Villagers of Ioannina City are a Greek heavy rock/post-rock/experimental rock outfit from the mountains of Epirus. While Europe has been privy to the musical might and magic of Villagers of Ioannina City for the better part of six years, the rest of the world has been, unless the Greeks have popped up on YouTube spelunks, in the dark. Featuring five members–using just their given names–the band have one full-length, Riza (2014), two EPs, Zvara/Karakolia (2014) and Age of Aquarius (2019), to their name. That is before Villagers of Ioannina City issued their second full-length, Age of Aquarius, without label support in 2019.
When Team Decibel heard the single, “Age of Aquarius,” on YouTube, we were hooked, reminded of ISIS, Junius, Neurosis, Intronaut, and Jesu. Villagers of Ioannina City aren’t the sum of their parts, but rather something else entirely. The use of clarinet, bagpipes, kavals, and other traditionally non-metal instruments provides the Greeks with a whole different sonic template, one that feels instantly familiar yet entirely exotic. The band’s new album, Age of Aquarius, is a wonder of heavy, expressive, deeply emotional content. It designs to take its audience on journeys through ancient and modern, real and unreal.
Decibel caught up with guitarist/vocalist Alex to learn more, expose for sure, and figure out what’s next for the mysterious fivesome from north-western Greece.
Introduce Villagers of Ioannina City to Decibel readers. I’m sure many of us are new to the band.
Alex: We are a heavy rock band coming from the mountains of Epirus, a region in northwest Greece. Born and raised in Ioannina city with origins from the villages around the city.
How did the band come together?
Alex: I don’t remember the exact moment but it was a long time ago. We were always playing music individually since we were very young kids and we were also friends at the same time. Kind of naturally we started to play together and jam, around 2000 I think. No traditional instruments back then, just guitars, bass, drums and vocals, but later on, around 2008 we added some more instruments to the band, such as clarinet, bagpipes, etc.
You’re from the city of Ioannina in north-western Greece. What makes Ioannina special to the band and its sound?
Alex: First of all, it is our hometown, our childhood is laying there in eternity. The landscape here is surrounded by mountains, rivers, and forests, and nature shapes people, and we are definitely shaped by this sharp nature. Also, there is a big music tradition here which goes back hundreds of years, and the unique harmony of the sound thousand of years back. There is a special way of how they used to combine their inner feelings with the environment around them in the lyrics. The urban environment exists along with nature, the new buildings with the old ones, the new stories with the old tales and legends and in our case, along with all that background, the modern sounds with the old ones.
Alex: For sure when it comes to the point to describe something you’ve heard to another person, you have to use words, sometimes lots of them and sometimes also you have to come up some new ones, and I guess for our music someone will use lots of them. It’s not easy even for me to describe our music, but for sure we’ve never said let’s play some specific music genre. We just do what we feel. Personally, in my mind, it’s more simple the genre thing. It’s rock, hip-hop, trance, etc. and I guess I’ll use words to go deeper and not sub-genres.
Who are some of your most important influences?
Alex: I don’t have a few, and definitely not a main. I guess everything that I like. From Led Zeppelin to Tool. From Iron Maiden to Neurosis. Sepultura, System of a Down, Queens of the Stone Age, Alice in Chains, Deftones, Porcupine Tree, Primordial and it goes on and on.
What makes the music so exotic sounding is the prevalence of kaval, bagpipe, and clarinet. There’s a certain “Eastern” feel at play with the intense vocalizations and powerful chordage.
Alex: As I mentioned before, there is a unique harmony in the music here in Epirus and I guess this harmony sounds very exotic for you but for me it comes very natural when it comes to express myself. As a person, I was always listening to “Western” music such as classical and rock but at the same time I was listening to traditional and Eastern microtonal music and music from all over the world. So all these sounds are fused in my head, I guess. That’s the wonder of our time, lots of cultures combining together from all around the globe.
Tell us about your new full-length, Age of Aquarius? What were some of the motivating factors that went into the songwriting and sonic architecture?
Alex: It’s an album we were working in our heads for more than a decade. It is a journey with lots of parallelisms and meanings. A journey from night to day and from darkness to the light. A circle from birth to death and resurrection. From our mortal presence in this world to consciousness, mental harmony, and union with the cosmic soul. It’s a concept album and has a story to tell, so it has a beginning and a distance to cover until the end. Sonically, we had to approach the album with the perspective of the story. So as a listener, you have to take this ride and be patient; the Sun will rise eventually when the time comes and not in the beginning.
So far, it’s available digitally but I gather there’s plans for physical.
Alex: That’s correct. So far, we were totally independent and everything had to be done by ourselves, but we cannot handle it properly anymore, and we are in talks lately with some labels for a proper global distribution.
Alex: Doesn’t even matter if we are really here or not, time does not exist. You have to ask yourself and seek the answers deep inside. What if now is the time for a change? How do you imagine this new era? What is your dream? What needs to be done and what needs to be changed? If you’ve had the chance to start over, witness and participate in a big change what will you do? I asked myself those questions and the Age of Aquarius is here for me.
What are Villagers of Ioannina City’s plans to see out 2019 and to peel back 2020? I gather you’ve been doing gigs across Europe (sold out, I hear). Will Villagers of Ioannina City venture beyond the confines of the Continent?
Alex: At the moment, we are planning a big indoor tour in Europe around springtime and an even bigger one, open-air this time, for summer 2020. We really hope to come to the states in the near future and we ‘ll do our best to make it happen.