Matthew and Alex recently did an interview with Michele over at New noise (www.thenewnoise.it). Here is the english version!
– It’s impossible to talk about Light Bearer without introducing the concept and imaginery. I guess, this is one of those rare cases in which music, lyrics and visuals are almost on the same level as parts of the whole. Am I wrong?
Alex – Light bearer is a concept about the birth of enlightenment and is part allegorical tale, part fantasy and is a love letter to the “His dark materials” novels by Philip Pullman. We try to forward feminist/ anti patriarchy ideologies through our lyrics and music, and for there to be a strong visual aesthetic, as the story is an important aspect of the band. Sounds utterly pretentious, but we’re a bunch of nerdy punks who love science fiction and fantasy, heavy pretty music and radical left wing politics. When we started the band, I had mapped out the visual interpretation, how I wanted to confront certain politics and how characters would represent opposing points of view, for the events within the story to be represented as scenes on as many surfaces of the physical record as possible, and a strong sense of continuity in the artwork, lyrics and obviously the music. I think that its very fluid now, a sense of feelings and tone is often quite intuitive so Matthew will write once this is established, and Gerfried and Jamie and Joe will add to this or create entirely separate ideas, and Lee and I discuss settings and scenes for him to use as a prompt for soundscapes. As a band we share a desire to create something that is passionate and meaningful, its often a lot of hard work and a far bigger task than we anticipate, and we have a funny dynamic, but usually harmonious!
The same characters looks to subvert the usual opinion, with the Light Bearer being the positive force and the Authority playing a villain role. Would you mind to get a little deeper on your point of view on religion and control on people by authorities? Can we talk about Light Bearer as a political band?
Alex – Light bearer is a political band, I would consider our lyrics are broadly feminist, or anti patriarchal at the least, and atheist. I write with a lot of those ideas in mind, although its mainly allegorical. I guess the idea of deconstructing patriarchal values and indeed a systems that supports those ideologies, or turning the tables on established religious ideology is the point. I was very inspired by Philip Pullman and how he expertly spliced his ideologies into the book that we pay homage to. Using this kind of imagery and story was almost an accident, you have in mind telling a story, and you set the scene, this idea of the false god and lucifer, and I think I wanted that to be a prologue – which actually ended up taking three records to tell before we even got to the whole point of this story, that of the concept of Eve, which begins with Silver tongue. I wanted to tell the story of the first fall, that Lucifer is the first entity to question – inspired to spread that knowledge, and throughout history, knowledge has always been seen as the antithesis to faith – that religion doesn’t even attempt to disguise this is actually hilarious. Our first three records lay the groundwork for the eventual story of Eve and the emancipation of all those who do not fit within the dogma of the false god. All of the stereotypical hatred that we see spouting from the mouths of conservative theists, to the level that we saw in the west in US elections last year and in Canada – even in the UK, that women’s rights are being debated at an electoral level, that oppression is still considered a tool for winning votes. Its a failed blunt tool, because it showed that most people do not condone these archaic ideas. On a global scale we should all be aware of how oppression of women, and those who do not fall within the hetero/gender binary still stifles and destroys lives every day.
-Coming to the relationship between the devil and the woman, it looks like the monotheist ideology always painted everything related to the female world as impure or driven by mere instinct, while the polytheistic religions had a more openminded approach to this aspect. The moon was the counterpart of the sun and mother nature was often on the highest grade of the hierarchy. Which is, in your opinion, the reason for such an important change?
Alex – I think every form of religion, be that polytheism or monotheism has suffered in some way from misogyny, in a broad sense it has everything to do with Patriarchy, where men made the laws and also established state religions. There are examples of misogyny in many polytheistic religions, I’d argue a lot of it comes down to the concept of power – men do not wield the ability to create life alone, the creation of society itself starts with that ultimate power, with no people you had no populace to govern, and the all powerful man has to rely on women, who share that power, and so without the ability to create life alone all they can do is control and oppress it. Its also a matter that these men considered themselves pious, and that sexual desire was unclean, and blamed women for this. That their untainted pureness and ability to reign was thwarted by the lure of women – that lust was not the fault of men. They based their entire belief system around the concept that women were a tool, or a temptress, and not an equal. From the conception of women in abrahamic belief, that women were made of a small part of man – a rib from Adam, that they would always be lesser, a fragment, simply to serve a purpose. The concept of Eve defying the law of god and tempting Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge was again reaffirming the notion that women were the cause of mans shortcomings, a scapegoat.
