Sonisphere UK 2011 Interview: Periphery – Jake Bowen
Hailing from Washington DC,is one of the freshest progressive metal acts on the scene today. With their signature blend of polymetric grooves and soaring melodies, the band continues to push the envelope of modern metal music. The band released their first full length album ‘Periphery’ on April 20th in 2010. It debuted at #128 on the Billboard Top 200, as well as #2 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.
Periphery formed in 2005 and currently consists of Misha ‘Bulb’ Mansoor,, and Alex Bois on guitars, Thomas Murphy on bass, Matt Halpern on drums, and Spencer Sotelo on vocals. Since its inception, the band has been relentless its effort to have their music be heard. Allowing free access to almost their entire catalogue, including over one hundred and thirty download-able songs, this self-produced band is seeking to redefine the way music is experienced.
Periphery has toured extensively since 2008, supporting artists including DevilDriver, Emmure, Veil of Maya, Animals as Leaders, God Forbid, The Dillinger Escape Plan, A Life Once Lost, This Time Its War, Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza, Fear Factory, Darkest Hour and Fair To Midland. The band’s first European headline tour in early 2011 titled ‘The League of Extraordinary Djentlemen’ with TesseracT, Monuments and The Safety Fire was a huge success.
Since the release of their ‘Icarus EP’ on 19th April 2011 the band have been touring and working hard on not one but two studio albums for 2012. The first of these albums, which will be titled ‘Juggernaut’, is a concept album building upon the lyrical content of ‘Jetpacks Was Yes!’ and the second will be more of a personal album to the band.
Recently atI had the chance to meet guitarist Jake Bowen who took time to talk time to talk to me about their recent split with guitarist Alex Bois, their new albums, touring and how technology allows them to continually record the massive amount of material that they are constantly writing.
EspyRock: How are you doing?
Jake Bowen: I’m doing good man, how are you?
I’m doing great thanks, especially as Oli was nice enough to give us an umbrella as everyone else is being thrown out in the rain.
[Laughs] I know, plus everyone is out there where it is busy as hell and we get the only quiet bit in the full press area.
It won’t take them long to notice we are the smart ones. Are you looking forward to playing tonight?
Oh yeah man, I can’t wait. We’re playing in the Bohemia tent and it’s a really big tent; I don’t think we’ve played in anything like that before.
(Oli who is handling Periphery comes out with a polka dot umbrella for Jake) Aw my man I like the polka dots. Want to swap?
I think it suits you quite well.
I knew you’d say that. Right I’m sorted now let’s go.
It’s probably a good thing you are playing in the tent as the way the weather is going today I think it could be risky for bands playing the likes of the Jager stage.
Yeah exactly. We’ll end up getting the rain crowd now but I wonder how long until they have enough and decide they prefer the rain [laughs].
Are there any bands you have managed to see or hope to see over your time here?
Well I should start by saying that we are going the full three days to get the festival experience as we’ve never done anything like this so yesterday we saw [The] Black Dahlia [Murder], Protest The Hero and Metallica. Today we’re going to see Weezer as I believe they are playing today.
They are on right before Biffy Clyro but I think they are on at the same time as you or well you finish while they still have around twenty to thirty minutes left.
Oh, I’ll need to run then to catch them. I’ll also see Gojira and then tomorrow we’re really stoked to see Slipknot and Opeth so it’s going to be good.
I obviously want to ask you about what is going on with the band at the moment with Alex [Bois] leaving.
Yeah of course.
What led to that?
It was just more of a personality thing than anything music related. We run a really tight business and all of the personalities have to work together so if there is anything that will make that complicated then we have to make changes. We’re still great friends with him and we love him and we wish him the best.
I was going to ask if you were still on good terms because he has been with the band from the very early days.
It’s a good split and we still love each other.
What does the future hold in terms of that position within the band because I know you all stated that you will have guests fill in for the time being?
For right now we’re not looking to fill the spot. We’re just going to chill for a while and work with many guitar players who are capable of filling the spot and then later we will revisit it and see if we want to.
Could you see the band possibly just remaining a five-piece or would that just ruin the dynamic of what the band does?
Maybe for now but we are in no rush because we have great players who want to play and fill in so we’ll see how it goes.
Even with Alex departing from the band work is already well under way for the two new albums.
How are they [the albums] coming along?
Great! We have so much material we seriously don’t know what to do with it all. Right now we’re organising some of the best stuff so we know what will be taken forward and what will actually be left behind.
The first release is ‘Juggernaut’ which is the concept album but what made the band decide to do a concept album first?
Well we figured it is the prog-rock thing to do [laughs]. Misha [Mansoor] has been working on this idea that, oh I really can’t spill the beans yet, I nearly did as well.
