Transformation through the channel of music is our mission statement…
With their debut release Codex Perfida (reviewed here) dropping on 22 December, Laoghaire, vocalist for Ireland death metal quartet Vircolac spoke with MR’s Jason Guest on a number of topics, including the inspiration for the band name, their 2013 formation and how the band’s origins can be traced back a couple of decades, their approach to composition and why they chose to include piano and strings in their music, art, gigs, gothic horror, classic horror films, film soundtracks and the natural world and its hidden mysteries, and what to expect of them in 2015…
Thanks for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Codex Perfida. First off, that band name. What’s it mean? What’s its significance?
The band name is Romanian for werewolf and was found by guitarist JG in a book called The White Devil: the Werewolf in European History. Given our penchant for gothic horror, the arcane as well as the symbolic concept of transformation through the channel of music, figuratively speaking Vircolac was perfect. Music should act as a soure for transformation within the individual hence the werewolf connection there. Man changing into something else or going into the unknown through the music they hear. Also, as a death metal band, we want to convey a sense of darkness, of dread, of fear within and without. This ties perfectly in with our band name as well. I must point out though that it being Romanian is of little relevance. It’s a name that we feel fits us well and also had never been used before, which is also very important.
The band formed in 2013. Can you tell us about how Vircolac formed and what it was that drew you together to make music?
Though the band was formed in 2013 the roots go back a hell of a lot longer. In fact, I’d say the roots can stretch back a couple of decades in the case of guitarist JG and I as we used to tape trade together as teenagers as well as engaging in some very juvenile musical notions that never got off the ground, thankfully. Anyway, JG had it in his head to basically do a ‘one man band’ and had written some music that fit into the death metal template succinctly so I said to him that if he needed someone to add vocals, to let me know and I would help out. This then quickly expanded to add NH on drums and KB on bass as we decided to flesh the entire thing out into a proper band. Rehearsals proved the idea was not only practical to inspirational as ideas flowed very fucking quickly and the core of what we laid down on the demo came together very fast. Principally, what brought us all together is a shared love of creating music and the need to make something our own. There’s something of a buzz in Dublin currently with bands like Malthusian, ZOM, Wizards of Firetop Mountain, Wild Rocket, Dread Sovereign to name but five bands that are stirring things up somewhat and I think that fed into our sense of endeavour as well without them influencing us in any creative sense.
We’ve all been in bands before and at one point an earlier version of this band came together but didn’t get past the first rehearsal really but this time, everything clicked perfectly. The experience everyone has was immensely important in this whole thing gelling and I think that as a creative unit, I think we work very well together.
Does Vircolac offer something that the other bands you’ve been in didn’t?
Well, from my own perspective, we’re all in our thirties meaning there’s less potential for drama and though JG naturally pens the vast majority of the material, he’s very open to ideas, changes, suggestions and rhythm changes. This element is massively important as it means everyone gets on board and adds their own stamp on what’s being put together. I think that’s the mark of real creativity. Contributing to the tiny nuances that help shape and build a song is something that is and has been singularly brilliant in all of this.
How does the band approach composition? Do you have an idea of how you want each track to sound or do they take shape as they’re being developed?
As I said above, JG writes the music for the songs but everyone has a say in how things build and come together. The rhythms and drumming patterns are laid out by NH and he’s quite stylish with his playing adding a lot of cymbal work and accents as opposed to just playing regular patterns. KB will add in her own take on those rhythms then, which expand as rehearsals go on. I’ve been left to my own devices both vocally and lyrically for this recording but everything I am writing about gets explained to everyone so they can get some kind of understanding of what it is I’m aiming for.
The tracks were recorded in order of them being written. ‘Confessio’ is the one that has been around the longest and it went from being approx. 4 minutess in rehearsal to over 8 minutes when we came to record it as we built and built on the atmosphere in it to expand the feel of the song. We didn’t even realise we’d added so much extra to it but we were so satisfied with it in the end. Going into putting the next material together we now have a template to work from as we have shown one another what we’re capable of and there are a lot of new ideas in the pot for the next batch of songs.
Is there a theme, a concept, or a philosophy that underpins your music?
The title of the demo reflects somewhat a loose philosophy. The title is Latin for ‘book of the faithless’ and we, as four individuals, are effectively ‘faithless’. How each member views that is entirely their own perspective so asking me to explain everyone’s view on that is somewhat pointless. As we’re a death metal band, life, death, the supernatural, war, plague, famine, history as well as gothic horror, classic horror films, film soundtracks and indeed the natural world and its hidden mysteries (as well as how we as human beings interpret and expound upon them) all underpin the music conceptually. We certainly don’t represent any particular school of thought however.
There are piano and strings on the demo. What prompted this? Do you write with these instruments in mind?
JG and I are massive fans of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and obviously Edgar Allen Poe and we’d discussed repeatedly as a band how we wanted bring this old, gothic horror film feel into the music. JG sees songs in terms of how he sees films and is very intent on building a sense of atmosphere within the song. When we were in rehearsals NH had suggested we add some violin to ‘Confessio’ to bring out this creepy, horror film score feel to it, which we thought was brilliant. A friend, John Ryan, came into rehearse with us before we hit the studio and went through some ideas, which we were very pleased with and it took no time in the studio for him to get his parts laid down. It added immensely to the overall feel of the song as well. Being in the studio was, I found, an incredibly rich, creative time and we were throwing around loads of ideas and JG began to work out the piano part in ‘Confessio’ also. It was done on a real piano, not a keyboard. There are also some other elements in the songs that wouldn’t be as apparent as the strings and piano but they also added brilliantly to the overall feel and sound.
The artwork for the demo is incredible. Can you tell us about the design and what it represents?
The artwork was done by an American artist, Stephen Wilson, not specifically for us but as a piece entirely from his imagination. As soon as we saw it, we were all like “yes! That’s fucking it!” It fits our concept of transformation perfectly as the artwork reflects a transcendence or transformation within it. Transformation through the channel of music is effectively our mission statement and this is reflected throughout the entire demo’s approach, sound and artwork. The band name and artwork all tie in. Stephen also did our band logo, incidentally.
And why did you choose to work with him?
We felt that Stephen understood our vision and approach perfectly.
How did you come to work with Iron Bonehead? And do you plan to stay with them for future releases?
My personal relationship with IBP goes back a long time. Patrick is a steadfastly loyal friend, supporter and ally of mine for many years and when I mentioned it to him about the new band he was in 100% from the word go. We’re an underground death metal band and from working with IBP on other things, he was a very natural choice for all of us to work with.
Any plans for gigs, tours, or festivals in support of the album? And will we be seeing you in England any time soon?
We played our debut live show at Redemption Fest on 29 November alongside Bölzer, the Ruins of Beverast, Dread Sovereign and Wizards of Firetop Mountain in Dublin, and as a debut live show, I don’t think it could have gone better. We’re also scheduled to play Dublin again on 14 February alongside Malthusian, ZOM, Sheol and Qrixkuor. Outside of that there has been some discussion on possible shows in Germany, London and Belgium but nothing is confirmed there yet.
What does the future hold for Vircolac? Is there more music in the pipeline? An EP or album perhaps?
Our next aim is to record a MLP sometime in 2015. We have to write the material first and we’ll begin rehearsing again in January. If we’re lucky we may even have a new tune for our 14 February show but that’s speculative at this point.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Feel free to check us out on Bandcamp, iTunes or Spotify. The cassette edition of the recording will be available shortly and we’re currently working on the vinyl and CD layout. We also have shirts available for €10 from our Bandcamp, if anyone’s interested. Thanks for expressing interest in Vircolac. None shall defy!