Vital Vinyl: Guitarist Michael Repasch-Nieves of Junius Talks New EP + Upcoming Album
Following the success of their second studio album, 'Reports from the Threshold of Death,' Boston's Junius decided to release an eight-track EP rather than another full-length record. Stacked with four songs and four eerie interludes, 'Days of the Fallen Sun' proves that the band can break new ground no matter the record's length.
Guitarist and founding member Michael Repasch-Nieves recently spent some time with Loudwire and chatted about 'Days of the Fallen Sun,' including why the band decided to go the EP route. He even dives into the vinyl experience surrounding the release, from the story behind the killer artwork to his own personal feelings toward the format.
Junius have been around since 2003. What did the beginning of the band look like?
Joseph [Martinez, vocals] and Dana [Filloon, drums] had been playing in another band in Boston for awhile. They met randomly and were playing with some friends of mine at a basement show. I went to see my friends and happened to catch them. What they were doing was totally in the vein of what I was doing at the time. We met, exchanged information and stayed in touch. They needed another guitarist eventually so I started playing with them. When we started actually writing music together, we started Junius with a new bass player and kind of started from scratch. That’s how it began.
You, Joe and Dana have been the three constants in the band. Is it a weird feeling to have shuffled through several bass players?
It was weird back when we were going through a lot of them. Joel [Munguia] has been in the band since 2006 and I can’t imagine us without him at this point. We’ve settled in and found our dynamic as a unit. There was definitely a while where we worked with a few different people. Some were good in some ways, some were good in other ways, touring, writing, creativity. It was tough. There’s always a lot of personalities, it’s really a crazy thing to have four guys who have to spend more time with each other than perhaps anyone else in their lives. In the past 10 years, we’ve spent more time in vans and rooms together than anybody else that I know. You really have to get the right combination of people. Somehow it’s worked out.
And now 10 years later, 'Days of the Fallen Sun' is released. The EP shows obvious signs of Junius' progression. But, even with your growth, the album is considered a prequel to 2009’s 'The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist.'
Essentially, it’s a prequel in concept. We had the ‘Martyrdom’ album which was about the life of Immanuel Velikovsky. Joseph, who writes all the lyrics, established a narrative for that album that told a story. It made more sense to focus on Immanuel Velikovsky's life and not distract it with theories and other aspects of his research and work. We had these other concepts that we didn’t explore as fully in that album. So we always had the idea to go back and revisit those other themes and look at those fascinating concepts and look at this prehistorical society that is faced with catastrophe and collapses and how the people would handle it. Some of these songs and song ideas had been floating around since 2009, but they just didn’t fit on the album so we put them on the shelf until recently.
What's the reception been like?
It seems like it’s been really good. We’ve got a lot of positive response. I think the biggest complaint that I’ve heard from reviewers is that it’s not long enough, that it’s only an EP. It’s funny when you read a review and they have nothing else bad to say. It’s like we got docked points because it’s not a full-length. That seems strange. I like the idea of presenting music in the EP form. This is the third EP that we’ve done. It’s a nice digestible amount of music. You can sit down and get immersed in it without getting too long-winded.
Well, I think it's safe to say that you put a lot of thought into the album, not just with the music but its presentation and concept. If that concept is satisfied by an EP, then so be it, right?
When I listen to music, there are a lot of albums that I don’t want to own on vinyl because I don’t think of them as actual albums. The digital age has sort of spoiled me, but there are some great albums out there that honestly have a lot of filler. Vinyl tests that. It’s a lot harder to go through and skip songs here and there. You have to make a strong album that can be listened to from beginning to end. There are fewer albums like that than not. We’ve always tried to present things conceptually complete and don’t want to put out an album that is full of filler songs or songs that don’t make sense. It has to be completely realized from beginning to end if we want to put our name on it.
It’s obvious that vinyl is important to you and the band. 'Days of the Fallen Sun' is available in limited runs on black vinyl and a really cool bone color wax through Prosthetic Records. In today's day and age of digital distribution, why do you spend time and money on releasing new music on vinyl?
At this point, for us it’s not much more effort to release it on vinyl. I mean, you could just release it digitally, but for me, it’s my preferred format. It’s the way I like to listen to music. It’s something that wasn’t the case 10 years ago when we started. Things changed a few years into us being a band. When we’d go out on tour we started seeing bands selling 7-inches and records at shows. We realized this is something we should be doing as well. For me, as a visual person, I layout all of our albums and I've done the artwork for several of them. There’s nothing more awesome than opening up a gatefold or having art presented on a 12-inch jacked and on inserts. It’s the largest way you can present it and bring people into your world.
Then, obviously the act of listening to music on vinyl is something beautiful and ritualistic to me. You pull the record from your shelf, put it on your turntable and sit down on your couch or in front of your speakers. No matter what, there’s an intention to it. It feels very ritualistic, not absentmindedly putting music on in the background while surfing the web. Even the act of flipping the record over is part of that ritual. I like the idea of breaking an album into chapters. When we started working with vinyl, we decided to limit ourselves to the limitations of vinyl. The perfect amount of time to listen to a record, for me, hovers around 40 minutes. That’s a good amount of time to digest it and you should be able to present all of your ideas in that time. Vinyl has this built-in limitation of how long you have to record. You have to fit everything onto two sides. It’s a limitation, sure, but it’s one I embrace. It forces you to think about how you’re presenting things.
You mentioned the artwork. What's the story behind the cover art for 'Days of the Fallen Sun'?
This artist, he’s a Spanish artist who now lives in Argentina, Adrian Brouchy, works under the name of Coven Illustación. He got in touch with us some time back as a fan of our music and suggested us working together. I loved his style, he’s an amazing illustrator. He did a piece for us a couple of years ago and when it came time to do this EP I wanted to bring him in. Even before we were finished recording, I was sending him the concepts, lyrics and bouncing things off of him, explaining our intentions and what we wanted to do. He started drafting ideas and I loved what he was working on. As we finished the music, I kept sending him more and he flushed the design out even further. What he did was beautiful. We let him do his thing. He knew the concepts and he put his own spin on it with these figures and the esoteric symbols in there. If you look through it, there’s a lot to digest. We let him wander with that and couldn’t be happier with the results.
It really stands out. Not just the art, but the music as well - they both complement each other so well. What's the future look like for Junius?
We’ve start working on another album. We haven’t lived together in the same city since 2006 or something like that, so that has a lot to do with the length of time between our releases. We work on things when we can work on things. We send our ideas back and forth and they develop slowly. Once things get to a certain place, we meet up together and work on them. Joseph has a concept for the next album and has written a lot of foundations and ideas for it. We’re all working individually on it right now. We don’t have an exact schedule but always try to kick our own asses to keep things going. But, real life gets in the way and we don’t like to rush things and compromise on the quality. We are working on it, though, all of that being said. If all goes as planned, hopefully we’ll be recording it later this year. I can’t promise anything. [Laughs] But, the intention is there and so is the foundation.
Junius' 'Days of the Fallen Sun' is out now via Prosthetic Records. Get your hands on the vinyl edition here.
Junius, 'Days of the Fallen Sun'