Before the rise of patriarchy it is supposed we had a shared, egalitarian structure to family groups. Patriarchy rose in religion, possibly stemming from the concept of the father figure, both of the family leader and the rise of the worship of male gods. Laws were made by men, It was a learned behaviour, and social conditioning taught the masses to consider women less than men, not biological or social truth. I imagine, with each new man in power, no one thought to, or dared question the status quo, and those tenets of a state religion and thus society in general, became unbreakable. It is sad that we still use these prejudices, that we still play up to these learned behaviours, even in the face of that truth, and instead of removing it, we have taken that hatred and objectification of women and transmuted it from the power to control, to the power to control and sell, and dictate worth and personal freedoms – in all media and advertising, or careers and politics. Its insidious – we still have inequality in pay, social care, even the right to govern your own body. Walk down any street and see the imagery – we still consider women as objects, just as we see non human animals as objects to be dominated and consumed. We play up to these crass beliefs, because misogyny is perpetuated by all, not just men. Societal roles are reaffirmed by anyone who supports or condones both religious and social practices which denigrate women.
But when you had the great thinkers, and main religions constantly reiterating this misogynistic point of view – the idea of biological determinism, that somehow patriarchy is inherent, it becomes accepted, much like most traditions. In a broader spectrum we still practice bizarre and completely pointless ritual (for instance, genital mutilation, communion, animal sacrifice) and we consider these normal, or at least to respect them and not question, despite their viciousness and pointlessness. Societal roles are set in the same way, we simply do not question and oppose traditions on a grand scale, and we need to, because they are stifling us all. Its taken us to this day to claw back a little of the democracy we once had before the rise of religion, in any form. Yet we still have societies that consider women less than men, and we see the result of this in such horrific and barbaric ways.
The christian ideology looks to divide the female part in two opposite categories: the pure/asexual ones and the sinners, impure, often painted as prostitues to redime. Why sex is such a threat for christian (but I would say monotheistic) religion?
Alex – It is a facet of our nature to desire sex, as a natural precursor to procreation, whilst the religious brain condemns that – it sees both sex and lust as sinful, and that procreation is just a process. We even wrap it up in pomp and flare, this idea that we must marry and be in a state of grace, that the woman must be a virgin before that virginity is “owned” by her husband and that a child is born of that union, and the union is just a formality. Its a divided brain, religion itself is against the flesh, and wishes to demean the flesh. You cannot fight biology, but religion attempts to both control and suppress what is natural. Mens hatred of women also stems from the fact that sexual desire is seen as wrong, and therefor oppressing women is an attempt to oppress that which is wrong in oneself – so blame the women for the need for sex, the need for procreation, make the vessel unclean as an extension of that control, blame them, not your sexual desire, you remain holy, it is the woman who must be punished for this desire. This permeates monotheism, even to this day -that it is the fault of the women when a man rapes. Religion states that women prompt these sexual desires, that their existence is to tempt. This idea has been adopted beyond religion, look at the concept of rape culture. People truly believe that women should dress appropriately and that if they don’t want to be raped then they must dress modestly, that to dress in a certain way is in some way provocative and an invitation, despite that being completely wrong. Religion has taught those who have committed acts of sexual abuse to blame the victim, not the victimiser – there are many countries that reinforce this as law. This is a further sickening move for misogyny. Religion and patriarchy has twisted us up into something wholly unnatural, seeking courses of action that cause untold harm. Humans are biological entities, not asexual angelic beings, and we are perfectly capable of behaving with compassion and empathy and love. It is religion in this sense that is completely against us, it has forged these wrongs, which some of adhere to and perpetuate, it attempts to imprison us in this nightmare, to suppress our natural equilibrium. It will eventually fail.
Also in our “so called” free/progressive society women are often used as a lure to attract potential customers or, btw, forced to wear a fictional character of perfection to appeal their partners. So we switched from a submissive mother/housewife role to something giving a false illusion of freedom but still driven by male desire to controll them. Looks like there’s still a long road to walk…
Alex – Exactly
Even in our “independent” music scene it still look to prevail a macho attitude, with girls fighting hard not to be just the nice one on band-pics or on stage. I don’t think things changed so much since decades ago, not in a vast scale. Which is your experience being in tour and sharing time with different bands and audiences?
Alex – Nothing is exempt from societal norms, a music scene, political or not, always has to deal with that bullshit, so I won’t say that forms of prejudice don’t exist within DIY, more times than not if it does occur, people are held accountable for it. But it constantly needs to be reaffirmed, and these ideas need to be disseminated more widely. Our music is enjoyed outside of the DIY scene and I would hope that those people who listen to our music and read our ideas, would appreciated that this is our point of view when coming to a Light bearer show, but I know thats not always the case. Bands that have strong political messages have fans who care little for that. -
While keeping a personal approach and introducing some really interesting point of view, the concept looks to follow a similar path of some important artists. I’m referring to those who talked about religion in a quite unconventional and open minded way, specially if compared to the leading way of thinking. What and who inspired you when creating the plot for your music?
