So, the band started back in 2013. Why it took you so long to release your debut demo, which was eventually out in 2018?
Vincent: We had a difficult time finding musicians in our scene at the time who wanted to play this style of Doom Metal.
Back on those 2013 initial days who were the key persons/founders behind the band and what was the main goal you set?
Vincent: Sarah and I founded the band then. Our goal, quite simply, was to create some sword swinging Doom Metal in the vein of Reverend Bizarre, The Gates Of Slumber, and Candlemass.
What about the Smoulder name? Shed some light on the concept behind it.
Vincent: We wanted a one-word name that hadn’t been used already (by a metal band at least), and Sarah came up with it shortly after we started jamming.
Sarah: It was intended to evoke something dark: like the smoldering ruins of a city after a barbarian invasion has set the torch to it.
Your demo was released back in April of 2018. Where did you record it and how long did it take you to complete those recordings?
Collin: We recorded the demo in my home town of Morrison Illinois, at a local studio. We pretty much did everything for the demo in an 8-hour session there that day. The night before we rehearsed together with our session bassist in my basement. It was kind of amazing how well everything came together that weekend as that was the first time we had all actually played together. After the session we sent the demo up to a friend of Sarah and Vincent’s in Calgary to mix and master it.
How many completed songs did you got back in the 2018 demo days? Have you been into the process of choosing those three that finally appeared on the demo and if yes what was your main criteria for picking those tunes?
Vincent: Before we recorded the demo, ‘The Sword Woman’ and ‘Voyage’ were the only two fully finished tracks. An early version of ‘Black God’s Kiss’ was almost recorded for the demo as well but we didn’t have enough time in the studio and I wasn’t completely satisfied with that particular version of it.
How you got in touch with Hoove Child Records? Are you happy with their cassette version of your demo?
Collin: The owner of Hoove Child Records, Patrick, has been a good friend of mine for quite a while. When we had completed the demo and were searching for labels, I reached out to Patrick with our tracks, as I knew he was in the market for new bands to release on his label. He was immediately interested and worked out a great release deal with us. We were definitely very happy with his cassette release, it looked great and was very professionally done. I can’t sing Patrick’s praises enough, he’s always a joy to work with!
In November 2018 Hoove Child releases two tracks from the demo on 7″. Why ‘The Queen Ιs Gone’ is left out? I guess there was not enough space on the 7″ right?
Collin: That’s exactly right. It was simply just for a lack of space on a 7-inch and when it comes down to it, the originals are what’s important.
Speaking about ‘The Queen Is Gone’ well it is actually your own tribute to Colombia’s Nightmare? Right? Please share some info about your version/cover of their ‘The King Is Gone’ tune…
Vincent: Correct. Sarah and I had been jamming the track since our inception back in 2013. I included the track on a Doom mix tape I made back then and Sarah suggested covering it.
Sarah: I absolutely love ‘The King is Gone’. As a drummer (back then), I just found the song so much fun to play. Vincent used to sing it, so when I took over on vocals after we moved to Toronto, it became a favorite but I had to change it to be from the perspective of the barbarian queen that dominated our demo.
Cassette and 7″ editions have different front covers. I know that you are paying very much attention into the visual part of your releases, servicing your overall concept, so I want a small comment about both front covers.
Sarah: We definitely wanted to have different covers to make it more attractive to fans, and not only that, to reflect the production being remastered for the vinyl edition (because vinyl requires a different master). The cassette had a cover painted by our friend Craig Reid, while the 7-inch edition was an image from “The Sword Woman” book that we were granted by Stephen Fabian. I’m quite pleased with each edition. They each offer unique, awesome artwork (which, to me, is an intrinsic and vital part of heavy metal).
So, the demo generated quite an impact. Αnd those who were not aware of it, probably discovered the band through the 7″. The next chapter was a deal with Cruz Del Sur Music and a full length. Please shed some light on this forward-looking movement.
Adam: We met with Enrico of Cruz Del Sur when we played the Hammer of Doom festival in Germany. That was an incredible festival! It was an honor to share the stage with bands like Coven and Sorcerer, and it was also a great opportunity to show Enrico our live performance and our commitment to taking the band wherever great shows are being booked. The timing was also good: We had just finished recording the album, so we were ready to go ahead with a label deal.
It took you five years to release a demo but you completed your full length in almost one year. What have changed?
Adam: By the time I joined the band, the demo had been recorded but not released and most of the songs for the full length were already written. Sarah has done a great job of managing the band and part of that is due to having patience and planning for the long term – her and Vincent spent a lot of time preparing material and putting the right line-up together before going “full steam ahead” with things like recording and playing shows. Now that all the band members are contributing new material, we should be able to keep up the current pace, and in fact a number of new songs have already had most of their parts written.
So, let’s get into the album. It includes “The Sword Woman” and “Voyage…” from the demo. Those are re-recorded versions, right?
Collin: Yes, we decided to re-record those tracks because we felt they still had a place within the album and that we could do more with them musically. The changes we made were minor, but I personally feel that they added to the songs. Plus hearing those songs with Arthur’s production job was great!
