At the start of the new year, we caught up with California-based band Lithium Dawn to chat about their upcoming new record, their influences and the direction that they want to take the band in. Lithium Dawn‘s second album Tearing Back The Veil Part 1 is a fantastic blend of groove-laden, wall of sound djent, reggae and classical music, which showcased the bands unique sound and talent for producing high quality pieces of music. Production is underway for Part 2, and the answers Ondrej Tvarozek, Aaron Gage and Jens Marcelis gave us below, certainly get the blood pumping in preparation for the new record.
It Djents: Hey Lithium Dawn, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, how are you today?
Jens Marcelis: Busy working on TBtV 2 and getting ready to start a new year!
Ondrej Tvarozek: Not too bad. Putting some finishing touches on my home studio setup. Just moved back to DC from LA so it needed a little bit of TLC.
ID: You’re working on your follow up to your 2015 record Tearing Back the Veil; has the knowledge you gained in the recording process of Part 1 streamlined the process?
Aaron Gage: Absolutely. Part 1 let us tinker with all the different ideas we had and how we would be able to capture them efficiently through trial and error. Part 2 is moving along much quicker than Part 1 did. Hell, that album took us almost 3 years to get out, but as of now we are moving along much faster for Part 2. One thing in particular we learned a lot more about this time were the strings. We experimented with maybe 4 or 5 different ways to get the sound on Part 1, even trying to use headphones as a microphone around the body of the cello. This time though, we were able to take what we learned and create an entire ensemble of strings which you will hear sounds like a full string orchestra in the sections it is used. We’re really excited to be heavily incorporating that sound into Part 2.
JM: For me in particular, the bass and guitar production has streamlined a lot for Part 2. On Part 1, as far as guitar goes, we were trying different things, rerecording lots of parts, and trying different ways to re-amplify distorted guitars until we ended up with the sound we were looking for. One interesting consequence of this is that while the rhythm tracks were all re-recorded for Part 1, we ended up moving back to many of the demo layers for atmospherics and clean parts, as we felt that the initial demo tracks had the sound and feel we were drawn to, while the re-recorded tracks often felt a bit too ‘clean’ or somehow not evocative enough. Knowing this, we are using more demo parts to build off for Part 2 rather than trying to ‘perfect’ them all again. We really want to make sure that the vibe that captured and inspired us when we did the demos pervades the final product.
As far as the bass production goes, I felt that Aion had a bit of a flat bass tone that felt a bit too ‘clean’ or produced. I was really interested in getting a thicker and more distinctive bass sound for Tearing Back the Veil that would stand out and allow the bass to speak more, as well as bringing a more live feel to the recording. I feel that metal albums often underutilize bass, and to that end I wanted to do something different. On Part 1, that involved recording all the bass parts for the album three different times until I found the sound I was looking for, and in that way, Part 2 was drastically easier as I had the tones already!
OT: The process seems clear and straightforward this time around. That is probably the most apparent thing that has come from working on Part 1. We were in a very unique situation with that album, as we had all these grand ideas and concepts in terms of the musical elements that would be present on the album, we just didn’t exactly have a very obvious process to implement them. There was a very large amount of tinkering, experimenting, and probing in regards to recording every single detail and nuance. Some elements like the strings and a large amount of the dub presence didn’t make itself fully known until we were well into recording and fleshing out the songs we already had demoed prior.
My approach to working on lyrics and vocal melodies has changed as well. Jens and I wrote a portion of the lyrics on the first album after the songs were done and just needed vocals, but this time around, we are going into the vocal stage without having most of the album finished. Jens is supplying the heavy workload of the lyrics this time around, which has allowed me to focus on what sounds good, instead of what works in terms of lyrical content and theme. It is a lot off my plate, as I still have mixing and tracking to look forward to.
ID: Will we be seeing a return of the dub influences which worked so well on the last album?
JM: Definitely! We felt that the dub influences were a key part of the concept, flow, and vibe of these albums, and we were very happy with how those influences were integrated in Part 1. Part 2 will certainly continue to feature some dub elements woven in. We’re bringing a few new influences, too.
OT: Of course. Coming off Part 1, Matt has refined and honed his dub production skills way past where he was with that album. I am confident in that process being a lot smoother, and yielding even more impressive results this time around. It is a part of our sound that we really enjoy, and somehow, it is really conducive to the groove oriented, low tuned stuff we do. It’s a nice synergy.
