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New Zealand duo Lysithea, perhaps better known for their work as Black Metal outfit Sojourner have a very democratic way of working. Comrade Aleks explores it in some depth here...

Interview with Lysithea.
"New Zealand-based project Lysithea went through a series of transformations, starting out as an instrumental solo project by Mike Lamb and turning into a proper melodic Death/Doom duo after Mike Wilson joined in 2014. I suppose that they're better known for their epic atmospheric Black Metal band Sojourner - which released two albums on Avantgarde Music - but I strongly recommend you check out Lysithea's fourth album 'Star-Crossed', released through Rain Without End Records in February 2019. Actually, Mike Wilson recorded that entire album alone, so we're going to sort out what happened in Lysithea's lair."


Lysithea: Mike Lamb and Mike Wilson. (Photo: Jak West Photography & Design).


Hi Mike! So, you joined Mike Lamb in 2014, when his project Lysithea already had two EPs and a full-length album in its discography. Did you discuss how much you should contribute to Lysithea from the start?

After Lamb had released Here At The End Of All Things, the material he was writing started to take a darker, more doom metal direction and he decided he wanted to bring in someone to do vocals for the next release. I didn't have much experience with vocals at the time but I wanted to give it a go and work with him again as it had been about 5 or 6 years since we'd made any music together. Once I was on board there wasn't really any limit on what I should contribute, we know each other's playing style/songwriting style well and we just wanted to make some heavy and emotive music together

Your first collaboration with Mike was on the album 'The Secret Fate Of All Life', and, as I understand it, half of the songs were performed by you and the other half were done by him. Why did you decide to work this way?

The main reason we've ever recorded 50% of an album each is simply because we haven't lived in the same city this whole time! We are both from Dunedin and that's where we met and used to play in bands together but I was living up north in Wellington when I joined Lysithea. Now Lamb is over in Scotland and I'm back in Dunedin, I think we may have only seen each other about 3 or 4 times since we became a 2 piece! When it comes to songwriting, I think we are similar in that when we have an idea for a song, we know what sort of vibe it should have or what direction it should go so sometimes it just makes sense for us to take control of the song and see it through to completion. We do however want to have more of a collaborative process in the future so hopefully we have the chance to write and record together soon

Did you write this material together or did each of you compose and record your own parts separately?

We both wrote and recorded our own songs individually, so Mike did all his writing and recording in Dunedin and I did all of mine in Wellington. Once everything was recorded, I flew down to Dunedin and we tracked the vocals and mixed the album together. There is always a lot of talk back and forth with each other when we make an album so we have a good idea of what each other's tracks are sounding like. If something doesn't work for one of us, we will come up with a new idea or part so we're both happy. We're quite lucky though because we seem to be on the same page 99% of the time.

You finished the next album, 'Realms', pretty quickly, and it was done the same way - 50/50. Why did you choose to continue write music in this way? Can you say whether both of you have different visions of how Lysithea should sound?

We started making Realms pretty quickly after we'd finished Secret Fate, I guess the inspiration was still strong! We recorded it in the same fashion again due to our locations, and we were pretty happy with how the last album ended up working this way so there wasn't really a need to change it. In terms of how Lysithea should sound, I think we both share a pretty similar vision for the band. We both like dark and atmospheric music with a focus on mood and melody so we know where to begin, and I think this unified vision helps us make our music stronger. In the early days when Lysithea was just Mike Lamb, he used the project as a means to create music more along the lines of what he was into personally rather than in a band situation, and we continue that now by making music that speaks to us

Lysithea - 'Unearthly Burial' (Official, 2019):


Can you name certain bands which influenced your vision of how 'Realms' should sound?

Two of our biggest influences (at the time and in general) are My Dying Bride and Mourning Beloveth, so a lot of our desire to make death/doom music stems from our love of those bands. We both listened to a lot of melodic death metal when we were younger too, particularly the more melancholic style of bands like Insomnium and Rapture who utilize those doomier sounds as well so those bands have definitely influenced us and still do. I don't think we had a particular way we wanted Realms to be, it came together pretty organically. We both listen to a lot of black metal and that certainly shines through on that record too on songs like 'The Cosmic Eye' and 'Hyperborea'. I was listening to a lot of Primordial and Enslaved around the time if I recall correctly and I know Lamb draws from a deep well of influences!

I see that you and Mike recorded vocals for 'Realms' in two separate studios. Did you feel a need to work more tightly together to keep the album's vibe solid?

The reason for that is kinda funny actually! We'd started recording vocals together in a room known as The Dungeon which is part of an old technical college in Dunedin. It's basically the basement of the place, dark and damp, a place of legend! We'd finished the tracking for a couple of songs when the woman who ran the place came in and told us she'd had complaints from a dance class directly above us about horrible noises coming from below and we were forced to stop. Luckily our recording setup was small and easily portable so it wasn't too bad changing location. We used the exact same setup at both places so the recordings don't really differ at all.

'Realms' is a pretty good album, but you chose to release it DIY: was it such a desperate task to find a label?

We were eager to release the album but we were never the greatest at promoting ourselves back then. We are a little better now but I think we were probably a bit apprehensive about finding a label and we had self-released The Secret Fate Of All Life the year before so we felt comfortable doing it again. We have since found a home with Rain Without End Records and we are very happy to be working with them!


(Photo: Jak West Photography & Design).


