a few times where we would get in contact with an A&R person, and they would talk with the ‘team,’ because I don’t know how labels work, but it seems there has to be a team that all has to agree upon a project/signing. This probably happened at least three or more times, when we had a guy or two at a label that were really into it, then they would come back in like a month or even two months later and say that they tried to sell it to the team and they just didn’t go for it. There wasn’t much explanation.
We had another label where a guy contacted us out of the blue and wanted to talk with us about signing, and it was a pretty good label, so we were excited. We talked for a few weeks, and then he just disappeared. Fell off the face of the earth to us, and never responded to anything else. It’s been a confusing, frustrating process to be honest. Even after talking to a few labels and people, I still don’t know how it works. I don’t know what labels are looking for and what they are not. I’m sure having songs of an average of 8-9 minutes isn’t the biggest selling point. But you know what, it’s one of those things where I think it’s for the best. You hear horror stories about bands getting signed and getting wrapped up into agreements that are not in their favor. Maybe it’s for the best, but we are just doing what we can with what we are getting. We are making the best of it.
We eventually got to the point, after so many talks with labels, where we said that if we kept doing this, the album wasn’t going to come out for another 4 years. We had to put our foot down and just put it out. Luckily, with the fanbase we have created, it’s pretty solid. It seems like it is going well regardless.
Dead Rhetoric: In talking with other bands, it seems that if you have a more unique sound that doesn’t check off a certain number of boxes, it’s tougher to sell you as a product. I would almost wager it’s something more along those lines.
Berry: There’s no disrespect, honestly. Right now, with the album-making business, it’s tough. It’s probably hard to want to invest your money in something that you aren’t sure of. I don’t know the state of it this year, but it seems in general like things aren’t great for the record-selling business. I don’t blame them really [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about the poetry inclusions from T.S. Eliot and William Wordsworth.
Berry: Continuing with that theme of losing your grip on the source of reality, I felt like those poems sort of encompassed a lot of that. The beginning poem is about remembering back to childhood and times when it was easier to have a real, vibrant connection to everything around you. Not going as far inward and being so consumed by your own thoughts and stories. I felt that first one really captured that [Wordsworth].
The Eliot poem, which is what the last song is named from [When the Fire and the Rose Were One], is about an attempt at seeing some hope and getting through that – reconnecting to the nature world. I think the Eliot poem is more open to interpretation than the Wordsworth one. You can take that one in a few ways. The whole record up to that last song is about going deeper down into the recesses of your head. The last song is more of a flashback to memories where that didn’t exist. I felt like that [Eliot] poem was just a perfect culmination of that idea.
Dead Rhetoric: I’m not sure how much you have been paying attention to this, but do you feel that there’s been more US-based folk metal acts since you guys started up Wilderun?
Berry: Unfortunately, I don’t know if I know. I am pretty bad at keeping up with the scene. I find specific records by specific bands, and they seem to vary widely as far as what genre they are. There are a lot of good, smaller folk metal bands that we have played with. We’ve toured with Aether Realm a bunch now, and there are a bunch of other great ones that we have played with all across the country. But it doesn’t seem like there’s much growth happening for a lot of those bands as far as anyone really breaking out of a small, local scene. That’s not necessarily good or bad, depending on what the band wants to do. It seems like there are lots of little pockets that are devoted to the genre, and as far as I can tell, it still seems to be pretty strong in those pockets.
As far as a nationwide thing, if it has been growing, I don’t think I’ve noticed it. It seems like the whole folk metal thing was a bigger phenomenon 10 years ago. That was when those really big names were getting bigger – if you see bigger national tours with folk metal bands, it seems like it’s most of the same bands. Maybe a smaller one gets a supporting slot. That’s all I’ve seen, but it’s worth noticing that I can be ignorant. Life gets busy and I’m not paying as much attention to it.
Dead Rhetoric: I was just thinking, you’ve posted that one group picture from over a year ago when you were recording the album – have you been just busy with getting the album out there or have you started writing anything new since then?
Berry: [Laughs] The album number 4 picture – we posted that because we thought it would be funny to confuse everyone. But Jon [Teachey] and I are working on new material already. There’s lots more already in the bank right now. At a certain point, you have to keep writing. We figured a lot of the label stuff was out of our hands, and if it was going to work it would take time. We didn’t want to get to the end of it and not have new material ready to go, just because the process of getting this record out was taking so long. For me personally, I wanted to keep writing. I just do it in my free time anyways.
Then it got to a point of demoing stuff a little bit, putting it together with some drums. Everything is still in its infancy, but there are a few ideas for a few different records already started. I’m very proud and excited about Veil of Imagination, but I’ve heard it so many times by now. It’s bizarre to be sick of a record that no one has heard [laughs] but I guess that’s usually what happens with any band. We are going to keep pushing ourselves forward, no matter what is happening.
Dead Rhetoric: You have some release shows coming up – what else can fans look forward to next year?
Berry: We have a few shows in November, some local northeast stuff. We are definitely going to be touring next year. Nothing that I can announce yet, but look to springtime and we’ll be trying to do as many dates as we can. Hopefully we’ll hook up with another band that we can tour around with. As it has been requested, we are trying to get vinyl out there too. I can almost guarantee it, but it’s not 100% yet. We will most likely be getting it out soon.