ID: The concept to Tearing Back the Veil: Part 1 really resonates with many listeners, is this going to be built on for the next album?
JM: As the name suggests, the two albums are parts of a whole, and are really meant to be listened to together. Our concept for the album was to musically describe a process of mental transformation, and there is an intentional narrative flow throughout the two albums which continues to build upwards towards the end of Part 2. We did consider making this a double album, but the length of the music and the requisite production time needed would have meant that it would have taken ages to put out, so we decided to split it into two. Rest assured, Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off.
AG: There’s a reason why we’re calling it Part 2! For years now we’ve had a ton amount of material to work with. Logically it made sense to us to use as much of the material as possible as a cohesive whole unit. We could easily have turned Part 2 into its own thing, but with the way we’ve been able to structure it, Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 ended. When you hear the structure and lyrics of Part 2, it becomes clear why they needed to be put together.
OT: Well, as it is Part 2, I sure hope so or we have fucked up somewhere. With Part 1, it was a very deliberate ramp up to the ideas and the “peak” so to speak of the whole concept. With Part 2, we have a bit more freedom and a lot more awareness of where we are going. It is already lyrically my favorite of all our work, simply based on where Jens has been coming from. Musically, it is in ways more adventurous, more refined, but retaining the element of surprise. I’m excited for how it all comes together.
ID: What inspired you to write about this concept?
JM: Over the last half decade, each of us had some strongly transformational experiences in our lives (all in different ways). In an interesting moment of synchronicity, Ondrej, Matt, and I were all writing music during these years which coalesced pretty organically into the two Tearing Back the Veil albums both in terms of song selection and the flow of the tracks themselves.
These experiences inspired us to craft a narrative concept about challenging yourself, breaking down your preconceived notions, and in a sense deconstructing and then rebuilding your way of thinking. We did not mean to express or advocate any particular approach to that process, but simply to use sound and words to describe the overall experience of starting at one point of view and then undergoing an intentional, conscious, sometimes uncomfortable process to grow as a person.
OT: Mainly not being afraid of looking at ourselves and try and reach for what makes us tick. We are all very different people, with strong emotional cores. And that is ironically the thing that drives us together. Our life experiences pulled us in many directions, and the general theme of the albums resonates from that need to learn something about our inner selves. It is about the idea of needing to implode, reconstruct, and learn to accept yourself for who you presently are, without aching for a future that may or may not exist. There are many means to achieving this. We simply wanted to portray what it takes, how deep those learning experiences are, and how one lives life from that point forward. It’s something we all experience every day, and it is something we take for granted.
ID: Once the albums are finished, are you planning on touring much?
AG: The difficulty of touring for us is that throughout our existence, we have been an internet-based collaboration. And what I mean by that is that generally, half of us have lived on the other side of the country from the other half, so everything we make has been done by sending things back and forth while gradually compiling everything we work on. Ondrej just moved back to the east coast, so 3 out of 4 of us are now in the same area. I would say over the next 6 months to a year we hope to start playing. The benefit of most of us being on the east coast together is we have so many cities within our reach like DC, Baltimore, New York, and Boston. We loved doing the LA shows this summer, and we are doing everything we can to try to play live more in the future!
OT: Touring is always a possibility. Currently, we are undergoing a few life changes but as Aaron said, it would be great to start playing within a year. We had a stint of shows in California this year, which were great, but as of now, we are focusing on this next record and see where we go from there.
ID: Where’s your dream gig location?
AG: I think we would all have differing opinions about this. I can think of 2 that I think we would all agree on. One I know we would love to do is play Red Rock in Colorado at some point. Most of us went and saw Shpongle when they had the full band there a few years back and were blown away at not only the concert, but the venue itself. Given that we’re integrating a lot more orchestral textures in Part 2, I always thought it would be really cool to do a concert in a place like Disney Concert Hall or Symphony Hall in Boston, with the idea of having a full orchestra on stage with us so we can have that full symphonic section blending in with our guitars.
JM: As a longtime resident of the DC area, I’ve always wanted to play some of the local venues I’ve been to to see my own favorite bands perform, like the 9:30 Club or the Fillmore. Red Rocks would certainly be a dream, though!
OT: For me, there are quite a few. Red Rocks, unanimously, is a place that dreams are made of. Flawless venue. I would love to play in Japan and Latin America one day. The Wiltern is also a fantastic venue. 9:30 Club, The Fillmore, and O2 are some others. There are so many great venues, it’s hard to choose.
