Veil of Maya are a band that are adored by metalheads for their off-kilter breakdowns, technical riffs and overall brutality. So, what happens when you throw clean vocals into that mix? Well, it would seem that many fans turned away from the band because of the addition, but it also seems like it has caused more people to talk about Veil of Maya than ever before. On the Raleigh, NC date of their Matriarch Tour, I sat down with guitarist Marc Okubo and drummer Sam Applebaum to get their thoughts on fan reactions to their new music, bringing old songs back into their setlist and how it feels to be lumped in with the djent crowd.
I actually reviewed your album for the website. I enjoyed it. It’s really good and I wanted to know a bit about the concept of it. I know it’s all about the female characters, but, what inspired it?
Marc: Lyrically, it’s not like about the characters or anything. When I was writing the music, I just named every song after whatever female characters I liked and just kept the song titles. I guess the reasoning behind that is because I’m not really very inspired by most metal music nowadays, so I find inspiration through other things like books or movies. I guess for music, it’s more like soundtracks or like different things that aren’t metal, typically.
What soundtracks or albums influenced the music on Matriarch, if anything did?
Marc: Obviously, all the ones with the characters, those were pretty influential. I guess like, Movie soundtracks. Did you see that movie Looper?
Yes, I did.
Marc: I like the soundtrack of that one. I’m a huge fan of John Williams and stuff like that.
Star Wars has a great score.
Marc: I like E.T. a lot. That one’s my jam.
I never really thought to give a listen to the score of E.T..
Marc: Oh my god, it’s so good. Next time you watch it, try and imagine the movie without any music and it’s just insane. Yeah, I like those. I like videogame soundtracks, as well. Like, obviously all the Final Fantasy games and some Zeldas. I like the Mass Effect soundtracks. I’m just into that kind of stuff, I guess.
That’s cool that those sounds probably came over into Matriarch a little bit through the writing. That’s really nice.
Marc: Probably, yeah.
Now, because the names are all females, who is ‘Three Fifty’ about?
Marc: That’s from a comic book, Y: The Last Man. Have you ever heard of that?
I’ve never heard of that before.
Marc: Oh, okay. Check it out. It’s Y, colon, The Last Man. Well, it’s pretty much about one day every male of every species on Earth dies except for a dude and his pet monkey, so the whole world is just overran by females and he’s pretty much trying to hide his identity because, you know, that’s pretty dangerous. The whole concept of like, “Think about how many airplane pilots there would be if every male died.” or things like that. They’re going to need a male for survival, so like, it’s a pretty crazy comic. Then, Agent 355 is assigned to protect him by some secret agency and they become way tight. By the end of it he calls her Three Fifty because it’s easier to say than Agent 355.
Oh, that’s pretty cool! Are there any other songs that you specifically had that character in mind and just channeled it all the way? Like, you really just felt the character through that song?
Marc: Oh yeah. ‘Aeris’, I think was a good example of that because that’s from Final Fantasy VII, and there’s a part that’s like [Marc plays the riff that plays from 2:25-2:57 in ‘Aeris’]. It kind of sounds like the intro to Final Fantasy a little bit, so that should be the ‘Aeris’ song, you know?
That’s definitely one of the more different songs in the record that I think utilizes a lot more major key stuff.
Marc: Yeah, yeah. It’s weird, because there’s actually two versions of that song. The original version we made, there’s like barely any screaming at all. It was almost all singing. It was just kind of an overload, I think, so we kind of dumbed it down a little bit and re-did it to make it a little more masculine [laughs].
Back to the clean singing. How do you think that your fans are reacting to the clean vocals? Do you think they’re reacting positively or too negatively?
Marc: Well, we definitely lost some fans for sure, but we knew that was going to happen. It’s a lot more people talking shit on the Internet, specifically on Facebook, actually. If I search for our band name on anything else, it’s like people are pretty stoked that we have singing now. But, either way, it’s the most attention we’ve ever gotten on anything we’ve ever done. So, I think for the experience alone it’s worth it. This album alone is probably getting checked out maybe, I don’t know, ten times as much as anything else we’ve ever done.
Absolutely. It adds a level of accessibility to it and also it makes it dynamic. It gives it more flavor.
Marc: I agree. It’s like adding another instrument to the band. A lot of people were just never able to get into us because of the vocals. There’s all this music going on and it’s melodic and then you’ve got death metal vocals over it, which some people are just never going to be into.
