1. Can you tell us a little bit about the band for those that have never heard of you before?
Tom: So, we founded in early 2013, when I showed Ollie - a friend from university, who I share a love of metal with - a little something I had been fiddling around with. With the advise, support, and then additions he made to that 'little something' - which grew into the first Synsophony demo track - it became clear to me that Ollie would be the best thing that could happen to the band musically. So, we are currently in the process of releasing our debut EP, which is now ready to stream. We are an experimental act, incorporating elements of dark ambient music, drone, doom, with our inspiration largely lying with black metal.
2.How would you describe your musical sound?
Ollie: Dark, and desolate. In fact if there's one thing we really take from black metal, it's that bleak, desolate sound. We also like keeping an element of progression in there - each track's got to be a journey.
Tom: In our music we try to combine a number of different elements, being largely inspired by a diversity of metal, but also by electronica, classical, jazz etc. I think our sound can be very dark indeed, but - over the course of a song - there can be moments of hope, and even happiness, before melancholia returns. What is important in our sound is that nothing is too sudden: the music unfolds very slowly, in an effort to draw the listener in to the journey we attempt to create. We're not on par with John Cage, and his 639 year performance (!), but we do like to keep things down tempo. Saying that, sometimes a sudden transition (normally an anti-climax), after a period of intensity - as on our EP -, works quite well as well.
3. What are some of the concepts and images the band brings out with the music?
Tom: Well, the EP - Karmic Existence - was based upon, as the name suggests, Buddhist concepts regarding conditioned/embodied existence. In this, the process of rebirth, and so re-death, is considered a process whereby the being inevitably suffers, in spite of momentary pleasure/happiness. Accordingly, the EP follows the process of coming to life from past karma (the unknown), through a first life, and then the suffering of death, arriving once again at the interim period, ready for the whole process to repeat itself perpetually, until liberation is attained. Apart from Buddhism, but related to it, we like to explore human experience - its transitory nature, and how it can be effected. It is this which leads to our interest in ominous, psychedelic music, and its capacity to warp one's senses, feelings, mood and the like.
Ollie: And I think that's kind of where the oppressive bleakness comes from. I mean, in the EP at least, we're charting human existence, right? And what the fuck does that consist of? A few chemical reactions collected in such a way that allows us to scream in terror and scrabble for meaning in the abyss, and not a lot else. And a literal, physical abyss as well as a metaphysical existentialist one: we're sat in this thin, increasingly less habitable shell, and what's below us? A big fucking rock. What's outside that? A whisker above absolute zero temperature and zero atmospheres pressure, with occasional pinpricks of mass in the form of planets, which amount to big fucking inhospitable rocks, with poisonous atmospheres, widely varying surface temperatures, no water, no life. Just pinpricks of pointless mass, lumps of nihility in all that fucking nihility, with the odd star: a goddamned explosion that goes on and on and on, with energies bigger than anything we could even comprehend dealing with, and all this is pretty much unobserved and inaccessible to us, and just as meaningless as the vacuum. It's almost mocking, and I think that's where the dark melancholia and desolation and angst in our music comes from.
Tom: Carl Sagan eat your heart out - spot on.
4. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the bands name?
Tom: Well, with this you'll have to forgive a sort of pun, but to avoid suggesting "Synsophony" is a pun, I'll call this the 'epistemology of Synsophony'. It all began with Sisyphus, the Greek fella who for eternity was stuck rolling a boulder up a hill, only for it to come back down on him, before the process is repeated. Mix that with symphony, and you get close. Then, to make it easier to pronounce, and nicer on the ear, the 'n' was added, and, voila, you get 'Synsophony'.
5.Currently there are only 2 members in the band, are you planning on expanding the line up in the future or do you choose to remain a duo?
Tom: I think we have found a good, working dynamic as a duo. Saying that, we are always open to collaboration, and considering that it was an initial collaboration between Ollie and me which led to the formation of Synsophony I'm ruling nothing out.
