The ever revolving door that is life and death…
Prog, Rock, Metal, Melodic, Jazz, Funk, Acoustic, Folk – with their debut EP Transcendence released earlier this year, Birmingham’s Progoctopus know no bounds. Here, the band talk to MR’s Jason Guest about the band, music, the EP, and all else that the wonderful world of Progoctopus has in store…
Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on the Transcendence EP. To begin, can you give us some background on Progoctopus? What drew you together to create music under this name?
Jane: I found Tim whilst auditioning people for a previous band which didn’t work out, so Tim and I started afresh. We worked really well together, so put the feelers out for more band members and found Alistair.
It was so important for us that we got the right people on board. We needed the full package – skills, creativity, good work ethic and an all-round good egg. We found this in Alistair. We instantly loved everything about him from the way he plays to his vocal skills – he was the perfect fit.
We then started to write, and once ‘Transcendence’ parts 1 and 2 was at a good point, we did a basic recording and video to recruit a bass player. After a month or so of hunting and auditioning, we found our man, Dr. Roberts! Everything stepped up another notch with Sam. We loved him and his playing.
So things came together naturally and quickly from there and within three months the Transcendence EP was completed and recorded.
Tim: Ah yes, a little about the much talked about band name! Progoctopus completely fits how (and who) we are as people and musicians. At the time of considering it, we wanted a name which reflected our music and influences, stood out from the pack and had more than a hint of tongue-in-cheek humour about it. I think we love a little bit of tomfoolery, so to see the name so widely discussed on forums, message boards and reviews is a good thing, especially as folks are increasingly making the connection with the music.
Who are the band’s main influences? How have they had an impact on the band and its approach to music?
Tim: The old nugget of influences. I’m a huge prog head and could talk to you all day about my love of all things prog. Whilst we share a number of similar influences, we’re a lot more than that and we actually all have very divergent tastes whether 70s jazz fusion, 80s AOR and stadium rock, thrash and death metal, movie or computer game soundtracks, to name but a few. With all bands who work collaboratively, we’re the sum of all our influences, and as always, we’ll let the listener decide what those reference points might be.
What are the lyrical themes across the EP? Who writes them? And where does inspiration come from? Can you tell us a little about the EP and its 3 acts?
Jane: The lyrics are my department. We started off Transcendence with the main riff. The lads jammed a few ideas, but the really catchy riff struck a chord with me. I loved the vibe and as soon as I heard it the ideas started to flow. As with all the songs, a few key phrases appear in my head and I write from there. I get a rough feel for the lyrics, write them down and they find their home.
The concept for the EP is the ever revolving door that is life and death.
The story starts with the first act, ‘Transcendence’ Parts I and II, which is about being free, having no ties, traveling and going wherever you feel; but always safe in the knowledge that loved ones gone before you are always lighting the path and are there at every crucial turn. This is a tale of bounding and youth, free from the worries and restraints that you are sometimes restricted by in later life.
The second act, ‘Like Stone’, is about death. It broke my heart to write this one. At the time of writing, I cast my mind back to how it felt to see a family member suffer and slip away. I just remember thinking at the time, I will stand like stone, I will be strong enough for everyone. In essence, you don’t stay here because you think that people cannot cope without you; just go and be free from the pain. Death is not the end.
The third act and final song, ‘Carousel’, is about life coming back but on the other side. Free now, from the arms that held you. This is a direct follow on from ‘Like Stone’. The person has passed over, out of loved one’s arms and is once again free to bound and explore. Free from restraints and the restrictions of a human body. It comes back around like a Carousel. Absolutely love the ending to this.
All very heavy stuff, but this is what Transcendence is about.
I assume that at the time of recording, you had more material to choose from. Why choose these four tracks?
Alistair: Oddly enough, we didn’t have any other material at the time. Once we had settled on the idea of doing an EP, we focused completely on making the four tracks our priority. We wanted to get material out as soon as we could, and didn’t want to be distracted by trying to write more tracks which probably wouldn’t have end up being recorded.
Can you tell us about the artwork? Does it relate in any way to the band and/or its music?
Tim: The artwork for the EP is ultimately all about announcing us to the world! We thought that if we’re daring to call ourselves Progoctopus then let’s back that up with equally daring artwork. Our bright and bold music deserved a logo and design to reflect all of this.
We were excited about the idea of a really stylised octopus design for the CD and cover – we made a statement by having a front cover without the band name on it, so it could stand out on its own merits. Also, the use of purple and orange is our way of showing our positive, happy disposition, yet still keeping things completely rock.
Who designed the artwork? And how much direction was given in its design?
Tim: The artwork was designed by John Williamson, a hugely talented local designer that I have worked with for many years on numerous projects. John was completely in tune with what we needed and asked for. We gave a little direction as to the general vision and feel of the artwork and how it related to our music. Whilst we had some input in the draft stage, the rest is basically down to John and he completely exceeded our expectations. I’m used to him doing that!
How does the band approach composition? Do you write individually, collectively, jam on ideas…?
Tim: We have a few different approaches that really work for us. It often starts with an idea or six – Sam or Alistair will throw together a few bass or guitar riffs respectively or even a more fleshed out progression. We will then exchange each other’s ideas, sometimes working on them via skype but usually bringing it all together in the rehearsal room. We will arrange the songs together, demo them and then rework them as necessary to ensure the vocals and melodies work well and the song ultimately rocks! Another approach is that we’ll just jam ideas together and fool around to see where it takes us, pulling out the best bits and working from there.
Any upcoming shows?
Tim: Yep, we’ve got a couple great shows already confirmed such as Progtoberfest in London on Sunday October 25th and the HRH Prog Festival in Wales in March 2016, but expect an absolute load of shows on top of that. It’s all about going out there and entertaining after all!
What does the future hold for Progoctopus? Is there more music in the works?
Alistair: Definitely! We’re currently writing lots of new material right now – and we’re seeing whether this becomes another EP or a full length album. The new ideas we’ve come up with thus far are quite different to the Transcendence EP. Samuel (bass) joined the band back in November towards the end of writing of Transcendence. This time he’s having far more input on the direction and now that we’re all writing together from scratch, he’s pushing us into more fusion/jazz territory. I love it!
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Tim: Absolutely. We can’t wait to meet you all at a venue near you imminently. Watch out for more gig dates, share the love on twitter @progoctopusuk and on Facebook and be sure to listen to our EP and pay what you want over on our Bandcamp page.
- Jane Gillard – Lead Vocals/Lyricist/Dancer
- Tim Wilson – Drums/Pads/Backing Vox/Coffee Addict
- Samuel C. Roberts – Bass/Evil Genius
- Alistair Bell – Guitar/Backing Vox/Good Cop/Bad Cop