Interview with Immortal Bird (We Like Those Vocals)

Original photograph taken by Hillarie Jason. Copyright 2014.

If you haven’t noticed, we tend to interview bands with the biggest impact on our tastes, or those who seem to be pushing boundaries that need a good pushing, or shoving, or punching in the kidneys.  Problem is, no matter the band, it all depends on whether or not they finish the damn questions in the first place.  Seriously, some bands we’ve dealt with we’ve simply cast into the flames of our mind.  We get it, our site isn’t on your priority list, we’re smaller, but at least a “sorry too busy doodz” would suffice, you know?  Just not responding, or with single sentences for what would be all of around fifteen minutes of your totally jam-packed elite million-dollar band day is kind of annoying.  So we appreciate it when someone who’s drawing a lot of attention takes the time to speak with us about their work.  Today it’s Immortal Bird, one of Chicago’s currently rising metal acts.  We sat down with their main drummer and lead vocalist Rae to hear what they’re all about, and she responded in a most timely and respectable manner, so the rest of you take note.

Deaf Sparrow – Alright let’s start with our usual opener and then explode with details, how did all of you get started in music?

Immortal Bird – All three of us started out playing piano as kids, and then gradually discovered our other instruments. Evan and I both studied drums in college, but he also plays guitar extremely well, and I picked up bass around that time. John switched from acoustic guitar to bass in his early twenties and discovered that he had an aptitude and a passion for it.

DS – Any projects before Immortal Bird? If so, what were they and how did they work out or are they still?

IB – I was a drummer-for-hire in the bands Mares of Thrace and Castle, and I’m grateful for those experiences. I loved playing drums every night, and I met a ton of wonderful people on the road. I’ve also been playing drums in Thrawsunblat for several years, and I’ve been involved in that band longer than Immortal Bird has been around. Evan is in two other bands, Wilderun and Replacire, both of which started before Immortal Bird. Similarly, John has been playing in Without Waves for about five years prior to joining this band.

DS – Wow, that’s actually quite impressive, you all have a lot more projects than one would expect, some with serious street cred.  It’s been said diversity in one’s life is success these days.  So with all of these projects, do you consider Immortal Bird to be the most important out of all your work considering the jump in popularity you’ve been seeing in the past year?

IB – No project is more important than another, regardless of attention or opportunity. I value all of them deeply and I feel incredibly fortunate that there’s exciting things in the works for each band.

DS – Diversity is certainly a strong point, for sure, which brings us to something that really out about your work, those vocals! Absolutely killer. Any particular inspiration?  There’s something immediately noticeable about the delivery and how they fit with the rest of the music. You have a unique timbre in general that lends the perfect sound.  And correct me if I’m wrong but are you doing this live while drumming?

IB – Thank you! I don’t really have a specific inspiration, I just do what feels the most “honest” when delivering the lyrics, without completely shredding my vocal cords. I obviously don’t record vocals and drums simultaneously, but I have pulled “double duty” two of our shows (once opening for Abigail Williams, and the other at Southern Darkness Fest). Luckily, I have a tendency to write my vocal parts along with the drums, so a lot of it ended up feeling very intuitive.

DS – Don’t be so humble, seriously it’s great stuff, too many vocalists are satisfied with the same, it’s refreshing to hear someone mixing it up.  That’s probably a strong point then, stick with it, because one would bet your writing to fit your drumming is part of the reason why it sounds so awesome.  So you have a session drummer for live shows, usually?  Just want to make sure we’re clear on that.

IB – Yes, with a couple of exceptions where I pulled a double with drums and vocals, we have benefited from having a live drummer. Garry Naples (Novembers Doom, Without Waves) played drums with us for two years and played on Empress/Abscess, and more recently, Adam Kopecky (ex-Trials) went on tour with us in October. We haven’t announced our new drummer yet, but we have a bunch of stuff booked for 2016 and that news is forthcoming.

DS –  So going further with your live presence, how has fan support in your area been since your inception?  One of the hardest things these days for underground bands is touring, which is typically more work than money.  How’s that going for you in the states and what about worldwide after some of the press you’ve received?

IB – Chicago has a pretty solid metal scene, and we’ve been treated well here at “home”. I think part of that is because we don’t play very often, so we haven’t totally overstayed our welcome. At least I hope not! Worldwide, our presence has been consistently growing, and that’s really exciting to witness. We’ve gotten to play all over the United States, and a couple of times in Canada. We’re looking to heavily expand on that in the coming year.

