Friday, September 30, 2011
Interview - Quaoar's Iñigo and Josu
Quaoar are one of my favorite bands coming out of Spain at the moment, with a sound that really blurs the lines between modern and retro. Their new album, "The River & The Soul," really peaked my interest and it lit a fuse in me that hadn't been lit in several years, it made me want to listen to my old hard rock records from the 60s and 70s, but also made me want to spin this record over and over again.
Ian: I guess for the most obvious first question, why don't you tell me about how the band first came together?
Iñigo: The band started as a group of teenagers covering songs of their favourite bands. Just as a hobby.
Ian: I've read that you cite bands as wide as Opeth and Dream Theater to Pearl Jam and Tool as influences, who else would you cite as some of your greatest inspirations?
Josu: The Beatles are, undoubtedly, one of our strongest influences. We should mention Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Metallica, etc too. The curious thing about it is that Dream Theater isn't an influence when we write songs at all. We don't listen to DT's songs usually, but we understand that listeners tend to compare us with them because DT is a reference in progressive metal nowadays.
There are also other artists that inspire us so much, but it's very difficult to perceive it while listening to our songs: Tom Waits, Neurosis, etc...
Ian: I remember reading that when you started, you were covering Amon Amarth and Carcass songs, is that true?
Josu: Yes! hahaha. Quaoar began as a death metal band and we covered a lot of songs of the old times of Carcass, Amon Amarth, Sepultura... Our singer was a death metal singer and the band members were totally different except for Josu and Aitor, who was a guitar player of the band for the first year, then he left, and finally he came back seven years later as our bass player.
Ian: At what point did Iñigo come into the band? What did he add to it that you didn't have before?
Josu: Iñigo joined the band in 2006. After losing Txaber, our second singer, we started to search for someone who not only could sing death metal [vocals]. I mean, we wanted a real singer because our likes were changing and we needed to do something more melodic. Iñigo came into the rehearsal room, he played a song by The Beatles and we were just blown away. He was really better than we could have expected.
Without Iñigo, Quaoar wouldn't be what it is today. Surely, Quaoar wouldn't exist. Since he got into the band, lots of songs were redefined with his voice and got totally renewed. After recording "Man't", Iñigo has composed a lot of songs (in fact, more than a half of the new record) and his voice is the cornerstone of the personality of the band.
Ian: How did the band evolve from the Quaoar demo to "Man't" in your opinion? Were there any significant changes that took place?
Josu: The Quaoar demo is really a live recording. We sent it to some webzines but apart from that it didn't make a great impact.
The difference between the demo and "Man't" is total. It is like another band and the only thing that shares with Quaoar is the name and a band member: me. That's why the first reference of Quaoar is "Man't." We never name the demo as stuff of the band. It wouldn't make any sense.
Ian: What's the writing process like for you guys?
Josu: Until now, the compositions have come out from a specific person (usually Iñigo or me), but lately we are starting to compose more songs together. Iñigo usually takes everything defined, and when another one takes a song, Iñigo composes the vocal lines and the lyrics. In the rehearsals, more than composing, we put ideas together, because we take the riffs and the structures from home. It may happen that you are walking down the street and suddenly something occurs to you. Then you take your phone or whatever, you hum it and record it, and when you arrive home, you try to decode it hahaha. Iñigo, sometimes, has dreamed of a song and he has been able to remember it and record it (that happened with My Anger Runs's chorus). Since the first pieces of a song come out before the song is completely ended and arranged, it may take months. It's a hard process.
Ian: What was the concept of "Man't?"
Iñigo: "Man't" is a word that came out while writing the lyrics for the song. I wrote a message on internet to my friends and fans asking them for things that frustrate them. With some of their frustrations and
mine, I wrote the lyrics of the song "Man't". The word "Man't" comes from putting together the words "Man" and "Can't". The antithesis of Man.
Ian: "Man't" really showcased a lot more of a "traditional" progressive metal sound, while "The River and The Soul" feels a lot more hard rock oriented with more focus on songs, what did you do differently when recording the new record compared to the first?
Iñigo: The recording process was almost the same. Both times, we started recording the album without having completed some songs. That's not the way we'd want to do it, but otherwise we'd have never go into the recording studio.
In "The River & The Soul", we wanted the guitars to sound more powerful and louder, and we also wanted the bass lines to be less over-elaborate.
Ian: About how long did it take to write and record "The River and The Soul?" What goals did you have in mind when you started to write it and do you believe you achieved them?
Josu: The writing process took from 2007 to the end of 2009. The recording at Beard Studios (great professionals, great friends) started in the beginning of 2010. We spent 8 months recording because we all had to work at the same time (also because we wanted the songs to be perfect too, obviously). This is something that we can do thanks to the friendship that unites us with Javier and Borja from Beard Studios. They are very flexible with us and have a lot of patience.
