BYZANTINE by Shibalika Tamuli
Founded in 2000, this Heavy Metal entity from West Virginia (formerly signed to Prosthetic Records) has released 3 studio albums and two independent albums. The band is known for its unique sound and modern, “forward thinking” musical style which explores different musical territories and song structures. Though splitting on January 26, 2008, the band reunited in 2010 and on March 31, 2016, Metal Blade Records announced that they had signed the band to a worldwide deal and that they would be releasing a new album on July 28th, 2017. So we are here to have a little chat about the upcoming piece!
Welcome to Metalheads Forever magazine! How have you been?
I have been very well. Rehearsing for the upcoming tour and trying to spend as much time with my kids. It’s been a pretty year..
To begin, how did Byzantine start? What were your key influences back then?
Byzantine formed in the Summer of 2000 from the ashes of my band New Family and former guitarist Tony Rohrbough’s band Temper. We landed our 1st record deal in 2003 with Prosthetic Records. Our main influenced early on were Testament, Meshuggah, Pantera and Opeth.
There must be a message you want to convey to the world through the name of the band?
Our band name is synonymous with the definition “complicated and achieved by underhanded methods”. We just thought it was a nice and direct to the point band name. It’s easy to spell and looks good on a T-shirt!
You’ve said that your home base of West Virginia has influenced you as a band as well as individual musicians. Tell us about the local scene.
West Virginia is known for being predominantly a Country, Bluegrass and Gospel music scene. The heavy metal scene goes up and down depending on the type of radio stations and venues there are. When we started in the early 2000’s there was a really good metal scene here.
What’s your take on the contemporary Heavy Metal scene? Where do you generally find your lyrical influence from?
I tend to not listen to too much current music. There might be 5-6 newer bands that I enjoy but I mostly listen to older thrash metal. Lyrically, we touch upon various topic each album from aliens to relationship issues to political topics. My favorite metal lyric writers are Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel), Kyle Thomas (Exhorder) and Tomas Haake of Meshuggah.
Can you please tell us about the “Cicada Tree”? Byzantines music is often noted to be “forward thinking” so what is the theme of this new album?
The Cicada Tree is about the lifespan of our band, which is currently 17 years. We tend to think that we have spent most of our existence in the underground scene. This parallels the lifespan of the 17 year Cicada, which lives 16 years underground and emerge for 3 months to become adults, mate, die and repeat.
Your music is known for being so complex – melodic, groovy and progressive at the same time. How do you incorporate them together to give that signature sound?
We just try to write music that we enjoy and, since we all have various influences, we try to bring them all to the table without sounding too much like any other band other than Byzantine. We also love to experiment with various genres of metal to keep the music fresh and interesting as well.
Two of your albums were very successful with crowdfunding campaigns. How much do you prefer releasing albums independently? How did you come to pact with Metal Blade?
Releasing albums on your own is extremely difficult to do correctly. You have to be willing to go into personal debt to make it successful. The Crowdfunding campaigns help tremendously but, yet again, you have to be willing to spend an enormous amount of time to fulfill all the orders directly to fans. Working with Metal Blade has allowed us to focus more on the actual creative side and let them handle the marketing and distribution for us. Metal Blade showed interest in us during the touring cycle for our 5th album, “To Release is To Resolve”. It took about 6 months of discussions to get everything lined out. I am extremely happy with doing business with Metal Blade Records.
You’ve stated about the vitality of continuing your close relationship with your fan-base through PledgeMusic. What have your experiences with PledgeMusic been like? Can you tell our readers whom never heard of it, exactly what it entails?
Pledge Music allows fans to pre-order merchandise and music before it gets released. It also allows fans to fund the making of albums if you are an unsigned band. Our current campaign is strictly a pre-order type campaign since the album has already been paid for and recorded. We worked with Pledge Music on our last album and it’s a super efficient and professional company that helps bands interact with fans as well as release new music in a timely manner. I LOVE working with Pledge Music.
Line up changes. Even a split up. In spite of these hardships (which every band has to go through at some point or another, obviously) how do you keep up your energy and resourcefulness? What do you guys do outside of the band?
The trick is to bring in new members that appreciate the history of the band. Our current lineup are all local musicians that had been fans of the band as well as friends of ours. This current lineup has a pretty good grasp on what Byzantine should sound like and they’re all talented enough to pull off any type of music I throw at them. As far as day jobs are concerned, our lead guitarist is a bartender, our bassist is a fitness instructor, our drummer is a FedEx driver and I own a bathroom remodeling business.
Looks like with the release of the new album you’re going to be very busy touring soon, etc. We would like to wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors 🙂 Please leave a message or some words of advice for your fans all over the world.
We are grateful to be able to release new music and our goal is to continue to write and record top shelf Heavy Metal. I hope you enjoy the new Byzantine album “The Cicada Tree” and we hope to see you on tour in the near future soon.
Shibalika Tamuli/MHF Magazine.