Monday, March 9, 2015

Star Grazer

A chat with SLC's Atmospheric Metal band

Posted By on March 9, 2015, 9:00 AM

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Even though we've barely seen snow in the past three months, the weather has been so bitterly cold, it's killed whatever drive I had to leave my house and check out shows during this season. It's such a rarity for me to feel like leaving the house is a chore, but that's what poor air and unreasonable 20-degree temperatures will do to a person. Thankfully the weather is easing up as we pass through March, so I was able to get out and see Top Dead Celebrity's album release show at Bar Deluxe this past Friday! In the process of attending, I decided to interview the awesome opening band, Star Grazer, as well as snap some pictures of the epic performance.

Star Grazer (Scott Wasilewski, Levi Hanna & Jamison Garrido)
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Star Grazer on Facebook

Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Levi:
I'm Levi and I play guitar and do vocals.

Jamison: I'm Jamison. I hit circles with sticks and make ridiculous faces.

Scott: I'm Scott and I also do vocals. You can tell me apart from Levi because my guitar is secretly a cello.

Gavin: When did you take an interest in music and what were your favorite acts growing up?

Levi:
I first started getting into music at around the age of 12 or so and started playing guitar and bass a few years later. Metallica was the first band that I really got into and Cliff Burton was the reason I wanted to play bass. My musical tastes changed to Tool, Deftones and System of a Down early on in high school. Then changed again to Cave In, Isis and Neurosis by the time I graduated.

Jamison: When I was 5 years old my brother introduced me to Metallica. They were the band that really made me fall in love with music. As I grew older I found bands like System Of A Down, Tool, Mastodon and countless other bands that pushed me further into the depths of heavy music. I quickly grew into a music nerd and still listen to a lot of those bands today. I've even been known to jam St. Anger from time to time!

Scott: I think I’ve always been interested in music. I don’t remember the first year or so but after that my strongest memories are all wrapped up in music: seeing Rick Charette, buying Abba tapes, discovering old compositions of mine that involved banging on my dad's old guitar with pencil erasers (the piece was called “Bang, Bang”). As for the acts that influenced me, I remember really liking The Doors, Meatloaf, Bruce Springsteen, Weird Al and whatever pop songs came on the radio from Hansen to Ace of Base. Then I became a teenager and found out that one could be either cool or uncool and everything changed for a while.

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Gavin: What was it like for each of you breaking into the local music scene?

Levi:
I have been actively going to shows since I moved back to SLC in 2008, but Huldra didn't start playing shows until 2010 and that was when I more or less broke into the local scene. It was pretty strange and surreal for me to start playing shows not only with the local bands that I knew and admired, but also the touring bands that I had listened to for years as well.

Jamison: I grew up going to rock and metal shows. It’s just what I did (still do) for fun. I started playing in bands in high school and began making friends with other musicians in the valley. The Salt Lake City scene has been a staple in my life ever since.

Scott: I moved to Salt Lake like, five years ago, and pretty much immediately joined Huldra. It was a pretty rad situation cause none of us had any clue what we were doing, whatsoever. We played two shows outdoors and rented a music hall once, and I remember being excited beyond belief for each one. In fact, we actually played one of our first shows with SubRosa at the Pickle Factory. After that, getting shows and meeting people came way easier. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re courteous, enthusiastic, you’ve bathed and you show an interest, breaking into the music scene here isn’t that hard.

Gavin: How did each of you eventually meet and become friends?

Levi:
Scott and I met and became friends when he joined Huldra, and Jamison when he filled in on drums for a Huldra show because his older brother, who is our normal drummer. Though it would be better to go see Foo Fighters than play a show.

Jamison: When I was 18, I snuck into a bar to fill in on drums for Huldra. I don't remember much about that show, but I must not have done too bad because they have let me hang around ever since.

Scott: Matt from Huldra/Visigoth and I jammed once or twice as we were both languishing in Park City for a while, and he asked me to come play keys with his new band, to see how it worked. That band was Huldra and I guess it worked because that was like 5+ years ago. Our musical relationship has lasted longer than college educations, marriages, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, etc.

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Gavin: When did you come together to form Star Grazer?

Levi:
We started jamming in late 2013. Maybe October or November. We started Star Grazer because we wanted to play in a "Brown Note" band.

Jamison: We first started jamming together in the fall of 2013. I had been listening to a lot of bands like Gojira and Black Sheep Wall. I really wanted to start a project that not only sounded heavier than anything I was involved with at the time, but also reflected the state that I was in as a person.

Scott: I think we were all at a Pilot This Plane Down/Jetty/whatever they call themselves now, and felt pretty inspired by it. It was significantly heavier and scarier than their previous incarnations and we thought “Hey, that’s imitable.”

Gavin: What was the biggest influence on writing Atmospheric Metal music?

Levi:
Atmospheric Metal is just what clicks with me on an emotional level. That was why I started Huldra and joined SubRosa. The reason I started Star Grazer was because I was writing some material at the time that just didn't fit in with Huldra's style because it was a bit too fast or Black Metal-ish and I wanted a way to play it live.

