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I got the chance to interview Unleash the Archers vocalist Brittney Slayes after their recent show in Doornroosje together with Orden Ogan and Rhapsody of Fire. I immediately jumped at the opportunity since I had a few questions about their latest album, Apex and about Canadian music as a whole.
Ok so thank you for your time first of all. How was the show?
Brittney: It was great. Yeah, it was really good. We love the venues here in the Netherlands. Like, they’re just amazing and beyond clean and everyone so helpful so it always helps to make a really great show when you’re relaxed comfortable before.
So to dive into your latest release, Apex, which was a concept album. At what point did you decide to do another concept album?
Brittney: It was from the beginning we knew we wanted to do another concept record. We have been writing Time Stands Still for quite a while before it was actually released so we were actually starting to plan the next record like even before times that so came out and we knew that it was going to be a concept record so right from the get go we were writing with that thought in mind, that we were going to have a story behind it.
Well it seems to me writing concept albums brings well more challenges as opposed to writing just a regular one. Do you feel writing lyrics and/or music to such an album is really more challenging?
Brittney: Sometimes, I mean, in some aspects yes, but we kind of we laid out the whole story in “chapters” beforehand and then use those chapters as the songs. It was really well organized beforehand and so getting the music done it was… I mean, it’s not I’m not saying it was easy, but we sort of had a guideline to follow, so that made it easier. The lyrics actually came quite easily on this one, because I knew exactly what I wanted to say and where the story was going. I just kind of let it flow, knowing exactly what was going to happen already. So yeah, surprisingly, I didn’t have too hard a time on this one. I have been thinking about the record for so long that I knew the characters and every move so well and knowing how I wanted them to act and react. So again it was actually it was easier, I guess.
Interesting. How did the story behind Apex come to life?
Brittney: It started with the main character who we call the Immortal. He’s kind of based, image wise, on this comic book character- I’ve been reading these comic books called East of West- and there is this really dark sort of solitary lone wolf kind of figure and and I just loved the thought of him maybe being in his own story, which was sort of his own fate. So, I took the that guy and kind of made him into my own character and then came up with the matriarch as his adversary and this story really just came out of the two of them and in how I think they would interact and how someone being as powerful as the immortal is meeting someone also as powerful and power hungry as the matriarch and how it would turn out between them. Him being forced to serve her, even though he has so much power of his own. He’s just sort of such a strong character that it’s just the two of them really. it’s that’s where it came from. As for the part of the sons: I needed something that would create multiple songs. So I was like ok, so four sons have to be found as part of this ritual. I knew that I wanted her to be like this power hungry being, constantly searching for immortality and for the next best thing. So this ritual is kind of her be all and end all, her motivation the whole time.
So in Earth and Ashes we actually heard some male vocals, which you usually don’t use unless it’s background vocals. So, who did those vocals?
Brittney: *laughs* That’s Andrew actually. I originally I was thinking that it was going to be screams, because I often write the screams as another voice in the song or sometimes I’ll use them as a subconscious or kind of like someone talking to themselves. I knew that I wanted to have another voice in there but I thought that screams weren’t quite right for that part and then I was just going to do it myself of them, but I was like “hey Andrew, how do you feel about singing this part?” And because it had always been from that other character’s point of view, one of the sons, I just threw him in the studio and I was like “See what you can do,” and he did a great job. So maybe you might hear on the next record. Maybe we’ll get all the guys in there. We did a bit of singing together in the studio on a bonus track that has yet to be released. I guess you’ll get to hear eventually. But yeah it was just kind of a spur of the moment
Nice, I’d love to hear more of that. Let’s take a look at another concept album, Demons of the Astrowaste, which was released in 2011. Has your writing process changed a lot since then?
Brittney: Yes, absolutely! During Demons (of the Astrowaste) we were all living together in an apartment like the industrial district down Vancouver, so we could play whenever we wanted.It just kind of be like, we knocked on each other’s door and say “hey, you wanna jam?” -“Alright, let’s jam,” and we wrote as we went. I’m a total fantasy nerd and I love books, comic books and video games. So I really wanted there to be a story behind this record and I think it started with a song that we had already previously written, which was Dawn of Ages, and in that there was that imagery of a guy being preserved in time, because of this sword that had been stabbed through his heart and I was like “I really like that imagery. So what is it about this sword?” So I took the sword and General of the Dark Army was written as well. Well, what if the general is like this sort of, not necessarily antagonist, but the kind of character that moves the story along from the sidelines. So, we got that and then I just was writing as we went. Brayden (Dyczkowski, red.), who was the guitar player at the time, would bring the riffs and would be like “what does this say to you?” I’m like “All this is really cool! maybe this can be the part where there is this big battle or whatever. That feels like a battle song! so, the main character will turn on the general and there’ll be a big battle.” So it was a really off the cuff we just wrote as we went as opposed to Apex, in which I had everything down and I knew exactly what the story was.We wrote to the story as opposed to the story being written to the music. So yeah very different. Demons (of the Astrowaste) took a took a long time to write.