By the way, how is it to be a Doom Metal band in New Zealand? Do you feel isolated, or does the internet make it a bit easier?

For us personally the internet certainly makes it a bit easier. We don't play live so we have very little presence in the NZ scene, I'm not sure if many people outside of our friends and acquaintances know we exist so the majority of our fans are people who have found our music through Bandcamp or somewhere on the internet. Doom doesn't have a particularly large representation over here but there are a few good bands across the country. One in particular is Swamp Dweller from here in Dunedin who plays a type of sludgy death doom, it's filthy and fantastic!

There's a four-year break between 'Realms' and 'Star-Crossed', and the album is actually visibly stronger than its predecessor. Did you consciously take more time to work through your ideas?

It wasn't really a conscious decision to take so long to make the album, life just got really busy for the both of us! Mike Lamb moved over to Scotland not long after Realms came out and I moved back to Dunedin too. Lamb also formed Sojourner that year and I ended up joining as bassist for the recording of the first album at the start of 2016. Between work and other musical projects and life in general there just wasn't a whole lot of time left for Lysithea, but I do think having the extra time to live with the parts I had written for Star-Crossed allowed me to really get to know them and develop a good feel for how the album would sound and come together

'Star-Crossed' continues in some ways the "cosmic" concept of Lysithea, though your lyrics also touch on themes of Lovecraftian horror as well as some fantasy topics. How would you summarise the band's lyrical concept?

Star-Crossed definitely does retain those cosmic themes and atmosphere from the previous records but I think it's a bit more grounded in human feeling and experience this time around. It's basically a story of love and death but set in an alien environment. Secret Fate was very much rooted in those Lovecraftian/fantasy themes, Lamb came up with a great story for that one, I still love it! Realms was a bit more varied with influences from a range of books we enjoy as well as those more fantasy-based themes. I think Star-Crossed takes some themes from tracks like 'Ghosting' and 'Death Chant' and expands them. I'm sure there'll be similar themes in the future but for now I don't know what the next album will be about!

Lysithea - 'Ghosting' (2015):


This time you performed all instruments and vocals: why did Mike Lamb step aside?

I wouldn't really say Lamb stepped aside as such, he played a very prominent role in the overall sound of the album and then mixed and mastered it himself. During the time between Realms and Star-Crossed we put out two Sojourner records, and his role as a main songwriter and organiser extraordinaire meant he just didn't have a lot of time on his hands for Lysithea. My role is a lot less busy in Sojourner so during those years we were working on those albums I also managed to write enough material for what became Star-Crossed. The songs all worked well together and had a nice flow so we thought it was a good idea to release it as our next album, it definitely sounds like a Lysithea album!

How long did you spend recording 'Star-Crossed'? Did you meet some obstacles on your way to its realization?

It was written and recorded in pieces over three years or so. I think I wrote early versions of the songs 'An Empty Throne' and 'Unearthly Burial' shortly after the release of Realms, but the rest was much more drawn out. The only obstacle was finding the time to work on it really! Sometimes when you are eager to work on music the inspiration isn't always there which can be frustrating, but you get there eventually. Overall there weren't many problems during the recording at all, we're both really pleased with the end result. My hard drive did actually get corrupted at one stage during the recording but luckily I had sent everything to Lamb and he's much more sensible than I am and backs things up!

Did you discuss with Mike what kind of sound do you want to achieve on 'Star-Crossed'? How did you get such proper result working on a distance?

I knew we wanted to make the album a lot more sad and emotive in general but other than that there wasn't really much of a plan for how it should sound. As I was recording demos I would send them to him, every time I changed something or wanted his opinion he'd get a new version to listen to so he got to know the songs and what I was going for pretty early on. We talked about things like guitar tone and synth sounds a lot so even though we are on opposite sides of the world it really did feel like a collaborative effort once the songs had taken shape. Since the release of Realms, Lamb has spent a lot of time honing his sound engineering skills and it really shows on Star-Crossed I think. The mix and master was left completely up to him and he really nailed it, it's easily our best sounding album


(Photo: Jak West Photography & Design).


Do you plan to continue with Lysithea together? How do you see the band's further prospects?

We definitely plan to continue! I guess the way we made Star-Crossed was a bit of a side-step, but going forward we really want to have more of a true collaboration. Hopefully in the near future we can find the time and a way to write music together as well as be in the same place to make an album. We're happy with the music we've made so far and now we have found a great home with Rain Without End Records we're excited to keep creating and see what we can come up with

Sojourner seems to be more lucky band as its both albums released by well-known Avantgarde Records. Did you get a chance to present Sojourner's material outside New Zealand?

Much like Lysithea, I would say Sojourner doesn't have much of a presence in New Zealand at all really. We haven't played any shows here but hopefully that will change! A few of us were here when the band was formed but it really is an international project with members living in Scotland, Sweden and Italy as well as me here in NZ. There is certainly an element of luck involved in any situation where a band is able to grow itself like Sojourner has, but there has also been a lot of hard work put in, as well as having the opportunity to become a live performing band which has really helped us reach an audience we otherwise may not have. I don't think any of would have thought it would get this far given the origins of the band!

Mike, thank you for your time, that's all for today. How would like to sum up Lysithea story for today?

We love making music as Lysithea and we are excited to hear what comes next for us. Thank you for the interview, and thanks to anyone who has supported us in any way or listened to our music. Cheers!


Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.


Visit the Lysithea bandpage.

Interviewed on 2019-10-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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