Interview with Lazer/Wulf

Emerging from Athens/Atlanta, Lazer/Wulf was put together by a group of college friends just for the fun of playing some local live shows, but eventually things have evolved into a more serious proposition. Now eight years in and following two Eps and a full-length album recently released by Kylesa’s record label Retro Futurist, the instrumental and experimental metal trio are no longer confined to their local music scene and are getting a lot of praise from press and fans across the world. We approached guitarist and founding member Bryan Aiken by email to know more about this project and their exciting new record “The Beast of Left And Right”.

Can you start by discussing the background of this project, when did you started, how your sound developed early on?

“Lazer/Wulf technically started when Sean and I met in college, something like 8 years ago. Honestly, we were a pretty embarrassing five-piece metalcore band of teenagers back then, and never really toured, we just played enough locally to fall in love with doing it. But eventually members fell away or grew apart, and we had to change our sound accordingly; specifically, when we lost our singer. We never replaced him, we just made it work, as an experiment. That was a huge turning point for us. But it turned south when we lost our drummer in 2008, and Sean and I took it as a sign to shelf that lifestyle for a while. We seeded our careers outside of music, I went back to school, we… just kinda lost our way, I guess.
But in late 2010, we saw some local bands play that shook us awake pretty violently, and Sean and I found Brad to play drums for… whatever the hell kind of band we were about to be in. I’m still not sure what kind of band that is.”

Lazer/Wulf are described as experimental metal on the band’s official Facebook page, do you think it aptly sums up your style?

“I’m not sure; it’s our best guess. We’re definitely metal – sometimes – but we’re not allegiant to any one sub-genre, and none are ever ruled out. I do know we’re at our happiest when we don’t know what we’re doing or where a song is going. That rush we get, pushing ourselves into uncomfortable territory… that’s the best part of playing music. When we try something weird and end up loving it. Nothing is more fun than that. So yeah, if there’s any best way to describe our approach to music, if not our genre, it’s “experimental.” But that doesn’t mean we’re intentionally alienating, or complex for complexity’s sake. We just like to explore, and see what’s out there.”

So, what kind of artists inspired you to explore this sound?

“I’m not sure. I just know I love Bj√∂rk as much as Converge as much as Radiohead as much as Gorguts as much as… I can’t even narrow it down. But I love so much music that they’re all going to be inspirations. They’re all rattling around in there somewhere. Same with Sean, his inspirations are all over the place: Trans Am, Goblin, Aphex Twin, Mercyful Fate, Dying Fetus… there’s no formula for what you love, you just do. So knowing that, we let ourselves be honest and write honest songs. Lazer/Wulf are the only ones required to care about Lazer/Wulf, because we have to revisit our music every night on stage. If anyone else likes it, that’s amazing, but we can only be held accountable for pleasing ourselves. So that’s our ultimate goal: know ourselves and be honest with our audience.”

Let's get into the new album, ‘The Beast of Left And Right’, it seems a bit more progressive and complex when compared to your previous two releases. What inspired that change?

“When we re-formed, the mission statement was to not hold back in any way. To pour our newfound hunger into our output. That included more reflective, determined songwriting, and giving the music the time and effort it needed to be done right, rather than simply done at all. Nothing could be allowed to slip past us “good enough” any more like when we were kids; every moment should be earned, and we should learn to take responsibility if something wasn’t right. Because Lazer/Wulf wasn’t just going to be a hobby anymore; if we wanted it to be our lives’ work, it would have to be our lives. That’s what this album is about, making your damn mind up.”

In your opinion, how does the new album carry on, or differ, from the last one?

“The first thing we wrote, when we started up again, is now our 2012 EP, “There Was A Hole Here. It’s Gone Now.” I thought we were going to pick up where we’d left off in 2008, stylistically, but too much had changed. I ended up pouring a lot of sadness into that piece, not the least of which being our time away from music. So we got it all out and burned it in a pyre. None of that music was allowed to go on our full-length, because it was too much of a cleanse. It was a bottle of demons we needed to send out to sea, before we could really start again.
So, without the burden of all that negativity, we could write something way more hopeful. One was confession, and one was catharsis. If “There Was A Hole” was having made bad choices, “The Beast” is deciding to grow up and do something about it.”

