Searching for the Sun
melodic progressive rock with stunning female vocals
album review and artist reflections
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Interview, Review & HTML © Russell W Elliot 2002
Images © Jason Gray 2002 | used with permission
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Last updated: 20 July 2002
Based in Northern Virginia, Brave is built from the core of progressive rock band Arise From Thorns (feature) whose self-titled album (1997) and follow-up Before an Audience of Stars (1999) received critical acclaim. Lineup and other developments led to a band name change and style shift in 2000 with the release of the stunning EP "Waist Deep In Dark Waters" (review). Our exclusive interview with vocalist Michelle Loose and album review follow below.
Signed to Dark Symphonies in the run up to the release of EP, Before an Audience of Stars (review) was re-issued with three bonus tracks and new artwork by Mike Riddick. With the name change, the music has taken a slightly more progressive direction while retaining the passion and atmosphere of the original material. Riddick also created the artwork used in the band's latest album.
The band's latest project entitled Searching for the Sun was recorded between February and April 2002 at Assembly Line Studios. Engineerd by Kevin Guitierrez and co-produced by Brave, the album's material features elements of progressive metal, contemporary rock and pop. Mastered by Bill Wolf Productions in Falls Church, Virginia, the album is considered an hour devoted to the most emotional, powerful and beautiful music Brave has ever created.
Michelle Loose Interview
Musical Discoveries: Please tell us what happened to the tracks on the "Waist Deep In Dark Waters" EP on the way to the new album.
Michelle: We recorded the EP back in the fall/winter of 2000 with the idea that we would be shopping labels with the EP and we were anxious to get something out with the new band name BRAVE. We had just changed our name from Arise From Thorns. As with all of our recorded material, we wanted to show where we were at musically and emotionally at the time of the recording.
At this time we were working with a good friend of ours, Tom Phillips, of the doom metal band While Heaven Wept. Tom痴 presence on the EP is definitely felt, in terms of there being a more progressive metal aspect to our sound at the time. Tom wrote track three, "Lost in Retrospect" and he largely contributed to the last song "To Search a Soul" which we were planning on continuing the song on the next album.
What happened then?
Shortly after the release of the EP, we parted ways with Tom and the material we wrote after his departure did not really retain the linear metal aspects that Tom had previously contributed. The music we did write consisted of the same lineup as the older Arise From Thorns material, so I think the songs on the new CD do have a similar feel to the older AFT material. The music we still try to create is passionate and melodic and that will never change, no matter what the lineup is.
There appear to be three clear styles on the new album. How would you characterise them?
There are definitely traces of metal, melodic/progressive rock and occasionally you can even identify a more adult contemporary sound. We get comparisons to everyone from The Gathering to Tori Amos to King Crimson. One of our biggest dilemmas has been trying to categorize our sound and to be honest with you I have a hard time pinpointing why our sound is different. It may have to due with the fact that we all have different musical influences.
And where would you place your music in the "genre spectrum"?
I usually tell people that have never heard us that if they like bands such as Queensryche, Fates Warning, Rush, King Crimson, Tori Amos, Led Zeppelin, Sting, Genesis and Anathema then they may enjoy our music. In the genre spectrum, I would classify us as melodic rock with female vocals.
We've noticed a distinct development in the vocal harmonies. Please tell us about the arrangements.
Wow, you are the first to have asked me about this! I definitely spent a lot more time developing and working on vocal harmonies. I致e always wanted to do more harmonies, but had a hard time figuring our how to write them. This time I had the help of a home computer software program that I could essentially plug a mic into a mixer and experiment with recording multiple tracks. This really helped me figure out how to arrange harmonies.
I wrote so many harmonies that I had to eliminate some in the studio because I felt that there was a little bit too much. I would say about half of the harmonies that I originally wrote made it on the album. I love arranging multiple vocal tracks! I had so much fun writing them that I can guarantee there will be lots of harmonies on every recording we do from now on! My favorite harmonies on Searching for the Sun are on the songs "Bleed Into Me" and "I Believe" which I was actually a bit hesitant about at first because there is a three-part harmony on the chorus and it reminded me of a bit of a county song!
Did you have any further vocal training or did you just continue to develop more or less along the same axis as you began?
