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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Exhausted Prayer Interview

1.Can you give us an update on what is going on with the band these days?

Chris: We're currently working on new material and booking gigs in support of our new record. 

Swansong: We plan to do a tour up the west coast and maybe the southwest in 2017. We've already finished 2 brand new songs so we may debut these on tour as well, which we usually prefer to do to work out the kinks before recording.

2. You have a split coming out in January, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?

Chris: As far as our sound goes, I'd describe us as  experimental black metal. In many ways the sound on the latest recording is a continuation of what we've been doing for many years. Fast, brutal, progressive metal. 

Swansong:  Musically I can only say this split is a continuation of our sound, nothing fancy or gimmicky, just how we have felt and continue to feel, it's what comes out when we write without us having to control or sculpt it so much.  We have never consciously pre-planned out what we want to do for a record, the songs kind of appear, we refine them, and we slap on a title at the end.  This time however, Ben from Burials approached us about (finally) collaborating on a split and he had the concept of "landscapes," and wanted each song to represent a location, or the feeling brought on by place.  We didn't take it seriously at first but in the process of finalizing the songs and writing lyrics the idea grew on us and we ran with it.  So much so that each song has a main and alternate title, which is both a joke and serious, and this says a lot about us.

3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?

Chris: Our lyrical subject matter varies,  whether it be about death, destruction, mental illness or politics it's usually about something dark. Our latest record is a concept album with a post apocalyptic arch to it.

Swansong: well, some of my songs are secretly about ex-girlfriends disguised as death metal lyrics haha.  As I mentioned the theme for this album was landscapes, so the song Garden is about a midnight hallucinatory romp through the forests where our buddy used to live in Santa Cruz, wandering around confused in the middle of the night thinking you are being chased, which is based on real life events.  Sewer is basically about all the filth that accumulates and overwhelms human civilization because of our society's disregard for the environment, pollution, and trash.  It's basically a post-apocalyptic tongue-in-cheek critique, like an "I told you so" about the disgusting consequences of ignoring over consumption, leading to the buildup of human and animal waste, with people becoming used to living in a literal sewer.  Infinite Shadow is about our worsening global drought and climate catastrophe, basically that humanity is forced mine fresh water trapped in permanently shadowed craters at the moon's north and south poles, which you might guess doesn't end well. The last song, Fallow Fields, is about leaving your home for a while only to return to it ravaged and barren, and all your loved ones are gone or dead.  So yeah, they're all pretty grim...

4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Exhausted Prayer'?

Chris: Our band name represents hopelessness and despair. It is a quote from Beowulf. "I had given up hope, exhausted prayer, expected nothing but misfortune forever." Our original guitarist/bassist and founding member Blake Russum came up with the name back in high school.

Swansong:  Blake, Mike and I all went to a Jesuit boys high school and we had our first 3 periods of freshman year together, so we had no choice but to become friends.  We had jammed a few times and Blake mentioned the name at lunch, we all thought it was cool so stuck with it.  I mean we literally had disavowed our religious upbringing, but over time it took on multiple meanings.  I feel it describes the moment that you have an epiphany after having spent years/lifetime of expecting the universe or the supernatural to make your life better, waiting for a better job, a "happy life" and not taking any meaningful action to achieve your goals-  it's a colossal waste of time.  At your lowest point, you may have become so distraught, desperate, and have given up, that you are finally able to let go of the old mental restraints and expectations and start a new approach, so it can even represent a rebirth if you will.  The old ways are dead, let's start living for real.  After devoting your entire being to something imaginary, it takes a lot of courage to step back and accept it was a painful mistake, and then move forward from there.  Or more generically one can think of it as a suicidal mood, since there is nothing left to live for without the blessings of a god, in that archaic mindset.

5.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?

Chris: One of our favorite shows over the years had to be opening for Nunslaughter down in Mexicali back in 2003 or so. It was a packed noisy house full of booze! We've also had some great shows in Eugene and Portland over the years. One particularly great line up we had for a show in Portland back in 2009 was Knelt Rote, Exhausted Prayer, Doom Lit Sky and Burials. As far as our live performance goes, there's a lot of headbanging.

Swansong: One of my high points was getting to open for Enslaved- they are huge idols for us and this was a major achievement for us as an underground band.  The funny part was that we were competing with our good friends and fellow blackened metal act Noctuary for the better time slot, based on who sold more tickets (one of the few times this was worth doing).  I forget how many we had to sell, but both us and Noctuary kept it secret that we sold extras to beat the other band, so when we met the promoter it turned out we were still in a dead tie!  Sadly she picked Noctuary and made us open, since she knew them longer, you win some lose some. 

6.Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?

Chris: We don't have any concrete tour plans, but we should be hitting the road this summer and doing some local gigs throughout the year in support of the new album.

Swansong: Our bassist Richard is a professor at different colleges so he doesn't have spring break off unfortunately, but we will definitely do a big tour next summer if not a few shorter runs beforehand. 

7.You have a split coming out with 'Burials', what are your thoughts on the other band that had participated on the recording?

Chris: Burials is one of my favorite bands, so I couldn't be more stoked to be releasing this split with them. I'm a huge fan of the music and think their songs on this album are top notch.

