Scorching shadows: an interview with Nora Rogers of Solar Halos

Nora  Rogers

Barely two to three weeks in and one of the year’s most exciting and we suggest prominent albums has already been unveiled in the masterful temptation that is the Solar Halos self-titled debut. A beautifully crafted evocative expanse of heavy unrelenting rock created through a tantalising mesmeric core brew of stoner and psychedelic rock the release is a stunning and magnetic introduction to the North Carolina band.  Eager to find out more about Solar Halos we had the pleasure of talking with guitarist/vocalist Nora Rogers where we discussed the origins of the band and its member’s histories, lyrical inspirations, the influence of their home town and much more…

Hi Nora and thank you for sparing time to talk with us.

Tell us about the beginnings of Solar Halos to start things off and also how you all met originally.

The three of us all have known each other for years just from living and playing in a small music-oriented town. Our bands had played shows and toured together so we were already both friends and fans.  John and I first played together in Jenks Millers project, Horseback in 2010. We really enjoyed playing with each other so a year later John and I started another project.  We jammed for a few months putting some ideas together but decided that we wanted to add bass before things got too set in stone. We immediately thought of Eddie and were spot on; it felt really natural and clicked right from the first practice at the end of 2011.

Did you have a specific intent in forming the band?

Because we were aware of each other’s bands we wanted to do something collaborative with loose parameters. No one had a specific intent for the project so it came about casually. We all wanted to play heavy music with contrasts of light and dark, but that was really the only parameter that we started with.

I always wonder with bands that form from already experienced musicians coming together for the first time if there is a period of discussion and thought sharing about the project or if that comes after the first tempest of sound making; how was it with you guys with the band?

Our sound evolved very naturally just through jamming and finding how our individual strengths can be played for maximum effect.  I think we have a very collaborative band model where we see a journey for a song and trust each other to choose our own path with the greater good of the song in mind.  We all know what the others are capable of and know our taste is similar, so our discussions are mostly about arrangement and dynamics.

Solar halos-Photo by Justin Cook.

photo by Justin Cook

Our previous work in those bands was treated as more or less a reference point.  We all defaulted to bringing in our loud gear, but we also found ourselves focusing on different aspects that we weren’t in those bands.

Have you found people making assumptions about what your sound was like before hearing it because of your times in Horseback etc.?

I haven’t found that people make assumptions based on our past bands but they do remark on similarities.

How does working with new people impact your thoughts and ideas at first? With Solar Halos was it an instant spark which right away bred to strong ideas and seeds for songs or a more slow burning process?

There was definitely an instant spark, but we have learned in our song writing that even a strong idea can be a slow burning process to follow through to completion.

Listening to your stunning self-titled debut album there is a heavier breath to all aspects, the sound, textures etc. then maybe expected from your success in those other bands, a deliberate move?

Thank you, I think with heaviness as our only parameter this all came quite naturally; it wasn’t a deliberate contrast to our other works.

Also the album seems to have an almost evolving before the ears creative landscape which suggests the songs in many ways sculpted their drove their own path as they came to realisation. Give us an insight to how things developed in that respect and about the writing process in general.

Yes, that is the intention and how they were written. Songs usually start with a riff.  We record a bunch of permutations of it and the parts that instinctually follow over several weeks and pick out what works well. Once we have a good outline I’ll figure out the vocals and we might tweak the song some more.  It’s pretty time intensive but seems to produce interesting results.

We always write the music first then I go back and listen for the vocal melodies and lyrical imagery that the song provokes.  I think the movement and structures of our songs on this album coincide with how my mind thinks spatially and geographically.  The space each of us inhabits musically creates the landscape and our arrangement of the parts and the vocals create a path through the song.

The album is receiving impressed responses, and rightly so in our minds; has it surprised you the strength of the reaction to it even though I am sure you were fully confident of its potency?