Alex – I think we all agree that being in a band is a really wonderful way to convey emotions and it just so happened that many of us loved these books to such a degree that we wanted to somehow harness that feeling, this uncontrollable love and passion for an idea and broadcast that sentiment. In many ways light bearer is a vehicle for that original concept. We all go off and write our own stories and our own concepts, but I guess in this context of a non profit band this is just a really well thought out reaction to a profound feeling, that idea that someone nails an idea on the head and you want to convey that beyond yourself, and you wrap it in your own way, you add your own ideas and thoughts and you build on that. What Pullman did was much the same, he wanted to convey his thoughts on someone elses book, so its a passing of that idea, much like the whole concept of light bearer, passing on ideas. The music is also inspired by other artists, consciously and subconsciously, so we can take all of these influences and try and make something worthy of its existence.
Someone could say that your history can be seen as influenced by a strong spiritual will, even if not a religious one. Can you paint yourselves as pure atheists or somehow attracted by the spiritual side of existence? Is it possible to paint the Light bearer as a pure symbol, without having any religious beliefs?
Alex – We are atheists, or indeed anti theists – there is nothing spiritual about Light bearer. I think it is easy to misconstrue something beautiful and profound with spiritual. Just like carl Sagan succeeded in doing – its painting the universe with that inconceivable beauty that religion has always claimed, that much of that beauty is the unknown, is giving credit to a creator for the splendor we see in celestial formations or in patterns in nature, concepts we are beginning to understand. Religion took our understanding away and asked us just to bask in that beauty, that somehow explaining it took away that wonder. I think understanding something is the beauty, its allowing us to use our minds, the gift of sight, the gift of comprehension. I think that is beautiful and profound, rather than losing ourselves in the naive notions of god and religion and afterlife. The idea of the Light bearer transcends monotheism, itself an addition to the bible and not an original creation that can be claimed by Christianity. Watch how imagery and belief transmutes like language, those who believe take from it what they will. The light bearer, like everything in religion, is up for interpretation, so we say the light bearer is the pursuit of knowledge, be that the fallen angel Lucifer who questioned the false god, or Eve, or those who followed in her footsteps.
Do you have already the whole concept in mind or is it more a work in progress, able to be influenced by external or internal situations/happenings?
Alex – The whole story is written, yes, the lyrics are forming, but much of this takes place whilst we begin to construct musical ideas. My favourite place to write lyrics is when Matt has an idea and he brings it to practice and everyone begins to jam out that idea, and the noise envelopes us, and I will sit with my laptop and allow the music to involve itself in the creation of the words. It begins as a very fluid formation and then we begin to find structure, we discuss the narrative and how that will play a role in the song, Matthew sculpts around that, or suggests his own paths, Gerfried, and Jamie and Joe will do the same, I think inspiration comes from very different places for each of us. With Lee, we begin to discuss how soundscapes will play a role almost right from the beginning, often before the song takes form, setting a mood and creating this platform that everything stands upon.
I’m thinking about your creative process and the continuous interaction between music and lyrics: I think of music developing around a generic plot and then you adding the lyrics to fit them on music, is this right?
Alex – No its much more fluid than this, the music often is carved to fit the lyrics. Much of Silver tongue was written to fit the story. The parts people felt dragged or could have been discarded, this is where we say “this is a story” and you don’t drop chapters or characters because you don’t want to know about their paths, every word is served, which might make us a slave to what I write, but everything serves a purpose. You need lows to appreciate the highs. You need sombre to appreciate crescendos. I am not saying this is right, in fact we all aware that some parts of silver tongue did not form precisely how we wanted them to, but then again this is far from perfect, we are completely limited by time and money and our own shortcomings. We really are trying to tell a big story, with limited means. Part of the fun is seeing how much we can achieve with that. Three months before we recorded silver tongue we were all terrified we couldn’t pull it off in time.
– Your music looks to follow an open minded and free from style boundaries approach, without a specific need to fit some scene codes or rules. I guess we can call as a “post” approach, meaning with it the meeting between different personalities and backgrounds with a strong will to evolve their music into something different. Is there something you won’t allow into your music or something you would prefer to avoid?
