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Interview: Oceans of Slumber’s Cammie Gilbert on ‘The Banished Heart,’ Prog Power, sleepless nights, and more

Posted by on July 2, 2018

Oceans of Slumber’s new album The Banished Heart was released this past March via Century Media and it’s already on Metal Hammer’s top 50 best albums of 2018 so far. When it comes to life’s hardships, these Texas metallers refuse to sugarcoat anything and expresses these obstacles through innovative progressive beats. When the group stopped at Gramercy Theatre, during their run with Insomnium, we were lucky to speak to vocalist Cammie Gilbert. The singer had a lot to say as she went into detail discussing the new album, future plans, losing Vinnie Paul and more.   

I’m not sure if you guys are aware or not, The Banished Heart is on Metal Hammer’s Top 50 Best Albums of 2018 so far. I was wondering how you feel about that?

That’s awesome. We were anxious about the reception of doing such a dark album. And going in a direction that was a little bit different than what people have come to know as far as Winter went. For The Banished Heart to have such a good reception in 2018 and the reach that it did, it makes it good that our albums have found a place amongst what’s going on in the scene.  We respect Metal Hammer and everything that they do, so it’s really awesome to be included on that list for sure.

How would you compare this one to your previous albums?

The Banished Heart is definitely… just comparing it to Winter. Blue is just an EP a lot of covers, that doesn’t count, but more like a full-length, conceptual thing. The Banished Heart is definitely more mature, more,of a cohesive story. The whole thing was planned around the title track, The Banished Heart and we definitely had a stapled idea of what we were going to do and everything was worked around that to stick to this singular sort of storyline.

Instrumentally it went a lot darker, it went a lot heavier, and it really showcased vocally what I wanted to do more. With more range, more spectrum, more belting, more deep sort of gospel feel to what I did. And then lyrically, I got to do everything like alone, full responsibility for that.

​Whereas Winter was a lot more eclectic. More collaborative amongst everyone. And this, we decided to really hone in on this landscape that was kind of shifting between Dobber and myself. And then with the different kind of turbulent relationship experiences we were going through, we decided that moving forward it’s in our best interest as musicians, as people, the psychology of what we do, for ourselves to represent and purge these things musically. Otherwise, you know, it’s like we’re sitting on…

​I had all of this mountains of writing anyway ’cause I journal everything all the time. All my feelings, I’m just like the girl, “Oh!” Crying into paper. And you know it’s great that I’ve found something to do with it. Winter was put together without a real direction. Really cool songs. It was definitely showcasing everybody’s influences, but it was a little bit too eclectic for what we’re trying to do or what the message we really wanted to convey.

So, Banished Heart, I feel like we definitely found our stride with what we’re going to do musically, what we’re going to explore musically and the direction that we’re gonna go musically.

I did noticed you guys mentioned having sleepless nights and long days on this current tour. What keeps you guys going and the energy to go on the stage?

​I don’t know. (Laughs) I was literally just thinking, “I haven’t had any coffee.” And I’m not tired, but I’m yawning a lot.

You haven’t had coffee? (laughs)

​Not today. I ate and I’m like, “Ah I’m so comfortable.” And it gets late, if I don’t have the coffee early enough, I feel like I’m too jittery before the show. But the coffee is a staple of our like livelihoods.

We try, get up, walk around, get  grounded. Get kind of settled in. It’s like you’re moving everyday and then we’re moving into this venue and then we move out the end of the night. I mean this is our second to last show, so this one, I mean, we’re definitely running on fumes. I honestly feel, I have more energy and then I’ll step on stage and there’s this huge weight that I feel comes down on me. And it’s knowing that I have all of this outpour is gonna come with the performance. It’s like I’m that much more tired knowing I have to do it, I guess.

So, when I step on stage, I feel like this weight comes down, I’m the filter for the emotions coming out. It’s just nonexistent at this point, so I apologize in advance for probably this show and the next one on how much sobbing I’m gonna do onstage. But, being excited about being back home, about all of the things that touring inspires, and that we get to spend time together, so we’re definitely get concepts for the next album. Lots of writing, lots of picture taking. Travel can be inspiring in and of itself.

