Interview : Falls of Rauros – English

Aaron Charles and Jordan Guerette from the North American Black/Folk Metal band Falls of Rauros answered my questions about their new album, Key to a Vanishing Future.

Key to a Vanishing Future review

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Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Falls of Rauros without using the usual “Metal” labels?
Aaron Charles (guitar/vocals): Hello, Aaron Charles here from Falls of Rauros, an American band from Portland, Maine. That’s the Northeastern Portland, not the more well-known Northwestern Portland. We formed in late 2005 and released our first proper full-length as a quartet in 2008. Our music is composition-focused; we try to improve as songwriters from album-to-album. It’s more important for us to draw on a wide range of influences and find our own sound than to rely on genre tropes and aesthetics to do the work for us. We’re not afraid to experiment as long as that experimentation serves the song.
Jordan Guerette (guitar/vocals/keyboards): I’m Jordan Guerette, guitarist of Falls of Rauros along with Aaron – I also do some of the vocals and play keyboards on the recordings. I’ve been a member of the band since late 2006, and have been a part of all the recordings since the Of Stone and the Stars in the Sky demo that came out the following year. All four of us in the band have known each other since childhood.

The name Falls of Rauros comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe, but how do you link it to your own universe and music?
Aaron: Our lyrics have never been fantasy-oriented, and that remains true to this day. The origin of the name comes from events that transpire near the Falls of Rauros in the novel. Human weakness (but also strength), mortality, and the overwhelming power of the natural world. Taking the name allowed us to carry a loose metaphor for these themes within our music. Despite not being traditionalists, the name is also a nod to the Black Metal tradition of sourcing names from Tolkien.

Your new album, Key to a Vanishing Future, will be released soon. How do you feel about this?
Aaron: Excited for people to hear it! It’s been a long time coming. We wrote the album back in May through December of 2020. It was mixed and mastered over a year ago now so it doesn’t really feel new to us anymore. We’re simply feel ready for the world to hear it so we can move on and begin writing some new music, and we sincerely hope people connect with it.

Is there a concept behind this album? Where did you take inspiration from? Whether it is musical inspiration or not.
Aaron: We never write true concept albums, but we typically have some sort of unifying theme running throughout each record. Key to a Vanishing Future explores the fact that humans are born into this world without consent and forced to take on both the weight of human history and a responsibility for shaping the future. Both the failures and successes of previous generations are passed to the next, and the younger generation has no choice but to inherit the world they are given. We are handed a key to the future, but what does that future look like? Musically, our inspiration was wide-ranging. It’s hard to pinpoint specific influences; we all listen to an eclectic variety of music, and we absorb a little bit of all of it. While writing the album I think we were most influenced by our previous records; what we liked about them, what we wanted to improve, and what we wanted to do differently this time around.

The band’s music is made of a raw Black Metal basis, melted with epic elements, deep vocals and some mystical energy. How do you achieve to create your own sound?
Aaron: To piggyback off the previous question; we create our sound by being self-critical. This is our sixth album, so we have a lot of experience to inform the decisions we made on this record. We don’t want to make monochromatic Black Metal (despite really enjoying listening to bands like that), so we pull ingredients from other genres such as Rock (Classic, Psychedelic, Prog, Alternative; you name it), and Folk mostly. Maybe the biggest challenge is finding a way to blend those ingredients in a way that sounds cohesive and coherent, but also somewhat original. We let our imaginations go places that aren’t always typically found in Black Metal, and then we try to mold those ideas into something approximately Black-Metal-sounding.
Jordan: When we’re writing, we allow ourselves to go out of what is expected for the band; we’re all very open to exploring new sounds that we haven’t included in our music before. That being said, the process of filtering these new sounds through the aesthetic of Falls of Rauros is crucial. I personally get a lot of satisfaction when we use new harmonic vocabulary or styles of guitar playing and fully integrate them into our sound. The biggest compliment is when someone notices that we never release the same album twice but it always “sounds like Falls of Rauros”.

