Fire From Maryland
Teshaleh is a recently formed act from here in the US (Maryland to be exact) and are issuing forth their debut EP “Born Of Fire” at the beginning of February via their Bandcamp page. Chock full of members (8) and musical styles, Teshaleh is poised to forge their own path and put themselves on the folk metal map. Guitarist Brett McCoy and multi-instrumentalist John Harford set a new record in answering some interview questions (less than a day turnaround) and we discussed the EP, the writing process, the influences, playing live and a few other things of note….check it out……
Mug of Beer
Congrats on your debut EP “Born Of Fire”! Have you gotten some early feedback on it at this point?
Brett: “Yes, we’ve had several reviews already, all positive, including folk-metal.nl!”
Could you please tell us how you formed the band and what your goal(s) were when you formed?
Brett: “John and I have been talking for several years (at least as far back as 2012, probably earlier) about starting some kind of Gothic/medieval/metal fusion kind of band. We had a couple of false starts, but in 2016, I was in-between bands at the time, and was watching a live performance of a period band called Stary Olsa. They performed traditional music on medieval instruments but also performed modern songs like Iron Man and Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 on medieval instruments and I thought “I want to do this, but instead of playing modern metal on medieval instruments, I want to play medieval music on modern metal instruments”. At some point in the show Stary Olsa performed a song called “In Taberna” and a friend I was with called it Hobbit music and said he wished he had a mug of beer to knock together with me. That pretty much solidified it for me and I started advertising around the area for musicians and by February of 2017 we were ready to go!
John: “Brett gave a great summary. We’ve been talking online about this for a number of years. Early on we sent a few tracks back and forth for collaboration, and Brett came up to jam with my other band once but none of that really ‘clicked’. We’ve wanted to do something with both the heavy metal approach and the historic instruments for a while. Brett started getting people together just about two years ago and at that time I wasn’t sure I’d be able to commit time-wise. But once we jammed a few times with the then new members we knew it was going somewhere interesting.”
Is there a simple explanation/definition for the band being name Teshaleh?
Brett: “The original name I came up with was Flammifur, which was a slight variation on the name ‘Flammifer’, an epithet of the character Eärendil the Mariner from Tolkien’s works. We decided it was too silly sounding so we threw around some ideas based on some early Indo-Iranian words for the word ‘fire’ and synthesized these into the name ‘Teshaleh’. This also refers to the instrumental and album title ‘Born of Fire’, which I had actually written several years ago, inspired by Zoroastrianism.”
There are a lot of varied styles that I perceived including Medieval, Middle eastern and Indian music in your sound….are those fair assessments? Are there some other styles maybe not so obvious?
Brett: “Yes, you’ve totally nailed the sound. We wanted to create something that was along the lines of Robert E. Howard (Conan), Fritz Lieber (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouse) and Michael Moorcock (Elric) and wanted to reflect the multicultural aspects of these classic sword and sorcery writers. There is a very rich musical tradition from Western and Central Asia, in additional to medieval Europe, and we wanted to reflect this in our music.”
John: “Yeah we draw from a lot of sources. Both Brett and I are interested in medieval music, both the more ‘traditional’ European format of what we have and the near eastern/old Orient sounds and instruments. Many of the period medieval songs, and many of the neo-Medieval bands had a lot of influence from the Balkans and middle east as well. So we’ve decided to pull that a little closer together sonically and as Brett said, reflect some of our favorite source material which has a Hellenistic feel. We also really have been trying to draw on other broad rock and metal music sources to avoid sounding too much like other bands in the folk metal scene.”
Play and Play
How does the songwriting process as well as practice/recording work? Is it as difficult as it sounds with so many members?
Brett: “It can be tricky! Several of the songs were material I had previously written before the band existed so we kind of hit the ground running. For newer material, usually someone comes in with an idea and we just start jamming on it and seeing what works and what doesn’t. We make sure we get recordings of our ideas, of course, and continue to work on individual parts in between rehearsal sessions. And then we just play and play until it all comes together. And, of course, a couple of tunes are re-arrangements of traditional pieces that we put our own spin on.”
