As many of you may know by this point, legendary progressive metal band Rosetta have a new record coming out this summer. The album will be called Quintessential Ephemera and will be the first record to feature 5 full members. Oh, you already knew that as well?
By this point you might ask “what’s up with all this?” Well, here at Arctic Drones we have been working harder than ever to offer you something new and refreshing and after weeks of trepidation we’re proud to offer you an exclusive new track from Rosetta’s upcoming masterpiece and an interview with the band’s lead guitarist, Matt Weed.
Despite the band’s hectic touring schedule, Matt has been kind enough to dedicate some of his time to answer some of our most obvious and annoying questions and reveal us some of the secrets behind this record.
Stream this new track, Untitled I, below and read the interview with Matt.
Quintessential Ephemera comes out July 3rd. Preorder links below!
Warning: awesomeness to follow…
ROSETTA’S MATT WEED TALKS NEW ALBUM AND MORE
How was it working with a fifth member and did that alter the way you approach and record your music?
The core process itself didn’t change that much, because we’ve always been a democratic band where every member is responsible for writing their own parts as well as contributing new ideas for the group to work with. We just had another creative voice adding to that. But a lot of the details did change – Eric lives in New York while the rest of us live in Philadelphia, so we would get together one or two weekends each month and have marathon 10-hour sessions on several consecutive days. The vocal process had to change significantly, since Armine has always been 95% responsible for that in the past. On this album, everyone in the band sang at least a little, and everyone was involved with writing the lyrics and vocal melodies, even if someone else was singing the part in question. So the level of collaboration got even deeper than in the past.
One cannot help but notice that most songs on the album are simply left untitled. Was this intentional? What was the main idea behind the record?
It was a decision we made after recording them. They all had working titles to refer to them easily, but those were all jokes (we’ve always done this). It was more that any titles we came up with felt overly contrived and like they would unnaturally color the experience of listening to those songs. We wanted them just to speak for themselves, and to be seen as part of a larger work, not just a collection of individual pieces. The album has a very definite core concept – dealing with the way we live disembodied through technology, hyper-focused on pointless minutiae while the world is sinking around us – but we didn’t want to beat people over the heads with that.
How about the title? Can you tell us a little more about what inspired the record?
‘Quintessential Ephemera’ came up during a discussion at practice about user-generated content on the internet and how it isn’t really ‘content’ per sé, it’s more a pure abstraction of meaningless form. It’s an addictive distraction to keep people engaged on social media platforms.
Historian Allan Brandt wrote a book called The Cigarette Century, about the rise of tobacco in the 20th century and how cigarettes became the ultimate consumer product, used up and discarded without any measurable benefits, yet deeply habit-forming and part of social identity (despite ultimately killing their users). He calls cigarettes the quintessential ephemera of the 20th century. Slavoj Zizek talks about the same idea, but in reference to caffeine-free Diet Coke, in The Fragile Absolute – he calls it a “distillation of pure exchange value” or pure commodity, or more memorably “nothing in the guise of something.”
That phrase summed up our disgust with the state of online discourse so neatly that it became the title of the last song on the album. We were asking, what’s the quintessential ephemera of the 21st century? Probably cat videos and internet memes. We’ve taken this bizarre need to consume form without content and moved it over into the realm of virtual reality, making it even more empty than it was with consumer commodities. There’s now more communication, more expression, more information than ever before, but what does it amount to? Not much.
While listening to the record i had the impression that you as a band are evolving and your music is evolving with you. How different do you consider this album from the Flies EP and the Anaesthete?
Well, Flies to Flame was intended to be a retrospective, where we drew on both the sounds and techniques of our earlier years. It was unfortunate that its release was delayed until after The Anaesthete came out, because it was actually written and recorded long before. It was the way we achieved some closure on our departure from the old material. The Anaesthete was just pure unbridled anger. I didn’t see it as such at the time, but now that I look back on it, it’s a really really angry album, and it very deliberately has exhausting sequencing and an emphasis on degradation and disintegration. It’s not about death, but it is about giving up – the ending is really bleak. In that respect, I’m proud of the alienation that it caused, because I think that it made the statement that we wanted it to make at the time, and it was the honest record to make then.