Sarah: ‘The Sword Woman’ has the most significant differences from the demo. It’s slowed down, much more theatrical, and well… it’s now where I want that song to be. I wrote the majority of that song, whereas Vincent wrote ‘Voyage…’. So it was important to both of us that our songs be given the sound we felt they deserved!
Where have you recorded it and in how many days were the recordings completed?
Collin: Kevin and I recorded our parts of the album at Swift Road Studios located outside of Chicago. We pretty much completed our parts in over two days (with few weeks apart). We were very happy with the results of working at that studio; we got some really great sounds there and the engineer Vincent was a dream to work with.
Adam: Sarah, Vincent and I recorded our parts in Toronto with John Dinsmore at The Lincoln County Social Club. We had three days booked, and I got all my bass parts done on the first day. Then I ran off to Montréal for Québec Deathfest to see Autopsy and they took over to complete the rest.
In your own words how would you describe the music of your band to someone that have never listened to you?
Collin: I would simply describe our music as epic metal. Though we started out with more of a vision as a doom band, I think that the music just naturally evolved into something different. Besides being massive doom fans, we’re also really big into power metal as well as the arcane epic metal of yore (Manilla Road, Brocas Helm, Warlord, Cirith Ungol etc.). The doom elements of our sound are undoubtedly still there (i.e. ‘Black God’s Kiss’), but I don’t think we can say that we are really a straight up doom metal band. So again, I would just call us epic metal.
The album got an amazing cover. So, spend some time and dig into it.
Vincent: We found the painting in a Michael Whelan artbook that I purchased a few years ago and Sarah decided it would be the album cover the instant she saw it. It’s a powerful painting that encapsulates the themes on the album perfectly.
I am sure that the cover represents the lyrics and the album title one way or another, so tell us a bit about the overall lyric concept behind the album and the Smoulder legacy in general.
Vincent: While none of the songs on the album directly reference the artwork, the album title is subtlety referenced in Black God’s Kiss with the line: “A demon’s gift taken in a dream, cold and ominous, wild and obscene”.
Sarah: The lyrical concept is difficult to briefly summarize. Essentially, what I wanted to do was tell stories about sword swinging heroes, and articulate the flawed nature of these heroes. Often, I think people mischaracterize sword and sorcery as thoughtless carnage. Of course, there is some of that too… but altogether, these characters are flawed. More importantly though, there are no helpless victims in this story that needed saving.
How do you work as a band? Do you all live closely rehearsing on a standard basis or what? I have actually read this “This is the first time all five of us have been in the same room in nearly a year” comment of yours on a band Facebook photo as you were rehearsing for “Legions Of Metal” festival, so it makes me wonder….
Kevin: Three of us live in Toronto and the other two live in Illinois. This naturally leads to communicating and collaborating online. We share song ideas, news, and other happenings through Facebook, Messenger. When we schedule a gig, we will usually set aside time to rehearse the set for a day or two – we’ve also occasionally had to have fill in members. After shows, we perform and go our separate ways. We write all of our music using electronic composition programs which allows us to practice and prepare individually. It is unfortunate that we cannot all hang out together more, but we are doing our best given the situation.
What about live shows in general? Do you manage to transfer the dark magic of your studio works upon the stage?
Kevin: We’ve received positive responses about our live performances so far. In the beginning our stage presence needed work, but that has improved as we’ve played a few gigs. Musically we have always gelled together quite nicely, which is a testament to the preparation we put into our music as individual musicians. I remember our first practice together as a band, and we were even surprised how well the music flowed even without playing together before.
Two questions for Shon right now: Why did you quit Manacle?
Vincent: I had decided that I wanted to focus solely on Smoulder and Ezra Brooks. I knew I would have a hard time balancing the three bands especially when I knew Manacle would doubtless start getting festival offers around the world.
And what about Ezra Brooks. The latest split tape was amazing. Should we expect more?
Vincent: Thank you! My goal is to have a full length out in a year or two. I’ve got some big ideas though so it might take longer! That being said, I plan to have another smaller release or two out before then.
How it feels as an experience to receive such positive feedback from fans, from press, invitations to play live and sold out pre orders. Were you expecting all this reaction? Have you prepared yourselves to go through it?
Vincent: We’ve all been blown away by the response from everyone! None of us expected this kind of attention and it’s been a new experience for all of us navigating it.
What the future shall bring for Smoulder?
Kevin: I think the near future will be primarily focused on finding/playing gigs. We have a show in August in Toronto in which we are opening for Pagan Altar, and we are on the bill for Up The Hammers in Greece next spring. We don’t want to give tοο much away, but we have entered discussions about what direction we want to go with our next couple of releases, including album #2. Right now, we are taking the time to relax and enjoy the recent successes of our album release and our performance at Legions of Metal.
That is all for now. Close the interview as you like. Leaving an epilogue message for our readers.
Sarah: Thank you very much for the interview.