Cape Town duo Constellatia rose from the ashes of two acts, Wildernessking and Crow Black Sky, bringing together a unique blend of shoegaze, black metal and psychedelia, with their debut album, The Language of Limbs (reviewed here), being reissued by Season of Mist this year. Bassist and singer Keenan Oakes and guitarist Gideon Lamprecht obligingly gave up an evening to chat to us about their influences, plans and how they’re coping with the COVID-19 situation in South Africa.
So how are you guys doing in Cape Town?
Keenan Nathan Oakes: “Yeah… I mean quiet. Like, can’t really work and stuff so actually we are just working on music and getting ready for the second album, kinda thing…”
Gideon Lamprecht: “Yeah… We can’t go to work obviously so all we can do really is make music…”
“It’s kind of nice actually, it’s kind of nice to have this time to… downtime and just being able to focus on the new album… as good as we can be I guess…”
That was actually going to be one of the questions I was going to ask seeing as it is now for the re-release of Language of Limbs. How are you guys doing with new material?
“So we are more than halfway done with the new album. We are hoping it will be released at the end of the year. But… it is sounding really nice. We are exploring new directions. We plan on doing this with every album and we are exploring things that we ourselves like and just see where it goes. It’s a continuation from the Language of Limbs and… we couldn’t be happier with Language of Limbs and with this. This is going really well.”
Well I am glad the story will continue and just grow and evolve I hope.
“Yeah absolutely. Yeah, definitely… I think the new songs so far are touching on some new territory for us and it is also kind of sharpening our tools that we laid down on the first one. I think people are going to be very excited about it when they hear it… because it’s better.”
“It’s also a continuation of the story because it is very based on what is going on in our personal lives and things have moved on now and everything about the music is going to reflect that and is always going to come from where we are in our personal…”
“So it’s an evolution for sure…”
Great. Well, we are hoping that once COVID-19 is done you guys will actually be able to get back to Europe and start touring with the new album. Do you guys have hopes with Season of Mist (SoM) in that direction?
“Yeah definitely. I know that Michael from SoM has obviously a lot of amazing contacts all over Europe and stuff so we are definitely looking to take advantage of those contacts once we are able to travel and stuff. I am sure if the travel ban gets lifted soon enough we will be there hopefully in the summer of 2021. I cannot see why we wouldn’t be there if everything gets opened up again. We will definitely be travelling next year and touring for the first album and I guess for what will be the second album then as well.”
Brilliant. Well I am really hoping that that comes through because I think Europe needs it.
“(laughs) Yeah that’s cool. Europe has a lot of cools things. But hey! We need it! That’s for sure. We want to be there…”
“We were planning on going there probably around a month from now.”
“Exactly, we wanted to be there and were talking to some people and yeah, I think August, September was around the time we wanted to come there. It sucks if we have to wait. It feels like we have been waiting for a long time. Even to get this first album out felt like a lot of waiting but hey, we are on the map now so it is all good.”
Brilliant. Ok… About this album now, one of the things here why I say Europe needs you is, there are not very many shows happening with blackgaze type music and I say blackgaze because that’s pretty much what you are being bundled with even though there is a lot more going on…
“It’s probably the closest main…”
“Yeah… I don’t know for me to be so specific about genres and stuff, I don’t really care for that. I just want… my only issue with is that sometimes people say, and I get it I get the black metal elements or the shoegaze elements or whatever. I just want people to assess us for what we are doing by ourselves and not compare to something else because I think it does the music a bit of an injustice… maybe it even does those other bands a bit of an injustice. I think we kind of stand of our own but because maybe we look a certain way or whatever we are getting lumped in with certain bands but that is also ok because there are a lot of great bands in that scene. But I just want to be a unique metal band and whatever sub-genre you want to put it under, I don’t care too much about that.”
Well I have actually chatted to a few people who are also at V13 Media who I am writing for now and thrown around some bands and comparisons and the ones that are coming out people are saying you are a bit like Alcest, you’re a bit like Numenorean. But two of the bands that come out that I do like the comparison with for your guys’ sake is Pink Floyd and King Crimson.
“There we go! See? That is the kind of comparison that I think that I… that we would… because it is so far from I guess the people that listen to the music we make. It is so far from maybe their thinking, or maybe not necessarily… but maybe people who do listen to our music do have a bit more of a broader taste in music. But I always just get sort of little nervous with being lumped in with just the more run of the mill metal bands because… I do feel that we do give a bit more than that. So that is nice to hear… the King Crimson and Pink Floyd influences… because yeah man there is definitely, obviously a progressive and a psychedelic element to our music. So it is nice that people are tapping into those things. Even the Alcest comparison I don’t mind at all. I think Alcest is an amazing band, they have that sort of romantic feel that I think we share with them. Numenorean, because they are on SoM as well I think….”
