Baltimore Maryland USA’s Sekengard released their self-titled debut EP on May 29th via their Big Cartel page (http://sekengard.bigcartel.com/) Tapping into a multitude of musical styles, Sekengard has created a unique blend of folk and metal which will surely catch your attention. Lead vocalist and fiddler Sarah Stepanik took time out from her way too busy schedule to throw some answers my way regarding the EP, their influences and their summer plans….check it out…..
Congrats on your debut EP!! Any early feedback coming in?
“Thanks! We have received lots of pre-orders from people all over the states, so I’m guessing the word about us is getting around. Our current fans are really excited about it and are really eager to have it in their speakers.”
The 5 songs on the EP look to be songs that you have had for a while in your live set…..how have they changed (if at all) from when they were written? Were there any changes when they were recorded?
“We have gone through 2 guitarist changes and MANY drummer changes since Sekengard was created two and a half years ago, so each musician has brought their own unique additions to the songs. And every once in a while, someone will have an idea about putting little nuances to make the song just a little bit better. Otherwise the core of every song was recorded the same as we wrote it.”
How does it work?
How does the song writing work in Sekengard? Does everyone contribute to the songwriting and are all ideas welcomed? How often are you all together to play/practice?
“Four out of the five songs on the EP were written by either myself, Dan, or Evan. “Drink to Victory” was a collective effort by all of us that took about two days to write. Every opinion and idea is welcomed. No one is going to say “No this is exactly how the song is supposed to be”. Especially since I’m not a guitarist, I’ll give my guitarists some tabs and they say “Can we change the rhythm to this?” and it always sounds better than how I originally wrote it.”
The recording process can make or break a lot of bands…how did you guys fare in the studio? Where did you record, how long did it take and what was good and bad about it?
“Well, we still kind of like each other so I’d say it fared pretty well. We did a two day marathon at Seventh Wave Studio with my friend Tyler “KouqJ” Garrett. There was nothing really bad about the experience. Every other studio experience I’ve had, there was at least one point where we were all really stressed and frustrated and we yelled at each other. We were about half way through the first day when we were all wondering when we would start hating each other, but it just didn’t happen. The only “bad” thing I’d say was that we were only able to budget two recording days. I feel like it could’ve sounded even better were we to have more time.”
There seems to be a lot of diversity in your sound with numerous influences…are there some really “off the wall” influences that may not be apparent in your music?
“You mentioned in your review of the EP that “Striped Paladin” sounded medieval. That’s interesting and I hadn’t thought of that. But actually, I wrote it based on traditional Chinese music. The parts each instrument has is based on what Chinese instruments would be playing in an orchestra. It is also written in traditional Chinese keys, which is basically the pentatonic scale, but is a little more specific than that.”
Sarah, you seem to be involved in a lot of different music projects/styles like Celtic music and Pirate based projects/festivals. Does working on those projects impact what you do in Sekengard? What about the other members…are there projects they are involved with that somehow influence Sekengard in one way or another?
“Dan and I are in another band called Pirates for Sail. One of the members wrote a song called “Time Flies When Yer Havin’ Rum”. I realized when I first joined Pirates for Sail years ago, that it could make an amazing metal song. I introduced it to Sekengard and they all agreed. You won’t find it on the EP but if you go to a Sekengard show you will hear it and it will definitely be on our first full length album.”
You are releasing the EP thru Big Cartel which is an extremely popular option these days. Do you have a need at some point to actually get signed to a label or are you satisfied with your ability to sell your music/merch on your own?
“For right now, I am satisfied with how we are running business. We are still new and there are still a lot of things to learn. I’d rather learn about things the hard way first than let a label do all of my dirty work for me without letting me learn anything. I am not opposed to a label in the future though.”
Baltimore seems to have a blossoming folk metal scene with you and Isenmor in the forefront. Is there a folk metal scene there and if so, who are some of the other bands that are up and coming?
“As far as I know, us and Isenmor are the only two folk metal bands in Baltimore. We have friends on the Eastern Shore called Dogs & Day Drinkers that are more power metal but have heavy folk influence. Otherwise a lot of people in Baltimore/DC/VA are really into folk metal and it is growing in popularity. There is a fun story I have to tell about how we and Isenmor met… Back several months ago before Evan moved to Baltimore, we were still heavily searching for a drummer. I put out ads everywhere including Craigslist. One day, one of us found an ad that none of us wrote. It was a folk metal band in Baltimore ALSO looking for a drummer. We all thought “Oh no… We must defeat them in battle!” Then it was silent rivalries for several months. Eventually Dan met Tim and Nick from Isenmor then we all met and got drunk at Ottobar. Then we haven’t stopped playing all of our shows together since…”
How do you feel about your music being downloaded/”pirated” without you being compensated…does it matter?
“I will always prefer if we are payed for our work that we did. How would you feel if you worked your job, you have a project that you had to turn into your boss, then someone steals it then you don’t get paid? Don’t be a douche. However there will always be those assholes who will take our stuff. If you MUST steal our shit, the only thing I ask is you tell other people about us, come to our shows, and buy some merch.”
How important is playing live to Sekengard? Is it OK just to play every once in a while or are you interested in actually doing some full fledge touring in the future?
“Playing live is probably the most important thing to us. We put on a show. Everyone who has seen us has said how fun we are on stage. We try to have a gig once a month, with the other projects that I am in it is hard to do any more. However I would love to do touring in the future.”
How do all 6 of you balance personal lives with being part of the band? Is that possibly one of the biggest issues is prioritizing the band with everything else going on?
“Evan and I have the more busy schedules compared to the rest of the guys. We can handle it pretty well, sometimes conflicts arise but we have been able to sort it out. Otherwise we haven’t had any major conflicts with personal lives and Sekengard.”
You have 2 huge Folk Metal festivals in August you are involved with (Pocono Folk Metal Fest and Maryland Folk Fest)….how are the preparations for both coming along?
“We are in the process of writing a few more songs. Old fans will get the pleasure of hearing brand new songs, and new fans will be able to hear us at our very best.”
Beyond the release of the EP and the show, what does the near future hold in store for Sekengard?
“Maryland Folk Fest is our creation, we are working hard to make that really successful and to make it yearly. Otherwise we are writing new songs and will plan to have a full length album in the next couple years.”
Almost halfway thru 2015 already….any favorite albums so far from this year?
“Our friends in Wilderun put out a really bitchin album a couple months ago titled Sleep at the Edge of the Earth.”
“We hope that everyone who is reading this will buy and enjoy our new EP. And we greatly encourage constructive criticism as this is our first recorded material and we only want to do better. Hopefully we can get some amazing new fans in the next year.”