hange is unavoidable and I think that point is being hammered steadily into the global psyche now that we are in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. A band such as RELIC KINGS doesn't deserve such a grim segue but that is what this very pandemic has done to us. However, the subject was change. I first became acquainted with the First Nations rock band in 2014 when they were known as BLACK STONE and had made a name for themselves throughtout Indian Country by issuing a full throttle, riff-heavy rock n roll sound. A couple of years later, the band changed their moniker to RELIC KINGS and refined their sound to something more palatable for active rock radio on their secone EP ARMOURY which earned the band an INDIGENOUS MUSIC AWARD for BEST ROCK BAND. In the latter half of 2019 RELIC KINGS released their latest album BLINDED BY THE SUN adn had ROCKWIRED not been in the midst of a lengthy hiatus, we would've given it up for the band in a timely manner. The bash and strut of the band is still in full force but the approach seems to have more of a 'knowing' to it than it did before. Case in point is the piano-led ballad STAY TONIGHT. Before everything went to hell, ROCKWIRED had a chance to catch up with the band's lead singer ROB FARIES regarding the band and their latest album. Here is how the interview went.
I've known you guys since you were BLACK STONE and now as RELIC KINGS, but with the album BLINDED BY THE SUN, it seems as if you guys have finally came into your own as a band. With the album having been out for a few months now, how do you feel about the finished work?
Yeah it really feels like that to me too in a strange way. We've been doing this for so long but it just now feels like we are getting into our comfort zone. It's a really good collection of songs and it's a little more diverse in terms of the selection of music as opposed to the ARMOURY album. It just felt natural to make the album this way.
CHECK OUT THE MUSIC ViDEO FOR STAY TONIGHT!!!
When I first became aware of the band, you guys were all out rockers and with this album I hear the band getting into more singer-songwriter-y territory. Was that something you guys were conscious of a band?
We didn't purposely do it. We were conscientious of the songs being different but we kind of took the attitude of 'If it's a good song, it's a good song and lets not try to turn it into something else.' It wasn't important for us to try to go for a specific genre and try to make it sound like this or that. If it was a good song it was going to make it onto the album and however it comes out when we record is exactly how it is going to sound. I listen to all of my favorite bands and they don't always sound the same from album to album. There are changes and there is evolutiona and there is growth. It's the same with us.
And who all helped you guys behind the recording consule for this album?
The guy behind the console was DARIN MAJOROWSKI along iwth JILL ZIMMERMAN at JUKASA STUDIOS at Six Nations. DARIN was the guy who recorded the original BLACK STONE CD, so he recorded that for us as well. So we went back and recoded with DARIN again. It was great to be able to get back inot htat studio again.
JUKASA STUDIOS enjoys an incredible reputation and I've only seen the facility in pictures and video. Describe what it is like to work in such an environment.
It's a beautiful studio! Anytime you go into a studio you can become overwhelemed and it feels like you've accomplished something by just getting into the studio because you work so hard as a musician and then you put together songs and then all of a sudden you are in this real professional studio. The more you do it the more you work your way into this comfort zone by working in that environment. The one thing about doing stuff in a studio as opposed to wroking in a home studio is the amount of time that you have. You are paying all of this money for a quality product and a quality recording that you become very focused on the cost of it all. If you have three days to record one song or maybe a couple of songs, you make sure that you get it done in that alloted time and you really focus on it. JUKASA STUDIOS is out in the country so there aren't a lot of distractions so when you're in the studio, you are working on the songs and your focused on them. There are no distractions and it's just a great environment to work in.
Were the songs on this album the result of being in the studio or did you hash them out before stepping into JUKASA?
We were working on them before we came into the studio. We were working on the songs for a few months. There is only one song on the album that emerged spontaneously. It was the day before we went into the studio an I had this little snippet of a demo and we all liked the song so we expanded on the arrangement and added things and put in little stops here and there. We worked on it together and it ended up being the second track onthe album called HYPNOTIZE. I think you can hear the spontanaiety in that track when you listen to it. When you get an idea and you immediately start recording it, there seems to be a little more energy to it if there is less time between coming up with the idea and hitting record. You get a little bit of different energy. You get something with a little more excitement to it verses a song that has been toiled on for months and months.
Have their been any reactions to the album or any of it's songs that have surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
The reaction to the slower songs has been surprising. The ballads. There is a piano track in there, track 6, called STAY TONIGHT and the response to it has been really touching. It's meant a lot to us. It's also the song that we made a music video for. We went to TURNING STONE CASINO in Upstate New York that is run by the Oneida Nation. We were invited there by the Oneida Nation and they offered to produce a music video for us using their casino production team. It was really a generous offer from them and we were really grateful. We released that video about a month ago and it's been received really well and one of the nicest suprises from it is people wanting to use the song as their first wedding dance. That's quite an honor to hear that people want to use the song in that way.
And how much are you guys hitting the road to promote the album?
We're still pushing it. We're still going out on small tours. Last year we did as many festivals as we could get. Of course you've also got to deal with budgets as well. We could only put our necks out there so much so to speak in trying to promote the album but this year we went out and did a small weekend tour. We hit about three different towns and it was really great to be abel to gtout there and play these tunes. The people really liked the songs. We're still pushing the album. We're going ot continue to push it throughout the Summer. We've got about three or four gigs lined up and everyday we are learning about new opporitnities. We're probably going to do our own thing as well as the festival stuff. The festival stuff is great to do but there are only so many festivals you can do. You also have to create your own gigs and go to some of the bars and travel around like that. We'll probably do a little bit of that too.
And how is the rest of the band holding up?
There are three core members that have been together from the beginning. There is JIMMY McLEISH on the drums from London and there is MICHAEL ARCHIBALD on lead guitar from up in Cochrane. I live up in Moose Factory, Ontario. If you look on a map you can see that we are all fairly spread apart. When we play live we are complimented by a rhythmm guitar player and a bass player. That is what we've been doing for the past two years now. It's been this way from the start.
I didn't have time to go over my previous interviews with you guys but what is the songwriting process like for you guys? How do you guys go about it?
There are different types of songs. Some songs start with riffs and then after that the song is built around the riff with the melody and everything. We have few songs on BLINDED BY THE SUN that are like that. But you also have the traditional sing songwriter type songs that would've been written on an acoustic guitar with chords and jus singing. Typically, those songs are built up during hr course of the production to where it doesn't sound like an acoustic guitar song anymore. One of the rules that I like to have is if you can pick up the acoustic guitar and go sit by a campfire and sing your songs and entertain people, than you've got a good song. So I try to stick that rule as much as possible. If you can do that then I think that makes it a strong song.
With the release of this album behind you, what is next for the band musically?
We're always working on new music. It's neverending. I don't know if your familiar with the band TRAGICALLY HIP. Their lead singer GORD DOWNIE passed away a couple of years ago. He was the kind of artist and performer that we would all look up to as well as the band. They were like Canada's band. I actually had the opportunity to meet him and jam with him many years ago. When we started recording music I wrote him an email and one of the things that he told me was to never stop writing music because it'll get you through. As a musician you have good times and you have down times and it's very emotional. You have highs and you have lows. The highs would be like playing at this huge festival and the lull where no one knows your name anymore and then it goes back up again when you release something new again. Writing new music is what gets you through all of that. That adivse was true becasue there is nothing better than cultivating a song and once it happens and you get it down on your phone or wherever, there is no better feeling than that. It's a gratifying feeling and it really does lift your spirits through anything. We've got a lot more music in us.
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