From the UK comes Messenger, a band comprised of Khaled Lowe (guitar, vocals), Barnaby Maddick (guitar, vocals), Jaime Gomez Arellano (drums), Dan Knight (guitar, keyboards), and James Leach (bass). Chances are you might not have heard of these guys yet, but with the release of their fine debut for Svart Records, Illusory Blues, there's a good bet that their brand of folky, poppy, psychedelic prog will catch on with many fans who frequent this website. Khaled and Jaime Gomez sat down Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo to talk about the band, their new album, touring & future plans.
SoT: Illusory Blues was a pleasant surprise, and another quite diverse release on the Svart Records roster. Can you tell our readers a little bit about Messenger and how you guys got together?
Khaled: Barnaby and I had been jamming with a whole range of people for a while and built up a large portfolio of various musical sketches; I had met Gomez a while before; and we decided to go into the studio together to record a demo of some of our songs. Once we entered the studio; there was a lot of chemistry between the 3 of us; we reworked some old ideas; we worked on some new ones, and we ended up with an album. Dan and James had both played with myself and Gomez in the past, so it made sense for them to join Messenger for the live show; now they are permanent members, and Messenger is a real band.
SoT: There are plenty of progressive rock, folk, psych, and pop elements throughout the album. What are the backgrounds of the band members, and was this style what you originally intended, or did it just morph into it?
Khaled: There was absolutely no preconceived "style" that we aimed for with this album. Some of the earlier versions of the songs that appeared hear had a totally different feel when they appeared as demo recordings that were done elsewhere. The "Messenger" sound was definitely born at Orgone Studios. We all love a lot of music; well-known bands and obscure ones as well. Between the 5 of us; we really love everything from 70's prog, psych and funk through to ambient music, folk, metal, indie, electro, jazz, etc… So I guess the sounds that appear on the album just happened; we definitely did not try to "sound" progressive or psychedelic, etc.. The members primarily come from backgrounds of 'heavy' music.
SoT: The use of violin, flute, keyboards, and acoustic guitars worked wonders on these songs you have written. How hard was it to layer all these sounds to get the desired effect on your compositions?
Gomez: They were just ideas that came up as we went. We did a lot of writing and re arranging in the studio. I've worked and performed with a few avant-garde/art rock bands such as Ulver, Mothlite, Guapo for years so I'm very used to layering different instruments. As we were recording, I would start hearing layers and arrangements in my head. Then I'd get the session guys in (flute/violin/keys) to work on the parts. We had the opportunity to work with some very talented people really understood what we were trying to do.
SoT: This is also an impressive album from a vocal perspective-was there any inspiration on that end, say perhaps from The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Anathema, etc?
Khaled: Growing up my mum was a big fan of Queen and my dad of The Beatles so their music was played a lot. I noticed that I loved hearing voices layered on top of each other. I loved Alice In Chains as much as Pink Floyd growing up; and even now; bands like Fleet Foxes... there really is something about a good vocal harmony that puts a smile on my face.
SoT: Some of the drumming is more hard rock based, which almost contrasts with the folky/prog nature of the arrangements, but it works. Can you comment on that aspect?
Gomez: Again, this wasn't planned. I just heard the part and played what felt right for it. I guess it's just my style. I really like classic drummers such as Billy Cobham, John Bonham and Ian Paice.
SoT: What are some of your musical influences, both past & present?
Khaled: We all love a lot of different genres of music, old and new. For me personally; I like different pockets/scenes – like 90's hardcore/punk, late '60's psych/prog, 70's funk… honestly; it would be such a long list if you asked us individually. If it has soul; if it evokes feelings or conveys emotions; then we like it.
SoT: Does the band have any live appearances planned in support of the album?
Khaled: Yes, we are playing on April 2nd in London to promote the release of our album. We are also supporting Katatonia in May on a 10-show European tour; this includes Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, Switzerland and England, which we are very happy about. Also, we have been confirmed for the Camden Rocks festival in London on May 31st.
SoT: As I mentioned earlier, Messenger are an interesting fit on a diverse roster with Svart. Are you familiar with some of your label mates?
Khaled: Yes, absolutely. Gomez has worked with great bands like Oranssi Pazuzu and Hexvessel. I've also seen bands like Sabbath Assembly and Jess and The Ancient Ones live at Roadburn festival in Tilburg in he last couple few years. The new Beastmilk record is great as well. Svart rules!
SoT: My first few listens of the album made me think that just about any fan of lush prog rock would certainly find much of interest-would you say that's a fair assessment, and will you (and your label) market it towards fans of that genre?
Khaled: We're very glad you appreciate it. At the moment, we're getting a lot of exposure thanks to Prog Rock magazine, and many of the reviews of the album compare us to Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and other bands that fall into this "prog" realm both old and new. We'd never decided we wanted to be a "prog rock" band per se, but since we all revere such a wide range of artists in so many genres of music, we will inevitably be influenced by a lot of music, even if subconsciously… It's a funny old expression, and it's become so all-encompassing that it's difficult to say what it means any more.
SoT: What does the future hold for Messenger? Will this be an actual band or more of a project that pops up every couple of years?
Khaled: Only time will tell! At the moment we are very happy that the album has been well received and we are stoked to be hitting the road and playing some great venues. If we can keep writing and playing and recording the way we want to in the future, then that would be wonderful.
(Click here to read our review of Illusory Blues)