Marc Okubo and Brandon Butler of Veil of Maya: The Heavy Blog Is Heavy Interview

Progressive/technical deathcore pioneers Veil of Maya are preparing to release a new album called Eclipse soon, and I caught up with them at a show to ask them a few questions. I was able to talk to singer Brandon and guitarist Marc, and we chatted a bit about stuff, including their new album and the band’s writing process.

Hi, this is Noyan from Heavy Blog Is Heavy. So, you guys have a new album coming up…

Brandon Butler: Yeah, it’s called Eclipse, it comes out February 28th.

What can you tell us about the new album? [Marc walks in] Is it like a continuation of your sound, or something different, or maybe going back?

Marc Okubo: I would say it definitely sounds like us, but we’ve gotten better. Our playing’s improved, I like the production on it a lot. We added more elements like more synths and… it’s like more over the top sounding.

BB: Yeah.

About the production. You guys just released a teaser [above], I think it sounds really cool. The playing definitely sounds like you guys. The production sounds a little bit different. I know you’ve worked with Misha [Mansoor] from Periphery. In your previous albums you had a more organic tone, whereas this new one has a more… Axe-FX-ey tone? So how has it been, working with Misha?

MO: It was really relaxing. We just kinda hung out the whole time, watch movies while we recorded. It was just like we were hanging out, we actually got done early because it was so effortless.

Did he also do the vocal production?

BB: No, I worked with Michael Keene of The Faceless to do the vocals, he did our last two albums. Just stuck with him for vocals, Misha doesn’t record vocals currently.

Has Misha influenced the songwriting process?

MO: Yeah, it like was a project that me and him planned out, where I would write a bunch of riffs, most of the songs we would go with him and he would filter my ideas and finish the songs with me. He wrote a lot of it with me for sure.

Also, Dan joined your band with his seven string bass.  How has that affected the songwriting? Does he help you write songs?

MO: He definitely gives input, but it doesn’t really change our songwriting. He just prefers seven strings I guess, haha.

How about the lyrics to this album? Is there a theme or concept, or is it just…

BB: No, there’s not really a theme to it per se. Different songs just mean different things to me. I don’t know, I just wrote lyrics [laughs]. There’s not really a full theme to the album.

I actually have a few questions written down, asked by our readers. I’ve seen videos of you guys play a song called ‘The Third Uprising’…

MO: Oh… yeah. Well, that was before the album’s finished, so it’s different now.

Is it still going to be on the album?

BB: Yeah.

MO: But with a different song title and a few parts sound different.

It does sound like the actual ‘Uprising’ though. [From their first album, All Things Set Aside]

MO: Yeah, that was the joking title. There’s a song like that on [id] as well, it’s called ‘Mowgli.’ It’s kind of like that style.

So what’s it called on the final record?

MO: Ummmmmm… ‘The Glass Slide

BB: Yeah, ‘The Glass Slide.

Okay. So, somebody asked this question: “Did Marc eat that half of an avocado they found on the tour bus that time?” I don’t know what this is about. Do you?

BB: Oh, the tour bus thing. The fridge.

MO: [looking confused] Ugh. I don’t know. I like avocados, if that’s what they’re talking about [laughs].

So, another reader question. Why did you choose Misha over Michael Keene?

MO: Oh, Michael was busy writing the new album for The Faceless, and we were already anticipating that when we started writing. Misha had already offered to do it and we were good friends. We did a sample track to see how it went, and then we just decided to work with him.

Another one: How do you feel this album compared to [id]?

BB: I’d say it’s a step above [id]. We were really rushed in the writing process for [id]. Right now we have a more stable grasp on what we want to do musically. We had more time to do it. I think this album is better put together and flows better than [id]. Hopefully our fans will agree.

MO: They’re definitely different albums. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just more… Like a bigger production, there’s a lot more going on, we’re going to be playing with backing tracks live because we want synths. [id] is like a natural four piece band playing in a room, this is a more over the top experience.

Will you still be doing the loop pedal thing? 

MO: Um, yeah, on certain parts on this, but it’s not going to be the main focal point of our live show anymore. Or for our new songs at least.