“Yeah they are on SoM as well… I didn’t really get that… but we actually listened to one of their songs not too long ago. Some nice guitar parts. I didn’t really get that comparison. But yeah, I mean, people think what they think so…”
“I also like the comparison to those other bands because we don’t… I think the two of us don’t really listen to much metal anymore… we…”
“I listen to more metal now… I am going through this like… you go through phases with how you listen to music and stuff…”
“We did listen to a whole Darkthrone album though… (laughs)! But in general we are more inclined to listen to Pink Floyd or something like that… than we are to…”
“But you know like with metal at least where I think we are concerned… the classics are classics for a reason you know. So I am rather going to listen to old Opeth than maybe check out a new band. Those things are perfect albums. Those old stuff are… even old Metallica, I’d rather listen to that than….”
“We don’t have time for any of these new black metal bands. (laughs)!”
Next one, seeing as you brought up listening to the classics. This one is a bit more of a personal question and it is one I ask all the bands I talk to… If Constellatia was a classical composer, who would it be?
“Wow… I would say Vivaldi.”
“I did actually, I think the only… I mean I definitely listen to a lot of Mozart and a lot of Beethoven as well but like The Four Seasons is like for me the ultimate classical album. I think it is quite an audacious thing to say… Vivaldi… but you got to aim high… But that is a cool question.”
“I guess I would say Bach but then I don’t really know… maybe you should ask them, (laughs)!”
I’ll just haul out my Ouija board quickly and give them a quick quiz. No it’s an interesting one for me because Language of Limbs is a lot more upbeat that a lot of these orthodox grumpy old metal guys. They are always choosing things like Wagner and these big bombastic things so the fact that you chose a Baroque artist makes a lot of sense to me.
“Yeah it does. I don’t think our music is as dark as something like Wagner. It would be one of the more beautiful ones I guess. One of the more melodic ones… Not like, not pompous you know.”
“It’s not like I don’t like it musically, it is a bit more… I don’t think human is right… sometime it feels a little transcendent as well… I don’t know, it’s hard. I think there’s maybe elements of all of them. Let’s say that…”
“If I was to pick like which ones I was inspired by I’d have to say all of them. Pretty much all those major composers from that time… all the little ones you don’t really… those ones are at the top for a reason.”
“Exactly… exactly. We won’t be counted with the best I suppose.”
“It would be the same if you were to say which of the classic rock bands are we inspired by… all of them. Pink Floyd, Dire Straits. The whole range.”
Ok… now you guys had a very interesting launch show in Cape Town. Do you want to tell me about that?
“Yeah man… that such an amazing evening! I cannot believe it’s been about three months since we did that. So far it’s our only show. We knew we wanted to have it in a venue that was a bit, I guess, unconventional…It was our launch and you only play your first show once so we wanted to make sure it was really special and I think our guitarist Adam (Hill), didn’t he suggest it? Or no, he suggested another venue. Oh, because I had inquired where Medicine Boy had an album launch because I remember seeing pictures from a launch of theirs… it was Magna Theatre and Andre gave me the contact for the guy that runs the place there.
Yeah I mean beyond that we put a lot of effort into kind of dressing the set and it was a seated event and it kind of felt like a bit of a sophisticated evening. Yeah it was beautiful. I could not have really asked for anything more. They had a nice lighting rig there and we brought in our own sound. We kind of did the bar ourselves as well because they did not have a liquor license so everything was kind of DIY but yeah it was nearly sold out. It is a 150 capacity venue and I think we had around 120 people in there. It felt really full… amazing atmosphere. I could not have asked for anything else. We sold a lot of records and a lot of t-shirts. I mean, I guess you saw some of the photos and stuff… yeah it was cool man, it was really amazing.”
Yeah I was checking it out on Instagram thinking man, that is a show I wish I could have seen. I’m sitting here in Europe and getting exposed…
“It was a very special show. You would have liked it…”
I’m getting exposed to amazing shows here… but still thinking, man there is this little show in Cape Town that is worth checking out right now…
“A little slice of home… but we are going to… I think we have the intentions of… Oh, what was also really cool… we had… so our guitarist Adam is sort of like an illustrator, sort of like a visual arts guy and he did a really amazing 45 minute visual accompaniment for the live set and it was, because we played to like a click track and stuff and we had it clocked in with the click and all the visuals were appearing as we were going through the songs. It was cool! It was quite a cinematic experience I think… and we are hopefully going to take that with us on the road when we do play overseas and stuff and hopefully be able to bring more of a like an engaging…”
“Yeah… it is a very big live performance. It is not just the band. It is a whole visual thing. We are going to bring a whole set. Design and make the stage look special… not just show up at a venue and play. It’s going to be more… we are always going to want to tailor it.”
