Primarily known for reissuing out-of-print metal gems, Divebomb Records does, in fact, work with contemporary artists, too. When I had the opportunity to check out Lunar's hour-long nine-track debut full-length, Theogony, a few months ago, I immediately knew that I wanted to help spread the word. I had been listening to a lot of early- to mid-'90s "alternative" or "not quite" metal at that time, and something about the Sacramento, CA outfit's approach brought to mind the same characteristics that excited me about that particular niche—progressive without coming across as typically "proggy," metal without directly relying on a traditionally "metal" type of sound or approach, etc.
Each of the album's compositions is inspired by one of The Nine Muses of Greek mythology, "Euterpe" being the longest—and one of the most diverse—at nearly 12 minutes: sure to impress with its absolutely gorgeous singing and emotionally gripping melodies contrasted by sparse growls and the occasional Morningrise era Opeth-ism—not to mention the fabulous production's emphasis on natural warmth and a prominent rhythm section. Hear for yourself below—and pre-order Theogony now—followed by a discussion with drummer Alex Bosson that provides more insight as to how this ambitious album came to be...
The promo text for Theogony touches upon how you came to be inspired to explore The Nine Muses of Greek mythology throughout the album, but I'd like to have you go into a little more detail as to how that decision came about, how the concept affected your approach to the writing process, and so on.
It's a funny—bordering on embarrassing—story. I was texting someone and the autocorrect on my phone turned the word "melancholy" into "Melpomene." I thought, "What the hell does 'Melpomene' mean?" So, I looked it up. That's how I discovered The Nine Muses. At the time this happened, Ryan [Erwin, guitars and vocals] and I had already started writing some of the music, but not any of the lyrics. When I discovered what each of these Muses represented, I thought that these nine topics really cover most of the emotions and inspirations for creative output in the world. I thought it would really help aid the diversity of the music and lyrics I wanted to write to have each song cover one of these topics, so it just made sense to name each song after one the Muses. It almost made the lyric-writing a little easier in some ways to know that each song was to be centered around one specific subject, and I feel it may have even opened me up in lyric-writing by making me touch on certain topics I likely wouldn't have addressed otherwise.
The music itself was already pretty diverse and progressive even before I had this idea, but after the concept came in it made certain ideas flow easier for me. Like when I'd hear a riff Ryan would write and I'd say, "That riff is super tragic-sounding, it has to go in 'Melpomene'." Or the main riff in "Terpsichore" may have been something that didn't get used had I not had this idea. In a normal music-writing scenario for me, I feel like I would've said, "That's cool, but I don't know how to use it," but with this concept in mind, it instantly felt like it belonged in the song for the Muse of choral song and dance.
We're premiering "Euterpe," named after the Muse of music. Being the longest track on the album at nearly 12 minutes, it makes perfect sense that it's representative of the band's diversity. What would you share when asked about this composition in particular—musically, lyrically, etc.?
Originally, when writing "Euterpe," I had the idea for it to be an instrumental track. I thought I wanted to play up the idea of it being the Muse of music and showcase only music, so I wanted it to be the most diverse and progressive song of the whole album. That's probably why it ended up being nearly 12 minutes. But, "Euterpe" is actually the Muse of both music and lyric poetry. As the song progressed, Ryan and I both felt it needed vocals, so it felt natural to play up both sides of that in the end... and I'm really glad I did! The vocal performance on that track is probably one of my favorite ones on the entire album. Lyrically, I wrote it to showcase two things: 1. the lyric poetry side of things, which I feel is showcased in a lot of the parts that talk about the music the world makes around us every day; and 2. what music does to me personally—the way that it affects my emotions and outlook on the world. How myself—and so many others out there—can find their entire reason for existing in music; hence lines like, "Turn to me to find your tomorrow." I don't consider myself the best lyricist, but I think this is lyrically one of my favorite tracks on the album.
A significant number of guest musicians contributed to Theogony. Talk about some of the contributors, what it was like to pull all of that together logistically, how these outside perspectives affected the material, etc.
It's remarkable to me how many incredible musicians I was able to get to contribute to this album! On this album, I played the role of what you would imagine as a "director," I suppose. So, often, I would line up these musicians and go through the songs and say, "Okay, where would this person's style fit best?" I got incredibly lucky, because all of these people that contributed are not only extremely talented, but they were super easy to work with! Some of the guest musicians are people that are friends of mine—like Brian Lewis, Kosta from Hatriot, and Chad from my other band Helion Prime. When I was doing this, I got some recommendations from [Helion Prime guitarist] Jason Ashcraft, and he got me in touch with a few guys that did guest solos on the self-titled Helion Prime album—like Taylor Washington and Ryan Panate. Then, some of the musicians are bigger-name guys that I hadn't even talked to before doing this. We live in a wonderful day and age for music and collaboration, as I was able to just contact these guys through Facebook, hire them, tell them what I wanted, they would get the track from me, record their part in their home studios, and send me the stems. Easy as that! I was able to get these absolutely astonishing musicians from around the world to contribute that way—like the French horns from Marc Papeghin and the violins from Tomáš Štěpánek. Plus, I was able to get guys who I am a huge fan of, like Charles Caswell from Berried Alive and Angel Vivaldi himself! I'm so honored that these guys were willing to contribute to my album, and I think each of their unique styles and having so many different musicians really helped to showcase more of the diversity of the album.
