Interview with Nichole Drohomyreky and Jason Hartman conducted by Bill Zebub for the Grimoire of Exalted Deeds magazine.
Nichole, I must begin this interview by confessing how lost I have become in your voice. I cannot compare you to anyone else. You have truly developed a new style. Is there anything that you would like to share about your approach?
(Nichole)Thank you. I know my voice is not for everyone and I have a hard time hearing it myself… on voicemail, or even played back in the studio…But this body of music was a very cathartic experience for me to write. I hope the listener feels the experience too. It was a strange time for Jason and m moving back to Wisconsin from PDX and being new parents. A lot of emotion was flowing out of me, and may have inadvertently affected or cultivated the style.
The song “Heavy Dreamer” is magical. I have listened to it fifteen times in a row and could have gone longer if I did not have to attend to some biological functions. I think that it is impossible to tire of it. I even daydream about it. It’s impossible to ask just one question about it, so I hope that you don’t mind it taking up a larger portion of the interview. Let’s begin with the singing. Your voice invites me into the world of the song, and it really does feel like I am in another place. Nichole, you guide me in with a an otherworldly voice, serene and wizened, and you launch into intense emotion. It’s quite an experience to hear you. You go up and down in feeling, and the melancholy parts are beautiful. How did you come upon this mastery? You sang to my soul.
(Nichole) Oh man that means a lot that you connected to this song. I love this song too, and its still super fun to perform. Oddly I wrote the chorus first on this one, which is in reverse of how I usually put songs together. I honestly don’t even remember how the “Child in Time” thing came into it. It’s been referenced much,almost comically, and I do love that song deeply, so it may have subconsciously snuck into the work. Another song that didn’t make the album was absolutely inspired by Deep Purple and not sure when we will release that one. I’m a sucker for a ballad and LOVE to write them. I could easily see myself releasing nothing but ballad albums. If I can keep the guys enlisted (laughs) The song is very personal but I really tried to open the lyrics to share with others to have their own experience. It was,however, inspired by my daughter, and the great love, admiration, and inspiration I have for her and her true spirit. It means a lot to hear that other’s are feeling deeply connected to it, as I, and the band do too. I have to give credit to Hart,our drummer, for writing the back up vocal production on this song, and Rachel Catherine Kent and I performed it on the recording. It’s lower in the mix and behind the main vocal, but when you hear it, it is quite lovely. Rachel Catherine Kent has been playing shows with us since the album’s release, which has been a thrill to hear that stuff live, and changed in a really great way. She sang in a band called ‘No Hoax‘ here in Madison and completely blew me away. The song would never be as majestic if it weren’t for the incredible guitars work of Jason -my favorite solo on the album, and the tasteful, skilled playing of Jerry Sofran and Hart A. Miller. Such a dream to play with such killer musicians.
Jason, the guitar in “Heavy Dreamer” is another spellbinding part. The distortion is quite a deep fuzz, but is is also the playing that makes it seem like each strum of a chord is played like it is sound to be savored. The chords also spring upon the vocals like a flourish meant to enhance all of the song elements. It seems like this song was lovingly crafted. What was in your mind? Surely this was not meant to be simply a tune. It feels like each part of the music was chosen to ensnare any person capable of deep emotion.
(Jason) Nikki deserves most of the credit on “Heavy Dreamer” the song AND the album. She wrote the majority of the songs. The song “Heavy Dreamer” was written by her on organ and synthesizer in its entirety before I added the guitar. So I had those instruments as a guide, as well as the vocal melody. So yes, the guitar is built around her ideas vocally/ musically/ emotionally. I usually have a lot of different ideas and try to incorporate the best ones. It is usually pretty easy to decide what to choose and Nikki generally likes my input. We have played together for so long and grown musically together in the same directions, it is sometimes uncanny. I tend to want to make things busier than needed at times and I’ve been working on simplifying, just using the necessary notes for maximum emotion. Nikki is also a busy player so we have to leave room for each other. Jerry Sofran (bass) and Hart Allan Miller (drums) laid back on this one and kept the rhythm section open which was needed for this I think.
Would you like to talk about the production of the album? I am specifically intrigued by the choices in modulation and echo. I don’t dare guess whether you favor delay or reverb. I’d also like to know how you achieved such dimension.
(Nichole) Our drummer Hart Allan Miller is a very talented engineer/ producer. We recorded the drum,some guitars, keys at a local studio called Blast House with Dustin Sisson, and the rest was done by Hart at his studio, “Nightmare House”. He engineered and produced the album with us. Also, Rachel Catherine Kent performed some vocals on tracks, ‘Creation,” and ” Heavy Dreamer.” Jason and I have always been heavy effects users and I could literally drown in reverb and love it… interesting dilemma with sound engineers particularly at live shows! Hart worked relentlessly on this album and I agree, his choices to feature certain instrumentation,like the keys and effects at times were very thoughtful and absolutely made a band as “dense” as ours have balance and not turn to mud. We’ve always went to expensive studios that were really over our heads and budgets really, so much was compromised. Dimension was honestly realized this time by the sheer work and dedication from Hart as an engineer and producer, but also we worked really long and hard on writing these songs too.
I noticed that the official videos show, shall we say, the band in sort of after-images, visual trails – this suits the psychedelic aspect, but is it a statement that the music is to be heard and for the sound to create the visuals? I know that in my case, whether my eyes are open or close, I no longer see the earth when I listen to “Heavy Dreamer.”
