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"Fresh and obscure pre-apocalyptic band Flesh of the Stars appeared in Chicago just a year ago. This is my favourite kind of interview – almost the whole band is here to answer. Let me introduce you..."

Interview with Flesh Of The Stars.
"Fresh and obscure pre-apocalyptic band Flesh of the Stars appeared in Chicago just a year ago. Both of their albums 'Hide' and 'Hosanna' have turned out to be from an original alchemical laboratory of different influences and ideas, producing an original boiling blend yet with a raw taste. It's appealing but sometimes ugly. They have a heteregoneous sound, but their work is subject to a general plot which reflects not only in the music, but also in the lyrics and artwork. What is this idea? What is the origin of Flesh of the Stars? From where did all these influences appear? I don't know... Flesh of the Stars is a complex creature, and I contacted the band to understand them better. This is my favourite kind of interview – almost the whole band is here to answer. Let me introduce you: Matt Ciani (guitars, vocals, piano), Mike Fox (guitars, vocals) and Travis Marmon (bass, vocals). You’re probably going to ask me where the drummer is? I really don’t know – Nico Ciani is absent today."

Hi gents! How are you? What's the bands current status?

Mike Fox: Hi, we're good. We're currently gearing up to write our third record, and getting ready for our first live show. Also both Matt and I are finishing up two solo projects that we've been working on since we wrapped up “Hosanna.”

Flesh of the Stars is still a really underground band: what can you tell about its origin? From where did you start?

Travis Marmon: Matt and Nico are brothers, and they went to high school with Mike in the suburbs of Cleveland, where they played in various bands together. I met them through a mutual friend when I was going to college in Ohio. After I graduated I was living at home in Michigan, and Matt reached out to me about starting up a doom/stoner/sludge metal project, initially asking for album recommendations in those genres (I’m a lifelong metalhead, but the rest of the band are recent converts). I told him some records to listen to and at some point they came up with the band name - which is from the movie “Knocked Up” - but I didn’t really think anything of it until I moved to Chicago (where Matt has lived for years) in late 2014. They had been working on material for months unbeknownst to me, and we started putting the first record together in the spring of 2015. Mike and Nico still live in Ohio, so a lot of work was done using Google Drive. This is also why we haven’t played any live shows - we’re hoping to play at least one this summer.

We definitely didn’t expect it to blow up as much as it has! Obviously we’re very underground, but we didn’t expect anyone other than our friends to listen to it. But the internet is a funny thing, and we have fans in places like Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and of course Russia in your case. We have 242 likes on Facebook, which is about 200 more than I ever thought we’d get. We actually made our money back on the albums thanks to people buying it from Bandcamp.

You even have time for solo projects after recording two Flesh of the Stars albums in such a brief period…? Okay, what are these projects about?

Matt Ciani: Mike and I are both constantly writing new material. We both write metal songs and non-metal songs and these ‘solo’ projects (we recorded the drums with Nico, the drummer from Flesh of the Stars, and we engineered and played on each other’s records, so they’re not really ‘solo’ per se) tend to fall on the non-metal side of things. I’ll let Mike explain his, but my new EP will be put out under the name Culture of Life and it’s called Wild Life. I got to play around with lots of electric pianos and a generally cleaner sound. It’s probably more singer-songwriter-ish than one would expect if they’ve only heard my work from Flesh, but it’s good to get that out of your system before sitting down to make Flesh 3.

MF: Mine is also very singer-songwriter, with a lot of focus on melody. It’ll be put out under the name Arthhur and it’s a full record called “Who Needs Friends When You Have Thoughts Like These.” Like Matt’s, it’s a cleaner project, but the violet ram’s head clone I built for Flesh pops in and out.

What’s the Flesh of the Stars lineup, and how do you share duties in the band between each other?

MC: Mike, Nico, Travis and I. Mike and I play guitar and sing. I do all the synth stuff. Nico plays drums. Travis plays bass and does harsh vocals. We try to operate fairly democratically, but Mike and I have the final say on a lot of things. We write all the songs and engineer and mix the records. Nico and Travis both have an ability to lock into new material really quickly and add character to it that wouldn’t be possible if just Mike and I just made the records ourselves.

MF: We rely on Travis and Nico to give us feedback on the material, and give it dimension.

TM: Our friend Collin wrote the interludes on “Hide” and Mike’s girlfriend does the creepy French intro on that record.

Flesh of the Stars - 'Hide' (Full album):

Flesh of the Stars has a specific harsh, overloaded and raw sound; the vocals are clean, yet atypical for Doom. How did you form your vision of Doom?

