A little less than an hour’s drive north of Boston is Salem, MA. You’ve probably heard of it. Famous for the Salem witch trials in the early 1690s, the small city bustles year-round with tourism and creepy local businesses while somehow still maintaining a quaint, “sleepy town” feel. If this sounds right up your cobblestone alley but you want to avoid the Halloween crowds, you can still visit by way of 1476’s music. The folk-rock duo embody their hometown in a way few other bands do, all while encompassing a myriad of influences.
1476 also happen to be one of the best sounding live bands these ears have ever heard, and on August 31st they will be hitting the road for a month-long US tour, continuing support for their latest album Our Season Draws Near (see tour dates below and grab a copy of the record here). I recently caught up with Robb and Neil in preparation for said tour; check out our conversation below and make sure you catch them when they bring their mystical brand of New England neofolk your way.
Indy Metal Vault: Thank you guys so much for taking the time to chat, I know you’re both busy as hell. You JUST finished a pretty expansive tour this past March/April, and now you’re turning right around and doing it again!? Are you guys ok? Blink twice if you’re being held against your will. For real though, what have you guys been up to during your brief break between tours?
Neil DeRosa: Hello Sam! Thank you for getting in touch with us. We are okay! I have pretty much been spending time in preparation for this second round of touring. There was a little bit of a break when we got home, when my wife and I went to Iceland for a week as a surprise birthday trip. It was an impulse decision while we were somewhere in Texas. Outside that, it has been all hands on assessing what was next. I have personally been examining my notes from the tour to make this one better and more efficient. We had an amazing time and experience meeting fans, especially some who have been following us from the very beginning. That statement is generally for my health and drumming, haha! I didn’t have as much in the gas tank as I thought last time so I wanted to make more improvements especially since this one is the full US. It has been a really exciting challenge and I feel ready!
Robb Kavjian: (Blinks twice…)
IMV: With the upcoming tour, are there any specific states or venues you’re looking forward to the most? And what is a typical 1476 tour stop like? Any traditions or priorities that coincide with each stop?
ND: I’m looking forward to heading back to Texas! All the stops were really cool and the people we met were amazing. We played SXSW festival in Austin, so this time it will be a new experience to just settle in and play a normal show. The venue is called The Lost Well, and our friends who live there had really great things to say about it. Aside from that I’m generally excited to play all the new states and cities we didn’t visit last time.
As far as traditions, for me personally it was try to warm up and stay as loose as possible at every show. It was surprisingly difficult sometimes! This round I have a couple plans in place to hopefully make that easier! For me, outside music and shows I try to send home postcards and letters to my wife just for something different outside texting and phone calls.
RK: I suppose we’re heading in a somewhat monastic direction on tour. We just want to be as rested and healthy as possible for each show. The performances are definitely physically demanding for me so if I’m not careful, I can be in rough shape the next day and I don’t want any of our shows to suffer. Plenty of rest and smart food choices are my top priorities this time. We were pretty ragged by our last few shows on the previous tour. Aside from that and playing to the best of my ability, I love the traveling itself–seeing new places and writing about the experiences. I wrote over a hundred pages in my journal documenting everything throughout the last tour. I didn’t want to go home! I was pretty bummed out after the final show. I’m happy this one will be longer!
I’m looking forward to Texas again as it was one of the highlights of our last tour, and my girlfriend lives there so I’m naturally happy about that. Actually, on the last tour I was surprised by the places that were highlights for me. So I’m just excited to experience every new place and see which ones surprise me this time around. I found there’s something very liberating about living in a van. My home is filled with records and books and just…things. Being on tour and living in a van made me see that I don’t really need any of that stuff. I really loved and appreciated living so sparsely.
IMV: So you guys signed with Prophecy Productions back in 2016, and now you’ll also be playing at their first ever US Prophecy Fest this Nov 2nd and 3rd in Brooklyn, NY. The lineup is fucking killer. Are you guys going to be meeting any fellow labelmates for the first time at this fest?
