Talking positivity, DIY roots and transcendence with prog-doom monoliths Garganjua.
Let’s face it, doom is just… different. If metal is the wildly-enthusiastic, fast-talking aggressive kid, doom has always been the older brother – pensive, tasteful, heavy in a sexier, subtler way. The same could be argued for prog, if you replace the word “sexier” with “smarter”. So what happens when doom and prog collide in a hypnotic explosion of coolness? Garganjua. Garganjua is what happens.
Hailing from Leicester, the British four piece captured the attention of many with their transcendental 2018 release Through The Void – including the head honchos at Holy Roar Records. Fast forward two years, and we are presented with the band’s third full-length. It’s safe to say the buzz is spreading far and wide, with Toward The Sun receiving rave reviews and a headline tour lined up for the riff masters this year.
We caught up with the band on the day of its release to discuss their expansive new album in depth.
Today you released your third studio album, Toward The Sun. How do you feel?
Gaz (bass/vocals): Really really glad that it’s now out there. We feel it’s the best album we have put together and we’re all really impressed with how it turned out, [producer] Chris Fielding did a great job with it as ever sound-wise.
Scott (guitars/vocals): Yeah real good, feels like a long time coming but we’re super proud of it and have been blown away by the response so far.
You dropped a couple of new tracks ahead of its release, how has the reaction to your new material been so far?
Gaz: Absolutely amazing, in truth. I think the biggest noticeable change, apart from it being a bit more proggy to our previous releases, has been that I stepped away from vocals. I think the vocal delivery from Scott is brilliant.
There are parts on the album that have pushed all our individual comfort zones a lot more than anything before so it was quite refreshing to see people enjoying it.
Scott: I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the reaction. It’s a weird feeling really, obviously you only put something out there that you’re happy with and how others react doesn’t really factor into your thinking, but it’s been humbling to see the reaction.
What were some of your inspirations at the time of writing Toward The Sun? Both musical and non musical!
Gaz: I think each of us have been through some tough times and been caught up in some shit over our time. Through The Void was very dark in my opinion, but at the time it was written there was a lot of personal issues flying around for some of us.
Scott: Yeah, I find inspiration in what’s real. A feeling or emotion. As Gaz said, Through The Void was tough going but Toward The Sun has a different energy entirely which focused the lyric writing from a positive place more than the negative. Musically, I listen to a lot. Black metal, doom, hardcore, post-rock etc. and over the course of the last two years I’ve listed to SO much music and I think that’s reflected in the new album. It’s coming from lots of angles, always moving.
The album is being released on the mighty Holy Roar – how did this come about? What’s the story behind forming a working relationship with the label?
Gaz: It’s quite funny actually. We are really good mates with Conjurer, we always seemed to cross paths in our early days and it was a friendship forged from me basically hounding Brady [Deeprose, Conjurer guitarist], who was promoting Pallbearer’s Birmingham show, for a support slot. Anyway, they were signed to Holy Roar and we sent a few tracks from our last album out to friends, Brady passed it on to the guys at Holy Roar and they loved it, distributed it for us and that lead to us signing full time for this one.
How was the recording process for this album? Any arguments in the studio?
Gaz: I wouldn’t say we argue but there is massive banter between us *laughs*.
We went back with Chris Fielding again who plays bass for Conan as he just gets it, you know? And he pushes us to get the best out of ourselves. We booked up for four days at Foel Studios in Wales, which is a beautiful place to record, out in the middle of nowhere and where we recorded our first EP.
It was quite testing as Scott moved to Devon so we only managed about six hours of jamming the album as a band before we hit the studio.
Scott: It had its challenges that’s for sure *laughs*. What was great this time is that we allowed ourselves more time. We usually give ourselves four days to record and mix, which is ridiculous. This time the four days were purely recording so it actually felt more relaxed and I had more time with vocals which made a huge difference on this album. It’s the happiest I’ve been with that element.
What is the meaning behind the album title Toward The Sun? Why did you choose it for the title?
Scott: It’s sort of an awakening, a realisation. If things get too much, I feel it’s important to take a breath, feel the wind against your skin and the warmth of the sun on your face. It’s kind of a metaphor for rising above something. It also completes the trilogy of the story through our music… A Voyage In Solitude, Through The Void and Toward The Sun.
