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Anaria Interview

Anaria Interview
May 28, 2015 (via Skype)


The Boston melodic symphonic metal band Anaria is bringing some welcome sizzle to the summer with their new EP, Seasons of the Mind - Volume One: Inception. Sonic Cathedral’s Robin Stryker circled up with Jessica Mercy (vocals) and Chad Niles (guitars) for a free-wheeling chat full of randomness. Dive in for all the details on Anaria’s new album, cosplay and nerdly delights, rocking the Con, and much more!

Sonic Cathedral:  Sonic Cathedral is very happy to welcome Jessica and Chad! Well guys, Anaria’s album Seasons of the Mind - Volume One: Inception was just released. Can you give us an introduction to your long-awaited work?

Jessica:  <laughs> Well, it’s about two years in the making, as a lot of people know. We’re really excited about it! We have traversed several different genres in putting this album together. It’s a little bit metal, it’s a little bit rock, it’s a little bit pop, and there is even some electronic stuff in there.

It is really what we like to think of as the new identity of this project because we’ve kind of been tailgating around on old singles and songs from the past that we still very much love, but haven’t really been an accurate representation of the band. It is kind of like our big, new flash onto the scene -- we have lots of orchestra going on, heavy guitar riffs, and a little bit of a new vocal sound. And we’re really excited to bring it to everyone!

Sonic Cathedral:  When we first became acquainted with your music, it was as a band called Evince Ethos. Is Anaria the successor of Evince Ethos, or is it a completely different band?




Jessica:  We like to think of Anaria as a completely new band. We certainly do have our roots in what was formed by Evince Ethos, in that we’re carrying on the legacy of some of these songs. Anaria was put together by former members of that band, so it obviously contributes a lot to the style of music that we’re pursuing. But inevitably, it is a new project, and it is a new sound.

Sonic Cathedral:  As indicated by Volume One in the title, Seasons of the Mind is expected to be a multi-volume series. What progression do you anticipate for the future albums in the series?

Jessica:  Well, if everything goes according to plan, Volume One is the beginning of everything. Volume Two is sort of like emotionally getting into the thick of things -- really getting into the passion and the longing and the pursuit of what makes you happy. Volume Three is this idea that you’ve obtained those things, but it’s still not enough. There are still problems, and there are still things that are not right with the world. And then, Volume Four is the ending of it all, just when everything kind of falls apart and … <whispers> dives off a cliff. <laughs> It falls apart, and turns into these shreds, where you’re like: “Okay, am I starting over now? Where am I?”

Sonic Cathedral:  Chad, would you introduce yourself and the other guys in the band?

Chad:  My name is Chad Niles, and I’ve been in Anaria for a little over a year now. Zac Paquette [drums] is the other newest member, at like two years. Dan Spinney [guitars] has been in Anaria for about three years. And then, Kevin H. Brady [bass] is an original member, along with Jess. We all kind of come from different backgrounds in music, which give us the unique sound we bring to the table. Especially when I really get to put my feet in the water with the writing process, I’ll definitely bring a different swing to things, which I’m excited about for the second album.




Sonic Cathedral:  As I understand it, you were a substitute guitarist for Anaria at the beginning?

Chad:  Yeah, at the very beginning, Anaria’s former guitarist had a medical condition, and sometimes wasn’t able to play. They had a big show coming up with Lacuna Coil. I have known Dan for 13 years … we went to high school together … and he got in touch with me to be prepared to play the show with Lacuna Coil if he wasn’t physically able. It worked out well because, a little bit before that, I had the itch to get back on stage. I had been out of the music business for about four years after my previous project.

So, I got prepared for the show, which unfortunately I didn’t get to play. Well, I guess it is a good thing for the old guitarist because it meant good health on his part, but he ultimately didn’t work out. Then, I kind of became … it’s not quite a studio musician, but more like a hired musician for shows. After a little while playing out, I really got the urge to want to do music again, and I became full-time. It was after we played Dragon Con that I signed on full-time.

Sonic Cathedral:  And you got a girlfriend (Jessica) out of the deal too, eh? <Jessica laughs>

Chad:  Yes, I did. I definitely lucked out on that deal!




