Interview by Lee Carter
Hey and thank you for your time. Please state your name and position in the band.
Andy Thomas – Guitar and vocals.
There has been a four-year gap between ‘Violent Portraits of Doomed Escape’ and 2016’s ‘Selves We Cannot Forgive’ – how have those four years been for the band and how did that affect the writing process for the new album?
The four year gap between albums, for us, was one of great uncertainty. Nick and I, and eventually Ethan, began writing music for the sake of it, and we had no idea that it would even end up being our next album. In a lot of ways, I feel that this is a good thing, as we wrote the album without external pressure of any kind.
Were you always going to have a slightly longer gap between the albums, or has life and other factors stepped in?
Very much life and other factors.
How do you usually feel when releasing new music? Are you excited to get it out there, or is there a little anxiety and trepidation?
I’m honestly excited for people to get to experience it, and happy that it is done and that we can move on to whatever is next.
With the longer gap between releases on this occasion, has it created a pressure on the band, or are you more of the thought that it takes however long it takes?
As I stated above, I think it did the opposite, as we were purely doing it for ourselves.
How have you found the initial response to “Violent Portraits…”?
The reaction seems to have been very positive, although it is kind of tougher to say without having been able to take the material on the road.
With the band going through a few lineup changes since 2016, how has it been having original guitarist Ethan McKenna back in the band?
Ethan actually isn’t our original guitarist, he is the first guitarist we asked to be in our band, and his life circumstances at the time prevented it. That being said, he is an incredible talent and a sweetheart of a guy, not to mention a very old friend. Having him in the band feels great.
When sitting down to begin writing new music, what inspires and influences you most?
That’s not really something I over-intellectualize. I play guitar a bunch, and sometimes cool things happen.
Is there an explicit overarching theme/concept behind ‘Violent Portraits…’, or is it something a little more abstract and open to interpretation?
I definitely prefer that our material stays open to interpretation. I know what I write about, and it guides me through it, but telling people what they should think about it makes me feel like I’m more full of shit than I already am.
The album is unmistakably a Black Crown Initiate record, but how would you say your writing has progressed since the days of ‘Song of the Crippled Bull’?
Hopefully, it has become more concise and mature, without losing too much of the youthful frustration that our early material possessed. I’m 34 now, but I’m still mighty upset.
How does the band usually write: do you all get together, or write individually and then share at a later date?
Definitely the latter, as we are all spread across the United States.
Are things fairly democratic within the band, or is there someone who acts as boss to drive the music?
I kind of drive the vision, but I let the other guys tell me what I’m being a dopic asshole. That is something I have had to work on over the years.
Were there any bands, artists or other genres of music that inspired or influenced you during the writing process?
The bands that influence me tend to stay the same: Metallica, Meshuggah, Opeth, SYL/Townsend, Gojira, Decapitated, The Ocean, Sigur Ros, etc.
When it comes to studio time, are you a band that goes in prepared, or one that will go with the flow? Has this always been the case?
We have our material mostly composed when we hit the studio, but we definitely allow for happy accidents and corrections/better ideas when we get in there.
September 2019 saw the release of the album’s first single, “Years in Frigid Light” – was it always the intention to release the album nearly a year after we got our first taste of it, or has the current global situation thrown a spanner in the works?
We needed something new to promote for our European tour with Rivers Of Nihil, so we released what was essentially a glorified demo of that song. A re-recorded and, in my opinion, much better version made it onto the album.
With that in mind, how are you and the band doing during the pandemic?
As well as anyone, I suppose. We are alive and working day jobs to get by, and hoping the situation changes at a time and in a manner that it is still feasible for us to continue to do this.
Of course, the situation has affected the entire industry and every artist differently, but how has it affected you?
Without sounding like a jerk, at this point, I spend most of my time trying not to dwell on it anymore.
Without dwelling too much on the negatives, has there been any positives that have come out of the pandemic?
I have played a ton of guitar.
Have you got any touring plans in the works for once the world returns to some form of normality, or “new normal”? Will we be able to catch you guys over in the UK at some point?
With the exception of the “new normal’, we hope all of that happens soon.
If you could tour with anyone and go anywhere in the world, who would you want to share a stage with and where would you most like to go?
Going anywhere with Rivers of Nihil is always a blast. Other than that, I’d like to play the Parthenon with Metallica.
Whilst staying home has been the priority, what has been keeping you entertained? Are there any new bands, artists or albums that have caught your attention recently? Any recommendations for the readers?
I really enjoy VOLA, as far as recent discoveries for me.
Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Try to stay positive, thanks so much for the support, and we hope to see you and have some beers/hugs soon.