Interview: PABLO DAVILA of IRIST on stellar record ORDER OF THE MIND, working with Lewis Johns, signing with Nuclear Blast and more.
Atlanta-based metal powerhouse and Nuclear Blast newcomers IRIST came out of the block in scintillating fashion with stellar debut record ORDER OF THE MIND out on March 27th, 2020, proving to be an unstoppable force that is just about to steal the attention away from many mainstream bands.
Lining up Rodrigo Carvalho at vocals, Adam Mitchell at guitar and vocals, Pablo Davila at guitar, Bruno Segovia at bass and Jason Belisha at drums, IRIST unleash their first milestone boasting a brilliant musicianship, dynamic songwriting and technical approach. Brutality is mitigated by emotional melodies, huge choruses and atmospheric scenarios without losing the main heavy stomp.
Our editor-in-chief Alex had a fabulous opportunity to have a chat with guitarist PABLO DAVILA who took some time out of his busy schedule to introduce the band by discussing the journey, the influences and how the band formed. We took a chance to discuss the collaboration with producer Lewis Johns in Southampton UK, the creative and writing process approached for ORDER OF THE MIND and the challenges involved as well as the lyrical inspiration. We also discussed single SEVERED, the band’s point of view on the metal scene and experimental metal, the story behind getting signed by label Nuclear Blast and more.
Our track by track review (Italian) for ORDER OF THE MIND is available at: www.sickandsound.it/il-fascino-e-la-dannazione-nel-debutto-doro-degli-irist-order-of-the-mind.
- Hello Pablo! So before talking about your record, I would love you to introduce your band. You guys are hailing from different countries, so how have IRIST actually come together and what’s the story behind your name?
It is true that the most of us are from different countries, but we all met in Atlanta, Georgia which is where we currently reside and yeah, that’s the short version. As far as the band name, our vocalist Rodrigo, he came up with it. I believe he was just looking at the word “iris”, the flower, and then he just kind of experimented with adding different letters to it and sort of making it look good on a piece of paper, giving it a cool symmetry so he added the “T” and then he showed it to the rest of us. Obviously, it has no actual meaning, which we thought it was kind of interesting, we wanted to give it a meaning of our own in a way you know. We didn’t want the name to sort of take away from anything or make you think anything specifically, we didn’t want the name to take away from the music. It was quite a decision, it was necessarily something that we reasoned out. We just thought it looked kind of ancient or something like that and then it stuck.
- So have IRIST actually come together, how was the band brought together?
Most of us met through, what do you call “musician online ads” and this is going pretty far. I met Bruno, our bass player first and I joined this punk band, this is like more than ten years ago, but I met him through an online ad. There was a latino punk rock scene in Atlanta at that time and it was pretty big actually. So we got to be really good friends and even after that project ended and we still collaborated in some way or another. Years later, I joined Adam, Adam’s the other guitar player, I joined his indie rock band. He was playing drums at that time actually. So I joined his band and we got to be really good friends as well, I met him through the same way, a musician’s ad online. Rodrigo, our vocalist, he’s the most recent addition to our band. He found us in the same exact way, we were looking for a vocalist when this project started and he came and he tried out and we ended up again being really good friends, very close and eventually he ended up joining our band. The last member would be Jason and this is a little bit different. He posted a video. I heard about that in the trailer, he was talking about this video he posted, really nice. Yeah, I’ve hanged out to that video for like two years before I reached out to him because I didn’t think our demos were good enough when I first saw him. I wanted to make sure that we had some decent songs before I asked him to collaborate with us, and you know, fortunately he decided to stick around.
- With you brand new record we obviously came across a band with boundless potential. I mean, your debut is superb. So at this point everyone is trying to draw comparisons with a lot of iconic names but really, when it comes down to you, what bands or genres have you taken as an inspiration along the journey to this highly dynamic and very engaging output?
It’s hard to say in a way because we took a long time to finish the album, and because we always listen to new music and we try to stay current with different bands that are coming out, I think a lot of bands and things that we’ve heard over the past couple of years went into it. You know, of course there’s always those big influences which for us are mainly the 90s, a lot 90s metal bands like Type O Negative or Fear Factory as well as a lot of Seattle grunge and that kind of stuff that was going on at that time. That kind of stuff is in our DNA at this point, it’s always gonna be there. But then the stuff that’s more recent that’s sort of in past thing, for me personally like some psychedelic bands like Swift, I’ll always be trying to stay tuned to new things that are coming out so that works its way in the music. But I don’t think there’s anything too specific, we’re not really referencing anything for this particular album, like I mentioned there’s always bands you listen in your teenage years that sort of stick with you, you know Sepultura is another big one for us, the early stuff. But that’s just me, if you ask any of the other guys you’re gonna get – for the most part – a completely opposite answer.
- Your record was produced and mixed by Lewis Johns in Southampton. So you basically flew over to the UK and spent three full weeks there, working on the record nonstop. I would love to discuss the experience you had by working side by side with Lewis Johns and how the collaboration was set up in the first place.
