Long Island NY’s Yonder Realm has finally released a full length album called The Old Ways. With a mix of folk, thrash and death metal, the diversity of tracks on the album are sure to please a multitude of metal fans. I spoke with vocalist/ guitarist Jesse McGunnigle regarding the new album, the process of completing it and future plans for the band…….
It has been 3 years since you released the Beyond A Long Lost World EP and now have the stellar full length The Old Ways out now. What have Yonder Realm been up to these last 3 years?
We’ve been working on releasing The Old Ways mostly. That was our main goal once we released the EP was to put out a full length album. Took much longer then we had hoped due to line-up issues, funding, and painfully long recording sessions between Long Island, New York and Union, New Jersey. But we also played some killer shows and festivals and eventually got all our shit together!
There is definitely a thrash/melodic death metal vibe here included in the folky compositions. Is that what style you were playing originally before Yonder Realm? What about the other members?
Yeah most of us have been in and out of death metal bands before Yonder Realm. Johnny is from a Long Island death metal band called Carcinogen, Eddie and Dana played in a band called Praetorian. I had played with a melodic death/ folkish band inRed before and during my early time with YR. Kenny Wootton and I started YR as a side project of inRed to make music in a different direction creatively, that blended styles of our favorite composers, soundtracks, and metal bands.
Is there a folk/pagan/Viking metal scene on Long Island NY? If so what other bands are out there?
To be honest if there is we haven’t heard of it. Most of our support comes from elsewhere like Manhattan or South America. Long Island is definitely more known for having a death metal or hardcore scene if anything. Some great bands from Long Island though include Carcinogen, Dragon’s Bane, To The Depths, and Ollocs.
Where do your lyrical concepts come from? They seem a little more complex than the typical plundering, drinking, battle songs we are used to hearing…..
Lyrically the song concepts vary almost entirely song to song. I find I have always appreciated lyrics that have a more personal concept to them that leaves lots of interpretation open to the listeners. Some topics of the lyrics include astronomy, anti-theism, mythology, greed, animals, and overall life experiences among many other things. Cool, now someone fix those awfully inaccurate lyrical themes on our archives ;).
Does the band all live relatively close to each other? How often do you get together to practice/write/record or do you use file sharing and the internet to get songs put together?
Yeah for the most part we aren’t all that far apart. We usually rehearse about twice a week in our space roughly centre from where everybody lives. We do use file sharing on occasion but our writing style for The Old Ways was something like a Beatles process. It happened where Jorge, Dana, and I all presented our own fully written songs and worked with them as a band adding our own seasonings. This process I think gave our album extreme diversity but with a familiar vibe throughout songs.
Are you ever concerned about writing songs that may not be easy to perform live or not come across like they do on the album?
No, we really do like to challenge ourselves in that way. It also comes as an opportunity to be a band that could present itself in a new light to our live audience. We do strive to be as point on to the album as possible but we are known to change small aspects of our live performance (though we don’t overdo it), for what we feel delivers more live.
I see that McGunnigle is an Irish surname. Has your Irish heritage at all influenced you in music or otherwise?
Yes it is. Though if it does, I could probably conclude that it would be on a minimal level as compared to my many other influences for music. That’s not to say however that Irish music doesn’t influence me, Celtic folk is one of my favorite genres of music.
You and Jorge (Dominguez, guitar) really have a tight guitar attack. Who are your biggest guitar influences?
Thanks! Jorge and I have been playing together since we were about 12 and have gone through multiple musical phases of influence along the way. Some definitely notable names guitar wise would be Children of Bodom, Soilwork, Devin Townsend, Iron Maiden, Wintersun, Arch Enemy, In Flames, and Megadeth.
You have a new drummer in Johnny Gierak. How did you find him? How do he and Eddie (Carella, bass) come up with the rhythms to the songs or are they already understood because of the riffs?
Johnny has been a friend of the band for a while now, and we’ve known him through his other band he does vocals for Carcinogen. The rhythms for The Old Ways were for the most part thought out during the writing process and given to Eddie and Scott Burgess (who did drums on the record), to add their own flavour into the mix. But Johnny and Eddie have great chemistry when it comes to performing, and already had experience jamming together in bands before Johnny joined
The cover art by Chris Maggio has an old school feel to it. Was it something that he already had done and you were able to use it or did you specifically commission it? What does it represent to you?
The old school feel was exactly what me and Maggio were going for. I had the idea for the cover art work but I didn’t want it to look new age or modern with the title being The Old Ways. The only way a computer influenced the cover was for the scan, the title and band name. It was all hand drawn up and coloured by the man himself. The concept behind the artwork is taken from the “mad tea party” scene in Alice in Wonderland, with a few changes of course. I think the mad hatter is better in pope form, don’t you?
Is the process democratic when it comes to the song writing or are you the one “steering the ship”?
Yeah it’s definitely democratic. There was a time where this was a solo project for me, but it’s more a joined force when writing now. It takes a whole crew to sail a ship.
I see you have “Cosmic Folk Metal” as your genre tag on Facebook. Do you really feel that is best simple description of your style? If you could add a few more adjectives or genre tags what would you include?
Simplistically I think so. To add on to that maybe something like: Cosmic Majestic Epic Journey Celtic Folk Symphonic Melodic Death Metal. But I think the ring of that’s a tad obnoxious….
Favorite albums of the year so far?
Wasn’t crazy about too many albums this year! Eluveitie – Origins is definitely my top pick. Devin Townsend Project – Z2 and Behemoth – The Satanist are sick albums as well.
We share a collaborator and friend in Tim Read (Trollgasm, Septic Mutagen) who plays some Mandolin on the album. (Tim and I play in a project called Rannoch Moor together) How did Tim become involved in the album?
Pretty last minute before mixing commenced on the album, I felt there was definitely a need for some mandolin in the last track The Moonbeam Road over all the acoustic guitars. Sent over to Tim a mock piano track of the rhythm and melody he’d have to play on mandolin. He nailed it and sent it on over to me and we got it in the mix as the final touch on the album.
What are tour plans for the near future?
Everything tour wise for us is all in heavy discussion at the moment. We’re hoping to hit the road by Summer, Spring if we’re lucky. We’re hoping to return back to South America but a full U.S. tour is much needed from Yonder Realm so that is our main priority at the moment.
Closing thoughts or comments?
Jesse: Check out our album The Old Ways if you have not already. And to those that have, thank you for the support! We hope to see you in our travels for 2015!