Interview: The Lion’s Daughter Talk New Album, “Future Cult”

The Lion’s Daughter are now harder to categorize than before—which is always a good thing. The St. Louis, Missouri trio comprised of Rick Giordano (guitars, vocals), Scott Fogelbach (bass), and Erik Ramsier (drums) still retain the Neurosis-like heaviness, the hostility of hardcore, sludge and industrial metal, and even some aspects of black metal, but there is much more tonal color and textural dynamics on display on new album Future Cult, courtesy of the introduction of synths. Don’t expect some flashy synth-wave trending-hopping, however—the synth-lines are all horror, and they’re often used as a feature-piece. In that respect, The Lion’s Daughter have more in common with GosT or Genghis Tron these days, as they clearly still reside in the extreme end of metal’s mutation pool.

Future Cult may be the break-out record for the band, the LP that distinguishes The Lion’s Daughter as one of the most exciting acts in the game today. However, Rick’s hopes for the album are fairly reserved: all he wants is to continue to create music as they so choose. We chatted to the band’s focal point—and newly crowned synth-player—about their creative development, the making of the new album, his thoughts on horror and synth-wave, and his rather blunt feelings on humanity and other hot-topic matters, such as the ongoing discussions around separating the art from the artist.

The stylistic development on the new album is very interesting. What inspired the use of synths?
The synths were just a natural progression from our last album [2016’s Existence Is Horror]. We started to incorporate more and more of the horror soundtrack vibes on that album, and there is only so much of that you can do with guitar, bass, and drums. Synths were the obvious next step for us, and we had no interest in writing Existence is Horror Part 2. I, with my elementary knowledge of synthesizers, stumbled my way around writing the synth parts. But once they were in place, the guitars and everything else came very easily.

How big of an influence on your new sound were horror soundtracks? The creepy call of John Carpenter or Goblin is in there at times.
Oh, they were huge. I’d say that’s where 100 per cent of that influence came from. I listen to a lot of the synthwave stuff as well, but really, the characteristics that attract me to that are all taken straight from those old horror soundtracks.

What are your favorite horror soundtracks and which characteristics attracted you to them?
Halloween, Phantasm, The Exorcist… all of the classics of course. Some newer ones would include Beyond the Black Rainbow, the Maniac remake, Neon Demon, The Guest… there are a ton of good soundtracks coming out these days. In too many cases, they’re better than the actual movies that they accompany. I’m not sure what it is that attracts me to them. It’s most likely the way they highlight the imagery in the films, or in the case that you listen to them by themselves they create all new imagery in your imagination. I find that it’s a more immersive experience than most other forms of music.

Did you encounter any difficulties/challenges incorporating the predominant use of synths into your already wide-ranging sound when writing?
Yes, it was extremely difficult at times. We never forced anything, and the synth parts were always the first thing written. But we didn’t try to overlay synths on already existing parts or riffs just for the sake of doing so. They’re in there as needed, and we were careful not to go overboard with them. They’re in the places that the song demands, no more and no less.

How did the recording process go?
It was a really focused process, so there aren’t really any great stories to tell. We got in, got to work, and got out. We had 10 days to finish the entire record and had no idea how long it would take to complete, having added an entirely new instrument into the mix. I will say that there was a Hooters right next to the studio that we kept going to just for a laugh, and to completely throw us out of our element. So instead of dreading the idea of heading back to work, we couldn’t wait for the break to be over to get the fuck out of there and back to the studio. But many glasses of “Hooterade” were consumed and we met like, five different girls named McKenzie.

You mentioned listening to synthwave. The likes of Pertubator and Carpenter Brut are very popular at the minute, yet outside of GosT, the overall scene can be a bit too cheesy for some. But, interestingly, the way you’ve incorporated synths elicits the same rush as hearing Genghis Tron for the first time.
I actually am a fan of that stuff. In addition to the horror synths, I love disco and electronic music in general. And I really appreciate the lack of vocal on most of it. It makes it less personal and more robotic… something I, as a bit of a misanthrope, consider a positive attribute. It’s cheesy, sure, but so is something like Grim Reaper or half the records and movies in my collection. I’d actually never heard Genghis Tron before seeing some of the comparisons to them. It’s too spazzy and a bit too obnoxious for me, but I get it and it’s done well.

