After a three-year long painful wait, Latitudes are back with their third album, Old Sunlight, offering the same crushing mix of sludge metal and cinematic rock atmosphere. This time around, the Hertfordshire quintet spiced their instrumental rock up with the addition of a permanent vocalist alongside a more predominant prog-rock feel, reminiscent of King Crimson and the like. The result is a captivating (close to an) hour of atmospheric, semi-instrumental, modern rock. I had the pleasure to chat with Jon (bass) about the new album and more. For your reading and hearing pleasure, here’s what we talked about:
I’ve personally followed you since 2009 and have to say this new record was a pleasure to listen to. It’s fantastic to see how much your music has progressed and continues to evolve over the years, and especially how “personal” it sounds. “Old Sunlight” is your first album in 3 years, what has changed for Latitudes since the release of “Individuation”?
Cheers man – really happy to hear you’re enjoying the record!
Since Individuation our keyboard player Rich Harper departed and Adam Symonds – who has provided guest vocals in studio and live since 2008 – became a permanent member of the band on vocals/keys. This really helped integrate his voice fully within the Old Sunlight material and offers us so much additional writing potential for the future.
We’re still immensely proud of Individuation and feel we accomplished our task of creating something huge and at least verging on original, simultaneously channeling heavier (black, death) and more progressive influences into our sound – maybe a few were disappointed that it wasn’t Agonist Mk II but we’ve no intention of ever repeating ourselves.
When it came to working on new material we had no mission whatsoever other than to craft the best riffs and songs possible, naturally assimilating our influences into a style we think of as our own – ensuring there were no wasted moments, no ‘down-time’, no riffs or transitions weaker than others. Everything was honed to sound as seamless as possible to our ears. There were far fewer writing-arguments than ever before! As a unit we really pulled together and were on the same page.
We also changed label for the release of Old Sunlight – after being on Shelsmusic since pretty much our inception, we decided the time was right for something new. Phil from Debemur Morti Productions convinced us within minutes of talking to him that he genuinely loved the album and would pull out all the stops for us – they’ve been so brilliant to work with and I’m ecstatic to be on the same label as In the Woods and Blut Aus Nord – 2 of my favourite bands of all time!
When listening to Old Sunlight, one (especially if familiar with your previous material) cannot help but notice a much broader array of influences contaminating your music. How did these influences surfaced? Was it something you always had the intention to, and finally felt confident to do, or they sort of sprung out naturally during the writing process?
Personally I feel that the same additional influences were all present on Individuation – but maybe just not as well subsumed into the whole. I’d say that black metal, doom, death metal, hardcore, prog and even folk and electronic music were equally influential/inspirational for both records. Some influences are more subtle than others obviously!
But the riff remains King. I’ve always liked to describe our riffs as ‘hybrid’ because to me they infer many different strains of metal. On this album I honestly don’t think of our riffs as being typically post-metal or Pelican-like although a lot of people seem to hear them that way! Maybe it’s my ears.
How did the recording process for Old Sunlight differ from its predecessors’?
Instead of our usual mission to the remote Foel Studio in Wales as for the preceding 2 records, this time we followed our regular producer Chris Fielding across to Skyhammer Studio in Cheshire. Run by Jon from Conan, as you’d expect, the studio is stocked with the requisite heavy-weight gear primed to produce a huge-sounding album. Since moving to Skyhammer Chris had continued to produce a stream of great sounding dark and atmospheric underground albums so this was an obvious choice for us. Getting the guitars melodically clear and bright at the top but with bottom-end depth was especially important and Chris nailed it. Working with Chris is an absolute pleasure – the man is meticulous, dedicated and a diamond geezer – we’re sure to return in future.
We decided to get James Plotkin to master the record – a specific master for each format – to provide the extra depth and dynamic range he’s renowned for. We’re really happy with how things turned out. An old cliché but this record really does sound great on vinyl!
How do you think Old Sunlight relates to its predecessors?
Same inventiveness in rhythm, same bludgeoning approach to riffing, same use of counter-point and harmony, same obsession with melody, same subtle use of keys and underlying soundscapes, same lovelorn clean vocals.
The formula that came together on Agonist and we expanded through Individuation now seems fully honed and solidified into our ‘sound’. Even when people constantly compare us to particular bands – I’m still confident that we have our own place. To be honest if I wasn’t, am not sure I’d still be doing this after 10 years – there are too many bands in the world!
