Louder with Kogie, Parv and Leo of Area 11
If you're looking for a band who are fiercely independent and proudly unique in both their sound and their creative direction, you'd be hard-pressed to find a band who fit the bill better than electro-rockers Area 11. The band have spent the past 7 years cultivating a staunch underground following, keeping the futurism of Japanese culture that gave them their foundation at the heart of their work, while also moving towards a more consolidated but no less individual sound. Having recently relocated to London from Bristol, the band are ready to take their blend of alt rock and post-hardcore woven together with undulating, futuristic synths to new heights and stand up to command the attention of the mainstream rock world. Now touring off the back of their latest EP ‘Cassandra Rising’, we caught up with guitarist Alex Parvis (Parv), drummer Leo Taylor, and bassist Jonathan Kogan (Kogie) in Manchester to discuss record labels, anime and the meaning of musical evolution…
You’ve recently released your new EP ‘Cassandra Rising’ via your Patreon- how have you found the response to that EP from those who have been lucky enough to hear it?
Leo: We were quite nervous because it’s very different: it’s more of a soundtrack style. It’s an idea we’ve had for a long time, but because we’ve mostly been focusing on the single side of things, we were worried about releasing an EP that’s not too ‘songy’!
Kogie: We’ve gone from songy to longy!
Leo: The response has been great though, it’s been really reassuring for us knowing that people are willing to get behind us
Kogie: Part of the reason we wanted to do a monthly release via Patreon was that it gave us space to play around with different format ideas- we wouldn’t be able to get six or seven instrumental songs onto an album, but when it’s a monthly thing you can take more risks, and this was a risk, but thankfully it paid off! Also, I didn’t have to write any lyrics!
Do you have a favourite track off that EP for you personally? Why?
Leo: For me it’s a tough choice between Part 5 and Part 7: Part 5 as a piano piece is so relaxing, and we’re all big fans of Porter Robinson, so 7 is kind of our ‘Porter Robinson’ track- we actually used ‘Hatsune Miku’on it, which is an idea we’ve had for years.
Parv: I’m biased really – 6 is something I wanted on Modern Synthesis, but it’s hard to get a track like that into an album format. After that I’d probably say 7.
Kogie: For me it’s 7, there’s some nice little lines in there- it’s very relaxing and not something we’d normally put on an album, but it fit really well with the story that we’re trying to tell across the EP.
‘Cassandra Rising’ is based on the story established on your debut album ‘All The Lights In the Sky’- why did you decide to revisit that story now?
Kogie: It’s sort of been like an open tab in our minds for some time, and even though it wasn’t the main narrative in Modern Synthesis, it was always there. The singles we’ve been releasing recently have been meditations on elements of that story, so we just felt the time was right to revisit it.
Much of that album was based on your shared love of anime, which hasn’t been a focus of your more recent music on ‘Modern Synthesis’- has revisiting that story made you rethink moving away from those old influences?
Leo: We all still watch a lot of anime, but for me personally I feel that what we did on ATLITS is a chapter that’s been closed- it was really fun and fantastic for us, but in order for us to progress as musicians and songwriters, we needed to start writing about our own feelings
Kogie:The intention was always for that to be a one album project, but we still look really fondly back on that time and we still watch that kind of thing- we’re still secret nerds!
(Frontman Tom Clarke (known as Sparkles*) performing in Manchester, 20/02/19- captured by Kat Donaldson- @Goth_Mermaid_ on Twitter)
Has that movement towards exposing more of your vulnerabilities been a difficult move for you?
Kogie: I actually find it super cathartic. I think songwriting, especially when it’s drawn from your own ideas and experiences, is a good way to compartmentalise those thoughts into one project, but also to work out what you really think about it. A lot of the time you’ll have a lot of conflicting opinions on something, but when you commit something you record you have to take the time to think ‘what is my position here?’.
Parv: It forces you to prune down your points- I have a lot of external points about something but if you’re going to commit something to record, you have to think about it.
Kogie: But also, sometimes I’ll write a line of lyrics because I just like the way the words sound- there’ll always be some meaning to it, but there are some lines that just resonate with me sonically or phonetically.
Through cultivating such a close, personal relationship with your fans, has hearing stories from fans ever influenced how you see any of your own songs?
Kogie: I think it does change your perspective on things- when you meet somebody or get a tweet or a message saying ‘I’ve been having a really tough year and this album helped me get through it’, even though that wasn’t our intention, it’s always nice to hear that, and it does change your perspective on certain songs
Leo: At the same time though, when we write we don’t write with the intention of that, because then it wouldn’t be as genuine. The key is letting people understand what we’re trying to get across and then attaching their own feelings to that as well
Parv: We had a guy tell us at a show the other day that he went and learned the solo in the full band version of ‘All the Lights in the Sky’ because he found it really inspiring. Something we’ve been interested in recently is the idea of fractals, where ideas are nested inside each other, and I was saying to him that there was a song that inspired me to write that one,- Between the Buried and Me "Selkies: The Endless Obsession"-and then that’s gone on to inspire him, so we’re only part of the chain of creation.
Kogie: That was the whole idea behind ‘Modern Synthesis’ was that it reflected how evolution occurs biologically as well as how ideas and art are all shaped by different forces but through the same mechanism.
You’ve very proudly always been a very DIY band- what advantages and disadvantages are there to being so fiercely independent?
Kogie: It does give you the opportunity to dictate what you want to make and you’re not writing to anyone else’s expectations. Even when we released ‘Modern Synthesis’ on a record label, we’d already written it independently and then that was more of a distribution deal, so you never feel like you have to tick any boxes or jump through any hoops, you can just make what you want to make.
It’s been a while since you’ve been out on the road for a full UK tour- how have you found being back out on the road?
Kogie: Well the first night of tour I got the city wrong! We were in Glasgow and I said ‘Hello, London!’, which is not something you want to in Glasgow of all places!
Leo: For me it’s the best bit about being in a band- you can read positive things about your music online, but when you actually get to see people and have them come up to you and say things like ‘This song got me through a really hard time’, it’s a great feeling. I personally feel that our live show adds something different to what we do on record as well- the energy is very different.
Parv: I had a guy come up to me yesterday and say that he didn’t really ‘get’ the Patreon music until he heard it live
Leo: We’ve had that before where press have come down to our shows and said that they didn’t really ‘get’ the music until they saw it live, and now they get to see how much it means to fans when they hear them singing back, especially on the quieter bits of songs like ‘Panacea [and the Prelogue, from Modern Synthesis]’ where you just get to bask in the sound of people singing your lyrics back to you.
And the show that followed was one that felt distinctly like a family affair. The small room was packed to the brim with a crowd of familiar faces, all of whom came together to demonstrate their love for the band who brought them all together. Despite vocalist Sparkles suffering heavily from the dreaded tour flu, the volume of singing in the venue never wavered, as the horde carried him along as a unified chorus of voices. The connection the band had with the crowd was electric, and by the end of their short-but-sweet set, nobody was left in any doubt that Area 11 are a hidden gem of the rock world just waiting to be thrust, glittering, into the light.
Area 11's latest EP 'Cassandra Rising' is out now via their Patreon. The link to download the EP can be found at: www.patreon.com/area11
Check out the lyric video for 'Cassandra pt 2', the song that inspired the band's latest EP, below:
Area 11 have one date of their current tour remaining (info below) and an appearance scheduled at this year's Camden Rocks Festival in June:
Feb 27th 2019 @ Asylum, Birmingham, United Kingdom
June 01 2019 @ Camden Rock Festival, London, United Kingdom.