UNLEASH THE ARCHERS Interview: BRITTNEY SLAYES Dives Into the Abyss
Brittney Slayes discusses new album Abyss
What a treat. Unleash the Archers have once again knocked it out of the metal park with its newest album Abyss. It will soon be released, August 21st to be precise, and it is a powerhouse record full of incredible storytelling and phenomenal instrumental work. I was full of wonder, eargasms, and chills as I dived head on into the album and got completely lost in its grasp. Unleash the Archers fans are in for something incredibly special.
From the enchanted land of Victoria, B.C., vocalist Brittney Slayes and drummer Scott Buchanan built Unleash the Archers as a power metal phenom with fantastical lyrics. Along the way a few band members came and went, but the UTA’s steady line-up since 2014 consists of Slayes and Buchanan along with guitar wizards Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley. Unleash the Archers have paved a path into the hearts of many and have become a big name in the world metal scene. I recently had the pleasure to talk with Slayes about Abyss and navigating 2020.
There is so much to unpack here with Abyss!
“I know, sorry about that. *laughs*
I absolutely love this album. It gave me chills when I read the end, and I know we can’t say much since it is not out yet, but it is a very amazing conclusion thus far.
“Well, thank you.”
Is “Legacy” the song that introduces the grandson of the Matriarch?
“It is yes.”
“Legacy” is a very different sounding song than the rest of the album, in the best way, almost like a video game. Is there a reason you had that song as a different soundscape?
“Well it is in a different voice, so we wanted it to stand out just so you could kind of tell it was no longer the Immortal speaking in one part, and in the other. When I sent the chapter/track breakdown to Andrew he had that riff brewing around in his mind and he said ‘you know, I think this would really work for the song from the grandson’s point of view. It is kind of different though, and I want to know if you think it will work with the record’.
It was one of the earlier songs that we wrote, so we embraced it. We knew it was going to sound a little bit different, but we did our best to make sure the songs on either side of it fit really well and made it so it didn’t stand out too much, but still it is very different. We loved it the second Andrew sent it to us and we said absolutely, we can make this fit, we want the grandson’s voice to be a little different anyway, and the whole way it was written was quite different. There is no chorus. It’s just telling a big story throughout so you are kind of just sitting down with the grandson and he is saying, okay, this is who I am and what I have been doing. A hello, welcome to me kind of thing. We thought it worked really well.”
You will be dropping a few more videos, which ones are you planning on releasing?
“We have plans for two more, maybe three. ‘Legacy’ will definitely be one because it has become a favorite both of the band and of the whole team at Napalm Records and our manager and the friends that I have shown. They all say we have to do a video for it. Then we are going to do–and I am not sure when this is coming out–but we have an idea for ‘Faster Than Light,’ but that one will be a bit of a silly one. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so we are going to have a good time.” *laughs*
That’s the Canadian way.
So you are doing a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with a few people who pre-order your album, how did that come about?
“Over the years, I have had many people reach out that are D&Ders and say they listen to our album while they play or asking for details and backstory kind of things. Like names of characters, just because they want to build their own campaign around our 2017 release Apex. So, we have a lot of D&D players who like our tunes and I thought I would like to do something special for them. So, I am writing an adventure guide for a one-day campaign. So, you can hang out with your friends for one night and go through this. It is all going to be based on Abyss and when I told Napalm about that when we were brainstorming fun things to do, kind of like press for the record, one of the girls is a total nerd just like me and she said ‘OMG, let’s do a campaign for people! If you pre-order you get entered automatically and we can do a whole online stream with five lucky winners’, and said ‘that’s a great idea.’ We are really excited, I think it is going to be great. I mean, I am going to write to the best of my ability, I have never written an adventure guide before, so I have no idea what I am doing, but I will give it my best shot.”
Apex and Abyss are kind of an adventure guide on their own, people can fight the sons and then the matriarch can be the big bad guy.
“Sure, absolutely. I am looking forward to see how I can work it out. I am about a third of the way through it right now. I have been looking at others and referencing others that are out there just to see if I can give it a good outline then I will let the DM take it from there.”
So you have someone else who will be DMing it?
“Yeah, because I want to play and be a part of everyone and all the fans and have the same experience as them, So, I have a friend that is going to DM for us.”
Do you already have a character that you have created for it?
“I have a human paladin, but I might make something special for this or I don’t know, I am not too sure yet.”
