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!

Read the review of Solar Halos debut album @

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 20/01/2014

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Horseback: Half Blood

The new album from North Carolina band Horseback is a deeply provocative and evocative creation, a release that explores and expands into the senses like a dawning idea or emotion. From an initial spark it grows into a consuming and emotive experience which leaves a distinct and pleasurable aftermath to contemplate. Half Blood melds numerous essences of diverse metal styles into a seamless and provoking journey which challenges, mesmerises, and leaves a discerning rapture in its wake.

Horseback is the brainchild of guitarist, vocalist, and producer Jenks Miller, and across previous releases he has shown not only the capability but the imaginative and inspiring skill of bringing as mentioned an array of flavours and styles across the metal genres into creations which leave a lasting and deep impression. Half Blood is no different, its stunning and impressive chapters bringing a maelstrom of drone, psychedelic rock, doom, black metal, post-rock and more into a layered and textured trial for the ear and journey for the emotions. It is not a release that holds your hand from the start and leads you easily into its midst though neither is it cold or hard to climb on board with, but it asks for and requires a continued union and persistent interaction for its full and striking rewards to come forth.

The album is the third release with Relapse Records though the first original album with the previous releases being reissues of Forbidden Planet and the debut Impale Golden Horn. Through these and the acclaimed album The Invisible Mountain, releases with Voltigeurs, Locrian, and Pyramids either as splits or collaborations, plus more, Miller has written unique and impressively skilled sounds and compositions to form a continuing and startling aural vision that involves every one of senses, the mind, and heart. The music is thoughtful and inventive with a passion and emotional embrace which harsh or warm is.

Now I am not going to claim knowledge or understanding of the mythology, hermeticism and western mystical traditions which theme or inspire the music on Half Blood and it is not important as the music finds and gives its own meaning as it engages mentally and emotionally. Half Blood is in the words of Miller “a meditation on hybridity, impurity and evolution”, and that second word is the key, meditation. Throughout its movements of dark and light, with intrusive and caressing opposites side by side, the whole experience is meditative. At times the music scrapes the senses and in others it leads them through a caustic dark into enveloping acidic warmth, but it is never less than mesmeric of hypnotic.

The opening Mithras with its beckoning muscular bass and smiling keys draws one into the album immediately, the seventies progressive guitar and keys forming a groove that lies easily with the dark rasping out of place but firmly linked vocals. The track shimmers and glistens within the ear whilst its darkened pulse and dissident energy prowls behind. This is followed by the excellent drone grooved Ahriman. The song wraps the senses with a wash of warm melodies, Southern rock stoner tones, and infectious guitar manipulations. The track is a heated atmosphere of light though again with a watching dark presence and with a lightened drone quality that is fully hypnotic. The two opening songs are for want of a better term, traditionally structured songs which engage with a captivation and out stretched hand.

      Inheritance (The Changeling) takes the journey into a different direction. The track is a twisting and impactful mesh of church organ, littered sonic violations, and resonating intrusive discord. The track scrapes with a salt in the wound intent whilst locking a mesmeric hold that brings it all into a testing and rewarding sinister event.

Returning to the similarly driven style of the opening songs Ajuna offers a great persistent mix of thoughtful guitar and heavy resonance that continues the great quality offered by the album. It is with the closing three parts under the title of Hallucigenia that the album finds the deepest connection especially the third track. The first two parts Hermetic Gifts and Spiritual Junk open up the senses with sounds and intensity which coaxes the thoughts and emotions into welcoming the slightly draining drone and sure unrelenting meditative wave. As part two enters the drama and intrusion works deeper, but as with its predecessor they are the gateways to the stunning The Emerald Tab. The guitar drone like a bagpipe with a singular note, winds around every aspect of the senses. It verges on painful, leaves one with ringing ears, and takes the emotions through uncertain but decisive feelings, but it is deeply hypnotic. It is a harsh meditation but a cleansing laced with sonic light and reserved melodic additives. It is not a track that will work for all one suspects but as with the album it offers remarkable rewards.

Half Blood is outstanding but does need a concentrated effort to fully appreciate all of its wonders. Miller and Horseback ensure music is not just a brief excursion for the ear but a wholly deep experience.

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