I’m sure we have a lot of Sojourner fans here at the site (prob none bigger than me) so I was shocked and thrilled to discover another full project by two of the Sojourners in guitarist Mike Lamb and bassist Mike Wilson. Lysithea is not a side project but rather a full-fledged evolving megalith of awesomeness with multiple albums and a new one just released entitled “Star-Crossed” for label Rain Without End. While not really folk metal per se, there is definitely some crossover appeal to acts on the periphery. The guys both took shots at answering questions regarding the project, the album, the style and a few other items of note….check it out…..
Congrats on your epic new album “Star-Crossed”…what has been the response to it so far?
MW: “Thank you! It’s early days but so far the feedback we’ve had has been very positive. We’re really pleased with how the album turned out!”
ML: “Thanks man! Yeah we’re very happy with how it’s being received so far, but as Wils said it’s still early days. Having Naturmacht on our side has definitely helped us draw a bit more attention to than previous releases though, which has been nice! But honestly that’s our own fault, we’ve never been as active in promoting the band as we should have been in the past.”
Could you give us a brief history of the project and what you had envisioned for it from the formation?
ML: “Lysithea was basically just my escape from the bands I was playing in at the time to go and do all the stuff I wanted to that was more in line with what I really loved. I wanted to do something atmospheric, dreamy, and beautiful…but I didn’t have any knowledge about recording or any gear. So I just started accumulating stuff, learning how to record, and writing a lot. Those early releases sound super amateur, but I still have a soft spot for the songs, so who knows…maybe one day I’ll redo all that early stuff with proper production and try to make it sound how I had imagined initially. I had always intended for the band to have vocals, but I just didn’t have access to the kind of vocal style I really wanted at the time so I just left those early albums as instrumental releases.”
Why did you decide to call it Lysithea and could you give us a little explanation of the meaning of it?
ML: “I mean, mythologically Lysithea is the daughter of Oceanus, but I named it Lysithea because it’s ones of the moons of Jupiter. If you look at the logo you’ll notice the circle is Jupiter haha but I guess that kind of gets a bit lost since it’s pretty styalised. The band was always supposed to be more cosmically themed, but on those early instrumental albums I ended up going down a more fiction-influenced path thematically and I didn’t get around to the spacey direction till the first doom album, ‘The Secret Fate of All Life’.”
Description wise, I have heard you described as maybe a “doom” band…..is that a description that you could live with? Is it far too simplistic a description? What works better for you if possible?
MW: “I think we can definitely live with that description. In terms of atmosphere and feel I think Lysithea is definitely closest to the melodic death/doom style, and we are certainly influenced by many similar styled bands. Genre classification can be needlessly complicated, and you could spend forever picking out certain sounds and influences in bands that may not fit a certain box, but we’re fine with Doom or Death/Doom!”
ML: “We’re definitely a doom band these days I’d say, that’s the closest genre tag for sure. On the early stuff it was a way more of a doomy post-rock vibe, but all the post-rock is gone for the most part now.”
When Mike W joined in 2014, vocals were then added in for what was up to that point an instrumental project. Was this the direction you intended on going or was it happenstance that his vocals worked for the material? Did vocals change the direction of the project?
ML: “When me and Wils talked about him joining, I’d written a bunch of ideas as a followed up to ‘Here at the End of All Things’, but we both wanted to take it in a much doomier, heavier direction so I ended up taking what I’d written and released it as ‘The Forgotten Place’ EP which was kind of putting the previous style to rest. Then we started fresh from there. I’d always intended it to have vocals though, but for the previous stuff I’d wanted beautiful, ethereal female vocals in there as the driving force but once we decided on the doomier direction we knew Mike W.’s vocals were exactly what we need.”
MW: “After Mike L. had put out ‘Here at the End of All Things’ and we talked about doing the next album together, it became clear the style was going to shift towards a darker and heavier tone which is what you can hear from ‘The Secret Fate of All Life’ onward. When I joined the band we immediately got to work on writing a new album in the style and direction we wanted to take the band, so it was all written with vocals in mind and a conscious stylistic shift.”
You have had one of my all time favs in Anais Mulgrew create artwork for the album….could you give us some ideas of the concept of the art if possible?
MW: “Star-Crossed is a concept album and so all of Anais’ art ties in with the themes of the album; love, loss and mortality. We supplied Anais with the songs and lyrics and just let her create whatever came to mind and what we received was perfect! The art captures the feel of the album so well and we are thrilled with the results.”
ML: “Wils drove the album’s theme and direction this time around, but Anais is a good friend of mine these days and I absolutely adore her artwork. She’s done all of the Sojourner merch so far, and we’ll continue to use her going forward with both bands because her stuff is just phenomenal and she’s just a fantastic person to deal with. I can’t possibly recommend her enough to anyone looking for artwork.”
What was the inspiration behind the album being titled “Star-Crossed”?
MW: ‘Star-Crossed’ just captured the themes and feel of the album so well that when it came into my mind I knew it was going to be the title. The phrase works so well with the love and loss elements of the storyline, as well as some of the mental imagery the music conjures up.”
