An Interview with Pulchra Morte

A few weeks ago, we premiered a track from Divina Autem et Aniles, the forthcoming debut from new doom-death brightlights Pulchra Morte. You can check out “Thrown to the Wolves” and a short introduction to the band here. Today, we offer up the entirety of our original interview with the band’s drummer, Clayton Gore and guitarist Jarrett Pritchard. Having the band reappear in our hallowed online sanctum is an obvious indicator that we love their take on powerfully aristocratic and mournfully elegiac sounds and welcome the updated references to Lost Paradise, Gothic, As the Flower Withers and Turn Loose the Swans. Here’s hoping you’re as smart and cool as we are and dig it too.

In the interest of introductions, please introduce Pulchra Morte to our readership? I guess this is the fancy way of saying ‘what’s the history of the band?’ which is possibly the most boring question in the history of interviews. On that note, would you say there’s anything unique about your formation story?
Clayton Gore: [Vocalist] Jason [Barron] had been trying to get people together to play in the style of older death/doom metal, like the first couple Paradise Lost albums, My Dying Bride, etc. for a couple years and had a couple false starts with people that just couldn’t do it. Then he met [guitarist] Jeff [Breden], brought me into the fold and we were off and running. We got some songs written and after running through a couple of potential members landed on our current lineup. We decided to immediately record the album and get the live rehearsals happening.
Jarrett Pritchard: I think what is unique about it is that for one thing, Clayton and I are working together again after many years since the Eulogy days. I think the other is that things with us come together relatively quickly musically speaking. It feels very fortunate to have the personnel together that we do where there are so many resources to get the music moving.

For those of us too lazy to open up a Google Translate browser, what does the band name mean or refer to and how is it significant?
Clayton: “Pulchra Morte” essentially translates as “beautiful death.” All of us have had some personal encounters with death and depression. I don’t mean in some cartoony, “bogey man” way; I mean the reality of mortality. When you truly embrace that mortality, you transcend any fear of death. This band is really about just that – discussing and exorcising the realities of our mortality, embracing everything that goes along with it and paying tribute to those who have fallen before us.

Was the intention to play the sort of death/doom you’re playing from the start? Were any other styles/ideas in the mix and did the band go through any creative growing pains along the way?
Clayton: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said initially, the central idea to bring the style of early Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, etc. back into the current context of the heavy music spectrum was always the idea from day one. It’s the entire genesis of the band. We were there, we lived it and feel like that era of music was largely overlooked in favor of the more volatile movements of the time. We hope to breathe some fresh life into those core ideas. Yeah, there were some false starts for us. Lots of people SAY they know what it means and what we’re after and SAY they want to be involved, but actually being able to create and contribute are entirely different animals. That being said, I wouldn’t have our lineup be any other way, so I think things came together very naturally.

With the 7” and upcoming album being recorded by yourselves, how would you describe the challenge in recording your own band versus recording others? Being fully immersed in a project as a member versus being hired by a band as producer and being able to stand back as an outside member?
Jarrett: In this case, I think I dodged the bullet in that the songs were essentially written when I got involved. Certainly we changed some arrangements and I, of course, added bass lines (I played bass on the album even though my role in the band is as guitarist), but I joined kind of as a fan of the music first. I’m not sure it had occurred to me to join a band at all. Playing for me has been really a thing of my own, sort of private enjoyment in recent years. Playing guest spots on albums, etc. has opened the gates in that I’m playing in three bands now (Wolvhammer, Pulchra and I’m filling in on second guitar in Brutality). The hard part is that when you own the studio, you have infinite time – that can be its own curse. You don’t want to take all that time, nit picking it to death. You can mix the life out of a project and that is something to beware of. So as immersed in it as I was, I still had a little of an outside perspective.