Matthew – Not really. As long as it fits with the story we’re trying to tell. We don’t have that much of a plan for what we’re writing but when we’re writing and if it feels right and it sticks we’ll put it in there. You get a lot of bands who try to do hybrid genres and while that’s really great and they stray from the tried and tested formulas there’s no point in then looking back on it and feeling you forced it in to the composition. We really can’t say we’ve avoided anything in particular until we finish this project and the only reason we avoided it is because it didn’t fit. If we were to do 50 records, who knows, maybe someday we would have got round to every genre and sound we could do justice!
Alex – I don’t think we avoid anything, but there are probably musical styles we won’t play in simply because we feel they don’t really work with our sound, I think with genres, we all have different interests in music overall so when we want to do a hardcore band, we’ll start a hardcore band, or like Matthew, he wrote a black metal record because he wanted to write some black metal. Light bearer is very much a case of creating sounds and feelings and what matthew writes is more a product of those whims rather than trying to fit a genre. I think everyone in “post” music is somewhat worried about treading on well worn toes, or bored to death with it. Although I am sure many people think our music is derivative, we do try to create something worthy of existing.
– You recently released “Silver Tongue”, what’s about your feeling when the creative process is over and you can hold in your hands its results? Do you start immediately to work on the further step or do you take some time to enjoy it and to relax? Are you already working on the new album?
Matthew – Being a band full of neurotic idiots the end of a chapter doesn’t really differ from how we feel the rest of the time we’re working on it. We’re incredibly critical of what we create! Some times it can pay off though and the part which you were skeptical about ends up sounding great when it’s put down onto a recording. After Lapsus we started working on Silver Tongue straight away. It was a bit of a weird feeling to be perfectly honest. While one album is pretty small in the context of four, it was our first so it felt like a great weight being finally lifted off our shoulders and then it all started again. It was pretty much a out of the frying pan and into another frying pan feeling. For now we have some idea of what we’re going to do: We’re planning on an E.P to hopefully be ready for the end of the year and then begin work on Magisterium shortly after that. This forthcoming album will be very different from the last so it’s good to get all the previous work out of your system and approach the writing in a different way. But we barely ever relax. A lot of us have different projects on the side including music, film, writing etc. so Light Bearer is like this big, sleeping monster which comes out when it’s ready to start again.
Alex – Silver tongue was exhausting for all of us. It took us a long time to take in the record, how we felt about it. Much of the skeleton was written before we entered the studio, but we formed a great deal of it whilst recording. Some songs were mere ideas before we sat down and worked on them in the studio. There was a lot of fretting, a lot of worry. We recorded right up to the last moment, there was very little wiggle room. In hindsight, yes there are lots of moments we could have improved, lots of missed opportunities, or parts that could have been very different indeed. But I think we are all happy overall with what we made. So far the only effort we have put into the next chapter is ask our audience to contribute their own voices to it. We felt that its very easy to lose that connection between those who play and those who listen so this was a way to maintain that. Light bearer is a DIY punk band, despite the music we play, and its important to all of us that this is never lost. The EP will be the second chapter of the “Celestium Apocrypha” called “The future lot of the righteous and the wicked”.
– Coming to your live performances, how do you work to make of such a rich and complex textures something able to have an impact on the audience. I mean, do you plan to rearrange or change the order to create an appropriate set-list or, on the contrary, you just pic your fave/newer tracks in that specific moment to enter it?
Alex – Set lists are often limited by time, we have 50 minutes to an hour, and we try to create a dynamic live set, that we will all enjoy playing. The story isn’t obvious or probably considered in a live setting, we are very much a live band when we play, and a lot of our songs are malleable and changed to suit that setting. Our live sound is obviously a lot more raw, and we treat the band with much more energy and vigor live, sung parts are screamed.. Lee allows us to gel these disparate parts together with specifically written sections of noise, so we attempt to have this cohesive sound. It works most of the time I think!
If considering the studio and live activities, which is the most important or, btw, your favourite aspect of the band’s life as individuals and musicians? Do you feel more the pressure of your audience when creating a new album or when presenting it onstage?
Matthew – Both are just as important as the other. We don’t gig that much at all so when we do we want it to be special and we want it to leave a bit of an impact on people. However, recording is something which is going to be here for a long time. It’s also something which has to be perfect as we’re telling a linear narrative which we can’t go back on. This story is leading towards an end and we don’t get any second chances at doing this so that puts a huge pressure on what we do. But I don’t think we feel so much anxiety from people’s reactions to us. Of course it’s nice to have people complement you and so forth but it’s really more of a selfish thing. The person making it has to love it otherwise there’s no point in doing it. Once you’re happy with the work then it’s a success before anyone else even hears it.
