Soothsayer Interview: “I divine things with entrails”

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soothsayer interview

New EP At This Great Depth is out December 30th via Transcending Obscurity Records.

Ploughing a deep trench of atmospheric doom metal, Cork based group Soothsayer have carved themselves out quite a place in the Irish metal scene as one of the most promising new bands to recently emerge. Their debut EP, The Soothsayer, was a 30 minutes barrage of intensity and trudging aggression. For their second EP At This Great Depth, they’ve signed to Transcending Obscurity Records. The first cut from the release is ‘Umpire’ which builds on their solid foundation to create a more coherent, confident, and crushing beast.

They told us about their song writing process, their plans for a debut album, and discussed their soothsayer abilities.

Overblown: The first EP got a pretty warm reception. Were you surprised at how well received it was?

Soothsayer: I think we were quite surprised that we got a reception at all really. We had played a fair few gigs before it came out and they were always well received but we weren’t sure if that energy would translate to the EP. I hope it did.

O: Pavel (bass) has just joined the band recently. Has that changed the dynamic of the group?

S: It has a bit. We don’t play the songs the same way that we used to. We have a tendency to change songs a fair bit anyway. We’re never quite happy with what we have. But there has been changes since Pavel joined. We were of the mind that we didn’t want someone to just learn off the previous bass parts identically. Not that they’re not worth learning off, but we wanted someone to be able to come in and put their own stamp on it.

O: So the new EP. Was that written before Pavel joined the band?

S: Those two songs were written while we were recording the first EP. Before we recorded the first one even.

O: Why didn’t you put those songs on the first EP?

S: I think at the time we were more confident with the first three songs. We just wanted to get those recorded. They’re a very different vibe as well. I don’t think they would have slotted in with the ones on the first EP. We’ve been through a few bassists which has altered the sound. It’s a bit of a Spinal Tap situation.

O: Do they explode?

S: Yeah, they leave green blobs on the stage.

O: I’ve listened to the new EP and think it’s very cool. Particularly ‘Umpire’. I think it sounds more confident. Were these songs more collaborative?

S: I think even the first three songs were collaborative. Con (Doyle guitars/vocals) had the bare bones of them and the lads came in and did their thing on them. When you say the new songs sounds more confident I think it is because we are more aware of what the other people are going to do in a given situation. The first ones are a bit doomier and these ones have a bit more of a black metal vibe in some bits.

O: Any goals with the new EP?

S: I think we had zero goals. Just write the songs and record them. It’s a bonus if people want to listen to them. The ideal would be that the EP might be a springboard to go and play abroad. Living on a island limits your fanbase and we’re not the most accessible type of metal. Maybe some people might think that means we’ve limited ourselves.

O: Sometimes having more a focus on a niche is better than being more general. I saw you entered the Metal 2 The Masses competition for a slot at Bloodstock and got to the semi final but Ten Ton Slug and Two Tales of Woe won.

S: Yeah, they’re both great bands in fairness. We got through as the wild card from the first round which was surprising because before our set Con set up his stuff and went out for a fag. When he came back in someone must have kicked his pedals in the meantime because when he started playing he had this warbled underwater effect. As our songs are long, he didn’t get a chance to fix the pedals and ended up playing most of the gig with that warbled underwater effect. We somehow got the wildcard. I think we played extremely well in the semi final but people voted for the other bands. The name Ten Ton Slug is a bit misleading though. None of them are giant slugs.

O: Are you soothsayers?

S: Oh yeah. I divine things with entrails. I foresaw that question.

O: You’re playing the Siege of Limerick.

S: It’s been a year since we played. Last time was when we released the EP so people had only kind of heard of us. We’re looking forward to this one because we’re hoping people will have listened to us a bit more. And we’re higher up the bill this time too so hopefully we’ll have a bigger audience. Although it was very good that we were on early last time. We went on the piss. The Siege is an endurance contest.

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O: What’s next?

S: An album. That’s the big goal. I reckon, fingers crossed, we’ll be recording it at the start of next year. We have material written and just need a few more songs.

O: Would you consider making something super long or more concise?

S: Super long. Value for money. We could advertise the album as cents per minute.

O: You organised the DAWG fundraiser that featured Ealadha, Wrain and The Magnapinna. Why is the Dog Action Welfare Group important to you?

S: It’s important because it’s quite literally a matter of life and death. If kids were being dumped on the steps of an orphanage sick, beaten and hungry to the extent that it’s happening to dogs in this country, there’d be a huge public outcry, but because this is happening to animals, it’s somehow less of an issue. DAWG are doing great work to make things better, but unfortunately don’t get much, if any, funding, so anything i can do to help, i will. Plus, it’s a damn good reason to play music and drink pints.

O: What is success to Soothsayer?

S: Success to us would be to be able to continue to play the music we love in front of people, without having to modify it or feel that we have to play a certain setlist (the hits) to justify being on stage. Sure, it would be great to be playing in front of thousands every night, but more important to us is the ability to do what we love, so our passion for it shines through. Take for example the Stones. Great band, but they’re caught in this trap of having to play the hits, because their thousands of fans expect to hear the hits. On the other hand there’s the likes of Robin Williamson (The Incredible String Band) who plays dingy folk clubs in front of a handful of people, but plays whatever the fuck he wants. rocked up versions of obscure Guatemalan folks songs about toenail clippings, he’s on it. And he doesn’t give a fuck, because that’s what he wants to do. It’d be nice to play the songs that you love and have thousands of adoring fans hang on your every note, but if i had to pick one or the other, i’d be a Williamson over a Jagger any day.

Photography by Shane J Horan.

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