RK: We’re very excited for this show! I’m hoping this upcoming tour will season us enough so we can slay it, haha. Aside from a few employees and the owner of Prophecy, this will be our first time meeting most of our labelmates–many of which are newer signings at this particular show. I think the only band we know personally on the bill is Völur, who we did most of our last tour with. I’m excited to see them again both as friends and performers. They’re so good live that it really pushed me and intimidated me every night we played with them. If they played before us I always thought, “oh fuck… Everyone in this room is going to think we suck…” They really pushed me as a musician…they’re such a powerful live band and I learned a lot from them as a performer and as a person in general.
I’m excited to be playing with Alcest for the first time. I’ve never really told anyone this aside from a few people, but they’re basically the reason we play live at all. I used to despise playing live and had a lot of issues when we first started. It was always an extremely negative, self-loathing experience for me. So we stopped performing and became a studio band. Maybe a year or two before we even signed with Prophecy, I went alone to an Alcest show in Cambridge, MA. It was small and peaceful. I stood right in front of them and just soaked in the whole experience. I could see and feel how much they love playing and the atmosphere in the room was so positive. In the middle of their set, I asked myself why I couldn’t have that too–to perform live and have it be such a strong, positive, and magical experience for both myself and the audience. That moment, I decided that we need to play live again and that I need to sort myself out. It took a few years but we did it and now we’re a touring band after almost six years of not playing live–and I love it finally. Alcest was literally the inspiration for that. So for me personally, it’s quite surreal to be sharing the same label and bill as them this November.
IMV: Neil, congrats on your recent endorsement by Canopus Drums! I heard them live at your last acoustic show in Salem a few months ago, and holy shit do they sound good. Can you tell us a little more about how that endorsement came to be? And is your current setup entirely Canopus?
ND: Thank you so much man! I couldn’t believe it when I got the email with them welcoming me. It was 4:30 in the morning on a Sunday and I was checking my email before work when I saw the words “ we would like to welcome you to the Canopus family…” and all I could think of was “oh fuck… for real??” and it was real! I sent in an application maybe five or six weeks before and didn’t hear anything, which is generally normal. I forgot about it because of all the other things going on for tour preparation and practice so it was a shocker.
Canopus was my first “professional” drum set and my only choice when I was thinking about going out for a sponsorship. I was at the Drum Center in Portsmouth, NH one day when I was loosely looking for another kit and some cymbals before recording Our Season Draws Near. My friend Tony, who works there, said something like “I know this is way out of your budget but you need to hear this bass drum.” It truly was way out of budget and the kit looked so unassuming with it’s natural wood finish, no gloss lacquer! When he hit the bass drum though we all just started laughing because it sounded so good. It sounded like it was miked up and mixed right in a big venue just as it was. Whatever money I had was immediately assigned to a downpayment, and two months of layaway later, I took it home! Now here I am… still kind of shocked but elated to be included on the artist roster.
The set up is all Canopus! I just received a new snare drum that is nickel over brass that I’ll be taking on tour. I’ll have the same drums that you saw at the acoustic show, which are the RFM line. I couldn’t be happier or more comfortable behind these.
IMV: You guys released a special book edition of Our Season Draws Near recently that is chock full of photography, illustrations, and really great insights into the making of the album. Could you guys elaborate a bit on the conception of this special edition? And Robb, you talk in the book about your love for runes and mythology. Would you mind telling us what got you into these topics? Have they always been a passionate interest of yours? You seem very well versed in it all…
RK: Before we signed with Prophecy, we always made some sort of special edition for our albums through our DIY label Seraphim House. Making this book was a natural extension of that. Actually, it feels more like the culmination of it. I wish we could do a book like this for all of our previous releases too! We try to create a unique, immersive world with each release but I think the lyrics only deliver small, abstract snapshots of this idea. With the book, we can give more of a backdrop to the albums’ contents, so maybe people will have a little more insight. Maybe knowing where we are coming from can help make the album more meaningful to people. That’s my hope anyways. I do prefer art/music to be interpretive and I don’t want to dictate everything to the listener, so even in the context of the book I still try to keep most of the details on the periphery.
