KYS: The band has said before that your records always reflect the group as a whole at any given time. So where are you all at now personally and how does that manifest in this new material?
Yes, this album is written in memory of our 7-year-old cousin whose life was tragically taken. It is dedicated to him and his memory, our way to say goodbye and to try to come to terms with this tragic incomprehensible loss. Emotively this is by far the darkest and most personal record we have ever written, reflecting on the dark, traumatic and sombre moments we lived through.
KYS: With 2013’s ‘Origins’, the band were writing with pedals other than acoustic guitar; this obviously represents a shift in how we approach music with technology. What new ground did you explore for the band now with this LP, and where do you see the future of your composition writing going?
We always embrace new and old technology and this album is no exception. Stylistically we introduced a doom-laden guitar sound in sections (tuned to drop A) but with a twist, an Earthquaker Rainbow pedal was used on my guitar which warbles the tuning in and out of tune, that combination really captures the dread and ugliness that some of music was conveying. Rob and Conor (Xenon Field) helped us a lot with post-production and sound design. We wanted the sounds to reflect the subject matter by making them more imperfect.
We put the sounds through various tape devices with bad tracking, the notes warbled in and out of tune, which helped it feel more haunted. Lots of tape saturation was used to make the sounds more stressed. The piano, for example, was processed in a way to sound far more vintage and broken, we recorded it onto an old 4 track Akai recorder and some even onto Ferric tape. They were further processed through a tape echo unit. We wanted the sounds to morph and develop and not be stagnant, the piano to moves sonically throughout the different parts of Epitaph using distortion and filters etc…
We worked tirelessly on the textures using devices like the Niio Iotine Core, Mutronics Mutator and Snazzy FX Tracer City to give the sounds a real Analog flavour. Experimental plugins liked unfiltered audio Spec Ops were used to make the textures unusual and unique to this record. Lots of live amps were also used on this record. Amp simulation equipment didn’t quite fit the style – it had to be raw. Jimmy Scanlon who owns Jimi’s music store helped me out by supplying lots of vintage amps and also played on our record. We used ribbon mics to keep the sound warm and used the lowest guitar tunings possible.
The drums were miked with a pair of Ribbon Coles 4038 which is something we never used before, it gives the drums a dark sound that the music craved for. Analogue mastering was used, we made sure the album was not brick-walled and over enhanced, choosing to ignore the trend of bright and schmaltzy records in favour of something more authentic.
Stylistically writing techniques in the future will depend also on what technology is available but more importantly is depends what life has in store.
KYS: As for the new album, there’s obviously been a family tragedy that’s occurred in your personal lives, which we are incredibly sorry to hear about. But how important has the music been, in retrospect, with dealing with this grief?
Thank you, yes, the record was mainly written in the immediate aftermath. It has reminded me of why we write music in the first place, it’s a therapeutic process, our way of expressing ourselves and trying to come to terms with all of this, music can convey an emotion when our words fail.
KYS: Given that GIAA has now been around for 16 years, and in keeping records coming out nearly every two years, what are the warning signs of ever going through the motions and how have you maybe deal with such times?
There was a 3-year gap for this album, sometimes it might be 2, there was a 1-year gap between Far from Refuge and the S/T alums. I write music when I’m inspired to do so and not to any timetable.
KYS: ‘Epitaph’ sounds very tender, atmospheric and very mournful at times with lots of beautiful piano parts. Talk us through the choice of opting to showcase these sounds on this new LP?
Many of the songs were simply written on a piano – it’s my favourite instrument to write on. It has much more scale than a guitar, much bigger combination of notes. The atmospheres were created to further enhance the mood of the music.
These songs are also far less linear, even for GIAA. There are long pauses in the songs, tribal percussion interludes and more general room to breathe. Walk us through writing a song and not just going loud and heavy straight away and in dynamically holding yourselves back in some ways?
I think both this album and Helios | Erebus have had more complex structures which came naturally while composing the songs. Each song has a story to tell, the title track “Epitaph” contained several different stages of the tragedy that we needed to express. From oppressive darkness, tension (flies section), absolute dread and real-life horror and the last parts are about the grieving and mourning.
KYS: There are a few bands out there also featuring twins, such as The National. How has the musical relationship of the band developed over the years and how has Lloyd been incorporated into that personal and family growth over time?
Myself and Niels get on very well still and we have a good understanding of what we feel is important in our music. Lloyd and ourselves have a very good relationship and we have a lot of loyalty and respect for each other.
KYS: Finally, with this new record, there are some collaborations, as in producing this record with Xenon Field. How far will the collaborative side of the band go again in the future do you think? What kinds of people are you open to working with?
Rob and Conor from Xenon Field were involved in sound design and post-production. I wanted to expand the sound but I got much more from them than I expected. It was fascinating seeing how they work, they had different techniques than mine and I have learned lots from working with them. They manipulated the sounds/tones to further suit the theme of the record, they wanted the album to have a vintage lived-in tone and for the textures to have more depth and detail. We are always open to working with talented people who can see our vision for the band.
God Is An Astronaut’s brand new album, ‘Epitaph’, is out April 27th via Napalm Records.