I think Quintessential Ephemera will also cause some alienation, but for the opposite reason – it’s much more nuanced, it’s playful in some ways, and has a lot of hope in it. It deals with existential themes but it’s not intended to be dark or depressing; I think it really has a lot of light in it. It’s not ‘heavy’ in the way that most people will expect from a band like us.
There’s also a higher emphasis on clean vocals. Was it a natural process or a later decision that followed the inclusion of Eric as well?
We always knew that adding Eric would mean adding new vocal elements. That was just part of the deal. We had experimented a few times with clean vocals in the past, but Dave’s and Armine’s voices just couldn’t be more different. Eric provided a middle ground to bridge that gap, so all of a sudden we had a full continuum of vocal techniques available rather than just polar opposites. That led to everyone contributing. I sang harmonies (which I’ve never done on a Rosetta record before) and so did BJ. Everyone got a vocal credit when it was all said and done. Which is funny, because the album is the most guitar-centric and counterpoint-driven thing we’ve ever done. It seems like there are vocals all over the place, yet three of the nine tracks are instrumental.
Any touring plans for the summer and beyond?
We’ll be here and there in North America in the summer and fall, and in continental Europe for three weeks during August. We’re looking at visiting some totally new places next year, but it’s all still just in the planning stages.
Any interesting bands/artists you have discovered recently? Anything you’d want to recommend to our readers?
You know I’ve been a fan of the band Oceansize for over a decade now, but I felt like I really rediscovered their discography in a new way last year, and probably listened to that more than anything else while we were writing the new album. I pestered Dave and Eric to listen to Oceansize too, and I think you can hear that in our new record. Their material has aged incredibly well. I’m also a big drone fan and I think that the AWVFTS record that came out last year might be the best thing I’ve ever heard in that genre (even though it totally transcends the style). Probably no one has had more influence on the way I play guitar than Adam Wiltzie, as weird as that might sound.
I have always had the impression (and correct me if I’m wrong) that you guys are kind of out of the schemes and don’t really associate with the metal scene your music is usually associated with. Is it because your music is always been hard to categorize or because you’ve never been interested in this kind of relations? Is it just an impression?
I definitely feel disconnected from any sort of community. A lot of that is just that we’ve been a band for 12 years, so most of the bands we were friends with when we first began touring are gone now. Philadelphia seems to be producing a lot of well-known punk bands these days, but that has very little to do with us. The other part of it is that we don’t often end up on package tours, mainly because we’re always trying to get to further and further places than we’ve been before. That’s also partly a penalty for the openly anti-music-industry stance that we’ve taken over the past few years, shunning a lot of the business apparatus and middlemen that are normal for mid-level touring bands. Because we operate outside of normal structures, it means that we often miss out on relationships happening inside those structures.
You guys are also very active with other medias like photography, art, and film. What are some of the artists that you would like to collaborate with?
Thomas Köner comes to mind, but I think that’s unrealistic. I’m a huge fan of his records but also love the way that he emphasizes multimedia and performance. In general I’d like to get more into doing drone-based scores for independent video games (for example, I loved the way that music and sonics were used in the game Kentucky Route Zero) and films.
Outside of Rosetta, how’s life for the members of Rosetta?
We’re getting older. The future isn’t as vast and unknowable as it used to be; it has more defined parameters and boundaries. I guess we’re settling down? Hard to say. We all work a lot. The band largely supports itself but we don’t individually make money from it, so being busy is an ever-present reality.
Do you find it hard to commit to a band and still try to live normal, day to day lives?
It’s basically impossible. Any idea of ‘normal’ got abandoned a long time ago, I think. There just isn’t time to do everything you’d like to do, so you have to be really careful what you say yes to. It prevents you from getting the kind of employment that allows you to live comfortably, and you end up using all your vacation time on touring. It takes a heavy toll on people close to you.
Any final thoughts or requests?
Let’s all go outside.
And following this great advice from Matt, let’s all drop whatever it is we’re doing and just be outside. Just don’t forget to grab your earphones and listen to the new exclusive Rosetta track, Untitled I.
Thanks to Matt Weed and Magnus from Creative Eclipse to have made this interview possible.