Soundless Sound: An Interview with Rosetta
[[The interview follows]]
טוב, ככה. לעוקבים של מקום פרסום צנוע זה (ואין הרבה כאלה, ברוך השם) ידועים כבר כמה דברים די בסיסיים עליי: אני לא הכי מפוקס תמיד, אני די בכיין, וברגע שאני ננעל על להקה אני ננעל על להקה. זו הסיבה שאני מקונן עד עכשיו וצם פעם בשנה על מותה של Isis זצוק״ל ומחכה לשובה של Fugazi כאילו הייתה ממשפחת דוד המלך.
אבל אחד הדברים הטובים, העקביים והחיוביים בכמה שנים האחרונות בשבילי היו Rosetta, להקה שהייתה מעולה בהוצאות של עד Determination of Morality ב-2010, אבל מאותו רגע, וכלל אותו רגע, הפכה למקור של נחת, השראה ואושר לכל אוהד פוסט–שקרכלשהוא באשר הוא. אפשר להגיד בבטחה לדעתי שמלבד כמה דוגמאות בודדות מאוד (כמו Celeste או Cult of Luna) הם מהמעטים שעושים את מה שהם עושים ועושים את זה טוב, חזק, מרגש, נוגה, מכשף ומקסים כל אלבום.
האחרון שלהם, The Anaesthete, שיצא ב-2013, היה המשך חסר רבב לאותה יצירת המופת של 2010, אלבום חכם, עוצמתי ו, וזה חשוב, לא משעמם או פורמליסטי בכלל (אולי ״ה״מחמאה בנושאי פוסט–שקרכלשהוא). מדהים עד כמה זה נראה שצריך לעבור ערימות שחת של להקות פוסט-שקרכלשהוא כדי למצוא יהלום בודד קטן, ואז Rosetta מוציאים אלבום ואתה מבין שבזבזת זמן על פארש.
עכשיו כשהלהקה הודיעה שייצא EP חדש באוקטובר 2014 בשם Flies to Flame, והוציאו גם טיזר קטן, החלטתי שזה זמן טוב להחליף כמה מילים וירטואליות עם מאט וויד, גיטריסט הלהקה, הזדמנות שניצלתי קצת לשאול על ההתפתחות של Rosetta לאורך השנים, על לנגן בים של פוסט-שקרכלשהוא, וקצת גם על תעשיית המוזיקה ללהקות מטאל בימינו אנו. תהנו.
By way of a opening to our interview, could you go over how Rosetta came to be?
We were all in local bands in the western Philadelphia suburbs in high school. Rosetta was a side project for those bands, a place where we could do something a little different. We originally thought it would be just a straight-ahead hardcore band, but very quickly the songs got long and more experimental. We wrote most of “Europa” at our fourth or fifth practice. Looking back on the band's origin, it makes no sense to me how it has lasted so long. We never planned ahead much, just always wanted to make music that satisfied us and was fun to play.
Rosetta's sound, although changing throughout the years, seems always to have been about the marrying of the more ambient or melodic elements with a metal hardness or aggression. At first, those elements were usually separated into their own entities, before being merged more completely. Could you say something about the process the band's sound has undergone in those terms?
When you put it that way, I suppose it's about integration or convergence. Maybe that's too abstract, but some of it is just trying to find how these things can intersect with each other. When you're young and new to songwriting, maybe you start with the idea that “this song is going to be dark” or “this song is going to be quiet and peaceful” – almost creating the songs as though they were characters with some immutable personality. Over time, I think it shifts more to a conception of songs as stories. You start to ask “where is this going? What happens here?” and then it opens up many more possibilities in terms of many moods coexisting within a single piece. Those disparate elements are united by the way they can tell a story. From there, conciseness becomes a priority as well, so things tighten up. Maybe just it's a progression from songs as environment or atmosphere to songs as coherent narrative.
Beyond that, I think that one of the great failings of most contemporary popular music is the lack of dynamics. Melody and harmony are important, yeah, but without dynamics you don't really have songs, just hooks. I think dynamics are the crux of musical storytelling.
Were there any bands you were personally, or as a band, influenced by, or that you felt achieved this combination of soft and hard sounds? Or maybe even one for each, the melodic and the metallic?
