Ukraine’s premier stoner metal band Stoned Jesus have brought us their fourth album, via Napalm Records, in the shape of Pilgrims – the recording dropped on September 7th and you can purchase a digital copy here. We sat down with vocalist, guitarist, and lyricist Igor Sydorenko to dig into the record and its genesis.
Being your fourth album, how do you feel Pilgrims compares to its predecessors?
Igor Sydorenko: It’s different, as any previous album is different from its neighbouring releases. Usually, it happens 50/50; some changes are quite natural and we don’t really notice them, some are deliberate.
The songs on Pilgrims feel slower and more like doom than on previous albums. Was this a deliberate choice or just how the songs came to be as you wrote them?
IS: I usually write a 90% ready song, and then all three of us are working on the rest. And when I’m writing I don’t really think about the genres, you know? I just want to evoke a certain feeling or mood and share my emotions through music and lyrics. Then, of course, we sorta name certain sections after some genres or even bands, but it’s not like I sit down to write a “doom” song. Music always comes first.
Get your appendages on “Hands Resist Him”, from Pilgrims.
What’s the story behind the lyrics on “Feel”? It seems like the narrator is exhausted with the state of the world!
IS: Hey, someone read the lyrics, huh? Actually, I appreciate this a lot, because not many people are even interested in lyrics when it comes to “genre” bands: “Oh, they’re probably singing about weed again.” This is definitely not the case with my lyrics in Stoned Jesus, especially on Pilgrims. See, the album is pretty much inspired by our relentless touring for the last three years, and it’s about the feelings you get – or rather, you lose – in the process. It’s like being disconnected all the time, not knowing where’s the real life – in a tour van or here, among regular people. “Feel” is a centerpiece of the whole thing. In fact, it’s the most important song of the album lyrically, so it’s all there. I’ve been numb for so long, I just wanna feel again.
Are the lyrics for “Excited” autobiographical to the band and how you all feel right now, or are they more of a statement on the nature of being a musician on tour?
IS: Ironically, right now I really wanna go on tour again and play all these new songs that we’ve been working on for the last coupla years! But yes, the lyrics were written when I was really, really tired from all the grind of touring. This is basically a collection of things people ask us after the shows, and some things are rather ridiculous, don’t you think? So the chorus, “just one hour against the twenty-three”, is a sort of reminder to myself why I’m even doing this. Because touring for a DIY band like ours can be very, very exhausting.
Pilgrims dropped on September 7th, 2018, via Napalm Records.
Might there ever be a move back to the more ambient and melodic kind of stoner rock you played on Seven Thunders Roar?
IS: I dunno, man. Again, I just write what I feel like writing. I lost my father 16 months ago, and it still hurts. And, of course, I still had to go on tour, to work on the songs, to communicate with labels, promoters, and fans… No wonder Pilgrims turned out to be pretty dark and heavy, also somewhat monotone – it’s like you’re meditating over a 2-note riff to find some peace within.
I can totally understand some Seven Thunders fans not liking Pilgrims but hey, I can’t force myself into writing from THAT perspective. I was a different person back then, with different musical tastes, ideas, and goals, deep in my comfort zone. I’m not saying, “no, we won’t do another Seven Thunders ever” either – I just truly can’t predict this kind of stuff, you know. We’re not fucking AC/DC, we can’t play the same riff for 40 years and pretend we still enjoy it!
Pilgrims exhibits elements of noise rock, and a lot of experimental notes, pushing at prog in places. What made you decide to include these elements this time?
IS: Music comes first, remember? It’s more like you write a song, you perfect it with the boys, you record it, and only then you look at it thinking, “the heck is that?” That’s why I prefer to call our genre “prog-stoner” these days, because in fact we are a band from the stoner scene progressin our way out of it to find our own identity. I see many examples of other bands doing exactly the same: Elder, Mars Red Sky, Mastodon, to name just a few. More power to them!
You’re the mountain? No, “I’m The Mountain”!
What inspired the use of synth sounds during “Apathy”?
IS: Our bass player, who wrote the music to this one – yep someone’s finally doing the writing in this band except yours truly! – is a huge fan of electronic music. The whole track sounded so Kraut-rock-y, so Kraftwerk-y even, and when he cautiously offered to add synths to it, the drummer and I were like “Hell yes!” No idea how we’re gonna play it live though, probably the whole synth part is gonna be played on bass.
What can we expect from your upcoming tour?
IS: We’re really looking forward to this one, and we really want to play Pilgrims in full every night! It’s been three years since we’d started working on some of the tracks from it, and we’d never played them live in order not to spoil the surprise for y’all. So, it’s like being pregnant for three years! We’re ready to give birth to seven beautiful babies – finally! – but of course, we’ll do good ol’ “I’m the Mountain” and “Black Woods” too. I still love them, these old tracks.
Lastly, if we could see into your soul and find the music that makes you who you are, what five bands, albums, or songs would we see?
IS: I would pick Marillion, Tool, The Beatles, My Dying Bride, and The Mars Volta, but, of course, it might change the next day. Thank you for this interview!
Lose yourself in the bassline to “Thessalia” below.