Sonic Cathedral:  It has been a heady time for you guys lately. Please, tell us what it’s been like being Anaria the past few weeks.

Chad:  Oh man, where to start? We have been playing shows like crazy! From the start of this year, we’ve been playing out; we had seven shows alone in March. We have just been playing out every single weekend, and sometimes multiple times per week. And then, a couple weeks prior to the release [on May 16, 2015], we kind of slowed things down to prepare for that, nevermind all the hours and hours in the studio.

It was very surreal for all of us when we finally had that day that the album got mailed and we could hold the physical copy in our hands. We almost couldn’t believe that it was really that time! Words can’t describe what it was like at the CD release. 350-plus people came, and we had a bunch of other great bands. It was pretty unbelievable.

Jessica:  Yeah, it was a big old party. It was just such an honor for us to be playing that stage along with so many of our good friends that are in other bands, knowing that this is this big goal that we have strived for for so long. This album was two years in the making, and finally, we have it … FINALLY, we can share it with our fans. The energy of that particular show was just absolutely fantastic. Our fans were having a great time, and that’s what it is all about. Every show that we have played since then, the energy has really kept up, and everybody is just really excited for this big landmark in our career.

Chad:  There has been a difference also with the reaction of fans. You know, we had some good reactions from the old album, but not nearly as much attention or … I’m trying to think of the word … the fans really being into the music as much as they are now. It is pretty crazy! I just spent two hours in the post office yesterday or the day before, shipping out 30 albums and posters to different parts of the world -- different countries and all across this country. It is just remarkable to see the album being sold every day all over the world and all over the country. It is pretty amazing.

Sonic Cathedral:  I know it is still early days, but where is the farthest place that Anaria’s album has gone so far?

Chad:  Canada, the UK, Europe, all over the place.

Jessica:  I would have to look at the list to see, but those are the ones we have mailed out. I know that we have fans in Russia, Australia (I think Dan might have mailed some out to Australia), and we’ve definitely gone out to Japan. So, all over the place! <laughs>




Sonic Cathedral:  Jessica, on social media, you had said that your favorite song on the new album is “Ignition”. Why is that?

Jessica:  “Ignition” is the song that came easiest to me when we were writing it. It sort of all came together in the studio, and everything in that song was just right, as far as the lyrics and the pieces that we put together. The first time that I sang the bridge, Dan and our producer were just like: “WHAT just happened?!” <laughs> I do kind of regret some of the writing in that song because it’s very difficult to perform that live, due to the range that it’s covering from the lows to the highs. But it’s also a really fun challenge!

Sonic Cathedral:  With “Ignition” being your favorite track, how was it that “Covet” became the first video off the Inception album?

Chad:  We decided to go with “Covet” because it was a really good show with the orchestral pieces, and it’s a good heavy song to grab people’s attention. We also didn’t want to spill our guts all at once … we wanted to save some of our favorites for when the album was released.

Sonic Cathedral:  Chad, as a guitarist, which song do you find most satisfying or challenging to play out live?

Chad:  I’m gonna sound like a really big douche when I say this, but none of them are challenging to me. But “Ignition” and “Aurora” are my favorites just because I am the utter metal-head of the band. “Covet” is good too, but I love the gallops and the chugs and all that in the songs. That is why I can’t wait for the next album. Everything that we do, even the covers that we do, I always try to make my rhythm parts as heavy as possible because I love brutally heavy music. <Jessica laughs>

Sonic Cathedral:  Speaking of covers, I was gob-smacked to read that Anaria occasionally covers Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” at live shows.

Chad:  Wow, how did you hear that?!

Sonic Cathedral:  <laughs> I creeped your page, dude.

Chad:  Yeah, I absolutely love playing that song live! It gets everyone going because everyone knows that song. We had an interview with another magazine, and they had written about that too. We really call them remakes, instead of covers, because we really do remake them into our kind of sound.

Jessica:  Yeah, the way that we play it is super heavy … SUPER heavy.




Sonic Cathedral:  I can’t even wrap my brain around a metal interpretation of that song. I’ll have to check YouTube for a fan video.