What would you say was the major inspiration behind the record and its content? And to your development as a band?
Difficult question as we all have different drivers, influences, motivations. The overarching subliminal inspiration is surely a cry against the impotence of those at the bottom of society in the face of rampant capitalism, privatization and the imminent death of altruism. The daily grind basically. As primary band lyricist until now my input was to explore dissatisfactions with how life is developing politically through manifestations in the personal – challenging interrelations with those closest to you as a result of everyday pressures.
The major inspiration to our development as a band is a quest to produce an album to stand with equal footing alongside the records we love – we’re heading in the right direction.
Do you have a favourite track from the record?
Since the beginning of the band I’ve always loved the idea of fully channeling the classic instrumental Metallica of Call of Ktulu, Orion and To Live is to Die – some of my favourite music of all time. I think ‘Altarpieces’ is the closest we’ve got yet, there’s even a cheeky Metallica guitar lift in there! ‘Body within a Body’ is also pretty special to me through the emotion Adam brought to the lyrics and how the arrangement and song-writing came together.
Can you tell us a bit more about the album’s artwork? (I personally loved it!)
Artwork is by Austrian artist/designer Thomas Neulinger who we’ve been in contact with over the years and who does all art/design for our good friends in Necro Deathmort. It was partly inspired by the photographic work of Giles Revell (http://www.gilesrevell.com); part inspired by the lyrics/song-titles and mostly inspired by Thomas’s brilliant mind. We’re all so pleased with how it came together.
Now that the music has changed to incorporate broader influences and styles how will these changes be incorporated in your live performances? How do you think to replicate these songs live?
We’ve been playing a couple of these songs live for over a year and played 4 songs from Old Sunlight at our recent album launch to good feedback. Playing live with Adam S in the band and including more vocal tracks has changed the focus of our live sets but is proving very refreshing indeed. The real test is to take ‘Body within a Body’ live due to the layers of vocals in the clean mid-section – we’re working on it!
Touring plans for the coming months?
We’re playing Bristol with Conan in April and are also due to be announced for a cool late-April festival in Leeds very soon. Juggling work, family and the band is an ongoing struggle but we’re looking to tour mainland Europe if not this year then early next.
In the past 3 to 5 years there has been a surprising amount of excellent music coming out of the UK, especially in the field of post/sludge/atmospheric metal, mostly from younger bands. Do you believe it’s a mere coincidence or we could potentially be witnessing a re-blossoming of this genre?
I’m not sure about genre but there are certainly some great British bands out there – our friends Bast, Necro Deathmort, Ageless Oblivion and Telepathy for starters. Playing at ArcTanGent festival showed us just how many British instrumental and/or ‘post’ rock/metal bands are out there and while it’s not a genre I listen to as much anymore, they’re all tight as shit. Bands like Slabdragger, Ghold and Sonance are all constantly getting good props and personally I have much love for Abyssal, Sarpanitum, Esoteric, Grave Miasma and Cruciamentum. Although none of those dudes could be described as ‘younger bands’. A bit like us! Ha ha.
In a way, we could also look at the genre’s newly found popularity as the beginning of a new movement in European metal music. Do you as a band feel like you belong to a broader community who shares common interests in music or it’s sort of everyone doing their own thing and putting it out there?
The community we feel most part of is the one we meet through playing and going to gigs. We play with and watch a wide spectrum of bands and don’t like to keep things too genre-specific. We’re not massively connected to any post-metal community. Being signed to Debemur Morti has also opened up a whole new community of bands and listeners for us to engage with.
Also, I’m not one for getting involved online – more of a reader/stalker – but the internet throws so many amazing bands daily into our faces/ears. Metal is in a wonderful place at the moment – Profound Lore, Fallen Empire, Gilead Media, 20 Buck Spin, Dark Descent – constantly listening to and reading about the output of brilliant labels such as these makes you feel part of the bigger picture and constantly interconnected with it.
Finally, are there other artists that stand out to you and you would like to recommend to our readers? Even outside of the realm of music (books, movies, art, food, etc.)?
As tribute to our new record label I’ll go French for this:
Record: Aluk Todolo – Voix
Book: Michel Houellebecq – Submission
Artist: Odilon Redon
Thanks so much for the support!
Thanks to Latitudes and Cedric from Debemur Morti Productions for making this interview possible. Old Sunlight came out under Debemur Morti Productions on January 22nd. Order it here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/latitudes/528-latitudes-old-sunlight-vinyl.html