Keenan Oakes, singer and bass player of the South African band Constellatia, answered some questions about the band’s second full-length, Magisterial Romance.
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Constellatia without using the usual music labels as “Post Metal”, etc…?
Keenan Oakes (bass/vocals): Hello. We’re a band from Cape Town, South Africa making music that we find emotionally engaging and visceral, under the umbrella term of Metal.
How would you link the name Constellatia and the music you play? Do you remember where it comes from?
Keenan: The music, to our ears at least, sounds like our name suggests. It has an escapist or ethereal quality, perhaps relating to the cosmic world. I think our name speaks to an underlying otherworldly nature. It’s taken from the word “constellation”.
Your second full-length, Magisterial Romance is just out. How do you feel about this release?
Keenan: It’s a relief to have it out after sitting on it for many months. We do love it, and we’re enjoying the unfolding of how people (and ourselves even) perceive it. We realize it’s more of a slow-burner than The Language of Limbs and definitely a denser record.
How did the composition process happen? Was there any difference with the first record?
Keenan: It was stagnated. Because of Covid, there were big breaks between the writing. We couldn’t meet up as often as we would have liked, so that was the main difference. Time. Music sort of took a backseat to our lives at the time with everything going on.
What can you tell me about the artwork? How do you link it with Magisterial Romance’s sound?
Keenan: I couldn’t think of a better image to capture Magisterial Romance. It feels and looks like the title sounds. A grand romantic gesture, an offering. I’ve always wanted to work with Kent Andreasen, so this felt like the perfect project. We set up various shots, and this one was the clincher for the cover.
I feel a deep and coherent contrast in every song, between raw Post-Black parts and melancholic airy tones, how do you keep the balance between both parts?
Keenan: Thank you. To be honest, we don’t think about that too much, as long as everything sounds good to our ears and flows in a way that we enjoy.
On the song Adorn, you welcome Alison Rachel and Skye MacInnes from the Alternative Pop band Honeymoan, which is a totally different universe compared to yours. Why did you choose to collaborate with them?
Keenan: They’re good friends and brilliant writers. Alison sang on the first one, so there was already an established connection. We felt that they would be a great fit for the song.
You recently signed a deal with Season of Mist, how did this collaboration happen? What are their input to the album?
Keenan: We signed soon after the release of the first LP. A representative of the label sent it to Michael, and he got in touch with us about potentially working together. They let us do our thing, which we would have done anyway.
Since 2020, Covid-19 crisis fucked a lot of things up, how did you face the situation as a band? Did it have an impact on you or your work?
Keenan: As mentioned earlier, the band wasn’t the biggest priority at the time. Covid slowed things down, a lot. We took it in our stride and worked when we were able to, and felt like we wanted to.
Do you have plans for the band’s future you could unveil?
Keenan: More videos, more music, lots of touring.
What do you love about your music that you cannot find in other band’s music?
Keenan: That’s a good question. It’s not to say that we can’t find it in other music… Nothing is going to be more personal to you than your own music. It’s really special to see it coming together, this idea that you and your friend came up with. It’s empowering; it’s how we’ve processed some events that have happened in our lives. Other music is definitely pivotal in us wanting to make our own. It’s our contribution to this world that’s engaged us for as long as we can remember.
Do you think you still improve yourselves as musicians?
What led you to the music universe back in time? And especially the saturated music? What was the very first album you ever bought?
Keenan: Gideon’s mother worked at a Christian radio station. They would play some heavy music by Christian bands. I think that’s one of the ways Gideon got into Metal. I will have to confirm with him; I know he slowly worked his way up to the really heavy stuff, like most of us. As a kid, my father would play a lot of music… I especially remember family holidays and he would play The Carpenters on our road trips. That was special and I think made a significant impact on my life. I remember listening to Mr. Postman and it felt nostalgic, even though I was a 10 year old boy. First album I bought was Invincible by Five. Metal found me in my early teens with MTV. It started with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Around the World (not quite a Metal song but it has its moments), then moved onto Limp Bizkit, then Slipknot, then Killswitch Engage, then Lamb of God, then more extreme stuff etc.
Maybe you already heard about the French scene? Which French bands do you know and like?
Keenan: First ones that come to mind are Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega. Some really captivating, Avant-Garde and pioneering Metal music. One of my favourite records from when I was getting into more heavy stuff is From Mars to Sirius by Gojira. That was pretty big for me!
Is music your official job, or do you still have another one? What about your hobbies?
Keenan: We wish! Hopefully we can make that happen one day… Gideon is a programmer, Adam is a designer, and I work at a bar and a tattoo shop.
Are there any bands who caught your attention recently? What can you tell me about the music scene in your country?
Keenan: Not really. I realize that we tend to just listen to all the stuff that got us excited about wanting to make music in the first place, at least for me. I don’t seek so much new music like I used to… It all feels very overwhelming, though I have zero doubt that there’s incredible music out there. The most recent Metal band that I got into is probably Vanum. The music scene in general in Cape Town has really dwindled over the last few years, but a resurgence is happening.
What if I ask you to compare Constellatia’s music with a dish? Which one and why?
Keenan: A really hearty, comforting and spicy curry perhaps, because it ticks all of the boxes!
Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, an album…
Keenan: It would be great to work with Aaron Turner in some capacity. Weyes Blood would be amazing too!
Last question: Do you consider playing live? If yes, which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a bill with Constellatia as opener and three other bands!
Keenan: Definitely. We will be playing live from next year again. We’re open to touring with bands from totally different styles and metal bands alike. Seeing as this is hypothetical, let’s have fun… Constellatia, Angel Olsen, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Opeth.
That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Keenan: Thank you and we hope to see you in France next year!