Minnesota’s Amiensus has been one of my favorite bands ever since I heard their debut album “Restoration” back in 2013. Since then, they have churned out more awesome music whether singles, splits, EP’s or full lengths. 2020 sees a new full length for label Transcending Records in “Abreaction”… a heavy concept of a title with music and lyrics to match. The new album revisits all of their previous efforts while also treading into new territory. I sent some questions over to guitarist,vocalist and all around cool dude James Benson regarding the new album, the title, the new label and a few other items of note…check it out…..
Going back to the beginning of your career with “The Last” EP from 2010, have all of the previous releases led up to this point with the new album? Could you write this album today without the earlier releases influencing or directing what “Abreaction” is?
“This absolutely was influenced by previous albums, specifically the “big three” so far – Restoration, Ascension, and All Paths Lead to Death. We were not the same band even physically for any of those albums, though many of us have been around for most of those albums. There was a huge shift when we gained a live drummer and began touring.”
“Abreaction” is a pretty complex concept for an album title as is the cover art…. could you explain a little about the album title and cover?”Back in 2014 I began what is my “real” career- counseling. This was about the time we were finishing Ascension. It has really shaped me as a person – and most of us have now completed or are close to completing our 20’s.. which anyone over 30 would probably say is a pretty turbulent and formative time period in a person’s life. That’s why we chose the title.”
You have explored multiple styles with your 10-year career from acoustic to black metal…..is there a signature sound or style that you know instantly makes for an Amiensus track? Has the process of writing new music and lyrics changed over time?
“Not a lot has changed! Sometimes people pipe in and say something about an album/song in regards to the structure but we have over 40 songs out – How do you narrow that down? Like you mention, we’ve covered every genre from acoustic to shoegaze to folk metal to power metal to grungey alt-rock to death metal. What are you going to tie in with those genre’s? Not a lot overall if you’ve listened to these genres for a long time. The biggest change was only when we began playing live and intending to play new songs live. We definitely had to ensure that it wouldn’t require major backing track pieces that would make standing on stage awkward. Lyrically, nothing has changed at all!”
Are you always mindful to not stray too far from previous works to retain a recognizable sound to your fans? Do you disregard some musical/lyrical ideas as not being close enough to what your fans may expect? How do you rein in what may be too extreme a shift in sound?
“I think maybe we were more mindful of our previous works and the song structures than we had been in the past. Each album prior, we were aiming for something entirely new. This time, while the majority of the songs were written with the same mindset, ultimately we ended up comparing some of the songs to previous album’s songs and saying “wow that sounds like something off Restoration/Ascension/APLTD”. We really don’t say “this isn’t a fit for Amiensus” unless there’s no way for the others to contribute to a song because it was so heavily developed by a single writer. We don’t have a limit for where we’ll go really. Maybe not dubstep or EDM, though I think we’ve already touched on that.”
Speaking of lyrical context, I feel the lyrics are much more introspective and personal this time around…..was there a driving force behind this or do you feel that previous lyrics and concepts are still the same as they have been?
“I think lyrically we’ve hit on a lot of the same concepts as before in our lyrics — but at very much different places in our lives. My lyrics have become slightly more personal and that reflects a certain time in my life that they were written however.”
How did the signing to Transcending Records come about? Were there any significant changes in your recording/writing process due to being on the new label?
“We knew Transcending because I had worked with them with my other band Fail to Decay on our LP “Delve” in 2018 and had a personal relationship with one of the owners. They literally took the album as is and went with whatever seemed right. No requests for changes at all.”
Does your work with your other projects (Nott, Chrome Waves, Adora Vivos) impact what you do with Amiensus? Do you compartmentalize your writing and gear it to certain projects at certain times?<br>”I definitely have had demoes rejected from certain projects and used by others. However, I usually intentionally write for a certain project and capitalize on motivation and inspiration at the time and “splurge’ write a few tracks at a time for a band and pitch it.”
How has the stability in lineup influenced the direction of the band? Have changes in members helped or disrupted the flow of the band? Is there more open sharing of song direction now over previous releases?
“We’ve been pretty steady now since early 2018, which has been awesome. I would say that we did have some pretty big changes between 2015 and 2018 which is partially why the album took more time (though we obviously were able to put out an EP and 2 splits in that time as well). Now, we have the songwriting process down quite a bit more. Usually there’s a main songwriter who pitches a mostly fleshed out song to Chris (drums) and Todd (bass) to add, or we go full creative and write part by part. A lot more tabbing out parts initially then we use to as well.”
From the COVID-19 pandemic to the George Floyd killing, Minneapolis has had it’s share of trials this year….. have these challenges made for a more socially active approach as a band? Do you feel that you may have become more political as well?
“Overall, some of us have been politically or socially active for many years, though we don’t feel it’s our prerogative as a small band to often share our opinions on current events. While one of us is from Minneapolis, the rest of us are from SE MN or WI. We did decide to donate our initial proceeds with Adora Vivos from our split for the MN Freedom Fund, which in retrospect now has not been the best decision (due to their founders previous actions which were brought to light). Opinions and information change and we discuss a lot of current events within the band and we have varying political affiliations within the band and it works because we are always willing to discuss serious matters and have a safe place to do that within our band – and it’s because we love and respect each other. I want to make it clear we believe that black lives matter.”
What will happen as far as any tour plans for the near future?
“We are all dying and hope that a vaccine is available as soon as possible to prevent as much transmission as possible. Most of us live very close to the world renowned and top ranked hospital in the USA- Mayo Clinic – who has been doing a LOT of COVID-19 testing in the midwest right now. We have actually had a fully masked practice with a new setlist to be ready when the time comes and it’s now comfortable. We are ready when the time seems right. Hopefully sooner than later. Please wear your masks and wash your hands going forward- not just because of COVID-19.”
You are one of few bands that is constantly offering new merch for your fans….do you enjoy the creative process for merchandise? Are you able to be profitable doing it?
“Merch is one of those things that we enjoy doing mostly because we enjoy doing it. We probably aren’t profitable because I don’t keep tabs as much as I should on this but we definitely make the most money on this – even with online streaming. Bandcamp provides the majority of our source – which barely pays enough to pay for mixing and mastering on albums and just about nothing else anymore.”
Do you have any long-term goals with Amiensus? Is there a point in time where you will know it is time to hang it up or do you see this going on indefinitely?
“I debate there being any ending to Amiensus. There are some crazy scenarios that would result in Amiensus being over. As long as we are alive and the band is willing to jam, we’ll keep making music. My whole life is devoted to music – i’ll be doing this in a decade.”
Any favorite music from 2020?
“My personal favorites from 2020 have been albums by Tricot, Narrow Head, Ringo Deathstarr, Winterfylleth, Aversio Humanitatis, Karmacipher, Inexorum, Morke, Towards Darkness, HUM, Red Velvet, and Velnias. And if you’re so inclined, by the end of the year, in the last 12 months i’ll have 4 very different albums out – Chrome Waves, Nott, and Comatose. Check them out if you’re looking for anything from Black metal to Grunge. Also, our split with my other band Adora Vivos came out in June!”
“Whether this is your first introduction to Amiensus or you’ve been a fan since Restoration – we believe Abreaction will be the strongest album to date. It’s a fusion of every aspect of writing Amiensus has ever been or done, but now with the ability to play any of these songs live. So hit us up and tell us what song you enjoyed the most, or least, because we are always able to discuss music or anything else!”