Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Interview with Sunless

When they released their first demo last year, Minneapolis-based Sunless impressed a lot of people - not least of which was this blog. Wasting no time, they put out their full-length debut Urraca a few months back, solidifying them as a band for fans of progressive and mathy death metal to remember. I reached out to find out more, and bassist Mitch Schooler was kind enough to educate me on the band's history and the scene they came from.

Dreams of Consciousness: What is Sunless?

We are a dissonant avant-garde death metal band from Minneapolis, MN. We chose the name Sunless because we thought it would represent the dark atmosphere of the music we play. Whether it's conscious or not, hearing a band's name before listening to their music can frame a context for the sounds that the listener will hear, so we wanted to make sure that our name would do us justice.

DoC: If you would, please give a brief history of the band - what led to you forming, and what were your intentions? How long was it before you recorded your first demo?

The project began in mid-2014 when I started writing songs for a new death metal band that I wanted to form after I had been musically inactive for a about a year following the breakup of my former band, Nerves. Our original guitar player Andrew Notsch became interested in the project after I showed him some of the ideas I had been working on. He was an acquaintance of mine since Nerves had played several times with his former band Youwretch that had also broken up by this point. We starting playing together and posted flyers around Minneapolis looking for a death metal drummer who had some of the same influences that we did. Ben Iburg responded and after playing together a few times, we solidified the lineup with the three of us. We recorded our two-song demo instrumentally about six months later during the summer of 2015 since we still didn't have a vocalist. Later that fall we got in contact with our current vocalist and guitar player Lucas Scott who joined the band and tracked vocals for the demo which we released in January of 2016. We played together as a four-piece from that point on until the fall when Notsch left the band. We've been a three-piece ever since.

DoC:  Sunless is self-described as "dissonant avant garde death metal". What is your approach to death metal? What elements in your music would you say comprise your "avant garde" side?

Ben, Lucas, and I all have varying approaches to death metal since we have different influences and come from different backgrounds within heavy music. It is the combination of these styles that forms our sound. However, we are all on the same page about wanting to create unorthodox music that stands apart from the traditional or "brutal" approaches to the style that peoples' minds might jump to when they hear the term death metal.

DoC:  Given the unorthodox nature of your music, what is your writing process like? Do you have a main songwriter, or do you write as a group?

We have elements of both within our writing process. We usually bring in mostly completed songs that have been written individually on guitar and bass in Guitar Pro to practice to begin playing collectively. Ben will also bring in his drum ideas that he has after listening to the guitar and bass tabs and we'll start trying to play through the songs together. The drums are written over time and develop as we get more comfortable playing the songs at practice. For our full-length Urraca, I wrote seven of the nine songs since I had been working on the album for a couple of years before finalizing the band's lineup and getting plans together for its recording and release. Our former guitar player Notsch wrote one track and Lucas wrote one as well. I anticipate that the division of songwriting will be more split up between members for future releases.

DoC:  Earlier this year, you released your first album Urraca. How long had you been working on it? What has the reception been like?

We'd been working on Urraca since the formation of the band up until its release and I worked on it for even longer than that. The album features all of the first nine songs we wrote as a band, including the two songs that appeared on our demo, so it's really been our primary focus from the beginning. The reception has been great so far! It's very rewarding to hear from fans about how our music has impacted them, but ultimately our goal is to make music that we enjoy listening to and performing.

DoC: Urraca was mixed and mastered by Colin Marston, who has been in his share of avant garde/unorthodox bands (including Gorguts, Dyrhythmia, and Krallice). How did he get involved with the album? How much of his body of work was a deciding factor in getting him involved?

We had Colin in mind to work on the album from the very beginning before most of the songs were even written since we've listened to his bands for years and follow the numerous releases that come out of Menegroth. When it came time to start making arrangements for the mixing and mastering of the album, we reached out and sent him our demo that we'd released earlier that year. He liked our sound and agreed to take on the project.

DoC:  You recorded your demo as a quartet, but Urraca as a three-piece. Do you intend to play as a trio for the time being?

Yes, we plan to continue on as a three-piece. Things have really settled into place with the current lineup so for now we aren't seeking any new members.

DoC:  Sunless is based in Minnesota, which is known for its brutal winters. Would you say your environment influences your music - why or why not?

Yes, I think that it probably does to some extent, but I wouldn't call it a primary influence. For me personally, other music has always had the largest impact on my songwriting compared to non-musical influences.

DoC: Your vocalist Lucas is also in a number of other bands in the Minneapolis/St Paul region. What is the scene over there like? How would you describe it in 5 words?

Yea, the amount of music that Lucas is a part of is impressive. Two of his other projects Pestifere and Australis both put out killer full-lengths last year in 2016. The underground and DIY heavy music scene in Minneapolis is thriving and has been for as long as I've lived here despite several venue closings over the past few years. There's a tight-knit community full of awesome bands and talented people that you run into on a regular basis. You can attend a quality show almost every night of the week if you know where to look. We're very proud to be based out of Minneapolis and a part of this body of musicians.

DoC: What's next for Sunless?

We have a busy summer shaping up already with quite a few shows booked. One big one that was recently announced is our upcoming show with Gorguts, Defeated Sanity, and Exist at Reggies in Chicago on Wednesday, June 7th. We're thrilled and honored to be a part of that lineup. Another one that we're really looking forward to is Saturday, June 17th at The Final Frontier in Dallas with Baring Teeth. We've wanted to get something set up with those guys for quite some time and now it's finally happening. We'll also be playing local shows in Minneapolis throughout the summer while we begin writing for the next album. We’re also interested in working with a label or distro to arrange a vinyl pressing and release for Urraca sometime in the near future. We'll see what kind of opportunities come our way.

Contact Sunless: sunlessbooking[at]gmail.com

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