We like to use different imagery and symbolism as a lens through which to write each album. Runic, mythological, and winter symbolism were the lenses through which we viewed the subject matter of OSDN. As the album is autobiographical, using these symbols were sort of a requirement as they are all foundations in my life. I’ve always gravitated towards mythology as a child but fell into it pretty heavily as an adolescent along with runic mysticism, ceremonial magick, and chaos magic. Mythology is how I understand the world in the same way a physicist could relate to life through physics or a historian through history, etc. It’s most definitely a lifelong passion and field of study/practice for me.
The album isn’t about these things at all but they are a deep part of who I am so they are ingrained in the language I use when I write lyrics. They come up as metaphors or allusions or simply to provide the right atmosphere. As we never want to make the same album twice, we tend to place all our eggs in one basket with each release. We went as heavy handed as we felt necessary with the imagery on this album because we probably won’t return to it again in the future. This is another reason why it’s nice to have the book edition to provide more information. It lends itself to making the concept feel more complete in a way.
IMV: One of my favorite insights from the book was your philosophy on recording each song on Our Season Draws Near in the least amount of takes possible. Sounds stressful to me. How did that affect the studio atmosphere and your mindset going in? Were any songs done in just one take?
ND: It surprisingly wasn’t any more stressful of a situation then recording already was! I think some drum tracks were done in one take, but I honestly can’t remember which ones. The way we prepared for Our Season lended itself well to going about it this way though. Robb and I rehearsed the songs for months and had tons of lengthy conversations about them and the intent behind them. By the time we got to the recording phase I had all the music playing in my head going in. I generally don’t use scratch tracks or have Robb play along. I just use a click and my imagination. I do my best to study the form and vibe to have it memorized inside out and leave the rest of the room for any inspiration on demand. That was refreshing because the Wildwood drum parts were pretty much written note for note after Robb laid down final music and vocal tracks. I recorded the drums last. Both were challenging but enjoyable in variety. I have no idea how it will go down for the next album, though!
RK: I think Neil did all of the drums in one take with the exception of one song, if I remember correctly–which he did in two takes. I recorded multiple takes of songs with different guitars to see which suited certain ones better so counting how many times gets murky. It was more a matter of deleting the guitars I didn’t want to use after the fact. The vocals were fast and that was my main concern. On Wildwood, I was very insecure about my voice so I pushed my range in an attempt to be a “good singer” and did a million takes of each song. The result is pretty clinical for me and somewhat forced sounding. When we did the Poe soundtrack album, the one song that has vocals changed things for me. I sang very naturally and mostly at the pitch I speak with. Up until that point, that was my favorite vocal performance that I’d done. So OSDN was an exploration of that for me and I was much happier with the results though I still need to tweak a few things.
We recorded this album the way we did because it was the exact opposite of how we made Wildwood, which was completely unrehearsed and written as it was being recorded over the course of a year. OSDN was composed and rehearsed for many months as Neil said above. Actually, the song “Sorgen” was all one take performances. The version on the album was the original demo. The vibe was there so we saw no need to rerecord it. Because of this, little mistakes can be heard on the guitar. Once again, this was liberating to just leave them in there because Wildwood was so clinical and had to be performed perfectly.
IMV: Anyone that has so much as glanced at 1476’s social media profiles will know that you guys have some pretty unique and obscure influences. To sum it all up, I feel like the late and great Christopher Lee would have gotten along with you guys pretty well. What are some books, artwork or movies that have been really inspiring you lately? What do our readers need to check out for themselves?