There appear to be some pretty weighty themes around death and finality that Pulchra Morte focuses on. Being that metal often draws people in with darker themes and imagery, how would you say what you guys do is different from both other expressions of the theme that are out there, and your relationship to the darker side of life/death that has progressed from your angry teenage years?
Clayton: Very true. Also true that we lived it then and have for decades. I want to clarify first and foremost that we – collectively, all of us – still very much listen to and love, let’s say, the faster side of metal and a wide spectrum of music other than metal. But, between all of our previous bands, we’ve kind of done it, you know? We wanted to do something entirely different, for us. We want to keep things very personal and real. We don’t write about invented mythologies, the undead or even the dark realities of other humans, like serial killers, in this band. Again, we have done so in the past. Speaking for myself, I just don’t know what more I could possibly have to say on some of those areas that hasn’t already been said, or isn’t already being said perfectly well by another band. So, we made this band very personal, very real. It’s difficult to write openly and honestly about your own feelings and experiences that lead to or come from very dark places, but this band is all about pushing ourselves out of our previous comfort zones into doing something very different for us. Not that the things we’ve done previously were “pretend” or created under false pretense, just that as we get older, experience brings a different perspective to things, a certain kind of wisdom. Really, if we aren’t ready to push ourselves outside what is comfortable and known to us, what’s the point?
Jarrett: As we move forward I think the subject matter will broaden. These are still all based on our own experiences and let’s face it, there is no shortage of horror in the world to draw from. I know that the conversations I have had with Jason about what’s to come look like an evolution, so to speak. I also think that personal empowerment through dealing with horrors in whatever manner they come will be touched on as well. And that can be anything from personal relationships, madness, illness, death, mass hypnosis – the “They Live” syndrome… it’s all in front, of us all the time.

What does the title of the forthcoming album translate to? What is its meaning and significance to you as people and artists?
Clayton: Divina Autem Et Aniles roughly translates to “godless and divine.” This is the last lyric in the song “Soulstench” and kind of the central ethos of this band. We are students of the writings of people like Crowley, Spare, Regardie and the general concepts and tenets of Hermetic philosophy. Always thirsting for true knowledge and intelligent opinions. I think the intent behind this phrase will ring true to those who are prepared to hear it, and might inspire others to do their own research, which would be the best possible outcome.

Tell us about the vocal and orchestral collaborations included on the album. How they came about? Were they easy to write/add into the music? Was recording them easy, etc?
Jarrett: The vocal things – Heather Dykstra had sung on the Eulogy EP, The Essence. When we decided to do the “The Painless” [Paradise Lost] cover, I knew exactly who I wanted to do the vocal parts on that. So I told Heather, who is also a really good friend of mine, “Take a look at other songs and see what you can come up with.” So, all of the vocal parts in “Soulstench,” the Latin, all of it, were her ideas. Of course, when she comes to the studio, I’m in the chair I’m producing – asking for layers and changes as we go, painting the picture you hear now. Heather is extremely easy to work with though. She is easy-going and extremely professional. She shows up with it dialed. I knew I wanted strings on the album and I had thought about doing it with keys. Then, I remembered I had a student when I was teaching who was a music teacher as well as a professional cellist. We had always been friends and I remembered that she had excellent intonation when I recorded her years ago, so enter Naarah Strokosch. I sent her the chord progression for “Fire and Storm” and a reference of the song and told her I would be on tour for a bit. I asked her to play with it see what she could come up with. She came into the studio and laid down a full part of about ten layers in a single day. Once I had them written, I built the beginning and interludes around them. Clayton and I took what was there and really arranged it and turned it into what is there now. Again, I’m lucky that I have so many creative and talented friends.

What’s the plan for the band once the album and name starts getting out there more? Are festivals and touring in the cards? Being that everyone involved is older and experienced, but also with busy lives on the best of days, how much time and energy can realistically be dedicated to the band?
Clayton: As I mentioned, it’s been proven to us over the last couple years that this band moves at its own deliberate pace. The desire to play shows is there and our commitment is that we will do so where it makes sense. We aren’t going to do it the wrong way, that’s for sure, and Jarrett’s touring experience is certainly useful in being able to decide what’s worth our while vs. a financial black hole for very little purpose. However, based on the rehearsals we’ve had, we believe we have much to offer in certain situations and have already booked a few select dates for 2019 with more coming. All to be announced soon. This band started with the idea of making music we ourselves want to hear. That’s it. And that central idea remains. To that end, we already have more than half of the next album written and will be recording in the first half of 2019. Ideally, we’ll be talking this time next year about our second album.
Jarrett: I am up for playing anytime the opportunity arises, but as you say people have various obligations in their lives. I think it can be a balance if the desire to do so is there. I will skip getting into my friends’ personal business, but half of the bands I tour with that are “well known” have careers and families and it all works together and just becomes part of your existence. I agree with Clayton – the plan is to play as much as makes sense and continue to write and record albums and release as much music as we want. The next album is halfway written and I am really looking forward to getting into the studio… I have a tape machine now and I am planning on using it.

Divina Autem et Aniles will be available via Ceremonial Records on February 1st, 2019. That’s the official release date, but with online pre-orders and digital availability, chances you could have got your hands on it before it was finished…

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