How did the band come about initially? Were you guys friends first?
Yeah, I’d know each of those guys forever, and been in previous bands with both. We all like most of the same shit, besides those guys liking old Red Hot Chili Peppers, which I cannot fucking stand. But hey, I like old Aerosmith, so what the fuck do I know? But more important than the music we all collectively liked, the stuff we hated seemed like more of a motivator. The idea was to start a band that was just a big fuck you to everyone.

Outside of the “big fuck you”, what were your initial goals for the band and how has the band changed for you, from then to now?
No goals. We thought that absolutely no one would like it. [St. Louis, Missouri sludge band] Fister and ourselves started around the same time and we used to joke about how each band was really just writing music for the other because no one was going to listen to this shit. We were both surprisingly wrong, but really our goals have always remained the same. We’re out to write music that we like and [we] write it for ourselves. It’s great if people dig it, but really that part is kind of irrelevant. In the case of Future Cult we are extremely excited and proud of what we’ve done, and really we’d just like to share it with as many people as possible.

What’s the meaning behind the band name—can you shed some light on it?
It’s really quite stupid. While touring with our old band, Erik and I saw a ridiculous looking romance novel with that title at the airport. We both hated the band we were currently in and said, “Fuck it, let’s just start a new band called The Lion’s Daughter.” We were half-kidding, but the significance was that by adopting such a silly moniker we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. The Lion’s Daughter could be absolutely any kind of music and the name would still work.

Your previous album was breathtakingly intense. Is aggression a primary focus for you?
Aggression was never really a focus. That just comes out naturally. It’s really hard for us to play with restraint, and playing a song live just doesn’t feel right if it’s not a shit-ripping crusher. The three of us are all pretty impatient and angry people, and I honestly don’t think we can play together without that showing. We’ve tried writing songs that weren’t so mean sounding and it just doesn’t work. There are a few slightly more laid back songs on this new record, but we will likely never play them live. If we’re onstage we’re pissed off and sweaty and we fucking hate everyone… so why fuck around?

Existence Is Horror, as a title, was very nihilistic and Paolo Girardi’s artwork really suited it and the sheer force of the music. What does Future Cult stand for?
This is one of those areas where I feel like the less that is said, the better. What it means to me may not be what it means to you or someone else. I’d rather you experience it in your own way and take from it whatever you see fit. But the one theme that may unify all the songs is that sense of fear and hopelessness. It’s an area that in my opinion is much more difficult to explore than simple nihilism or misanthropy. It’s deeper and darker and quite uncomfortable at times.

Why do you feel that exploring fear and hopelessness is more uncomfortable than nihilism and misanthropy?
Well with anger, hatred, misanthropy there’s a sense of feeling powerful and confident. There is no positive side to fear or hopelessness. It is pure ugliness and I’ve never found anything to be gained from it.

Speaking of fear, the world is such an uncertain and hostile place to be these days. Do you find your music to be a reaction to what’s going on at the minute, or is it to be taken as an escape from reality?
I think music is just music. People make it for different reasons and people listen for different reasons. Maybe I write a song because it’s a better idea than slashing my wrists, or maybe I just want something to drink beers to in a swimming pool.

Do you find art to be more or less important in America these days when it seems as though real life struggles, local and global, dominate the headlines more so now than ever before?
I don’t. I don’t really pay attention. I don’t give a much of a shit about America or what is or isn’t important to people. I’m going to create or indulge in whatever art forms I want to, and what other people want or need doesn’t really matter much to me.

How do you think humanity can improve in the future? Or do you believe we are all fucked?
We are all beyond fucked. Things will only get worse, and maybe that’s for the best. I think the human race has pretty much run its course on this planet. Even when positive change comes about, it doesn’t last long. Or it’s an illusion. We won’t last much longer.

In relation to metal culture, which has its own problems, there is a lot of talk in metal these days around whether we should separate the art from the artist. Where do you stand on the issue?
I’ve got to admit that again, I really don’t care at all. I don’t give a shit about metal culture. Just listen to music or don’t. But yeah, if I discover that an artist I like is a total fuck-head or terrible person, racist, sexist, etc. it makes it really difficult to enjoy their art ever again. I’d rather not be aware of the artist at all really and just enjoy the music as is. Again, it’s that robotic thing… I’d rather not even think about the people or person behind the songs.

Finally, do you think you’ve settled on your sound now or do you foresee further stylistic evolutions for the band in the future?
Nah, I don’t think we’ll ever find our sound, and that’s something I’m happy about. I think when bands do that is when bands then start making the same record over and over. I’m not interested in doing that, and I have no idea where we might take things next… hopefully somewhere that no one will see coming. That’s always the most fun.