If you’re interested in hearing metal in the vein of Bongripper, Pelican and ISIS, you’re going to love Indianapolis-based R’lyeh. Inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft without necessarily being a “Lovecraft band,” the duo strives to push the envelope of what progressive instrumental metal can be, even as they deal with the changes required by becoming a two-member band following the loss of bassist Joshua Buchanan. I caught the band after their set at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis to talk about the benefits of instrumental metal, the work they have done on upcoming debut album Color Out Of Space (due out this February) and what it is like being part of such a close-knit metal scene.
You can hear a sample from their upcoming album’s title track, shot live at the venue, below. The band will be playing Jiminy Christmas at the Emerson Theater on December 14th with half a dozen other bands to benefit Riley Children’s Hospital — $6 gets you in, or you can bring a new unwrapped toy!
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First off, who would you say are your biggest influences, and how do they play into your sound?
We’re extremely influenced by a vast array of bands, everything from led zeppelin to AHAB, even bands like This Will Destroy You. We are heavily influenced by the whole post-(genre) scene: We really dig instrumental music. It forces the listener to really listen to the music, which is why we’re all here right?
We’ve been compared to bands like Bongripper, Pelican, ISIS … the good stuff. Those bands have played heavily into our sound, technically speaking and from a writing standpoint. It’s really only shifted into a more-rounded “thing” when we became a two member band, for we started as two. So the only thing now is filling empty spaces while maintaining a high-intensity stage performance to keep ’em on their toes!
The whole thing about R’lyeh is that we tell you a story. Our songs on our upcoming release Color Out Of Space are written and arranged in a fashion that represents the “rise and the fall” of all mankind. We build things (riffs) up so big to a point that we’re unable to maintain it, then we fucking destroy things (riffs) all the way down to the ground. You’ll hear us when you see us, you’ll feel us when you feel us, basically.
Do you prefer writing in the studio, or working songs out with an audience? There’s certainly more at stake on stage, but does that give you more creative energy to take risks?
We write primarily at “the R’lair” (the basement of the Indy Indie Artist’s Colony: Thanks y’all for listening every week!) and we’ll run through things until we’re either really comfortable with the song or really hyped on the song and can’t hold it in. Kind of like the very last song we played last night at The Fifth Quarter Lounge, appropriately titled “November.”
Ideally we’d like to have a drum structure to follow, and nail the loops. We allow ourselves ample room for improvisation if needed, just in case. The creativity shows; every performance is different and personal.
Lovecraft inspired the name … Is it difficult to tell those epic stories with just the music? Is there a rush when fans get it?
Yes! R’lyeh (pronounced like Princess Leah, with a “ruhh” in front of it) is Lovecraft inspired, brought about by drummer Mathias (aka Dane, since it’s easier to say) and it was pondered on for a couple of weeks before we decided on the name “RLYEH,” though we aren’t really a “Lovecraft band.” We’re just a couple of dudes who like to get stoned and play some riffs really loud.
Sometimes it is difficult, yes, to tell such an epic tale though it almost just comes to us. I mean our longest song (“Untitled”) is roughly a 10 minute long build-up, and was written in just a couple of hours! It’s all about the jams and see what happens. When people come at me with the Lovecraft reference and actually “get” what we’re doing … what a great feeling.
What, to your ears, makes a perfect song? How do you know when you’ve gotten it right?
The perfect song (to me, Anthony) is when I can feel it more than I can hear it. If a song that I hear in my ears from the radio or the stage or wherever, if that song can make me feel something, than its a winner. I’m going to have to knock it up and wife it.
What song do you wish you’d written?
I wish I would have written “Down in Mexico” by The Coasters. R’lyeh Secret: We do a Black Sabbath cover, but only once so far, with someone else not in the band on vocals.
Is there anything you wish someone would ask you but they never do?
I wish someone would ask me if I wanted to do a shot and take a picture. Life’s too short, man.
Is there anything you wish they’d never ask again?
I wish they would quit asking us why we don’t have a singer.
Do you have any great “fan” stories about other bands, or about your fans?
I’m fortunate enough that some of my biggest fans are my best friends. And that probably goes both ways, the scene here is pretty close knit. Mona Demaggio [who runs the 5th Quarter Lounge] likes to get on stage with me while I riff. A girl pulled her boobs out and put them in my face once at a Burn the Army show. Honestly man, we could do a whole other interview on interesting stories from shows! [Laughs.]
Have there been any really memorable show disasters?
We’ve forgotten gear before, had to go back for it or borrow another bands. Ohlm got a flat tire and couldn’t make it once, that was rough. We had to cancel our show with Ringworm at Iron Borne Fest because I double-booked myself for a tattoo convention the same weekend. So many little things that always seemed to domino themselves into mega disasters. But we tend to work through the kinks pretty damn easily.
What was your recording experience on the album due this February? What should fans expect from the new album?
Color Out Of Space is the ride through the shit storm that is life. The buildup, the hype, the power, the greed all leads to the breakdown, the chaos, the destruction. You’ll hear riffs, you’ll follow along, you’ll feel relatable feelings and you’ll see the creativity and thoughts involved in putting this band together. We’ve had rough ups and downs along the way but the journey has been great. Expect a lot out of R’lyeh in 2015. We’re going to try and make this an actual thing, who knows where we’ll end up or when, but we’ll be sure to let you know.