KNAAVES – A Confrontation Arcane

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Zeroes and Ones zing through the ether like lightning bolts, unleashed from the tips of our fingers and arcing across the globe through a cloud of network cable and switches, summoned by intercontinental sorcerors.We exchange terse pleasantries while sharpening our pointy hats, ready to strike out with our energized antennae and shimmering cloaks at a moment’s notice.

A shadowy figure begins stirring clandestine potent audio elixirs and potions, flexing his dangerously reckless knowledge of recording, mixing and mastering; the dark arts of compressors and production, fraught with chaotic instability. The pot begins to boil over and a throbbing gateway begins to open, crackling and pulsing; the other planeswalker recoils and stumbles.

The first drops another handful of burned CDRs and a mandrake root into the cauldron. He chants into the electric wind:

…I have to confess, I am the Wizard of Knaaves! We are starting to record a new EP soon and I will be handling most of the recording and mixing duties for that as well!

(KNAAVES, Jamie Christopher, Guitar)

Snooty McWords

That is excellent news to hear there is another EP on the way! The first is one of my favorite discoveries of the year, and I’ve seen you guys do some killer material on youtube live videos…what can we expect from the new material?

We definitely are going for a more aggressive sound on this upcoming EP. The songs are heavy and haunting at times and we want to find a way for that to come through on recording. I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to artistic vision so I’m looking forward to closing the door to my wizardry room and seeing what happens. The new EP will be 5 new songs with some extras thrown in.

That’s true, it is best to close one’s door when engaging in proper wizarding! But you are right, the songs are heavy and haunting, and they have a very unique signature to them, with a special focus on the riff style, which I would say is especially evocative in the way it encompasses both the heavier low end elements and tastefully dark open chord phrasing. How did you arrive at such an enigmatic guitar playing style, and is that unique to Knaaves or have you been honing it through other projects as well?

Thanks man. I’ve always had a melodic guitar style. Many years ago, the singer Andy and I were in a melodic metalcore band called Amora Savant. Some of the signature sound started with that band, but it was more major scale sounding. With Knaaves I knew I wanted it to be a bit more dark and decided to use more minor phrasing for the songs. It kind of happened naturally when I started messing around with the dropped tuning we use.

Honestly the only other person I have heard utilize such a variety of playing that both IS heavy on the low end while also FEELING heavy throughout its melodicism is Bob Vigna from Immolation, so you’re in good company! You mention wanting Knaaves to be darker, what was the reasoning behind that? Did y’all make a conscious choice for the theme of the band and its sound, or did it all seem to come together organically?

I will definitely take that compliment! As for the sound of the band it happened over time. In the beginning, like 3 years ago we were writing stuff that sounded a bit more like Counterparts. A friend of ours Nick Gauthier (who recently became a full-time member in Harm’s Way) was looking for a project and we jammed with him for a while. Nick brought a few riffs to the table and was like “I think we could make things a bit heavier” and we ran with it.

Right around that time we switched tunings. I had been working in the same tuning for years and decided to change to something that wouldn’t allow me to use the same chord structures. I had to force myself to write interesting riffs. It broke me out of a writing block and it all kind of fell into place after that.

As for making things darker sounding, it was in reaction to what the singer Andy and I had done in Amora Savant. We wanted to do something that was a bit removed from the sound we had done previously.

Awesome! It’s always fun to take an idea and really run with it and see where it can go! I think that’s a really key artistic insight, and maybe one that I wish I had learned a little earlier… that there is a real value in not just pushing yourself (heavier, faster, lower, etc), but really finding something you aren’t comfortable with and forcing yourself into it. We try to do the same thing with rhythms and odd time signatures, not so much to show off or anything, but really force a new perspective on our instruments and the music.

I definitely agree. As musicians we have rhythm patterns or chords that we always come back to out of instinct or comfort. It’s cliché, but good music happens just outside that comfort zone.

Agreed! And on the topic of dark themes at odds with cliché, the lyrics and topics in Knaaves are also uncomfortable and dark, is that entirely up to Andy or is that a group effort as well?

I think lyrics are sometimes an afterthought for most bands. They work on writing killer music and just throw whatever on top of it. Most people don’t play an instrument so when they listen to a record they are trying to connect with the singer and the lyrics.

