Thursday, July 24, 2014

Interview with Thomas from The Tidal Sleep

The Tidal Sleep is by far one of the best bands that I’ve discovered over the course of the past couple years. They have a powerful, driving sound that combines the heaviness of hardcore with the intricate melodies of post-rock and screamo. Probably the easiest and most immediate references to their sound would be Pianos Become the Teeth or Touché Amore, but there’s also other things buried in the mix that aren’t quite as obvious (Listen to the 1:23 mark on “Serpent Hug” and tell me you’re not hearing Taken. Wait you don’t know who Taken is…..stop fucking up your life!). At any rate, I’ve always felt like their sound hits harder and plucks the heart strings more effectively than either PBTT or Touché.

So after a seven song self-titled release and a four song e.p., the band has just released their debut LP “Vorstellungskraft” which will hopefully turn a lot of heads, both in Europe and everywhere else.

I recently checked in with their bass player Thomas for a little history on himself and the band, as well as everything they’ve accomplished so far.

I always like to hear about people's back-story a little bit, so give me a little insight into your family and childhood. Do you come from a particularly musical/artistic family, or was that a path you had to find on your own?

I grew up in a small town in the Southwest of Germany. I have one younger brother and one younger sister. My mom's a teacher at the local school where she leads the choir, that's actually the first musical endeavor I ever had, singing in that choir. Before that I remember jamming along to cassettes with my “guitar” I build with cardboard, wool strings and loads of glue, haha. It was Germany in the 80s; no MTV, and no record stores where I grew up.

How did you fall into punk and hardcore specifically, what were some of the first bands/shows that sort of hooked you into the community? At what point did you pick up your instrument and decide to start playing music in a band?

I had to go by train the “the city” to get CD’s. There were some dudes at the local swimming pool who were your typical teen metal heads who listened to cool stuff but I was always too shy to hang out with the cool dudes, so my cousin got me a few tapes from them.

When I was around 9 or so I listened to Helloween, Iron Maiden and Scorpions (of course). From that point on, I was pretty sure I needed a real guitar. I started playing acoustic guitar at age 10, and electric guitar at age 13 I think. Luckily my parents paid for lessons.

I was a metal kid in my early teens, but I really sucked at playing metal songs on guitar; scales and all that crap, I always hated it. Punk made more sense, just strumming and playing fast. That, or grunge (which not even rural Germany in the early 90s missed), just all these slow, down-tuned jams.

My first band was with some high school friends, we played tons of cover songs. We all kinda infected each other with new bands. At that time, we all were hooked on more mainstream-ish punk bands; Bad Religion and NOFX, but also bands like Rage Against the Machine or Type O Negative.

So when you started getting into metal and punk did your mom encourage it or did she wish the music you liked was more "proper", more traditional?

My mom never understood (still doesn't) the appeal of listening to “noise” and screaming, but she also gets how much it all means to me.  I've never been interested in lots of stuff, but I've been obsessive with music pretty much all my life.

How did you transition from the somewhat mainstream bands you talked about to more d.i.y. oriented artists?

The transition was step by step, but constant and still going on. Back in the late 90s, one of my then band-mates (the band broke up soon later) moved to Karlsruhe, and then I moved to Mannheim.  Both cities had and have a vivid underground music scene. For us townies that was the place to be, and it meant going to shows all the time; we saw everything. I was a bit too late in the scene, otherwise I'd have seen Botch or Buried Alive play Mannheim, but I'm not complaining. Also the internet made it so easy to get information on all my favorite bands and labels.

From Epitaph I moved to Burning Heart, and from there to Revelation, and from there deeper and deeper. Also having a cool record store in Mannheim made it easy for me to get all the releases I wanted.

Oh man, I got to see Buried Alive several times, never caught Botch though, one of my all-time faves. So talk a little bit about the formation of The Tidal Sleep. How long had you guys all known one another when you formed, and what was the initial inspiration or vision to start the band?

I played with Armin (drums) before in a new school hardcore band, and I know Nicolas (vocals) from an emo band we had. Oliver who played guitar in the beginning, was a friend of friends. He had played in a German band we all knew and liked. We started jamming in summer of 2011. The main inspiration is that I was unhappy with my old band, haha. Also, I lived together with Nic back then, so we decided we should have a band again.

“Untitled” from the debut was written in the first rehearsal, from then we rehearsed two times a week for half a year, and recorded the first album in the Fall of 2011. We had only two things “set in stone” for the band in the beginning….1) We need guitars with lots of delay and reverb; Oliver was the one that brought all those kinda post-rock guitar vibes. 2) Once we were a proper band we wanted to play as much as possible.

