Cara Neir, between “Phase Out”, music and 8-bit aesthetics
Perhaps Cara Neir aren’t so much popular here in Europe (yet), since they are known (mostly) in the US underground scene. However, their new album Phase Out was so original and unique in its own right that you can’t ignore it. So I decided to get in touch with the artists behind the project, Garry Brents and Chris Francis, to ask some questions and introducing them to the Italian audience. Infact, this is their first interview for an Italian webzine.
Furthermore, I remind you that Cara Neir have launched a special campaign — through Bandcamp — for releasing Phase Out on vinyl. The goal has been reached, but you can still support the campaign if you want to secure your copy. More info here.
Hi guys, first of all thanks for answering these questions. Did you get any particular responses from Italy about your music before (not necessarily about this album in particular)?
Chris: This will be our first time being given the opportunity to interview with you guys!
Garry: Hey, thank you for taking the time to speak with us! We rarely get these opportunities or interest. I don’t recall any responses or inquiries from Italy in the past. You’re the first!
Talking about Phase Out, in my review I wrote about your album as one of the most unique metal albums I came across recently. How was the idea born of doing an album about you guys being warped in a 8-bit videogame? I was reading on Bandcamp that the idea partly dates back to Part I / Part II.
G: First, thank you for the kind words and for the review! The idea was a whimsical idea born from me wanting to experiment with chiptune/8-bit sounds for us. Something that I had wanted to do for a long time but never committed to the idea until this album. The change in musical direction came first and then the conceptual idea of us being phased into this video-game dimension and world came shortly after to tie it all together. A bottom-to-top concept. The antagonist, The One From Trimjrtle, originates from our Part I / Part II release in some of the lyrics. I’ll let Chris expand upon that.
C: The One From Trimjrtle was the central character of our track “Antihuman Plateau” from Part I / Part II, where he and another cohort were abducting humans when The One has a moral crisis. This album serves as a wild deviation from his behavior over a decade ago and is a testament to his disappointment with the squandered potential of the human race. So, in Phase Out, he takes his anger out in particular on us as he begins his course for destruction.
On Bandcamp there’s a summary lore of your latest album. Could you tell us something more?
C: The lore there (and the lyrics) basically speaks for itself in terms of what’s happening in Phase Out. However, without spoiling too much, our follow-up will deal with The One raising the stakes and taking us out of Gnax and placing us into a survival horror type universe.
Generally interviewers ask bands to talk about their influences. I would ask you instead, what videogames influenced you about this concept? Would you recommend us some cool videogames you particularly like?
C: I play upwards of two dozen games most years, and I pull inspiration from many places. Pathologic 2, Stardew Valley, Sekiro, Bloodborne, and Silent Hill are several titles that have all influenced my writing on one song or another spanning our discography.
G: Certainly! It’s exciting to have a different take on influences. For me, it would be Star Ocean‘s franchise (mainly The Second Story), Chrono Trigger, Legend Of Mana, and Xenogears. Also, some games I’ve been enjoying a lot lately are mostly indie games like Hollow Knight, Monster Sanctuary, Slay The Spire, Fantasy Expedition, and Blasphemous.
Ironically, my first review for Aristocrazia Webzine was a review of UK experimental noisemakers Caïna. You guys have released a split with Caïna some years ago. How did you come across that band and what memories do you have about that split?
C: I never communicated with Andy as much as Garry, but my memories of working on that split are very fond. 2017 was an interesting year that had a pretty gnarly down point for me personally, so it was nice that the year was good to us as a band with this and our Chasmbound split both coming out.
G: Andy had approached me in a message in 2014 about liking our album Portals To A Better, Dead World. We hit it off and became online friends and quickly discussed doing a split together. We were grateful to have Broken Limbs Recordings put it out! I really had fun working on that song for the split. Short, but sweet. Maybe one of our most concise songs with straightforward songwriting structure. An aside, back in 2007 I messaged him on MySpace from my old solo project Parabstruse saying I enjoyed his mix of post-rock and black metal, which was something I was starting to do with that solo project. I sadly didn’t get a reply back then haha! It is possible he may not have seen the message. We interact these days on Twitter mostly. Great guy!
Part III / IV came out ten years after Part I / Part II. What’s the link between these two releases? Your idea was to make a sort of 10 years anniversary or such?
C: It was sort of meant to help convey our evolution in a way. Like «hey, these parts are finally here ten years later, but look how much we’ve grown, it’s not the same thing and you’re in for another roller coaster.»
G: Even though the naming convention is a series, the album is certainly very different from our first output. I suppose it was more of a thematic link of a 10-year difference representing the band and how we have evolved.
About Phase Out and its concept. What’s your favorite character from this album? Personally I’m fascinated by Maestro Infernus, probably because I really like that song.
C: You and me both. Maestro is my favorite because also like you, that track was one of my favorites to record, but because he’s a brute. Maestro cannot speak due to his mouth being sewn shut, yet the expressions of his face are beyond menacing with skin that’s bulky and almost charcoal like.
G: My favorite character is the grand antagonist The One. His semi-omniscience and demigod-like qualities are intriguing to me. And it’s like a cosmic joke that he’s messing with us as a band. A tongue-in-cheek quality that shows itself through this album overall. Maestro Infernus is a close 2nd favorite because he’s just this brutal monster with no conscience! Purely damned to be vicious.
You guys did an enormous job on Phase Out regarding the aesthetic aspect, with an amazing limited CD edition and several tape variants. How important is it to offer a physical product that is coherent with the concept behind the album?
C: Garry went nuts when it came to the art and packaging of this release. I think this is the most solid and righteous physical release we’ve put out, and the reception was enormous. We intend to carry out the same execution with the follow-up!
G: Thank you! We put a lot of thought and heart into the aesthetic (digitally and physically). It’s the first time we’ve really done that to this extent. I think for a concept album, a physical product is crucial because it gives some tangible connection to the themes of the album. I know the digital realm is probably more popular than ever, but we were very happy to provide something for the physical collectors/fanbase.
For Chris. I really enjoy the lyrics of Phase Out, it really looks like you’re telling an actual story. How did you write the lyrics, did they come before the music or vice-versa? Were you inspired by something in particular?
C: I was writing the lyrics as Garry would finish the music and send me the tracks, using the feel and the atmosphere of each track to inspire the story that would follow. When writing these, I was simultaneously fleshing out the lore of The One and this universe he was going to take us to so that I could immerse the listener as much as possible.
And what about the future? Do you think you’ll go on with more 8-bit-inspired stuff or… ?
G: Great question. We will be including more 8-bit content in the future. Our sequel album to Phase Out is currently in the works and follows in its footsteps, but in a darker and more chaotic direction (musically and aesthetically). As alluded to earlier, if Phase Out would be considered a RPG adventure, our next album is a survival horror/supernatural gauntlet.