How does the composition process happen for Key to a Vanishing Future? Was it different from your previous releases?
Aaron: The composition process was pretty typical for us at this point. We weren’t playing any shows at the time due to the pandemic, so we were able to focus. We actually got most of this album written a bit quicker than usual; the new ideas were inspiring for us so it wasn’t a struggle. Most of the time Jordan or I would come up with a riff or two and we’d jam them as a band and discuss possibilities. Then we’d slowly start constructing a song and iteratively improving it. Other times one of us would bring parts of a song already structured and we’d hammer it into better shape together. The bass intro to Known World Narrows is actually a guitar riff that was written by Ray (our drummer), turned into a bassline, and then modified by Evan (our bassist). All four of us have active roles as writers/arrangers in the band.

How do you link the magnificent artwork with the album?
Aaron: The artwork was done by our dear friend Austin Lunn (of Panopticon). The idea came about after we sent him the album and he listened to it a few times. He told us some imagery he was envisioning based on what he heard, but he didn’t know what the lyrics were about. He was picturing “blue” and “snow.” That was the imagery that fit with “sonic signature” of the album. I told him the title of the album and what the lyrics were about, and the idea of a broken key in the snow came about after some discussion. It’s a metaphor for being gifted something broken, or inheriting a world that’s suffering.

Since 2020, Covid-19 crisis fucked a lot of things up, how did you face the situation? Did it have an impact on you as a band?
Aaron: It certainly impacted the band, but I think it was far worse for others. Making music is a labor of love for us; we all have jobs outside of the band. We don’t tour much or rely on touring income to pay our bills. So, while the pandemic took some adjusting to, it ultimately let us focus on writing an album without too many distractions. The major difference this time around is that we couldn’t travel to New York City to record with Colin Marston, so we actually self-recorded the entire album at our practice space and in our homes. We sent guitar and bass tracks for Colin to re-amp, which helped a lot, and he mixed and mastered everything, so he made it sound great. But it was a bit daunting to engineer the record ourselves.

Do you already have plans for the future after the release of the album?
Aaron: We don’t have any specific plans at the moment. We’ll start writing a new album probably, but very slowly. And we’ll eventually start playing some shows again, but maybe nothing this year. Jordan is working on an album with his other group, Forêt Endormie, and I wrote and recorded a “solo” album last summer/fall that will probably get released later this year. I put “solo” in quotes because Ray, our drummer, played drums on it (and engineered/mixed the drums as well). I wrote the songs, but drumming is extremely important to a Metal record so I can’t really say it’s a solo record.
Jordan: In addition to what Aaron mentioned, we are starting to entertain the idea of doing some touring next year.

What do you love about your music that you cannot find in other band’s music?
Aaron: That’s tough to say. I really love traditional Black Metal above all else, so it’s strange to be so averse to making music like that. I think I most enjoy the act of being creative when writing music, and as much as I love the vibe of traditional Black Metal, writing songs like that in 2022 feels pretty restrictive. I’d say that we combine rock music with Black Metal in a way that I haven’t heard before (not saying no one else does something similar, I probably just haven’t heard it). While a lot of Black Metal bands add Shoegaze and Post-Rock to their blend, we focus more on Classic Rock and its offshoots. Harmonized clean guitars, lyrical/singable guitar solos, the kinds of things you’d hear on the big rock records of the 60s and 70s, but in a Melodic Black Metal context.
Jordan: I think that we focus a lot on melody and subtle variation in a different way than other bands in our subgenre. I think the source of our melodies is different, and much more rock influenced like Aaron said. I also draw a lot from classical music (I got a Master’s degree in Music Composition in 2016) and I think that has some impact on our sound. 

What can you tell me about the evolution of the Metal scene since the beginning of the band?
Jordan: When we started, it felt like no one in our area was listening to Black Metal at all, it felt like we were very on the fringe. Then around 2009-2011 it seemed to get really (relatively) popular out of nowhere, as bands like Wolves in the Throne Room got new people interested in the style. That was cool, and we got some interesting show opportunities around that time. Over the last few years I’ve become kind of disconnected with what is popular – is it still OSDM? What’s popular doesn’t seem to matter as much to us as it used to, probably because we’re in our 30’s and people seem to keep caring about new Falls of Rauros albums regardless of what’s in vogue. I’m thankful for that.
I also appreciate the uncomfortable reckoning that people are having regarding problematic bands (those that tout fascist or otherwise white supremacist views) and how I’m seeing lots of people give up listening to/supporting bands whose music they really like because their politics are awful. I know this tide shift has pushed me a lot personally to be mindful about the music that I consume. We shouldn’t support people who make comments or write lyrics that are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or in any way denying other people’s humanity. It is not possible to separate art from politics. This wasn’t a thing people seemed to care about as much 10 years ago, and I’m glad for the change. 

