I like dissonant, avant-garde death metal as much as the next person, but Sunless’ debut album Urraca really does live in its own league. It manages to take everything I like about the style and somehow improve on it. The listener is assaulted by atypical riffs, dissonant melodies and progressive heaviness, all with an accessibility, (relatively speaking), that’s rare for this kind of thing.
Yes, Urraca is definitely one of my top releases of 2017 so far. Let’s find out a bit more…
Introduce us to Sunless
Hi, Mitch from Sunless here. We are a dissonant avant-garde death metal band from Minneapolis, MN that formed in 2015. To date, we’ve put out one two-song demo called Demo 2016 that was released on January 29th, 2016 and we’re about to release our first full-length album called Urraca on February 24th, 2017.
How did you form?
The project began during the fall of 2014 when I began writing material for a new death metal band that I wanted to start. I had been musically inactive for about a year following the breakup of my previous band, Nerves. Shortly afterwards I was joined by the band’s original guitar player Andrew Notsch who was a friend of mine that I had met through playing shows with his former band Youwretch. We met our drummer Ben and began playing with him in January of 2015 after he responded to a ‘drummer wanted’ flyer we posted at a local drum shop. We consider that the original formation of the band. About a year later in January of 2016, our current guitar player and vocalist Lucas Scott of Pestifere and Australis joined the band which completed the lineup and we released our first demo. Then later in July of 2016, we amicably parted ways with Notsch and returned to a three-piece lineup which we’ve stuck with ever since.
Where did the band name come from?
We wanted something that would portray the atmosphere of the music we wanted to create. Sunless seemed to fit the bill.
What are your influences?
Lucas, Ben, and I all come from diverse backgrounds in heavy music, so we each seem to channel different influences and bring something unique to the table when writing new material.
Name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend
We’ve been busy preparing for our Urraca release for the past month or two so we’re a bit out of the loop as far as new releases go, but some of our favourite and somewhat lesser-known or underappreciated bands that are always in our rotation are:
– Baring Teeth (Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins, Atrophy)
– Northless (Cold Migration, World Keeps Sinking, Clandestine Abuse)
– Yautja (Split 7″ w/ Fórn, Songs of Descent, Songs of Lament)
– Artificial Brain (Labyrinth Constellation)
– Pyrrhon (Growth Without End, The Mother of Virtues, An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master)
Tell us about Urraca
Urraca is our first proper full-length album. It was tracked at Signaturetone Recording in Minneapolis, MN in October of 2016 by Adam Tucker who is a good friend of ours and a producer who some of us have worked with in the past on other projects. Urraca was mixed and mastered by Colin Marston at Menegroth, The Thousand Caves in Queens, NY in December of 2016. The album consists of nine songs, including two tracks that appeared on our demo but were re-recorded.
What’s the significance of the album title?
Urraca is the name of a mesa in New Mexico that Anasazi tribes lived on and around many centuries ago. The lyrical content of the album tells the story of the ascension of their society and their untimely death that occurred after opening a portal to a spirit world. Topographically, the mesa bears resemblance to a human skull, and the portal is said to have originated from the eye socket. Hence the track, “Gathering at the Skull’s Eye”.
How did you choose the cover artwork?
We wanted to represent the organic nature and raw sound of the musicianship and show a connection with the earth that is evident in both the production and lyrical content of the album. The story of Urraca is based in the southwest portion of the United States. The artwork is repurposed Ansell Adams photos that were contracted by the state department earlier in the century to promote and document our national parks.
How important is good album art to you?
Very. Our former guitar player Andrew Notsch did the artwork and layout for our demo as well as Urraca, with the main emphasis being organic forms, clean aesthetic, and providing imagery that doesn’t fit with the standard death metal visuals of violence and gore.
What’s the process you use for writing songs?
We tab out mostly completed guitar and bass parts in Guitar Pro and send the files to each other to learn on our own outside of practice. Then after we’ve learned the material and gotten a feel for the song, we come together and work on writing drum parts which usually come about very quickly compared to the guitar and bass arrangements. Vocals are written last after we are satisfied with the completed instrumental track. That process was especially interesting for Urraca since we already had all of the lyrical content written before Lucas joined the band, so he fit Notsch’s lyrics to his own patterns which was a different approach that he had never tried before in other projects.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
We all have our own favourites so it’s difficult to say, but one thing we tend to agree on is that Born of Clay seems to represent what we’d like to convey through the album as a whole but condensed down into a single track. You might call it our preferred ‘representative’ track for Urraca.
How do you think your music will progress in the future?
That’s also hard to say. Even though we like to approach writing lyrical content for records from a loosely unifying concept, instrumentally the songs are mostly written without any sort of contextual framework in mind. We just write riffs and songs that we think are cool and arrange how they fit together later in the process. For some of us, the songs just seem to write themselves and come about naturally from our subconscious thoughts rather than as a result of writing with specific styles in mind. I think in general we’d like the music on the next record to continue to challenge us and help us grow as musicians.
Do you have any upcoming tours you want to mention?
Yes, we are thrilled to be hitting the road with our friends in Grogus for our Urraca Central US Tour. It’ll be our first time on the road together for a significant amount of time and we couldn’t be more excited. It kicks off in Minneapolis on Friday, February 24th at Reverie where we’ll play our album release show. From there we will basically travel counterclockwise around the central US in a huge oval for two weeks. Details about the tour can be found on our Facebook page.
What’s your favourite band that you’ve played with so far?
We’ve had the opportunity to play with some amazing bands already so it’s hard to pick just one, but one of our favourite shows thus far was back in August of 2016 when we played in Minneapolis with Plebeian Grandstand who were touring the US with Pyrrhon, both of whom have been highly influential acts for us since the beginning. It was a blast being able to share that live performance experience together and meet some great people who we hope to stay in contact with.
If you could play with any bands, what would your dream lineup be?
Again, since we all have fairly differing tastes I think you’d get three different answers depending on who you ask, but one band that we’d all love to play a show or tour with in the future would be Baring Teeth from Dallas, TX. They’ve also been highly influential for us and we think that would make for a great lineup or tour package.
What are the next steps for the band?
Play our release show, tour for two weeks, and then probably start writing the next album. We’re also interested in working with a label to arrange a vinyl pressing and release for Urraca which we weren’t able to put together in time for our tour. We’ll see where the album and tour lead us.
Any final words?
Thanks for the interview, cheers!