It’s not very often that we in Europe hear about Canadian metal bands, so are there any up and coming metal bands you would like to recommend?
Brittney: Yes! Nylithia, They are really cool, not techno metal, but they incorporate a lot of samples. They’re just this crazy high energy band. They’re wicked. Then there’s actually a band that just really recently released a new album called All Else Fails and they’re super rad, straightforward death metal. Good for head banging and long drives. Then you’ve also got The Order of Chaos. They’ve actually been over here a few times.
Canada as a country seems to encourage and promote it’s own artists lot more than other countries. How much do you notice of this in your own genre and as a Canadian yourself.
Brittney: We have a great underground metal community we’ve been supported by Canada and Canadian fans for a really long time. Legally the radio stations have to play a certain percentage of Canadian music on their radios for her to stay on the air. That’s really rad, but we don’t have the infrastructure like you guys do here in the Netherlands. Our venues are all very small and they’re constantly getting shut down for heavy metal just, because it’s hard to find a place that doesn’t listen to the stereotypes of metalheads. You know, we don’t start fights, we don’t steal, we metalheads don’t do that kind of stuff. But yeah, for some reason these neighborhoods just seem to think that’s what we’re all about. It sometimes is a little bit difficult infrastructure wise. But yeah, I mean incredible metal scene. first time we toured through the U.S. it was so hard. No one knew we were. No one was out in the shows and everything. We were just touring independently, like five years ago, and as soon as you crossed the border, it was like home again. The shows were packed and we made enough money to get home, because we were literally on the last dime, from each of us, paying for gas out of our pockets. But our fans back home in Canada saved our blood. Such an incredible metal scene. It’s just that nobody knows about it. It’s just hard to get out of there. It’s hard to find distribution in Europe and you can’t get visas to tour through the U.S. So we’re just stuck up there, so we really support one another Because we know how difficult it is to get out there.
So if you have to make an album together with another band, like a split EP for example. Which band with your like to collaborate with?
Brittney: To do a split EP, Really? *thinks* Crimson Shadows!
Those are amazing!
Brittney: I love those guys and I just would love being able to tour that EP with them, because we toured that a couple years ago and it was like a party all the time. It was really fun. So yeah: Crimson Shadows!
So, one last question: What’s your stance on the Internet piracy?
Brittney: go for it! If you’re listening to the music, that’s what matters. I mean, it sucks of course to not get paid for what you do, but there are those that do pay and support you infinitely and we really appreciate them. And if you ask me, I don’t really buy music anymore. I’m a streamer myself, so I have Apple Music and if I really like a band, I’ll go listen to YouTube or whatever I’ll try to click on the ads, because if it’s their own channel, they make money off the ads. I am trying to contribute in my own little way. Someone maybe doesn’t have the money to buy an actual CD or whatever and that’s fine, but maybe they’ll save up the money to pay for ticket to come to your show. Maybe someone just isn’t the physical media type of person maybe they’ll come to your show and buy a T-shirt. But it doesn’t matter, because if they discovered us through stealing our music. It only counts that they’ve discovered us. That’s really that’s kind of how I feel about it. Mind you, it’s like you know the big guys like Lady Gaga and some bigger bands that I like. Smaller bands I would pay for their music, because I could get it any other way. No I think it’s it’s the that’s just the way things are. But now these days people are just streaming, too. Why just stream it. Just pay for the services. It’s only $9.99 a month or whatever. We see money from streams. Our first two records we see all the digital sales. You know, stream on Spotify stream or whatever. I mean, it’s just pennies but it’s still it’s pennies right and that’s what matters. That’s what gets us on these tours and then to the next level, to the next play itself. Every little bit counts to the whole.
Once again I’d like to thank you for your time. Thank you for the amazing show, too. We hope to see you guys again soon!
Brittney: we hope to come back soon. Sooner than later, I think.