EXISTEM: "This is the release we think has best executed on our vision"
Our musical journey takes us to Kansas City (Missouri), where we meet the progmetal act EXISTEM. I came across their music just recently, and got caught straight-away by their new EP "Searching for Clarity". Welcome to read our chat and check them out:
Hey, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you today?
Hi, doing great, thanks!
Could you please introduce yourself and EXISTEM to our readers?
I’m Ben Chipman, the bassist of the band. We’re a progressive metal/rock act from the Kansas City metro that started in 2010. We have released three EPs and two LPs since that time, the most recent being our new EP "Searching for Clarity", which we released on September 10th after spending a good part of 2020 in the studio.
And which is another impressive piece in your discography. How do you feel about it, and how was the reception so far?
We feel really proud of this one. It was definitely the best recording experience we’ve ever had as a band. We went into B-24 Studios in KC with Josh Barber (The Devil Wears Prada, Casket Lottery, Norma Jean) and had a great time making sure the sounds were perfect, having fun with all kinds of synths and other studio magic. This is the release we think has best executed on our vision. The reception from fans has been amazing, and we’ve heard a lot of really nice words and support from all over the world.
That's awesome, and indeed well deserved. What can you tell us about the origins of its gloomy, mysterious cover artwork, and how does it reflect the EP thematically?
We went with an artist named Spencer Chapin, who had also done the cover to our previous album "Mantle". We love his moody, kind of spooky work, and he threw out a few ideas as we talked about what we wanted. We were immediately drawn to this cover and the mood it conveyed, and from there it was just a matter of making sure it was perfect for what we needed. The subject matter on this record felt a little more serious, and we wanted to convey that.
Could you dive a bit into the topics of “Searching for Clarity” with us, please?
Our last few releases have been concept records that told fantastic stories, so we wanted to do something a little more serious and grounded this time around. Since 2020 was our tenth year as a band, we had discussed ideas about maturity and coming into our own, which lent itself to the title. The title refers to the experience and wisdom we’ve gained since we started the band, and how our sound has developed, and we have developed as people. The songs themselves touch on this in various ways. “Who We Are” is about staying with someone you care about even when times get hard, and “The Drowning” addresses learning to overcome using alcohol to deal with your problems in an unhealthy way.
Music-wise, you offer a great mix of different styles, by uniting a modern kind of heaviness with beautiful melodies and highly technical playing among others. Where do you see your main influences?
As a band, we love LOTS of kinds of music, ranging from jazz to hip-hop to electronica to post-rock, and those influences make their way into our sound subconsciously. But our core influences would be the progressive and post-rock/metal bands that we all love, like Cloudkicker, Opeth, Gojira, Between the Buried and Me, ISIS, Karnivool, Devin Townsend, Tool, The Ocean, and many more.
That's indeed an interesting and varied mix. Could you briefly describe your writing and recording process, please?
We don’t really have one regular way of writing – sometimes, one person will write a nearly complete song, demo it and bring it to the band; sometimes two people will get together and work up a song; and sometimes a song will come to life with all four of us in the rehearsal space. Using different approaches ensures that we keep our writing fresh. In the past, we had to split up our recording over various sessions, and parts were often tracked individually, but with "Searching for Clarity", we were able to enter the studio together for a couple of weeks and have everyone present for almost all tracking, which was great for bouncing new ideas off each other as they arose, and adding new things to take the songs to the next level.
Let’s make a little time trip, as behind every band, there’s an individual story. What is yours? When and how did you guys get together?
The idea of a band first came about in the late 2000s. Originally, Chris Gochis, our singer/guitarist, and Brad Trinkl, our guitarist, along with our original drummer Austin Schmidt and a keyboard player named Tim Armstrong had an instrumental progrock band along the lines of An Endless Sporadic or Liquid Tension Experiment. Brad originally played bass, and when Tim left, the other guys decided to go in a heavier direction. Brad moved to guitar, and after some time writing songs I was approached by Austin to play bass. That was in 2010, and we started playing shows shortly after. We recorded and released our self-titled EP in 2011 before parting ways with Austin and recruiting my little brother Matthew on drums.
We’ve had a solid lineup since then, and have gigged and recorded with this project far longer than we would have thought we would when we formed the band as teenagers.
How did you come up with your name, and is there a deeper meaning behind "Existem"?
I believe Chris and Austin came up with it by mashing “existence” and “system” to sound cool. Not sure it has any deeper meaning than a cool band name!
It is, absolutely :-) Let’s talk about EXISTEM live: What was your most memorable show so far?
It’s tough to pick! We’ve been lucky enough to play with some artists we really admire and look up to. For me, it would probably be our gig with Alcest in 2016, that was a really magical night. But we’ve also had great gigs playing with bands like Katatonia, Leprous, Animals as Leaders, Fallujah, Moon Tooth, Intronaut, The Contortionist, Insomnium, Oceans of Slumber and others.
How would you describe your local rock/metal scene, and is there something special about it? Did you notice changes over the past years?
It’s been interesting, we’ve been around to see a lot of bands come and go but we’ve managed to stick around. There’s a lot of great music being made in KC, and we’ve got a strong stoner/doom metal scene here, as well as death metal and many other talented musicians outside of metal. Bands like 34, The Soiled Doves, Gravelord, Migrator, A Light Within, Aprilmist, Keef Mountain and plenty more are fantastic artists and always a joy to play with.
What can you tell us about your future plans?
We’re eager to get back to live shows once the opportunity arises. Usually we gig a good amount, but the pandemic has made live music difficult - our last show was in January 2020. As for new music, we have some material we’re sitting on, but we’re in the early stages of deciding which direction to go next.
Do you have any further thoughts you’d like to share here?
Find our music on Bandcamp, Spotify or your favorite streaming service, and hit us up on Facebook and Instagram, @existem_kc. We have new playthrough videos on all instruments coming soon!
Awesome, looking forward to :-) Thanks again for your time and these insights into your work.