Well you definitely seem to be playing out quite a bit, having done a lot of the festivals, touring with bigger hardcore bands like Defeater and Code Orange Kids, and even huge bands like Silverstein and Funeral for a Friend. I know you guys leave soon for a run with Akela which I'd assume will be smaller and more intimate. How would you say all these types of shows compare, and while there are no doubt pros and cons to any show/tour, where would you say you guys feel most comfortable?

This may come as no surprise, but we love small intimate shows; like rehearsal rooms, or small basements. When we started we agreed to try out lots of stuff, including not limiting us to a certain crowd or scene. We still have kinda the same approach, but we've become way more picky, haha. Also we wanna play more shows with good friends, like Akela in August or Throwers in October.

This Charming Man Records has now handled all three of your vinyl releases. Talk a little bit about the growth of that relationship. I know you mentioned you had some bands previous to The Tidal Sleep....had you worked with them on releases for those bands, or did they just fall in love with TTS?

TCM is a one man operation and Chris who runs it has been enthusiastic about our band from the beginning. He heard rough demos, and said “let's do this”.  We like that his label is so diverse, and on a personal level he's become a really good friend. We had different offers for the new album, but after a night of drinking and talking at Chris’s home we all realized that we didn't need any other label.

On the label front, a while ago you guys were slated to work with my good friend Melanie to re-release your stuff here in the U.S. What happened with that, and are you guys looking to get the new LP released in the U.S., have you sent it out to any U.S. label folks?

Mel was a big fan of our first two releases, but unfortunately she had monetary problems during the time our release was planned, so it was postponed, and later cancelled. There are no hard feelings though. Financially it's a disaster to sign a European band that cannot tour the States for 4 months a year, like all up and coming U.S. bands do. Seth from Topshelf/B9 is a fan of The Tidal Sleep. They also considered releasing the album, but since we're not that full-time touring band and TCM is doing the current release they were not able to do it. Maybe we’ll work with them on the next release (-:

So do you think you guys will wind up making it across the pond to support the new LP, or perhaps later if you do make that leap to a U.S. label?

We all definitely wanna tour the U.S. (Marc, our new guitar player, did it already with his bands Trainwreck and Glasses), but we have no actual plans currently. We're doing another European tour in October, which means all of our days off at work are spent. But 2015 will be a good year for touring (-:

I feel like going from the first record to the second one there is a slight shift into more atmospheric, post-rock territory; not that the heavy stuff is totally dialed back but it's a slight shift. On the LP it seems like you guys have the space to bring back some of the heavier stuff while still exploring the prettier, atmospheric side of the band. I know there have been some member changes, but how would you say you've grown and shifted as songwriters over the course of the last few years?

Like I wrote before, our old guitar player was really into these layered post rock sounds, but he left in 2012. With two new guys in the band, and being spread all over Germany our writing sessions have been much more focused. Armin and I wrote basic song structures, and recorded them on an I Phone. The other guys sorta did homework with these tracks, and when we rehearsed we arranged and re-arranged these structures. We had this approach to not over think the songs; they just happened the way they did, sometimes heavier, sometimes real poppy. And we thought we'd rather have a good flow to the song instead of 200 riffs per minute.

So I looked up "Vorstellungskraft" in Google translator and it says it means "imagination" or "the power of imagination". Talk about why you guys chose this as the title, why does it fit the new record?

The title of the album was initially a working title for one of the songs, but after a while we thought that it was a great leitmotif for the whole album. Everyone involved in songwriting, production and artwork needed a lot of “Vorstellungskraft” to create the album. We honestly did not rehearse all that much for this time around, a lot of the guitar work and vocals happened for the first time in the studio. So we needed a lot of imagination as to how everything could or should turn out.

I always look at the last line of a record as sort of a band's final will and testament, like "if we break up, here's what we wanna leave you with". You guys end "Vorstellungskraft" with what I thought was a pretty powerful line which says "Life is a breaking wave, a restless sea, a ruthless force". I'm curious if there are any particular experiences this line refers to, or just a general reflection on where you guys were coming from with that thought.

Actually, that's not the last line on the album. The ending is what's printed large in the artwork, Nicolas just decided to stop singing at that point, but the poem continues. The album deals with a lot of different situations pretty much anyone has to deal with; depression, alienation, the daily grind, love, the fading of love....for me this means, life will never stand still, and that's a good thing. I constantly evolve, and there's nothing to do about it but live.

Last question, what's been the most important thing you've gained from the last few years playing in TTS, and what do you hope people take away from the band who may see you live or listen to one of the records?

We started the band with no expectations, and we are overwhelmed on a daily basis by how people react to our music. We are really lucky to be good friends, play exactly the kind of music we want to play, and as a bonus that people seem to be into our little band. I know I have bands that have helped me along the way; either through cathartic experiences or lyrics that have stuck with me, and it's amazing to play in a band that is received the way I receive bands. We are happy with everything.

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