With their third album A Billion Years of Solitude, Sky Architect have injected a healthy dose of science fiction lyrical themes as well as space rock musical tendencies into their already formidable style of progressive rock. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with guitarist Wabe Wieringa to talk about the history of this intriguing band from The Netherlands, their brilliant new album, and future touring plans.
SoT: It's been three years since the band burst on the scene with 2010's Excavations of the Mind, and now you have just released your third album A Billion Years of Solitude. Can you talk a little bit about the early history of the band, what your were all doing before, how you all met, and what led to the formation of Sky Architect?
Wabe Wieringa: We met during our time at the conservatoire in Rotterdam, we were all studying there to become professional musicians/producers. Rik, Chris and me started jamming together and had a good vibe going. We met Tom and Guus later during our studying years. Forming a band felt like a good thing to do at the time! We had the same idea about how music should be made (all knobs to 12, as you all know) and quickly became good friends.
SoT: Is there any specific meaning behind the name Sky Architect?
Wabe Wieringa: Not really. We did think about what would be a good name for our band for a while, and came up with Sky Architect. It fits our music pretty well; dreamy and atmospheric at times but always structured and thoroughly thought through.
Our first 'name', when Tom and Guus weren't in the picture yet, was Seraphine, but we thought that name was too metal so we ditched it.
SoT: Stylistically speaking, each of the 3 albums have a different feel & flavor, touching on all aspects of progressive rock. On your Facebook page you state that you'd like fans to be open minded about your music and not necessarily use labels to describe you. How do you best describe the music on each of your three releases, to fans who have yet to hear your music?
Wabe Wieringa: Yeah, labels don't do us any good.
Our first album, 'Excavations of your mind', is the most complex album of the 3. Our debut album is full of heavy and long compositions, has the most twists and most influences. It sounds rough and unpolished, the way we wanted it then. We play hard and chaotic, just like the concept behind the album. All songs are about the dark and disturbed psyche of a mentally troubled man, and you can hear that. There are some soft passages on the album, but they all sound daunting, building up to the next storm. We were experimenting a lot during the recording of 'Excavations..', in the studio with lots of different sounds and in the compositions themselves.
The second album, 'A dying man's hymn', is a even more of a concept album in every sense of the word. In addition to an adventurous story about a man trying to find redemption for his evil deeds, all songs are musically related as well. There are numerous themes and melodies returning to further enhance the conceptually nature of the album. The album is divided in 3 suites, and every part has its own vibe. The first suite sounds light and adventurous, with long easy passages and almost Flower King like choruses. The second suite is the most heavy one, with screaming guitars and lots of interesting rhythms. The last suite is daunting and sounds like the story won't end well. Overall the sound is much more mellow then 'Excavations..', more natural and clean. We recorded the album in the dark woods in Sweden, and you can hear that as well.
And our latest release, 'A billion years of solitude'.. Well, its SPACETASTIC. Really, we encourage you to get yourselves a copy soon!
SoT: Though the new album A Billion Years of Solitude does contain plenty of symphonic as well as heavy arrangements, I've detected a futuristic, almost space-rock element creeping into the music, that gives the songs a Hawkwind/Eloy/Pink Floyd flavor at times. Was this intentional, seeing as the lyrical content of the songs are more in a science fiction direction?
Wabe Wieringa: Yes, this is what we were aiming for. We made the album not with any bands or particular sounds in mind, but we did want it to shout SPACE all over the place. We were inspired by sci-fi movies/shows of the '60s and on, but also by books and in general by looking up at the sky. The lyrics have indeed all been infused with sci-fi-ness, and are about future generations, space travelers, aliens and the like, and so on.
SoT: There are a few long form/epic compositions on the new CD that are some of the best the band has ever conceived-can you comment a little on the work that went into songs like "The Curious One", "Traveler's Last Candle", and "Elegy of a Solitary Giant"? Were these full band compositions?
Wabe Wieringa: Thanks! I think the whole thing started with the first notes of 'The curious one'. We were toying with the idea of making an album loaded with science fiction themes, sounds and adventures, and those lines were the first to pop up. A typical Sky architect song starts with a blueprint of a complete song in one of our heads, which we work out with the 5 of us. We mostly write our own instrument parts for a song, and try to make it work together the best we can. In the case of 'The curous one' and 'Traveller's…' the song blueprint started in my head, think of it as couple of riffs, some chord progressions, some lyrical themes etc.. We start jamming together until something cohesive forms, then later we would start working on lyrics and melodies.
