IRIST - Finding A Purpose
April 15, 2020, a month ago
Hype is something that cannot be purchased. You have it or you don’t. For Nuclear Blast’s latest signee Irist, a band Kerrang! out of the UK called “the metal band everyone’s going to be talking about in 2020,” and a group whose comparables include a wild hybrid of Converge, Gojira, Mastodon, The Melvins and The Dillinger Escape Plan, the hype may be justified on their debut album Order Of The Mind (available March 27th through Nuclear Blast).
Based out of Atlanta, Georgia with a five piece lineup that includes native sons of Chile, Argentina and Brazil, Irist put metalheads the world-over on notice with blistering lead-off singles "Burning Sage" and "Severed", announcing the arrival of a very real player in the ever growing global metal climate.
Founding member and guitarist Pablo Davila caught up with BraveWords for a deep dive on Order Of The Mind and a crash course on all things heavy metal.
BraveWords: How difficult was it to keep so much about Order Of The Mind close to the vest? And how rewarding is it to see and hear the feedback from the debut singles?
Pablo Davila: “We’ve been keeping these songs to ourselves for a couple of years now. So it’s kind of overwhelming to actually hear what people have to say about them. This is literally all we’ve been listening to for such a long period of time.
“Aside from us, maybe a handful of friends, nobody’s really heard it. It was kind of the plan all along ... We knew these songs would end up getting recorded by somebody we were a fan of and Nuclear Blast handling distribution and everything else that a lot of people would be able to hear it. So that kind of helped a little bit in terms of having the patience to just keep them to ourselves and keep refining little things here and there. But it was still difficult. You know, four years is a long time just to hang onto a handful of songs.”
BraveWords: The band is based out of Atlanta but several of you have roots in South America. Take me through your road from Argentina to the United States, personally.
Pablo Davila: “I’m from Argentina. I moved here when I was really young, I was like three or four years old. But then I moved back a couple of times. And it was strange growing up because we would go back pretty frequently. And then after I finished high school, I was convinced that I would just get my degree here in the States and then just move out permanently. But things don’t always go as planned. I ended up staying here, but then I moved back for like a year after high school, and I went there for a portion of high school. It’s kind of been like a split life in a way, you know? But most of my family are still down there. Bruno, the bass player in the band had a similar kind of story. He came here when he was young and then he moved back and then he’s also kind of been back and forth. Somehow we all ended up here in Atlanta.”
BraveWords: Being from South America, how inspiring has a band like Sepultura been? A band who arguably have been the biggest heavy metal success out of the continent.
Pablo Davila: “It’s probably one of the most important bands in my life. I think I was around 14 or 15 years old and I was listening to the heavier music at that time. And when I heard Sepultura for the first time and kind of heard about their back story and where they were from and some of the themes on their albums and their influences, I was really able to connect with it. I think this was around Chaos A.D. era, but I was able to connect with it like on a cultural level. This was the first band that was playing music that I loved. Even if you hadn’t told me where they were from I would still be a fan, but just the fact that they’re incorporating so much about them being from South America and Brazil specifically, really resonated with me. I’m not from Brazil, but there’s still some kind of connection there.
“And it was around that time also that I decided I wanted to go back to Argentina for a portion of school. So it all kind of connected for me. That was a period of time where I was kind of reconnecting to my roots and really diving deep into and discovering a lot of music from Argentina and other parts of South America and Latin America that I hadn’t really taken the time to explore in my life. So they opened a lot of doors for me. And they were just one of those bands that even years after I discovered them, I may be moved on to other genres and other styles of music, but it was always something that I would come back to. So for me, even if I’m not listening to Beneath The Remains or Chaos A.D. or whatever it is on a daily basis at this point, it’s just something that’s in there. It’s in my head, you know? They were very important to me. That’s the first band I would really credit for getting me into heavy music and really making me more passionate about it, more connected to it.”
BraveWords: How did the addition of Rodrigo Carvalho on vocals impact the shape and sound of the band?
Pablo Davila: “The funny thing about Rodrigo joining the band is that he had auditioned for the band really early on. So we met him maybe a year and a half, two years maybe before he actually joined the band. And just because of where he was in his life and a few other reasons, he ended up not joining. So it really wasn’t the best time for him to join the band, but I stayed in touch with him even as we moved on. We would get together once a month even with me doing all the stuff with Irist, and we would still make time to get together. He’d just come to my house and we would record like a song in a day. So I always felt the need to just make music with him.
“We listened to a lot of the same bands and he just kind of gets where I’m coming from and so there was an affinity that existed between us. When the time came for him to join, to me it’s just the most natural thing that could happen. It made perfect sense. I could already picture what he would add to the music and that ended up being more, I think, after we got his voice properly mixed and allowed his style to kind of develop and sync with all the instrumentation. He’s added more than we have asked for. And I don’t speak for him, but I think he feels it’s somewhat complementary as far as the music kind of complementing what he’s trying to convey with his vocals, with the lyrics.”