(Nichole)I think that’s exactly how I feel about the videos. I want visual imagery and sound to come together to create an experience together, rather than they being separate which I think a lot of bands do with video -and can be done well, but I definitely prefer the more artful approach. We wanted darkness to meet beauty and largely I feel that came across. We ended up enlisting a very talented videographer, Aaron Hall, from Rockford, Illinois, who filmed and edited the videos. Aaron really brought the ideas to life, gorgeous footage, and incorporating very creative effects,. Was a thrill watching the ballet dancers, skaters, and transforming a warehouse, bedroom, and a roller rink into dreamy worlds. As an artist, having the ability to add imagery and movement to your sound is a thrilling and symbiotic concept.
I thought that your band was surely from another country. Have you been told that you don’t sound American? There is just too much creativity at work in your music.
(Nichole) (laughs) No. Well, at least don’t think so. I’ve definitely had people be off guard that we are from Wisconsin, but have not heard that before.
(Jason) I have heard that before. Even our bassist Jerry has said that was one of the things that drew him to us, that our sound was very un- American. Jerry is a fan of a lot of German music from the Kraut Rock of Amon Duul 2, Can, Neu , . as well as hard rockers The Scorpions, Accept to thrashers Kreator, Destruction as well as electronic music of Kraftwerk. A lot of great music from there. We targeted European record labels to release this album because we thought they might understand it or at least accept it as I think it is more open minded and creative over there in general. We ended up picking Svart out of Finland, an incredible and diverse label. We hope to get over there soon.
Jason, I was surprised that you had known about me before this interview. Are you surprised that I am not making any jokes? Well, you know, as a reader of The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds, that I don’t joke with people when the music is vital, like in my King Diamond interviews.
(Jason) I am a reader of the Grimoire! Your questions and interaction have been so heartfelt that I felt no apprehension or worry about jokes! It’s part of the fun!
The keyboards sometimes are prominent, and sometimes drop in volume, which I think is cool. It seems like each component in a song takes turns being accented, and of course, there is the mastery of the parts coming together to for greatest effect, building each other up. Do you write songs almost like creating an adventure for the listener?
(Nichole) As a group, we all tried our best to write our parts thoughtfully, thus giving space when needed and vice versa. Laying back during solos and vocals et cetera. Jerry is a masterful bassist – always serving the song so beautifully, and Hart and Jason both shred and pull back when needed. Really was important to us and took awhile to construct and choose what should be highlighted at particular points in each song.
I noticed that the album didn’t come with lyrics. Is that intentional? I wonder if it is a proclamation of art – that the listener should hear what he or she wants to perceive.
(Nichole) We did release the lyrics with the vinyl, but it’s funny you mention that, as I really did open my lyrics up in a more, deliberate and broad way in hopes to share the experience with others. Still personal and abstract though.
It’s funny that even as I ask these questions, I can’t get ‘Heavy Dreamer” out of my mind. I am working on a black metal documentary, and I am tempted to include an excerpt of that song. I think that it is so incredible that it will turn on anyone, no matter what the clique or musical preferences are. Have you noticed that your fans are diverse? Are there any examples of people who surprised you when they revealed their appreciation?
(Nichole) I’ve not noticed a huge commonality with our fans yet, except that the most enthusiastic and passionate responses have been from men. I was hoping to reach more women, especially since I’m such an emotional creature I’ve actually been surprised by the metal following, as we’re not the most brutal band in the world (laughs). I and the band all have a nicely varied musical palette. We all do love metal though, and the Cure, and Pink Floyd, et cetera. so I greatly appreciate anyone who can see through the need to pigeonhole a sound and ‘genre-ify‘ it? Is that a word? We’ve always, as a band, sort of existed between worlds. We’re not metal enough, goth enough, psych, et cetera or too much in one way for others. So thank you to anyone who can just listen to it and appreciate it without needing to label it.
I want the world to know about you. If I didn’t have a radio show and a magazine, I wonder if I would have discovered “Vanishing Kids.” Your album is too important to die unknown. What are some ways that I can help, and what challenges hurt your climb to the top?
(Nichole)Oh man, just truly listening and feeling the music means more than you’ll ever know. Our attention spans as a species are changing and people give music a 5-10 second chance on their crappy computer speakers. So many bands put so much heart, money, and time into their work and it’s literally just dismissed quickly. Remember the albums that we had to listen to over and over and then it hits you like a ton of bricks?! Certainly happened for me with bands like Sonic Youth, Voivod, and Rush…Or HAVING to actually go to a venue to check out a band. Please truly listen to music before dismissing it. Music is personal, and I promise you that I and my bandmates put our whole hearts and soul into what we do. To write and perform music is my most favorite thing in the world, next to my family. .If you are truly paying attention that is the greatest contribution. Spreading the word is greatly appreciated too, and check out a show in your area if you can. Its hard for us to tour and a big endeavor when we can make it happen – this,means a lot to see fans.
Plug any site or anything you wish.
(Jason) You can get “Heavy Dreamer” at vanishingkids.bandcamp.com or at svartrecords.com Although it is 90% sold out! I hope they repress. Nik and I are writing the new album currently and hope to have that recorded over the winter. Nik and I are also working on a more traditional 80’s hard rock EP under the name Diati. Also I wrote a song on the new Thor album “Hammer Of Justice.” The song is called “Wotan”. I played guitar, Nikki did back up vocals and our drummer Hart played drums, bass and recorded it.