Our goals were overcoming "Man't" and doing a great rock record, and we think we have achieved them amply. The sound is better, the songs are better, the whole record is more homogeneous and mature... We are very happy, our fans are very happy too and we are receiving rave reviews all around the world.
Ian: There's a lot of different dynamics going on throughout the album, and how the album's structured really enhanced the listening experience. Did you put much thought into how the songs were arranged on the album or did it naturally flow like it does?
Iñigo: Sometimes it flows naturally, but since the songs have many different atmospheres, we have to be very careful with a lot of parts. The most difficult song to be performed in studio was Absolutely. It's a very delicate song and it needed a lot of attention to perform it properly.
Ian: The new album definitely feels likes there's a lot more space in the songs, was it a conscious move towards songs that were not as instrumentally complex as the debut?
Iñigo: It was not conscious. In these 3 years between "Man't" and "The River & The Soul" we have changed as musicians and as people. These new songs fit with what we are and what we feel today. Besides that, it is noteworthy that all the songs in "Man't" were composed by Josu, while the songs in "The River & The Soul" have been composed by Josu, Hugo and myself.
Ian: The new record really has some of the best vocals I've heard all year, but Absolutely definitely stuck out to me with a big Jeff Buckley kind of vibe, how did that song come together, both musically and vocally?
Iñigo: Thank you so much! The first part of the song and the vocal melody came out at the same time many years ago. At that time I was in a very hard emotional situation and I discovered Jeff Buckley, who helped me to get out of the mud. Throughout the following year, I ended the music and the vocal melodies of the whole song (also at the same time - they came together naturally), but it wasn't until two years later that I met a girl who inspired me to write the lyrics of the song. She is not my girlfriend anymore, but I will love her forever for what we had and for what she awakened on me. Absolutely.
Ian: You guys have been labeled as a progressive band, but you guys really dance between being metal, rock, and just plain alternative, are there any lines between genres for you guys?
Josu: We don't see ourselves as a progressive band. If someone hears that Quaoar is a progressive band, they will probably imagine something totally different than what we are. On the other hand, we understand that sometimes people label us this way, because many of our songs are long and have complex structures in a way. But we just do rock with no limits or expectations. We make songs with no pretensions and without thinking if we are doing metal, progressive, alternative... We don't think it matters. The important thing about it is to create good songs honestly, not to create songs for a specific music style.
We feel good this way, and we achieve to do different songs that are coherent with each other. Songs with a spirit in common.
Without going any further, there are many different genres inside of many of The Beatles albums. They played folk, hard rock, pop, psychedelia... and all that in the same record without sounding incoherent, with lots of personality. We think that this has been lost nowadays. If you play a record (for example) of Swedish modern death metal or metalcore, you will hear only that style of music and only the frame of mind that that music style represents. How can you give room to all the emotions, perceptions, feelings... that you want to represent when you are creating art if you stick yourself to a determined music style?
Ian: I'm curious if there's much of a scene for you guys in Spain, because it would seem to me that you could play with all sorts of bands, so is there any real style or band that's more comfortable playing with?
Iñigo: There are many bands in Spain that make exceptional music. One Direction Drive, Last Fair Deal, & James Room ... These are bands that are really worth it. Although there is no other band similar to us here, as our likes are wide, we feel quite comfortable playing with all kind of bands like metal bands or rock/grunge/progressive bands.
Of course we have a lot of friends in other bands around here and every time we can we give a concert together, no matter the style they play.
Ian: As far as I know, you're still an unsigned band. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to being an independent band?
Iñigo: We've had some offers to sign for labels, but we have not found what we think we need. We need a label that bets strongly on us. This is difficult because for some labels we are too light and for others we are too heavy... And we still have not found any medium/big progressive label that is interested in promoting our music.
Anyway, we feel quite comfortable being an unsigned band, because we can do things our way and we don't have to be answerable to anyone we don't agree with. But on the other hand, we know that we need a label to make progress as a band.
Ian: I guess that's about it, thanks for letting me interview you. The last words are yours.
Iñigo: Thank you so much for hearing us and for making a review of "The River & The Soul"! It was a pleasure.
If anyone wants to hear the whole record, just go to http://quaoar.bandcamp.com. If anyone wants to buy some stuff: http://quaoar.bigcartel.com. If anyone wants to know about us or our shows, search for Quaoar in facebook or go to www.myspace.com/quaoar.
We love you. Stay Rock!
As I've said before, I definitely recommend checking out "The River & The Soul," it's easily one of the best progressive/hard rock albums I've heard in a long while. If you like hard rock or progressive metal/rock do not wait to check these guys out!