A CHAT WITH CELARIS

North Carolina doesn’t generally invoke images of Progressive Metal, but perhaps that will change now. I recently discovered this band’s music and was fortunate enough to talk with them. With influences ranging from BTBAM, Veil of Maya, TesseracT, and beyond…and I mean well beyond, they offer a sound that is familiar on some fronts and otherworldly in others. Like any Prog band, their music requires (and deserves) multiple listens. Their debut, In Hiding exemplifies the result of dedication to their craft and each other. We wish them all the success in the world.

Joshua Rush – Drums, Track Synths

Daniel Mungal – Bass, Backing Synth, Back-up Vocals

Christian Hesla – Vocals, Backing Synth

Jonathan Pearson – Guitar

Rachel Pappalardo – Guitar

Greetings from Metalheads Forever and from Colorado! How are things in your part of the world?

Rachel: Hello, everyone! I’d say it is getting chilly over here.

Jon: Agreed. Anything below 65 degrees is colder than I care for. Not that we need much more excuse to stay inside during Covid times!

Dan: See, I kinda dig this weather. I was born in the winter, so the cold sustains me. Being real, 2020 has burned me out big time, so I am super ready for the holidays.

Josh: Doing well! Feeling ready for the holidays.

Chris: Currently, we’re in that 10-minute period where it isn’t too hot or too cold, so honestly better now than it has been all year. At least as far as the weather is concerned. Everything else is still pretty hellish.

You are a relatively new band so I feel safe asking the standard questions…. How did you get together?

Rachel: Josh and I started the band all thanks to Reddit! He found my post on a local Reddit thread asking about available drummers in the area, and he responded to it since he just recently moved to NC. Then, we set out on the task of gathering members. Jon found a post we had up when we were looking for a second guitarist — also through Reddit — and Dan responded to a “Searching for Bassist” post I made to CHON Homeys, a Facebook fan group for the band Chon. And after that, Dan introduced us to Chris.

Josh: I was lucky Rachel responded when I reached out to her on Reddit…her post was 6 months old at the time but luckily, she hadn’t found a drummer yet. We had a few lineup changes early on, but the group we settled with is solid.

Dan: For me, the timing of the CHON Homeys post I saw couldn’t have been better. My old band, Cytokine Storm, was in the midst of setting up our last few shows before we disbanded, and I was feeling pretty down about losing one of my favorite creative outlets. When Rachel and Josh sent me their first demos, I was honestly shocked with just how closely their material aligned with the ideas I had brewing, so I knew I had to really make a solid impression.

Jon: Yeah, ditto on the timing. My own musical pursuits had dried up…I was glad just to find a group of similar-minded folks, let alone some very talented musicians.

Chris: Dan is the one who introduced me to the band. He told me I should audition which was kind of a surprise because I’ve honestly never done anything like this before, but I just kinda said “F it” and went with it. I sent a few cell phone recordings of me screaming like a lunatic in my car and, naturally, got the part instantly. I stuck with the group for a few months, then had to take a break, at which point some other candidates filled in. I rejoined after some months and by that time, a lot of the lyrics were already written, so I ended up focusing a lot on just learning the material and embellishing it while preparing for the recording session. And I’ve stayed in Celaris ever since.

What are your influences?

Jon: The usual suspects in some ways…I love BTBAM, Haken, Veil of Maya, a lot of the prog stuff. I’m also a huge death metal guy from the early stuff like Death and all that all the way to the more modern artists (I’m a huge fan of The Faceless). Also, old outlaw country (Willie, Waylon, Merle, etc.), some of the more modern funky stuff like the Fearless Flyers and Snarky Puppy. Really a bit of everything.

Rachel: Yes, the general likes of the band are BTBAM, Veil of Maya, Periphery, etcetera. I enjoy listening to Plini, Spiritbox, Protest the Hero, and a lot of 80’s music.

Josh: BTBAM, Tool, August Burns Red, ERRA, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Streetlight Manifesto, Blink 182. I generally like anything that’s high energy and has interesting rhythms, whether it be rock, metal, punk, or ska.

