A major running theme of our Top 40 albums of the year are bands and records that stand apart, not just from what else was released this year, but from the metal world in general. I have a major soft spot for these types of bands and albums, and that’s a huge reason why SubRosa not only is a special band to me in general but every time they put out a new record, it’s a major life event.
That’s not to suggest anything Salt Lake City’s SubRosa release is rubber stamped. The experience and the journey through their music dictates just how it affects lives and souls, and their latest album “More Constant Than the Gods” not only had to live up to the gigantic shadow that “No Help for the Mighty Ones” cast, but it also had to prove the power, tragedy, and darkness behind the material was a proper addition to the band’s canon. And wow, is it ever? “More Constant” grabs the heartstrings and the mind from the start. Their songs are more epic and wrenching than ever before, leading you through tumult and glory, heartache and injustice, tragedy and tribulation.
The band–guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinists Kim Pack and Sarah Pendleton, and the newest members bassist Christian Creek, and drummer Andy Patterson–sound like the mightiest version of the band yet, and Vernon’s lyrical inspiration (a prostitute from a Nick Cave book who is murdered, historical traces of how women have been treated in society, a horrific mall shooting in Salt Lake City, and the passing of her mother, that also inspires the Glyn Smith album art) is moving and earthquaking, the stuff of a true artist who has unique ways of passing on the darkness she sees in a way that can’t help but move you, too. We cannot hail “More Constant Than the Gods” enough, so if you haven’t heard it yet, change that now. Luckily for us, Vernon has been more than gracious with her time (this is her third interview with our site) and answered some questions we had about the record, how the new songs have gone over live, and how the new formation of the band is working out. We thank her for her time and for the band for another breathtaking opus.
We have named “More Constant Than the Gods” as our No. 3 album of the year. Of course, we felt warm and fuzzy about “No Help for the Mighty Ones,” and it feels a lot of people have had a lot of love for both. How satisfying is it to see your work embraced by so many?
Rebecca Vernon: Thanks, we are excited to hear we made Meat Mead Metal’s Top 5!
Well … it’s one thing to pour your heart and soul into an album and capture in sound waves a feeling or essence that you were striving to capture, like bottling a firefly that you can then look at for days afterwards.
But it is far more powerful to release the firefly so other people can experience it as well. I feel that having other people connect to the music you write is the most rewarding and awe-inspiring part of being in a band … having people “get it” … it’s magic.
When SubRosa played Fall into Darkness in Portland in 2012, a girl came up to me after the show and told me that “No Help for the Mighty Ones” had helped her through one of the darkest periods of her life. It’s comments like these that make all the hard parts of being in a band melt away into insignificance.
You’ve done some regional touring for “More Constant.” How have those shows gone, and how’s the new lineup working out?
RV: The regional shows have gone well, even though they haven’t been without their mishaps. Strangely enough, people haven’t seemed to notice the mishaps or haven’t let them interfere with their enjoyment of the overall set. That’s been nice, and we’ve learned from each mistake to make our live show better each time.
I think with this lineup, our live show has coalesced, and we are finally able to fully convey the pent-up energy of our music onstage. I think Kim, Sarah, and I also take the live shows more seriously now and put more into them than we ever have.
Have the audiences embraced the new songs? What has that interaction been like?
RV: Yes, they have. I have definitely noticed a difference in the way people are reacting to the live shows now than they did say, a year ago. I think there are a couple reasons for that. For example, I think the songs from “More Constant than the Gods” translate better live – they are simply heavier and more crushing to listen to live than the songs from “No Help.” I also think we have all gained more confidence in expressing ourselves onstage and put more into it.
Sadly, because people can be jerks, the band was robbed. How are you all recovering from that setback? It also seemed a lot of people reached out to help? Are you still looking for help, and if so, how can people contribute?
RV: The local news in Salt Lake City did a story on us getting robbed, and I think they did a good job of illustrating the happy ending to this bad situation (see the link below):
Within 72 hours, 136 people donated enough money to not only replace all five instruments that were stolen, but the cases, straps, and two backpacks with cash and personal items that were also taken. There was even enough to cover the approximately $600 cost of shipping the merchandise, cards, and posters we mailed out as thank-yous to the donators. It turned out to be an amazing experience and made us feel connected to SubRosa fans in a whole new way. I would encourage anyone who hears of other bands getting their gear stolen to help them out, too. We were lucky and I want other bands to have that same experience.
With the record out, and live shows being played, are any of the songs changing at all compositionally? Are you discovering things about them you didn’t expect?
RV: This is a good question. We made some changes in the live versions of the “More Constant” songs from the get-go, but they have not changed much since those initial decisions. For example, in the interlude of “The Usher,” we cut out the two phrases where the bells come in, and before the soft vocals start. We don’t play the bells live and that much dead space creates a pretty big lag onstage. We like to keep things moving at a steady clip live. We also don’t have a male to sing Jason McFarland’s parts on “The Usher” live (Christian and Andy flatly refuse to sing), so Kim and I sing those male parts live. But I would say overall, we definitely play our songs very closely to how they are on the album.
One thing I discovered that I didn’t expect is that I wrote many of the vocal parts in the lower nether-regions of the alto scale because I write and sing very quietly in my bedroom after my roommates are asleep. But low alto doesn’t translate very well live (it is very hard for me to project), so I’ve had to make some adjustments with some of the melody lines for our shows.
What does the band have planned for 2014? Heard something about some shows with Deafheaven? Any plans for East Coast, I ask restlessly? 🙂
RV: We are planning to tour a lot in 2014. We know we have not toured extensively before, but that is not because we haven’t wanted to. We are planning a three-week tour in Europe in June around Hellfest and are pushing to stay as busy as possible after that for the rest of 2014. We definitely intend the East Coast to be part of that. We have two shows with Deafheaven next year – Feb. 15 in Salt Lake City and Feb. 16 in Denver. We are also playing the Treefort Festival in Boise in March. We are working on details of other touring possibilities, too, so stay tuned.
Maybe it’s too early for this, but have you thought beyond “More Constant” at all, as far as new music? Do you feel like this is the right lineup to go forward?
RV: I have finally started thinking about writing new music. I don’t write steadily and continuously, but in bursts. I haven’t written a new song in eight months and over the last two weeks, I have finally felt like working on the next album. We would like to do an acoustic album at some point, too. We do acoustic shows from time to time and thought that phenomenon might be cool to document. I do feel like this is the right lineup moving forward, and I hope everyone who is currently in SubRosa feels the same.
For more on the band, go here: http://subrosa.cc/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/