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Interview: Novarium

Written by Linette Ray

How did you come up with the name Novarium? Did you have any other names you considered before choosing it?

Sean: As these things often do, it came up one weekday morning during a game of drunken Scrabble. Desperate to eke out a win, Dean was insistent that ‘novarium’ was a word, and being the large, fearsome man that he is, we had no choice but to agree with him. Some might object to the details of the story, but I’m standing by it.

D. Anthony: I was strong-armed by Dean into believing “Novarium” is a word. I’m afraid to reveal any more.

Dean: There we were, playing a mean game of Scrabble….

Did you struggle with finding your “sound” at first?

D. Anthony: There’s always a bit of a struggle finding your footing as a band. We were trying to find a balance between heavy songs with more melodic doom and dirgy songs. The audience may prefer one over the other, but we write for ourselves and try to make the best songs that we can. We’re still developing as artists. Like any new band, we had to get used to working with one another to integrate our influences and create something that sounded like us.

Dean: When we first started, Sean and I were the main songwriters. The whole first album was us trying to find a way to merge both of our styles into something that sounded like no one but “Novarium”. We had no idea which direction to go in. More metal? More goth? How much of a blend of the two? Any other influences? Omicron was all over the place. After touring with those songs for so long, we learned what worked for us and what didn’t. We discovered our sound. That said, I still love Omicron. There’s some great stuff on there!

How did you end up becoming a “horror-metal/ goth-metal” band? Are you fans of the creepy, crawly, macabre horror stuff?

Micah: Personally, I grew up with horror and the creepy crawly stuff. Both in my actual life, and also in the film and literature I consumed. My dad loved horror movies, and he didn’t make enough money for a babysitter, so he used to bring me along to all the stuff he wanted to see. He would make me turn my head for the really bad stuff. I would always just watch the light from the projector when he would, because I loved it all so much. I didn’t want to miss anything. In high school the Evil Dead (trillogy) and Nuke ‘Em High was basically played wherever I went on loop for 4 years. Then of course when I was in Bella Morte, I basically was a zombie for almost a decade. One of the songs I wrote with Bella Morte got a music video produced by Troma Studios (the film studio that made the Nuke ‘Em High series :) ). Now that I am fully a member of Novarium, the trend seems to be continuing toward the creepy crawly. I guess I basically always wanted to write soundtracks for my favorite horror movies, horror is what I grew up with, I feel like horror is kind of an intrinsic part of who I am at this point.

D. Anthony: From the beginning, we were influenced by gothic metal bands. I’ve always been into horror movies. The ones based on true stories especially interest me.

Sean: Well my life is a horror show, so it was a natural progression.

Dean: I’ve always been into the horror genre. My dad was a big Universal Monsters fan and we would watch B movies together. Combine that with a love of Edgar Allen Poe, and that’s my happy place. Novarium isn’t really a horror metal band. Our video for “Virus” was meant to be dark and dreary with some horror influence thrown in for good measure, but in general we’re just into gothic imagery. That seems to go well with Jen’s lyrics.

I think a lot of people have a natural curiosity about death and the afterlife. We want to know the unknown. Death is frightening to most, and horror movies make entertainment out of a frightening topic. Personally, I find eternal life to be a much more frightening prospect!

What was the process behind “Virus” your new single? Where did the inspiration come from?

Jen: I’ve always been very interested in history and theology. I think some of the most powerful questions we ask ourselves, is who are we? Is there a god? Is there life after death, or a higher power, or just some bigger meaning to everything? This song uses ancient Egyptian history and religious imagery to move the story along. That period in history was always very interesting to me, because the kings and pharaohs were revered as living gods. A lot of people don’t like the idea of a human being a god, but I think it’s fun to think about. If you love someone for example, you may treat them in a way, like a god. We treat celebrities like gods, sometimes. It’s an interesting concept. This song is about loving someone very much, to the point where they are put on a pedestal, treated like a god. Sometimes this can go to your head, and that person changes, even though they didn’t want to. Ultimately if one wants to change, they need to do it themselves. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want your help.

How has your writing style changed from your first album “Omicron” in 2016 to now?

D. Anthony: Our sound has definitely evolved. I believe we write more cohesive songs now. We know what each of us brings to the table and we capitalize on those strengths.

Dean: We all took lessons and learned to play our instruments. Aside from that, we’re road-tested. Omicron was written from the perspective of 5 individuals trying to put an album out quickly. We were laying a foundation, but had yet to create our tried-and-true musical formula. These days, we write for ourselves. The writing and lyrics have matured. Now a band of 6, we all bring something to the table. Micah has been around for years, and we’re ecstatic to be working with him. There’s a lot of talent and professionalism in the band these days, and we all have varied influences that make Novarium what it is. The style hasn’t changed so much as the ingredients.

What is your writing process like? Is it a collaborative effort or do one or two primarily write? Do you take inspiration from your everyday lives?

D. Anthony: A lot of times someone will present the music to an entire song. We all collaborate and put our spin on it. Technology plays a huge role in how we write these days, especially during this pandemic. I’ve even started to create entire drum tracks of songs to present to the band. Once the basic skeleton is done, Jen will usually demo out some vocals. The ideas keep flowing until we have something that we can all agree feels complete.