Dan: Yeah, a lot of the usual suspects per the above! Animals as Leaders was my gateway into modern prog, but Periphery, BTBAM, Protest the Hero, Veil of Maya, The Contortionist, Tesseract, and Plini really rubbed off on me in a big way. Lately, I have been trying to get more in touch with my identity as a bassist and have been really jamming to Jaco Pastorius and Thundercat, and am slowly working my way into other bass-forward artists.

Chris: Probably my oldest source of inspiration is Linkin Park. I’ve listened to them for as long as I can remember. Then, my musical journey took me through about twelve different genres, but the names that stuck with me and most shaped the way I think about music range from TOOL to The Contortionist, and if you count scores and OSTs, you can add Koji Kondo (Nintendo) and Hans Zimmer to the list, as well as a handful of other composers for modern media.

Where do you see yourselves in ten years?

Jon: Playing Madison Square Garden of course! On a more serious note, I’d like if we could have a handful of rock-solid albums at that point, and if at that point we could get tours with bands I’m a fan of.

Rachel: Some things are definitely hard to determine due to the limitations and restrictions of our Covid times, but I would really like to gig and tour again for sure. Have every album be better than the last! Play all the guitar gear!

Josh: It’d be great to quit my software development job and focus on music full time, whether that be gigging, teaching, or something else.

Dan: In 10 years? I definitely want to be well established in the touring industry, if all goes well. I’d love to seriously pursue music as a career and escape the monotony of the office. More than anything else, I really just want to keep on enjoying my growth as a musician and making music that is true to who I am (bonus points if others dig it too).

Chris: Hopefully in some very comfy pajamas.

Does pineapple belong on pizza?

Rachel: No.

Jon: I’m a cretin, I love that shit.

Rachel: No. No. No.

Jon:……… I feel attacked.

Dan: Gotta back Jon up here; fuckin’ love pineapple on pizza.

Josh: I’m a Meat Lover’s man myself, but I try to be accepting of all toppings.

Chris: Yes.

I’ve been listening to In Hiding a lot. Simply stunning. To you, what is the absolute standout moment on the album?

Rachel: There are too many to choose…I am proud of them all. A lot of work went into the making of the album. But from a part right off the top of my head, I would have to say that section of “Reprieve Release” before the melodic outro section where we ramp up the rhythmic energy, then go turbo.

Jon: Probably the latter half of “Reprieve, Release.” Chris and Dan did such a fantastic job with the vocals, it really hits me every time I listen to that song just how awesome it turned out.

Josh: The big chorus at the beginning of “Escharotic” is where I get the most pumped.

Dan: Honestly, gotta agree with Rachel. We all poured so much passion into every note of the record, but if I had to pick a single part, I’d probably say “Escharotic” after the first refrain of the chorus. I think from that point on, the song is just so fun to listen to and play, and it is jam-packed with some great technical riffage and syncopated rhythms that just do it for me!

Chris: I’m a sucker for thematic tie-ins and callbacks in creative works, so the coupling of “Reprieve, Release” and “Regenerate” on the album is really cool for me. “Reprieve, Release” is probably the one song on the album I feel does the best job of demonstrating the range of our sound, and I especially love how cathartic the last stretch of that song is.

For Josh: I don’t play drums, yet I find myself listening to you more than (almost) anything else. Tell us how your venture into Jazz helped shape the band’s sound.

Josh: I love the freedom and opportunity for creativity that comes with jazz drums. I had to improvise a lot in school jazz bands which definitely helped with my fill writing. Jazz also helped me develop an affinity for syncopation which inspired some of the more complex rhythm parts in the songs.

“Regenerate” and “Hemostasis” are two beautiful interludes in the album. Who do we thank for these great tracks and is there a story to be shared?

Jon: “Regenerate” was a track originally composed by me, but it really came into its own when the whole band provided their input. There are a lot of layers on that track; everyone contributed a bit on that one and it ended up coming out way better than I could have hoped. I’m really pleased in particular with the subtle synth percussion sounds that Josh added, it was the cherry on top of a great track.

