ASCENDIA - “We Honestly Love The Fact That We’re Different”
March 26, 2015, 6 years ago
Toronto-based symphonic/progressive metal band, Ascendia, plays from the heart on its debut release, The Lion And The Jester. Formed in 2012, the young Canadian outfit has a diverse palette with influences greatly inspired by modern prog metal bands such as Kamelot and Symphony X. Kelley Simms of BraveWords had the chance to chat with drummer Billy Lov about the new album, the band’s influences and what it’s like being in a band with his brother.
BraveWords: Ascendia possess a great mix of sounds. How did all your influences come together?
Billy Lov: “We have many influences from an array of different genres that played a huge role in the creation of The Lion And The Jester. Our main goal was to create an album with balance. Since we have a very wide scope of influences, our pallets are diverse, which gave us a lot of freedom in the creative process. At times it was challenging to incorporate all our influences into the mix with our own pioneered sound, but we made it happen and it essentially led to the blended sound that is Ascendia.”
BraveWords: A lot of the album reminds me of Kamelot or Symphony X. Were they an influence on the band?
Billy Lov: “I guess it’s quite obvious that we love them. We have listened to both bands for as long as I can remember. They were both large influences for The Lion And The Jester. That being said, we’ve always had a strong focus on creating a unique original sound.”
BraveWords: Your first composition was the acoustic ballad, “Starlit Eyes,” and it’s included as a bonus track on The Lion And The Jester. Was that an afterthought, or did it make sense to include it on the full-length?
Billy Lov: “It was up for a bit of debate in the very beginning, but we ultimately decided to keep it as a bonus track on the record. All of us in the band listen to many genres of music, not just metal, so we wanted to pay tribute to our versatile musical tastes. “Starlit Eyes” has more of a Rock ’n’ Roll vibe to it than the other tracks, which makes it special and a bit of an ear change.”
BraveWords: How many years was The Lion And The Jester in the making?
Billy Lov: “This album technically has been around three years in the making. As a musician or any artist for that matter, nothing is ever good enough. We were writing ideas, then rewriting those ideas, then scrapping parts we didn’t like and nurturing ideas we did like. Creating an album is not just writing twelve songs and slapping them together, there’s so much more to it than that. It was no longer about writing great parts on your instrument; it was about creating a great song. Over the process of the album we really learned how to write with each other, and although it may seem cliché, the biggest thing we learned was less can be so much more.”
BraveWords: With the band’s progressive/power metal sound, and even the incorporation of symphonic elements, it kind of sets you apart from other bands in the Canadian scene, especially from the death metal scene that is huge in Quebec.
Billy Lov: “We are well aware of the great bands we have here in Canada, and the numerous amounts of sub-genres. We all love listening to crazy heavy bands, but I don’t think as musicians we've ever wanted to write in that style. Although screaming is an art that we all thoroughly love, clean vocals has always seemed to appeal to us more. We honestly love the fact that we’re different and although it poses hardship and troubles at times, we truly believe it sets us apart from other bands around here.”
BraveWords: The album has a great production created by Stephen James Kerr and yourselves. What type of sound were you going for and did it turn out how you hoped it would?
Billy Lov: “First off, we would like to say that there is no person we would have rather had for the job than Stephen James Kerr. We told him that we wanted the mix to sound modern, but subtle in its production (not over produced). We also gave him the freedom to create a mix that complimented the songs; basically bring them to life. In the end, he did an amazing job and surpassed all of our expectations. The best analogy I can give you is that we presented him a well-built statue and he was the one who dipped it in gold. The sound came out exactly like all of us wanted to; otherwise we would have never released the album.”
BraveWords: As a drummer myself, I love the intro tribal drum rudiment on “At The End Of It All.” How’d you come up with that beat?
Billy Lov: “We were trying to create a section that was not commonly heard in western society. We had this very Arabic vocal line that needed something more intricate than just a standard rock beat. The tom pattern came naturally when we first began experimenting with it and jamming it out. We also wanted to build up to the section where the whole band kicks in. That “drop” needed to smash you in the face, and besides the band kicking in, a huge part of what made it so big was going from a very clustered tribal tom pattern to an open lock up beat with lots of air and breath between it.”
BraveWords: You and your brother John have been performing together since your early teens. How do you guys get along as brothers and as band mates?
Billy Lov: “John and I are so close and always have been. He’s my best friend and my partner in everything I do. We know so much about each other it’s ridiculous, which is what allows us to collaborate so well together. He knows my strengths and weaknesses and I know his, and since we’re brothers we are brutally honest with each other. We are not afraid to crush each other’s ideas, which makes only the best ideas survive. Of course we argue because it’s natural as brothers, but after 21 years of living with each other we know when to draw the line, and that line is never crossed. Plus I’m about 50 pounds heavier than him so he usually retreats, ha ha!”
BraveWords: Vocalist Nick Sakal really shines on this album. How did you first meet and get him to join the band?
Billy Lov: “The funny thing is that John, Nick and I all went to the same elementary school, so we’ve been close friends from a very young age. It’s a funny story how he joined the band, neither me nor John had any idea Nick knew how to sing; to be honest, Nick didn’t know either. The three of us were walking to Long and McQuade (our local music store) one day and we were singing “The Book Of Heavy Metal” by Dream Evil. In the chorus the singer belts out a crazy high scream. We happened to get to the chorus and John and I wimped out of singing that impossibly high note, Nick had no idea we we’re going to leave him hanging and just belted out the scream. John and I looked at each other in amazement and said holy crap, this kid had pipes this whole time. We pretty much gave him no choice and forced him to be in the band. He shared the same passion for music as we did so he gave in pretty easily.”
BraveWords: What does Ascendia hope to achieve or want to accomplish?
Billy Lov: “I think the most important thing is that we want to stay true ourselves and write music that we love. We also want our music to have an impact on people in the same way our favourite bands impacted us.”