Yeah, there are just those people who will never like that stuff.
Marc: Yeah, I mean, I used to be like that, too. When I was a little kid and I first heard people growling I’d be like, “Oh, turn this off. This is awful.” It took me a while to get into it. Especially seeing it live helped a lot. Now, it’s like we can do a lot more, I think. It’s just weird how people determine genres as a whole based off of what the vocalist is doing, but then, I guess it’s true for everything. Like, country music, country music is just pop music with a weird accent. It’s just weird how vocals change everything.
Absolutely. Now, I saw a few people quick to say that it was almost Periphery-esque at some points, but how do you feel about that? I know you’re friends with Spencer and all them.
Marc: Periphery was recording down the hall from us. When I think that people are comparing us to Periphery, most of the time I think they’re just ignorant, cause It’s just some kids who have been listening to metal for maybe two years and they hear one other band with singing and they’re like, “Oh, that’s like Periphery. I know everything.” Musically, we don’t sound like Periphery at all. There’s no two songs on our album that you can compare to any of Periphery’s songs. It’s just the fact that there’s singing and screaming and Spencer also sings and screams. I think that’s what most people are thinking. I mean, the more I think about it, I guess us and the dudes in Periphery all were fans of Meshuggah and I think we all grew up playing Final Fantasy so subconsciously we all have kind of have a similar sense of melody, but we were never trying to rip each other off. It’s just kind of coincidental, I guess, that we’re all friends now and we all had a similar thing going.
Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, if you’re going to be around people, you might be slightly influenced by what they’re doing, but if you think it’s completely original, then it is.
Marc: We were both working on our albums at the exact same time, so none of us rubbed off on each other or anything because we were all kind of doing our own thing. I mean, we hang out and everything still but we weren’t like, “Yo, let me listen to your album so I can steal parts!” We were changing around our own songs every day, so we weren’t ready to start giving them out yet.
So you were trying to just get your stuff straight before you heard anything else and focusing on your own stuff before you’d ever think about paying homage to anyone else?
The EP that you said you had recorded prior to Matriarch, will we ever see any or that material or is it gone?
Marc: Some of it ended up on Matriarch and ‘Subject Zero’ we ended up releasing, that was going to be the intro of that, or maybe the outro, I don’t know. ‘Subject Zero’ is the one song that got released and then the rest of them turned up on the album re-done and with new vocals.
Oh, okay! So, a lot of those tracks did end up on Matriarch.
Marc: Yeah, we were gonna have some of our electronic artist friends do remixes of other songs and I don’t know what’s going to happen with those. Those were going to be on an EP, too. It would be cool if we got to add those in.
That sounds so cool.
Marc: Yeah, I thought it was a cool idea, it’s just scheduling it didn’t really work out I think cause Sumerian wanted to focus their attention on, I think, After the Burial had an album that was supposed to come out at the exact same time.
Oh yeah, Wolves Within.
Also, I’ve always wanted to know this. After your second guitarist left, why didn’t you recruit another one?
Marc: That was a long time ago. I’m trying to think. Well, we started playing as a four piece, and back then that was before we were signed to a real label or anything and no one cared at first. When we first signed to Sumerian that was a big thing, like, “Find a second guitarist.” So, we’d be trying to scramble to jam with our homies to see if anyone worked in-between tours and we just weren’t able to find one in-between, then everyone just got used to seeing us as “the band with one guitar player” and Sumerian was just like, “Yo, yeah, just stay a four-piece.” They just kind of liked it like that and now we’re just kind of known like that. I’m definitely not opposed to it, it’s just that people know us as a four piece band now.
Sam: I think we were intending to get one but we were waiting to find the right person and in that time we just kind of were like, “Alright, well this is working now, so let’s stop looking for one.”
Just better to stay a four piece.
Marc: Yeah, at least for now.
Sam: It’s more comfortable in the band.
Do you still enjoy listening to or playing your older song like stuff from All Things Set Aside?
Marc: It’s a goal of mine to eventually be able to buy the rights to that album so that we can re-record it and make it sound the way we think it should, because the production just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to and that kind of held us back in our career a bunch, too. I’m proud of the songs, but it could be so much more, especially at this point. So, that would be really cool. I don’t jam any of our old music, but I’m still down to play it and I still think it’s fun.
