SubRosa Interviewed

To quote your bio: “SubRosa comprises the deep thrum that makes up the underlying plasma of our invisible surroundings.” What does that mean?Sarah Pendleton: We are attempting to be the sonic interpreters of that which is intangible.

The name SubRosa implies mystery. Something hidden. Do you actively try to keep things a bit obscure?
Rebecca Vernon: I don’t like it when people wear their convictions on their sleeve. We aren’t trying to create a mystique in an obnoxious way. It’s just that being obvious is so boring.
Zach Hatsis: You’d be surprised what living next to the largest body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere will do to you, or through you. We’re permeable membranes.

What’s Salt Lake like as far as heavy music goes?
Zach Hatsis: Because the polar contrast of culture in our city is so immense, Salt Lake is a Holyland-of-Hev in the Western United States. INVDRS (Corruption), Eagle Twin (Southern Lord), Iota (Small Stone), Bird Eater (Black Market Activities), Gaza (Black Market), who just toured Europe with Converge, and past bands Iceburn (Revelation) and Clear (Revelation), to name a few, are all native miners of the secret salt. P.S. Phil from INVDRS did vocals on “Stonecarver.”
Rebecca Vernon: Other local heavy bands we like are Minerva, IX Zealot, Gravecode Nebula, Old Timer, Dwellers, Laughter, White Ferrari, and Top Dead Celebrity.

I think the general perception of Salt Lake City is that it’s a stuffy, Mormon ruled town that’s no fun and possesses no cultural color. Any truth to that?
Kim Pack: No fun? The Osmonds and Temple Square? What’s no fun about that?
The majority of people who think Salt Lake is no fun have never been here. All you have to do is go to one show to realize how much is going on. There’s just as much culture here as any other city… Tons of artists, phenomenal musicians, zines, restaurants, film, writers, etc.
Rebecca Vernon: Because there’s a very dominant conservative culture in Utah, it has created an equally strong, vibrant counterculture. The angriest band I’ve ever seen was from Provo.
Zach Hatsis: Our cultural flame might not be as large as other cities, but it burns bright!

Admittedly No Help For The Mighty Ones is the first SubRosa album I’ve heard. Kind of reminded me of a cross between Miranda Sex Garden, Amon Düül II, and Sleep. I gather the reactions to your previous albums have been mixed?
Rebecca Vernon: Yes, good guess. People loved or hated our last album. They don’t always know how to take us. Thanks for the Sleep comparison. Miranda Sex Garden is interesting because we do have some pretty deep gothic roots. SubRosa was even voted “Best Gothic/Darkwave band in Utah” one year for a City Weekly contest. [Laughs]

Where do you think SubRosa fits musically? Doom metal? Avantgarde metal?
Zach Hatsis: A friend of ours from Black Seas of Infinity once said we were “Ancient Magical Doom.” Does that count?
Dave Jones: Someone called us orchestral doom, so that’s what I tell people.
Rebecca Vernon: Once a reviewer called us “doom punk,” back in the Strega days. Just don’t call us grunge.

How has Subrosa developed from Strega to No Help For The Mighty Ones?
Zach Hatsis: New members.
Kim Pack: Song length.
Zach Hatsis: New members equal longer song lengths.
Rebecca Vernon: I think our songwriting has developed a lot. There are more complex song structures, variety, melodies, more emotional resonance. And everything is becoming heavier and darker.
Sarah Pendleton: Our musical hydra grew a new head.

There are some interesting things happening on No Help For The Mighty Ones. ‘Beneath the Crown’ has a very eerie October-like feel to it while ‘House Carpenter’ is a bit like bluegrass a cappella. Is there a central sonic motivator?
Zach Hatsis: We all have very diverse musical backgrounds ranging from jazz, classical, folk, sludge, and delta blues. Somehow it all came together to create this record.
Rebecca Vernon: The only central sonic motivator is to be as devastating as possible.

Is there a lyrical center? If so, what is it?
Rebecca Vernon: Social and political commentary, and personal darkness.

Who are the mighty ones, by the way?
Kim Pack: David Jones, for one.
Sarah Pendleton: Those suffering from an illusion of earthly power.
Rebecca Vernon:Those arrogant enough to believe that they can get away with murder.
The album artwork (done by Glyn Smyth of Scrawled Design) is based on the story of Tere Jo Dupperault. The murderer of her family killed himself when he found out Tere was alive and had the ability to reveal his crime. His suicide was particularly violent—the result of a bad conscience, it was speculated. He did kill two children, after all, and tried to kill 11-year-old Tere, too. We sneer at the concept of a Christian brimstone hell, rightfully, but the true hell is a ruined conscience.
Kim Pack: It’s weird how Rebecca’s lyrics and album title tied into a book [Alone: Orphaned on the Ocean] that she read after the fact.

Do you feel that heavy bands with female members have finally become an accepted reality rather than something for the press to single out as a novelty? Then again, Jo Bench has been playing bass for Bolt Thrower for 22 years.
Kim Pack: It’s somewhat disappointing that the words “finally” and “accepted” are used in this question.
Sarah Pendleton: I have no idea, and I don’t care.
Rebecca Vernon: Unfortunately, I can’t foresee a day when females in heavy bands will not be a novelty. It is becoming more common, but the Liz Buckinghams and Angela Gossows of the world are still exceptions to the rule.
Dave Jones: It’s not something I think about. I listen to bands for the music—for sonic reasons, not visual reasons.
Sarah Pendleton: Except for Katy Perry.
Kim Pack: And Julie Christmas. She is amazing.

How’d you end up on Profound Lore?
Rebecca Vernon: Chris got in touch with me after OlaBlomkvist (ex-co-owner of I Hate) signed us to I Hate. We stayed in loose touch since then. When Ola left I Hate Records, I sought out Chris to see if he wanted to release our new album. He did.

The label’s experiencing a bit of growth lately. Are you excited to be part of the label as it ascends from obscure boutique label to an indie with a significant profile?
Zach Hatsis: Absolutely, I was lucky enough to travel to New York over summer 2010 to see Krallice and Portal play. I loved the contrast of the two bands. Profound Lore definitely is the captain’s platter of metal labels.
Rebecca Vernon: It’s been great to see the label grow and some much-deserving artists get more recognition. I have a lot of respect for Profound Lore and their roster. I think we are in capable hands.

** SubRosa’s No Help For The Mighty Ones is out now on Profound Lore. It’s available HERE directly from the label. Neat.