Virtuoso trio Animals As Leaders recently dropped their latest record, The Joy Of Motion, and man, is it an explosion of an album! I caught up with guitarist Javier Reyes while the band was on tour, which debuted songs from the brand spanking new recording. Enjoy!

We are very excited about the new album, The Joy Of Motion, and to be hearing some of the songs played on the tour. What are you most thrilled for or what is your favorite part about this upcoming album?
Reyes: This album came out a lot better than we were expecting it to. We knew we wanted to have stuff similar to the same album but we weren’t sure of the direction that it would take – we wanted to show that we had matured from our previous albums too. We thought having Matt (Garstka, drummer) would help in making the album sound different. The songs we’ve released and played live are cool, but they’re not representative of the whole album, so at this point, I’m just waiting for people to hear the album and curious to see what they think.

This album will be the first to feature Matt on drums. What has it been like playing with Matt, to have him actually be on the album as opposed to just on tour? How does he differ from Navene in terms of style and interaction with you and Tosin onstage or on the record?
Reyes: Well he’s a whole different person. He’s an extremely gifted drummer who has an amazing rhythmic vocabulary – it’s pretty awesome. He was also sort of the “glue” for all our songs; when we first demo’d the songs, we did some songs with Misha (Mansoor), with Diego (Farias) of Volumes, and we did some songs on our own but they all kind of had different sounds. So when we had Matt playing, he kinda just helped bring everything together. Another difference is the synth stuff – our old drummer Navene did a lot of that. As far as hanging out with Matt, he’s a whole different person. Navene is… Navene.

(Laughs) I think it’s great that he still continues to be featured on the tour as an opening act, even if he’s not in the band anymore.
Reyes: Yeah, we’re all still pretty good friends and we help each other out.

Check out the song “Physical Education”

It’s quite unconventional to be in a three-piece instrumental band comprising two eight-stringed guitarists and a drummer. What’s your favorite thing about being in what most people would consider an unconventional band?
Reyes: Well for one, it helps us stand out, at this point. Making decisions is a lot easier too, at least for us. There’s only three of us, there’s only three opinions. For the most part, everyone kinda wants the same thing too, which is nice – I think having even an extra member would make it that much more difficult. The pay too, definitely a good thing.

Yeah, much better than having it split between six or ten people!
Reyes: Yeah and it’s really great that it ended up working out this way, because we never knew how far it would go, never intended for it to be like this specifically, a three-piece band, two eight-string guitarists; it just became that.

Tell us what it was like working with Misha Mansoor again for this album, Adam Getgood (Periphery), Diego Farias (Volumes), and Navene Koperweis.
Reyes: Tosin worked with Misha out in DC while Matt and I were here, so I didn’t work too much with Misha – we all communicate though, sort of like a big circle. But I got to work closely with Nolly (Adam “Nolly” Getgood) and he was great. He’s an extremely gifted producer. He’s even going to produce the new Periphery album because of his skills as a producer and an engineer.

What is the writing process for such complex music? I guess Misha plays a big role in the production but who typically initiates a track? Do you guys write pieces that you then fuse together?
Reyes: Most of the stuff starts from Tosin. I will add parts and melodies here and there. On this album, The Joy Of Motion, there were a couple of songs where I helped out with the writing as well but the stuff usually starts with the guitar part, clean guitar, with a thumping pattern, and then we add from there. Working with Misha and Diego, they’re great composers, they knew how to arrange music, so they definitely added that extra flavor to it.

You guys have such interesting audio effects, which Navene provides on synths. Who takes care of the visual effects? I noticed your videos have distinct visuals, recurring “swirly” themes, sometimes looking like something right out of Alien Resurrection.
Reyes: That would be our visual guy, Jason Wynne. He’s the guy who does our album covers, a lot of our t-shirts… He also did the CGI for our CAFO video. He’s been part of the crew since the beginning, and he just has this aesthetic that works so well with the band.

Yes, very iconic indeed.
Reyes: Exactly. We’re just fortunate to have him working with us, it’s really helped us with our unique and abstract ideas for the band.

As far as writing instrumental music goes, what is the thought process that accompanies it? Do you have a theme in mind that ends up being “open to interpretation” for listeners just because there are no lyrics?
Reyes: No, not really. It’s mostly based on… what sounds good, really, or Tosin and I will be working on some exercise patterns – we’d be working on a technique, and from there a specific part becomes an exercise and that becomes a song.

Who comes up with the album and track titles? Weightless had very “earthy” peaceful titles – “Earth Departure”, “New Eden”, “Somnarium”… which isn’t even a word but I guess that’s where you go when you sleep.
Reyes: Tosin for the album titles, and for me, I do come up with some song titles as well. I try to feel out what the song makes me feel and derive something from that. Tosin definitely gets some of his influences from books (e.g. Song of Solomon).

Check out the song “Tooth and Claw”

It’s very interesting indeed because especially with your band name and the reference, I never knew if any of the song titles were an ode to biocentrism or anything like that.
Reyes: No, there’s a general awareness but we’re not activists or anything. It’s more about the music. And of course we like cool names.

(Laughs) What are your influences as a guitarist? Do you go to a specific artist or genre when you need inspiration?
Reyes: For me, I try to think of singers, and how they come up with vocal melodies. I try to incorporate that into guitar. All sorts of things, really – exercise patterns, techniques, different ways to express a certain type of phrasing or melody.

That’s awesome, because where in most bands, vocals seem to carry the music, in this band, it’s obvious that vocals would be just another instrument – the music doesn’t seem to be *missing* vocals or anything. Culturally, metal is still predominantly a white, male genre, both performers and audience-wise, at least here in the US. With you and Tosin kind of representing the minorities as well, what do you think about the cultural movement of metal and where you stand in that?
Reyes: Hmm… I dunno, I mean I grew up listening to metal. Maybe there has been a level of white male dominance but I think that’s just a matter of just how the history of metal in the US has evolved. I feel like now, in any major city, it’s pretty diverse. As well as when I travel to other places outside the US – it’s extremely diverse. There are extreme metal fans all over South America, all over India, all over other parts of Asia, Australia… It’s cool to be a minority in the US but in the big scheme of things, it’s still all about the music.

Any other projects you’re working on besides the new album?
Reyes: I’ll probably wanna do another Mestis album, and yeah, that’s about it.

Has the unfortunate incident with the Boston Police Department left any lasting effect on you?
Reyes: Nope!