It’s always great to see a positive response, you never really know what to expect when you put out a first record. I find it really satisfying to know that you have moved someone emotionally or creatively.

artworkWe called the album one of the first great adventures of 2014 and it does feel like an intensive and invigorating adventure. It also hints that this adventure was just as thrilling to create and at times a stepping into the unknown for you guys, was that how it felt?

Wow, thank you.  It was a really fun album to create and we were stepping into the unknown without guidelines.  As for adventure, there were definitely no mythical beasts to outrun or any wizards to fights, so I guess it was quite ordinary in that respect.

Is there any prime inspiration to the narrative and emotional feel of the songs and album?

All of the lyrical inspiration came from images of Earth and landscapes that the music evokes.  The narration is moving through those landscapes.  Sometimes the focus is on a small scale like ice dripping off leaves “leaves like daggers breathe inside” in “Frost” or on a grand scale like global electromagnetic waves excited by lightning in “Resonance.”

How much of the album is personal to the extent of revealing shadows and secrets, even if merely hinting, to the world?

When I was in The Curtains of Night I wrote a lot of personal lyrics under the cloak of myth, but now I try to paint with broader strokes.  I am always thinking of something very specific, but not necessarily from my personal life.  I want the lyrics to be evocative visually but vague and open-ended enough to be read in different ways.

Musically the songs on the album have an intensity and at times an almost guttural aggression to them whilst your vocals temper and almost tease that heaviness with mesmeric harmonies and melodic invention. Was there a concerted effort in forging the impressive union as shown on the release or again has it been a naturally bred success?

Both, the contrast comes quite naturally but we are also conscious of the play of light and dark that helps to give some depth and complexity to the music.

The album is released via Devouter Records. What was right about the UK label for you and were they one of those I believe you sent demos to of tracks recorded in a metal shop?

Yes, our friend, Scott Endres of the band MAKE sent a link of our demos to Phil Rhodes at Devouter who had released their awesome album, Trephine.  Scott had great things to say about working with Phil and we were impressed by Devouter’s roster of bands.

Your home state North Carolina is a constant hotbed of scintillating music and adventure driven bands, in all flavours. What is it like as an emerging and established band there and how has the place and your home town Chapel Hill impacted on or inspired on your creative process if at all?

The pace here is pretty laid back and cost of living relatively low so we can afford to be more adventurous.  Bands can rent cheap practice spaces or play at someone’s house.  Chapel Hill is a college town so lots of musicians own or work at bars which also put on shows.  The area is really supportive of musicians, so it has been a hub to lots of creative talent.  Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham have a range of venues to play at and great music festivals like Hopscotch which showcase local and international talent. There is an energy here that is pretty conducive to being a musician.

Is there a unity, comradeship amongst bands and the scene itself in NC or is it like other places a more self-centred environment?

photo by Jordan Haywood

photo by Jordan Haywood

There is a lot of overlap between band members and a continually growing number of bands of all genres. We do tend to play shows locally with heavier bands in the area like MAKE, Mourning Cloak, Black Skies, and Bitter Resolve, but I think people are supportive across the board.

What comes next for Solar Halos on the back of the album and ahead?

We recorded a long two part song for a split 10” with another NC band, Irata that should be out in the next few months.  Meanwhile we are writing material for another album and hope to do a bit of travelling later in the year.

Is the UK/Europe destined to see you live this year?

We would love to come over this year but nothing is booked right now.

Once again Nora many thanks for chatting with us, any last thought you would like to send the readers off pondering?

Do an image search for “Brocken spectre,” you won’t be disappointed!

www.solarhalos.com

Read the review of Solar Halos debut album @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/solar-halos-self-titled/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 20/01/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Stuntman – Incorporate The Excess

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    An infernal noise machine with a brutality to match, French senses annihilators Stuntman unleash all of their intensive malevolence and sonic fury, and then some, with new album Incorporate The Excess. A pestilence of hardcore and noise ferocity, the seven track release is a carnivorous slayer of the senses and entrapment of the passions from a band no stranger to corrupting audiences since their formation in 2002. It is a provocation which maybe is the Sète quartet at its most venomous and violent yet on a release which takes a couple of tracks before fully seducing the passions but once into its stride is a ruinous onslaught which leaves ears and body wasted and the imagination not forgetting emotions raging.

