With three albums under their belt, Reading progressive thrashers Sylosis looked all set to crack the States at the end of last year, when they headed out on the road with DevilDriver and Trivium: then, suddenly, it all went horribly wrong when – in a scenario all too familiar to many metal fans – the vehicle they were in drove into the back of a truck, sending all four band members to hospital and forcing them to cancel the tour and return home…
Move forward six months and, with everyone thankfully back to full health, the band are preparing to hook up with Dez Fafara once more – this time hopefully with less traumatic results. PlanetMosh hooked up with guitarist/vocalist Josh Middleton to talk about the road to recovery, the generosity of the band’s fans, his new side project – a clothing company – and plans for a new album…
First of all, how is everyone is, after the last September’s incident?
“We’re all fine pretty much. The crash was really serious, but we all just ended up narrowly avoiding being flung into certain parts of the RV that could have killed each of us and miraculously no one broke any bones. We’ve just earned a few road scars. It’s not stopping us from touring at all… we’re just more cautious of who’s driving us and what type of vehicle we’ll use, etc.”
Do you have much memory about what happened?
“The crash itself was a split second thing. We all ended up flying through the RV and there’s a moment where you think ‘this is it’ – then luckily it was over. I split my eyebrow open which was gushing onto my face, so I stumbled out onto the side of the road: my legs and knees took a beating. I got out, laid down and waited for paramedics. Luckily there was a nurse in the car behind us that came to my aid.”
The fans really rallied round, in terms of buying merchandise and making donations (which you had to stop asking them to do after just a few days): were you surprised by their reaction and generosity?
“Yeah people were being so generous. I hate the idea of abusing people’s sympathy and we weren’t comfortable with the donations thing, but we appreciated it so much. Everyone who donated or bought a T-shirt really helped us get out of a big hole financially.”
We’re here specifically to talk about your new Shrine Studios venture: can we assume that art is always something that you’ve been interested in?
“Yeah. My mum was an art teacher and I remember being dragged around a lot of art galleries as a kid. I always loved drawing and thought I was going to do art in some form as my main ‘thing’ in life – but then I got more and more obsessed with music.”
What was the inspiration behind starting the venture?
“I just like being creative and I find drawing a really meditative process. I tend to get anxious or stressed generally but when you get into a drawing you get stuck in the moment, zone out and before you know it four hours have passed and you’ve accomplished something so it’s rewarding at the same time.”
And what inspires the imagery that you produce for the T-shirts, patches, etc?
“It’s the same writing lyrics in Sylosis. I like organic or ancient imagery, so I’ll never write lyrics about ‘city lights’ or draw anything modern. I like timeless imagery I guess.
“I’ll be completely honest and say that I probably haven’t got my own unique style now. I love artists like Alphonse Mucha, Richey Beckett (who I’ve known for years) John Dyer Baizley and probably the biggest influence is Pushead who did all the old Metallica shirts. I used to skateboard a lot too and I liked the whole Pushead, skateboarding, thrash kind of thing and all of the imagery that went with it – although I tend to prefer the more ‘mature’ approach to that style like with Mucha/Baizley. I mainly love the pen and ink, line work approach, but it’s good to work in different mediums with paints to be flexible and to try and find more of my own style.”
Have you any artwork in the pipeline for Sylosis? Are you tempted to have a crack at doing your own cover art, for example?
“I’ve got some ideas for some Sylosis art stuff. It’s not an album cover or merchandise designs, so I’ll see if it ends up happening before I say what it is. I have just done a new hoody design for Sylosis, which I’ll probably sell some prints of the artwork, but I’d be wary of doing our own album covers. There’s always so much to focus on with the music side of things when we record that it’s good to let someone else get on with the artwork. Having said that, I’m absolutely horrible to work with in terms of commissioning someone else to do our covers, as I have such a clear idea of what I want the album cover to look like that I drive them crazy with suggestions and changes!”
What about other bands? Have you had any approaches in that regard, or are there any acts you would specifically like to produce artwork for?
“I’ve already done work for other bands at this point. There are loads of bands I’d like to produce work for, but I don’t know how realistic that would be. Obviously, Metallica and Mastodon would be great! In terms of more realistic objectives, I’d like to work with Bovine and Empress: they’re two of the very few current bands I like and have prog vibes which always means you can go a bit pshychadelic.”
How do you balance your time between Shrine and Sylosis? Which one takes priority or is it down to what is happening with each/either at a particular time?
“Sylosis takes priority completely, but we obviously have down time between touring where it’s nice to get stuck into some artwork. Either that or I can take a sketchbook on tour with me. There’s so much time to kill on tour that it’s great to be able focus on something and not feel like you’re wasting time sat around in a dressing room!”
Going back to talk about the band: you’re getting ready to head out on tour in a few weeks’ time with DevilDriver and Bleed From Within: you must be really looking forward to going back out on the road?
“Yeah, it’s been a long time since we’ve toured properly. We did three UK dates before the end of 2013, so we have played since the crash, so it’ll be business as usual. We’re really excited about the tour though yeah, we’ve not toured the UK or mainland Europe in just under a year.”
Can we expect any new material on this run?
“No new material for this run I’m afraid – but we’ll be changing up our setlist and playing some songs we’ve not played live before.”
Talking of the new material, it has been nearly two years since the release of ‘Monolith’… is there a new Sylosis album on the way, and if so what can you tell us about it at this stage?
“We will hopefully do a new album at the end of the year. It’s hard to say how the album will turn out, but generally speaking it will probably be the angriest and darkest thing we’ve done. I think with our last two albums we solidified our sound and have shown we’re consistent with the quality of the music. Now we’ve got a few albums under our belts I think we can focus on making each album slightly more unique or have its own vibe, whilst always maintaining our sound, so if it turns out a bit different it might not mean we’re moving in that direction completely. But, it’s a bit early to say at this stage. I’m confident it will be our best though, easily!”
Sylosis play the following dates with DevilDriver and Bleed From Within:
Thursday April 3 – Solus, Cardiff
Friday April 4 – Electric Ballroom, London
Saturday April 5 – Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton
Sunday April 6 – Garage, Glasgow
Monday April 7 – Limelight, Belfast
Tuesday April 8 – The Academy, Dublin
Wednesday April 9 – O2 Academy 2, Manchester
Thursday April 10 – Mo Club, Southampton