ND: To be honest I haven’t really been listening to much music outside what I have been studying. It has mostly been Michael Jackson, Peter Gabriel, and a lot of podcasts. A month or so after we got home from tour, Michael Jackson’s drummer Jonathan Moffett made an appearance on the website/youtube channel Drumeo. I watched him play “Smooth Criminal” and “Beat It” and lost my mind. The song writing, rhythmic structure, and groove this guy had was something I have never heard before. I’ve heard both of those songs hundreds of times before, but watching him play them really brought things to life in a new way. I would highly recommend checking them out!
I don’t know if you are an MMA fan, but I have been listening to the trainer Firas Zahabi pretty religiously lately. He coaches George St Pierre in Montreal, Canada. His outlook on training, personal growth, and mental toughness have been endlessly inspiring to me in the practice room as well as life in general. Jocko Willink has been another figure as well. His concept of discipline and extreme ownership has been really helpful for tour prep. Other then that I recently discovered this killer artist named Jo Quail from the UK who plays cello. I still don’t know too much about her but from what I gather she generally plays alone and does a lot of looping while playing live. I listened to her album Five Incantations and immediately fell in love with it.
RK: I must say that reading is one of the most pleasurable things in life for me. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy that this year has been the least I’ve ever read in my life. At the beginning of the year, I read a book called The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden that was a beautiful, powerful, magical story set in a quasi-medieval Russian fantasy setting. This has really stayed with me. I’d also highly recommend The Moons At Your Door. This is an anthology compiled by David Tibet from Current 93 of mostly pre-World War I ghost stories by British authors (though not exclusively British). If you’re a fan of writers like HP Lovecraft or MR James, than this is for you. The selections are amazing.
This year I’ve been working on the new record of my other project Monastery on and off. This is somewhere between Coil’s later music, Dungeon Synth, New Age, and Dark Ambient. The quaint, dreamlike, and surreal atmosphere of the author Arthur Machen (particularly his stories The Hill Of Dreams, The Great God Pan, and The White People) has been a huge influence here, along with some Pre-Raphaelite painters like Edward Burne-Jones, John Everett Millais, and Marie Spartali Stillman. I won’t go into details here but the aims of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood have been resonating with me deeply and serve as the foundation for the album I’m working on. They rejected modernism and painted Romantic themes in a time when their ideas were shunned and Picasso and Cubism were gods. They embraced nature indiscriminately and worshipped it. They didn’t care if their romanticism and search for beauty in the mythological past was seen as hokey or outdated. They lived their own truth. Sometimes I feel like a relic because I devote my life to being honorable and trying to be a better, stronger person for the people around me. Mythology and Arthurian Legend are the things that resonate with me. So like the PRB, I’ll inject this into my art and world even if people think it’s lame because I think it’s important in 2018.
IMV: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming you haven’t had any time lately to work on new material. That being said, each new release from 1476 seems to evolve its sound in one way or another. Are you guys brainstorming any new ideas? If so, any hints at what we might expect in the future sound-wise?
RK: We are going to devote next year to touring as much as possible (hopefully in Europe finally!) and making the follow up to Our Season Draws Near. I don’t want to say too much except that we like to make each new album a refreshing experience. We try to find a new theme with each release and along with that comes a new approach to the music, a new vocabulary, a new lens through which to write through, and new visual imagery. We do have ideas and know the direction we’d like to go in. Actually, I sort of know what I’d like to do for the next three albums haha. That’s all subject to change, but I’m happy the inspiration is there. I have some stuff written and I don’t want to say too much, but the album is titled and I have extensive notes about what I’d like to do with it!
IMV: Thank you again for taking the time to talk with us, and best of luck on your tour! Indy Metal Vault is planning on having our photographer Lindley come to your Indianapolis date at Black Circle Brewing Co., and we won’t complain if you thrash around a little harder than usual on stage for her. I’ll leave you guys with the last words.
ND: Thank you again for having us, Sam! I’m really excited to see everyone coming out for this tour. I can’t wait to see some new places and deliver at the shows!
RK: Yes, thank you so much for thinking of us, Sam. This was an absolute pleasure!