Tuesday, May 7, 2019

an interview with Dreadnought

With three albums released between 2013 and 2017, and their fourth album Emergence set to be released on May 10th through Profound Lore Records, Colorado's Dreadnought may be the most prolific progressive metal band you haven't heard yet. Bassist Kevin Handlon was kind enough to answer my questions about the band's history and the evolution of their unique style.

Photo by Alvino Salcedo

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce Dreadnought - who are you, where are you from, and how would you describe the music you make?

Hello! Kevin Handlon here, I play bass with Dreadnought alongside Kelly Schilling, Lauren Vieira and Jordan Clancy. We hail from Denver and mix the styles of black and doom metal with progressive rock.

DoC: If you don't mind, please give a brief history of your band - what led to you forming? What were your goals, and how close are you to those goals now?

Kelly, Jordan and I were riding out the last wind of a previous band when Lauren ran into us at a local show, and she was on board for our new direction of longform, contemplative songwriting with massive crescendos. Lifewoven was a strong proof of concept, but I think we’ve been fulfilling that intention since writing Bridging Realms, and lately our goals are set out at the beginning of each album and honed in toward its individual concept. Emergence was intended to be corrosive and devastating, and as far as I can tell, it delivers.

DoC: I've seen the terms "progressive" and "avant-garde" used to describe your music, as well as "doom" and "black metal". What led to your unusual style? Did the members of Dreadnought (individually or collectively) grow up in the metal scene, or do you come from a different background altogether?

All four of us grew up in a smaller city south of Denver called Colorado Springs. Our previous bands Kastigation and Recondite performed together many a time, and we all happened to move to Denver separately. Kelly and I had been chewing on the use of space in metal composition for a couple years and it afforded room for a gradually expanding palette of instrumental expression, which meant that all four of us could be more playful and experimental with our own parts.

DoC: Dreadnought incorporates a lot of instruments not typically associated with heavy music (like flutes, saxophones, and the mandolin). What can you express musically with these instruments that you can't with a standard guitar/bass/drums approach?

Well for one, the concert instruments really break up the normally distorted mix that we’re all used to on heavy records. I’m sure we could fenagle some fancy effects loops to try to imitate the real thing, but why do that when you have enough time to pick up a flute and bust out a solo? The timbres of concert instruments sit in an entirely different pocket and do something distinct from the heavy sounds we want out of a rock lineup. Airiness and chorus add to the atmosphere and are an immersive experience; I think that immersion comes from a novelty that requests the listener’s full attention.

DoC: What's your songwriting process like? Do you write as a group, or do you have a main songwriter? How do your surroundings influence/affect your songwriting, if at all?

We start all of our songs from a single granular idea and expand on them as a group. Usually those initial grains come from Kelly or myself, but everyone writes their own parts and has a voice in the direction a song takes. We are all inspired by nature in some fashion, and the Rocky Mountains are a fine muse for our material.

DoC: Dreadnought has a new album coming out in May through Profound Lore. What can you tell me about the writing and recording of Emergence

The majority of Emergence was written in the three months before we drove out to Salt Lake City to record, and our relationship with deadlines has been revisited time and time again throughout the making of this album. Profound Lore runs on a leaner schedule than we were previously accustomed to, but honestly, it was all for the better, and our best material and production to date can be partially credited to that. This was also our first time working with James Plotkin, and he stayed on top of the lengthy mastering process through multiple iterations and was a total pleasure to partner with.

DoC: How would you describe the evolution of the band from your 2013 debut to now?

Playing in Dreadnought pushes each of us into a constant state of improvement, as intention and songcraft come first for us, and that can demand a lot of a single musician. Our atmospheres have grown to be more lush, and our doom metal influences have become more pronounced and shared. Though Lifewoven didn’t lack for ferocity, there’s a stronger sense of unity behind our anger and triumph that grows with each album we write. Our clean sections have grown moodier over time, sounding less ornamental and more focused. The interplay between instruments has become pronounced and at times even dominant in the sound. Since our work is all through-composed it’s a constant learning experience.

DoC: What can you tell me about the concept behind the album? What inspired it?

Currently we’re taking a journey through each of the temples in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a conceptual foundation for our albums, and this one came from the Fire Temple. We explored one of mankind’s most ancient relationships in nature and how we’ve come to understand it.

DoC: What led to you signing with Profound Lore? Is Emergence the first album that you haven't self-released?

A few of our friends who had been signed to PL recommended us to Chris Bruni as a potential artist when we released Bridging Realms, and again shortly before A Wake in Sacred Waves dropped. He liked the latter well enough that he accepted a demo of our material in progress from a friend, and at that point he’d heard enough to know we would work well together, so a partnership was born. We released Bridging Realms and A Wake in Sacred Waves through Sailor Records, a local label in Denver.

DoC: You have a summer tour scheduled with Big|Brave, as well as an appearance at the Psycho Smokeout Fest. How important is the concert experience for you? Is it difficult translating your music (in particular, the parts that require saxophones, etc) to the live experience? Do you have additional/guest musicians tour with you?

For the most part we write our music with live performance in mind. Jordan plays the upper octave of his saxophone with his snare, kick and high hat at the same time, and Kelly uses loops and delays to hold out her guitar parts while she switches to flute when necessary. On the occasions that I play mandolin live, we have the parts written to give me enough time to swap instruments.

We’ve done a couple performances with guest musicians, but primarily all our performances are done by the main quartet.

DoC: What's next for Dreadnought?

We’re seriously looking at a European tour after this year’s festival schedule, and have some unannounced collaborations in the works. Keep an eye out, we never stay down for long.

Dreadnought on Bandcamp

Dreadnought on Instagram

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