Around this time last year, Rocks Off told you about a man named Aiton Etxea and his quest to find "reason-filled musicians" for the purposes of forming a band. His use of the term "reason-filled" caught our attention because we were regular trollers of Craiglist at the time, and it seems that every other ad in the musicians section was someone trying to find "faith-filled" musicians for church bands.
Etxea made it pretty clear what he thought about religion when we interviewed him. Still, we enjoyed the conversation and asked him to look us up again if his project ever got off the ground. Well last week we heard from him, and the band's name is Libra Soul. They'll be playing this weekend and have an album out called Train for War.
Usually, Rocks Off doesn't like activist music. When Alice Cooper said that rock and politics should stay separate we believed him, and we guess we still do. Even something like Rage Against the Machine seems very dated now.
However, we aren't the same kid who was looking down our nose at the third Caranberries album because of "Free to Decide." Now we're working 13 hours a day, every day, living hand to mouth with a toddler and a wife in school. Now we're really fucking angry at the world, and Libra Soul calls to that part of us.
Look, we're not going to lie to you. Etxea isn't doing anything NIN, Ministry, or Rage didn't already do better. There are some flaws in the songs' writing and production that when can't ignore. Having said that, Etxea has taken a very bold approach to what he's trying to do. He bills the bands as progressive rock, which we'll defer to since it's his band and he can call it what he damn well pleases.
We will say, however that we'd have called the band more experimental than progressive. Though they initially start out as semi-metal, the songs on Train for War vary wildly in their genres. Here you'll find a Tool-esque track, there you'll be thrown into something more samples, and over there in the corner some indie kid is strumming his guitar.
Most of this is irrelevant, though. The music is as harsh and abrasive as the message. Please be prepared to have the word fuck thrown at your god and your establishments. Be advised that Libra Soul is a band that was formed around a basic principle, that much of what is going on in the world both in the sphere of religion and in the bastions of commerce is so flawed that they must be sung down.
The music? The music's fine, as far as words, rhythms and melodies go. If you want to rock the Libra Soul will oblige. But what makes Train for War something that we can't turn off is that it's a collection of anthems for people who didn't realize they were a nation... and who cares whether or not an anthem is technically good music?
Libra Soul is the fife and the drum in the battle an increasing number of us are fighting every day. We sat down with Etxea to talk about Train for War. Continue to page 2 for the interview.
Rocks Off: My first impression of your music was that you were going the metal route, and now I realize you're all over the place. What kind of influences, musically, were you pulling from when writing the album?
Aiton Etxea: When I began writing this record I wanted to make sure I didn't limit the sound with a specific genre label. In the past, I would think, "This will be an industrial album" and would never venture past a certain tempo or sonic texture.
The Libra Soul was different, and I let my musical influences wander around in the studio. I would come up with a riff on the classical guitar and see where it would take me one day, then sit at the piano and discover an entirely different sound the next. It felt good to sit back and let the music dictate where it wanted to go.
As far as bands that found their influences on the record, I'd have to say the first major influence on this album had to be from Muse. Every album Muse has released contains this huge dynamic that I really appreciate as a musician and fan so I wanted to make sure I could convey that through my own work.
A Perfect Circle for the heavier, more riff-driven tracks; Nine Inch Nails I owe most of my guitar textures and electronic sampling; System of a Down can be heard in John's drumming, and Marilyn Manson records taught me how to scream; Neil Young's guitar work can be found on "Good Middle Man" while Ours-style singing really unified the melodies throughout the album as a whole.
RO: When we first talked, it was because you were seeking reason-filled musicians through Craigslist. Could you tell me a bit about how you eventually ended up with the band you have now and a bit about the members.
AE: I was working with John Tynan (drums), in previous projects and had really found a solid sound with his drumming. John's style is incredibly unorthodox and fits well with the different ideas I bring to the studio.
Eugene Ahn I discovered through the post on Craigslist. He had been wanting to audition for a while and after a few weeks of waiting patiently, was brought in for rhythm guitar and live-looping/FX.
I had known Garrett Johnson for a while before the band had ever formed and contacted him on Facebook to see if he'd be interested in playing bass for the band. After one session, he called me the next week to let me know, he dropped several hundred dollars on a new bass rig. I didn't doubt his dedication after that.
We played as a four-piece for a few weeks when Kelly Rip, whom I had been harassing to work with for months prior, decided she was down to be featured on "Lilith" and "From the Inside." We spent a weekend knocking out those tracks when I asked her to come out to the rehearsal studio and perform with the live band.
