Sea of Tranquility staff writer Carl Sederholm recently caught up via email with the guys from Secrets of the Sky. For readers who don't know this band yet, their debut album To Sail Black Waters comes out internationally in early October 2013. The band also begins a tour on October 4th. The early reviews of To Sail Black Waters have been positive all around. Be sure to check out our review as well.
SoT: To Sail Black Waters is already getting lots of positive press (including from our site) and it hasn't even come out yet. What are people saying about the album in general? What do you hope fans will think about the album?
Clayton Bartholomew (Guitars/Keys): First off, thanks to you and SOT for reviewing the record… you really nailed a lot of things, seems like you got what we were trying to do for the most part. I think a lot of folks have agreed that it is the kind of album that should be listened to from start to finish in order to be fully appreciated. All the reviews so far have been very kind and most have mentioned that we tend to cross genre boundaries fairly often but that it doesn't seem forced- which is a nice compliment considering we didn't have genres in mind during the writing.
SoT: What were your thoughts about the album and the music while you were writing and recording it? Did you ever think you had something that would be so strongly received?
Clayton: We started writing this record back in 2011 and finished recording it in late 2012. I think Chris (Anderson, guitars/keys) and myself along with Lance (Lea, drums) had most of the music worked out prior to finding Garett for vocals as well as rounding out the line up with Andy (Green, guitars) and Ryan (Healy, bass). We definitely wrote the music to tell a story instrumentally and at first flirted with the idea of keeping it free of vocals… so we had dynamics and feeling as a high priority while writing. Ultimately, getting Garett on board brought out all these new aspects and really helped tie the whole thing together. To be honest, we weren't sure if people would like it or not. It really isn't a doom album… or a black metal album… or prog for that matter. So I guess there may have been some doubt, at least on my part, as to whether people would accept it for what it is. Even if nobody liked it and it got completely slagged, we still wrote the record for ourselves and we are all still happy with it which is most important. The fact that people are actually really digging it and getting what we set out to do is amazing and humbling.
SoT: To Sail Black Waters is your debut album. Are there any shorter releases out there?
Clayton: Nope. This was our first attempt at writing together and we decided to go full length with it. Of course, there were tons of songs that didn't make the cut, but this is the only recorded thing we have done to date. Due to the fact that we actually recorded this record over a year ago and it's just now coming out, we have most of the next record already written. But I guess that will have to wait for a while before being recorded and released.
SoT: Tell us a little more about Secrets of the Sky. What is the story behind your name? What are some of the influences fans may hear on your album?
Clayton: We get this question a lot and I think our stock answer tends to frustrate some interviewers… because basically, there is a meaning behind the name of the band, we just don't want to reveal it yet. I think there are concepts at play with "To Sail Black Waters" that will be explored even more deeply on the next record and more of the pieces will start to fall into place and make sense, including the band name. As for influences, I think each of us draw inspiration from a wide array of sources… horror movies and books for instance.
Garett Gazay (Vocals): If we put the puzzle together for everyone who asks, our work would be in vain. It's about the journey of the listener, you know? We also tend to avoid comparing ourselves to any other band. We haven't ever publicly compared ourselves to anything. We like to let others draw their own conclusions.
SoT: You guys have a West Coast tour going on right now with In the Silence. How are the shows going? What kind of touring plans do you have later in the year and / or next year? Any sign of breaking into the festival circuit?
Clayton: We actually leave on October 4th for that tour. Most of those shows are going to be great I think… all of the bands we are playing with are amazing so we are excited about it. We are talking to some booking agents about doing a more extensive run early next year as well. Not sure about festivals or Europe at the moment, though we would love to do that… hopefully at some point!
SoT: My first impression of the album was that it had a thematic consistency to it, maybe that it's even a concept album about dark magic, conjuring, and so forth. What was the vision for this album? Was it based on a concept? If so, what was it?
Clayton: I think there are conceptual elements that tie the album together. Themes that run throughout which we will continue to develop on the next album. Probably not like a traditional story, something a little more abstract.
Garett: This album's lyrics were born from the inside of my eyelids; still moments alone in the darkness, headphones transmitting the pre-recorded instrumental tracks into my mind over and over. After a while pictures began to develop to the sound and concepts were realized. There are so many different references to "occult" experiences that I've had, it takes someone getting down with the lyrics to see what I'm getting at, I explain those visions to the best of my ability in these tracks. I think one that makes itself clear to a degree of ease is 'Black Waters'.
SoT: I noticed that your lyrics sometimes incorporated ideas from H. P. Lovecraft in them. I was especially interested in the part from "Black Waters" that says "That is not dead which can eternal lie and with strange aeons even death may die." What is your interest in H. P. Lovecraft and how do you see his work factoring into your music? I am very interested in the connections between Lovecraft and metal. The fit seems so natural.
Garett: Lovecraft has always been fascinating to me. In his writing he seemed to capture some of my very own visions of other worlds, shrouded in mystery and paradox. I don't know what connections LC has for other musicians, only my own. He had a unique gift to see into realms, so deeply forgotten... I share one of my own Lovecraft-type visions in the middle section of 'Black Waters' where I describe a place that is not a place, in a time that is not a time, where a soul becomes trapped forever in a realm of ancient and wicked beings... The rest is up to the listener.
SoT: Your cover art is very striking. Who designed it? How does the cover set up the theme of "To Sail Black Waters?"
Clayton: An artist by the name of Michael Reynolds over in Australia designed it. We came across his painting on an art website and it just struck us how well it captured the vibe of the record… we tend to incorporate water as one of those recurring elements. A sense of drowning or sinking comes out when you listen to the record (at least for us anyways) and so it fits pretty good I guess.
Garett: When I first saw the artwork, I thought, "Fallen from grace, to the darkest depths of the earth." In my view, this is the statement of the record. This narrative was true before I joined the band.
SoT: What else would you like our readers to know about you guys?
Clayton: We released a video for the song "Decline" last week, directed by Andrew Nethery. We think it turned out nicely and it is posted on the Secrets of the Sky You Tube channel. Other than that, the record comes out first week of October and if any readers are located in the Western US, we would love to see you at a show on the upcoming tour. Thanks for checking out the band!
Garett: We are looking forward to bringing this music to you in its entirety. It's been a long road for us with this one and it just keeps getting longer, but all the support and enthusiasm we've received from our friends, fans and from the press keeps our fires lit. Thank you.
(Click here to read our review of To Sail Black Waters)