Swansong: We have known their guitarist/singer Ben for over 10 years, since he played in a different post/alt-black metal project called Hacksaw to the Throat, from Oakland.  We realized right away that he was envisioning music much the same way as us, and it was very inspiring, so naturally we became friends and toured a lot with Burials.  They were on hiatus for a while so when we decided to do the split I was thrilled that they would be back in action.  The album slays, and we are very pleased with how it turned out, artistically AND musically, and that our different styles complement so well.

8.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of black and death metal?

Chris: Well, we aren't the biggest metal band in the world or anything, but I feel we've received solidly positive feedback from fans of extreme metal all around the world over the years.

Swansong: we've definitely had good responses at every live show we've ever played, people can tell we are not rehashing any particular sound and they can sense that we are after something deeper and more majestic, which makes it hard to categorize.  We've had fans and reviewers contact us from the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, all over Mexico and South America, Scandinavia, Spain, France, Germany...  It's amazing to know that the music of a diy extreme metal act can actually be spread across the globe, which has only gotten easier thanks to the internet, in fact I met my wife because she hit up Exhausted Prayer up on myspace back in the day.

9.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?

Chris: Mike has been keeping busy with Terrorizer(LA),  House of Rabbits and Dreaming Dead who is also about to release a new album early next year. I also play with Dreaming Dead and have been trying to get my new raw black metal project Inverter off the ground. Swansong has been playing a lot with the prog metal act Cetacean. And Richard has got his hip hop project going.

Swansong: i was the last one to join a side project, as EP has been my only/main band since high school.  A friend of a friend from high school came to see us a few years back and he shared his bedroom doom/post-metal project with me, and that eventually evolved into my new project Cetacean.  We jokingly refer to it as "Black Floyd" (pink floyd meets black metal).  It's been great to see Terrorizer LA doing so well all over the world, really proud of Mike for getting to play with such a legendary act, it's insane how huge of a following they have everywhere.  I've also heard the new Dreaming Dead and it kicks ass, stoked they are finally releasing it soon.   Richard goes by the moniker "Baby Moose," check out his shit on youtube featuring some EP guest appearances haha.

10.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

Chris: Musically I see us heading in a more intense avante garde direction with more mature songwriting.

Swansong:  I've always hated this kind of question, since we can't answer it.  We've always played according to how we feel, and it seems disingenuous to insist you will feel like X in a year, and then be forced to hold yourself to that commitment.  I like that we have evolved more or less in the same progressive black metal vein even before it was hip, so we will always have that twisted melodic sound even if there are more structured elements and possibly even more clean vocals going forward.  We've lately been experimenting with different rhythms and accents not commonly found in metal, such as latin and indian styles, which keeps it interesting.

11.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

Chris: Back in the late 90s when the band was getting started some of our main influences were Emperor, Enslaved, Opeth, Dissection, At the Gates and Cryptopsy. Lately I'm really digging the band VI from France, but there is a lot of great metal out there these days. I'm really into the new Gorguts album and the latest MGLA album.

Swansong: Chris covered the bases, Type O Negative and Carcass were also big influences on me and Mike, and of course the classic Cannibal Corpse and Deicide albums, Cradle of Filth, and dare I say it, Metallica, Failure, and Hum, as well.  Lately I've been listening a lot to Ulcerate, Abyssal, Thantifaxath, Aevangelist, the new Deathspell Omega and Gorguts... I totally love almost everything on this small Italian label called I, Voidhanger Records, particularly the bands Ecferus and Summit.  I've also been obsessed with the band Jaga Jazzist, and have been studying a lot of vintage Hindustani recordings by the great Ustad Vilayat Khan.

12.Does Occultism play any role in your music?

Chris: Occultism plays no role in our music. We're a rather secular band.

Swansong: We like inverted crosses for obvious reasons, and we wore corpse paint once back in 1999, but other than that we aren't interested in the supernatural or anything superficial like that.  The most occult thing we probably do is walk through the forest at night.

13.What are some of your non musical interests?

Chris: Outside of music, which consumes most of my life, I like the outdoors and related activities. I also have an awesome vegetable garden.

Swansong: I can't stop accumulating hobbies... learning new random musical instruments and Tuvan throat singing, flying drones, astrophotography, vegan cooking, hiking and backpacking the Sierra Nevada mountains, permaculture design (<3 2018="" a="" am="" and="" another="" archery.="" as="" back="" be="" br="" building="" but="" can="" complain="" compost="" cool="" for="" get="" gotten="" hey="" i="" in="" into="" is="" job="" lately="" launched="" leave="" my="" of="" our="" part="" planet="" project="" rocket="" satellite="" something="" space="" stoves="" t="" that="" to="" toilets="" totally="" touch="" unqualified="" ve="" which="" will="">

14.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

Chirs: Thanks for the support! Cheers.

Swansong:  Thanks to all the promoters and fans who took a chance and booked us or came to see us, this means everything to us and keeps us going. We are lucky to still be playing music together after nearly 20 years, so I want to thank my bros in EP for keeping it real and being super cool drama-free dudes.  Also to our families who gave us the means to pursue our musical journeys and tolerated our noise for so long. 
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