Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pyrrhon Interview

1. Can you give us an update on what is going on with the band these days?

We self-released "An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master" in January via Bandcamp and worked very hard to promote the album ourselves and to find a label to release the album. A few months later Selfmadegod Records got in touch with us with an offer to officially release the album, and we excitedly accepted. We've also already started working on material for a new album. We have two songs more or less finished, and several others in the pipeline.

We're also planning on doing an EP release in the interim with a few covers and possibly one new song as well. As far as playing live goes, we are continuously working on setting up shows in New York City; we'd also like to set up some regional weekend tours in the coming months.

2. How would you describe the musical sound of the new album and how it differs from previous releases?

I would describe the new album as eclectic, psychedelic and impressionistic. The main difference between the full-length and the EP that we released previously is that we were more able to successfully showcase our wide range of influences. The EP is more of a straightforward death metal release (albeit a pretty off-kilter and technically challenging death metal release), whereas on the new album we didn't really establish aesthetic boundaries. We realized that the more we pushed ourselves to create unique sounds, the more successful the album we would be. We've always been our harshest critics, and I think that that was especially true this time around. Writing and recording the album was painstaking and challenging. Sometimes we second-guessed ourselves as to whether we were being too critical and deliberate in the writing process. There's certainly something to be said for the beauty of spontaneous creativity. I think that we struck a good balance between being self-reflective and allowing the creativity to flow uninhibited.

3. What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?

Doug wrote all of the lyrics for the album, but I have a pretty thorough grasp on the concepts and imagery that he uses. The lyrics are largely a response to the ills of the modern world, such as overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, economic instability and the rampant spread of misinformation by all-encompassing communications technology. The human race is sucking the planet dry of its essential resources, the Middle East has an ever-present cross-hair aimed on the US (and especially New York City), and nobody has any idea what or who to believe because we bombarded with falsities and skewed truths from all angles. Some of the songs directly address these themes, while others are more imagery based (a lot of the strange images in the lyrics come from dreams that Doug has had). The more thematically ambiguous lyrics on the album are intentionally constructed that way to encourage the listener to develop their own personal interpretations.

4. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the bands name?

We used the phrase "pyrrhic victory" to derive the band name. Technically speaking, a pyrrhic victory is when an army wins a battle but suffers immense casualties along the way. The figurative application of the phrase, however, implies that great sacrifice is an essential and inherent part of forging a fulfilling life. The phrase pyrrhic victory also brings into question the subjective nature of the word sacrifice. Some people view things like economic stability and social standing as sacrosanct, things that they would never consider marginalizing. We try to challenge this notion. If the ends justify the means, are you actually making a sacrifice?

We ended up with the name Pyrrhon by trying to create a word out of the phrase pyrrhic victory. When we realized that Pyrrhon is actually an ancient philosopher - the father of skepticism - we liked the name even more and decided to stick with it. We're of the opinion that nothing can be taken at face value and that deep analysis and self-reflection are essential. The double meaning works perfectly for the band.

5. What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and how would you describe your stage performance?

The two most recent shows that we have played were definitely our most successful. Ever since we recorded the album, the live set has gotten a lot tighter, and we're finally really been hitting our stride when we play live. This summer we played Flourishing's record release show at Lit Lounge in Manhattan. It was one of the more well-attended shows that we've played and people seemed to dig our set. Flourishing's new album "The Sum of All Fossils" is amazing by the way! Highly recommended! Our best show to date was probably our record release show, which was in Brooklyn on September 22. I guess the stars just aligned for this show, because I am confident when I say that we have never sounded tighter live. Cleric opened the show up for us, which I think really pushed us to play such a tight set. If you haven't listened to Cleric, you must do so immediately (highly recommended for fans of Meshuggah and Mr. Bungle). Cleric's set was hands down one of the more impressive things that I have seen in a long time. We were honestly a little nervous following such an impressive display of musicianship, but as I said I think playing with a band like that really forced us to take our set to the next level.

Pyrrhon's stage performance is bare-bones and to-the-point. We have a pretty stripped down rig/set-up (my current rig solely consists of a Marshall JCM 2000 half-stack, Electroharmonix Memory Man pedal, and a tuning pedal). We are definitely influenced by the punk rock tradition of straightforward, no bullshit live performances. We also incorporate elements of improvisation into our shows; I envision us further expanding the role of spontaneity in our shows in the future. The bottom line is that our shows are intense.

6. Do you have any touring plans for the new release?

Touring is a little bit difficult for us right now because one of our members is still in school. It's certainly something that we want to do and we plan on touring as soon as it is logistically feasible. We are going to probably do some regional weekend loops this fall and winter and then maybe do some larger-scale stuff next year.