Are Ryan Price (bass) and Chandler Mogel (vocals) full-on members of Lunar now? Everything worked out wonderfully in the end, but it sounds like it was a struggle to put together a complete lineup for the completion of the album.
The lineup was definitely a struggle at first, as I was really trying to turn this into a full lineup with which we could do rehearsals and live shows. But, it's so hard to find guys who are gonna want to do the same style of music as you when you limit yourself to local searches. After I accepted that that wasn't gonna happen, it became much easier because I could outsource any part to anyone I wanted in any part of the world. Ryan Price is a good friend of mine, whom I've known about half my life. He and Chandler Mogel are both professional session musicians, so they were hired to perform on this album. Chandler I did not know prior to doing this album, but he is incredibly talented and was awesome to work with! He lives out in New York, I believe; while Erwin, Price, and I all live in different parts of Northern California. So, I wouldn't really consider them full-on members of Lunar. However, if and when it comes time to make Lunar album #2, I really hope I can work with Erwin, Price, and Mogel all again—not only for the consistency of the sound of the band, but also because these guys are all incredibly talented!
How did you get hooked up with Divebomb Records for this release?
As I mentioned earlier, I also drum for Helion Prime. Prior to us signing with AFM Records, the band was on Divebomb Records. I had shown Jason Ashcraft the Lunar album when I finished it, and he had suggested to me that I show it to Matt at Divebomb, so Jason got me in touch with him. Lucky for me, Matt seemed to think that the Lunar album was good, and I was able to negotiate a contract with him. I'm absolutely thrilled to be a part of his label, and I take it as a huge compliment that even though the roster doesn't feature a ton of prog bands, Matt and the other guys at Divebomb believe in and support what I'm doing enough to have signed me on! They have been so great to work with. I'm really grateful for the opportunity, and excited to be able to release this album through this awesome label!
I can certainly hear the comparisons to Porcupine Tree and Opeth in your sound, but Lunar is far more than just a progressive rock or metal band. In fact, a good portion of Theogony is not particularly "heavy" (musically speaking). As a wide-ranging fan of music myself, I'd love to know where else you're drawing inspiration or influence from—if nothing else, it could provide me with some additional music to dig into and explore as a listener!
First off, thank you for saying that! Yes, Opeth and Porcupine Tree are some of my favorite bands in the world, but I think it's important in the music world to appreciate all genres of music. Even if it's not something as a whole that you love, you can find influence and inspiration in so many different things—a drum beat, a vocal melody, a lyrical concept, etc. I was watching TV a couple months ago and saw a performance by a pop star called The Weeknd and I was really impressed! Earlier tonight, I was listening to Puscifer. Ryan and I are big fans of all of Maynard's bands (you can likely hear a lot of Tool influence in Lunar stuff, too). Before that, I was listening to Rick Astley, and before that Necrophagist. As a drummer, I love watching drum videos and I've been really digging Anika Nilles lately. She's incredible! My favorite drum warm-up song when I'm playing is "Harder to Breathe," by Maroon 5. The last concert I went to was Tears for Fears, which was amazing! Next week, I'm going to see Incubus. In my youth—and still to this day—I think Make Yourself is an amazing and quite progressive album.
So, as you can see, I'm kinda all over the place musically. However, most of the time I love listening to other progressive rock and metal bands. That's what is in my heart. I love hearing albums that showcase diversity and individuality throughout. I have really been loving Ayreon lately. Arjen [Lucassen, multi-instrumentalist] is such an incredible musician, composer, and storyteller! I love what he does with outsourcing parts to so many different vocalists and musicians to really get the album done right, as I feel I did something very similar with this Lunar album. [Ayreon's] The Source is easily the best album of 2017 for me so far. I'm very excited to get To the Bone, by Steven Wilson, when it comes out. A lot of fans have been upset at Steven for going very poppy with this album, but I think that's the wrong way to look at it. If you take off the restriction of "genre," you'll see that the music he's putting out is still incredible! It's emotional, talented, and unique! Another proggy band that I really love these days is Haken. Very musically diverse and extremely talented guys!
Sorry for the long-winded answer, but I thought it was important to say all of that. I think you shouldn't shut down any music based on genre, and in any song or album you ever hear, look for something you can enjoy, appreciate, respect, and draw influence from. That's how you can create something unique in this day when there's just so much music out there.