TM: I think it’s just a combination of all of our influences. On our records you can hear traditional doom like Candlemass, Pallbearer, and obviously Black Sabbath, but also stoner doom like Electric Wizard and Sleep—we actually had our albums mastered by Brad Boatright because we liked his work on the “Dopesmoker” remaster. I think the harsh vocals that pop up were my idea, mostly because I tend to go for heavier stuff and I wanted to see if I could do them. In the future I’d love to bring some more sludge to the table, like Eyehategod or Thou or Iron Monkey, but we’ll see about that.

MC: Aside from the obvious influence of the Old Gods of doom and stoner metal, I also draw a lot of inspiration for Flesh stuff from horror films (particularly those awesome pagan folk songs from “The Wicker Man”) and weird synth music. Mike just introduced me to Mort Garson, who put out an awesome record called “Black Mass” under the name Lucifer. Tons of Minimoog and weird sound effects. Very spooky stuff.

MF: I think Saint Vitus has played a lot into both our production and our decision to do clean vocals, but I think, and I don't want to speak for Matt, but a big part of that too is that both Matt and I have come from a more typical '70s rock upbringing, and we also spent the last eight or nine years playing more middle¬-of-¬the-¬road garage and alternative rock. A huge part of the way the record sounds was also determined by Brad Boatright, who did mastering for both records in addition to numerous others that we admire.

Future material is probably going to stray pretty heavily from both “Hide” and “Hosanna.” I'm a big Yob and Sleep fan and I think that it would be fun to try our hand at doing a large sweeping epic.

Speaking about horror movies… There are a lot of bands inspired by this genre; do you have songs based on certain movies?

MF: I’m going to let Matt answer that.

MC: Yes.

Three of you are responsible for vocals: who’s the lead vocalist in the band? Or do you just all sing in turn?

MC: Mike and I split vocal duties. For the most part, the dude who wrote the song sings lead and the other does harmonies.

MF: We usually trade off depending on who wrote the song. More often than not we’ll then have the other person come in and do harmonies as well. Travis is undeniably the best at dirt vocals, so he handles the majority of that.

TM: I just supply backing vocals when we want to make it really heavy.

By the way, what do you sing about?

MC: Death, pain, Satan. Cult rituals. Violent ends. Mike’s material might be slightly more uplifting than mine.

MF: The inevitability of death, whether or not morality is a constant, nunsploitation movies.

You released your debut album 'Hide' less than a year ago, and now there are two full-length records in your discography, with brief pause between them. How long did you spend composing songs for 'Hide' and then for 'Hosanna'?

TM: We actually wrote both albums in one go, but decided two short, well-sequenced albums was better than a long one that was all over the place. We did have to re-record the tracks that wound up on “Hosanna” though. And that album was delayed by a few weeks because of an issue with the mastering.

MF: For the most part they were composed simultaneously. The second half of Hosanna (“Welcome The Night” and “Sun Salute”) came a few months later, but for the most part they were all from the same batch. All in all we probably spent six months casually writing. That includes revisions.

How did the band develop from album to album?

MC: For the first two, we had a bunch of material to draw from, so we just put the songs that worked together on their respective records. For the new material, though, expect a less “overloaded” sound and a lot more synth and John Carpenter¬ish textures. I’m gravitating toward even longer songs with more room to breathe than anything on “Hosanna.”

MF: In terms of songwriting, both “Hide” and “Hosanna” are pretty identical in my mind. In the future weve got a few things were going to try out. The next record will certainly have a lot more synth.

Discography: 'Hide' (2015) and 'Hosanna' (2016).

Your second album is named 'Hosanna'; vocals on the first song are reminiscent of Christian chorals; you use Christian symbols in your artworks... What does it mean to you? What do you want transfer through this?

MC: Catholicism is a deeply traumatizing belief system, especially to a young child. I was raised that way and a lot of the sounds and visuals from our music are bastardized versions of songs and images rattling around in my memory from back in those days. Cryptworm, the guy who does our artwork, has done a stellar job incorporating these symbols in an appropriately sinister way.

MF: Its just a nice aesthetic, “Hosanna” was supposed to be a lot closer to a traditional doom record in a lot of ways, and if you look back at the 70s and 80s there was always this campy undercurrent of occult and perverted Christian imagery in America, and I think we just wanted to give tribute to that. Classic doom you know?

How and where did you record 'Hosanna'? I guess that it could have had better production...or was that underground sound in your plans?

MC: We record our music at home. I have an office space I use to record drums and bass, then everything else gets overdubbed. We do this for a few reasons: the first is that Mike and I want to have total control over the sound of the band. We’ve both worked extensively as audio engineers and don’t want to have to deal with the endless back-¬and-¬forth it would require to pass it off to someone else when we can handle it ourselves. The second reason is that it’s less expensive to record your own music. We’re lucky enough to have a studio space, so this is a no-¬brainer.

