As summer ends and the nights grow longer, the Doomed and Stoned Festival approaches (buy tickets here)! Our pre-show coverage continues with Indy’s own Conjurer. These guys undeniably add to the heaviness of the festival. Their album Old World Ritual received critical success thanks to superior song writing with a menacing take on the doom and sludge metal genres. Guitarist John Rau and vocalist Dustin Mendel were awesome enough to answer a few questions via email. Read on…
Indy Metal Shows: First off, thanks for agreeing to this interview! I’ve seen you guys perform a few times and I’m always impressed with how tight you sound. What’s your musical backgrounds? Did you play in other bands together prior to Conjurer?
John Rau: Thanks for having us and for the kind words! As far as former bands go Brian, our guitar player, was in Mara’kate, and I was in Angelville.
IMS: Old World Ritual has been out for a while. How has the response been since it came out?
JR: It’s been really great. Reviews have been positive and people at shows seem to dig it.
IMS: I love the way the tracks are laid out on this album. “Trudge Down” relaxes and fades toward the end and then your hit almost jarringly hard with “Entheogen”, “Black Throne,” “Singularity,” and “Flesh to Ash” wind down the tempo and then you pick right back up with “Witch’s Hale.” How intentional was the track order?
JR: We really tried to put the songs in an order that would take people on a journey. We also tried to be very specific about which songs were in the first, third, fourth, and last spots. There was no real science behind it, but those seem to be the tracks that we always remembered from records when we were kids.
IMS: The songwriting is really exceptional on Old Word Ritual; it’s not your basic stuff. The underlying riffs alone are good enough to carry the songs, but with the lead licks and keyboard, they’re brought to a whole other level. What’s the song writing process like for you guys? How do you guys decide when a song is complete?
JR: The process usually starts with one of us bringing a riff or two to practice, then we develop and arrange the song as a group, and layer on more and more until it feels complete. Sometimes songs change a little more once we play them live and see what really works and what fine tuning needs be done.
IMS: I’m a big fan of Dustin’s vocals on this album. They really help keep the music from being pegged into a genre and gives some of the songs like “Marauders” an almost hardcore quality. Who are some of Dustin’s influences vocally?
Dustin Mendel: I definitely have some favorite vocalists like T-Roy from Sourvein, Ken E. Bones from Negative Reaction to name a few. But I don’t really think they have influenced my vocals in Conjurer. The influence is more from the protagonists and antagonists of the songs. Most of the shit they are going through or putting others through is full of despair, pain and consternation. I think most of them would be yelling their godddamned heads off. So that is what I try to do. That is my inspiration…that and just a smidge of Neil Fallon of Clutch.
IMS: The lyrics on Old World Ritual are just as heavy as the music. Songs like “Never Enough,” “Trudge Down,” and “Time Stands Still” seem deeply personal. What inspired them? Are they based on personal experiences?
DM: Yea, those are definitely derived from personal experience. “Never Enough” is about overindulgence to the point of realization. “Time Stands Still” is about the mental consequences of said overindulgence and a desire to shut yourself off for a period. As for “Trudge Down,” John came up with the bulk of that and I added my .02.
IMS: I really like the use of keyboards to help achieve that dark atmosphere to your sound. You can especially here it on songs like “Never Enough,” “Marauders,” and “Gold Mask.” Whose idea was it to add keys and were they always a part of your sound or were they brought in later?
JR: We always wanted to have organs/keyboards on the full length but we didn’t always have them live.
DM: I had been creating some songscapes and electronic covers for myself and friends. I had the equipment and the desire to play some synth stuff on Old World Ritual and these dudes were game. Now I get to sling them keys around!
IMS: You guys have been around for a while. What do you think of the Indianapolis music scene and how has it changed since you’ve been a part of it? What are some of your favorite local bands?
JR: Yeah, we have all been going to shows and playing in bands since the late 90s, and some of us a little before that. We love the Indianapolis music scene, but things have been rough the last couple years, losing some really great people.
DM: The scene around here is full of so many creative and supportive people. It’s a great thing to be a tiny part of. John’s list is top notch. A few additions off the top of my head would be Wretch and Sacred Leather. Both bands are bringing the heavy.
DM: My go to brew is usually a stout so personally I favor the J.W.P. American Stout, but practice is usually brought to you by Ripcord Double IPA. 9% gets you there a little quicker haha.
IMS: What’s next for Conjurer? Are there any plans to release new material this year?
JR: We have a split flexi-disc coming out soon with Kaiju Daisenso on Small Hand Factory Recordings. We have been writing what will be the next LP. We’re hoping to record that sometime in 2017. We’re also trying to play more shows outside Indy in 2017.