Chad:  I’m not sure if there are any other there, but we kind of have been talking about doing a recording of it, just to give out to the fans. A lot of people really like it, and we happen to really like it as well.

Sonic Cathedral:  That would be fun! Jessica, in reading over your lyrics, I was curious whether you are also a writer in a different capacity.

Jessica:  Yes, I write all the time. I actually have my bachelor’s degree in English Language & Literature, with a concentration in creative writing. So, I come from a background where I’m writing fiction all the time, and I’m writing poetry all the time. I feel like it definitely factors into my lyric writing, whereas I’m exercising a pretty decent vocabulary, which is really fun.

Sonic Cathedral:  Among Anaria’s recent milestones was playing at Dragon Con in late 2014 in my former hometown of Atlanta. When you play a convention, how is that different than playing a regular metal show … well, other than people being in costume, obviously?

Chad:  Yeah, that’s one big factor. The way I looked at it, it’s a 24/7 party, but also a 24/7 concert because it’s just like being at a concert before the bands hit the stage. Everyone is hanging out, but it’s like a top-tier house party. It’s hard to explain because there are just THOUSANDS of people there, and there is so much going on, other than just bands. The whole day, hanging out at the merch table, meeting people, selling a little merch (which is always nice), and we also did an acoustic show there before our live set performance, which was really cool. What do you think, Jess?

Jessica:  One of the really cool things about playing conventions is that you are these creative people, but you are surrounded by fellow creative people who can really appreciate what you’re doing on a different level than your regular concert-goer, because it’s just a different way of thinking. They appreciate the artistry of it, and it’s like hanging out with your kindred spirits. You get to party with them, play a show for them, and it’s just a really awesome experience! It is very difficult to describe without actually immersing yourself in that culture and really experiencing those types of people in that type of environment.

Sonic Cathedral:  Jessica, you are no stranger to cons and cosplay. How do you see your onstage persona meshing with your love of costuming and creating a visual experience?

Jessica:  It is a really fun opportunity for me because I design my own original creations for the stage. I haven’t been able to do it as much as I would like, and sometimes … especially when we are playing a show, and I know it’s going to be really hot … I don’t want to wear something really heavy. But it does present me with this really awesome opportunity to exercise that part of my creativity. I don’t have to base it on something that is already out there; I can base it on whatever design I want.




Sonic Cathedral:  Do the two of you enjoy many delightful nerd activities together?

Chad:  Oh, man!!!

Sonic Cathedral:  Give it to me, Chad! <Jessica laughs>

Chad:  I am a big video game guy, but before this interview and every day (all day), it’s Magic: The Gathering. All day! That is my ultimate nerd-ism.

Sonic Cathedral:  How about you, Jessica? What is your nerdliest of nerd activities?

Jessica:  Oh my gosh, I dabble in a lot of things. I play Magic: The Gathering, and I play videogames. Skyrim is my favorite game on PC, and probably always will be. <laughs> I mean, costumes are really a big thing for me. That is an extremely nerdy thing for me because I enjoy it from the ground up. I enjoy it from its early conception stages, all the way into wearing it. It is this really awesome challenge for me to figure out how to make something -- to actually make it, and then to wear it.

Sonic Cathedral:  The X-Files coming back with Mulder and Scully … a genius idea, or should they have just let it go?

Jessica:  It depends on what direction they are going to go with it. I’m currently in the process of watching from Season 1 all the way through Season 9. I’m in 8 right now, and it’s driving me absolutely crazy because I’m falling asleep during episodes. I am like: “Where is Mulder? David Duchovny, why did you have to be a jerk and renegotiate your contract?!” So, I’m kind of hoping that there are some things that they are going to pretend didn’t happen … you know, maybe touch on some things that they really didn’t wrap up in the series, without giving away any spoilers to anyone who hasn’t watched the series.

Sonic Cathedral:  Speaking of fantasy, whose idea was it to record “I See Fire” from The Hobbit movie?

