OD – I know that ‘The Grief’ is made up of members from Corr Mhóna, For Ruin and Katatonik, after a Katatonia tribute project. During that time, was it abundantly clear that a chemistry strong chemistry was awakening and at what point did you decide to form ‘The Grief’?
JM – Yes, that’s right – and now Soothsayer is also connected to us since Con Doyle joined us recently on Drums (& our vocalist was playing with Soothsayer previously too).
Our lineup is Steve Quinn on Vocals, Paul Quinn & John Murphy on Guitars, Kieran O’Leary on Bass, with Con just joining us recently as mentioned. We’re mostly based in Cork and many of us have played together (& still do) in all of those related bands… playing in an early Katatonia tribute band was actually the genesis of The Grief – we have played a bunch of shows over the last 4 or 5 years with Katatonik playing some old Katatonia songs and decided to form an original band back in 2016, which became The Grief.
While we took some time out after playing some initial local shows, we decided in 2019 to record the 9 original songs we had written & been performing live as a formal release, instead of working on typical demo release. But even before Katatonik, we knew each other well – I had played with Con in a Paradise Lost tribute, Steve had played with me in For Ruin (& Paul has also played live guitar in For Ruin) & the two brothers have Corr Mhóna on the go for a long time now.
OD – Can you give us a breakdown on the overall concept of the band and the main influences both lyrically and musically?
JM – We knew that we wanted to create music that was coming from a more doom orientated sound – I think that comes from playing in PL and Katatonia tribute bands it sort of flowed naturally from that to play slower, doomier music in a way, and also it is quite a different style certainly to For Ruin (melodic black metal) and Corr Mhóna.
We certainly have a number of fairly doomy songs with strong melodic hooks at a slow pace – we like to combine aggressive vocals with powerful clean-sung vocals and it makes a great mixture and balance. Not all of the songs are slow/doomy numbers, however – there are a few up-tempo numbers built-in too for variety.
Lyrically, for example, A New Dawn (which is the opening track and the single from the Ascent EP), deals with the loss of a loved one to old age, exploring the decline of the mind and the somewhat hopeful journey that might happen at the end of all things.
Further introspection takes place during In Defiance, as the lyrics bring the reader to question their own existence, with a focus on the ideal self and the search for purpose. There is anger here too, a backlash from the despondence of the first track in resistance against fate. Call of the Void recognizes that at the edges of our conscience there is darkness and takes it as a welcome reminder of our fragility and transience while Departed is a more up-tempo song that features the topics discussed already with a focus on the acceptance of loss, followed by the renewal of purpose through action.
OD – There is no question that ‘A New Dawn’ (which was uploaded earlier this year) received a lot of very positive reactions across the Irish metal landscape. Was this something you were anticipating; or perhaps anxious about?
JM – Any debut release is always something a little nerve-wracking, especially as we hadn’t released even a demo publicly previous to Ascent. We had recorded one, but never released it – so the release of A New Dawn was the first time people could really hear our music – there are some YouTube live performances out there but to be honest, those are early versions of the songs without finished arrangements and lyrics in many cases so the EP release was not without some trepidation in one sense – but on the other hand, the music is what we like from our own perspectives and as many other artists have said in the past – it’s a bonus if others like it!
From a personal perspective, I was hoping that people would like the production on the single (and the EP) and like the overall sound of the record….. Happily, that seems to be the case and people really reacted well to the artwork that we selected to use which I think is visually outstanding.
PQ – I was personally very excited to see how these tracks would be received, as some of the material I contributed to the recordings was quite old. Some of the riffs are from the 90s! They had never found a ‘home’ in the various bands I’d played with, and it was very cathartic finally putting them on record.
Also, our live performances have been received well in the past, but this doesn’t compare to getting feedback on an official release, which has an ‘honesty’ to it; luckily the response has been almost entirely positive!