I still have not pursued vocal training, but I知 not opposed to the idea. I知 a bit afraid to take lessons because I am comfortable with my own style and technique and I知 worried that I will be told that I知 doing everything wrong! I think that with each live performance and with each recording I continue to gain confidence in my singing and that has helped me to become a better singer. I think one day I will pursue formal vocal training just to see what it is like and so that I can learn what I need to be doing!
How was the recording done?
Each recording experience has been a little bit different. We used to spend months at a time in the studio--not consecutive days, but days here and there--and we would do a lot of re-arranging and experimenting in the studio, on the clock! We used to spend more time in the studio experimenting with nuances instead of doing this at home because at the time we had no way of recording at home, so it was hard to experiment with multiple tracks.
When we recorded Searching for the Sun we recorded everything at home first and made sure we knew what we were doing. We did not have a big budget for this recording, so we wanted to save as much money as possible and we made sure we were well rehearsed and prepared for the studio. We ended up recording everything really quickly.
As for the actual recording process, we have everyone set up in multiple rooms in the studio. We first lay out record the drum tracks with scratch vocals, bass, guitars and keys. Once the drums are completed, we go back and record the rest of the instruments, starting with bass and keyboards, then guitars and finally vocals.
Scott and Trevor especially are like machines, most of the tracks for them are first takes. Overall we recorded this CD very quickly. We recorded, mixed and mastered for just a little bit over $4,000.00, which is very good for a full length CD!
And the writing--how did it all come together?
I would say 90% of the time Scott comes up with a main guitar line/riff and we all add our own spices to the mix. Trevor will add the drum sections, Chris will add a bass line and I値l come up with a vocal and keyboard melody and we take it from there. Sometimes songs are written on the spot and are nearly completed from the first time we jam something.
Songs such as "Before Nightfall," "New Beginning" and "Escape" were written very quickly. Other songs such as "Falling Into Bliss" and "I Believe" took a bit longer to figure out the arrangements.
Where did you find the inspiration for the lyrics?
Again, Scott writes the majority of the lyrics, but Trevor and I also contributed to the songs. We all write based on personal experiences and personal perceptions of events taking place around us. I think lyrically this CD is not as dark as past recordings because at the time we wrote these we all felt pretty happy!
9/11 had just happened and we all felt a personal sense of just feeling thankful that ourselves and our friends and family were ok after the terrorist attacks. I know personally at this time I felt very happy and very much in love and that is where the inspirations for songs like "I Believe" and "Falling Into Bliss" came from.
It's been a long time since the last EP and the earlier albums. What took all the time?
It took a little over a year to get back into the studio after we recorded the EP. We went through a couple of lineup changes, we were no longer working with Tom Phillips and we began working with another friend on keys and guitar and unfortunately that did not work out at all. So we took some time for the four of us to get our heads together. We also played a lot of shows during this time and wrote a lot of material.
There are many songs that we wrote that did not make it on this CD, so we really spent a lot of time writing. Finally the time was right in late February/March of this year and we had selected the 'final cut' of songs for the album and went into the studio!
Tell us all about your live performances. What have the audiences thought?
We have played a lot of shows, some of them consisting of playing for six people in a small, smoky bar in Northern Virginia and others opening for national acts such as Fates Warning, Savatage, Spock痴 Beard, Lacuna Coil and Moonspell for as many as 800 people at a show. No matter the show, or the size of the turnout, I think we learn something new about ourselves as performers and musicians with each performance. The audiences are usually pretty supportive, some shows more that others, but I think that is to be expected.
How have the people at the new label treated you?
Everyone at Dark Symphonies has been great. They really do all that they can to promote the CD and they have been very supportive about giving us creative freedom in terms of the music and the artwork for the CD. They are a very respectable group of people to work with!
Since the earlier albums there have been some lineup changes. Please give us your views on them and how the new members are working out.
As I mentioned previously, we have been through several lineup changes. Currently we have a new keyboardist and guitarist named Juan Somarriba. He is a great guy and is very flexible in terms of playing guitar or keyboards which is exactly what we needed.
We also have a brand new member named Suvo Sur playing violin and keyboards.
Do you plan any collaborations with artists from other bands?
We have done guest recordings with other bands. I recently sang on new releases for a band called Division and another band called Power of Omens, both power metal bands. Scott also just recorded guitars for While Heaven Wept, again working with Tom Phillips. Trevor also does a lot of studio work for local musicians.
