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Cormorant | Interview

After a line-up shift that would have scuppered lesser bands, San Francisco progressive metal band Cormorant have returned with the glorious ‘Earth Diver’.

It’s an album that’s rife with scents of late ‘90s Opeth, tinges of Enslaved and black metal’s melodic tendencies but performed with an identity all of the band’s own.

Guitarist Matt Solis talks to Metal Ireland about finding their new vocalist, writing such diverse sounds and staying proudly independent.

Interview by Jonathan Keane.


‘Earth Diver’ encompasses a lot of different genres and tones, from black metal to doom. Is this sort of variety your intention from the beginning? Give us an insight into how you write.

From an outsider’s perspective it might seem like we’re trying to do like… ok, this part’s a doom part, this part’s black metal.

The way we write is not like that at all. It’s very organic and the riffs come first. I think the reason it sounds like that is because there’s so many writers in the band.

It’s not like one person is taking hold and this song is mine and this song is yours. All four of us have a lot of ideas and opinions on what certain parts should sound like. That’s where our rehearsal comes in, we’re all talking about the songs and we all have our opinions.

I think the diverse sound comes from that. It also comes from being influenced by a myriad of different music and not just metal.

Nick is super into Americana music and old bluegrass. He comes at it from a different perspective than me and I listen to all sorts of underground metal.

I think that sort of influences the way we write riffs and that in turn comes out [as] different sounding riffs. Then we put them all together and we to make them flow coherently in between each other even though there might be a black metal part following a doom part.

That’s not traditionally done with this type of music but we focus on transitions and making it work as best we can

You’re a proudly independent band and maintained a DIY attitude to Cormorant but has the opportunity to work with a label ever come up?

The opportunity has come up many times. It was announced [recently] that we’re doing a vinyl deal [for ‘Earth Diver’] with Blood Music and they’re in Finland so that’s going to be cool and it’s been a huge goal we’ve had for a long time, getting our stuff out on vinyl.

The way that deal came about was really straight-forward. I talked to the label boss and it was a real basic deal and that’s basically why we’ve never signed a deal because these deals that we see are just too much.

The autonomy that you lose from signing a record deal in this day and age, if it’s not the right record deal, it’s just not worth it. As a band that’s connected to our fans, we feel like it’s not right to just sign a shitty deal so we don’t have to deal with producing our own CDs and dealing with that end of it.

We’re definitely not opposed to working with a label. It just has to be the right situation and so far we have come close but we haven’t found the right situation to be comfortable.

Being independent is not easy. Nick, Brennan and I all live together and our garage is basically like a shipping centre right now.

We have all of our CDs and merchandise set up in our garage. We have to deal with it every week, sending out packages, we have to deal with everything ourselves, we have to pay for everything ourselves but at the end of the day it gives you 100% control over your product, which is the most important thing to us. We never want it to be out of our hands.

The biggest difficulty is financial.

That being said, if the right deal came along like this Blood Music deal for vinyl, then we wouldn’t be opposed to going with a label.

Any idea of the release date for the vinyl?

The guy is pretty slumped right now so he’s talking about early 2015, so it’s going to be a little while but they’re known for their high-end packaging and putting out products that are really good looking.

We’re pretty stoked that he’s going to take his time and do it right. There’s also talk of doing another album on vinyl but that hasn’t been finalized but that’s one thing we always hear from our fans. Vinyl is where it’s at these days.

Your original bassist and vocalist Arthur von Nagel left the band a little while after 2011’s ‘Dwellings’ came out. What was the background on his departure?

Arthur left pretty soon after we did our east coast and mid-west tour with Primordial. That was back in September 2012, I think it was.

I think he had just been feeling for a while that the touring lifestyle and the type of work that we were going to be doing in the future was not really conducive to what he wanted with his life.

He had just recently got a new job with Telltale Games, which is a video game company here in northern California. He wanted to focus more on that and he had just recently got married as well.

As far as I could tell it was just one of those things where being in a band didn’t really fit with what he wanted to do with the rest of his life so he decided to take a step [back] and decided not to be a part of the band anymore.

So it wasn’t really like a big blowout thing. He pretty much told us how he was feeling and we decided it would be best to part ways.

Did his departure ever throw the band into uncertainty?

No, absolutely not. We had been writing songs for what turned out to be Earth Diver as we were preparing for this tour so we’re always writing new music.

We knew it would be a setback because we would have to find someone who is a good player and also be able to handle dual duties, do vocals and do bass.

Not everybody can do that type of playing so we knew it would be a challenge to get someone else in there but there was never a point where we said ok, I guess that’s it for the band.

Nick [Cohon], Brennan [Kunkel] and I have always been real hands-on with the writing of the music. We always knew it would just be a setback and it would take a while to get back on our feet but we’d definitely be back.

How did new singer Marcus Luscombe become involved?

I actually knew Marcus just from the Bay Area scene. He’s in a band called Vengeance and they’re kind of like a thrash and sort of hardcore band from Oakland.

So I knew him from before but we actually put up an ad on Craigslist that was just looking for musicians. We talked about what we wanted, what our influences were, who we were and he was one of the guys that responded to the ad and I had known him before so that was cool having him come jam.

We tried out a couple of people as we were looking for the replacement and he just fit. He’s a really versatile musician and his original instrument is guitar. He brings a different approach to the bass that ended up working out pretty well and his vocal style is pretty close to what we wanted to do with ‘Earth Diver’.

After Marcus came in, what kind of effect did he have on the creative process for ‘Earth Diver’ or was most of the album written?

We had most of the songs done. The way we write is always changing and flowing and there could be parts of the song that get changed right before we go into the studio. But for the most part when Marcus joined… I think he joined in I want to February or March [2013] and we had been writing since we got back from tour.

Nick, Brennan and I had written and completed most of those songs by the time he joined but he definitely came in with some cool bass ideas that we had not anticipated so we added a lot of his ideas but as far as the songs as a whole, they were pretty much done when he joined.

How do you approach the studio time, especially as you are an independent band?

Recording for the most part… it’s not a long process but the preparation is pretty long for us.

By the time we get into the studio to do the actually album, we have a pretty good idea of what we need to do.

As an independent band, when you’re in the studio time is money so you kind of have to get in and get out. We do a lot of pre-production actually, so in the months before we go into the studio we’ll record all our songs in our own studios.

The studio is more about doing the right performance. The last two records were recorded straight to tape so when you do that the performance comes first because there’s no going back once you have [that].

The drum take for each song is just a straight through drum take so you have to be really prepared. I think with ‘Earth Diver’ we did a total of 11 days and that was spread out over a month.

That way it’s kind of cool because you get some time off from the studio, you can think about mix stuff or certain stuff you’re going to do when you come back like a solo idea that comes up while listening to someone else’s track.

Finally, where do you stand on touring right now?

Marcus is actually on tour with his other band right now in Europe so he had to put some brakes on some plans that we had for the summer. His band got an opportunity to do a good tour in Europe so they took it but we’re definitely planning on getting back out there.

Touring is on the horizon, if not this year than for sure next year and we would also really like to get out to Europe. We’ve been working on that but it’s just logistic stuff.

All four of us work regular jobs so you have to coordinate your real life with the tour life but that’s definitely a goal of ours.

Jonathan Keane ::: 13/05/14

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