Hope Drone broke onto the scene in a big way with their Self Titled EP in 2013 and have been steadily climbing the ranks in the Atmospheric Black Metal realm with their added touches of Post Rock & Sludge Metal. 2015 brings the release of their first album, Cloak Of Ash via Relapse Records. I recently got to talk to Christopher & Karl of Hope Drone to talk about all the great things going on with the future front-runners of Atmospheric Black Metal.
That Drummer Guy: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I have been a fan since the moment I received your self-titled release.
TDG: You guys have been recently signed to Relapse to release your latest release, Cloak Of Ash, which is an absolute juggernaut of an album. How did you approach the album differently than your Self-Titled release?
Christopher- Cloak of Ash was a lot more thought out. With the S/T, we were basically finding our feet as a band. The 4 songs on the S/T were essentially the first 4 songs we wrote together as a four piece once I took over the vocals. When it came to the follow up, Karl wanted to do something with a much greater scope - he wanted us to write something that would be a slow burn, and that demanded your attention. Karl and I spent more time mapping out the ebb and flow of the album. We also made sure the songs were a lot more rehearsed, so that we could capture as much of the album with a live recording as possible. We recorded Cloak of Ash with Christopher Brownbill again (Idylls) but this time we opted to mix with him as well, rather than send it away. We wrote most of the material on Cloak of Ash at Sun Distortion, the warehouse studio where Brownbill lived, so he had a better appreciation than most people of what we wanted to achieve. We liked the work that Sandford Parker did on the S/T, but wanted Cloak of Ash to be more representative of the unaltered live sound of the band. To that end, we all locked ourselves in the (now defunct) Wavelength Studios in our home town and mixed the album together on a big analogue SSL desk. People sometimes comment that the album sounds raw, but I think that people are just starting to forget what real instruments actually sound like.
TDG: Starting off with the 20 minute epic, Unending Grey, is quite an unexpected move. Considering that is the longest track on the album. Was that a conscious thought to do that or did it just feel natural to put the tracklisting as it is?
Karl- Unending Grey, to me, summarizes all of the elements of Hope Drone, as well as my personal world outlook. It is an opener and a closer all wrapped up into one. As such, I've always felt that song stands as a thesis statement for what the band represents. I didn't realize that so many reviewers would almost perceive it as a challenge, or a bar for entry into the album, though. On reflection, I can see what they mean. – Christopher
To add to that, the track positioning was the one that felt most natural after we’d established the ebb and flow of the record; we did play with a few different configurations but ultimately this proved best. Of course the path of least resistance would have been to have the long epic song with the heavy ending last on the record but I had other plans with Carried Apart by the Ceaseless Tides finishing the album on a more contemplative note, which I felt was appropriate for such an experience. We didn’t set out to be deliberately alienating but at the same time we’re making this music for us and if we end up alienating listeners with long songs or dense compositions we aren’t particularly worried.
TDG: Was there anything left over from the Cloak of Ash recording sessions that may end up on a release down the road or was everything used in Cloak of Ash?
Christopher- In terms of fully developed songs, everything was used on Cloak of Ash. However, we have some material that has been floating around for a long time that we love. When you want to write a double LP, you have to keep in mind the limitations of the format. As a result, there was a fair bit of planning going in to recording to make sure everything fit.
TDG: When playing shows, considering the lengths of songs, does it make it hard which songs are going to be played live?
Christopher- Yes! We have the constant struggle of when we put Unending Grey into a set, you finish one song and your set is already half over. I feel like we may eventually do a cut down version of that song so that we can play more than 2 or 3 songs in a set.
TDG: Combining your blend of different genres into one powerhouse sound. Do you feel that you have found your sound as a band or do you feel there is more uncharted territory to explore?
C- I think that broadly speaking, we have found our sound. We have a long journey ahead of us in developing and evolving that sound, which I am excited about. I would like to tap into some of the more aggressive elements of the S/T again, and we would all like to explore some more spacey and vibey sounds in the future. This is somewhat exhibited in the new material we have written (we have another 20 minute song ready to go).
K- Found has a little too much finality for me, I’d say the core elements of the Hope Drone sound have been established but like many of my favorite bands like Neurosis, you’re always chasing something more and always one step behind. There is definitely always more territory to be explored. Most importantly with Cloak of Ash I think we took a big step toward establishing the core sound in particular with regards to recording, I personally can’t imagine recording any other way but live going forward and mixing on a board together with our engineer.
TDG: I can imagine you guys doing recreation of cover songs done in the Hope Drone style. Would that ever be something to consider down the road?
C- I would love to cover one of the songs off Disintegration by The Cure. Not sure how much luck I would have convincing the other guys.
K- I feel like we could do something interesting with Angelo Badalamenti’s Laura Palmer Theme from Twin Peaks, though given we’ve already started writing for a new release and have vague plans for another after that I can’t say whether it is worth our time to explore these ideas.
TDG: With as much exposure as you guys are now getting thanks to making such impressive music and the backing of Relapse Records, is there any chance of a possible U.S./North American tour in the future? Possibly even 2016?
C- For 2016, we are currently gazing towards Europe. We all lead fairly busy lives back home (I'm a lawyer and I have a 3 year old son), so it is hard for us to find the time for long tours. A U.S. tour needs to happen though. We owe a lot to the U.S. influence on black metal.
TDG: I honestly believe that Australia is the leading hotbed for some of the greatest Metal being produced right now in all the different sub-genres? Do you feel this to be true as well? Is there any other Australian bands you feel carrying the flag of Metal in the right way?
C- The thing about Australian metal is that we're so isolated from the rest of the world, and our population is so comparatively low, that you don't get the same type of concentrated scenes as the rest of the world. As a result, I think many bands are left to forge their own path.
TDG: What are you guys currently listening to? Any favorite albums of 2015 so far?
C- Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress by Godspeed You! Black Emperor is amazing, especially Piss Crowns Are Trebled. I've been listening to this Turkish post-punk/darkwave band a lot - She Past Away. They released an album this year called Narin Yalnizlik which is great. New Locrian, Krallice and Chelsea Wolfe. And our friends in We Lost the Sea just released a new post-rock album with some pretty amazing back stories.
K- I’ll add the new Leviathan to that list. I tend to spend a fair amount of time digesting albums and I’m still just getting onto a lot of stuff from 2014 and prior.
TDG: Thank you once again for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything else that you would like to mention, plug or promote that I have not brought up yet?
C- Big thanks to everyone who has bought the double LP or supported Hope Drone in some other way. We're heading on the road in Australia with Downfall of Gaia from Germany in November this year in support of their new album. It's a long way for those guys to travel (including Kadnar who is coming from New York), so it would be great if people would come out and show their support.
Hope Drone- Cloak Of Ash is available NOW via Relapse Records and Bandcamp!