Why did you decide two rerecord two songs from your first release, ‘The Void that Isn’t’, namely “Lagarto” and “Who Were the Mound Builders”?

“They never got a fair shake, really. We wrote those songs right before we went in the studio for that album, and barely got the chance to play them live before we split up. We ended up revisited those songs for our return shows in 2011, and the response was unforgettable. Still, it was pretty clear with the new line-up that we had left those previously recorded versions behind; they had changed, and we had changed. With Brad, with our experiences, those songs had a new life. We wanted to re-record them for a better snapshot of who we are now. “The Void” was probably going to die, but those songs were worth bringing into the new era.”

Can you discuss the inspiration behind the album title, ‘The Beast of Left And Right’? Is it about the choices you need to make in life every day?

“Exactly. We’re beasts of choice, we have free will, but sometimes we opt out. We don’t realize that every choice isn’t made only once; we re-make those choices every day – to stay who we are, to eat the way we do, to continue with our jobs or in our relationships. So in our case, we realized that we hadn’t decided only once to pursue our careers and put music aside. We were still choosing, again and again, every day, not to play music. We chose and chose, for years, until one day we stopped. We chose this. And that idea became the theme of all our output moving forward: to take responsibility for our actions, and know that no choice is final until you choose it forever.”

So, signing to Retro Futurist was an easy choice? How did you get linked up with the label owned by members of Kylesa?

“Haha! That choice was a snap, yeah! They’d been so supportive of us as friends, since they caught us live right after our reforming. And when they decided to start a label, it was obvious they had our best interests at heart. They’ve been musicians for so long, and they’re so passionate and honest, that we trust them completely. We’d follow those guys to hell. But if this past year is any indication, they’re leading us somewhere way fucking better.”

What are you currently listening to and enjoying?

“Oh, gosh. We’re usually all three in very different places, so finding music to play in the van is pretty interesting. My most recent loves are Grizzly Bear’s last album, “Shields,” and Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, M.A.D.D. city.” The new Tera Melos, “X’ed Out,” is in my car right now. Cinemechanica also has a new record coming out that’s one of the best rock records I’ve ever heard. I don’t even think they’ve named it yet, but it’s turbo rad. Same with Wizard Rifle; they’ve got a new album in the chamber that’ll fuck the moon. Oh, and Vektor’s “Outer Isolation.” Hot damn.
I know Sean is all about Morbus Chron right now; that “Sweven” album is absolutely amazing. Yautja, too. He’s been ripping them hard after that awesome Cult Leader tour came through Atlanta. Man, we guzzle so much music, this question would yield vastly different answers every week!”

Could be wrong here, but I got the impression that you created your own artwork. If so, can you tell us more about your background in art? Is this very much a part time thing with music being the main focus of your creativity?

“Yeah, so far we’ve had to do everything ourselves. That’s me and Brad’s hands on the cover, haha! We don’t have much background in visual art, but being in an independent band requires so much more than being a musician. Since everything is mostly instrumental, I tend to think of every song visually. They’re all about something specific, or have a specific narrative. Nothing’s arbitrary. So I always have an idea of how the album looks overall, as we’re writing it. I work on the visuals as we’re making the songs, because they’re connected. Each song ends up having a painting associated with it, and those become the tarot cards we put in our albums.

Musically, The Beast is about opposites and symmetry and sacrifice, so I knew exactly what the cover looked like. And Sean’s a great photographer so he helped me set up this crazy optical illusion. Those black lines are like two feet wide at the top, and four inches wide at the bottom. Getting the math right was infuriating and rewarding. But like I said, we wanted to pour the maximum amount of ourselves into this album, and we weren’t about to ask someone else to toil over something so obsessive and weird, so we just did everything ourselves. Our love, and appreciation for how lucky we are, is threaded everywhere into this album.”

Photos by: Benny Wonka
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