As someone who has been listening to British metal since the early 80s I like to think I can hear when a band is British and trying too hard to not be. There used to be a time when every new British metal band sounded like a watered down version of an American. Where do this lack of confidence and need for American approval come from?
-I think you could argue that for a long time America has dominated music across various genres in various countries, but in metal music especially during the 90s with the rise of the ‘Roadrunner bands’.
Maybe some of those classic 80s British bands fizzled out, or lost their way, or simply got lost in the trends in metal music that developed during that time, or perhaps were not treated right by the industry itself. Thankfully in more recent years we’ve seen the re-emergence of some of those great British bands who have spent some time in the wilderness in one respect or another, whether its Iron Maiden, Paradise Lost, or Carcass, amongst others. Let’s also not underestimate how influential Scandinavia, and more recently, mainland Europe has become in metal music, not just in the UK, but also in America too.
Today the British metal scene seems vibrant and healthy again. How important do you feel it is that there is a native scene to get support from?
-Yes there are some great UK bands at the moment, but really there always has been. Unfortunately the talent here is perhaps not as embraced as it is in other countries, the cause of which may relate back to your previous question, as the media and public have often overlooked UK bands in lieu of international acts. I believe the UK scene still has a long way to go to catch up with, say that of mainland Europe, but there are certainly some great bands and a dedicated fan-base over here.
What intentions did you have when the idea to create Pythia came upon you? How important was it that the band should have a female vocalist?
-To be honest, there was no ‘master plan’. I’d been playing death/thrash metal with DESCENT for nearly ten years, and I was keen to start a more melodic, power-metal type project. That project could have easily ended up with a male vocalist, but by chance at that same time I had discovered the music of the Mediaeval Baebes and Celtic Legend, and thought I’d approach Emily to see if she would be interested in starting a metal band. I never really expected to hear back, or maybe expected a polite ‘no’ at best. However, she replied pretty much straight away, and we met up the following week for a beer, and it all started from there… Although we are a ‘female-fronted metal band’, it is important to remember that that itself is not, or should not, be a genre. It covers a wide range of bands from Nightwish to Arch Enemy, and everyone in-between. So whilst Emily’s vocals are a massive part of the Pythia sound we have established. I don’t believe you can pigeon-hole us vocally any more than you can musically. This is certainly evident on the new album.
There seem to be a whole mythology surrounding the concept/image of Pythia. How important is it to have something that stands out from the rest in order to get noticed?
-Again, there was no pre-conceived idea of an image for the band. It really just evolved naturally in line with the music, since we first started. I guess the ‘Pythian Army’ image really took off after the photo-shoot for the artwork for BTVE, and that image just seemed to fit, in terms of where we are now musically and lyrically. The concept of a ‘Pythian Army’ also enables our fan base to feel part of the band, and part of the music. Yes it has helped us to gain attention both on and off stage, and whilst I don’t believe you have to have an image; it certainly can help to give the band an easily recognisable identity. It also makes photo-shoots more fun as we get to mess around with axes and swords – more interesting than just having us standing around in graveyards! …Plus I was a big ‘Robin of Sherwood’ fan when I was young…
You released your album “Beneath The Veiled Embrace” in 2009. You have a new one coming in 2012. Is three years between albums an ideal time span for a new and pretty much unknown band? What is it that takes time?
-Well, it’s certainly not an ideal time span, although hopefully it’ll actually be closer to 2 years than 3.
We have had some delays on the ‘business’ side of things, which I won’t dwell on here, also Ross became a father last year and Emily had a child this year so we have had a few things that slowed down the writing and recording process, and we wanted to take our time to write and record an albums worth of songs that not only matched what we achieved with BTVE, but surpassed it.
We believe we have achieved that, lyrically, musically, and also in the production and mix of the album. It’ll be worth the wait. Trust me.
Will the graphic look of the band/concept change with the new album? How important is the way the band look?
-The new album doesn’t have a concept as such, although the cover and inlay artwork by Brian Froud and Gurdish Haugsdal reflects some of the underlying lyrical themes of the album.
How much do you think about what is big today when you write music and how much is gut feeling? When you write music do you ever think about whom it is that’s going to listen to it?
-I think the new album will show that we certainly are not looking to follow in the footsteps musically of some of the current big names in our genre. Our sound has developed naturally through us as individuals, and subsequently as a band, and we all listen to a wide range of music. It’s a cliché, but we just write music that we would want to listen to.
Do you feel that it is harder today to get noticed, get signed and build a career out of playing music than it used to be? What is it that has changed?
-The growth of the internet has been both a blessing and a curse for the music industry.
It gives bands a platform from which to grow, but also gives a voice to bands that perhaps don’t yet deserve such attention. Because there are so many bands, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd – that’s not to say “be different for the sake of being different”, but I guess try to focus on what you do best, and what you enjoy doing, and hopefully people will like what you’re doing and respect you for it. In terms of a career – it is certainly more difficult due to the free download culture that exists today, but then it means a much wider audience own and hopefully like your music, and they may come to a live show, buy merchandise etc. It’s complicated, but the industry is where it is… whether you or I like it or not.
How important is it to you to be independent in everything you do? What in the word independence do you value the most?
-Because of the state of the music industry, and especially in the UK at present, you have to be prepared to get your hands dirty. Yes, ultimately you do need assistance from ‘the industry’ to succeed, but there is no reason with today’s technology etc that you can’t write and record a professional sounding album. Gone are the days of needing to spend 6 months in Abbey Road studios.
And in answer to your question, I guess the word ‘independence’ for us means creative freedom to go in whatever musical direction we choose.
I guess there are still things you like to achieve. What is the closest achievement on your agenda right now?
-We are obviously really looking forward to the release of new album ‘The Serpent’s Curse’. We have played a few of the new songs at recent live shows, and we can’t wait for people to hear the songs in their studio setting. Other than that, we are keen to get back out on the road to promote the new album, both here and abroad.