Thursday 22 February 2018

An Interview With Jessie May from OWL MAKER

I first came across Owl Maker when I received their promo the other month. I give it a listen and I was impressed by Owl Maker's take on the classic Hard Rock/Heavy Metal sound. Taking influence from the legendary 70s era of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, Owl Maker weave a more modern sounding take with great vocals from Simon Tuozolli.

Simon receives excellent support from Jessie May on Bass and Chris Anderson on Drums.

Their debut EP – Paths Of The Slain will be released digitally on March 16th 2018. I'll be reviewing this EP within the next couple of weeks. 

Until then you can read this interview with Jessie May who provides OWL MAKER with the heavy thumping bass that helps define the bands sound.

OWL MAKER are ones to look out for.

Hi Jessie. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today?

Good! Got the day off from work for Presidents Day, can't beat that.

Before we discuss your new EP, can you give a brief overview of how the band formed and where it is today?

Owl Maker is based in Southern Connecticut. We formed in the summer/fall of 2016 and played our first show a little less than a year ago. Simon, Chris, and I had all played in the same circles for a long time, so it was just a matter of time until the three of us got our own band together.

Why did you choose Owl Maker as the name for your band?

I'm a school librarian, and I had just ordered a new set of mythology reference books around the time the band was brainstorming for a name. I started flipping through the Native American one and came across Owl Maker: the Lakota crone goddess who guards the Sky Road, which is the entrance to the land of the dead. If you have the wrong tattoos, she casts you back down to earth! Pretty metal.

What's interesting is that I can't find too much more information about her, beyond what is in the encyclopedia. Any sources I find on the web don't add anything new, so Owl Maker is a bit mysterious. I will have to continue my research...

How would you describe your overall sound?

I've been told that our music is hard to put in a subgenre -- but if I had to pick one, I'd just say heavy metal. Our drummer Chris comes from a death metal background, while I've spent a lot of time playing rock and folk in addition to metal. I also enjoy listening to stoner metal a lot.

Our frontman/guitarist is a professional musician and audio engineer -- Simon is probably best known for his work as one half of the occult metal duo Vestal Claret. So you put all those musical backgrounds together with the occasional gratuitous Moog riff, and you get.... Owl Maker.

You’re about to release your debut EP – Paths Of The Slain. What can people expect from the record?

Variety! Songs like "Ride with Aileen" and "99" are more rock n roll, while "Freya's Chariot" definitely takes a page from Amon Amarth in terms of riffs, drumming, and subject matter. "Witches" mixes hardcore punk with some Wicca and Sabbath-worship. And as for "Mashiara" and "Lady Stoneheart," you'll have to tell me! Although we are a "male-fronted" band (buwahahahaha....), most of our songs are from a female narrator's perspective.

What is the main theme of the record?

Sticking it to The Man in all his guises.

Who is releasing the EP and what formats is the album being released upon?

That's to be determined. One way or another, it will be out digitally on March 16th; we plan to do a physical release in late spring or summer. Updates will be posted on our Facebook page.

What influenced you when writing and recording the record?

Our songs take inspiration from literature, mythology, and history -- although sometimes it's our own spin on things. Like in the song "Mashiara," which is based on characters from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, the narrator in the song has pretty much the opposite take on his situation than the same character in the book.

Also, I was getting divorced while I was writing most of Paths of the Slain and the material that will (hopefully) be on a subsequent release... There are no songs that are specifically about personal feelings, but that experience has definitely woven a few threads into our music.

Was recording the EP an easy or hard experience?

Easy for me and Chris -- probably harder for Simon because he was the one recording it! Simon also added a lot in terms of guitar and vocal harmonies, so I think it was a bit of "writing in the studio" for him. Then we sent the EP to Arthur Rizk to mix and master, so Simon got a break lol.

What is the song-writing method in the band? Is it a group collective or down to one individual?

It's collective. I write the lyrics and what I see as a bass/rhythm guitar part. Chris and I finalize the arrangement and then pass it along to Simon, who writes a bunch of guitar wizardry and vocal melodies. He also edits and adds to the lyrics where needed. I think of it as a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I should also note that our friend Christopher Baldwin wrote the lyrics for "Lady Stoneheart" -- he is in a punk band with Simon and me called Jimmy Junk Bird and the Stiffs. It was fun to have him collaborate with us on that because he is such an imaginative writer, and he occasionally lends us his wacky vocal stylings when we perform that song at shows.

Do OWL MAKER play gigs and tour often, or do you just focus on your local musical scene?

At the moment we are focusing on local and regional shows. It would be great to have the opportunity to travel; we'll have to see how we can make that feasible.

What is your local musical scene like? Are there lots of places for you to play to the masses?

A lot? No. Unfortunately, many metal-friendly venues in Connecticut have closed over the past decade. Luckily, there are a few steadfast holdouts like Cherry Street Station in Wallingford and Cook's Cafe in Naugatuck that continue to support original metal -- and there are a few across the state that don't exclusively cater to a hard rock/metal crowd, but are willing to host a metal night once in awhile if they know you can pack the place.

I'm also hearing about a lot more underground/DIY shows lately -- in fact, my friend Quinn hosts a monthly punk and metal concert series in a Stamford piano store! No lie! When times are tough, people get creative....

Do you have an advanced setup or basic setup when performing live and recording in the studio?

Our setup for performances is pretty basic -- we don't use a backing track or anything, so what you see live is much more raw than what you will hear on the EP. As far as recording in the studio, I can't tell ya what's in there but it's what Simon does for a living -- so probably pretty "advanced" lol. I'm the wrong person to ask though, I just show up and grab his Fender Jazz Bass! You can read more about the studio gear here.

If you could have been a member of any band (regardless of genre), which band would you be a part of and the reasons why?

Oh man, that's a tough question.... This is not a definitive answer, but I think it would be awesome to play with Zeal & Ardor. As a folk music nerd, I love Manuel Gagneux's interpretation of Delta Blues. To take African-American music that reflects such an evil part of American history (slavery, Jim Crow...) and meld it with music that is thought of as "evil" but practically never associated with African-Americans is really giving the finger to The Man in a lot of different ways. Plus, the dude is half Swiss! Middle fingers all around, and killer music...

Will you guys be recording a full length album later this year, or it too early to tell?

Too early to tell. At the moment we've got three songs written and one "in the chamber." I wanna write one or two more and just bang out another EP, but Chris says we should suck it up and put out a full-length! I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it...

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go do you have anything to say to your fans? Best of luck with the new EP.

First of all, Steve, thank YOU for taking the time to check out our material and interview the band. I know this is a labor of love for most of us....

To all our fans (or future fans?!), find us on Facebook and Instagram - @owlmakermetal -- for news about Paths of the Slain and future releases.

Thank you for supporting underground metal

Written by Steve Howe and Jessie May

Thanks to Jessie May for doing this interview. Thanks to Curtis at Dewar PR for arranging this interview. Paths Of The Slain will be released digitally on March 16th 2018