     With two previous albums, an EP and split, as well as numerous compilation appearances under their belt and more than 150 shows alongside five European tours where the band has shared stages with the likes of Coalesce, Russian Circles, Jucifer, Genghis Tron, Child Abuse, Kongh, Mumakil and many more, Stuntman have sculpted out a new depth of intensity with Incorporate The Excess. Released via Solar Flare Records digitally and as a 12” LP in addition to a CD release through Head Records and a cassette version through Lost Pilgrims, the album takes no prisoners, does not even allow them to raise hands in surrender, instead going straight for the jugular from its first full assault.

    The brief intro Broken Mirrors Lacerate sets things off, its minute long mix of samples and random metallic sounds SLF013---hi-res-coverrevealing little and offering not much more in the scheme of things. Once it steps aside for The Patriot, the Elite, the Icon the ferocious flight is ignited, the track a savage squall of ravenous riffs and rhythmic provocation scarred by the caustic vocals. The track grazes and scores the senses with a sonic rabidity aligned to a predation from the rhythms which is eye watering but equally it is a thrilling scourge which provides a familiar and unsurprising in many ways presence. Nevertheless the assault leaves a certain appetite wanting more which is duly delivered with the voracious Bag of Dicks, the vehemence drenched tempest another similarly driven and pleasing ravaging which like its predecessor is low on casting something out of the ordinary but unerringly hits the spot.

    Everything changes and ignites though with the album suddenly exploding into another kind of beast through firstly the rapacious tsunami of vicious contagion and groove fuelled animosity that is Horn of Misery. Its initial touch is a writhing swamp of sonic causticity and rhythmic violence merged into a senses smothering wall of hate. Once intensive virulently addictive grooves break free to entwine and seduce with the strongest acidic toxicity and rhythms provide a dislocated dance of barbaric enterprise, the song becomes an irresistible magnet of magnificence, a strike taking the release up numerous levels soon matched by the plateau reinforcing Roll the Skull. Snarling and nagging as it works over the senses with thunderous drum assault and acutely incisive and niggling riffs whilst the bass finds a greater delicious guttural predatory tone adding extra texture and snarl to its malevolence this time around, the track is a full on vat of intensive persuasive . Less pronounced but just as epidemically infected, grooves again steer the song deep into the imagination, their flailing arms wrapping unerringly around the passions and now unbridled hunger coated in greed for the release.

   The following Chaos Shepherd is a two minutes all out malicious antagonist, riffs and rhythms brewing up a pestilential onslaught which corrodes and suffocates with its blistering and hellacious anger. It makes the perfect softener of the senses for the closing eight minute slab of intensive severity, Scarecrow Warfare. The track is like a heavy plundering dark leviathan putting everything else in its shade with a towering tirade of riffs and ponderous concussive rhythms speared by discord coated sonic swipes. The track stalks and preys on ears with a bestial carnality to its intensity and uncompromising savagery to its seductive weaponry. An instrumental which you would imagine might outstay its long provocation, the track is a synapse drowning, passions igniting slab of heavy-duty sonic alchemy from start to finish and quite scintillating.