So would you say that the new album is less focused on just guitar parts and more focused on the band in general? Not in a “dumbed down guitars” way but more of a coherence and unity way?

MO: I mean yeah, we have like choir singing…

[To Brandon] Did you try your hand with that?

BB: Oh, no, no [laughs]

MO: Yeah, that was just part of the synths. We just tried to make it more epic and more big.

About the songwriting process. Do you [Marc] write most of the songs, and do you [Brandon] write most of the lyrics? Is that how it works?

Both: Yeah.

I have a guitar question. I’ve seen your Guitar Messenger videos [you can watch them here]. You come up with a lot of interesting chords, how do you do that?

MO: I just kinda do it by ear. Since it’s just me by myself on guitar, you know, usually it’s like the rhythm player plays power chords and the lead player plays, I don’t know, octaves or something like that *mimes*, I just try and find a way of doing both at the same time. So I don’t have just a bunch of chords prepared, I just create a melody on top of the bass line or whatever.

[To Brandon] Do you ever have any influence on the instrumental writing, or do you just come, sing and leave?

BB: I mean, yeah, as far as the music writing I don’t have anything do with it.

MO: Well if anyone’s like “It sucks”, then we would, you know…

BB: We’ll talk about it, but as far as, you know, the actual writing of the music, I don’t really play any instruments, so *laughs*

[To Marc] When you’re writing, do you think like “Here, he’ll sing,” or do you just write whatever?

MO: Sometimes. Like if there’s something super specific that I’ve imagined, I’ll tell him about it and see what he thinks.

BB: yeah, he gives me ideas like, “Hey, I was thinking on this part maybe do this” type of thing, and then we work on it and try to figure out what he had in his head, and you know, the whole band does that as well.

Do you have a hard time coming up with vocal lines for all the syncopated, weird parts?

BB: Yeah, definitely. Definitely it’s complicated sometimes, on technical, off-timing parts, but I mean, you figure it out. You just gotta figure it out, really focus down. I just listen to it over and over and over and experiment with screaming over it and seeing which patterns fit well with it.

MO: Breaking it up and doing it piece by piece is helpful, you know? It’s overwhelming if you think of it all at once.

BB: Michael Keene helps me a lot with that as well. He’s very good with timing patterns and stuff. If it sounds weird, he’s like “Eh, you know, that’s sounds kinda weird, let’s try something else” and we’ll go back to the studio and figure out a different pattern or something.

How’s it been touring with In Flames and Trivium? Were you guys fans beforehand?

BB: Oh yeah, a lot of In Flames stuff when I was growing up.

MO: Me too. I mean, it’s very early in the tour so we haven’t gotten to hang out much with them but so far everything’s cool.

BB: Yeah, it’s day three, but it’s going smooth.

How has it been with the label for you guys? A lot of bands have been saying very positive things about the label, but some bands have also spoken negatively of it. Ash himself is very outspoken. How has it been working with Sumerian for you guys?

MO: We’re good friends with everyone at the label, it’s always been very chill. There are things sometimes that we disagree on, but it’s like, we can talk about it as friends, and you know…

BB: I don’t think you’re gonna find a label on earth that you’re gonna fully get along with, you know? You’re never going to have a band and label fully get along all the time, but Sumerian’s been great. We’ve been with them since pretty much the start of our careers, we’ve been together five or six years now. It’s always good, we’ve always gotten through things and they’ve helped our career grow, we’re happy.

MO: Yeah, we’re like friends with them on a personal level. We can separate business and friendship so it’s all cool.

Anything else you guys wanna say?

MO: Check out our new album.

BB: Yeah, February 28th

MO: It’ll be cool!

BB: We also have a new song coming out Tuesday on iTunes, so check that out too!

Thanks a lot guys!

Veil of Maya’s highly anticipated new album Eclipse is due out February 28th on Sumerian Records. Pre-orders for Eclipse are available here. You can purchase their new single ‘Vicious Circles’ now on iTunes. Be sure to catch VoM on tour with Kyng, Trivium, and In Flames. Visit the band’s Facebook page for dates.

– NT

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