You kind of have to get creative during times like these since you are not able to tour which is a big part of not only getting your name even more out there but also making money. I feel like you guys have done a good job at that. It is kind of cool, even though you can’t tour with it, but that you have a release coming out during this time. During these difficult times it is so refreshing to have new music coming out, especially for everyone that is struggling.
“Yeah, it was a tough decision. When everything first got shut down we were kind of still in the planning stages where we had a date locked in with Napalm Records and they were saying ‘we can’t do this, we need to push it back’. So, it got pushed back a month, it was originally supposed to come out in July, so they scheduled it for August 21st to see how things go. A couple of weeks later they suggested pushing it back again. I said, you know what, I don’t think we should. I think we should see how it goes, because I know I am thirsty for new music. I am constantly on Spotify looking for something new and exciting. I think this might be a great time to release a new album because people don’t have anything to do, there is no way to go to a show or anything, so at least give them a little something. Napalm said okay, but they were still very trepidatious. They ended up going along with it and I am very glad. We have had a lot of people who have said ‘thank you so much for giving us something to look forward to in 2020’.” *laughs*
Yeah. It’s been a year. Music is something I think helps us all. How are you staying positive right now through all this?
“I’m having ups and downs, just like everything. Twitch has really helped. I have been really enjoying that platform. It is fun to get to hang with everybody, and not just streaming, but being on other streams and chatting with everyone. Meeting new people and just watching everyone else around the world play music and whatever it is they happen to do on their stream, play video games, so that has actually been a really kind of point of light in this whole dark pit of despair in the world right now. That is probably the biggest thing, but I do have moments of ‘what’s the point of everything?’ You just have to let it wash over you and you come out of it ready to rock again. Having all this stuff to do for the record really snaps you out of it really quickly too. I will have one of those days where I sit on the couch and do nothing, then I get an email from Napalm that will say, ‘Brittney this thing is due’, and I will say ‘oh right!’ Then I am back to my usual multitasking self that has to get a million different things done. Its been good to have something like this to focus on. Without this, I don’t know if I would make it through it.
I appreciate the transparency because I think many people are feeling that way. It is a collective feeling and it doesn’t matter who you are, we are all feeling it. I am sure your fans appreciate your honestly and sincerity.
Tying Apex and Abyss together into a graphic novel is something you have been working on. Do you know when you will have it completed?
“No. I am hoping that I can fully immerse myself in it this fall, because any other time we would have been touring, so because we can’t, we are going to release the album on the 21st, then hopefully I will have some time to work on the graphic novel. It would be nice to have it come out sometime next year, but there is so much about it that I still have yet to discover like where to get it printed, distribution, and all that. I am just going to work on getting it written this fall then go from there.”
What made you decide to do this?
“There is so much behind the story that we can’t say in music really. I do my best to portray everything, but I don’t like being super literal with my lyrics. I like to leave it open to interpretation as well, because I feel like music is something that is important. If you can’t find your own meaning in a song, it can sometimes lose its way a little bit. I like people to be able to hear the story, and understand what is going on, but I also try to write it in a way that the song can mean something else to them if that is what they need right now. In that aspect, it is difficult to give away the details, so there is a lot going on that I want people to know about. Also, I would love for them to be able to see it from my point of view and see how I see the world and how I see the Matriarch and the Immortal.”
Yeah you have two totally different landscapes in the two different albums, so I am sure the animation of that would be really cool for fans to see.
There is a big battle in one of the songs, “The Wind that Shapes the Land”. It is worded so well, you can picture it.
“Yeah, it is a fine line to walk for sure. There are some concept albums out there, in particular, I am a really big fan of Iced Earth, and they have written some crazy good concept albums, but there have been some where you are literally speaking back and for to each other, I just can’t *laughs,* but they are some of their most popular records. Whose to say? It’s just my opinion. I just can’t get into songs like that, so I try to walk that line as carefully as I can. I love singing that song, it is one of my favorite songs. We have been jamming it quite a bit. I am totally lost in the world when I sing that. I am not even there. I am not in the jam spot. I am on some long, abandoned planet ready to do battle. Its awesome.”
There is a dynamic shift in the middle. Is it difficult to switch characters since you do play multiple characters?
“No, not really, I tried as much as possible to “Carry the Flame”. I knew I had to have Andrew in there to be the grandson just because it is a duet and it goes back and forth,and I thought it would be so much better portrayed that way. Then I love using Grant as the Matriarch, and having her true voice come through. I try to use the assets that I have as much as possible, but I am so into the mindset of the characters that I don’t feel any difficulty at all. I know their motivations so well and have been living them for so long. It is almost like Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, where all the characters are talking at him all the time and he is trying to figure them out. It totally feels like that, because you have to get to know the characters so well to truly write from their point of view. So, it is almost as if they are standing in the room with you, I totally understood where he was coming from.”