Jessica:  That was definitely my idea. <laughs> So, I heard the song by Ed Sheeran, and I’m going to be honest, I was underwhelmed by it. I thought that it was a really beautiful song, but I didn’t think that it had the epic feel that it should have. I felt that way about a lot of things about those movies, but I won’t get into that. So, I thought: “Hey, let’s give this track a try, and give it some orchestra and some punch, and see where it goes.” Dan and I really took the lead on that, and we went into the studio, we recorded it, and we did the music video (which we’re not 100% happy with). But we did it, and it was a pretty good success, I would say.

Sonic Cathedral:  Jessica, you are doing guest vocals on the upcoming Enraptured album by Crimson Chrysalis. How did a Boston vocalist get hooked up with a South African band?

Jessica:  Uhm, I think we actually met via Facebook. Via the Internet, we’ve become pretty close friends. We share each other’s music with one another, and René asked me if I would be interested in guest vocals on her upcoming album. I said: “Of course, I would be! I think that’s a great opportunity.” I love supporting female-fronted bands especially. We had a bit of a fun time getting all that figured out. I had to go record tracks here in Boston, which then had to be sent over to her producer to be integrated with the tracks she has.




Sonic Cathedral:  Guys, what is coming down the pike for Anaria?

Chad:  That’s a pretty loaded question. We have been in discussion with ourselves about plans we have … some, we don’t want to release yet because they are still in the works. But we plan to play shows, play shows, play shows, push the new album, and start writing the second album -- pretty much just keep doing the music grind, and see where we can go. This is what we want to do with our lives. I have been playing and performing music since I was in the third grade, and I would love to be able to quit my day job and do this full time.

Jessica:  I think we all would! <laughs>

Sonic Cathedral:  What do you think it would take in order for Anaria to hit some of the more far-flung areas of North America?

Chad:  Anything to do with that or the band moving to the next level, it always comes down to who you know or who you meet …

Jessica:  And money!

Chad:  … yeah, and money. But, I mean, if you meet the right person, it can happen. As sad as it is, that is the ultimate truth. I have been doing bands and whatnot for over a decade, and it really comes down to who you know. If the right person stumbles across your stuff and is interested, that could be what jumpstarts it. We are constantly networking with promoters and venues and people in the industry, in hopes of finding that right person (or people) who can help us along the way to where we want to be, like doing nationwide tours.

Jessica:  Definitely. The bottom-line about touring is that we could certainly book a tour on our own, but it does come down to money … and we all have our own bills to pay. It is very, very, very expensive to book a tour. The ultimate goal for us would be to get some sort of situation where we are fully managed, where we are signed to a label, and where we have some money to play with so that we could book a tour like that. We certainly are looking at that on the horizon, for the long term, but I can’t really say when that is going to be. It is not an “if”; it’s a “when”.

Chad:  Our next step right now is getting a van, so we don’t have to take five separate cars whenever we play. That way, we can do something like that. Everyone drove down to Atlanta. People are definitely willing to drive to Canada and North America to do so kind of tour. It is just getting that ONE vehicle … that van … that can fit all of the equipment and all of us in it. <laughs>

Sonic Cathedral:  We are at the end of our time together. What words of sparkling wisdom do you have for our readers at Sonic Cathedral?

Chad:  Keep reading up on the articles that you put out. If you’re a musician, stick with it, and don’t give up! If it’s a passion, then it’s pretty much impossible to give up. I am one to say that because, as I’ve said, I was out of the music business for a few years. Once I got bit by the bug again, it’s just something that I think will not ever leave a musician -- to have that passion and that drive to want to play out again. And support your local music!

Jessica:  Definitely, support your local music. Just echoing what Chad said, if you have any kind of passion, keep at it! Don’t give up on it at all. Whether it’s writing, whether it’s playing music, or you love to paint or whatever, just keep at it. Do it every day, and practice, practice, practice. That is how it gets perfect. <laughs>

Sonic Cathedral:   Jessica and Chad, thank you so much for talking with Sonic Cathedral tonight!

Jessica:  Thank YOU.

Chad:  Thank you very much for having us.

 Anaria Inception

Photo credit (promo shots): Gerard Vincent Photography P
hoto credit (live shots): Mark Myers Photography

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