John: “The cool thing so far has been that all of us at point take lead, and all of us know when to fall back. The writing has actually all been very organic and cooperative. And we do a lot of experimenting and sonic ‘sketching’. Juggling member schedules can be a bit tricky as we all do a lot of other other things. But we’re all pretty dedicated to this project and make it a point to get to as much as we can.”
How many songs do you have in your arsenal at this point? Were there enough to put out a full length or did you think that the tracks that were selected were the best of the bunch and most ready for recording and release?
Brett: “Not counting covers, we have around 7 original tunes, 5 of which appear on the EP, and one of which is in development. In fact, we are taking off the entirety of Winter 2019 to write new material and hit the Spring & Summer gig season with a bunch of new tunes.”
What bands are some of the biggest influences in metal or otherwise in your sound?
Brett: “For me, as far as metal bands go, Black Sabbath is my favorite band of all time, but I also am heavily inspired by Rush, Therion, Iron Maiden and Dream Theater. I am also a big fan of world music artists like Lorenna McKennitt, Azam Ali and Dead Can Dance. And a not as well known Middle Eastern music group, based here in the US, called Turku.”
John: “I have a really broad music taste. For this project I listen to a lot of the German ‘mittelalter’ such as Saltatio Mortis, Corvus Corax, In Extremo, Tanzwut, Schelmish, etc… As far as metal Iron Maiden has been the big one for me. Mercyful Fate is probably a close second, especially atmospherically. Early East Coast and German thrash and Norwegian black metal influences me quite a bit. The past few years I’ve listened to a lot of Arkona. One of my favorite bands, nearly unknown here in the USA is Huldre from Denmark. I consider them a nearly perfect Folk Metal band.”
Other influences outside of music (books, movies, hobbies, TV, etc.)?
Brett: “Yep, as I mentioned before, we’re all huge fans of fantasy literature, Tolkien, Conan, etc, as well as stuff like Dungeons and Dragons, LARP, video games, etc. We love to dress up in fantasy garb too, and it’s definitely a part of our stage presence. I also am a member of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism).”
John: “Part of the fun of this band is the look and live presentation. Sword and Sorcery literature and movies definitely have inspired that. The original Conan the Barbarian movie, and of course the RE Howard stories, defined what fantasy/sword and sorcery should be. I’m a big Tolkien freak but I didn’t want to draw too heavily on that as far as look and lyrics for this. I’ve been in the LARP, RPG, Ren Faire scene for years. And Teshaleh to me is a natural extension of that culture.”
How does the band members other musical endeavors impact Teshaleh (if at all) in terms of overall direction and sound?
Brett: “Well, most of us are in other projects that are somewhat related. Dan, our drummer, is in our ‘older sister’ folk metal band Sekengard, and also plays in a power metal band called Dogs and Day Drinkers that does a Mad Max post-apocalyptic kind of thing. I have a ‘Steampunk metal’ side project called Alhazred that is heavily inspired by writers like HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. Our keyboard player Damien is directly involved in the video game industry and does his own music thing with synthwave, EDM, etc. Our bass player Chris has been all over the local scene and was involved in bands like Brave, Division, DragonSong, etc. We’ve all got experience in lots of things and it has definitely helped in keeping the band energy going. I’ll let John talk about his own stuff :-)”
John: “I’ve managed and played in a number of other bands doing medieval and semi-historical medieval and folk. I began on the Ren Faire scene with Terra Serpentis and have had other projects like Medhorn, Ashagal, etc… Those were all very different instrumentally and focused on the unplugged festival scene. I’ve also played as a guest with several well known more historical groups. I think that this band has similarities but is inherently different with the heavy, loud plugged aspect. I’ve got some other more folk oriented sketches and ideas out there plus some solo pipe stuff, but I need to get rolling on all that. “
Maryland has incredible metal scene with no fewer than 3 major fests (Maryland Folk Metal, Shadow Woods, Maryland Deathfest) plus tons of folk metal and related acts….tell us a little about the scene if you could?