It finds something neat about where you’re at. You settle in, have these quiet moments, eat well. We’re definitely spoiling ourselves food-wise. No more bus microwave food. And we’re trudging forward. It’s the last two shows, so I don’t know where anyone’s heads at. (Laughs)

How do you respond to the trolls and haters who are, I guess, against, women in rock and metal?

I cry a lot for everything (laughs). Personally I always tell myself, end of the day, I’m like that person doesn’t know me and saying they would like me, but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t say that about me, you know, if they just knew me. And that kind of helps separate. It’s like they- they know me, the image, they see me, the image, and it triggers them to be jackasses and it’s like, I have the ability and definitely live it. I’m like, “That’s not me. I don’t know who they’re talking about.” ​It helps me not feel attacked. If it’s something I say that, but then if it’s something that I’m sensitive about. It’s like one minute everything’s about your image. Everything’s about your appearance, and it’s like ugh. That’s what gets harped on, so if it is something I’m sensitive about, and someone trolls me on it, then I’m like, you know, I’m all torn up. ​But, again, I have to just be, they don’t know me. I’m not just singularly that picture or that video and it’s just like a necessary evil of being in this visual culture of how the arts have to be, sort of communicated.

People can be, they’re such a mixed bag.

Women have a much broader spectrum in the metal scene than men do. I think in life that’s just how it works. Women, you change throughout your life like literally, biologically, more than a man. A man hits puberty, and that’s pretty much it, if anything changes for him, it’s one or two, you know?

For a woman, you go through about five different phases and that’s not even it. Don’t throw in having kids or whatever phase that is, so it’s like you get ten phases of biologically being composed of different hormones. And each of those phases you have to recollect, reclaim and redefine what you are and how you present yourself, and all this other stuff. And now you’re doing that in this scene… and we have the ability to play on both sides of it. Or harness it or use it the way that we want.

​I feel there’s a lot of respect to be given in this scene, but there’s also a lot of women that don’t respect themselves in this scene or don’t respect themselves in general and they apply it to a male dominant place. And they’re probably not going to change. It’s like we’re biologically predisposition for things to just not be even when it comes to that sort of interaction, or that sort of outlook.

Women, for the social factors that have been constructed just have more responsibility to carry themselves differently or to carry themselves with more discretion and to be the ones that set the boundaries rules ’cause guys, they’re just singular. They’re just gonna do the thing.

​And it’s like, yes we’re all metacognitive like beings we all have the ability to think and override our biology, but the end of the day, the easy go-to is what our instincts tell us to do.

​And then those interactions, you’re going to have that friction. It’s in anything that you’re’ gonna do that’s male-dominant. Women have to be more careful than not, more protective than not. And you just have to be more conservative than not, because on the four-reaching sides  too much, and let’s say you have like a sort of Butcher Babies look. If you put it all out there to begin with, then where does that leave you to go?

​If you give your all and you’re’ exposed as possible, then where do you go from there? The longevity of that approach doesn’t leave you a lot to go and it’s gonna be what everyone expects from you, all the time. When you don’t wanna do it anymore, because as a woman the phases of your life have changed, then you can’t undo that now.

You can always take off more clothes, you can’t necessarily put on more clothes. And once people have seen you exposed, that’s kind of where you’re stuck. And then, you know, I feel like…there’s been different things that went down where they wanna get out of that sort of image, but now they can’t because it’s just what is expected.

​And so I feel like that’s a big example, but let’s pare it down to the individual women in this scene, it’s kind of the same thing. A lot of women come in and it’s a mixed bag. The metal scene is very close to certain fashions that are more exposing anyway, you know, with fishnets and heels, things like that. They’re, it’s a balancing act and it’s like I haven’t figured it out. I’m always exploring and I learn off of what I see and what I do, and experiences that I have.

