Interview with Epicurean vocalist John Laramy

- Mar 13, 2008 at 04:55PM
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Minnesota six piece, Epicurean incorporate the best elements of symphonic, prog, death and thrash metal into an original sound that has caught quite the buzz in the underground as of late. The hard-working band has been consistently gigging throughout the Midwest for last few years, selling thousands of copies of their demos in the process. Legendary label, Metal Blade Records signed the band in 2007 and Epicurean wasted no time heading back into the studio to remix their A Consequence Of Design album for a re-release. Fans of Children of Bodom, Borknagar and In Flames will fall in love with the album which has finally hit stores! Recently, I talked to vocalist John Laramy exclusively for PureGrainAudio. Here's how it went.

The first thing people notice about the band is the strength of the keyboard and guitar arrangements. Was it tough in the beginning for you to get a handle on the blending of the instruments?
John: It was a bit of a challenge at first, but we knew we didn’t want to be one of those bands that misuse the tools and elements we had. I think that too many bands with keyboards either just blend them into the background, or mimic the guitars throughout. We knew from the beginning that was something we wanted to avoid, so the progression was pretty natural, and just sort of became the way we compose.

How much were bands like Children of Bodom and Dimmu Borgir a touchstone for you early on? Or were the more traditional prog-leaning bands more of an influence when you started the band?
John: I think they were in the very beginning, more as a template for what can be done with the pieces we had in place. Truthfully, we don’t really have a collective influence. You would get a very different answer depending on which one of us you asked. [laughs] I think that we all have a pension for progressive music, and that kind of came out when we all first got together to play. I think when you first start a band, you begin to look at what your influences are doing musically and sort of try to follow that, but we kind of gave up on that pretty early on and just generally gave up on trying to fit into a particular genre, and just made the music we wanted to make regardless of what that meant.

Even though the songs on A Consequence of Design are packed to the gills with huge guitars, intricate rhythms and complex arrangements, there are still strong songs at the core of it all. When you write, do you start building from a simpler frame and then just stack up all of the individual parts and nuances?
John: The initial versions of the song are definitely a bit simpler but it does differ from part to part. It’s one thing to have some cool riffs thrown together, toss some flashy playing over the top of it and call it a song, but at the end of the day all the flash in the world can’t fill the foundation for a good song, it’s all about composition and arrangement, just look at The Beatles. So wherever we are in the writing we just constantly have to basic progression and an overall feel running in the back of our heads.

With the complex nature of the arrangements, is there any room for improvisation in your live sets?
John: [laughs] There is a bit, yes. But there really isn’t much room for major changes, like there are in other genres; we do change things up a bit, play at different speeds depending on the show, throw in stops and things of that nature. Everyone has their own little flair within their own parts, changing a run here or there and things like that.

Dream Theater had “Pull Me Under” to help them reach a wider audience on their second album. Do you guys have any aspirations for having a single like that to broaden the appeal of the band?
John: You know, something like that would be pretty cool I must say. We have definitely thought about the idea, but I don’t think we’re going to make any conscious effort to write a “single”. That’s one of those things, where if it happens, that’s great, but I really don’t see us setting out to write it. It would mean we might be able to afford something other than Cup-O-Noodle for a change. [laughs] So maybe I should reconsider that answer....

The band keeps things interesting thematically. Can you talk about some of the subjects you tackle on the album?
John: Well, “A Consequence of Design” is actually the first chapter in a concept we’re writing throughout the album. The story is pretty long and detailed, but basically at the root of it, it’s a story that deals with the concept of death, and what happens after you die. Our main character Gabriel is actually a ghost throughout the story, and it goes on to talk about his situation and a sort of sci-fi journey he’s going to have to take later on in the story. Half of the album is pieces of the story, and then the other half is internal monologue within Gabriel.

The cleaner vocals on the record are very strong. Is this an aspect of the band you see yourselves pursuing more on future recordings?
John: [laughs] Thank you! Yes definitely. We’re certainly not going all “clean” or anything like that, but I think with the next record we’re just going to try and do different things with all of the existing elements we already have.

After a few years of struggling and putting in hard work, Metal Blade Records signed you to their roster. How did that come about?
John: That is definitely a trip I must say. When we were younger, we could only dream of being a part of a label like Metal Blade. Basically it came about through touring; we’ve always been a touring band, and one day went through Indianapolis to play an outdoor festival where we were approached by a manager who began to work the music to labels, and a few months later we were signing with Metal Blade. It was a pretty surreal time.

Since this album is a re-release, have you been working new material or is it too tough to write on the road?
John: Well, it is definitely hard to write on the road! We really don’t get much done as far as writing when we’re out, but yes, we have been putting in a lot of hours in writing the new material. The process has been getting a little different, and we have a lot of ideas in the works, and now that we’re back home we have to get into the studio and try to start putting those pieces back together, kind of like a really frustrating puzzle. [laughs] We are hoping to have a new record out within the next year and a half or so (time willing).

For any of our younger readers who may be reading this and are out there trying to etch out a career without the help of a label and a booking agent, can you offer some hard earned advice?
John: The best advice I could give is to be really self-aware. REALLY know what you’re getting yourself into, and it’s not an easy thing. There is an enormous amount of sacrifice and hard work, and you will lose out on a lot of things in life that you will never get back. Now, the payoff is worth that road to some, and some people fall off along the way.... Just know that it isn’t something you can do as a hobby if you hope to make it, and I think the mistake a lot of people make (myself included) is that when you get going and you feel like you’re paying your dues, just wait, because it hasn’t even begun! [laughs] Also, finding a label is a huge step, but remember that guarantees nothing... it means you’ve worked your way up to 0 because now it’s your job make yourself, and you’ve only been given the tools to do so. Just remember to work hard, and love the music that you make!!!

John: Thank you very much for doing this with me!!! These were really fun questions. Definitely keep in touch and thanks again!  [ END ]
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