In terms of other musicians playing with us, it has not happened yet, but I would love to collaborate with other bands.
Where is the band headed next?
Right now we are focused on promoting the new album and playing out as much as possible. I知 actually doing this interview right now on a laptop in the car, driving to a gig in Cincinnati, Ohio. We are always anxious to get back into the studio so I知 sure we値l start writing again very soon. As for future albums, I知 not sure musically what to expect yet. I知 sure it will be diverse though.
How do you think the internet has helped the band?
Absolutely, the internet has helped us tremendously! I can稚 imagine we would have any of the fans and contacts that we do without the help of the internet. I wonder what bands did before the internet age. It is hard to imagine how things were done only 10 or 20 years ago!
Thanks so much for the interview and for supporting us from the beginning!
Searching for the Sun Review
Searching For The Sun (Dark Symphonies (USA) Dark 17, 2002) is comprised of eleven varied tracks that chart the Brave's progression from their earlier incarnation and their debut EP, "Waist Deep In Dark Waters." While one instrumental graces the new album, the band is clearly fronted by Michelle's crystalline vocals supported by her keyboard excursions. The Brave lineup also consists of Trevor Schrotz(drums), Chris Welborn (bass), Juan Somarriba (guitars) and Scott Loose (guitars). The collection of mostly shorter tracks blend together to form a progressive-oriented album.
The album opens with "Escape" which has certainly has grown from the Arise From Thorns sound with metal-edged guitar melodies and gently produced vocal harmonies. Michelle's powerful crystalline vocals explore her entire range. Crisp percussion and guitar effects underscore the rhythmic "I Believe" which continues with thick guitars to explore the band's more metal-edged sound. Layers of Michelle's backing vocals add tremendous texture balancing the power of the instrumentals. A fast-paced guitar solo in the bridge is most enjoyable. "Trapped Inside" is a thickly arranged and rhythmic electric guitar-based number, with their solo excursions found within the bridge. An interesting contrast, Michelle's vocalise provides the softening element.
The upbeat "Falling Into Bliss," laced with lovely vocal harmonies and gentle instrumental arrangements blending electric with acoustic guitar, is one of the more accessible tracks on the album. Backing vocal layers appropriately blend with the highly memorable lead. "Before Nightfall" is the first of three sequentially arranged tracks that have been woven together to form a lovely masterpiece. The first of Brave's ballads on the album, Michelle's vocal layers and Scott's acoustic guitar form the melodic foundation of the song. "To Dream Again" is the album's one--albeit everso brief clocking in at 2:30--total instrumental. Driven by Michelle's keyboards, their effects and accompanied by gentle electric guitar, it serves as a bridge between the two vocal numbers and blends into the album's standout "Bleed Into Me."
An upbeat rock number with a very memorable melody, "Bleed Into Me" blends rhythmic electric guitar and the lushest vocal harmonies of the album with Michelle's sensually sung crystalline lead vocal. Keyboard textures in the chorus provide the perfect blend. "New Beginning" is one of Brave's more dynamic tracks but one where from the softest of verses, Michelle's vocals soar well above the rhythmic metal-edged progressive guitar sounds in the track's chorus and offset the edge of the electric guitars. "Out Of Focus" continues to explore the band's new found sound, blending progressive rhythms with edgy guitar parts and powerfully soaring vocals.
Sung with only piano as her accompaniment in the beginning movements of the track, Michelle's vocal melody carries the lovely--standout--ballad "Candle in the Dark." The backing harmonies in this number are widely spaced and provide the listener an illusion of a backing vocalist. Tender keyboard textures develop in the final sections of the song. The album concludes with the progressive rocker "Waiting all this Time," effectively capping off the time-based themes developed within it and blending the styles--including a funky guitar rhythm--into a cohesive whole. Lush instrumental bridges blend guitar solos with progressive styled keyboards and alternate with the rich vocal arrangements of the choruses.
Searching for the Sun is a clear sonic evolution from Brave's former albums and is influenced by the direction of their EP. The album's lush vocal harmonies and rich instrumental arrangements set it aside from the band's earlier work. Michelle's vocals have developed significantly in both clarity and range and are perfectly complimented by the band's songwriting. Brave's music should be explored further by progressive and alternative rock enthusiasts. Worthy of a trans-Atlantic journey, this new album is most certainly a must listen!
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