The events and drama which stood in the way of the recording of the album Idolize would have left any band lost in turmoil and self-pity, but for French metallers Sofy Major it was just an obstacle to climb over and use, with the help of similarly determined and generous people. What emerged was a beast of an album, a release which takes noise rock/hardcore/metal, whatever you wish to call the diverse mighty sounds explored on the album, to greater levels. We had the distinct pleasure of delving into not only the band itself but also the devastating events confronting the recording of Idolize and its aftermath with vocalist and bassist Mathieu. Also looking at touring and the music itself he gave us full insight into the past few months.
Hi and welcome to the Ringmaster Review, thank you for taking time to talk with us.
Hi Pete, I’m Mathieu doing bass and vocals for Sofy Major, here are the answers to your questions
You have just released your, may I say outstanding, new and second album Idolize, a release which faced a shall we say’ very testing time to be born’. The relief to get it out there must have been more intense this time around I am imagining?
Yep, we’re in the process of promoting the album now and the endless touring time is coming! Yeah!
Could you tell us about the dramatic obstacles you faced after travelling to Brooklyn to record the record?
Well, basically we were supposed to spend nearly 2 months in the US recording and touring. The journey originally had to start with a 3 weeks recording session. I remember that I left Europe first and alone as we were travelling in separate planes. As I arrived, no New-Yorker was telling me about a potential disaster or what so ever was coming. When I first met Andrew, our producer, when we arrived, he told me that a hurricane was on his way to the coast, but you couldn’t feel any panic all around in NYC. Probably because people out there know that it’s not supposed to be a common weather phenomenon regarding the location of the city. The day before we were supposed to begin doing the tracking work, we did all the drum set-up and we checked all the lines, everything was ready for an über blast. When we left the studio, it was already windy outside and I could see the industrial canal fronting the studio facilities having a super high level, literally as high as the parking lot was. The day after, when we came back to the studio (the first tracking day), the facility had already been a little bit flooded and it already had damaged some of the practice rooms. We tried to help the studio owners securing the building, putting sandbags in front of the doors and then we left as the water was coming to the building.
The hurricane happened at night and actually destroyed the studio in its entirety; you could see those old Telefunken mics in the middle of the parking lots… Sad.
There must have been moments where you thought it was never going to be possible to record it? Or did your determination refuse to accept defeat?
When it happened, I just didn’t know what to think. I knew that Andrew our producer was even more affected and I was just thinking something like: “man, we don’t want to disturb even more”… considering he took care of us as we were homeless after the disaster happened. The next few days, when we were walking from a place to another with our 30kgs backpacks, I guess I thought 2 or 3 times that we’d better go home, particularly when we didn’t know which place we were going to sleep in. This plus the fact that I felt like it was too much for the people to whom it happened, yeah that was a weird feeling. But Andrew is always a positive-minded guy, he told us: “You came here to record an album, you need to leave the States with an album”! Dave Curran assisted him, saved our asses and lent us the gear to record.
I read that the band lost its equipment as well as the studio; this meant all your instruments, amps etc.?
This means all the stuff we bought when we arrived (cabs, pedals, various stuff) and all the gear we rented (which means that they took the deposit for each item we lost and/or didn’t manage to save from the water). All of this is nothing compared to what the studio’s owners lost.
How did that impact on the recording using equipment you are not used to and at one with in many ways?
Well, if you’re a musician you know what it is not to play on your own gear, when we’re on tour I usually admire drummers who are not playing on their hardware. Imagine you’re a guitar player and you play with another guitar with a different tune without having practiced on it. It’s like you’re running for a Formula 1 Grand Prix and they tell you you’re going to use a different car 5 minutes before the race begins. We were lucky to have the opportunity to record though, I cannot really complain about this. But yeah, I remember the gear at Translator Audio was perfectly fitting our needs until it happened.
The local music scene gave you great support and help to be able to do the recording after the disaster, showing the strength of the community out there. This must have added extra spice to your passion during the recording sessions?
Well, what is crazy is that those guys didn’t know us until it happened. That’s funny because when I think about this happening in France, nobody would be giving a single fuck, we don’t have that strong music community background here. Everybody showed us so much support, including bands whose gear was entirely destroyed as well, it was 100% sure this record would include a little bit of those people.
We called the album which did come out, Idolize carnivorous, in sound and intent, and wondered if the circumstances surrounding its recording added extra snarl, rawness, and venom to the music. Do you think that is so?
Probably. The reason we came to work with Andrew is that we like his approach of getting the organic and natural feeling a band can provide while recording. All the records he made had that particular thing, it’s like he always manages to catch the best he can get from the purest recording string. Also we were not playing on our own gear; this gave another harsh thing to add on this album.
Did the album emerge exactly as you imagined before travelling out to record it or do you write songs in the studio generally?
When we arrive in the studio, 90% of our music is already written, but we need those 10% of improvisation. If there’s a cool lead, or something we might want to add on the album and didn’t think about when we were pre-producing, we want to have the ability to do it. But yeah, usually everything’s is planned and written.