That is cool to understand how this develops because I think people have a difficult time understanding how the process would work, so that is a great way to explain it.
There are additional synthesizers in Abyss, was this something you wanted to evolve to, or did it work with the story-line and landscape?
“We are all really big synth wave fans actually, so when we started writing the record, we all were unanimous that we were going to add synth to this record. Also, because it was a celestial landscape, we figured it would really work with everything we were doing so it wasn’t really far-fetched for us at all. In fact, some of the parts were written around the synth part. Andy would send guitar riffs to us, then for other songs he would send the synth part and say ‘what do you think of this?’ ‘Through Stars’ absolutely started with the synths, which is really interesting because it’s not the most prominent thing in the song where as it kind of was for us, but we didn’t want the synth to be on the top of the mix pile. We wanted it to be prominent, but not the main thing. So, its really not even the focal point of that track, which is kind of how it was written. We just wanted to add another layer. We wanted to make Apex and Abyss different from one another. We wanted you to feel transported to a new place. We felt like the synth would kind of do that job for us.”
That’s cool that you were able to use the soundscape differently since the landscape is also different. I also feel there was a bit more progressive guitar sounds in there as well.
“It is hard sometimes to tell because a lot of times Andy will play the synths part with the guitar. Sometimes it started as a synth and he would say, ‘oh, but I have to play that on the guitar too, it’s just too cool.’ Or started as guitar and then he would say, ‘oh, but I need to add synth to that, it will sound really sweet with synth behind it.’ So, they kind of move throughout one another quite a bit on the record.”
Kind of compliment each other a little bit. Who did you have playing bass on this album?
“We had Ben Arscott, a friend of ours from our home town Victoria record on this one. He plays in a few projects with Andrew right now and he is a really really great bass player, and we were excited to have him on board.”
I have been to Victoria and it is a magical place.
“It is. It’s kind of a land out of time almost. We call it island time, because it just all slows down over there.”
You guys recently recorded a live recording for a European show. Are you planning on doing another live show?
“Yeah, the European one just aired and it was interesting playing to a camera, but it was a lot of fun. We are going to do our own streaming. We should be announcing when in the next couple of days. It will be live from one of the local venues here in Vancouver. It will be available for 24 hours and you can log in and buy a ticket then watch whatever time works for you and it will be streaming whenever you like.”
Where can people go to support Unleash the Archers during these trying times? We need the music to keep going!
Indiemerch. Bandcamp. Buying our older albums on Bandcamp is better because the new stuff goes to Napalm and they dish out the royalties once a month. Those are the big ones, but obviously the usual; just stream on Spotify or iTunes or wherever and we will see it eventually. Everything helps. I am not the kind of person that is going to tell you that streaming is bad and we don’t get enough of the money or anything like that. It is just the way of the world and it is what it is, but Indiemerch store is definitely our main hub for everything and that is where we post all of our exclusive stuff all the Bo Bradshaw artwork and everything.”
Your bundles went crazy fast!
“Yeah I know, it was amazing. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst, so it blew our minds how awesome our fans are. We are so excited for this release. It is going to be great.”
To be completely random as we near the end of the interview, what is one of your favorite books?
“Favorite of all time is probably The Black Company series by Glenn Cook. there is something like 12 books, so start reading now *laughs* Dune of course by Frank Herbert, and there are so many. I am reading The Witcher stuff right now, in the middle of book two.”
Are you still doing your book club?
“Yes. We are doing Witcher. It is kind of a little slow going because I do have so much to do right now and very little time to read unfortunately. We will be doing another bookclub stream on Twitch and then pick the next book and go from there.”
Abyss has so many incredible avenues and there are many things that can be asked and said about the album. Is there anything you would like to add?
“Thanks for your time and thanks for listening to the record and thanks for your support. Come hang out with us on Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitch. Hopefully you all like the record.”
Make sure you check out all the social media accounts to keep up on what UTA is doing, they seem to have many tricks up their sleeves this year. Hurry to Indiemerch and Bandcamp to get your pre-orders in for Abyss and get lost in the incredible music and dynamic story Slayes has created. Support these artists and the music!! 2020 needs all the music to help us navigate through this “brave new world.”
Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes, Slayes.