Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Avalon Steel Interview

This next interview is with up and coming USPM band Avalon Steel! I reviewed their new EP "Ascension" last month, and just had to talk to them about it. This interview was handled by guitarist Sean Kane.

Skull Fracturing Metal (SFM): Hi Sean. Congratulations on the release of your new EP! Before we get to the EP, let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about how the band formed.

Sean Kane (SK): Thanks, Scott! It all started out with just my brother, Nick, on the drums, and I on the guitar. We love old school heavy metal and we've tried playing with others that do as well. We've gone through a plethora of members and band names with mainly my brother as a constant. However, we formed officially as Avalon Steel around 2010 in my junior year of high school. I'm in my senior year of college, so it's really been a long journey.

SFM: Your first demo was independently released a couple of years ago. How was the reception to that demo?

SK: Demo? What demo? It doesn't exist!

SFM: The sound and imagery of your demo and EP both give off that old-school US power metal vibe. Are these bands your primary influences? What are some specific bands you guys love?

SK: Well, I think it's really a huge culmination of my own interests as well as the interests from the rest of the bandmates. I think my brother and I have been listening to USPM for around three or four years now. We can't get enough of the stuff! But we don't purposefully write songs that ape Omen or Metal Church, it's just stuff we've been listening to for so long. We love other genres as well ranging from classic and death metal to stuff like jazz and Celtic. I feel like our songs, including ones that aren't on the EP, range from stuff like you would hear from Jag Panzer and Liege Lord to the more epic doom metal of Candlemass. I really think we have a good mixture that keeps things interesting. I love good dynamics.

SFM: The most unique aspect of Avalon Steel, to me, is vocalist Tommy Parnelle. Was having someone with a distinct voice important, or were you just looking for a quality singer?

SK: It's kind of a funny story. Well, not funny, but it's at least interesting. Usually metal singers have really high voices like Halford or Ian Gillan, but you can't hardly find any male singers in a more bassy range like Mattias Blad or Matt Barlow. Tommy is a trained bass but he can still hit some pretty high notes. I think it was a combination of working with what he had and knowing that we had something a little different. 

SFM: Recently guitarist Ross Thompson left the band. What was the reason for the split?

SK: No bad blood. Things were going on in other parts of his life that were bigger priorities. 

SFM: What are you looking for in a new guitar player?

SK: Has to love the music we do. It's all about the music. And has to be better looking than Tommy; we gotta knock his ego down a few pegs!

SFM: Are you currently looking for a label? What do you look for in a label?

SK: We're actually on a tiny start up label called Mechanical Pig, but for awhile I was teetering on the question whether we needed one for a while. It's a different industry these days than it was back in the glory days. Everyone can do their thing in the comforts of their own home or whatever. It's almost an outdated mode unless you're one of the lucky few to land a really good label deal...but how common is that for a metal band?

Frankly, indie labels are nice because it allows you more freedom. You still have control over music, band, and even the booking in our case. We still supply our own merch, pay for the recording and distribution, and we still do our own groundwork. It's not a big time thing, you know? It's really local. I guess you could say it's a starting point for building a more focused "business" network. It's certainly given us a few connections that have benefited us. 

And a bigger label? We'll see. I'm wary of people in nice suits waving papers in your face. The music business is just that...business. Really the only benefits for something bigger would be a bigger budget and a wider audience. But if you're really good with the Internet and shit, you can do that by yourself; it's just a looooot more difficult.

SFM: What’s in the immediate future for Avalon Steel?

SK: Right now? Get back on the momentum. We've had good word on our EP and I'd like to ride that for as long as we can. I'm already gearing up to dish out more songs. We're probably not going to tour because of our work schedules, but I'd like to at least do a few shows outside of Charlotte and build a bigger fanbase. Can't sell all the copies if we see the same faces every time. We've been trying to push our music on the Internet as much as we can, but when it's just as easy to keep scrolling it's not always easy.