    It might take a couple of tracks to explode but Incorporate The Excess turns into one dangerously addictive and merciless treat. Stuntman takes noise and turns it into the most lethal seduction which makes their new album overall one frighteningly toxic temptation you only want more of.

https://stuntmannoise.bandcamp.com/

https://stuntmannoise.bandpage.com/

8.5/10

RingMaster 20/01/2014

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Phil Lewis – Age of Nothing EP

Phil Image

    Stocked full with hooks which just will not let go and melodies which linger long after their passing, the Age of Nothing EP from Welsh singer/songwriter Phil Lewis provides six buoyant and inventive tracks which play like new adventures but approach the imagination like old friends you feel you previously knew. The release certainly embraces the ears and its own enterprise with relish, with an eagerness and vibrancy which soaks every accomplished note and idea, and though it also offers open familiarities in its presence it wears those inspirations proudly on its sleeve showing the eclectic influences on the creativity of Lewis.

    Hailing from Penarth, Lewis has already released a trio of well-received and acclaimed albums since 2007, the release year of debut Ancient Light. Bringing inspirations from the likes of The Killers into the new release it is only another flavour which has marked the informative and creative years of the man. From listening to the top Forty every Sunday as a child to start him off, Lewis has been drawn and been nourished by the likes of 1970’s funk, indie music, and ‘big stadium bands’ like U2 and Coldplay, as well as finding a particular affinity with African rhythm music too. All these sparks in his own tempting style helped to take subsequent albums Movements In Space and Ripples From a Small Pond, 2009 and ’11 respectively, to a certain and keen recognition but it is easy to suggest that the excellent Age of Nothing might be the one to make Lewis a name on many more appreciative lips.

     It is fair to say that the EP does not come down on the ear and seduce like an instant classic, though it certainly provides a bait Folderthat is impossible to move away from, but it is when the songs, their melodies, and those impossibly addictive hooks return on their own with a beckoning potency far away from the record that you know there is something extra i and long term about the release. Opening track Imprisoned is a prime example, a song which in its company is a sizeable temptation but one laying seeds within which blossom and seduce all over again whenever they want at any unpredictable moment away from the record and music. The song emerges from a small and enticing sonic web with a great bassline coaxing which is almost gnawing the senses. As with all the instruments, the delicious bait is provided by Lewis’ collaborator Ben Haynes who also produced the EP, as well as previous albums. The trap is soon snapped shut as an immediate appetite for the thick heavy tones and punchy rhythms is further lured by flames of guitars and the distinct tones of Lewis. His voice does not jump out but there is a quality which defines it and works well with the melodic harmonies which join him throughout. A definite early U2 feel to the track breaks out to add a further vein of strong suasion but it is the hypnotic rhythmic enticement which grips the deepest whilst making a virulent canvas for the melodies and infectious charms of the song to work their rich attraction.

The impressive start is instantly matched by the equally contagious Ready. Less energetic than the first but still with an eager gait to its persuasion the bass again steals the march on the other sounds as it strolls alongside the vocals. Soon though elegant electro kisses and a melodic tantalising is adding extra magnetism as the song leads into the emotively fired chorus. It is like a flare up of melodic flame and again has something recognisable in its seventies rock built presence. Not as irresistible as its predecessor but an easy to welcome and hard to escape slice of rock pop smouldering, the song only increases the already strong appeal of the release.

    The title track is another interminably seductive offering, guitars and rhythms resourcefully veining a poetic ambience before all collude to forge a pop sculpted song with a rock frame and pounding which leaves you wanting more whilst implanting again that essence which brings it back to mind again and again. Its successor Devil Comes To Dance shows another side to the release and Lewis’ songwriting, the track a scuzz lit rub of vocals and guitar creating a dark atmospheric intrigue whilst keys add Doors like melodic heat and psyche tempting to the causticity. Though maybe this is one song which fails to linger and return like the others it is a riveting blaze face to face which sets you up perfectly for the fully addictive Fly Again. There is a sixties rock/pop air to the song which enlarges its lure with a sultry melodic climate and expressive guitar craft, at times an Echo and the Bunnymen spice pervading its narrative.