Alex – I think we all have different points of view on this, and we often debate it, some of us would prefer not to play live so much, other want to tour all of the time, but I think we all love creating Light bearer. Its a huge project, so much bigger than we initially thought it to be. We are half way through, and its sometimes daunting and sometimes worth taking a step back and appreciating it. We have personal anxieties and shortcomings that sometimes hamper our ability to deal with being in a band, but it is truly worth while. Its a wonderful shared experience, we’re a bunch of socially awkward nerds, but the audience is always an unknown variable, Its heart warming when people can enjoy Light bearer, but for me there is always a fear of negativity or living up to someone’s expectations. Thats when you have to remind yourself that this is predominantly for us as a band. I always see bands as constructive friendships, so its a chance to spend time with the people you care about, but also leave with a physical manifestation of that friendship.
The first thing that impressed me in your music was the rich and skilful song writing, with a very keen eye on details and single passages. Can you please tell us something about the creative phase coming to the instrumental side of the project?
Matthew – The majority of it is just messing about in the practice room. We practice for around 8 hours at a time so a lot of ideas can float about and then settle when we feel it’s right. However, we also don’t practice all that often which is both a good and a bad thing. It would be nice to practice more but listening to shitty recordings and then having the time to think about all the other ways we could take just a small section of the music is very important to what we’re trying to do. We always try and keep the songs as short as we can for pacing issues. We’re a band that do play long songs but we also know how bored we can get with drawn out compositions just as much as anyone can. Essentially the pieces are as long as they need to be and as long as the story needs them to be.
– Sometimes it looks like you’re working as a full orchestra and not just a regular metal band. Every single sound/effect looks to be the fruit of a very indeep decisional process hitting every single passage/note to fit the whole. What’s about the instruments and effects involved in your records?
Matthew – There’s certain emotions which are very important to our music but can also be incredibly difficult to capture with the more conventional instruments we use. Failing to hit them with guitars, bass, drums, we’ll figure out what to use in order to get what we’re after. For Silver Tongue these feelings relied a lot more on the brass instruments and we were lucky enough to have our good friend Mark come in and work really hard on making these sections come alive. Also, throughout we have Lee who crafts maybe one of the biggest parts of our whole sound. His soundscapes give a bed of sound for which the song rests on and occasionally breaking through and adding these amazing overtones. Everything Lee does is very meditated upon and he spends countless hours piecing together these fantastic atmospheres to match what the instruments are doing.
It looks like you have some sort of symphonic approach to the parts, something reminding me of classical composers, not just the usual rock influenced background. Am I wrong?
Matthew – One thing which I’ve always been passionate about is movies. I love the story telling and how the relationship of music and story telling work together. I’ve heard people say that film scores make up 60% of the whole creative experience and I think that’s very much true. It really makes me happy when I read reviews of the record and they pick up on the more orchestral and cinematic qualities of the compositions as the emotions the music is trying to produce are supposed to be in tune with the tensions of the story. Listening to a lot of film scores by composers such as Clint Mansell, John Murphy and Hans Zimmer to name a few have been a huge influence on what we’re trying to create.
– Also you completely avoid any blatant/redundant approach, being able to switch on a “less is more” attitude when needed. Shouldn’t be that easy to keep everything in balance when working on a new album. I guess you have a lot of working on the songs before they reach their final form, also on the post production phase…
Matthew – We do sometimes find ourselves chucking everything and the kitchen sink at our songs which we often have to rein in. Even though we have all these extra elements that we can use, violin; trumpets, we still remember we’re very much limited by being a band with a “rock setup” so we have to make sure the core of what we’re playing is the strongest part of the song otherwise everything collapses above it. We do spend a lot of time cutting stuff which we’re really happy with but don’t feel it adds to the finished piece. As for post production, a lot of that stuff, such as the nice tail ends of feedback etc, are mainly just happy mistakes. Thankfully we get to work with the great Peter Miles and James Bragg and those guys really understand what we’re trying to do and put the hours in.
I guess our Readers would enjoy to hear some anticipations about the next steps, I’m talking about the EP, album and live shows. Any detail, deadline or info to share?
The EP will feature two tracks, entitled Regent, and The Lovers, we have some vague ideas for the musical side, something different to contrast against our previous record and the album yet to come. I guess we will begin working on Magisterium when it feels right, I think we go through phases of fatigue, and Gerfried is moving back to Austria which will make practice a little more difficult but we’ll work round it! We try to stop ourselves from planning too far ahead but we have ideas for tours and projects before we wrap light bearer up!
– thank you very much for your patience and willingness to answer my questions. Feel free to leave a message for our readers and to end this chat as you prefer. Hope to meet you soon on the road.
Thank you very much for the interview Michele! And thank you to anyone who has taken time to listen to our music, it’s much appreciated. All the best!