Hivelords- Tapered Limbs of a Human Star

Philadelphia’s Hivelords first came across my radar with their debut full length ‘Cavern Apothecary’ in 2013.  Channeling elements of black metal and doom (though they prefer to call it dark metal), the band created a potent mixture that was an unsettling thrill ride that made you feel like there was something sinister lurking behind you as you made your way through.  Two years later, following some lineup changes that saw Evan Void from Sadgiqacea/Ominous Black and Lydia Giordano from Surgeon come on-board, Hivelords released their follow-up ‘Tapered Limbs of a Human Star’.  This album saw them expand outwards, drawing the listener into twisting and turning soundscapes that felt like a black metal take on psychedelic madness.   It was one of my top picks of 2015, and a sign of a band coming into their prime.

Since the album came out, the group went through another lineup change, with Evan Void taking over vocals for the departed Kevin North.  Hivelords has also become known for being on tour almost all the time, so if either of their albums has caught your attention there’s a good chance you’ll be able to catch them somewhere around the United States at any point during the year.  With this flurry of activity and the possibility of more material not too far off in the future, I had the chance to reach out to the band to ask them some questions about their writing process and tour memories.

Plus, thanks to the band and their label Anthropic Records we’re excited to have the chance to premiere a brand new live video of their song Shades of Illusion.  Shot by Ricky Culp at Strange Matter in Richmond, VA, this video gives you an idea of the type of intensity Hivelords is capable of generating on-stage.  If you have yet to experience this band for yourself, either on record or on-stage, now is the perfect time to change that.

Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): You’re a decent ways into your summer tour, and only a short time before that you were out on the road with Tombs.  What have been some of the most memorable moments from these tours, and did you hit some cities and venues you hadn’t played in before?

Hivelords: We’ve played lots of great shows and played with many excellent bands and friends recently…but we also savor those weird occurrences that always seem to greet us when we travel and put ourselves out there. Some memorable moments include becoming an impromptu metal-taxi service for traveling Italian American fraternity members, chilling with baby goats, Sicilian donkeys, horses, and cows on an idyllic farm, attracting strange guests who proudly choose to drink gasoline and are quite fond of cat food, playing Frisbee with dogs in the river, being punished into buying someone a cab so they would leave and accidentally getting them a limo instead…shit like that happens all the time. And it’s mostly awesome, and if not, oh well, you roll with the punches.

We played a string of dates with Choking from Ohio and then Set and Setting from St. Petersburg. Bonding with other bands is one of the best experiences to be found on the road. Sharing jokes and music and the dreaded Smirnoff Ices nightly, yep, it’s a good way to get to know someone.

TO: As a band that tours on a regular basis, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how have you overcome them?

Hivelords: Challenges include: getting out of Florida, never charging our phones, Smirnoff Ice, pooping, bathing, eating, and also the fact that we also happen to be magnets for punishers and weirdos nationwide.

Now that we have a van with AC, we have to punish ourselves in other ways. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming too pampered, losing our edge, our fighting spirit, that feeling of closeness to the brink of disaster and despair which gives us that last, primal will to scrape and claw upwards against the oppressive glacier of mundanity. So we listen to ‘Load’. In its entirety. To punish ourselves. Maybe also as a warning to ourselves. Oh, hey, ‘Lulu’ is on deck now. Masochistic. Necessary.

TO: I noticed that as of fall 2015, starting around Shadow Woods Metal Festival or so, you’re now down to a four-piece and Evan has taken over on vocals.  Can you tell us a little about this lineup switch, and are you planning to record any material in the near future that will showcase Evan on lead vocals?

Hivelords: You are quite astute. Our former vocalist left the band suddenly prior to Shadow Woods. So, with years of experience under his belt with Sadgiqacea, Ominous Black, and Eternity Void, our own guitarist Evan stepped up to the mic, guitar in hand. He is more machine than man, and his adamantium vocal chords resonate in a most complementary way with the music. We intend to move forward as a 4 piece for the time being. We seem to have hit our stride with the lean and mean Metallica configuration.

Hivelords

TO: For some groups, any kind of change at the vocalist position might spell a name change, tour cancellation, or even a break-up.  Yet Hivelords has gone as far as to tour with a guest vocalist, bringing Ajax Stormwood on-board for your summer tour in 2014.  What factors do you feel allow you to be this flexible?

Hivelords: I think vocals are more flexible in the metal genre. Motherfuckers basically just be screamin’. But really, this is our passion and what we live to do. So a lineup change isn’t gonna stop us. In fact it streamlined us. Everyone is set up to be able to tour, write, and play whenever. We get along creepily well.