How does the songwriting process work with both of you being on opposite sides of the planet? Lots of file sharing and texting I guess?
MW: “Essentially! Mike L. and I haven’t lived in the same city for a long time, and never while Lysithea has been active as a duo. For past albums when we were both still living in New Zealand, we wrote half an album each and recorded all the instruments on our respective tracks before coming together in Dunedin to record vocals and mix and master. We’ve been making music together off and on for about 15 years and our styles work well together which is why we felt confident making albums this way. Star-Crossed is a bit different in that I handled the music/recording side here in NZ and Mike L. did the full mix and master at his home studio in Scotland. We plan on making the next album more of a true collaborative effort which should hopefully yield some interesting results!”
ML: “Yeah, me and Wils are probably going to end up the same city again eventually so the next album will be properly collaborative. We were both pretty confident doing our own thing and coming together to combine the tracks for the albums in the past though, so we never struggled with that aspect. Luckily we’ve been in bands together since we were teenagers, so Wils is one of my oldest and closest friends, and we’ve just got writing styles that gel together really well.”
We all know you from your epic work together in Sojourner….is there any sort of crossover when it comes to Lysithea when it comes to writing….do you know that something may work better for one project or the other?
ML: “Nah not at all. Lysithea predates Sojourner as a project by about 6-7 years, so Sojourner sort of sprung up on the side of Lysithea and just happened to grab attention a little more than Lysithea had til now. It’s really easy to separate the two out though, they’re very different and I tend to focus on work for one or the other at a time so I’m never torn about what’s supposed to end up where.”
MW: “This is the first Lysithea album since the formation of Sojourner, but the two bands are different enough in style that we can compartmentalize the writing for each. Mike L. is a core songwriter for Sojourner whereas I have more of a backseat role, but I don’t think there’s ever any question as to which ideas belong to which band.”
I felt you have a lot in common with acts like Amorphis, Paradise Lost and the killer Amiensus….do you have any thoughts on those as comparative acts? What other bands do you think are the biggest influences on your sound and style?
MW: “We are both big fans of all three of those bands so we take that as high praise indeed! Some of the bigger influences would include My Dying Bride, Mourning Beloveth, Agalloch and Katatonia to name a few.”
ML: “For me some of the bands that influence me most for Lysithea (and my writing style in general I guess) are things like Agalloch, Katatonia, Novembre, Mourning Beloveth, The Morningside, Draconian, Borknagar, and a lot of stuff from bands and artists outside of metal too. I’m a huge soundtrack fan, things like Clint Mansell’s ‘The Fountain’ and John Murphy’s ‘Sunshine’, that kind of thing. I think Clint Mansell’s ‘The Fountain’ OST is solely responsible for the reason you hear piano all over both Lysithea and Sojourner.”
Never say Never
The album was released on Rain Without End/Naturmacht….how did this label come to work out as your home for this project?
MW: “We got in touch with Rob at the label after we’d finished the mix of the album. Our past recordings were all released independently but this time around we wanted to work with a label to enhance the release of the album and help us grow the band. We were thrilled when Rain Without End/Naturmacht took us on as we are big fans of their releases and working with the label has been nothing but a pleasure!”
Has the thoughts of ever taking this live/touring ever crossed your mind especially with Sojourner doing some extensive touring recently? Maybe you could have it as an opening act? Or are you happy to keep it studio only?
ML: “I think Lysithea could be really fun live in the right context, but with all the logistics of how hard it’s been getting Sojourner consistently in one place I think I’d only ever want to take Lysithea live if it was a full band all living in the same place. It’s just too stressful and too much of a resource drain trying to pull everyone together like we do with Sojourner.”
MW: “Logistically speaking it would be a hard feat to pull off as there are only the two of us and we are currently at opposite ends of the Earth! We both enjoy playing live and I think a lot of our material could lend itself well to a live environment but many stars would need to align to make it happen. But we’ll never say never!”
Albums you guys are looking forward to in 2019?
MW: “I’m hoping we’ll get the new My Dying Bride album this year! Other than that, I’m waiting for new music from Havukruunu, Exitio, Atlas Pain, hopefully the next Ghostheart Nebula release… too many really!”
ML: “2019’s already shaping up to be so good musically! Two of my favorite albums in ages have come out since the start of the year, Astronoid’s self-titled album and Health’s ‘Vol.4: Slaves of Fear’. Then stuff like new Swallow the Sun, Soen, Rotting Christ, and Evergrey have all been brilliant. My friend Malo in Can Bardd recently release his brilliant new album just the other week, and I mixed and mastered the new Dwarrowdelf for my good friend Tom O’Dell and I have to say that’s just such a solid album start to finish that it’s going to end up on my AOTY list haha. I’m also really looking forward to new Ison, new Draconian, new Borknagar, new (EchO), new Ghostheart Nebula…and I’m sure there’s some other stuff that’s slipped my mind too!”
Lysithea: “Thank you for the chat and thanks to anyone who has shown us any support over the years. Cheers!”