You really hear it on the early Mogwai records, particularly Young Team. Later post-rock bands like Mono honed that sound quite a bit. I think Envy did a great job doing lots of different moods within a hardcore musical idiom. Lots of the noisy late-90s Robotic Empire bands did that well, like City of Caterpillar. But all these are background influences I think… they were demonstrations to me that this was possible, but we never set out to emulate any of them. I think the motivation had more to do with the fact that I loved metal but also loved stuff like Stars of the Lid, and I was trying to cram it all into the same box.
Determination of Morality, which was the album that personally led me to listen to you guys, felt like a watershed moment in the band's development. Was there anything different about how you approached that album than earlier efforts?
Most obviously, we recorded it with someone outside the band (Andrew Schneider, who we're still working with). But even before that, the process had gotten a lot more directed. Prior albums had all been written improvisationally, where we just let things come together organically. ADOM started with conversations about how we wanted the album to sound and what it would communicate. We wanted shorter songs because we were getting tired of the explosion of bands playing 15-minute songs that had maybe two chord progressions in them. We wanted to distance ourselves from the “amplifier worship” school of bands that seemed more self-indulgent. It was a conscious process of trying to return to hardcore roots while packing more content into shorter lengths, mainly coming from an understanding that if music doesn't communicate, it has very little value. We had started to feel like the things we were writing in the old method were beginning to all sound the same.
It's not like ADOM is perfect, far from it – there are lots of things I would change about it now. But it was a big step in what I think was the right direction for us. I'm still proud of our older recordings too, but I think our development since then has been for the better.
Other than practical distribution reasons, is there any other reasons the band continues to release split records with other bands?
We like to collaborate with friends. That's really all there is to it. I would say splits are pretty impractical, actually. It's also a way to try out things musically that maybe we wouldn't do on a full-length.
With the rise of what's now know as post-metal or post-rock in the last decade or so, is there a sense of a post-metal scene? If so, does it make it harder for newer bands to stand out?
If there is a scene, I haven't really seen it. The bands we're friends with don't really sound like us. I get the feeling that most of the “post-music” fandom lives on the internet anyway. So at least, maybe there's a label that is frustratingly confining, but none of the sense of community and helping each other out that one would associate with the word “scene.” Kind of a worst-case scenario of mostly internet forum arguments between snobs, made up of far more consumers than producers. It's a bummer because snobbishness inhibits creativity. You don't need an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure drone music, or a fancy vintage amp, to write music. Those things might actually be a block to writing music.
Your last full-length, The Anaesthete, was self-published, and yet the new EP is set to be released by your label, Translation Loss. What was the motivation behind self-releasing in 2013, and did you learn anything from that experience?
We learned a lot, and that's going to be the way we release music going forward. It's better for everyone – better for us, better for fans. It wouldn't have worked even a few years ago, but music distribution is changing so rapidly… we are just trying to find the way to be as transparent and nimble as we can in getting music to our fans. Flies to Flame is coming out on TL because we still owed them another release in our old contract. It was gracious of them to let us go forward with The Anaesthete even before Flies to Flame came out.
Is there anything different you guys tried with Flies to Flame?
It's lo-fi. We recorded it ourselves in a garage. Half of it is instrumental, and we used different equipment and instruments than normal. All the songs are studio pieces where we were exploring what we could do if there was no need to ever play any of the material live. So there's a lot of ridiculous production on it, but it was all the band doing that and not a third party. We created the thing ourselves, start to finish – we 'built a recording' instead of 'writing an album.'
Would you say the bandcamp era has made it easier or harder for your band to get the word on, or, say, get paid?
Far easier on both counts. I'm not able to go into specifics, but there have been several instances in the last year where I have seen very compelling examples of just how limited and ineffective old models of PR and distribution are. Self-releasing has moved more units to more new people for our band than anything we've ever done within the music-industry-proper. While still appreciating everything that small record labels do (because really, small labels are the only ones worth working with right now) and have done for us in the past, I can confidently say that we're through with the larger music industry. The farther away we can get from all of that, the better for us and for our fans.
Are there any bands you've been enjoying listening to or discovered on recent tours?
I don't check out a whole lot of new music these days, but in terms of stuff that's come out this year, I really like the Pyrrhon record and the new YOB record. In terms of older stuff, Oceansize (RIP) has recently made a huge comeback into my regular rotation. What a great band.