With album sales on the decline and illegal torrent downloads the rule rather than the exception, what’s a folk black metal band to do to get metal heads to listen to the music? Why, offer the songs for free of course! And that’s what Trollband has done with debut full-length album “In The Shadow of a Mountain” (reviewed here), which is a release that should be on the radar of anyone who digs the more folk leaning bands like Finntroll or Equilibrium.
Trollband members Sam Levitt and Matt Courtemanche have taken out some time to discuss the album with Metalunderground.com, sharing their thoughts on offering the album for free, discussing material for a follow-up album, and sharing tales of live shows that include a distractingly fornicating couple at a Devin Townsend concert.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about the history of Trollband and how the group started.
Sam: In the fires of Mount Doom…
Matt: I was phoned up and asked if I wanted to play guitar in a band with two guys I barely knew, and some other people that I didn’t at all. I was 16 and they were all 20-something. Good times.
Sam: Basically the band was formed in 2007 in a pool, where we discussed whether it would be better to stay in the pool or get out and actually play real shows… so we did, several years and lineups later here we are… Trollband originally started as a straight up drinking jigging folk metal. After several shows the battles and songs about beer wore out its welcome with us.
Matt: Right about then we had some personnel issues, and a couple of members later the direction of our music changed to more or less what it is today.
Sam: This triggered the long road to what is now known as the album “In the Shadow of a Mountain.”
xFiruath: Fill me in on the recording process for “In the Shadow of a Mountain.” Where did it take place and was this a self-produced effort?
Sam: At a big studio.
Matt: At Sam’s apartment studio.
Sam: It was indeed a self produced effort. Due to our massive budget, we decided to take all work unto ourselves. Realistically we don’t have the funds for a big studio so we did it all at home. After several months of tracking, mixing, and fine tuning, the tracks were mastered at Redwell Studios in Montreal by Maxime Côté.
xFiruath: What guest musicians did you bring on to help out on the album?
Sam: Jordan Dorge from Laika (Winnipeg,Canada), Cody Scott from Eye of Odin (Nanaimo, Canada), Rhode Rachel from Swordbearer (New Jersey, USA), Elfhelm in its entirety (Richmond, Canada), and local famed homeless guy Matt Tecson from Ironcross Holocaust (Richmond, Canada).
xFiruath: How is the music on the album different from your earlier demo, and does the album include songs from the demo?
Matt: *blows dust off demo* Everything is a little more mature. Things have been re-written for the umpteenth time. We kept the songs we liked most, because they really deserved a little better sound quality than we first gave them. We weren’t all that good at the whole recording process back then. We still aren’t ever satisfied when we finish something.
Sam: Basically we took what we had and added a bit of a darker tinge to it, other than that I think the rest of the ground was covered by Matt. On a side note I’m using my demo’s as coasters….
xFiruath: How do you guys write music?
Matt: We don’t write, we just open Guitar Pro and walk away, and songs write themselves. Usually Sam comes up with a melody or distinctive riff and we just bounce it back and forth over Skype and it accumulates. After we get a heap of songs roughed out like that we sit on them and polish them for weeks or even months until we’re happy with it. Once we start the actual recording we usually throw in a couple extra harmonies or fills or whatever, just added to taste, as it were.
Sam: Sometimes we tend to get so fed up with trying to force out new riffs that we ultimately forget about the song in question, that is until we find ourselves in an awkward position trying to scramble for a way to write it down… So don’t be surprised if you hear stories of us writing full opus’s in the shower.
Matt: Opusses? Opii? Opuses…
xFiruath: What do the lyrics deal with?
Sam: The lyrics deal with death, revenge and victory, but ultimately hilarity, also known as tragedy, as our triumphant heroes get killed in the final seconds of the last song “We Live.”
xFiruath: The new album is currently available as a free download – what prompted you guys to go that route?
Sam: The album became rather popular on blog and torrent sites shortly after its release. So the best route to travel (if we wanted the audience) was to give it to them at an appropriate price, that price just happened to be free.
Matt: I don’t think we ever expected to be making money from this, we wanted to perhaps cover some of the costs of things like putting the album on cdbaby, but that’s about it. After all, we’d rather have more people listen to our album period.
xFiruath: Are you currently actively seeking label support?
Matt: Are we?
Sam: Well technically financial support for putting out physical copies and touring is always sought out by bands, and I see us as no different. So yes, we’re in the market for labels.
Matt: But we’re pretty laid back, and our writing process can be extensive and take long periods of time, so having someone poking us with a stick telling us to work when we may not want to might not be conducive to how we do things.
xFiruath: Is new material being worked on at this point?
Matt: Yes, always. More songs than your body has room for…
Sam: Indeed. Currently we are working on the follow up to “In the Shadow of a Mountain.” We are thinking of 10-15 new songs, a little darker and a tad more aggressive, but we can’t ballpark any release dates just yet. However about 10 minutes or so after “We Live” is a hidden song to tie this album to the next.
xFiruath: Do you guys have any upcoming live shows?
Sam: Given our current living conditions, we’re separated by quite a distance, and it would be too far to travel by elephant. So that would be a no for the time being.
Matt: And also we’re basically a two-man band, and our songs have upwards of a dozen tracks. Small hurdle.
Sam: However, once the next album has been solidified then we will see, having new material to show off and play live is always good incentive for more shows.
xFiruath: Have you seen any great shows recently?
Matt: Between the Buried and Me was the last show I was at. Makes me feel like I should really be practicing guitar more often. Before that was the Devin Townsend Project. I’ll let Sam describe.
Sam: I went to System of a Down but nothing really spectacular happened there… although last year Matt and myself went to see Devin Townsend at the Rickshaw in Vancouver, and on top of the typical hilarity and mind-bendingly awesome technicality that Mr Townsend put forth… there was a couple openly fucking next to us… it was very distracting from the show at hand and I was tempted to write them a letter to tell them how distracting they were. On another note, one of the past great Trollband shows that we played involved us opening for Korpiklaani, Tyr, Swashbuckle, and White Wizzard. As per the question, near the end of the show everyone on that tour was so incredibly smashed that certain events led to chicken, toilet paper, and pretty much the entire rider for their tour bus being flung into the equally as drunk crowd… also a couch.
xFiruath: How is your local metal scene these days?
Matt: That’s a very good question.
Sam: Belligerent and numerous, or at least that’s how we left it.
xFiruath: What are you listening to these days?
Matt: Animals as Leaders, Cloudkicker/Ben Sharp, BTBAM, Caligula’s Horse, Devin Townsend, Protest the Hero. And lots of non-metal stuff like Animal Collective, Chase Status, Fleet Foxes, Nero, The Glitch Mob, Ronald Jenkees, Sigur Rós, Skrillex… I’m all over the place right now musically.
Sam: Lots of Devin (SYL or otherwise), Hollenthon, Dissection, The Black Keys, KMFDM, Massive Attack, The Pogues, Yggdrasil (Swe) and I’ve been re-listening to my Ayreon, Macabre, and Windir collections and the usual bout with Akercocke to name a few.