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

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Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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Solar Halos – Self Titled

Solar Halos 3 HiResSmall

Setting the new musical year off to a stunning and potent  start, US rockers Solar Halos unleash their debut album, a release conjuring a tantalising mesmeric brew of stoner and psychedelic rock with further explorations which simply seduces the imagination and passions into hungry life. Out 20th January via Devouter Records, the self-titled album is a masterful temptation and beautifully crafted evocative expanse of heavy unrelenting rock leading the listener into one of the first great adventures of 2014.

Hailing from Chapel Hill, North Carolina the trio certainly comes with a rich pedigree to its line-up. Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Nora Rogers, formerly of Horseback and Curtains of Night, Caltrop and Horseback drummer John Crouch, and Fin Fang Foom bassist Eddie Sanchez, Solar Halos feed expectations bred from its line-up and then shows them another creative level through imagination and sonic invention. Soaked in a doom like weight yet finding a radiant and transfixing resourcefulness generally absent in the genre through varied textures and sounds, the band’s first album is an enthralling and intensive examination of and feast for senses and emotions. A travelogue of heated and dusty climes brought through an ever shifting provocative aural landscape.

The album opens with The Vast White Plains and immediately hits the appetite with a delicious grizzly bass sound within ear Artworkentwining sonic guitar lines, all caged by the hypnotic rhythmic sculpting of Crouch. Within its first seconds the song has attention rigidly glued to its magnetic lure, a hold which is only cemented further once the distinctive and absorbing vocals of Rogers begin the lyrical narrative. The combination is unstoppable as the track winds the passions around its rhythmic fingers, its sonic persuasion drifting into continual enterprise and bordering exhaustive intensity. With additional vocals from Sanchez as effective and pleasing as those of Rogers to further flavour the rich lure of the song, it is a mighty and riveting start.

The following Tunnels takes a more reserved approach as its entrance but one with melodic flames and a tempered rhythmic gait which only engages thoughts as eagerly as its predecessor. A crawling journey through seemingly doom seeded psychedelic waters, the track heavily leans on the ear yet with the warm life filled vocals and incendiary melodies cast by the guitar it feels like a plunge through dark emotional depths lit by a beacon of hope and warmth. As with the first track every aspect of the song coaxes out rapturous responses, its twisting and inventive enterprise reinforcing the lure and lingering beauty of the wonderfully intrusive feel of adventure. There is a definite Horseback tone to the music as well as elements of Kyuss and at times Jess and the Ancient Ones but as the second song finishes there is no denying that Solar Halos crafts a sound which is uniquely theirs.

Both the soaring rigorous flight of Migration and the atmospheric scenery of Frost continue the impressive presence of the album, the second especially with a carnivorous tone to the bass and another mouthwatering rhythmic taunting by Crouch igniting another wash of emotional rabidity within for its offering. Their triumphs are soon followed by the chilled touch of Wilderness, a song which builds mountainous sonic ranges and heavyweight rhythmic caverns to explore and spark the imagination within. The most doom washed track on the release but again one which teases and invites bright burning flames from within its dark shadows, it builds a thick tide of scuzz filled provocation and melodic heat provoking thoughts and emotions to delve only deeper with each excursion through its fascination.

Resonance brings the album to a close, the track eight minutes of sonic incitement and rhythmic enslaving. It is a glorious slowly invasive triumph to complete a breath-taking release. Everything from the great vocal blend of Rogers and Sanchez, the guitar’s senses encircling spirals of expressive melodic suasion, and the almost goading and certainly anthemic rhythmic bait of the bass and Crouch’s outstanding drum craft, enslaves ears and imagination. Like the album as a whole, the track just gets better and impresses more with each course through its striking landscape and steals top honours on the release though it is constantly challenged by the other tracks.

Solar Halos instantly stand aside the likes of Horseback and Royal Thunder through their debut and it is not hard to suspect that the threesome will be forging major heights in the future. 2014 could not be off to a better start.

www.solarhalos.com

10/10

RingMaster 01/01/2014

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