OD – Of course, the EP ‘Ascent’ then followed, giving a deeper sense of the band’s sound and personality. Prior to the release of ‘Ascent’ was there more material that was already completed which we will see on the next EP, or was that the extent of the material at that point?
JM – Yes, we had 9 songs ready and pretty much fully written, and having the red light on forces you to finalize any outstanding remaining decisions which is a useful deadline really.
We knew these were strong songs and wanted to get them out there – they had languished long enough on my hard drive, unreleased! All 9 songs were recorded together and the release schedule is simply an artificial timeline that we have created, based on the way people consume media these days.
PQ – There is certainly no want or lack of material from the band, and the 9 tracks we had written before recording was an artificial cut-off point really. John had another couple of tracks which never came to fruition during jams and I have a couple more ready to go which have never been jammed.
On top of this, Steve has his own riffs to contribute, along with all the fantastic vocal melodies he is writing. It will be a while before we can rehearsal again and fine-tune new material, but there certainly won’t be any lack of it.
OD – On the band’s social media platforms, we have been told that the next EP will be arriving this coming Summer. Can you give us an update on this in light of the current pandemic situation?
JM – We could have released all 9 songs simultaneously (& and given the COVID situation, I’m really happy that we didn’t), but for a debut release, we felt it would be wise to split the music into 2 digital releases, separated by a few months to allow us to release two EP’s, each preceded by a digital single.
That makes 4 releases in total to help keep our name and music in people’s minds, over a span of a few months. Music is so casually consumed these days, unfortunately, you need to keep releases current and front and centre so that’s the idea behind it really.
We don’t have a formal release date yet for the Descent EP, we will decide that in the coming weeks I guess… but maybe it makes sense to delay it a little at this point – we haven’t discussed it, to be honest. All rehearsals stopped a few months ago so we can decide on this in the coming weeks remotely I suppose… there’s clearly no rush at the moment as all gigs etc are currently many months away…
OD – With more and more artists are exploring the option of releasing a sequence of EP’s rather than an album, is this the intention of the band, or is the ethos to just release small collections of material intermittently and perhaps an album later down the line?
JM – As mentioned above, we deliberately planned the multiple-EP release idea. We may collect everything into a 9-song CD at some point (that’s something we have considered and have artwork selected for in fact), but right now that is well down the priority list.
If we get some label interest we could potentially postpone the 2nd EP approach and simple release all 9 tracks as a CD – but for now, we are sticking with our 2 EP release plan as we don’t really need a label at this point – maybe later it would be useful, but right now it’s not essential.
We are fortunate in that we have the ability to record in a proper studio at my home any time we need it, so our costs are minimal and we don’t need to secure a recording budget to record our songs. Advertising and promo support is the clear benefit of a label these days I believe.
PQ – We’ve stayed in contact with labels throughout the pandemic, and the overarching feeling is that there won’t be much activity on that front for a while. Like all businesses, large or small, labels face a period of great uncertainty now, and it will impact release/promotion schedules, as well as partnerships with new bands. Most labels will concentrate on the bands/releases they had already planned to work with/on.
OD – With the speculation that the global pandemic will be slowing easing off in the coming months, what is the overarching plan for The Grief, looking mostly at 2021 and onwards?
JM – I think we are a long way away from life approaching any sort of new normal. Right now, our plans are to promote our new EP, continue rehearsals (when we can!) to get the show tight with our new lineup and work to play as many shows as possible.
We will also reach out to a few labels we would consider working with for these songs, but as noted, we are entirely ready to self-release the remaining 5 songs this Summer with all artwork and release plans in place. I have a few new songs in the works that I am demo-ing for The Grief (as well as new For Ruin material and another project I’m also involved with), and I believe Paul has a few new Grief songs written too. I know that Corr Mhóna is hard at work putting the finishing touches on their long-awaited new album too… so I suspect that all of this isolation time will not be without its benefits as so many musicians will put their time to good creative uses!