Do you think you still improve yourselves as musicians?
Jordan: Absolutely. I know that we’re all committed to this in our own way. I think in general we focus on improving our composition/songwriting, but we all practice our instruments too – especially Ray, he is constantly pushing his drumming to new limits. I’ve taken the opportunity during the pandemic to study classical guitar more seriously, and to take private lessons in orchestration. And we all continue to listen to lots of music, which is the most important thing.

The band has been active since 2005, did you see an evolution of the Metal scene in the United States? How is the local scene?
Jordan: I think I answered this in question #11, but when we started it felt like we were playing a very fringe style that few people cared about, and now I don’t feel that way, which is nice. Portland, Maine in particular is a small but pretty awesome scene, though I haven’t seen anything live here in 2 years…

What is your best and your worst experience as a musician ever?
Jordan: There are many “best” moments I’ve had as a musician – among them are countless hours writing music on my own and with Falls of Rauros at the rehearsal space. Recording Patterns in Mythology and Forêt Endormie‘s Une voile déchirée with Colin Marston at his studio in Queens, NYC are some of my best memories too. For live shows, Decibel Metal & Beer fest 2017, the Fire in the Mountains festivals, Shadow Woods V in 2021, and a show in Minneapolis with Panopticon, Woman is the Earth, and Alda in 2017 are some major highlights. The worst performance I’ve ever done was at a concert in high school playing tenor saxophone in a saxophone quartet – we didn’t practice at all and I was playing on an instrument I had never played and didn’t warm up on. It was horrible.

The band has only played a few shows since its creation, do you wish to play more? Would you like to play outside of America?
Jordan: I actually don’t agree with this – we’ve played lots of shows and toured several times. We’ve never made it a full time thing, so we haven’t played as many shows as Immolation or Iron Maiden or whatever, but for a band that just does this for fun and artistic fulfillment, I think we’ve played quite a few shows. We have played several shows across Canada as well (From Québec City to Victoria on Vancouver Island and many cities in between) but haven’t made it to Europe yet – though we are discussing that possibility with a touring company for 2023. Someday maybe Mexico, Australia, and South America.

Maybe you already heard about the French Metal scene? Which French bands do you know?
Aaron: Absolutely. We’re all big Blut Aus Nord fans; they might be our collective favorite French Metal band. And there are a handful of other big names that everyone knows and aren’t necessarily worth mentioning. Some solid “orthodox” Black Metal comes from France: Aosoth, Antaeus, Merrimack, and Haemoth. The infamous Les Légions Noires circle is another obvious choice. I really love the psychedelic madness of S.V.E.S.T. Darvulia is great as well. Anyway, that’s just the tip of the iceberg; I’m not a French metal scholar but I enjoy a good number of bands from your country.

What if I ask you to compare Falls of Rauros’ music with a dish? Which one and why?
Aaron: Amato’s Italian Sandwich. Maine is famous for lobster, but the Maine Italian Sandwich can stink up an entire building in seconds flat (in a good way). And you can get 3 of them for the price of one touristy lobster roll that you’ll have to wait in line for with the whole state of New York.

Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with?
Jordan: This isn’t something I think about that often, to be honest. I’m very happy with the collaborators I have in Falls of Rauros and my other group, Forêt Endormie. There has been talk about collaborating with a very good and prolific band in our style, but I’ll keep that a mystery for the time being…

Last question: which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a tour with Falls of Rauros as opener and three other bands!
Jordan: Oh let’s see… Enslaved, Spectral Lore (I know this is not a live band, but one can dream), and Panopticon. I’d go see that show.

That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Aaron: Thank you very much for the support! Cheers to Acta Infernalis and all its readers.
Jordan: Thank you for the interview! 

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