Ollie: I'd agree with Tom. I mean, in the end I consider it mostly his project, as the initial impetus was his and the best ideas come from him, so it'd always be his call ultimately, but I reckon that with the two of us we do have a good working dynamic and a shared creative vision. Having just the two of us also makes it easier to get together on short notice as we just have to both have a moment, rather than co-ordinating a bigger lineup, but as Tom's said, we're always happy to collaborate, and I don't think either of us is inherently opposed to an expanded lineup.
6. Has the band done any live shows or is this strictly a studio project?
Tom: No live shows so far, and I cannot see us ever performing regularly. With the number of instruments used, and the production methods deployed, live performance would be very difficult. Saying that, I would never rule out live improvisation, especially if an audience were willing to forgive a backing track and an awful lot of distortion! (hey, they do for a lot of experimental acts)
Ollie: Yeah, I mean it'd mostly be a question of logistics and what to do on a backing track and what to do in person. In each track, we both play several instruments, multitrack our own voices etc. (you may hear some of that in future releases), so doing it without a backing track would be impossible. It'd also depend on the track in question, cause while Karmic Existence wouldn't be very doable live, but future tracks might be. In any case, gigging doesn't look enormously likely at this stage, but we'll see.
7.Currently you are signed to Apechale Winter Productions, can you tell us a little bit more about this label?
Tom: Acephale Winter Productions is a very exciting label, who have shown incredible support and loyalty to Synsophony. This cannot be emphasized enough: they showed interest to, and commitment in, our project ever since we sent them a demo of only 5 minutes! It was founded in early 2013, and is based in the Bay Area, USA. They are forward thinking, and ultimately take an interest in exciting black metal, and subgenres derived from it. In spite of still being a relatively young label, they have already put out many very solid releases - I personally recommend Dunnock and Ringbearer - and, from the sounds of things, have a very busy release schedule for the foreseeable future.
Ollie: They've been great. Jacob's been supportive since the project's infancy, and has always seen eye-to-eye with us on our sound and where we're taking things. They put out a lot of interesting stuff and aren't afraid to push the boat out and do some strange releases (I mean look at us), and we respect them a lot for that.
8. On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your ep by fans of dark and underground music?
Tom: Whilst the EP has not even been streaming for a week now, the response we've had on Social Media and via email has been positive, surpassing our expectations in fact. What is more humbling is that when playing the EP to friends who are not into experimental music - or even metal -, they have often said that either they enjoyed it, or that they like it but it isn't really there type of music. What is so great about this is that it suggests that there is a recognizable quality to the music, which can be seen even by those who don't know the genre.
Ollie: Yeah, I think at least some of our friends have been pleasantly surprised by it. We don't personally know many people into dark ambient and doom drone and such, but fans of post and prog rock tend to quite enjoy us.
9. Are there any other musical projects besides this band?
Ollie: I'm always trying to get something together (probably a more traditional heavy/power metal act) but the metal scene in Cambridge, especially among students, is bloody terrible. Tom and I were once at a Motorhead gig with Anthrax supporting, and you'd expect that lineup to at least draw *some* people, right? But by the looks of things we were just about the only students there, and that was pretty sobering. I'll get something together some sunny day though.
Tom: For me, no. I will often get together with friends, and play guitar and sing into the early hours, but nothing formal like Synsophony.
10. What direction do you see your music heading into on future releases?
Tom: I think Synsophony will always remain experimental - a diverse and vague descriptor I know, which will allow us to try out many types of sound. I think our music will always incorporate drone, and elements of dark ambient, but we are both quite keen to see how this can be mixed with vocal elements. Further, Ollie is an awesome cellist, and I think we neglected to use his talents on the EP, so in future releases the cello will likely be more prominent. I can also foresee more tradition black metal elements creeping into our music.