As for the sound of the record: I’ve never been a fan of the hi-¬fi metal sound. It just doesn’t feel as visceral when it has that overproduced sheen. Mike and I usually call that the “LA Studio Sound.” I’m influenced mostly by the production aesthetic from the late 60s and early 70s, so it feels natural to me to work like that. We use analog gear wherever it makes sense (and in some places where it doesn’t). I try not to fuss with anything too much. Murky¬ sounding metal records are what I live on. It just felt right.

MF: I guess the underground part of that just stems from the fact that we record all of it ourselves. Matt and I have pretty specific standards for production though. Neither of us like to stray too close to contemporary metal production. Even though we don't mix analog (at the moment), that mentality still plays a huge role for us in terms of how we approach the music. Especially since we wanted “Hide” and “Hosanna” to sound relatively “of the era.”

Flesh of the Stars - 'Welcome the Light':

Stylistically, the artwork of 'Hosanna' looks similar to the artwork of 'Hide'. Is it part of the concept? How did you work with the artist?

MC: Cryptworm has been great to us. I feel like a good chunk of our bandcamp listens have been because his artwork looks so fucking cool. As we were finishing up mixing Hide, we sent him a seven(¬ish) paragraph synopsis of what we were trying to capture and he just ran with it. We knew we wanted the first two records to look similar. We’ll see about LP3. Haven’t discussed it yet.

MF: You can follow him on Instagram @cryptworm.

What are your plans for the third album? Do you already have new songs?

MF: The third one is currently gestating, but we have a few things written and tucked away for it. Were planning to have it out by Halloween. Weve also got a fourth record written, but were going to wait until next winter to have that out.

Do you have some definite ideas - both lyrical and musical - which you’d like to include in them? This question is about both the third and fourth records.

TM: Like I said before, Id love to get a bit further from regular doom and into more stoner/sludge territory. A bit heavier, a bit groovier, a bit riffier. But Im pretty beholden to what Matt and Mike come up with. They're open to me contributing more, but I don't know the first thing about songwriting.

MC: I’m trying to get away from so much narrative songwriting. I spoke to Nico the other day and said I would like to vocals on the new record to sit between growly stoner vocals and Gregorian Chant. I’ve never been a spiritual person, but spiritual music has always intrigued me. I want to turn celebratory songs about God into incantations for use during blood sacrifice.

MF: I’ve still got to feel the third one out lyrically. The fourth is more or less a single track and draws a lot from both “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy, and the ending of a Twilight Zone episode called “Heatwave.” Musically we’re moving to give things a little more space. I’ve been listening to a lot of Eighth Blackbird and David Lang’s “Death Speaks” recently, so that’s been creeping into my stuff as well.

Have you any plans in mind to release Flesh of the Stars in physical format? How did you promote the band? Did you send your albums to any labels?

MC: I’m huge on vinyl releases. CDs and cassettes are dumb and bands should stop making them. Maybe we’ll print up some artwork in an empty jewel case with a download code. As for what we actually would like to do: I’ve been back-and-forth on this issue for months now. In order to press to vinyl, we would have to print something like 500 records. I’m not entirely convinced we would sell that many, which would mean either the records would have to be hella expensive or we would lose a bunch of money just to do a physical release. I might try to gauge interest in a 2xLP set that features both Hide and Hosanna, almost like those Melvins reissues that came out last year. More bang for your buck.

We don’t promote in any serious capacity and we have no interest in labels. I always hated the aspect of having to sell your band to people. Get over yourself. If it was up to me, we wouldn’t even have a Facebook page. Just a regular website and a Bandcamp site. I like dealing with people directly whenever it’s possible. MF: We’re looking into it right now. We’d love to put out a vinyl release of HIDE on side a and Hosanna on side b, but a quality vinyl release is more expensive than we can afford. We might sell shirts in an effort to get some money for a vinyl release, but that’s a whole separate thing we’d have to figure out. We didn’t do anything for promotion, Travis posted in some forums, and we showed the record to fans but that was pretty much it, overall we’ve been pretty surprised with the response. We’ve also talked about sending stuff to labels in order to get a vinyl release, but it’s all up in the air.

TM: As far as promotion, we did a lot through word of mouth, just telling our friends and having them tell their friends, etc. I post on a few forums with like-minded metalheads, so I shared it on those as well, which gave a nice boost. But I think more than anything it was found by people who just like to dive into Bandcamp and find obscure releases. I think someone uploaded Hide to YouTube within a day or two of it coming out.

What is the Flesh of the Stars message?

TM: Riffs are awesome and so are horror movies.

MF: What Travis said.

MC: What Travis said.

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Visit the Flesh Of The Stars bandpage.

Interviewed on 2016-07-05 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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