In the almost-decade between 2004 and 2013, Mouth of the Architect released four full-length albums that established the band as a creative force. The post-metal heavyweights will return this year with their fifth album, Path of Eight, as a band with new music and a new outlook.
“Fallen Star” sees Mouth of the Architect reach for spacier and more progressive territory while also retaining the elements of their sound that they’ve become known for.
Mouth of the Architect will release Path of Eight through Translation Loss on October 7. Once you preorder a copy, keep reading for an interview with Jason Watkins and Dave Mann about the new record, touring and what keeps Mouth of the Architect releasing new music.
It’s been over three years since Dawning, the last Mouth of the Architect record, was released. What’s changed for the band since then and how has that affected writing and recording Path of Eight?
A whole lot has changed within the band in the last three years, and as usual the band was beset with tragedy. At some point we had lost both guitar players to life (i.e. family, job, etc.) Steve [Brooks, guitar/vocals] rejoined the lineup with the condition that we forget what we had done in the past and just sort of move forward. This idea stayed dominant throughout the writing process of Path of Eight. To fill the vacancy that Kevin [Schindel, guitar/vocals] left, John Lakes stepped up. He has been a fill in for tours before and has done some recording for us. So it’s like he was a ghost member for years anyway. Having John helped change the writing direction a little bit as well. He has a very clean technical sort of approach to songwriting. Not like the hot garbage mess of an imagination I have. It’s been fun to merge those worlds. These two big shifts in perspective helped shape the sound of the band, and another major event that came to a head this year was also a major player. Dave, our drummer, has been having mysterious seizures for about a decade. Minor at first, they would come and go and didn’t generally present a major problem with day to day tasks. As time went on things got much worse, and around the time we recorded Dawning things had gotten pretty bad for him. It went undiagnosed, and therefore unmedicated that whole time. Last year he was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy, which affects not only your sense of time, but also language, memory and motor skills. One can only imagine how hard it was for him to play drums. Now he is medicated and showing great improvement!
Mouth of the Architect has been around and actively releasing material since the early 2000s. What keeps the band moving forward and releasing new material today?
I feel like it was the stubborn nature of those that have been in and out of this band. We really did not want to lose the fight. Our drive has been predicated upon the idea that we could plow through any obstacle that lay in our path. We love what we do too much, and believe in what we create. So when things intermittently fell apart through the years, we resolved to rebuild and move ahead. Broken bones, rehab, substance abuse, mental illness, two wrecked vans and somewhere around 15-20 lineup changes- these were just obstacles. If you truly believe in what you are doing, nothing should stop you. Also, if we were still writing the same songs as we were writing in 2003, I don’t think we would have held on this long. As people, the core members of this band have always bored easily. If we weren’t keeping things fresh, this terrible beast would have died long ago.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews about the new album that for Path of Eight, the band tried to reach for a more proggy and spacey sound, with less doom. What inspired that transition and do you think you achieved the balance you were looking for?
We had an idea from the very beginning that we wanted to not be confined by our prior work. We could write whatever we wanted. If someone brought an idea to the table it could be anything from an acoustic song to massive, billowing, wall of sound. As long as it felt right, we would proceed with fleshing it out. The doom element in the band was a direct reflection of the general vibe of the members. “Write what you know,” right? I think doom and gloom definitely have a place, it’s just not where we are as people anymore. We all sort of joked when we were done writing for this record that it didn’t sound like it was made by a band that wanted to kill itself! With the whole proggy side of things, we’ve always tried to embrace that element here and there. Like some parts of “No One Wished to Settle Here” and “Rocking Chairs and Shotguns.” That vibe was always there, but perhaps it was more subdued. With this record we really wanted to try and focus more on including those concepts instead of dwelling on the slower heavier stuff we’ve done before. I feel we may have found a healthy balance of all those ideas on Path of Eight.
Were there any themes or ideas that helped shape the direction of the new record?