7. Are there any side projects besides this band or is this a full time line-up?

Right now there are no official side-projects associated with Pyrrhon, but that will probably happen at some point. We're all interested in tons of different kinds of music, and we're pretty ambitious when it comes to creating music, so that would be a natural progression. Alex and Erik (the rhythm section members) both do a lot of session work in jazz, blues, funk, rock and more. Alex (drums) went to school for jazz performance and is a huge jazz head; he is definitely going to be making a name for himself in the jazz world.

8. On a worldwide level how has your music been received by technical death metal fans?

In general, people have been responding very positively to the album. We knew that we had something interesting to share with people while we were writing and recording the album, and the way that people have responded have made this evident. Our music obviously isn't for everyone, so some people haven't been as into the record. But we have seen a lot of people who aren't as into death metal (especially contemporary death metal), or even just metal in general, have really positive things to say about the release. I think that we succeeded in transcending some of the long standing limitations of the genre of death metal, and made a record that can appeal to all sorts of music fans. I have always wanted to see more death metal bands experiment with things like psychedelia, jazz influences and dynamics. One of our main goals was to create an album that we would be excited to listen to as fans of music.

9. What direction do you see the music heading into on future releases?

It's difficult to say. We took a big step forward between the EP and the full-length, and we don't plan on stopping there. I think that the next record will have some things in common with "An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master," but I'm sure that we will incorporate a lot of things that we have not done previously. Recording this album was a huge learning experience for us. We are definitely a lot more confident and self-aware now....which should make a huge difference in the writing and recording process the next time around. I think that our love of all types of music (from jazz to indie rock to classic rock) will be even more evident on the next record. While we will probably stray a little bit farther from the staples of death metal, we are still very much going to maintain death metal as the band's primary cornerstone. The beauty of death metal (and metal in general) is that the possibilities are essentially limitless. It's a context within which any combination of influences can be implemented. The most important thing to us is that we continue to make music that we are first and foremost excited to hear.

10. What are some bands or musical styles that have influenced your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

We are obviously prominently influenced by death metal, and especially the more offbeat death metal bands. Gorguts, Morbid Angel, Death, Cynic, Decapitated, Ulcerate, Atheist and other bands like that are a big influence on us. We love all different types of metal too (especially the more left-field stuff), so bands like Neurosis, Meshuggah, Converge, Pig Destroyer, Khanate, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Emperor come into play as well. The four of us listen to a ton of stuff outside of the metal genre as well, from jazz to hardcore to modern classical to prog rock to noise/experimental to classic rock to indie rock.......anything and everything really. A few of our long-time favorites include Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Slint, Sonic Youth, Miles Davis, ELP, Fugazi, Black Flag, Led Zeppelin, Kevin Drumm, Black Sabbath, Aphex Twin and more.

As far as what I'm listening to nowadays, it's constantly rotating. As of late, I have been giving the following albums a lot of attention:

Agoraphobic Nosebleed - Agorapocalypse
Dead Language - Dead Language LP
Cobalt - Eater of Birds
Captain Beyond - Captain Beyond
Rwake - Rest
13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators
Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
Roscoe Mitchell Sextet - Sound

11. Outside of music, what are some of your interests?

I'm a big fan of pro sports, especially baseball and football. I grew up in the Philadelphia area so as a rite of passage I'm a diehard Eagles and Phillies fan. I find sports to be supremely entertaining and ultimately mentally stimulating as well.

I also do a good amount of reading in my spare time. Some of my all-time favorite authors include Ken Kesey, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ayn Rand and Franz Kafka. I recently read "White Noise" by Don DeLillo (as recommended by Doug, vocalist of Pyrrhon) and I don't think I've been the same ever since. It was one of the more powerful books that I have ever read. Doug's lyrics for our new album draw a lot of inspiration from the thematic content of that novel.

Another huge part of my life is television (and also movies, but to a lesser extent). Life isn't really worth living without the bizarre and depraved humor of shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Metalocalypse, Louis, and The Life and Times of Tim. I'm also a big sucker for network television dramas like The Sopranos, Dexter and Boardwalk Empire.

12. Any final words or thoughts before we wrap up this interview?

Thanks for taking the time to listen to the album and to interview us! Also, I'd like to extend a big shout-out to Dan Pilla (Bad Lab Studios), who recorded and mixed the would have been an impossible feat for us to accomplish without his dedication and hard work. Highly recommended to anyone in the tri-state area looking for a solid place to record.

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