SFM: It seems like there is often a lot of criticism towards newer bands simply because they aren’t the bands of the 80’s (despite many newer bands being better). How do you handle criticism of your music?

SK: Metal has had it's Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. I'm not here to be Judas Priest 2.0, though I'll welcome the comparison. We're not those bands and never will be. Sorry, we're not going to write this generation's Master of Reality or Killers. I want to be recognized by our own right. I don't want to be a band that completely copies everything the 80s did, but I can't stand most of the modern metal. I'd like to think that we'll pick up where USPM left off and everyone else ignored. 

Criticism is tough. Everyone is their own worst critic and will be the first to tell themselves that they hate their own music, but the opinion of someone else can be either uplifting or even more devastating. Everything is subjective and you have to learn to take it in stride. Not everyone has the same taste nor will someone see what you see in something. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it. Me? I go cry in a corner with my beer and ponder my existence. 

SFM: A huge part of promotion these days is done through social media. I’m curious to get your thoughts specifically on Facebook and the ever-declining reach of statuses that get posted. Have you noticed that fewer people see your statuses over time, despite your page getting more likes? Will bands eventually abandon Facebook in favour of another website?

SK: Social media is a double-edged sword. It's really easy for bands to just post a status as an update, but like I've said before, it's just as easy for others to ignore you. Your band has 5,000 likes? So what, you only bring out 15 people to your shows! Having an established fanbase is more important than arbitrary "likes" on Facebook, and that's the hard part. I don't think it's necessarily Facebook's fault though. I think that will happen with every sort of media. People are lazy and you really gotta work to get not only their attention, but to get their asses in a venue. You can lead a horse to a river, but you can't make them drink it. And that's where coming out with a good "product" comes in handy. We always try to bring in entertainment value at our shows. Word of mouth is still quality press these days and having fans tell others is still a great way to attract people. 

SFM: You guys have set “Ascension” as a “name your price” release on Bandcamp. Is this something you think more bands should be doing? Given that you are offering this release for free, do you feel you should be compensated for the time and money you put into practicing, recording, and gear?

SK: Bandcamp and the like are still really new things in the music industry. We're all at this weird transition phase where we all like our digital stuff but like to buy CDs at the same time. Sure, I'd love to get the money I sunk into the recording back, but at this point it's about taking risks. I think that Bandcamp offers like only 200 free downloads. Yeah, it's a bit of a loss, but I think if they really like out stuff then they can order a shirt or something too. Fuck, if they've done that then they can do a donation for all I care!  Recording costs an arm and a leg, but I also believe in something like consumer value. We're a fledgling band, I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we thought we'd make money and I think that goes for all others like us. They don't call them starving artists for nothing. That's why this isn't our main paying gig, we'd be out in the streets!

SFM: More and more bands are going the crowd funding route these days for financing albums and tours. What are your thoughts on crowd funding? Is this something we can expect to see from Avalon Steel in the future?

SK: I think it's a great thing! If people see value in something, then go for it! It's a great tool for bands or idiots with potato salads. Any capitalist bastard worth their salt won't turn down something like this. I have a couple of friends in a band called Judicator out in the western side of the States. They used a crowdfund and got the finances for recording their album by selling album packs and raffles for a free guitar. I suppose it's all about how you use it. 

As for Avalon Steel, I suppose that now since we have a taste of music to send out it wouldn't be a bad idea. I'd hate to ask people for money for an album before they even heard what we sounded like. At least now they can have an idea. Might be a little while before we start thinking of financing an album though.

SFM: Last words for the fans out there? 

SK: If you like us, buy something; if you've already bought something, then buy as a gift! Our shirts made great dishrags and our EPs can be awesome drinkcoasters! 

Support your scene, go to local shows, bang the singer's girlfriend, listen to loud music, only do certain kinds of drugs, and please, if you see me out there, buy me a beer!
Thank you, Scott, it was an honor and a pleasure! 

SFM: Be sure to check out and like Avalon Steel on Facebook!

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