Well we simply asked, you know, we came across Conjurer, that’s a band out of the UK, we listened to their album Mire that had just been put out around that time, and we really thought the drum sound on that particular album was really really good and we thought that it will compliment the songs that we had -our demos at that time – really well so we asked the label and said: “Is it feasible to get to the UK and record with this guy? We looked at some of the bands that he had worked with.” Of course the main question was figuring out if that would fall within our budget and fortunately it did, and his schedule was opened during that time and I think that maybe he needed to make a couple of adjustments and our schedule was good. So one thing led to another we’ve ended up working with him and the experience was amazing. Lewis is about our age, he’s in his thirties and he listens to most of the same music that we listen to. He was kind of a conjured spirit in a way, I remember we’ve looked on the social media before just to make sure “Ok, what’s this guys listening to”, just trying to ensure that we were making the right decision. But we’ve learned very quickly he was on the very same page as us and it was very easy to record there because we had prepared extensively, you know – like I mentioned before – we took almost two years to finish the songs, we already had done pre-production, everything was really well organized by the time that we got to the UK. But it was great.
- It’s a very detailed record, actually when I got to hear your record, first thing I thought was related to the fact this is your debut record, but indeed it seems like your third record at least. Oh, thank you. Yeah cause the sound is so refined, you got this heavy-yet-emotional, sophisticated sound with all those elements and dynamics building up to the brilliant musicianship you have. So I really would love to know, what was the writing and creative process behind your record to achieve such an eclectic, yet super cohesive sound?
I’m glad you mentioned that, because that’s always our biggest challenge when we’re writing songs. We always end up with different sections within songs that sound nothing like each other. And so the challenge is always to make really smooth transitions and once a specific song is done, you have another song that sounds the complete opposite and then you need to make a smooth transition between that. If I had to name one thing that we spent a very very long time thinking about it, it’s smooth transitions within songs and within the album. We’re very neurotic people, so I think it’s in our nature to spend a lot of time obsessing over the small details. Well, it shows on the delivery, I mean you being detail-oriented, it actually shows. So that’s amazing. [both laughing] Yeah, we go through many different versions of the demo before we end on the final product. I mentioned to the other people, we’ll finish the demo, then we’ll walk away for a few weeks and then we come back, and then of course you’re gonna hear everything differently or think that the whole thing is garbage and then you work on it again. So we go through many stages before we call something done. You know, it can be stressful at times, because you just want to be finish. But right now I’m very happy that we took the time to fine-tune all those small details because we’re pretty satisfied with how the album came together.
- Let’s discuss a few of the lyrical themes behind the songs or the general lyrical inspiration. Is there a message or vision that IRIST would like to get across with this record or with their music?
Rodrigo writes all of our lyrics, I can tell you that just being around him, that most of the lyrical themes in this album have to do with overcoming physical and psychological barriers and I think he kind of approaches that from kind of a metaphorical stand point in most of the songs anyways. But yeah, unfortunately I wish I could elaborate more on that, but that’s Rodrigo territory. I would say that we write the music first before we add the vocals and the way he approaches the lyrics is really – at least for me as one of the songwriters in the band – really compliments the dynamics of the songs and the mood and all that stuff really well. I’m happy with how it all turned out and his interpretation of the instrumentation.
- What are the biggest challenges you’ve personally faced as a guitarist and songwriter for this record? Is there a particular experimental song that really challenged you?
Yeah, I think the song that was the most difficult for us to complete was actually one for the singles, Creation, because it was one of those situations where there was an idea for it in the beginning stage that was very clear, and then we started adding different parts to the song and then the song was kind of begging to be changed and you just had to be flexible, go with the flow and do what the song is asking. But originally Creation had a really kind of a latin vibe to it, much more than now, maybe it still does now, I mean that stuff is subjective and then Jason wrote the circular drum pattern to it and then began changing there. And then there was a second section to the song that sounded like a completely different thing you know, more than with the other songs, it sounded totally different. I think all in all it took like two and a half months to finally call it a song. But the challenge was really just staying focused, not wanting to throw everything away and not fighting with each other, because of course everyone has different ideas on what the song should sound like. That was the most challenging, at least in the songwriting to get through but now I think it’s one of the tracks on the album that we enjoy the most. Is that also your favourite song? Oh, man at this point I’m not sure. I really like it you know, but man I’ve spent so much time listening to these songs, that now this is the time when I’m trying to take my distance, you know, then maybe come back and revisit everything and see what I think.
- My favourite song off the record is SEVERED. I would love you to share a bit more details about the song we don’t know apart from the theatrical and exquisite delivery it has.