Okay, so it could enter your live sets again if you wanted to?
Marc: Ooh, I mean, if we were to re-record All Things Set Aside I’m sure maybe a song or two or a part or two could enter our set.
Sam: We would have to put it back out again.
Marc: Yeah, because people would just not know what was going on now, especially if kids think that [Id] is our first album or something. People think that Brandon was our original vocalist and that’s just not true.
Who was the original vocalist?
Marc: Well, on All Things Set Aside we had a dude named Adam doing vocals, but before that we actually had a dude that was one of my roommates or a friend of one of my roommates and he actually was singing on our demos. So, we always had singing originally.
Oh, really? That’s really cool to know. So it’s almost like a return back to what it originally was.
Marc: Yeah, I mean, that’s why it’s so weird to me because I don’t notice anything different about what I’m doing. It’s all the same musically, but just having a different dude’s voice makes us death metal or makes us metalcore or makes us djent or whatever people want to say. It’s like all because it’s a different dude’s voice.
Speaking of djent, I’m assuming you’ve just heard it millions of times that the djent label has been applied to you, so what do you think of that now? Are you a bit more comfortable with it or do you just push it back more and more?
Marc: I don’t think that we’re djent, but I just feel like all these internet genre expert dudes, they just read…I don’t know. I don’t know what everyone’s source of djent knowledge really comes from or what makes someone right or wrong about djent.
Sam: Really, we just laugh about djent.
Marc: Yeah, when we were first a band everyone called us metalcore and then we got Brandon in the band and people started calling us deathcore and then we recorded with Misha and everyone said we were djent and now we have Lukas and people are saying we’re progressive metalcore and emo bullshit. I don’t even know. To me it’s sort of the same band. It all sounds the same to me.
Genre labels must be really weird for you guys because basically nothing is changing. You’ve been doing this for so long that the vocals change but it doesn’t feel different to you.
Marc: Yeah, the trends and the kids are changing but we’re still essentially playing the same kind of music. Which, I think is metal, I think.
It’s pretty metal, I think. If you listen to Common Man’s Collapse that’s definitely metal. There’s no way that you could misconstrue that any other way.
Marc: If, you know, you meet some old lady at the gas station and she’s like, “Hey y’all, what kind of music do you play?” It’s like, I would say rock or metal or something. I wouldn’t be like, “We’re actually progressive djent deathcore.” or whatever. Like, what the hell do you mean? That’s not even a real thing, you know?
You can use basic genre tags to describe who you are and it doesn’t take away from the sound.
Marc: Yeah, and also in my opinion, we don’t sound like other bands. A lot of people are comparing us to Periphery or whatever, but I think Periphery sounds like Periphery and we sound like Veil and that’s more what I’m trying to do. I’m not trying to be lumped into a genre or anything like that.
I don’t think anyone wants to be pigeonholed. Especially not when you’re trying to create art.
Marc: Yeah, exactly.
Now, this is kind of meta. What are questions you hate being asked in interviews? Like, they’re just boring.
Marc: “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened on tour?” That one always stumps me. Cause it’s like, “I can’t remember every day of tour!” Think about how crazy that is. Sometimes I wake up in the van and everyone’s like, “Dude, do you remember what you did last night? This and this.” or like they’ll be a girl in our vehicle that I maybe brought on without remembering or something. I’ve done a bunch of stupid shit. I have no idea what the craziest thing I’ve done on tour is. I don’t know. What’s another question? When people ask me about duh-jent or, that’s what it really is, that’s how ignorant people that say that word are. They can’t even say it. So when people ask me about it and I have to explain that I don’t know what they’re talking about and I ask them to elaborate and it’s just really frustrating when people try and talk about it I guess.
Oh, I’m sure it is. Especially when you have such a clear picture and they’re just reaching for something.
Marc: It’s like, I was there when it was all happening, like I literally watched it happen and I know all the bands that they’re talking about. If I look at what people are saying about our CD, they’re like “Oh man, Veil looks like they took a bunch of CHON and Polyphia parts and then mixed it with Erra and then did a Periphery thing here and then Volumes…” It’s like, “No, we didn’t do any of that, actually!” That’s just so annoying to me.
And when they see videos of you recording with Diego or something like that, they have to just have these automatic preconceived notions of what you’re music is going to sound like in their head. They can’t take it as its own thing because they always have to have a reference point.