TO: The first time I heard Hivelords was 2013’s ‘Cavern Apothecary’, and what blew me away was how genuinely terrifying and unsettling your music was.  ‘Tapered Limbs of a Human Star’ only seemed to amplify this even more.  Was this something you were consciously trying to accomplish when writing, or does it come out naturally?

Hivelords: We didn’t mean to scare ya. It’s not a contest for us to be the most evil or most brutal band.  The writing process for us is extremely organic.  We play the notes we want to hear and strive to write music that resonates with us. We don’t try to be any certain genre or cater to certain crowds. We’re just free as fuck.

TO: ‘Tapered Limbs of a Human Star’ was the first full length to feature Evan and Lydia on guitars.  With their addition to the band, what changes did you make to the way you approached the writing process compared to ‘Cavern Apothecary’?

Hivelords: The process has undergone many evolutions according to lineup changes.  We have a large riff-frigerator that we keep stocked.  Will used to be the main riff-giver, but now that he’s playing drums, Evan has become the Riff-father. The whole band puts the songs together, and many riffs/arrangements are altered and transformed in the process. We do strings-only sectionals to make our full band practices that much more productive. We’re looking forward to incorporating Lydia’s riff-mastery into the fold on the next record, as well as those fat Tyler bass lines. Will might even diddle a string or two when we get back into writing mode.

TO: I can hear a considerable progression from ‘The Cellar Scrolls’ to ‘Tapered Limbs of a Human Star’.  With that being said, what are some elements of your music you want to push further next time around or directions you haven’t gone in yet that you’d like to reach towards?

Hivelords: We want to improve all elements of our music. Melodies, harmonies, progressions, song structure. Musical “tricks,” all the good stuff we want to be better. We’d like to be interesting/unique/progressive but also be memorable and musical. Classical music is a big influence on Evan. He does most of his writing on an acoustic guitar. Striking a balance between complexity and accessibility is sort of a secondary goal, but more than anything we just love writing with each other.

TO: What are some of your non-musical influences?  Are there any writers, filmmakers, or any other mediums that have influenced and helped to shape the sound Hivelords has achieved?

Hivelords: Longmont Potion Castle, HP Lovecraft, The Godfather, The Invisibles, Metallica, the spirit world, trolls, punk houses, sultans, punishers, weirdos, jokes.  We love to laugh.

TO: Tim Buckley has done all of the album art for your EP’s and full lengths to date, and I feel like I’ve watched his artwork evolve alongside your material.  How did this working relationship come together, and have you given him general concepts to work with or let him listen to the music and have free reign?

Hivelords: We grew up with Tim.  He just has such a great understanding of what we’re doing.  He most definitely listens to the music to inspire the artwork, and the lyrics assist with that too.

TO: Going along with the previous question, how important is imagery like album artwork to your band and are there any visual aspects you’d like to expand upon as you move forward?

Hivelords: It’s definitely a large factor that we’d like to continue developing.  I feel like we’re starting to “come into our own” more so artistically and visually.  We want to be able to play a show with a custom made video that accompanies the set.

TO: You’ve kept everything DIY, booking tours yourself and releasing both full lengths on local Philly label Anthropic Records.  What do you think are the advantages of the DIY approach, and what advice would you give newer bands looking to go the same route?

Hivelords: We have “no ragrets” about being a DIY band.  We’ve made mistakes and learned from them and thusly touring has gotten easier because of it.  As far as advice goes – just being a nice person goes a long way. Be dumb, but don’t be too dumb. We have become comfortably dumb.

TO: Lydia is also in Surgeon, another great Philly band.  They don’t seem to tour nearly as much as you though, has there ever been any talk of doing an East Coast run of dates together?

Hivelords: Surgeon is releasing their album this summer, and was unable to tour prior to that because of members.  Since we share a van, it seems likely that a joint tour with Hivelords & Surgeon might occur at some point. Surgeon is touring soon with Master, August 30th to September 16th. Go check it out.

TO: Given your proximity to my local music scene in Baltimore, you’ve come down and played here quite a bit.  I feel that both Baltimore and Philly have great metal bands to offer, but haven’t had the chance to spend as much time in Philly as I’d like.  Being familiar with both, how would you compare the two cities and their respective metal scenes?

Hivelords: We are very fortunate that both cities have good metal scenes. We like playing Baltimore and Philadelphia.  I don’t think we’ve spent enough time in Baltimore to make a legitimate comparison, but we’ve been well received there. We played there last night at the Sidebar and it was spectacular.

TO: After this summer tour is over, what does Hivelords have planned for the rest of 2016?

Hivelords: We’re doing a few shows in August and then taking a break to write and record.  Thanks so much for the interview!

Hivelords | Anthropic Records

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