ID: Have you brought in any new gear for this next record?
JM: Not exactly gear, but I’m (finally) bringing in my Spanish classical guitar to overdub and layer some parts. Also using some slide playing to accent certain sections that want that slippery feel, and continuing to play more with EBow and ambient samples.
OT: Nothing much is new aside from some software upgrades and instruments. We are keeping things moving without adding too much into the process. We already have all the tools needed. We are just doing the sweetening.
ID: How do you guys feel that you’ve evolved since the last record, and even from your first album Aion?
AG: The reason I joined this band is because it has always been something I have believed in. Even before I was a member, from day 1 of hearing the old demo versions of “Perpetual Loss” I always know there was something special about this. Ondrej and Jens are amazing songwriters, and I would say as we’ve progressed over the last 3 records, we’ve gotten braver and bolder in our choices. When you take on a project of this magnitude, when you have multiple people bringing all their individual cards to the table, you learn quickly how to work with each other and what will and won’t work. I feel now we’ve gotten into a groove where we can do all our things as if on a conveyor belt. It’s taken years to get it down to a science, but we’re able to do in a month now what used to take us maybe 3 or 4.
OT: I think my confidence in what we are doing is significantly stronger. I realized that in order to make music happily, I have to do it to satisfy a creative urge. It is therapy for me and a way to normalize my thoughts and emotions. It always has been, but right now, I am realizing the value of just working on this stuff without any external noise getting in the way. I am aware of my abilities as a musician and audio engineers, and I am also aware of my limits, which is finally comforting. There was always a lot of fighting myself when it came to unintentionally trying to compare myself to other people I admire. That only leads one to a place of desperation and unhappiness. So I said fuck it, and I’m just doing it for us. That’s all I need.
ID: What artist would you say has been a defining influence in the direction you’ve taken with Tearing Back the Veil: Part 1?
JM: I think one key inspiration for all of us on this project has been Simon Posford, the brain behind Shpongle, Younger Brother, and Hallucinogen. His production style and the overall vibe of his work is something that has permeated our sensibility in creating the sound world of these albums and fits in very well with the exploratory theme of the lyrics. Of course there are many other artists we could name as inspirations – different members of the band like Meshuggah, Tool, Porcupine Tree, John Brown’s Body, Ott, Periphery, Tesseract, and so on, not to mention classical artists and many others – but we like to blend our influences into a cohesive whole.
AG: I would say not one particular artist, but the need for more. Heavier riffs, thicker strings, ambient textures, etc. What can we do to create the most intricate wall of sound that pulls from multiple genres, be it metal, classical, or even electronic? How can we take those ideas and blend them into something unique that doesn’t sound gimmicky or pandering to a certain audience? I feel strongly that we’ve accomplished that.
OT: I share Jens’ sentiment. Also, The Deftones have also been incredibly important to how I view music recently. I also pull a lot from Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, and Nine Inch Nails. Even Korn. All that music has so much pull on my subconscious, it all kind of comes out as a mishmash of those sounds.
ID: Can we look forwards to more guest solos on your new record?
JM: Yes, there will definitely be some guests on the new album. Fortunately, we have been blessed so far to collaborate with some extremely talented people – Aaron Marshall, Sithu Aye, and Plini – who were very generous to donate their time, creativity, and skills to Lithium Dawn. We love working with different people and we are always inspired by their contributions, so that is something we have continued with for Part 2.
OT: Of course. We are always very thankful when someone of that caliber is willing to grace our album with their playing.
ID: Where do you see Lithium Dawn in 3 years?
AG: If we’ve learned one thing since Aion, it’s that these kind of things happen gradually. But each time we create something, we get a little faster and knowledgeable each time. For me personally, in 3 years I would like to have 1 or 2 more records out, and have enough of a strong foundation in the concert scene to be gigging on the regular. A lot can happen in 3 years, but rest assured we have enough music to last us the next 10 years!
OT: Still making albums! We love the process of recording and writing new music. I feel we have developed our sound on this and the last record and it is an exciting foundation for what I think is going to hopefully be a strong string of music to come. A few shows here and there would be cool too 😉
ID: Thanks for your time guys, and good luck with the recording & release of the new record!
If you check out Lithium Dawn on Facebook, you’ll see that they’ve recently posted that the sheet music is ready! Great news. You can purchase Tearing Back The Veils Part 1 and Aion on their Bandcamp in preparation for the new record.
FFO: Tesseract, Deftones, Uneven Structure