Ever since Gein first posted about these guys back in February, I’ve had the biggest nerd-boner for Texan prog-metal quintet White Arms of Athena. Despite mercilessly abusing my position and tricking them into giving me an advance copy of their debut album Astrodrama, bassist Thomas Sifuentes was kind enough to also grace me with an in-depth interview, explaining the elaborate concepts behind the record, how the band got named, and the artist behind the awesome artwork. You can also catch a complete stream of the album over at Hails and Horns right now!
Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. First of all, for those who aren’t familiar with you, please tell us who you are and a little bit about the band’s history.
Thank you for having us! I’m Tom and I handle the bass guitar duties and the business stuff. As far as the band goes, we are the result of an earlier band. A few of us were looking to do a more aggressive style of music, and in early ’06 three of us joined up with two other guys (Austin and Andrew) and kept the last name we had, White Arms of Athena.
So Athena. Why are the crotchety old bitch’s arms white?
I was in my freshman English class reading about that Athena chick and the “white armed goddess” Hera. Through the events explained in that certain story, I guess I felt that Athena stepped up and took the role and responsibility of what should have been Hera’s. I remember writing White Arms of Athena all over my homework that day thinking I found a good band name!
You’ve got your debut album Astrodrama out next week. What is an Astrodrama exactly?!
We don’t know too much about the traditional Astrodrama experience, other than it is an improv-style, role playing of sorts. Through learning about each of the archetypal characters of the horoscope and interpreting how they interact, you further your understanding that each role is a vital part to the whole of the drama or story.
We see similarities with the type of music we chose to play and with the Astrodrama experience. We try to appreciate each member and their individual tastes by incorporating that into the musical experience, whereas Astrodrama needs each of those different contributors to make the experience what it is.
From what I can tell, the record will be something of a concept album. It’s split into four parts (I:Conception, II: Esoteric Allusions, III: Implementing Geomancy and IV: Blueprints for a Time Machine) over ten tracks. What sort of themes can we expect (my Sherlock Holmes-like powers of deduction tell me one might be time travel?)?
Yeah, it’s a concept in the sense that each track portrays a different mood and that contributes to the whole theme. Our singer Josh did a great job with making these very personal lyrics but have them speak for most of us about our musical aspirations and how we see it changing our lives. I didn’t write the lyrics myself but I can tell you one of the main themes is destiny, and how equipped and able each one of us are to reach said destiny. You are right, there are themes of time travel as well as themes of astral travel and psychic energy. These themes are explained through normal actions of the mind though, such as imagination, memory recall, intuition, meditation and dreaming, all of which are closely related with your aspirations or destiny. These happenings enable us to travel through time and travel throughout the astral realm regularly from within this vessel. It’s ironic; when we think of time or astral travel we immediately try and imagine what it would be like having those powers even though we already have a pretty good idea.
The awesome artwork was created by Dennis Konstantin Gerigk. How did you come across his work, and what was it like working with him? What drew you to his style?
I was looking through the internets with the purpose of finding an actual artist for the artwork. I came across his painting “Burning Paws” and immediately became set on this guy doing our cover art. He’s been a pleasure to work with and is very understanding of our vision and purpose. We trust him enough to let him do his thing and he has repeatedly exceeded our expectations.
So you recently announced that you’ve been signed by Prosthetic Records. How did that come about, and how does it feel to be on a label with other such fantastic bands?
It came about by some great people helping us out when they didn’t have to. Jamie King let some people know about us and our music and one of those people was Bryan Christner, an attorney. He does work with a few bands and labels and let Prosthetic know that we were still on the market. From there EJ contacted us and soon after, added us to the roster!
It’s really rad knowing we are apart that roster too. Some of those bands have been inspiring us since we first started and some of the bands are the new ones taking things even further. There is something to be said about Prosthetic’s diversity as well. From Trap Them to Animals as Leaders to Beneath the Massacre, most of their bands are at the top of each of their genres.
I understand you’ve actually played a fair few shows since the word broke. Where have you received the best response?
We did a few weeks in July with a very sick band, Picture It In Ruins, courtesy of Arsonists Get All The Girls‘ Arthur Alvarez and his great booking work. I’d say some of the better shows were in Sacramento and Rock Springs, Wyoming aside from our hometown show. We can’t wait to get back out though.
I’ve heard good things about your performance (steady on), including praise from The Binary Code, who you played with last year. What steps do you take to try and ensure an entertaining show?
We just try and practice as much as possible together or individually. Playing with great bands always helps too. Every night on tour Picture It In Ruins had us wanting to up our game each time we played.
Any good stories from the road? We’ve heard a fair few in our time, so feel free to lie if you think it will impress us.
Let’s see… right after the first show of the tour our guitarist Andrew had to be hospitalized in Albuquerque, we witnessed the first and last ass-chug in Topeka, bums in Cali like to talk shit and also, we got the very awesome pleasure of being searched by Homeland Security in Arizona. It was only our first tour and we alreadyhave some great stories!
What’s your battle plan post-release?
The plan is to get more fans, more shows and get with a full time booking agency. By the time we record our next record we really want to show people how diverse we can be. We are going to tour with any band out there that plays sick music, no matter what genre. Currently we have a few weeks of dates in the works for late October right before we meet up with East of the Wall in November for a week of shows!
You mentioned Jamie King, who is responsible for overseeing most of Between the Buried and Me’s albums. Was there a conscious decision to seek out his services as your producer because of this?
Definitely. There are certain styles of music that are perfect for that type of production and we thought our music fit that criteria. Of course we are big fans of his work and at that point, we felt we had some material that could be compared alongside his past albums.
Hypothetical question: You write a riff so awesome that Zeus, king of the gods himself, cannot not play it. This has angered him, and he’s now rooting around in his sock drawer for his thunderbolts. Which one of you will be offered up as a fleshy sacrifice to appease the beardy, lecherous bastard?
Austin [drums], because he has the best chance of fighting Zeus and winning. He’s a white Bruce Lee.
You guys are getting a fair amount of exposure at the moment, but are there any bros in the local scene you want to drag into the limelight on your elegant coat-tails?
For sure, there are lots of great solid bands where we’re from. Some of those bands include Lizard Professor, Aeonic Plague, In Search of Sight, The Fermi Paradox and a band I’m involved in, Melora. Also, Baring Teeth and Kill the Client represent the Dallas area well.
Well, thank you very much for your time and for answering my inane questions! We wish you all the best for the coming year and with the album release. Any message or promises of sexual gratification in return for buying Astrodama you’d like to pass on to our readers (don’t worry, there’s only like two of them, and they’re probably impotent)?
Thank you guys a ton for your interest in the band and for running a good site! To anyone out there thinking about buying Astrodrama, if you buy this record, we promise that when we get to your town we will do an improv hip-hop performance for you. If you let us crash at your house, we will do an additional Blink-182 cover for you as well.
Make sure you catch Astrodrama when it comes out on August 16th! Many thanks also to the lovely Chantelle at Chantelle Renee Photography for the images. Make sure to check out the rest of her work, including sets of Protest the Hero, Decrepit Birth and Nevermore!