Jamison: Sweet lady Mary Jane.

Scott: I guess maybe it’s the desire to be seen as whole people. Emotions are gross but everyone has them, and with all the hills and valleys involved in our music we get a chance to express ourselves in multiple ways that playing different, more focused styles of music.

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Gavin: Obviously being a metal band with a cello sets you apart from a lot of other acts. How has it been working with other bands an incorporating your sound into more traditional metal groups?

Levi:
It hasn't really been an issue and we've been we received I think. There are also a few other bands locally adding strings to Metal like SubRosa and Making Fuck, so people here are used to experimentation like that.

Jamison: At the end of the day we are still a heavy band. The cello is just another tool that we chose to use when creating these songs. Most people have been very embracing of it.

Scott: The heaviest most evocative music has strings! Liszt’s Totentanz, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. It’s a timeless sound that I’m working my hardest on destroying with effects pedals and screaming.

Gavin: With that kind of dynamic, how do you approach a metal song when writing it?

Levi:
We look at Scott's cello as a "lead guitar" in the band so to speak, so I only focus on writing the rhythm parts and let Scott come up with the leads/melodies.

Jamison: Generally someone will come into practice with a riff or a cool drum beat and we will jam on that idea as a unit until someone comes up with something for the next part. Scott is really good at coming up with different melodies to lay on top of the foundation that Levi and I lay down.

Scott: I just show up hoping to get enough experience points to make it to the next level, by hitting the right notes at the right time.

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Gavin: What's it been like playing around town for the past year and a half and gaining a following?

Levi:
It's been fun. We've been well received so far and having made friends and contacts from other bands that we've played in before, it hasn't been that hard to hop on shows or promote ourselves.

Jamison: I love playing live with these guys. To me, the essence of what Star Grazer is comes out when we are on stage. We are so fortunate to have so many friends that not only come out to support us, but seem to genuinely enjoy the music that we play.

Scott: It’s been fun, people have taken cool photos of me that I can use as my profile picture on facebook. Also, we got to play with Year of No Light and a slew of other incredible bands.

Gavin: At the moment you're recording in the studio, what's the progress on your album?

Levi:
We had a few setbacks that pushed the recording back a bit, but the recording itself is about 95% done. We just need to finish up a few last things then move onto editing, mixing and mastering.

Jamison: Album sounds good so far. I can't wait to listen to it in my car.

Scott: I think we’ve secured a phenomenal artist to do the artwork and are chugging away on final touches. No firm release date, nor even a soft one, but it will come out this year and it’ll be the best album we’ve ever put out.

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Gavin: Do you have any plans to tour when summer comes around or sticking to home?

Levi:
We don't have any solid plans yet, but we would like to get out of town on a quick tour if possible, but for sure we will be playing more shows locally.

Jamison: I want to be on the road. We are very focused on the completion of this album so we have not made any touring plans yet. But I would love to have the opportunity to play for people all around the world.

Scott: I could use a vacation and I like to play music so I’ll be on tour sometime this summer.

Gavin: What's your take on the way the local music scene currently is?

Levi:
We have some amazing bands here and most people seem to get along well. Getting people out to shows can be a bit hit and miss, but it's always a good time to play or go to shows here.

Jamison: Shows are getting stronger and stronger. In the past, it has always been the only people that you could get to come out to shows were your friends in other bands. A lot of that still holds true, but I still see tons of new faces at every show I go to.

Scott: Hard work is always respected in music, and the thing we have going for us is some really passionate, hardworking people, like Jesse and Scott at Soma, Kaci at Bar Deluxe, Jarom at Exigent, and Alana and Adam at Diabolical Records. If it weren’t for the thankless and tireless work of these people and numerous others, we wouldn’t have it so good. It’s absolutely not like voting, in that one person does really make a difference, and we’ve got a whole bunch of people really trying to make a difference here. The musicians are getting better, the drinks are colder, the touring bands are sexier, the posters are pieces of art, and I’m lucky enough to call most my friends.

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Gavin: Aside yourselves, who are some of your favorite bands in Utah today?

Levi:
There are so many great local bands right now. I know I will forget a ton, but my current favorites are Cult Leader, Die Off, Hard Men, Making Fuck and The Ditch & The Delta.

Jamison: There are so many incredible bands in this state! The Ditch & The Delta are quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Hard Men are friends of ours that have a sound that is all their own. Cult Leader are phenomenal musicians and even better human beings. Oxcross is always entertaining. I could go on for a while.

Scott: All of them! Die Off, Gravecode Nebula, Hard Men, Baby Gurl, Exes, Foster Body, Braeyden Jae, Artistic Violence, Mananero, anything with Dave Payne, Mad Max and the Wild Ones, Dak Borg, I could go on. How much time do you have?

Gavin: What can we expect from the band over the rest of the year?

Levi:
Our main goal this year is to release our album, but we will also be playing more shows and working on new material.

Jamison: Once the album is taken care of, the logical next step would be to take this show on the road. We tend to get bored easily so the writing process never really ends. We already have a few songs and ideas for songs for the next record.

Scott: Fart jokes and trying our hardest to be on time.

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