Hailing from Oklahoma City, Idre recently released their new album ”Unforgiving Landscapes”. What we did was to ask the band’s drummer, Nicholas Wojcik some questions about their new album, their future plans, where do they draw inspiration from, e.t.c. Here’s what he had to say:
Hi guys! How have you all been? First of all congratulations on an excellent, new album.
Nicholas: Hello and thanks! Glad you enjoy it. We’re glad it’s finally out.
‘’Unforgiving Landscapes’’ was released this May. Is there a concept behind this album you’d like to discuss?
N: I wouldn’t say there’s a concept, at least in the sense that we sought out to make a concept album, per se. The album seemed to have come together more organically than that. However, I guess if I had to conceptualize the album, I would start with the title.
“Unforgiving Landscapes” was actually a phrase used by someone who reviewed our first album. I recall the reviewer painting a picture of the state of Oklahoma, where we reside, in a bleak, desolate manner. So here was this backdrop to the music we had written. I thought it was a unique term – very dark, very powerful. The phrase really stuck out to me and kept popping up in my head repeatedly as we were writing the new album, conjuring images of various natural environments full of all the fragile, cruel, and very real aspects of existence: time, matter, energy, contemplation, death, etc.
I remember one cloudy afternoon I went hiking in the mountains a few hours away from where we live. I had my camera with me and was shooting some photos when one of my friends called me and our other friends over to where he was. We went over this small hill and walked right into this desolate plateau. Everything here seemed so much more surreal and almost dystopian in a way: the air was still, no sounds of birds or even the wind; the grass was just plain dead; and then there were these animal bones strung about. I took some photos to document the place, one of which eventually became the album cover art, and again thought of the term “Unforgiving Landscapes.”
The whole place just seemed so vast and open, which seemed synonymous with the pace of our music. The place was full of contemplation, energy, death, and all the aforementioned elements of nature, which ran parallel to what we in the band were experiencing in our lives, for it was at this time that we all seemed to be experiencing a lot of loss and contemplation, the loss of family members, close friends, animal companions, etc. It all just seemed to fit together in some strange way and seemed right to me for the album. So when it came time to do the album art we had the one image for the cover and ended up using some additional photos from that same shoot for the rest of the packaging.
Aside from the album art, I would say the music came together in the same way it always has and just sort of picks up from where we left off on the first record, but on a new level, especially given that this would be the first time writing with Austin on bass, so there are some clear differences there. Austin had filled in on some tour dates for us in support of the first album and was excited about the band. He stayed on with us after the tour and we began writing the song “Prison Skin,” the second song on “Unforgiving Landscapes.” We didn’t really plan anything out like you would a concept album; we just wanted to write something new.
Like ‘’Idre’’ Lp, your new album also includes two long lasting tracks. Was that done on purpose or did it just come out like that?
N:Yeah I think the short answer is that we don’t know how to write short songs, and I’m not really sure we want to write short songs…! We like to take our time with expressing whatever it is that needs to be said musically and that doesn’t come through in a few minutes time for us. The first album would’ve actually been longer had we recorded it in its original state. The first song on that album, “Factorie,” initially clocked in at over 40 minutes alone. That was back when it was Ryan and I on guitars/vocals and drums, respectively, and Erica on cello. When Erica left and Andon came on as a bassist, we ended up reworking a lot of that song, with the end result being around 15 minutes shorter.
What inspires you the most?
N: If you mean that as a group then I can’t answer that; I don’t know the answer because we’ve never discussed that, at least not framed like that. If you’re meaning this on an individual level then I can answer that by considering my own personal hobbies and general interests, such as traveling, which I try to do a lot of, ancient history, my cat, of course, other musicians and artists and people I’m close to. As a musician I’m particularly inspired by unique rhythms and sounds, visuals, and anything that triggers our vital senses. So for example, we have extreme weather here in Oklahoma. The delicate, distant sound of thunder or a thrashing tornado can easily become the premise for a song stirring in my own mind or a bassline for a drumbeat, fill, or phrase. That’s no different than the pulse of a low-rumbling distant train, the frantic buzzing of an insect, the sharpening of a knife, seeing black clouds form overhead, or crushing red dirt in your hand.
How would you define your sound?
N: That one is tough. We don’t really box ourselves in to any sort of genre. We usually just tell people it’s loud, dark and atmospheric, which of course is quite vague. It’s interesting to see how people label us categorically, albeit doom, post-metal, dark rock, or whatever. Sure, we synthesize elements of those types of music, but with gothic, neo-classical, and ambient music, as well as American folk and western scores. It can be a mixed bag with lots of single-note riffing and textured guitars, airy percussion, deep, minimalistic bass tones, and infrequent vocals. Frankly I guess I would hope that we simply sound like Idre!
Apart from your favourite bands what else would you name as a key influence? Cinema perhaps?
N: In the area of cinema I watch a lot of documentaries and mysteries mostly, namely those on the BBC or PBS. True Detective Season 1 is great, along with There Will Be Blood, Twin Peaks, and Curb your Enthusiasm.
How is music produced in Idre?
A: The music is almost always built around the guitar. Ryan will have an idea or set of ideas, which Austin and I will then counter. From there we’ll iron out the nuances and try and slip in some tricks where uniqueness is needed. Vocals usually come last. Recording for this album was quite a bit different than the last effort, which was very raw and low-fi and produced in a small room. This time around we used a new, bigger studio with high ceilings and two engineers and also brought in some female guest vocals for an added touch. Recording has always been my personal favorite part of being in a band as that’s when you really get to sit down with everyone involved and really listen to everything, all the pieces, all the imperfections, see what others are hearing, and build.
What are you listening to these days?
N: Too many to name. All my long-time favorites: Bathory, Dead Can Dance, Neurosis, Pink Floyd, My Dying Bride, The Cure, Swans, Einsturzende Neubauten, BlutAus Nord, Candlemass, Death In June, Leadbelly, Disrupt, Corrupted, Godflesh, Skinny Puppy, Neil Young, Noothgrush, Incantation…they’re always in constant rotation. Additionally I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the recent dark ambient/experiemental releases coming from labels like Consouling Sounds and CryoChamber, like TrehaSektori,Northumbria, and A-Sun Amissa. Some of my favorite releases of this year include the new Harvestman, Throane, Immolation, BagareGénérale, Dread Sovereign, Oikos, Nightbringer, Statiqbloom, Unearthly Trance, Excommunion, Skáphe, and Ides Of Gemini. There’s some really great drumming on the most recent Orannsi Pazuzu,Mgła, Sumac, Alaric, and Pinkish Black releases. All of those are amazing albums.
You recently played with Samothrace & He Whose Ox Is Gored. Do you have any live shows planned for the second part of this year?
N: Our show with Samothrace & He Whose Ox Is Gored was our record release show and probably my favorite show we’ve played in a long time. We’ve been limiting ourselves to the number of times we play locally, which has kept things a bit more special on the home front, I’d say. We’ll likely continue that trend for the rest of this year, though we do have some things in the pipeline here, which are yet to be revealed…We’ve actually been discussing the rest of the year and next year as of late and are setting our sights on places we’ve never played before, including a U.S. east coast tour (or beyond, if the opportunity presents itself).
What does the future hold for Idre?
N: I’m not going to make an attempt at any predictions.