Well, Severed was a quick one actually. It came together pretty quickly. I started putting those parts together because I think I just had a bunch of guitar pedals, I had way more than I should have, I mean I still do now, but I don’t remember what I was messing with. I was just trying to create little soundscapes and I think that at time I was listening to the band Failure, they had just put out a new album and Ken Andrews produced that, and there was all these sounds, it just sounds like out of space sort of, you have to listen to it, but that kind of inspired me to approach the song with something similar, just kind of soundscapy and then just kind of see where everything went. So the chorus is the first thing that happened, it’s hard to describe it, the main guitar on the chorus it sounds kind of like a harpsichord or something. That kind of inspired the vibe of the song for me and then the rest of it, kind of just took care of itself, I had most of those parts before I showed it to the guys. As far as the writing of the vocals and the lyrics, that took a little while, because Severed was the first time we decided to add clean vocals, and Rodrigo, I don’t know if he’s more comfortable with that or not, certainly is, he used to do that with previous projects, but we wanted to make sure it didn’t sound forced and didn’t sound it just like it didn’t belong in general, so it took us a long time to figure out a good place for the clean vocals and to make they were complimenting the music and doing justice to the mood of the song. But the goodness there for us, it’s that because we feel they worked out really well in Severed we continued to do that, we did the same thing in Harvester and even in the songs we’re working on now, it’s something we’re getting more comfortable with and Rodrigo is getting more comfortable with, and we like it, of course we like screaming vocals and aggression but we like to mix things up and I think that maybe you can tell on this album, when you go from sombre moments and then you reach a blast beat or something like that, it just makes it more effective for us. So yeah, that’s kind of the story with Severed. The music came very quickly, but the thing that took the longest was getting the clean vocals right.
- Let’s spend a few words by talking about you signing to Nuclear Blast, that’s an amazing label. So what are the feelings and expectations behind that? You mean the story of how we got signed to Nuclear Blast? Yeah, what feelings are behind that, what mindset made you pick Nuclear Blast?
Well, actually when Nuclear Blast approached us we weren’t looking for any labels, we had just finished recording an EP, in 2017 it’s when it was, so we’d just finished recording an EP and Matt Bayles who’s the producer that mixed for us, because we recorded the EP in Georgia and Matt Bayles mixed it, he thought it was pretty good, so he asked if he could send it to a couple of labels or a couple of people, and we said: “Yes, that’s really cool”, we were flattered that he thought the songs were good enough to be shared. And it turns out one of the labels is Nuclear Blast, he sent it to Monte Connor and that was like super crazy because a few days later, I think we hadn’t even played our first show, we got an email from Monte of Nuclear Blast saying that he really enjoyed it and that he wanted to stay in touch. So were talking to them for very very early on, like I mentioned it was before we’d even played our first show. We kept writing songs and playing shows around South Eastern, mainly Atlanta, and eventually they decided to sign us after we sent them enough demos that he thought were good, we got signed and we were in disbelief. But also that was such a waiting period for us, you know, we were talking to Monte and we didn’t really know, we were trying to stay focused on the present. It was just a weird time, because we really wanted to get signed but we also wanted to enjoy where we were but eventually we ended up on a label. And here we are now. Are you excited for that? Oh, incredibly, I mean, again it’s hard to say that now, it’s a different world now. A lot of these stuff were so hard to foresee. It feels like waiting is been a major theme of this band, we had to wait a long time before being able to record the album, we had plans that feel through so we tried to be very patient with everything and now we get the album out in the world and it’s just turned upside down. But that’s ok, I think we’re just really happy and grateful that we were able to release it and we didn’t have to postpone like so many bands have had to. So it’s good, it’s all good.
- I got one more question for you Pablo. I would love to know your point of view on the current metal scene, I mean many bands are currently changing their sound beyond metal. How important is for you to evolve beyond metal or conversely not important to?
For me and I think for this band, it’s incredibly important. Because first of all, I think people are much more open to other types of music and fusions of different styles than they were, when I was younger for example, if I asked you what is heavy metal, you would have been immediately able to answer me and give me a list of bands of what it’s now. The lines are becoming very blurred and I think there’s always gonna be purists that prefer for things to stay very defined, and that’s cool, there are still bands that I enjoy that you can easily categorize. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer there. But for us, because of the bands that we listened to, and because of the way we were raised and what we were exposed to, I think it would be very limiting and we would probably get really bored if we were to just stick to one kind of music. So it’s really as simple as that. We try and incorporate as much as we can from the kinds of music that we listened to and of course the challenge becomes making everything seamless and making all those styles kind of merge into one and feel like one thing rather than just a random blend of different ingredients. We want to feel like one single entity or something. But yeah, short answer is that we like to experiment and we think that metal should be experimental.
- What’s in store for IRIST for the rest of the year?
Oh, boy, so officially we’ve announced Damnation Festival in November, that’s in the UK and aside from that you know, everything’s sort of up in the air so we’re just talking to our management regularly to see how things develop from week to week. And the goodness about this for us, is that we’re in quarantine but we’re in Adam’s house working as a studio and so we’ve been writing and we’ve been very creative for several weeks now. So there’s a lot of new material under way. We’re healthy and staying productive, we’re able to keep talking to each other, our families are ok, so just trying to keep in prospective of everything, you know, that’s going on.
So we’re done Pablo, it’s been a pleasure, thank you so much for your time. All the best of luck for your amazing record. For sure, thank you for talking to me. All the best of luck for your amazing record. Thank you.
IRIST – Order Of The Mind tracklisting:
2. Burning Sage
5. Dead Prayers
7. Order Of The Mind
9. The Well
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