DS – Considering you only had one EP before your latest, pretty impressive you snagged a label that quickly, or, rather, it makes it evident how powerful your music is. How did you get in touch with Broken Limbs Recordings and what’s the relationship been like? Plans on sticking with them (no offense to them)?

IB – I appreciate the kind words, but I don’t think what we’ve done is terribly impressive. There are bands that get signed to massive labels from a single or a demo, ya know? I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished but we certainly don’t think we’re hot shit. After speaking to a couple of labels and being uncomfortable with their terms, I approached Broken Limbs because I had a tremendous amount of respect for how they conducted themselves, the strength of their distribution, and their personal commitment to the music with which they choose to be involved. I would rather my music be handled by a smaller label that genuinely cares about Immortal Bird’s artistic development than by people who just want to see how much they can get out of us. I’ve seen too many labels spend all of their time and resources on one or two “cash cow” bands and leave dozens of others to fend for themselves after signing away their integrity. We aren’t locked into anything with BLR but that’s also one of the reasons I see no reason to stop working with them. We’ve spoken to larger labels, but right now I think that our relationship with BLR is in a really good place.

DS – Awesome, that’s probably sadly rarer these days than it would seem.  Too many bands want to make it big before making a mark.  Okay, so let’s move on to your most recent work, Empress/Abscess, which we reviewed not so long ago. What was the thematic meaning, if any, and what kind of themes to you go for in your vocals, in general?

IB – I had come up with the line, “She is an abscess masquerading as an empress” in the song “Saprophyte” and really liked the duality between those words. After talking to Evan for a little while about what we were going to call the new album, we both felt drawn to “Empress/Abscess” almost immediately and decided to go for it. All of the lyrics are readily available with our CD/vinyl as well as online, and the themes are typically pretty dark, like most music in our genre. I try to articulate things in unconventional ways, though. I’m a big fan of using unorthodox metaphors in order to create multiple meanings behind certain lines.

DS – What did you try to do with Empress/Abscess in comparison to Akrasia? They both have a similar sound, so I was curious if you took a different direction with your most recent work or were looking to simply expand and develop further.

IB – I don’t think we had any set intention when we started writing Empress/Abscess. I like to think it’s a natural progression and improvement from the EP, because we’re more comfortable writing and playing with one another at this point. The arrangements took on a new level of complexity, and we didn’t commit ourselves to a specific genre or idea of what we “should” or “shouldn’t” sound like.

DS – Your artwork is also worth nothing, because it stands out among all the usual drivel we receive.  Seriously, so many bands underestimate the importance of good art.  I seem to recall going through a ton of crap promos and one of the reasons I first listened to yours was that art.  It looks like the same artist did both of your releases. Is that true and is there any symbolism behind it?

IB – Kikyz1313 is a Mexican artist who has done the artwork for both of our albums. I love her style, and the mix of gorgeous and grotesque is certainly something we try to emulate in our music. There is some symbolism at work, sure, but I like to let people make their own connections instead of promoting my own.  The art wasn’t created specifically for us, and I can’t speak to what message Kikyz1313 was trying to convey. All I know is that her imagery has always resonated very deeply with me, and I connected to that piece right away for a number of reasons.

DS – Interesting, so kind of a self-determined application of your own perception of something made for other purposes.  Well, let’s cap this off with new material. Working on anything for the future? If so, can you give some details?

IB – I’ve been writing a lot of riffs that will hopefully be fleshed out into full Immortal Bird songs, and we’ve also discussed the possibility of our live guitarist, Nate Madden, taking a more creative role in the songwriting process along with Evan and I. I’m interested to see how adding new collaborative elements might help our sound evolve, as none of us are wedded to any particular “vibe” or “style” going forward. I think that any music we write will be distinctly “Immortal Bird” regardless of what kind of creative risks we take. So, I guess we’ll see how the new stuff turns out!

DS – Sounds awesome, really looking forward to it (and keep that same artist).  Thanks again for doing this interview amongst your busy schedules and the like, really interested to see what you do in the future, and possibly checking out your work live if you ever come by this way, or close.  Thanks again!


Interview Conducted by Stanley Stepanic