Your sound straddles numerous genres, from noise to hardcore, metal to psyche punk. What are the inspirations which have would you say initially fuelled your own distinct ideas?
We listen to tons of different genres, the extreme music field is wise, it can be Noise Rock, Free Jazz to Crust Punk and Black Metal. We don’t restrain ourselves to a specific genre when it comes to listening to music. We like to write consistent music though, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck in something really particular. I’d say we’re punk rockers and metallers playing noise rock. The three of us have their own personal influences, but we do have the same roots. I mean all those scenes you’re talking about are connected to each other. Everything comes from the riffs, if the riff is cool, let’s just play it.
There is a passion to your sound which suggests the main directive of your songwriting is to create sounds that you like to listen to then everything else falls in to place…
I’ve always been willing to create something I could see live and say “cool, those guys are great”. The fact is that we’re also a live band, gigs and shows are part of the game, I’d be egocentric if I said that I would not care about what the audience is feeling while I’m playing. I do enjoy playing live for sure but this is not a competition. If you go on tour, you’re here to share it with the audience, not masturbating your guitar in front of 100 people, what’s the point? I don’t get bands who do not play live, there are so many. Life is hard for everyone those days regarding money, living conditions, etc… so I want to provide the audience something great, something which I worked a lot on, if the dude pays 5€ for a show, I’m here to give him what he came to hear.
There is also that rawness suggesting tracks are recorded live in the studio, is that the case?
Nope, that’s where Andrew did a fantastic job. The organic and live feeling was provided as we were recording separately. It’s like what the Melvins did with their last albums, the drums sound amazing. They manage to play those songs live and it’s like listening to the CD with more beers and more sweating.
The album is out on Solar Flare Records, which I believe is the band’s own label? What inspired the creation of the label?
Well, the idea of creating Solar Flare Records first came early last year. Andrew and Dave did have the first Pigs record ready and I suggested to them: “Hey, I can help you release it”. I was a little bit nervous as it was the first time I was releasing something for another band. The funniest thing was that I didn’t even listen to the record before throwing the idea of releasing it. Well, I was lucky as this is probably one of the best records of 2012, that album is a gem and we all have to see this band live. I was already working on Sofy Major’s promotion and distribution and was doing a whole label’s work for my own records; I just did the same for another band. We’re in 2013, the time when bands got signed on major labels is now over, there are so many bands all over, you can’t wait to get into a super big label like Relapse or Sub Pop if you really want to release records and tour ; this will actually happen for 0.01% of the current touring bands. Many good bands are also doing everything themselves, I know that Big Business did their own label to release their records, that’s probably true for tons of other bands. Now I’m releasing the 11th record for Solar Flare Records and I still enjoy it, I’m glad to release records for bigger and less known bands. If I dig into your band’s music, there’s no reason you won’t be into the Solar Flare roster.
With the situation with the hurricane it must have stretched the finances for the label and yourselves to the limit?
That was terrible when it happened, but so many people helped us, we got donations and merch sales from all over the world. I did lose a shitload of money on this one, but I was glad I managed to make the trip happen anyway. Every single penny I’m earning with my regular job is injected in the label or the band, hope we can recover quickly.
After recording the album you went on tour in the US; that must have revived the spirits…
We knew what to expect. All our friends who toured the US told us it was really… particular. You don’t have the same touring conditions that you can get in Europe: no food, no sleeping place, not a lot of money, that’s probably one of the hardest country to tour and it obviously didn’t improve our financial situation. But we met many good people, great crowds and we left the US with tons of new friends. Also you have so many great bands there that it was a pleasure to share the stage with them. That’s hard for an indie band, not signed on a major label, to tour the US, especially when all the money you’re spending is coming from your personal funds. But when you’re working hard, almost everything can be done.
You are a band who loves to tour and lay waste to audiences obviously, more so than recording?
Nope, we love both equally. We love to tour as that sounds like the best way to share and promote our music, as simple as that. We could hit the studio, release a record and just wait for something to happen, but what’s the point again? We don’t have enough money to travel by our own or go on holidays; it also enables us to discover different cultures. That’s our main motivation about touring: promoting what we do and showing our work to the audience, and meeting other bands. Also, this is probably the best way to sell your records and make enough money to record new songs.
Can the rest of 2013 expect to see the band out there taking the album and sounds to the masses?
Sure! We’ll be supporting Pigs on their first European tour this fall on 20 gigs. Come see us, spit on us, have a beer with us.
Are you a band who is continually writing and already working on ideas for the next release?
Funny you’re saying this because we’ve already been writing a couple new songs; we love to move things forward. I guess we’ll be touring for a couple years now to promote Idolize.
I can assume you will be taking closer of inspection of the weather when choosing the next studio? Ha-ha
A friend of ours recommended us to record our next album in the Bahamas in the middle of August.
Once again Mathieu many thanks for chatting with us.
Any last thoughts you would like to leave us with?
It’s hot outside, don’t forget to drink beers otherwise YOU’RE GOING TO DIE.
Read the Idolize review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/sofy-major-idolize/
The RingMaster Review 24/07/2013
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