​But, you know, you combat it by being graceful and confident and…and mindful of what the social ramifications are. But it’s like don’t ever let someone make you feel less than. Don’t ever let someone call you out or pigeonhole you into something that you know you’re not. Whatever it may be. ​Then it’s like staying around as a woman, it’s like, claim metal for yourself and go from there. That’s what I’ve done and that’s the only thing I can say  in sort of answering your question. ​It’s a very loaded issue (laughs) .

Yeah, I know. There’s a lot.

There’s a lot of variables, it can be really troublesome. Overall, I feel good about being a woman in this scene. I feel like there’s a lot of women in this scene, more than I expected on all sides of the musicians, house, front of house, lighting, tour managers. There’s women all over the place that I wouldn’t expect, or didn’t expect. And I’m like, “This is wonderful.” I’m super jazzed about that. And I think there’s a broader effect. Even the heads of some of these labels and festivals have been women, there’s a lot of respect to be had. ​You can’t be lazy and you can’t be really loose about it. You have to be focused that it’s about the music or it’s about your job or it’s about whatever. We don’t have the privilege to be loose socially about it or as easy going socially about it because it is still male-dominated, I think. So, that’s kinda how, I feel where it’s at.

It’s very true. You’re bringing out a realistic point. Some people don’t wanna admit to it, but it is very true. I wanted to know, was it difficult for you visiting old wounds when writing the new album?

Oh yeah. Absolutely. It was grueling. I went into a new depression about it. The guys had finished the tracks, it wouldn’t be mastered yet, but I’d get the pretty much the final draft and take it and go scurry in my hole and go write. ​And you know in wanting it to be real, my mom found a lot of journals that I kind of just misplaced. I journal everywhere like a crazy person. She had found a bunch and she sent me a pile, and so I’m going through those, on top of writing new stuff. ​As I’m reading this stuff and it’s like it fits these central themes that come up in your own life, if you chronicle them then you can see them right then and there. And so I’m like if it’s that recurrent then I’m gonna use it and I’m gonna put it here. I’m gonna have these feelings and it was really hard. It’s still really hard. I did not think about what it would mean to perform these songs.

​I was just about to ask…

​I think I wanna say I would’ve done something different ’cause like, oh man it’s been rough. The first time we did them live, I was like, “What was I thinking?”​’Cause I write them and I didn’t think…it doesn’t make any sense. It’s stupid of me or it’s shortsighted of me, but it’s like I wrote it and I’m used to writing in that quiet way where what I write is not going to be seen by anyone. Then I make the song, and I’m like even when we record them. And it wasn’t until the release date that I was like, “Oh my god.”I did that? And I wrote all that and everyone’s gonna see it now.

​And I like flipped out. And he’s like, “Well of course that’s how it works.” We went to perform it and then we’re getting reviews. It’s been nerve wracking ’cause those are real sensitive words. These are real personal things. Performing it’s been…definitely emotional. My mom will check on me and she’s like, “Do you feel they’re cathartic? Are you healing? And it’s a good thing or do you feel like you’re just scratching a scab off a wound over and over again?”

It depends on the night, sometimes it feels therapeutic, healing, and hurting, and sometimes, it feels like I’m just rubbing my face in something that hurts.

There’s no way around it. It’s a service to downhearted people. I mean I’ve had some really intense stories of people coming up to me and sharing that they’ve lost loved ones over the time that we’ve been touring, and so they’re crying at our shows or they’re like this song means a lot to me and I’m going through this divorce, or you know. So, it means something. ​It’s almost like going to church versus going to a show. These people are coming for this community and they’re coming for this shared safe space, who have this negative feeling in public, where it’s normally you can’t. So, you don’t just go to the library and start crying, you know, you smile and you’re out. You’re generally cheerful because society makes room for that, but society doesn’t make room for public displays of sadness.

​It’s also like you’re just expressing reality in life.

