Over the next month or so we’ll be bringing you a series of interviews with and posts about the bands featured on the inaugural Death To False Metal Festival, taking place August 14 & 15 in Hamden, CT.
Hearing Immortal Bird for the first time at the tail end of 2013 was one of those musical experiences you always remember. Any time a band smacks you in the face when you are least expecting it is always a pleasant experience. For Immortal Bird, they proceeded to smack quite a few people across the face with their debut EP, Akrasia. Fresh off the heels of dropping their newest release, the highly touted Empress/Abscess, we had a chance to sit down and chat with vocalist/lyricist, Rae Amitay to talk about the new album, the hot-button topic of women in metal, and…buttered popcorn jelly beans?
Let’s start with a topic I know is near and dear to your heart – women in metal. Specifically, why you are so tired of everyone pointing out that you are one?
I just think using my gender as a qualifier is both lazy and unnecessary. There have been so many instances of people approaching me at a show or sending me an email saying, “Wow, I heard you guys from outside/on Spotify/whatever and I had no idea you were a woman until I did further research.” I’m not singing cleanly, and my growls or screams or whatever you want to call them are pretty gender ambiguous. I just think it’s sloppy writing to slap on the whole “female-fronted” thing, and it’s not at all indicative of what you’re going to hear when you listen to us, so why bother with it? For gimmicky purposes? I don’t like being a part of that and I think 99% of women are right there with me, just wanting their music to be heard without their gender being at the forefront of conversation.
This isn’t an excuse at all, but I grew up in a time when seeing a woman in an extreme metal band was rare. (Hello, Jo Bench from Bolt Thrower!) It seems to me in this day and age though, it really isn’t anymore. Do you find it’s usually older metal dudes making these types of comments?
Nope, it’s all sorts of people. Women included. Sometimes I think it’s misplaced enthusiasm for having women in the genre. Even if the intentions are pure and supportive, it’s still not fun to see us described on a show poster as “female fronted metal from Chicago”, or to be solely compared to other “female-fronted” bands that we sound nothing like.
Ah yes, so how many Arch Enemy comparisons have you received now? You keeping count?
If I kept count I’d probably kill myself. And I have nothing really against Arch Enemy, especially not Angela-era Arch Enemy. I’ve interviewed Sharlee and Michael and they’re awesome guys, and she was a hell of a performer. It’s just a fairly stupid comparison if you’ve ever listened to our music.
Agreed. So that’s a good segue. Let’s talk about the music. There’s a whole lot going on inside these two releases you’ve unleashed – black metal elements, thrash, death metal, crazy atmospheric stuff. From a strictly musical standpoint, what wells are Immortal Bird drawing from for inspiration exactly?
Well, that’s kind of been interesting with the response to the new album. A few reviews have said, “It’s clear what influences Immortal Bird is drawing from” and then they don’t list any bands specifically. I kind of wish they WOULD, because I’d like to be clued in! There aren’t really specific bands we’re aiming to emulate. Evan and I write everything together and we both have very eclectic and differing tastes in music as well as writing styles. I am more into the grind/death metal side of things, he’s more into the experimental/black genres, but we both are pulling from a ton of different places that we’re not even conscious of while it’s happening.
For me personally, I instantly hear the black metal or “blackened” vibe, if you will, first. Do you feel your geographic locale affects how people think of your music. I’ve stated in two reviews now that if you guys were from Norway everyone would just call you black metal and be done with it. You think that’s a fair assessment?
Not really. I definitely don’t think we’re “straight-up” black metal, but I don’t really care about genre tags. We’ve always gotten a smattering of labels and it sort of doesn’t concern me, as long as people are digging the music, I don’t care how it’s classified.
Fair enough. Let’s talk about the lyrics, as you’ve penned them all. A lot has been written about how “dark” they are. When you go back and read what you’ve written do you ever feel that you’re coming from a particularly dark space?
Yeah, I think most of what I write comes from an inherently dark place. That seems a bit self-indulgent to say, but I’m not a terribly happy person and the experiences I draw from are not from a pleasant catalog. I started Immortal Bird as an attempt to work through some shit I was struggling with. Even though there have been some wonderful times in my life, they’re not going to find their way into my lyrics. Not for this band.
So we shouldn’t expect an Immortal Bird acoustic ballad at any point then. Good to know. Is that what drew you into metal in the first place – that aggression, that release that the genre often supplies both musicians and fans?
Actually, I wouldn’t say that. But if we do an acoustic ballad, it’ll probably be sad as fuck. I think I was probably drawn to the aggressive release of emotions when I first started getting into metal. At first it was enough to just be an active listener, but then it got to a point where I wanted to be a part of it. I felt compelled to start screaming and hitting shit for a lot of my childhood, so it’s nice to have an outlet for that energy that won’t get me arrested.
Well, won’t get you arrested as long as you don’t murder a band mate or burn down any churches.
I think the odds are more in favor of a band mate murdering me, rather than the other way around. Churches are safe for now.
You’ve mentioned in the past you started this band with no long term plans really in mind. Were you surprised at how well that initial EP was received? At what point did you say, fuck it, this is my priority now?
I think we were all surprised. We didn’t really show the music to anybody and Evan and I had never collaborated before. We had no clue what to expect, so we were pretty stoked on the response. After we played a couple of shows, I think that’s when I decided I wanted to write more material and tour more extensively.
I can personally attest to how amazing your material comes off in the live setting. Which leads me to your upcoming tour and the Metal Insider sponsored Death To False Metal Festival coming up soon. How does it feel to keep getting these festival type of invites?
It feels great! We get so excited for fests. On the tour we have coming up we’re playing Louisville Deathfest and then of course, DTFM. Then we have Southwest Terror Fest in October, and a bunch of stuff brewing for 2016. It’s so exciting because we know we’ll get to reach a lot of new people and meet/hear some really cool bands we might otherwise never get the chance to hang with.
Well as a fan of the band it’s generally exciting to keep seeing that logo pop-up on fest pages. Any last thoughts you’d like to throw out there?
One time, I was at a bookstore and I lamented to a friend that I loved books, but I read way too quickly and they’re just really expensive. I went on to say that I wished there was a place where I could just borrow a book. So when you’re listening to Immortal Bird, you are supporting the creative endeavors of someone who didn’t remember that libraries exist.
Also, buttered popcorn jelly beans aren’t gross, they’re just misunderstood. If you don’t like them, just save them for me.
We finally disagree on something. Buttered popcorn jelly beans are an abomination to mankind. You can have all of mine.
If you want there to be fewer buttered popcorn jelly beans in the world, your best bet would be giving them to me so that they can be rapidly consumed. We can help each other.
Catch Immortal Bird on their upcoming tour, including a stop at the Death To False Metal Festival on Saturday, August 15. You can also check out both of their releases at the Immortal Bird Bandcamp page.