    The EP is completed by Calling Me, a song with a similar premise and spicery to the previous song whilst creating its own distinct character and enjoyable venture. It is a strong and ripe final invitation into the world of Phil Lewis, another influential beckoning which if not as powerful as earlier track certainly like the EP as a whole spotlights the satisfying creativity of an artist who on the evidence of Age of Nothing deserves a much wider attentive audience.

http://www.phillewisuk.co.uk

8/10

RingMaster 20/01/2014

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Tom Brosseau – Grass Punks

 

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    Tom Brosseau is a folksinger and songwriter from North Dakota who has forged his own distinct place in the genre, a presence which, maybe still an unknown for a fair few, is one of those once bitten lingeringly enticed propositions. With a distinctive voice matched by his acoustic guitar invention earning him waves of acclaim and recognition through records and live performances, the now LA based artist releases new album Grass Punks. It is a release which crafts an appealing and at times irresistible encounter and though it does not quite light personal fires throughout, the album lures attendance and attention across its appealing endeavour.

    From learning the acoustic guitar through his grandmother whilst he was in grade school, Brosseau has gone on to perform across the US and UK, into Europe and on to the likes of Japan, Australia, and Taiwan. He has played and shared stages with the likes of John C. Reilly, Becky Stark, John Doe, Juliana Hatfield, PJ Harvey, as well as John Reilly & Friends whilst his previous releases has led to his songs being covered by artists such as Chris Thile, Silje Nes, Emily & Christy, and Mice Parade. Collaborations with Gregory Page in a duo called American Folksingers and with Angela Correa in the duo Les Shelleys which led to a Fat Cat Records released album in 2010 has also marked his career to date. All has added to the acclaim and stature of Brosseau earned by his own creativity which the new album again enhances.

      Released via Crossbill Records USA /Tin Angel Records and produced by Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek), Grass Punks takes tom-brosseaulittle time in gripping attention and a swiftly growing appetite with opener Cradle Your Device. From the dark heavy bass strum and melodic caresses around the mellow voice of Brosseau which opens up the track, an addictive potency frees its enticement to wrap around the senses and imagination. There is an eagerness and almost punk simplicity to the track which is impossible to ignore or resist, and admittedly generally move on from without a couple of replay hits before entering into the rest of the album. It is a dramatically virulent and emotive delve into a technology hampered relationship and the pinnacle of the album which instantly puts pressure on the rest of the release.

   It is a challenge most prove to be up for as after the relaxed temptation of Stuck On The Roof Again makes an enjoyable persuasion the combined lures of Tami and Today Is A Bright New Day brings reactions back up to another eager level. The first of this pair is a softly spoken increasingly infectious melodic breeze upon the ears; vocal harmonies and the poetic elegance of the guitars blending for a delightful enterprising and contagious caress. Its successor is more of a slow burner in its persuasion. Certainly it makes an appealing entrance and initial allurement but it is as passion and melodic intensity increases just a few degrees in warmth and energy that the song comes alive and strolls to almost anthemic choruses which simply invigorate the emotions.

    Both Love High John the Conqueror Root with its XTC/Andy Partridge like guitar and melodic enterprise laced with an intriguing amount of discord and Running from Zombies which simultaneously seduces and smothers to make you feel trapped and liberated such its close quarters melodic persuasion and brewing intensity, next give the imagination a blaze of impressive stimulus to devour and enjoy. They make light of the plateau set by the first song to rival it in strength and invention if not in contagion. From here on in though, the album for personal tastes does not lead the emotions to the same depths as bred by earlier tracks. Songs like Gregory Page of San Diego and I Love to Play Guitar are more than decent and skilfully sculpted pieces of songwriting and presented beautifully but fail to trigger anything more than satisfaction beyond the ears. The same applies to closing song We Were Meant to Be Together which ensures the album comes to a strong and passionate conclusion yet escapes sparking any lingering hunger for itself.

