For once, it’s truly pertinent for me to state where a band are from rather than it being a formality — Seizures, metalcore band from Dana Point, California, have created an album which encapsulates a complex relationship between band and hometown, as well as their past and present. If you’ve heard The Sanity Universal, then you hardly need any introduction to the band; it definitively establishes Seizures’ dizzyingly detailed and dense songwriting, characteristics which the newly released Reverie of the Revolving Diamond embodies and expands on. I spoke with guitarist Albert Navarro on the creation of Reverie of the Revolving Diamond; here, he describes the (intriguing) compositional process and his influences, and also provides insight into the themes and stories illustrated within the album.
Claire: It’s immediately apparent that Reverie of the Revolving Diamond is a different beast from your last full-length album, The Sanity Universal — the former is more condensed and arguably more focused, with the introduction of a jazzy dynamic that I see has been aptly tagged as surfcore. What were your main motivations for this particular shift in sound, and what sort of experiences have shaped the creation of Reverie… in comparison to those informing The Sanity Universal? Furthermore, would you consider the split with Arms a precursor to this significant change?
Albert: TSU started off as a batch of songs, some newer and some way older than others. It wasn’t until the recording of it that we realized how much spontaneous experimentation was happening. Nathan (my brother, guitarist) was chiefly responsible for the shift from the “run of the mill” approach of recording we’d been used to with advent of a wide range of pedals and synth sounds. In short that recording session changed the way we viewed things and what was possible in the studio. With that said, the “diamond” songs (which were mostly written in that same era) were the spawn of the Sanity experience. More focused, as you’ve said. We also wanted to polarize styles as much as possible, while maintaining a cohesive piece overall. The brights are brighter, darks darker and things are more colorful overall. I actually wrote the split songs a year or so after the main ideas for this record were finished. I considered it a small moon detour between two gas giants and made an effort stretch further into the “experimental/beach math” feel towards the end of that.
There were a few influential artists that inspired the trek in this territory as well, outside of the heavy music world.
Which artists would you name as such influences?
Mainly Grizzly Bear. It’s basically once every few years I find an artist that makes all the right moves in any direction and they continue to impress, inspire me.
In 2009 I joined a beachy garage band (The Growlers) with a friend who would end up playing bass for them. Before that I’d never been exposed to that style. A lot of their older, obscure material had a vibe I was just into.
And of course my brother. He was in a side project called Conheartist with three other members of Seizures. Basically anything they did, I had to mimic. Dreamy, shoegaze-esque material.
I’m noting that there’s often a drifting, spacey feel to the jazzy sections, which adds a wistful touch to that beachside composure they have. I’d like to know more about their role and how they were composed — it’s impressive how seamlessly integrated they are into heavier, more “traditionally hardcore” sections.
A lot of the jazzier chords/voicings on this record were basically just refined ideas we had only just started tapping into on Sanity. That record was also filled with science fiction or conspiracy themes which inevitably made their way into the music. Hence the strange eerie noises and sounds throughout. My love for how that turned out inspired the prevalence of jazzy bursts in between riffs or drawn out spacey sections. Each song we write is a story or a mimicry of life. Life is a multiple faceted experience and couldn’t possibly behave in one manner or have one tone.
Were there any specific challenges in bringing the two seemingly conflicting styles together?
Absolutely. Finding proper tones for everything was mentally strenuous. You have two parts that are basically vinegar and oil that lie within a second of each other and polishing those transitions was a task. Making huge revisions and/or omitting arrangement ideas is also a common thing with us. A lot of times, the heavy effects and saturation refuses to blend and a complete reimagining of the part needs to take place. I pretty much know where the placement of a drawn-out section or strange transition should be in a song I write, but sometimes doing what you imagined justice takes weeks.
It almost seems as if some of the transitions are calculated to produce an absurd effect — for instance, on “The Ponds Have Dried Yet Still You Stare”, there’s a moment where a tortured scream is suddenly muffled by the appearance of a relaxed jazz interlude. I actually laughed the first time I heard that…not necessarily because it was funny, but because I couldn’t even process what had just happened.
I’d attribute the “absurdity effect” to the fact that I personally have studied an army of pieces in my time writing music (not to sound like a complete ass) but I more or less know the common song formulas people use, in that the idea is to create something against that grain. Something unpredictable, random, previously unexplored. A slight drawback is that the listener almost expects a left turn or scream to silence.