Up until then, the four-piece setup was working out with me but I felt something was missing in the live dynamic. When Kelly started singing at rehearsal it was closer to what I was looking for, when she began playing her violin (affectionately named Sir Edgar), all of us smiled over the massive polyphony of overdriven guitars, thundering bass-lines, powerful drums and vocal harmonies; that violin completed the lineup.
She was offered the position and joined up immediately, however, it was after the album and press kits were completed, so that's why she's not included in the press photos of the album jacket.
RO: The album is an utterly unapologetic bitch-slap against religion. Do you think that you can actually reach people with this message and enact any change? Does it matter if it does, or are you just singing about these themes because you want to express your own views?
AE: During the album's completion, I began to leak a few tracks on Facebook to get some feedback from the fans. I wanted to see what the reception would be from a large, diverse audience. We had multiple occasions where first-time listeners would be left thinking about some of the issues they had previously chose to ignore and decided to message us and thank us for getting those thoughts started.
I had one fan in particular, that I will always remember. She contacted me through our Facebook page and said she was glad she found us. She had doubted her religion for a long time and felt pressure from her parents to not explore those doubts. She felt guilty for wanting to break away from her family's traditional religious background.
Our music helped keep her company and eventually gave her the strength to question everything she had been raised to believe. And that was the point of the entire album. Question your beliefs without fear and search for the answers without limitations, no matter what they may end up being.
The lyrics are unapologetic because we have spent too much time "respecting" the religious institutions in this world. The Catholic Church gets away with molestation, pedophile priests go untried, they perpetuate homophobia and a blatant disrespect for their fellow human beings by indoctrinating children every day with the fear of a judgmental, imaginary being.
Why the fuck should I not say what they're doing? Why are they so special? Why is any religion so fucking special? It's not. I didn't hold back on this album because I feel there are a lot of people out there who agree with what I'm saying and are just as pissed off about it.
RO: Obviously you're very big on the Occupy Wall Street movement, to judge from your site. How does that tie into the themes of the album?
AE: I had been studying globalization, geopolitics and the Federal Reserve for years before the album was ever written. When the economic collapse of 2007 happened, it was the catalyst for what I would eventually put into the album.
I was well aware of the corruption the Federal Reserve has built into its systems; how Wall Street is really a gigantic casino for self-centered gamblers; how the government doesn't care about its people but more about the dividends the population can pay through taxes and blood.
The American Dream died a long time ago and the institution that killed it is headed by the Federal Reserve. On the album, the song "Train for War" states, "...clandestine corruption, forged in the stone of the Federal Reserve. Sold out politicians and idiot populations, the weak get what they deserve..." it was a direct reference to the corruption OWS is protesting right now.
I started writing this album almost two year ago, before OWS ever happened; the fact that this album came out during the time when the population decided to act was perfect. I will say that the album goes one step further, entitled Train for War because as proud as I am to see peaceful demonstrations against the global elite, I've read about the history involved with these companies and their sponsoring governments.
Let's just say, it's always good to know a few self-defense tactics.
RO: Seriously, how can we fix the world? Will music help, do you think?
AE: The first step to fixing anything is understanding the problem. I think populations all over the world are moved to do something about their discontentment, which is brilliant but we as a population must move in one direction with a fundamental understanding on what we are trying to achieve.
Again, it's always disputable among historians and philosophers, if we as a species can ever "fix" the world. If we look back on our history, we'll see wars, scandals, corruption, blood-shed and a shit load of other dark events we wish had never happened but they did. If we look at our modern time, we see the exact same thing. So, what's the difference, if any?
It's that this civilization has the ability to transcend our very violent nature with the depths of science, modern technology and a new respect for what we can achieve by working together. We have got to stop labeling ourselves by race, nation, creed, political party, economic class, social class, fashion brand, sexuality, we have got to stop this habit of "branding" and realize that every time you stand up as a proud [blank], you're putting a host of limitations on yourself that were created to form a rift between you and your fellow human.
That is where music comes in.
Despite our differences, music itself can unify people. Melody unifies our minds, rhythm reminds us of our soul and beat calls on our hearts to remember our roots. Before there was America, before there were kingdoms, before there were lines drawn in the dirt, there was a drum, a voice and one movement made not by republicans, Catholics, Muslims or socialists but by people. Music transcends everything and reminds us that we are human.
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I think in the long run that can be a huge help to healing the world. As a wise man once said, "The one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."
Libra Soul plays Warehouse Live Sunday.