     Grass Punks is a release of two halves in many ways but one pleasing and creative adventure which entertains and impresses overall. When it is at its full potency the album is a captivating gem whilst the moments which do not spark up, what are again just personal tastes and needs, still only show a class and imaginative craft which reveals Tom Brosseau as a folk artist certain to continue to stretch and invigorate the genre.

http://www.tombrosseau.com/

https://www.facebook.com/tom.brosseau.7

7/10

RingMaster 20/01/2014

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Northern American – Wander

 

   northernamerican

    Providing as much intrigue about its creators and their musical endeavour as undoubted enjoyment, Wander from US band Northern American is an immediate slice of evidence as to why there is a richly brewing buzz building up around the Californian band. Not a wind to rigorously ruffle hair and agitate feet into keen wantonness but a caressing breeze with the potency and seduction to coax out a full and warm appreciation, the new single from the LA quartet dances with the imagination whilst taking thoughts on a glide through the emotive and scenic persuasion seemingly suggested by their home city’s instinctive temptation.

     Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Nate Paul, keyboardist Shane Alch, drummer Bruno Calenda, and bassist Augusto Vega, Northern American declare their music as a picture of the city they live in, “From The Doors to Tupac, we are inspired by the same sunset, Los Angeles; the place that was and always will be.” Certainly the sultry and mesmeric heat that you imagine soaks the city washes over the senses through the persuasive sounds embracing the ears adding to the inspirations of the likes classic bands The Doors and The Byrds on to contemporaries such as Local Natives, Autolux, and Letting Up Despite Great Faults which the band says impacted on them. There is a slight familiarity to the songs making up the single at times, though not admittedly sparking thoughts of the first two bands mentioned, but also a uniqueness which sets the band apart without forging a wholly individual presence quite yet.

  The successor to the well-received Happiness Hungover EP, Wander is poised to tease and tempt wider attention through its happinesshungover_largeworldwide release via Heist or Hit Records, not only to itself but in preparation for the band’s debut album currently in the preparation. Currently working with Local Natives producer Raymond Richards all signs point to the year being an extensive awakening towards the band’s enveloping sounds, the single the initial provocative melodic climate to drift over the passions. A release which like the summer sun seduces and heats the senses more the longer you remain in its gaze, Wander emerges as a lingering suasion which will be taken close attention of.

     Wander emerges from a busy yet restrained ambience, electro pulses shooting across its gentle sky whilst an eager rhythmic and melodic brew builds into a jazzy and evocative texture surrounding the expressive tones of Paul. It is not an entrance which opens new doors and definitely it carries a likeable familiarity but with the strong vocals, skittish rhythmic stroll, and guitar jangle it only entices a welcoming appetite. This is until a mouthwatering flip into an almost tribalistic rhythmic tango breaks free, the wonderful detour hypnotic and carnivalesque plus quite irresistible. It is a glorious unexpected twist soon followed by another as a dark drift of sound and adventure shows its hand. A moody alluring bassline provides a shadow kissed temptation whilst keys float and flit over its infectious bait. The blend is almost Joy Division/PIL like before melodies mingle with cosmic shards of electronics to lead the listener back into the initial course of the song. It is a masterful encounter which only gets better and stronger in its contagion the more time spent in its impressive company.

    The track is accompanied by Record Forever, a smouldering blaze of melodic and funk pressed enterprise with again little nuances and shifts that surprise and further the open engagement. Not as immediate and ultimately as magnetic as its predecessor, the track washes over the emotions with a tender and respectful energy but again is unafraid to turn the temperature and urgency up in occasional moments to remain unpredictable in another proposition which holds a familiar appearance but with indefinable reasons.

     The release makes it easy to see why Northern American has drawn impressed and strong reactions to date and it is hard to imagine them not breaking out a much wider audience in preparation for their forthcoming full length. Wander does not light major fires in the passions but has them simmering quite nicely; a great introduction to a band with the potential to be a name on a tsunami of new excited lips ahead.

http://northernamerican.us/

7.5/10

RingMaster 20/01/2014

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