Dean: Every one of us is a multi-instrumentalist, and we’re all constantly creating. Having home studios is a godsend to a composer, and we all have them. Someone will come up with something, usually the skeleton of an entire song, and send it to everyone for approval. We’re not a song factory: if it doesn’t sound like something Novarium would do, we don’t do it. Everyone records scratch tracks and we build from there. None of us are immune to direction. Like, if I’m playing a guitar line and someone says, “maybe play it THIS way?”, or someone else is doing something I think may be better another way, we’re all receptive. There are no egos. We’re serving the song.

Who are your musical influences? If you could collaborate with any artist or band, who would it be?

D. Anthony: My main influences are bands like Metallica, KoRn, Everygrey, DISTURBED, and Fear Factory. Raymond Herrera had this awesome creative double bass style that I was just enamored with, and KoRn is appealing because they don’t pigeonhole themselves into playing one style. Morphing different styles make the songs more entertaining to listen to for me. I’m a big fan of things like syncopated double bass beats that mimic the guitars.

Sean: Rammstein and Pink Floyd. They’ve been my straight-to-the-brain, no fooling around, drugs of choice for altogether too long. Lately I’ve been digging Somali Yacht Club and Jinjer, both killer Ukrainian outfits, as well as Naxatras, who are a phenomenal Greek band. Seriously, go check ‘em out now--I’ll wait here. And as far as my dream collaboration? That would be the greatest thing to come out of Canada since All-Dressed potato chips, Devin Townsend. So apparently what I’m saying here is that I only like non-American musicians.

Dean: My musical influences are all over the place from 80’s rock and pop to prog rock/metal to death metal, goth metal, and everything in between. I’ve also been listening to a lot of jazz, lounge music, and EDM. Good music is good music and I try to blend a lot of different styles. I love soundscapes and soundtracks too. We use a lot of orchestral elements and I always imagine what those parts would sound like dynamically in a movie. We’ve been asked a lot about artist collaborations and I’m really never sure how to answer. I wouldn’t turn down a collaboration with Kamelot or The Birthday Massacre.

I know you came onto the scene in 2013, so how has social media changing over the years helped Novarium to grow?

Jen: We definitely started doing more video content, not only because it’s fun but because it’s really helpful for musicians right now. Our Youtube channel has gained some followers because of the Virus music video so that’s nice! The fact that Youtube evolved into a search engine for video content is also very interesting and I know a lot of people who find brand new music frequently on social media - it’s definitely become the go-to vehicle for how to get music out to audiences.

D. Anthony: At one time, belonging on a record label defined success. With the advent of social media, anyone can get their music to the masses. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its downside, but it’s become a vehicle for bands like us. MTV isn’t playing music anymore, so YouTube has definitely become the way for bands to get the music out there. So far it’s helped us tremendously. Social media makes it possible for people around the world to listen to the music and watch your videos.

Dean: Like anything new, there’s always something coming along trying to outdo the last new thing. New platforms are being created all the time. Analytics help bands like us target our audiences and promote the page. As time has gone on, platforms have restricted what the audience sees in their feeds so bands have to adapt to those changes and find alternative ways to stay relevant. It’s forced us to learn to be resourceful with content to keep our audience interested. We’ve grown by paying attention to the business side of the industry and taking on new creative tasks.

We’re in a really weird time in the world right now, what with coronavirus and the current political situation and everything, but what are your upcoming goals for Novarium for the rest of 2020 and into 2021?

Jen: For us our writing process actually has not changed at all during this pandemic. We were already a remote band with members all across the US, so we were already writing remotely and sharing files back and forth. We plan on releasing more music very soon.

Sean: By the time 2021 rears its magnificent head, I’m going to be desperate to play an actual show. Real grasping at straws, willing-to-do-whatever-it-takes desperate. I’ll donate a kidney if I have to. Is that how bands get good gigs? I don’t know, I don’t handle the booking. Don’t judge me.

D. Anthony: 2020 still has a few things on the agenda. We plan to release two EP’s in the next few months. Touring isn’t a priority at the moment until we know it’s safe. For now, we get to take our time with the new material and have a presentable catalogue. When we were touring consistently off of the first album, we hardly had time to work on new material.

Dean: We were looking at doing a second music video for our “Virus” EP, but the pandemic nixed that, so we’re putting together a lyric video to keep things going. We have another EP’s worth of material we’re working on, and the creative floodgates don’t stop there. We’re working on all new content, artwork, and other plans for live music. We’re spread out across the U.S., so everything depends on safety and travel. The downtime won’t be wasted, that’s for sure. If NAMM isn’t cancelled, we’re scheduled for a performance in L.A. for the Soultone Cymbals company our drummer is endorsed with. We’re not done yet!

Anything else you’d like to add?

You can subscribe to us and watch the music video for Virus here: https://www.youtube.com/c/novariumband

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D. Anthony: We can’t wait for everyone to hear what we’ve been working on. We’ll have a lot of pent up energy to unleash when we can finally get back out there, so we hope to see you soon!. Keep checking back for tour dates and merch to come.

Dean: Stay tuned for a new campaign that allows fans to get their hands on special merch, look out for a new lyric video coming soon, find our new EP on all streaming sites when available, and thank you for reaching out to us for this interview!

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