These parts of life that’s dying, death, sickness, breakups, these things that are not positive are just much a part of life that they get such little respect and such little room made for expressing them or talking about them. Like mental illness, or depression, or any of these things and it boggles my mind. Especially as a woman, it’s like “Smile. Why aren’t you smiling?” ‘Cause I don’t walk around looking like a fucking idiot all the time. I don’t feel like smiling like Jesus Christ. Maybe I’m actually not happy right now. There’s a thought. ​Then it’s, to me it’s not fair and I enjoy not being upset, but I enjoy keeping these feelings out. I enjoy making space for these feelings or imagery for these feelings and that’s what we’ve done. So, when people come and they can share in that and it’s a thank you for allowing me this moment to be out of my house or out of this triggering spot to purge with you, then it makes it worth it. It makes it make sense. It’s a mix. It’s definitely difficult.

Do you guys have any plans after the tour?

Yes. We have a lot of plans. We end up making too many plans when we’re on tour. We do Prog Power in September. That’s  a huge thing. We have Tom from Everygrey who’s gonna do the duet. Doing the Banished Heart probably the only, the first and only time, in its entirety live.It’s probably the biggest thing on our plan list, but now we’ve talked about too much to get home and not work on it. I know that’s gonna happen the next album. We have a lot of plans for some other videos, some writing, some kind of, side things.

​With all the writing that I have, and with the album and with this first step of sharing myself, it’s made me more confident in sharing more of my writing – poems, short stories, I have all sorts of stuff. And I didn’t realize until this album, how much I wrote. My mom’s like, “Clean out your stuff. Take this stuff out of my house.” ​​We just try to stay moving and stay working and lots of stuff coming out of the works for us.

Always something fresh or new. I mean he’s always, Dobber, I’m saying. He writes music the way I write words all the time. He’s always working on something.

And you shouldn’t be afraid to release how you feel. I personally have also lost my father and been through horrible breakups. I understand. And this type of music being more about reality, isn’t to depress people, but to say you’re not alone.

To validate those feelings. Or at least acknowledge them. ‘Cause I feel, it’s when you have a feeling and you can’t acknowledge it and other people don’t acknowledge it, that’s when it eats you up. ​And it’s like if other people gave you the room to talk about it, or gave you the room to let it out, then you wouldn’t feel like it was consuming you. I feel like that’s what ends up happening or that’s how I feel. I agree in that and it makes me happy to hear that too because it’s important for people. It’s a spectrum. People are not always happy. I’d say people are most of the time not happy. ​But they’re always forced to be happy. And it’s like what’s the point? There’s a lot of colors to life and it’s like everything doesn’t have to be one size fits all. And there’s nothing wrong with not being happy and that’s kind of as a band what our t-shirts could say. It’s okay not to be happy, but come to our concerts, you’re gonna cry. Okay yeah, sounds like a great time.

Vinnie Paul died yesterday and we’re all very sad about this loss and I wanted to know how he had an impact on your life? Or inspiration?

He inspired the men of the band that I love and belong to now. They are absolutely devastated. They didn’t cry, but all of them, all last night and pretty much all the way to this morning Pantera’s playing and they’re reminiscing. I mean it’s a band that taught them and inspired the metal, “metaltality,” making up words (laughs), that they are. It’s absolutely a thread of this southern metal that we are, so it always sucks. It feels like losing a distant cousin or uncle or something. Even though you’re like I’ve never met him, but it all matters in the scene. It all matters especially in our genre and  you lose someone and it’s like, well we need you, you know? ​We need you to inspire. We need you to remind us. We need you to make music and create that sound and so it always sucks that always hurts in a way that I find surprisingly personal for an icon, you know?

Music has a way of intertwining itself into us and it becomes our own, becomes like our own thoughts, our own, way of being that when the person that created it leaves, then, you know, you’re left with a true hole and a true loss. We’re definitely bummed. We’re probably gonna do some more and show our respects the way that we know how to and cover what some songs.

We’d like one of the more things that are planned, especially after last night. We definitely want to honor him and honor Pantera for their second loss in the way that we do best.

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