We knew we wanted the lyrics to be more focused than what we had done in the past so we decided to pick topics that interested us and use them as a starting point, but trying not to be too generic. Murder, death, and the occult are big themes in metal music, but I think if you approach them differently they can still be interesting.

Oh absolutely! As with many things, it’s more about ‘how’ it is done rather than ‘what’. As example, the topic of that War on Women song I mentioned in the Sound of Courage article (Anarcha) you guys were also in would make fertile ground for lyrics of all sort, and is a subject worth examining and understanding from so many angles, most essentially because it is the kind of thing we should know and not forget. What brought you to the Kitty Genovese story?

Again, many thanks for including us in that Sound of Courage article. The Kitty Genovese topic was something that I remember studying in my college sociology class and it’s something I think about every so often. I brought the topic up to Andy and he was totally on board. Him and I actually spent hours researching the event in order to properly convey the story in the Knaaves lyrics. Those types of acts still continue to this day and should receive more attention so that people feel empowered to help in that situation.

Absolutely! It is essential aspect of humanity, and really one that I believe we would do well to remain aware of…for we are one of the few animal species that can make real conscious decisions to act beyond our simple base programming, and I love seeing artists really making that extra effort to engage on that level! Can we expect a similar continuation of theme for this upcoming EP you are working on?

Most definitely! Themes on the upcoming EP include cult psychology, environmental activism, The media’s influence on Jack the Ripper, Suicide and more. We definitely take pride in our lyrical content and using our platform to tell a story and spread awareness.

Well that sounds fantastic! I mean, those are tough themes that in one way or another are difficult to address and sad that they need to be, but better to confront them head on with information and courage rather than pretend that everything is gummy bears and goodness everywhere. Now you mention this next EP will be 5 songs, and your first was 2. Do you have long-term aspirations for a full-length as well, or as we sink deeper into the age of information, do you believe that older long-play formats are losing their relevance in the sea of releases and noise?

I think the metal community is still trying to figure that one out. It seems like most publications and record labels want full-length releases to review or release. Other genres have shown us that a steady stream of releases is often a better approach in order to keep interest and stay relevant, so I think it’s a matter of artistic preference and direction.

I’m not going to say Knaaves won’t release a full-length, but for right now we are fine with releasing EPs.

It’s definitely an ever-evolving topic! Especially looking back at the fascinating history where music used to be singles and albums were simply compilations of radio songs, and I think it wasn’t until one of Frank Sinatra’s albums (In the Wee Small Hours, 1955) that it was actually created as an entire body of work, and now we seem to be slowly swinging the other direction!

And besides EPs and LPs and whatnot, what other plans are in store for Knaaves in the future? Any big touring aspirations?

We are trying to coordinate a music video and possible 10-day tour to coincide with the release of the EP. We plan on doing everything we can regionally, but longer tours are probably out of the question with our jobs and such…

A sudden volley of fireballs ricochets back and forth from our outstretched and cinder-red glowing palms, their roaring flame dwarfing and drowning all other sound. Eyelashes are singed, ears are deafened, shouts go unheard. No record remains of what was uttered during this climactic clash, but it is certain that absolutely no one mentioned anything about being old and preferring their bed over sleeping in a van, or having teddy bears in a road crew, especially Snooty McWords who is extremely hardy and eats rocks for breakfast.

Lava rocks. The hard pointy ones. You know how it is.

He munches one thoughtfully, like a spring apple or a moist tomato, then unleashes a withering fury of pointed inquiry:

…the band name brings to mind the characters of medieval serfdom, but the spelling is a bit unusual. What is the story behind that?

Oh man, you’ve got me spilling all the secrets!

I’m a tad nosy, I admit it!

We liked the name Knaves, but there were already a few bands with that spelling. In trve cvlt Scandinavian fashion we decided to add a vowel. Although Amanda would tell you the extra A stands for Amanda.

Well that makes sense! So your band members must be Kevin, Nancy, Amanda, Andy, Velure, Eggbert and sJamie.

Yeah Eggbert plays the synth.

He plays so fast I can’t even hear! Incredible!

Well, I didn’t want to say it, but we turn him down live. Hope he doesn’t read this. Sorry buddy!

And with that, their arcane confrontation was over, with nothing but the craters of scorched trees and smoldering wire left behind.

The air sizzles with errant static electricity and lingering sparks, the hairs on your arm still standing on end.

Go to Knaaves secret lair here, imbibe their volatile potions here, follow in their foreboding path here.

Photo via.

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