I’m sure he won’t mind go on!
[laughs] It’s a cool story and the way he has it all mapped out and the way he is working with Spencer [Sotelo] is just going to be really cool. It covers a lot of interesting topics and if anyone knows about the lyrical content of ‘Jetpacks Was Yes!’ which was a song off our first album [‘Periphery’], then it has to do with that.
Jetpacks Was Yes!
The lyrical content of ‘Jetpacks Was Yes!’ was based around an immortal being who starts to regret his immortality as he outlives everything and everyone, starting with his loved ones and ending with the planet and even the universe itself as his life was not bound by anything. Watch the video below to see story being told.
As it’s a concept album and you will be building the music around the story are you experimenting a little more to help give a little more feeling and depth to areas of the songs?
Definitely. You are going to know it is Periphery when you hear it but we are working on a wider range of sounds for this record. We’re starting to get more proficient at our recording techniques and we’re better musicians than we were last year so it will showcase more of a mature sound for sure.
Of course the second album is a non-concept album so the topics chosen to write about will be a lot more at home but what made you decide that you would do two records in one year as most bands would simply ride the tide on the one album?
The real reason is simply we have so much material and we feel like if we don’t get all of this material which we are sitting on out, then eventually we are not going to care for it anymore. We’re going to get tired of it and we don’t want that, we want to put it out and have it immortalised on a record then we can move on. We’re such prolific writers but it’s almost a curse as much as it is a blessing because we just constantly have so much material that we don’t know what we will do with it all.
Some bands say it is difficult to write on the road and they need time off to get their heads straight and to focus but for you I’m guessing it’s completely different then?
Yeah we are always writing on the road and sometimes if we’re standing on stage for five minutes we’ll just write a quick little riff [laughs]. The music is just always flowing.
Have you thought about your release window yet?
No not yet but we know it will be next year sometime for both of them.
Try and space them out a little bit even so that are always in the public and press eye with the releases.
We don’t even know how we’re going to handle that yet. We still have to get the arrangements done first and then we can how strategic we want to be with releasing them.
As it’s two albums you will need to record and put together, are you going to go into the studio with the aim of trying to record everything as quick as possible due to the financial demand of that amount of material or do you think you will take more of a DIY approach to help complete certain aspects?
We’re going to do a little bit of both this time. We have an engineer that we’re going to work with but we’re going to demo at home first at Misha’s apartment and then we’ll take those complete demoes and go into the studio so we’re going to use a little bit of both.
Do you think that side of technology to be able to build a mini home studio to demo and piece together everything before going into a real studio has really benefitted bands?
I think it is ideal for our situation to go that route because we know a lot about recording and how to get good sounds and we just don’t see any reason to pay anybody to do the things that we can do and it gives it more of a personal stamp. Not only are you hearing us as musicians but you’re hearing as producers and writers and that is really the inspiration of doing things DIY.
Yeah and there is that worry that a producer or someone else involved in the process may tweak and ruin the final product and it won’t have the exact same feel as when you recorded it.
Yeah exactly and we want to have 100% full control of our music to the end. Of course we take suggestions from our friends and our label and stuff like that but people understand what we’re doing and what our sound is so they know what we think sounds the best is what will be released.
I think it is one of the most important aspects of our business. We really connect with our fans online and in fact this band was started when Misha was posting all of his original demos online and we all heard it and we contacted him to say ‘hey this music is really good, I’d like to jam’ and that’s the birth of Periphery, we all came together online.
This rain is really starting to pelt down now.
Thank you for polka dot umbrellas [laughs].
I’ll get to wrapping this up so we can get back inside. Next up for the band this year is the North American tour which is actually your first US headline tour is that right?
Yeah it is our first US headliner and in fact, our first ever headline tour was here in the UK and Europe.
Yeah I caught you performing here earlier this year at the Cathouse in Glasgow.
Yeah we were here earlier this year and that was a great show.
You missed out on that one though because you broke your finger and I think they got one of the guys from TesseracT to fill in.
Did they? [laughs] Yeah I broke my finger a couple of days before that and I got really sick so I was kind of out of the loop of with everything that was going on but I was still at all of the shows as I sold merch and meet fans and then I just went to rest again as I was feeling pretty bad.
Fans didn’t miss out completely as you did break through the pain barrier to come on and do that little solo during the opening track.
[Laughs] Yeah I did it make it on for my little solo because I could get away with it just with a few fingers.
Last question and we can get inside. If you could back to when you first started out as a musician or with Periphery and give yourself one piece of advice which would help your career, what would you tell yourself?
Practice harder and stay up later. I would definitely want to be more prepared for what was to come.