There was actually. We’ve always wanted to write a concept album and sort of depart from our traditional method of writing lyrics. When you’re singing these songs over and over that are reflective, in a way, of some horrible things you’ve gone through, it can start to take its toll. So I came up with a short story and very loosely wrote it out. And then we kind of kept the blueprint of the story in the back of our minds while we were writing. It all came together so quickly and was so much fun for us to write. It’s, at its core, about a soul leaving the body after death. About traveling through space and time, past the gods, to be torn apart into the nothingness from which we came. The idea initially started from a DMT trip and how it seemed as it was happening. The concept of moving on past our mortal shell and trying to tell a story of what happens after death. Not necessarily in a religious context, but rather from the perspective of a frightened human experiencing this.
Path of Eight has a variety of sounds and directions over the course of eight songs. What was the writing process like for the record compared to previous releases?
For this record, the writing process was very different. We have always had loose jams that we elaborated upon and edited into songs, but this time was different in that we didn’t want any restrictions on ideas. Not that we ever wrote to anyone’s expectations, but whether or not the ideas made the cut this time we tried them out. We really did some different stuff that didn’t quite work out, but that was a very good thing for us to do. I think it opened the room up and allowed for a vibe that brought forward some great ideas. Since we live a little more spread out these days, we always record our practices. This makes it much easier to see ideas from an outside perspective. Something that may not have sounded good in the moment could spark an idea, and so forth. The record layout is a story that sort of developed as sounds and themes were coming together. So we recorded it all live in our practice space, and had our long time friend, Chris Common, mix and master it. I think the live tracking really brought out a sound and feel we had been shooting for on previous records, because it allowed us to sound like what we sound like live. That was something we’ve never done before.
Mouth of the Architect will be hitting the road in support of Path of Eight from early to mid-October. What can fans attending the shows expect from seeing the band live?
We will be playing a lot of the new material with a few old songs thrown into the mix. And, at certain shows we will have a visual piece created by our friend Dan Wagner to accompany the set. It was a piece he made to go with the story of the record. We performed it once in its entirety with the visuals in our hometown and thought to ourselves, this would be cool to take with us on tour. Not that we will perform with visuals all the time, but for this album, they went well together. You can expect to see a group of men with a fresh perspective on life, and a whole new set of songs to share with a room full of people! You can expect a much tighter band, and a much more immersive experience rather than the big dick volume contest we used to do every night. Heavy can be so much more than slow and loud!
The new album comes out on October 7 and tour wraps up about a week after that. Looking toward the new year, can we expect anything else from Mouth of the Architect at this point?
We are going to start writing again as soon as tour is over. We have some material that didn’t go on Path of Eight because of a difference in feel, so that would be a good place to start. We’re basically gonna try and release something every year or every other year for a while. We really want to explore some new territory that we didn’t get a chance to on this new record, and maybe we’ll do one of those late in their career weird records. Who knows?! We have entertained the inclusion of additional instruments, maybe some more avant-grade ideas- possibly have more guest musicians. We’ve always loved collaborating with people outside the band, and hopefully we can have more to share in the experience with us. As for shows, our age and distance from each other makes it difficult to play a lot but we are going to try to hit the west coast next year and return to Europe. As long as we are physically able to do what we do, we are going to keep playing shows in as many places as we can manage. If we haven’t played in your city or country, please bug the hell out of someone until we have to come there and play! Promoters, booking agents, the label, your other favorite band(wink!)- whoever! Do it!
Mouth of the Architect will also hit the road for a slew of east coast dates this fall. Check them out below.
10/5 Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
10/6 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus *^
10/7 Boston, MA – O’Brien’s ^
10/8 Baltimore, MD – Sidebar ^
10/9 Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie ^
10/10 Richmond, VA – Strange Matter *
10/11 Raleigh, NC – King’s *
10/12 Atlanta, GA – Drunken Unicorn *
10/13 Savannah, GA – The Jinx *
10/14 Nashville, TN – The End *
10/15 Louisville, KY – Mag Bar *
* w/ Netherlands, Zvi
^ w/ So Hideous, Zvi