Josh: I recorded drums with Jamie King in January. At that point, we didn’t have any interludes planned and were going to release the songs as an EP. Jamie suggested we try to lengthen the EP a bit to a full album-length to get more traction, so I wrote “Hemostasis” shortly after that. I always love when metal albums contrast the heaviness with something soothing, it makes the highs and lows more impactful. I’m glad we decided to include it.

Looking at your web page, Rachel plays a 7 string Ibanez and Jon plays a 7 string PRS. Didn’t realize PRS made a 7 string, but okay…tell us about your influences and what you (personally) bring to the band. How do you divvy up guitar duties?

Jon: That’s a PRS SVN, kind of similar to the one that Mark Holcomb of Periphery plays. I love their stuff; I just wish they would put Floyd Roses on more of their guitars! As far as who plays what, it tends to be a case-by-case type of thing…I would say I tend to inherit a lot of the more rhythmic riffy stuff, and Rachel takes on a lot of the more flowing, melody licks, but it switches depending on the song. We each have our own style but I wouldn’t classify either of us as a “rhythm” or “lead” guitarist.

Rachel: 7 string guitars are life. The model of Ibanez I use currently is a JBM27, Jake Bowen’s signature model. I actually own two of them! I tend to write riffs that slide around a lot or that are “bouncy” in nature, and I definitely agree with Jon that there is no definite “rhythm” or “lead” guitarist in the band, since we both have an equal amount of lead and rhythm parts on the album.

David Letterman had a segment called “Stupid Human Tricks” back in the day. What hidden/semi-worthless talents do you have?

Rachel: I can touch the tip of my nose with my tongue.

Jon: I’m pretty great at Jenga! Pretty useless talent… I can recite an astounding amount of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia dialogue from memory. Enough that it’s probably pretty annoying to other people.

Josh: I can play Rock Band drums with the kick pedal between my thighs

Dan: I can make this stupid quacking/croaking noise by trapping an air bubble under the side of my tongue and squeezing out the air. Still have yet to find someone else who can do it, so I guess I have that going for me.

Chris: I pride myself on my Kermit the Frog and Mickey Mouse impressions.

Okay….2 standard Craig questions: If I were to travel to Raleigh (which just might happen soon), what is the one thing I simply must see?……and what is the best BBQ there?

Jon: Not in Raleigh, but in Durham there is a place called Backyard BBQ that is fantastic. If they have it that day you have to get the oxtail, and of course you have to get the pork as well if you can, that’s a Carolina classic. There are a lot of great places in the area, but Backyard does it up almost as well as we do at home.

Rachel: There is City Barbeque in Raleigh…it’s mostly solid. There is a nice art museum in Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Art. Actually, there are so many museums in Raleigh. And a lot of music venues.

Josh: I second Jon’s answer. Backyard BBQ has the hole in the wall aesthetic but their kitchen is top-notch. There’s always a line out the door when I go.

Dan: Despite living in NC for my whole life, I really am not all that well-versed in BBQ (my parents hail from NY), though I super dig it! That said, Durham has my favorite spot thus far with Byrd’s BBQ. I have heard a lot about Backyard BBQ, and will see about picking some up from them soon!

Chris: Truthfully, Raleigh ain’t exactly the most exciting place in the world. If you’re looking for sights to see, both the Appalachian Mountains and the NC coastline are within a day’s drive, and they’re both worth a trip. If you like mountains, honestly there’s a lot you can do, but the hike to Table Rock is a dope experience. If you like the beach, Britts Donuts at Kure Beach is a must. Can’t really help you much with BBQ though. I’ve had it at a lot of places, but nothing really beats homemade.

We thank you for your time and applaud In Hiding. It’s a stellar album. Any parting word for our readers and your fans in North Carolina?

Jon: It’s an honor to have people listen to our music, I can’t thank them enough and I hope they enjoy it.

Rachel: Thank you for the kind words. I would say to them: keep an eye on us and don’t be afraid to say hi.

Josh: Thanks for checking us out, it means a lot! We can’t wait to start playing live and release more music so stay tuned!

Dan: It is genuinely fulfilling to hear our music has been so well received, so thank you to everyone who has listened thus far and/or has taken the time to read this. Super excited to get to play live shows once it is safe to do so, and releasing more music!

Chris: Hot dogs are meat Go-Gurt.

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