Can you explain some of the lyrical concepts on the new record, what are the songs about? Any particular ones that mean a lot to you?
Scott: Over the last couple of years, I’ve been focusing a little more on living as well as I can. As people, we go through ups and downs and ultimately it’s how you deal with those negative situations that shape you. I took a lot of lyrical inspiration from philosophers like Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle, and the music had a completely different feel so I felt more comfortable writing about overcoming rather than drowning if that makes sense. It’s hard to always be fully present in life but I feel these songs help to remind us of the importance of that.
‘To Ascend (Awakening)’ is probably the one that feels the most cathartic musically and lyrically. It feels like the clouds have parted after a huge storm.
The cover art for Toward The Sun is all muted colours and esoterics mixed with geometrics. Why did you choose this visual? What does this image represent?
Scott: I LOVE geometrics and symmetry, mainly as it’s so visually satisfying, so I wanted to use something like that to represent the journey of the human mind from being a slave to the ego, to awakening. It’s sort of meant to represent the mental struggle we face and the mountains we climb to overcome the hurdles so that nothing stands between you and the sun, where you are truly awake.
You guys are based in Leicestershire. What’s the metal scene like over there at the moment?
Gaz: It’s been really strong for a few years now after a bit of bleakness, in truth. There’s something for everyone, I guess, and with the Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses, it’s really brought a lot of talent out of nowhere. There’s grunge bands like Resin and Graves, stoner like Mage and Temple Of Lies, metal bands like Internal Conflict that give that fast-paced energy and Blood Oath who have a real early ’90s Florida death metal sound like Obituary.
And to widen the scope a bit, what’s your opinion on the heavy scene in the UK overall, do you guys feel like you fit in?
Scott: I don’t think we have ever felt like we fit in to be honest, but that’s cool, we just crack on with what we do. Underground music in the UK right now is incredibly strong and we just feel fortunate to be around at a time like this. I feel like I listen to more music now than ever and while I know it will sound biased, Holy Roar really do have their finger on the pulse, certainly for our tastes but there is an unreal amount of talent out there and we never stop being inspired by that and never stop listening.
You’ve come from DIY roots as a band. What was the hardest thing about doing it all yourselves in the beginning? Generally, do you think that there is enough support in the UK for DIY bands?
Gaz: We are all well in our 30s now and have been playing together for about 18 years in various bands, we have always just played what we like and with Garganjua we never really took ourselves too seriously I guess, hence the name. It was just a fun idea that picked up momentum. I think there’s never been a better time for DIY bands with social media and music outlets it’s quite easy to promote yourself as opposed to circa early ’00s when you had to hope to meet a band from out of town and gig swap.
So, are you all ready for your album release tour in February?
Gaz: Pretty much I think, few jams left and we will be ready.
Scott: Yeah it’s going to be great to play these songs live.
What is your favourite thing about playing live?
Gaz: I just enjoy the whole thing, I always get pretty nervous before a gig and love the buzz of it, you can’t beat it when people are enjoying your show.
Scott: I love just being able to fully let go, I mean properly. There is no other time in life where I feel more present than when I’m on stage and no other time where I feel I can throw everything I have at something.
If you could tour with any band, who would you pick and why?
Gaz: Either Pink Floyd so I could just been blown away by their stage show every night or Yob for me, their songs are are just incredible.
Scott: Yob for sure, I could get lost in their music for days but also Anathema. They’re absolute legends and to be able to hear those melodies and feel that emotion every night live would be something special.
What are you most excited for as a band in 2020?
Gaz: Getting back on the road. 2019 was pretty slow for us.
Scott: Agreed. Playing shows. I’m looking forward to seeing how these tunes translate on stage.
Is there anything else you want to mention?
Gaz: Just to keep supporting your favourite underground bands and the labels and zines that support them. Thanks to everyone who has shown an interest in Garganjua and our music, after so many years playing in bands it makes all four of us really happy to see that people are enjoying it.
Toward The Sun is out now on Holy Roar. Purchase here.
Words: Serena Cherry