Ollie: You're too kind mate. But yeah, I think we're going to bring in more audible melodies and such. Vocals of all kinds would be nice, and the cello, especially played high up the fingerboard, can have this really eerie quality, and you can make it sound a little strangled if you like, which could fit with our music nicely. And I think we're both in agreement on how our black metal roots could become more pronounced.
11.What are some bands or musical styles that have influenced your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Ollie: Stuff that influences us? I mean, we make no secret of our love of black metal and how the atmosphere and sound of that has influenced us. A BM band I particularly enjoy would be Emperor (Prometheus blows my tits off every damned time), and if you count the first wave stuff, I rather like Venom and I adore Mercyful Fate. I love Abigail Williams too, espeically their first album (in fact that's how Tom and I first met, when I showed up on the first day of uni in an Abigail Williams shirt). Other influences would be doom and stoner metal (I'm a big fan of Bongripper and Electric Wizard, as well as a lot of Sabbath's early stuff, back when it was very doomy and psychedelic), and we have a bit of a shoegaze/blackgaze influence too: a couple bands of that sort which I like are Spacemen 3 and, of course, Alcest. Let's not forgot the post-rock influence: I love Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and their album F#A#? is spectacular. Oh and I can't forget to mention Cormorant: their particular brand of blackened prog metal or whatever you'd call it is just amazing. I feel like I'm a bit influenced by some less instrumental stuff as well: M83's 2011 album, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is some amazing dreampop, and that sort of thing contributes to our weird, psychedelic edge (see also Oneirology, the fantastic trip hop album by Cunninlynguists). As for other stuff without such a pronounced influence on our work? I'm a huge sucker for power metal. Blind Guardian, Angra, Crystal Eyes, Highland Glory, Lost Horizon, Avantasia are some of my favourites there. As well as just about all other types of metal, which I won't go into because it'd be pretty boring for me to go listing every band I like, I'm a fan of the blues. Not so much the more recent, overproduced stuff, which is all electric guitars and keyboards (although I don't mind this in blues rock, it kind of grates on me when it's in straight blues), but I love the dirty, raw, slide guitars and blues harps sound. Some of my favourite musicians there are Big Walter Horton, Roy Rogers and Norton Buffalo.
Tom: As of right now, I am listening to nothing but Iron Maiden's 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' - such a great album! Beyond this, I really do enjoy metal, and particularly relevant to Synsophony is my love of doom and stoner metal - bands such as Sleep, Bong and the like. Doom metal in particular made me aware of the psychedelic effect repetition, and slowly unfolding harmonies can have. Outside of metal, I like my psychedelic rock a lot, as well as down-tempo and IDM electronic music, with a healthy slice of hip-hop (particular UK hip-hop) thrown in. I think electronic and industrial metal/doom drone go hand-in-hand at times, so maybe this sometimes comes through in Synsophony.
12.Outside of music what are some of your interests?
Tom: I am a student, who - against the tradition in Black Metal - studies theology and religious studies, and really enjoys this. I am also a football fan, wholly loyal to Oxford United. I enjoy reading, and also work in a cafe, where barista work is something I enjoy a lot.
Ollie: Also a student, and this year I'm doing philosophy of science. Music is just about my favourite thing (I play the cello, the blues harp, the piano and I sing a bit), but I'm also quite keen on cooking. I also enjoy good whisky, good beer and good tobacco (I smoke a pipe - it makes you look a bit of a prat, but I haven't tasted anything but pipe baccy that delivers that sort of variation and depth of flavour), and I read sometimes. I'm generally too lazy to read anything particularly long so I usually stick to poetry, and I'm a big fan of the Romantics.
Tom: oh yeah, I forgot the drink... I do like the drink...
13.Any final words or thoughts before we wrap up this interview?
Ollie: Thanks for having us. I very much enjoyed the chance to speak about our vision and our music!
Tom: Apologies about the length of some of my answers - they are much like our music: long!