Being unpredictably unpredictable definitely seems to be a challenge, but I think you guys pulled it off quite well — there’s an underlying logic, but it doesn’t reveal itself too obviously at the same time.
I’m also interested in the narrative and thematic aspects of Seizures’ work. Throughout your releases, I’ve noticed some themes consistently popping up: mythology, the cosmos, a sense of suffocation, illness and mortality. Whilst The Sanity Universal seemed to focus more on the failures of various societal forces and institutions (psychiatry, social and economic inequality, the prison system), I see Reverie… as having a more introspective outlook, with more emphasis on the narrative of a personal journey; furthermore, the album cover suggests a hometown connection, but with foreboding elements. Would you agree with this overall characterization, and are there any important parts that I’ve missed?
You pretty much hit the nail on the head with that. We’ve grown or changed a lot since the last full length (TSU) and I’m sure that’s evident in the music and in terms of lyrical subject matter. In this latest effort I let the feel of each piece dictate the mood and actual personal story I wanted to tell. I coupled that idea with an imaginary landscape or situation each song takes place in, in turn having a double meaning. The album cover is basically a nod to our home and contains a feel relevant to the record’s theme. Musically I’d consider this one continuation of Sanity but so much more. Lyrically it’s a series of personal struggles, experiences or epiphanies, simultaneously occurring in a world we’ve made. I’m a Tolkien fiend personally so I can only imagine some of that influence made its way onto this effort. And as usual, each piece is a way of closure for myself or Cameron after the songs been finished and recorded.
Certain tracks on Reverie… (e.g. “Toxophola”, “The Ponds…” “Bedlam Blues”) feel far more terrifying and insanity-inducing than anything I’ve heard from Seizures before. I’m curious about the details behind those tracks — what did you have in mind as to the precise nature of the horrors being portrayed?
The first two were taking feelings like despair, guilt, anguish and disgust and literally transforming them into something audible. Nathan wrote “Bedlam Blues” and I’ll wager he just took what he heard us doing and upped the ante as he usually does. The same attitude applied to the lyrical approach with extremely personal subjects dealing with loss, shame or realization. A goal was to see how dark and poignant we could make the discord and see what emotions could be drawn.
A small detail I noticed was the foreshadowing present in two tracks: “The Cycles Unnumbered” briefly previews a motif on “In a Valley of Twilit Meres”, and “Toxophola” seems to hint at the opening of “The Ponds Have Dried Yet Still You Stare”. Tracks also segue into each other very purposefully, e.g. the sudden dissonant chord that “Atollian” steps onto right after it ends. Do all these aspects serve to create the impression of a specific, overarching narrative to the album?
Once again you’ve understood what I was attempting. Sonically this record moves in an episodic fashion from start to finish. Not one long song but definitely a piece of movements working with each other. I wouldn’t say there’s an overall moral to this record when analyzing the lyrics, as each one is a specific situation, but there is a feeling of introduction to conclusion. The overarching narrative here would be the fictitious landscapes and colors thought up for each piece.
On a different note, are there any upcoming album tour plans for Seizures? Personally, I think Canada (specifically Vancouver) would welcome you all with open arms.
A record release show and tour are currently in the works. Early December expect us to be on the road. Canada will be involved actually. That’s one of many places we’ve been meaning to visit.
And are there any particular bands you’d want to play with on the tour?
Down to play or tour with any group that we get on well with or appreciates what we do. Not super particular. That’s more of question for Cameron [vocalist]. He has his ear to the ground when it comes to what’s current in the music scenes. Most of my musical influences aren’t bands anymore.
What would you count as your main musical influences, then?
The 60’s and 70’s Brit giants probably. Zeppelin, The Beatles, etc., at least on my guitar playing. Today I’d sooner go home and dissect a record from the past trying to understand what was going on in the minds of those writers than listen to a suggested group that’s current. But the musical influences list is enormous. Fun fact: my brother and I were raised on Yanni (Greek composer), so it’s seemingly eclectic.
As a last question, I’d like to ask if you have any words for the Sputnikmusic community — for context, The Sanity Universal was very well-received, and many are anticipating Reverie… as one of the top -core albums of the year.
I’d like to express gratitude to anyone in the Sputnikmusic community who still appreciates what we do and put out and for being patient with us. It’s been damn while since our last full length. I know that.