PQ – I think this period of isolation and uncertainty will also be a period of creation, with an explosion of productivity from all artistic disciplines. With my other band Corr Mhóna, for example, we not only have a full album imminent but are all now writing new material.
I know that John has been similarly busy with For Ruin… With regard to the future, The Grief has taken a long time to coalesce into what it is today, and so we can take a long-term view going forward. There will be plenty of time to tour and promote this material when gigs and gatherings are possible again, and self-promotion has never been easier than in this digital age.
OD – What is your perspective on Irish Metal in 2020? Do you think things are in a good place or is there room for more positive change and if so, what changes would you like to see?
PQ – I think Irish metal is in a strong place and has been for a while. There has been a general raising of standards of professionalism over the last decade or so, which coincides with the advent of affordable digital technology (The Grief is a case in point here, as we recorded all of our material in John’s home studio).
Perhaps going in tandem with Irish society in general, there is less of an inferiority complex here now or a feeling that an Irish band is inherently an underdog. That said, the scene is so small here (in terms of Irish people into metal) that I don’t feel Irish bands get the credit they deserve or would get in Central or Northern Europe, for example.
Nor do they get the promotion or exposure that all bands need to continue to grow, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. As for the actual music Irish bands produce, I would like to see a bit more originality in style and songwriting. It is easier to get signed and noticed if you are easily categorised and pigeon-holed, but it stifles creativity and originality. Don’t pick a particular style and slavishly follow that, don’t chose a style that is popular at the moment; create and combine music that you love wherever it comes from and see what direction that takes you.
OD -Are there any Irish bands that you feel deserve more credibility, both in Ireland and internationally?
PQ – Well we can’t really mention each other’s bands here right! And that covers half the Cork scene haha. On a personal level, I always thought Graveyard Dirt produced amazing doom, on a par with stuff from the early 90s (the time I was starting to go to gigs and play music). I think they have a lot of kudos within Ireland but are not so well known internationally. Ilenkus from Galway are quite different in style; but also a fantastic band.
I’m not sure how they are getting on these days, but I don’t think you hear about them often enough. Na Cruithne and Brigantia are two more great Irish bands. I know Brigantia are still playing, but Na Cruithne have called it a day recently, unfortunately!
JM – Another nod here for Graveyard Dirt, always thought they were great… I’m not as up to speed as I should be with many of the more recent bands who are making great progress these days. Zealot Cult sounds great to me too and I like the Death The Leveller material too….
OD – If you could choose one song that encapsulates the band, what track would it be and why?
PQ – I think this a hard one for us. John and I write a mix of material for the band, and even our own songs can be quite different. There are songs with slower passages, quiet sections, epic breakdowns, heavy and/or clean vox, instrumentals etc. Some songs are more uplifting whereas some are fucking depressing!
There is also a combination of 90s doom, 90s black and traditional heavy metal in the mix. Steve’s vocals help to tie it all together, and all of the songs work well together as a whole. Of the songs on Ascent, you could say that In Defiance is the traditional heavy metal one, Call of the Void is the 90s doom one, whereas Departed is the uplifting, up-tempo one (though they also share characteristics). A New Dawn is the track I’d pick though, as it is a great example of how we came together musically to create our own sound, and would be a good starter track for a new listener.
JM – There’s definitely a good mix of styles between the two writers on these two EP’s in terms of the music – but I think the powerful vocal style and melodies have really elevated the music above what I had in mind when we started & we’re finding our feet… in fact, I recall pushing for fewer harsh vocals, and more melodic singing because it was rapidly emerging as a really powerful strength!
I’m not sure I could pick one song to encapsulate everything but A New Dawn is a candidate alright, and I think we all loved To Hew in Wrath once that came together and still really enjoy playing it. Departed is an oddball track which is really quite different and not representative of our sound in general, but there’s a track on the next EP called Den of Thieves which I also feel represents our doomier side really well…
The Grief’s debut EP ‘Ascent‘ is out now and can be accessed via Spotify [see link above] or purchased here. You can find out more information via the links below;