SOJOURNER is some of the most beautiful I have heard in a very long time. Answers by Mike Lamb. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
You have one of these names that do not really tell what kind of metal you play. How hard was it to come up with the name?
Mike L.: Yeah, it’s not as on-the-nose as ‘Satanic Warmaster’ or ‘Cannibal Corpse’, but I feel like it’s evocative enough in its own way. Coming up with a name is always difficult, and particularly in our case where we wanted to find something that suited our style without being too cheesy. I think we found the right name though, it doesn’t paint us into any corners. In a lot of ways, the definition of the word suits the transience and changing nature of the style of music that we play.
How do you introduce the band to people that are new to your music?
Mike L.: Well, if I have the chance to just show them the music itself I would give them a couple of songs that I feel sum up our sound best, maybe ‘Bound by Blood’ and ‘Homeward’ off our debut Empires of Ash or ‘Titan’ and ‘Ode to the Sovereign’ off our newest album, The Shadowed Road. If I have to explain it without any actual music, it’s best summed up as atmospheric metal with influences taken from folk metal, black metal, melodic death metal, and doom metal.
We all carry baggage with us that affects us in one way or another but what would you say have been the single greatest influence on your sound?
Mike L.: The single greatest influence on our sound has just been our previous experience as musicians in bands and the dynamic between Chloe’s writing style and my own. Chloe and I have been writing together for close to ten years, and the style of music we produce in Sojourner is just the natural outcome of what we both sit down and write together. It all came together very naturally, and there’s really no one particular band that we decided we wanted to sound like. We’re both shaped by our influences, and those influences twine together in our output which makes the music we release as Sojourner. What shapes our music most outside of that is the places we’ve lived and the places we’ve travelled, they have all been hugely inspiring.
What is the scene like in your area? Is it important that there is some sort of local scene for a band to develop or can a band still exist in a vacuum of no scene/no bands?
Mike L.: We’re a very scattered band, but the heart of the band in terms of songwriting and where the music is produced is where Chloe and I live, which is currently Dundee in Scotland. In terms of the local scene here, I don’t really know anything about it…we’ve only lived here for a couple of years, and in that time, we’ve mostly gone to gigs in other cities because there doesn’t seem to be a hugely prominent scene here from what I’ve seen. That could entirely be my own fault for not seeking it out as much as I should have though. Most of the main music scene in Scotland is centred in Glasgow and Edinburgh, both of which are a couple of hours from here. Back home in Dunedin, New Zealand, there was a fairly small but solid music scene as well, though I’ve been a bit detached from that since we moved, though Dunedin is still very much our home. I don’t think you need a local scene to thrive though, not in the internet age, but it certainly helps. Sojourner as a live band came about more recently though, and we have always been (and will remain) a recording-focused band, so our community is a much more international one in terms of our output. So I don’t really consider it as existing in a vacuum so much as just not having geographical proximity to our fans, friends, and peers.
Something I have often wondered about is if you feel that you are part of something bigger and greater when you play in a band, that you are part of a movement sort of?
Mike L.: Yeah, I definitely feel that we’re part of a greater community and a much bigger movement. Metal, in all its forms, gives people something that makes their lives better. I know there are all sorts of intended outcomes of music, and different reasons people have for making certain things, but we exist to make music that we love and that we want to hear, and it means a lot to hear from people who tell us that it’s something that they really love or that it has somehow made their lives a little more enjoyable, even if only for the time they were listening to us. If people enjoy our music, then the entire reason for the band’s existence is justified for me personally.
When you play the sort of music you play I guess you cannot have birds and bees on the cover of your album? What is a great album cover to you?
Mike L.: Anything evocative. Something that captures the atmosphere that you want to convey with the music. A good album cover can be a complex work of painted art, or an incredibly minimalist piece. A great album cover is just whatever is most effective in context, to me personally. For our style, at least, a great album cover is a piece of art that evokes something a little bit melancholy, beautiful, and epic. There’s no silver bullet though, if you’re discerning about it anything can work if done correctly.
What is your opinion on digital verses physical? Is digital killing music?
Mike L.: Not at all, I’m a huge supporter of digital music. I think it makes music almost universally accessible and removes barriers to distribution that previously existed. I certainly still love physical media, and personally buy it, but I couldn’t care less if people buy our music physically or digitally. Even YouTube and Spotify are invaluable, because although we never see a cent from either, the fans that we have gained from both of those platforms that are now long-term supports is huge. Whether Spotify as a platform compensates artists fairly is another story, but not really worth getting into here. Bands and labels demonising Spotify and YouTube listeners is incredibly short-sighted and damaging, because those are people who will often go and buy something from you eventually if they love your music, and at worst it’s another person you’ve reached that genuinely likes what you’ve created. Physical media is important to us all as band members, and we’ll continue making it and putting special care into the content that comes with our physical copies, but if someone is anti-digital on principal…I just don’t really get it. I’ve never heard a convincing, well-reasoned and informed argument as to why digital is a bad thing, not when artist-driven platforms like Bandcamp exist. A lot of the anti-digital argument comes from people who only understand an antiquated industry dynamic, and the music world is better off without that dynamic and those gatekeepers. You keep up or you get left behind, I guess. That’s something our label, Avantgarde Music, understand very well and I greatly respect them for it. It’s why they’re thriving in the modern climate where others are trying to bleed bands dry and pursue the old avenues of exploitation.
What kind live scene is there for bands like yours?
Mike L.: There is a massively supportive fanbase and community of like-minded artists all around the world, and I believe that it’s genuinely one of the most supportive and inclusive scenes I’ve come across.
When you play live is it a happening or do you see it more as a party?
Mike L.: It’s a bit of both. It’s an event, but it’s also a party. Shows are supposed to be fun and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
What would you like to see the future bring?
Mike L.: Obviously we’d love to keep growing, keep making music, and keep pushing forward with what we’re doing as a band. We never expect to live off this, all we want is for people to keep enjoying what we do and continue to enjoy it ourselves.