Brett: “I love the metal scene in DC/Baltimore area. We also have a style of doom metal named for Maryland and have an annual festival for that (Maryland Doom Fest). I don’t know what it’s like in other locales, but “female-fronted” metal is a pretty major part of our scene as well, and we used to have an annual festival here for that (Flight of the Valkyries). The fans, too, are pretty hardcore, and you see young folks as well as the older guys like me out there with their fists in the air and moshing. I love how close knit everyone is, and how everyone is so supportive and accepting of each other, regardless of gender, ethnicity, etc. The area in general is very diverse and this is quite well reflected in our scene.”
How is playing live in terms of importance to the band? Is that more important than actually releasing music?
Brett: “It’s our favorite thing to do, perform live! One of the reasons we have such a large ensemble is because we wanted to get away from playing to backing tracks. Everything you hear in a live performance is played by a human, nothing is sequenced or is a playback. More importantly, we love to interact with the audience and have as much fun playing for them as they are having fun watching us play. Nothing makes me happier than seeing heads banging and a mosh pit opening up. We did a “Wall of Death” on one of our songs at a recent show and it was the best thing ever.”
John: “Especially for a band like this, to me the live presentation is so much of the appeal. We wanted to create the equivalent of a fantasy movie/environment onstage and let the audience step ‘somewhere else’. For that we’ve watched a lot of stuff like Heilung, Wardruna and Arkona and me personally Fields of the Nephilim – who all do a great job of creating this whole other world you seem to step into when you see them live. That is part of why we costume. And we plan to just up that game in this coming year.”
What are the near future plans for touring/live shows?
Brett: “As I said, we are taking off Winter 2019 to write some new material. We are looking to do a CD Release party in the Spring, and are looking at some potential stuff for the later Spring and Summer. We want to start getting into more festivals and even conventions, where there will be a plenty of fantasy & medieval music fans!”
John: “Our real goal is to start to get to events that really cater to fans of the type of stuff we do. Like Brett said cons and hopefully music festivals that welcome not only having a band play there for entertainment of fans, but specifically want something totally unique.”
How do you feel about the ease of downloadable music and the overall business of music?
Brett: “I personally love digital distribution and how it has caused the business of music to evolve in the past decade. It has put the power of the market right into the hands of the artists, and with things like crowdsourced albums via Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc, fans can actually be a part of the album production and it’s a wonderful and interactive way to make music. And social media and direct distribution has really helped close the distance between fans and artists as well.”
John: “Obviously since we’ve done all of marketing and distribution, organically and DIY, through online platforms it is tough to knock it. On the other hand I know a lot of indy labels who have had some issue staying afloat since people buy less and less physical product. But things change. I started with film photography and traditionally drafted design. I watched that change. Music followed quickly. I think it is a pretty unique time to be doing all of this. It is nice to have control over your product and distribution. And I’ve found people who are really dedicated to your music will buy and support it in any case. It is great having folks from all over the world ‘find’ your music connect with it.
Any favorite albums from 2018 and what ones are you waiting for in 2019?
Brett: “I am really looking forward to the new Candlemass album, they are bringing back their original vocalist Johan and Tony Iommi, my favorite guitarist in the whole world, is performing as a guest musician on one track.”
John: “One of my favorite new bands is Zeal and Ardor; they have a totally unique sound and a lot of different elements going on. Stranger Fruit is fantastic and was released this past year. Hugsjá – the collaboration of Einar Selvik (Wardruna) and Ivar Bjornson (Enslaved) just came out this past April and it is also amazing. A real departure sonically from what they’ve done before but very impressive. Of course, the new Corvus Corax, Skál has been on repeat for months now.”
Brett: “Yeah, want to thank all of our fans, friends and families for supporting us these past two years since we’ve started! It’s been a whirlwind and I am amazed things have taken off so well for us!”
John: “I never imagined at our first meeting we’d go this far in this short amount of time. We’re thrilled for the support. And we can’t wait for our fans to get a chance to hear the EP. We’re very happy with and proud of it and hope everyone likes it as much as we do.”