author: ethan butterfield | a&c writer
Banding with Butterfield learns more about the Illinois grunge band.
So it’s time for another Banding with Butterfield! This time I had the chance to interview an amazing group named Burden of the Sky from Illinois! Josh Appel, lead singer, talks technical difficulties, teamwork, and success below,
Burden of the Sky has an amazing harmony in its lyrics and sound. Why do does the band perform the style of music that it does?
To put it simply, we are quite a mixed bag of people. Blue collar, white collar, big city and townies. We have several walks of life in our little group, and each of us have our own experiences. All of us have had several past projects ranging from metal to rock to country to jam band, and I think we’ve all managed to tailor those bits that each of us most enjoyed to find the style that, collectively, we all wanted to be a part of. Not to mention, many of us came from projects we were unhappy with, either in direction or in present company, etc. Beyond being bandmates, we’re all friends on our own terms outside of all of that, and so everyone gets their fair input in on what it will ultimately sound like.
What bands have inspired you and the other members of Burden of the Sky?
There is certainly no secret to a fondness for Sevendust, Breaking Benjamin, and Chevelle. Several of us are huge prog rock/metal fans, stuff like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Faith No More, Primus, Karnivool, etc. A whole lot of love for bands from the Nu Metal era, such as Korn, Stereomud, Nonpoint and Switched, and just as much for grunge classics like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden.
What is the feeling the group gets when performing live?
Haha, yeah, it’s never gonna be fair to call it a ‘rush’ because that assumes that it comes and then it goes away. The high that comes from a live performance couldn’t be matched by any substance on planet earth, and it couldn’t be described accurately to anyone that has never experienced it. When we all know “This is it. Time to pull out your A-game,” it’s like a spring of anxiety that switches into a spring of adrenaline. And with this group, there’s such a strong level of trust in your fellow musicians, so you feed off of each others energy, and you ensure that you perform at the peak of what you are capable of, knowing that they are going to do the same.
What’s your process toward song creation? Song writing?
I’ll let you know the day we finally figure it out ourselves! Honestly, though, we have a handful of methods that provide a launching-off point. The earliest material we worked on started with little ideas, guitar riffs, and central themes that we wanted to expand upon. Over time, that became more sophisticated, sending homemade demo material to each other for critiquing, and to provide a basic idea of the end result. And we’re picky. Super picky. Sometimes, it feels like pitching an idea to the rest of the band can be like pitching a product to Shark Tank, because you know it will be picked apart and compromised left and right. Sometimes, after all of that, that song then gets sent to the scrap heap. You learn not to get overly attached!
Most importantly, you have to learn to edit yourself! As a guitarist, it’s incredible how easy it is to fall into the trap of overdoing your job. “I love this intro! I’m gonna loop it for 16 full measures, then add a solo, then have a clean break, then restart the riff again,” until finally, vocals join the song after a solid 3:45. We do, in my own opinion, a pretty good job at keeping one another grounded in reality.
As a fan question, I loved the song “Matter of Fact.” What was it like to make it? Any stories you could possibly share?
First off, thank you! That song was certainly in the earliest batch of material we were working on, but it ultimately came together pretty quickly. Josh had brought in the chorus guitar work as a starting point, and we sort of jammed on it until we completed a full loop of what would eventually be the chorus. After expanding on the rest of it, adding a bridge, we basically had ourselves a song!
Now, as far as stories, while in the middle of tracking vocals, Brian forgot how the harmony line went. Now, in a studio, there is a talkback mic that almost perfectly picks up your conversation in the control room so you can speak to each other. I, not understanding that this microphone is different than the type that you typically sing into, picked it up off the dock and sang, directly into the mic, his harmony part. I saw, out of my peripherals, Brian throw the headphones off and double over in physical pain, and everyone in the control booth starts cracking up that I basically just made our singer permanently deaf. To say the least, I now know how a talkback mic works!
What have been some of the highlights throughout the band’s career?
Most of them really came about pretty recently, but they’ve been above and beyond any experiences we’ve ever had. For one, the only tracks we’d put out prior to recording Cinis ad Cinis were our demo tracks “Chasing You” and “Matter of Fact.” Now, while the response to these tracks was pretty positive, each one topped out on YouTube at around 10,000-12,000 views. Fast forward to the release of our first single off the album, Same Old Page, and we literally couldn’t believe the reaction it got. Number 36 on Rhapsody’s Alternative Metal list, now at over 100,000 views on YouTube and growing, and an incredibly cool fan (all the way over in Turkey!) named Sinal posted a video of himself covering the guitar. On top of that, our soon-to-be-released single, “Solace”, was featured in an advertisement for Dizengoff Audio, with a full screenshot of the album artwork at the end. Those experiences keep happening, and we still have to pinch ourselves every now and again to ensure they’re real.
Last question. What does the future hold for Burden of the Sky?
If the response to our work in the future is anything on par to what we’ve experienced already, then I think I can safely say that we will ride this thing as far as it will take us! We aim to write more, perform more, and interact more with our fans who, to us, become our family. They are the lifeblood of not just our own pursuits, but those of everyone who has ever achieved any amount of success. Here’s hoping that we can continue to spread the love among our ever growing family, and that we get the chance to meet every single one out on the road someday!
So there you have it! Make sure to check out their single “Same Old Page,” which is available now!