When I saw the name MONGOL it triggered memories from the 80s and a band named Mongol Horde. But that was not the reason I wanted to interview Zev (Luke Barry) – Songwriter, Guitarist, and Clean Vocalist. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
Every band has to introduce their music to new people. What is it that you want people to get from listening to you guys?
-Mongol has a unique sound in that the ‘Mongolian’ influence, that gives the music an oriental flare, isn’t overly predominant, but, still has a profound impact on the writing. Our sound was quite accurately described in a review of our upcoming release, “Warrior Spirit,” by Jeff of Folk Metal NL that stated, “Mongol push the power/epic metal primarily and then add in the folk instrumentation where needed. If the folk instruments were stripped away, you would still have killer tracks.” When I write, play, and/or listen to our music, and Folk Metal in general, my favourite part is feeling taken out of reality and imagining myself being in another mystic land and time. I want my music to express the great tales from The Secret History of The Mongols, which is the ancient Mongolian literature from which our lyrical content is inspired.
How hard was it for you guys to pick a name? What had that name have to have to fit your music?
-The way we got our name is a little more coincidental than one would expect. We chose the name Mongol originally with no intent to go for a Mongolian-influenced sound at all. However, we were all influenced by folk metal greatly, so an oriental-folk metal sound having the name Mongol may not have been the biggest surprise. I had experience with the banjo, so we decided to try adding it to a few songs. Turns out, the Banjo can have a very oriental sound when played with some legato, bearing resemblance to the Mongolian instrument, the Shudraga. The song “Warrior’s Voyage,” from our first Album, is the song that I would stay established the style and sound that we generally stay true to today. This song got us a lot of attention from fans that eventually would position us as having an oriental sound. We decided to really lean into the Mongolian theme on our next album, “Chosen by Tengri.”
Everybody is influenced by certain things. What band(s) was it that turned you on to the kind of music you play? What inspires you today?
-It was from a quite early age that we were influenced by Folk Metal. Some of the bands that come to mind that help I would say have had the biggest influence on our sound would be Svartsot, Finntroll, Wolfchant, Ensiferum, Kalmah, Moonsorrow, etc. More recently, my younger brothers, Bourchi (Kenton) on drums and Sche-khe (Dayton) on keys, and I, who are responsible for most of the musical aspect of the writing, have been into much more power and fantasy metal. Though our sound will continue to be diverse, Influence from bands such as Twilight force, Falconer, Gloryhammer, etc. have started to push Mongol in a more power-metaly sort of direction for some songs.
When you formed did you do so with the intent of knowing what to play or did you do so from the point of having a band name and then picking a sound? How did you settle on the name/sound combo?
-As I touched on before in question 2, the name was chosen first and the ‘Mongolian’ influence came after. We all slowly started adapting as musicians to create our sound. Mongol’s style is the result of countless hours of jamming, mostly between Bourchi and myself. The songs are mostly written by me bringing an idea to practice with my brother, or me writing a sort of first draft of songs in my home studio, then bringing them to the jam room, where they are experimented with until we are satisfied with the song. Zelme (Tom) and Sorkhon Sharr (Josh), other guitarist and bassist respectively, learn parts that I have written for them and then often add onto them or change some things to give it a little more energy. Sche-khe orchestrates his own keyboard parts and our vocalist, Tev Tegri (Brandon), listens to recordings of the songs once they are finished and writes Lyrics for them.
I believe that digital is killing the album format. People’s changing habit of how they listen to music will result in there being no albums. Is there anything good with releasing single tracks only?
-I believe that a lot of modern listeners don’t have the time and or patience to listen to a full album at once, of a new band they haven’t heard of before. Releasing one track at a time allows for more releases throughout the year, and more opportunities to remind today’s distracted audience that we are still writing new material that they should be listening to. I believe there is still great value in releasing full albums, allowing listeners to fully immerse themselves in your music for a full album as opposed to just one song, but I think each track has a much more likely chance of being listened to if released individually. With Mongol, we plan to release our work in many different forms, such as full-lengths, eps, or singles, to provide an ideal listening experience for a more modern audience, who is likely only willing to give attention to one song at a time, as well as for the more traditional listener, who is willing to experience a full album as one entity.
What part does art-work and lay-out play when you release new recordings? How do you best catch people’s attention?
-Our most recent artwork for Warrior Spirit does a very good job displaying the influences of nature that our music portrays. The single that we’ve released for Warrior Spirit, “River Child,” lyrically and musically draws greatly from aspects of nature, which is reinforced strongly by the Native Flute and Banjo. These natural sounding instruments are a big part of what makes our sound unique and we want people to be reminded of these aspects when they see our art work for the new release. Each album generally has a theme that we are trying to express, and we work with the artist to make sure this theme is reinforced visually by the artwork.
Has social media re-written the rules on how to promote your music? Or do you go about doing promotion the same way?
-We are very heavily influenced by modern social media when it comes to how we are marketing our music. We have a diverse fan base, in places all over the world, and we are very grateful to have social media that allows us to connect with them. We do most of our promotion on Facebook and Youtube.
When you play in a band, does that make you feel like you are a part of a scene, of something bigger and grander?
-Yes. I would say that our style of metal is much more popular in parts of Europe than it is here, but almost any metal musician or fan would surely attest to the feeling of belonging to a special culture in which one can feel free to express themselves truly. Watching the film Global Metal by Sam Dunn at a young age taught me what it means to be a part of this culture and I keep these values with me today.
How much of a touring band are you? Is touring/gigging still a great way of spreading the word of the band?
-We play local shows quite often, play with bigger touring bands in our genre when they come through town, such as Arkona, Kalmah, etc., and have done a tour of Western Canada. However, Mongol’s vision lies more in bringing our music to fans overseas, in places we believe we have much more potential. We headlined Mongolia’s first ever international metal festival in 2014 and plan to seek for more grand experiences like this.
What will the future bring?
-In the next few years, Mongol plans to release lots of new material and bring our music to as many new international audiences as possible. A new release is already in the works after Warrior Spirit and there have been talks of planning a Europe Tour for next summer.