Vital Vinyl: Biblical Vocalist Nick Sewell Discusses New Album ‘Monsoon Season’
What would the Foo Fighters sound like if they dropped acid and traveled back in time about 40 years? As you think about that killer scenario, you can actually get a realistic idea of the answer by turning your ears toward Canada’s Biblical. With the release of their debut full-length, ‘Monsoon Season,’ Biblical explore several different genres while maintaining a consistently unique sound.
While the album is available in the traditional CD format, the best way to listen to the sounds of Biblical is via your turntable if for no other reason than to experience the inspiring attention to detail the band put into the pressing.
To discuss that attention to detail, we caught up with Biblical frontman Nick Sewell, who talks about the band’s origins, recording ‘Monsoon Season’ and his own personal passion for vinyl.
Takes us back to the origins of the band.
We started in 2010. We sort of got together as friends to drink beer and jam, stuff like that. Things progressed pretty naturally and we started working on songs and playing shows. We’ve all been in bands before, so we had connections with other acts like Death from Above 1979, so they had us do some shows with them. It’s been a gradual build. We released a 10-inch EP in 2011. We recorded it ourselves. When it came time for ‘Monsoon Season,’ we wanted to do something a little grander. Again, we recorded it all ourselves. It’s got a quirkiness to it that you wouldn’t find if we did it another way, you know, more traditionally.
So when you say you recorded it yourselves, what do you mean exactly?
We did the drums in a proper studio in Toronto, but everything else we really did ourselves. We have a crazy garage rehearsal space, literally in the back of a house. There’s no heat and not the greatest soundproofing. We brought a mobile rig and just worked on it in our space. One of the guitar players in our band, Andy [Scott], he works in a guitar store that has a jam space. So we’d play sometimes there after-hours and just pulled in different combos and figured out what sounded cool. [Laughs] We really did it ourselves.
When I listen to ‘Monsoon Season,’ I hear so much. I hear classic rock, I hear psychedelic rock. I even hear Queens of the Stone Age or Foo Fighters. Who influenced the music on this record?
One of the things I wish more bands would do is to look to other genres when you’re making music. So many times you get a contemporary band and they play stoner or doom rock and you ask them what their influences are, and it’s all stoner and doom rock bands. How are you going to cut through with your own voice if that’s all you’re doing? You’re just doing what someone else has done. We’re big music fans, all genres, you know, soul, rhythm and blues, certainly rock, certainly metal. We’re open to everything. We try to stir in flavors of it so it makes sense. We like a lot of surf, and I’ve always seen that as a natural crossover point with metal. You have the fast guitar, the tremolo picking, it’s sort of like Dick Dale, you know? So we’re like, let’s just do that! In broad strokes, even though we’re playing very 70s-style guitar rock, we try to mix in a lot of 60s flavors, sort of soundtrack, spacious reverb sounds.
What’s the reception been like in Canada?
It’s been good, certainly just being a smaller population in Canada, radio is a lot more conservative than the U.S. You guys have 10 times as many people as we do, so there’s a lot more room for people to explore and find their own niche. The radio scene here is really, really conservative and is dominated by all the same hits that you’d find in the U.S. But, we also have the CanCon legislation that says there has to be 30 percent Canadian content on the air. On the surface, it’s like, that’s great, there’s a space for Canadian artists. But, that just ends up being Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne and Bryan Adams. The heavyweights fly in and dominate.
Is there a strong camaraderie between fellow rock bands in Canada?
It’s tight. It’s such a smaller population, so for heavy bands, everybody is friends with everybody. One thing that I find amazing, as a guy who’s played in bands and toured, it’s actually a really small world. Even internationally, you run into the same people over and over and over again. You’ll be in some other city and you’ll run into someone who was a tour manager for a band years ago. It’s crazy, if you ask anybody in the band, they’ll say the same thing. There’s definitely a lot of camaraderie.
How does it feel to know you’ll be playing Heavy Montreal in August?
We’re blown away. If my 14-year-old self had known that I’d be on a poster with Metallica and Slayer – not that we’re sharing the stage with them or anything – just that my band would be on the same poster, I would’ve called bullsh-t. [Laughs]
For a rock and metal fan, that festival is almost too good to pass up. Have you toured much in the States?
We haven’t. We’re trying to figure that all out right now. Coming into the U.S. requires immigration, so we’re trying to get it all worked out. I used to play in a band called Illuminati, so we’ve played the states back in the day.
I think it’s safe to say that vinyl is important to the band. Your debut EP is a 10-inch and ‘Monsoon Season’ is not only pressed on black vinyl, but also a sickly hospital green. Why do you release your music on vinyl?
It says something about your commitment to the music. Everybody’s got a CD. Your uncle’s band has a CD. CDs almost don’t have any value. It comes down to two things: I think it says a lot about how we feel about our music that we want to put the time into pressing it, and I really love big art because I do all the design for the band. When you can hold it in your hand, the big art gets me really excited. There’s also something really nice about the ritual of listening to it. You have to have that break in the middle where you get up and turn it over. Instead of listening to it as a continuous playlist, you have that psychological break of what’s the first song on what side or what’s the last song before you have to flip it over. When you’re sequencing the record, you have to make those decisions for what is the first song you hear after you flip the record.
When you recorded ‘Monsoon Season,’ you actually took the act of flipping the record into account?
You also mentioned the artwork, which is obviously a huge aspect of the vinyl experience. What’s the story behind the cover for ‘Monsoon Season’?
We really like the 60s-vibe, and the jumping off point was we wanted to make something that sort of looked like a movie soundtrack, like a thriller, like a Hitchcock soundtrack. That’s where you get the big blocky graphics and that color palette. In terms of the actual graphic, it was actually inspired by the sound. I like to think of the two hands coming out as tidal waves and they represent the guitars opposing each other. The rough sea underneath is the rhythm section. That’s where it came from.
Is it a coincidence that the art on both your debut 10-inch and ‘Monsoon Season’ center around eyes?
It was intended. The two things that are on the 10-inch are eyes on the front and hands on the back. It’s like a theme, so we just carried it on to this release.
Personally, what’s vinyl mean to you?
I love vinyl, but I can’t boast that I have a massive collection. For the most part, I love vinyl, but I also love digital. I love having my phone with a massive library right there.
Well, it’s hard to take your turntable with you.
Exactly. What am I supposed to do? But I still buy vinyl. When I go out to buy records, I buy it on vinyl. In the past five years, when I buy a CD, I’d rip it onto my computer and then I’d never touch it again. With vinyl today, you get the record and a digital download.
What’s on the horizon for Biblical?
We recently played with Andrew WK in Montreal and had our hometown record release show in Toronto. We’re trying so hard to get down to the States, you know? We’re a weirdo band from Canada that’s brand new, so that comes with its own host of problems, trying to break through the competitive market. But, we’ve got some stuff in the works and hope to get down soon!
Get your hands on various formats – including vinyl – of Biblical’s ‘Monsoon Season’ right here via New Damage Records.
Biblical – ‘Monsoon Season’