A funny side note; The curious one (and in our imagination the whole album) started out as a story about a planet-eating alien devouring whole solar systems trying to find his home world, but we couldn't find enough room in the song (funny 'cause its almost 20 min long) to support the story, now it contains just fragments of this idea.
SoT: Rik van Honk delivers plenty of dazzling, vintage keyboard sounds on the album. Were all classic instruments, such as Mellotron, Rhodes, Moog, etc, used, or were these created using samples on more modern synths & keyboards?
Wabe Wieringa: We're big fans of real instruments, so we did our best to get the real thing. All vintage keys are recorded in one of the biggest vintage keys studios in Europe/world, EP-service studio here in Holland (http://www.ep-serivce.nl). The guy who runs the place, Marcel Groot, is a genius and helped us getting the right sounds. He has every instrument you can imagine there, but Rik mainly used the B3 hammond, Fender Rhodes and an original Mellotron there. All piano parts where recorded there as well, on a beautiful Yamaha upright piano. Some vintage synths were used for the last track on the album, Traveller's last candle. And Rik owns his own Moog analog synth for all the other synth parts.. There're a lot of them on the album, for all the space/laser/noise sounds! But the most sounds come from his own Clavinet, a brilliant instrument which can sound like a screaming hot guitar or a flying duck...
SoT: In order to create music this challenging and at times vintage prog sounding, you obviously need to have an understanding & love for the classic bands who helped create the genre and those who have kept it alive all throughout the years. What are some of the classic, as well as new bands on the scene, that the band likes and follows?
Wabe Wieringa: Well, our musical taste is very wide and diverse. To be honest I think none of us are really following the real 'prog' out there. We are exceptionally open-minded about music and follow everything we find interesting, whatever label is printed on an artist. Some bands we all love and sometimes refer to when making music are Gentle Giant and Änglagard for sure. Nowadays we also find ourselves enjoying some Beardfish albums, as well as The death defying unicorn album, which is absolutely amazing.
SoT: The new CD has some great artwork-who did all the great all the great visuals on the album?
Wabe Wieringa: The artwork is home-made by our very own man-behind-the-keys Rik van Honk. We just didn't have any budget for this album, so we were forced to do it ourselves. We really liked how the whole product turned out to look/sound/feel like. I think we decided it's going to be like this for future releases as well, why not use the skills we have in the band! We really loved the art Mark Wilkinson did on our other releases tough.
SoT: Other than some notable festivals, does the band do a lot of live shows in the Netherlands & Europe? For those of us who have never seen the band live, what does a Sky Architect concert bring, both musically & visually?
Wabe Wieringa: Unfortunately, we're playing on stage as much as we'd like to. We're a very energetic live act and we feel like our music really shines on stage. We can be more explosive and more dynamic then on the albums, and we really love to explore the boundaries of jamming and improvisation on stage. We are planning new shows for 2014 to promote the new album, so hopefully some of you are able to come see us live. For those who really would like to see us play live, we have a video of us playing the 20min long epic 'Deep Chasm' live on stage in our YouTube channel.
SoT: Prog fans here in the US unfortunately don't get a lot of opportunities to see too many international bands on the live circuit-if you were to pick two other current bands from your area of the world to tour North America on a small package tour, who would they be and why?
Wabe Wieringa: We played with Agents of mercy a couple of times now, so we wouldn't mind touring with the flower kings as well, as they are such nice folks. I think we would fit nicely along beardfish , since we're about the same age too. I think we touch the same musical areas as well. But in the end, we wouldn't mind playing alongside any artist, it's our music and our joy in spreading our music that we would like to share with the world.
Sot: Sky Architect has now released three albums and played at some prestigious prog festivals-what does the next 1-2 years hold for the band, and what can we expect in the years to come?
Wabe Wieringa: We're not sure yet.. We hope to play a lot of festivals and other places to promote the new album in 2014, we're trying to get some things arranged now. As an all DYI band getting getting those things done can be tricky, but we try our best. In the summer we're probably going to write new stuff for a 4th album, maybe even record it.. World domination is next of course (we have lasers,,)
(Click here to read our reviews of A Billion Years of Solitude)