Sithu Aye has always been a shining star in the instrumental progressive scene, standing out from the crowd for his unique flair. Oh, and that’s right– he just received his master’s in physics too. So on top of all the music the man’s released (and in only the last few years,) he’s been busy climbing the rungs of academics. The alleged romanticism of musicians devoting all their time to their craft has always rung a little hollow to me, anyways, which is why I think there’s something to be said for artists that pursue their work while tackling life’s challenges. The end product feels more urgent, since the artist went utterly out of his way to create it. So maybe that’s why Sithu Aye’s music has always struck a chord with me, because I know it doesn’t come easily. He must’ve spent days upon days fine-tuning his production methods, saving up for the perfect guitar and drum program, and writing such intricate music. That’s right– he does all this by himself, if you weren’t aware. And while he was getting all of this done, he didn’t need to put his other priorities on hold– he plowed straight ahead with them, and still came up pretty damned far in the Bandcamp metal scene. Color me impressed.
So when Aye posted about a new release on his Facebook page, I was pretty surprised. I mean, this specific brand of progressive seems like it would take awhile to brew, right? And yet, in just a few days, he posted the link for the release. Naturally, I had quite a few questions for Sithu– and maybe I wasn’t the only one. If not, then this interview should be fairly illuminating– I had the opportunity to speak with him about it, and to ask him a few things to boot, regarding where the album came from, what Aye’s been listening to lately, and more.
Thanks for talking with us, Sithu. First things first– would you say that there’s a particular concept behind 26?
There really isn’t a concept in the EP– it didn’t really exist as a thing until a few days before release. Basically, one of my good friends and fellow guitarists Plini released a single on his birthday, and as I had a birthday and was graduating with a masters degree in physics 4 days after that, I thought it was a cool idea to do a birthday single as well (which ended up as ‘Mandalay’ on the EP.) However, I felt the urge to write more music, so I ended up deciding to try and write an EP during the weekend and release it on the 26th. Being so haphazard, there really isn’t a theme on the EP like on my previous releases, but it’s more just a collection of songs.
Overall, I spent about a day on each song! Some of the ideas had been there for a while, like the intro to “Mandalay” or that weird melody in the title track, but the majority of the EP is new ideas I came up with in that weekend.
How is the release stylistically different than your recent releases? Do you hear major changes in your songwriting, or are the adjustments more gradual?
It’s definitely a lot less heavy than my previous releases, which were more defined by their riffs for instance, as well as that characteristic ‘djent’ sound that I’ve avoided a bit on this release. As well as that, I think I focused a lot more on melody. Because of the short timescale in which I wrote 26, I ended up humming melodies as opposed to figuring them out on guitar, which simplified everything down and shifted the focus towards melody. Also, I’ve always defined my music as ‘happy progressive metal,’ but this is some of the cheeriest music I feel I’ve written. In terms of adjustments to my writing, I don’t think I’ve changed my approach that much, but I just wanted this release to sound a bit different.
How did you think fans would receive 26 at the end of the day? It’s always hard to predict such things, but maybe you had some type of expectations.
I’m never sure what to expect so I try not to think about it too much. I knew that it was different enough to maybe throw some people off, but I hoped there was enough of what defined my ‘sound’ that people wouldn’t be completely alienated by the changes.
In the span of your career, is there a single release you’re most content with? I can imagine your standards change with the more music you make, but maybe one of your releases holds the most sentimental value to you.
I have a sentimental attachment to Cassini, because I was completely unknown when I wrote it and it had every chance of falling by the wayside, like a lot of independently released records.
However, for some reason or another, people got into it– and with a fanbase, it’s easier to release something with at least some sense of certainty that people will listen to it. Incidentally, Cassini was also released on the 26th of September which was one of the reasons I called this new EP 26.
Tell me about “Hypatia.” What’s the story behind the track, and why does it sound so familiar?
I wrote “Hypatia” back in May of 2012 one night when I should have been studying for exams, and it’s been on Youtube and SoundCloud for a while now. It never really had a home on a release, and as one of my favourite songs out of all the ones I’ve written, that was a bit of a shame to me. Although it had more distorted guitar than the rest of the EP put together (probably!), I felt it shared a similar focus on melody and thought it would be cool on 26. All I had to do was re-track the bass and it was good to go!
What musicians have been your biggest influence lately? I ask because I’ve been disappointed in progressive metal lately– if I can tap into what you’ve been listening to, my faith might be restored.
I’ve been loving the hell out of the new CHON EP Newborn Sun, Altered State by TesseracT and Other Things by my buddy Plini. CHON and Plini write such happy music as well, so it’s sure to get your spirits up. And I always have faith in this music scene because someone, somewhere out there will release something that will blow you away. It’s already happened several times to me over the past few years!
I’d like to thank Sithu for talking with me, and to wish him good luck in the physics field– something tells me that if he pushes through it the same way he has through his music, then I’m sure he’ll be just fine. Also, it’s worth noting that Sithu’s entire discography is “pay what you want” on his Bandcamp. Go take a listen, stream and download his music as you see fit.