Marc: They just think that’s all it is. How could those be our influences if they just started their band in the last five years and our discography goes before that and our music style hasn’t changed?
Now, as a follow up to a question you hate being asked, is there a question that you’ll never give an answer to? Is there just something that you think is just too odd of a question that you may have been asked before or you may think you might get asked?
Marc: I would say the djent one is the one that really, like, I’ve sometimes not answered it before because I’m just really confused. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else.
I’m sorry if asking about it was weird, but I just wanted to get your thoughts on it. I think that most people want to know.
Marc: No, it’s totally chill. That’s a better question then most people would ask. But yeah, I think that’s the most annoying thing for me because I just still don’t see it as a real thing, yet. I guess we’re a living breathing part of it and I still just refuse to accept it [laughs].
So, when the thall movement spawned off of djent you must have been like, “Oh my god, no.”
Marc: So you know what’s funny? That’s not a movement. Those dudes are just trolling everybody. When you ask them what it means it’s like, “Oh, umm, we were playing Warcraft 3 and the guy’s name is Thrall and I thought it would be funnier if you took the R off and said thall.”
Marc: Yeah, that’s where thall came from. One fucking idiot is like, “This song is really thall.” Just think about how you look to all of us who are just there talking like, “Yeah, yeah. It’s thall.” [laughs]
It has to be so hard as a musician to just deal with people scrutinizing your art to that level and just saying things and what they are.
Marc: Exactly. You just have to take The Internet and just not look at it sometimes.
Do you think The Internet has changed the way you’ve operated as a band?
Marc: It’s changing the way everything operates. That’s the thing. It’s like when we were growing up it was hard to find out about bands, so any time you found a band in whatever genre you were interested in you just liked all of them because it existed. We weren’t so picky about everything. Now there’s like 200 bands that are trying to model their band off Periphery or us or Whitechapel. Everyone wants to sound like some other band and nobody’s doing their own thing, so it’s getting over-saturated and I can tell what a band’s going to sound like just by their band name or just by the artwork they’re putting up. It’s driving people away from this kind of music, I feel like, because there’s too much of it.
If you look at something and there’s just too much of it you kind of get overwhelmed and you back off.
Marc: Yeah, then there’s like, “I’ll stick to the two bands that I already know and I’ll just start listening to hip-hop.”
I feel that’s where people are kind of going now with that kind of genre hopping. I think that’s pretty cool if you can listen to more music.
Marc: I don’t have a problem with that, but that’s the thing. I wish people would take all their influences and make something unique instead of just trying to rip off one band specifically.
I completely get it. Now, if there’s any one thing you want your fans to know about this album or about anything going on with you guys in general, what would it be?
Marc: Well, what I’ve been told by our label and management and everyone is, this is obviously a controversial album for us, and that this is where the game starts to change. The one we make after this is where shit’s going to really start taking off, I guess. So I guess everyone should just keep on waiting because we’re not ever going to put the same album out twice. Now that people are aware that we can do more than one thing, we can really take it anywhere, so I’m excited to do that and hope everyone keeps listening.
Our closing question is…how do you like your eggs?
Sam: Scrambled for sure. I’ve developed a taste for putting cheese in my eggs as well.
That’s the only way I’ll eat eggs!
Sam: With cheese in them?
With cheese in them.
Sam: I like Omelettes a lot, too.
Marc: I like Sriracha on my eggs.
Sam: Yeah, hot sauce on eggs is the best.
Hot sauce on eggs is pretty great. Huevos Rancheros is really good.
Marc: Yeah, we’re big Mexican food fans.
Do you have a favorite spot in a particular city?
Marc: The taco stands in Mexico are the best. Like, 75 cents and you get pineapple in it and al pastor and avocadoes, all of it, everything for 75 cents per taco.
Wow, that’s pretty great.
Sam: I really like El Patron. That’s in Chicago where we’re from and it’s pretty good.
Now I have places to visit if I ever go there.
Marc: Oh yeah, there’s tons of Mexican spots in Chicago. You can’t really go wrong.
Well, thank you guys for the interview. I really appreciate it.
Marc: Thanks for having us.
Sam: No problem. Thank you.
Matriarch is available now and you can stream the record in full through Sumerian Records official YouTube channel.