(Photo by: Dan Almasy)
BraveWords: In terms of an album like Order Of The Mind, how did you approach it conceptually and songwriting wise? Did you have an overarching idea, starting from scratch, of what you wanted this album to be? Or did you let the songs guide the shape?
Pablo Davila: “We know what tools we gravitate towards in terms of maybe genres or bands that I’m listening to at the time that an idea of a song comes up or that one of the guys is listening to at the time that we’re putting together a song. It’s hard to define. We follow maybe a feeling or a mood, an idea for a song will come up and we will listen to it multiple times and really just talk about what we want the song to feel like. And sometimes that will involve using elements from black metal or something that’s a little more rhythmic or chaotic. And maybe I’m listening to Willie Colon or some kind of Latin American band or something and then just because of the timing, we decide to incorporate this kind of rhythm into a heavier song. It’s really about pulling elements from various styles of music and various subgenres of metal just to get the right feeling across. I mean, it’s obviously easier said than done, but that’s that concept of the kind of the mindset when we’re putting songs together.”
BraveWords: You’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing folks on this album, from the team at Nuclear Blast to producer Lewis Johns and Grammy winner Ted Jensen. How important has having the right team around you been for this debut record?
Pablo Davila: “Part of that is due to timing and luck. As far as somebody to mix and produce the album, we threw many, many options on the table. And we’re very picky about who we allow to touch our art, you know? We found Lewis Johns because he had mixed and produced the last Cojurer album, and we really liked the drum sound on that. And then things lining up in the correct way and his schedule matching ours. We got lucky enough and we were able to see him. In the case of other people that have worked with us, we got lucky. We had Ted Jensen master the album. But to be honest, I don’t know how we’ve arranged this group of people. We have everybody from our management to Monte Connor. We feel like we’re really able to trust them. I want to say part of it is due to luck and an another part just due to the fact that I think a lot of these people that are now working with us believe in the songs and they believe that in the demo, even in the early stages and maybe they’re finding something genuine in them or maybe something timeless. We do feel like we have something that feels unique. It’s very thoughtful and it’s got genuine emotion in it. I’d like to believe that our team and the people that have touched this album were influenced in any way or have seen maybe a glimpse of that uniqueness in the songs and then the album.”
BraveWords: On an international level, we’ve seen very little of Irist in terms of live performance. How often have you guys had the chance to hit the stage with this finished lineup, and how important to you is the live performance in making an impression as a band?
Pablo Davila: “We played several shows since Rodrigo joined, so we have played a lot of these songs live. We haven’t had a chance to do a proper tour just because we’ve been incredibly busy writing the album and getting everything together related to the album. But since we got back from the U.K., since we got back from recording with Lewis Johns, one of our main focuses has been to put together a set and a show that really does the songs justice that hopefully comes off in the same way that the album comes off when you listen to it. Currently our focus has shifted toward pulling this off live in the best way possible.
“Even though some of the songs were written two years ago, we’ve put so much time into them and invested so much emotional energy that playing them live, it doesn’t really take much to get in the mindset of this album and to kind of let it guide the way, so to speak. We are putting thought into arranging a good set, but it’s not that difficult. We really feel these songs and we really believe in them, so it’s kind of like the work is done for you.”
BraveWords: First impressions in music are critical. What do you think Order Of The Mind says about who Irist is as a group?
Pablo Davila: “I think we’re discovering what it says about us as a band as we listen back. But just one thing that it says for sure, and everybody will read things in their own way, is that we’re not afraid to mix different styles of metal and different styles of music and really just create our own thing. I think we’re not afraid to explore the genres of music that you wouldn’t normally hear or pick up on in heavier music. But I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I’m sure that as people dive deeper into the album and perceive some of the nuance and subtleties they may have, they may notice that those certain sections of the songs that are maybe reminiscent of a completely different genre are a completely different style of music. For me that’s a good thing because it’s done consciously by us. We still listen to a wide variety of music so it’s done consciously when we’re putting the songs together, but at the same time we never feel that we’re forcing it. And so it’s very purposeful. So hopefully when people listen to the album they’re able to feel something that they would maybe feel more commonly in another genre of music.”
BraveWords: We’re all fans and lovers of heavy metal. Deep down, what do you think it is about this type of music that makes lifelong fans and brings people together in such an impactful way?
Pablo Davila: “For me metal, as a kid and even now, it feels primitive. It feels very free and like there are less and less restraints maybe than with other kinds of music. And now there’s so many subgenres of metal that it’s very difficult to generalize. But I would still say that as a whole, it sort of addresses emotions and tendencies that people suppress and it gives you a platform to really almost deal with them. And that’s something that I think is very unique to heavy music and metal or whatever you call it, that it allows you to deal with a lot of that anxiety or anger or whatever it may be, a sadness that I think that other genres of music don’t allow so much as much as metal music. For me it’s my therapy and it’s something that it’s a style of music that I’ll listen to till the day I die. It’s got a very clear purpose in my life.”
(Top Photo - Susy Irais Reyes)