Ok. Is there any chance that there was a video made of the production that you might release at some stage?
“We did get a lot of footage. I think… maybe we want to feel a bit more confident. I mean this was our first show and I think we did really well but I think we want to get our chops up a bit more before we release like a live video of us playing. I mean we sounded really good in certain sections but there are still some things that we can tweak and be better at… but we might do a little after movie at some point. We got a lot of amazing footage… but I don’t know… there is also some sort of contractual stuff with SoM with releasing live stuff…”
“Yeah I mean… if we do release something it will be through them. But there is definitely a lot of footage we can work with to make a…”
“…A little five minute sort of thing where we kind of…”
“…or maybe a tour trailer or like maybe a music video. Like a live music video or something that is like a compilation of footage. We might…”
“We will use it at some point though. We will use the footage that we got because we did get a friend of ours to shoot it and he really did… he’s got a lot of amazing footage so we will use it at some point we are not sure how yet.”
“The full show is not recorded but I want to say there is probably about 20 minutes of footage from different angles and so on that we could use at some point. It is very beautiful… and the sound was very nice and we were very happy with the show.”
“Yeah… You will see something of the sort at some point for sure.”
Well just the fact that you guys went and thought, well let’s do a more mature setting, a seated audience, more intimate… I think speaks to the type of message behind Language of Limbs as well. I assume?
“Yeah it’s not in your face metal. It’s not like clobber you over the head kind of thing.”
“It is very considered I guess.”
“We wouldn’t just play at the popular local venue and just like a quick show like that. We always want to make it special.”
“Yeah… this time we are trying to stand up and be counted in a sense. We want to stand out and kind of push whatever envelope is left…”
That is actually quite a paradoxical thing that you are pushing the envelope by shrinking the envelope. But I like that… nowadays that whole exclusivity is a great idea to really make people want it more.
“I mean you know how it is like especially in the age of streaming that we are living now where we are inundated with stimuli from like music, movies, it’s just coming from all over the place and I guess by being a bit more considered and exclusive now we execute what it is that we are doing and hopefully it makes us stand out a little bit because I guess it is one thing to be a good band but you also need to figure out a way to separate yourself from the pack so to speak because you want to stand out, you don’t want to fit in with everyone. Kind of make unique art you know?”
Speaking of unique art. If I look at all the merch that you guys are now selling there is some very varied artistic styles going on there. So do you want to have a bit of a chat about what is going on there with the different artists or the different styles?
“Yeah sure. I think it is actually just one artist doing a bunch of different styles. Yeah, we have never (been) with a label before and you kind of have these sort of artistic guidelines that you have to follow. Yeah, the whole thing is very new to us. But I mean there are obviously some designs that we favour more than others but we also want to make sure that SoM is happy and not compromise too much on our artistic vision. I like the more sort of abstract-y obscure stuff we are doing in terms of merch and I know we are going to do our own merch anyway.
So the SoM merch style will be exclusive to them and what we are going to do is a completely different thing. It is also nice to kind of do merchandise that is a bit more typically on the metal spectrum of things because at the end of the day there is still going to be your typical metal heads, your metal heads that are a bit more interested in like a wider spectrum of music, so it is nice to kind of give everyone something. And I feel that that is what the t-shirts are doing. That there is something for more sort of arthouse and grind person that there is something like that, and there is something a bit more on the nose like doing something kind of metal, angel of death statue or whatever… Which I still think is cool!”
“Yeah it was very nice but, we won’t ever do Constellatia in Gothic letters and a skull. Like we will never something like that on but we will… there will be something for everyone. Our own personal preference would be something that is a little more artistic and more abstract and unique that it doesn’t even look like a metal shirt. Something that looks more implied and not so in your face kind of thing.”
Yeah a couple of those shirts look a little more like the sort of thing Carpenter Brut would be selling at his shows. Bright colours, soft gradients… I can dig it!
“Yeah the soft gradients… I am a big fan of that…”
So, that is all the important questions I got to ask but just from some personal questions now… Constellatia is a very different sound to Wildernessking and Crow Black Sky. I mean, I have been a follower of Wildernessking for a long time and I have never actually had any contact with you regarding Crow Black Sky but I have punted that second album that you put out, That Sidereal Light, to a lot of people so…
“That is a good album. That is what actually what made me contact Gideon in the first place was that album…”
“…and WK is what made me say yes in the end. But yeah…”
So it all worked out in the end.
“Definitely, but it is a different thing altogether and I think it is taking the best elements of both of those bands and ultimately creating something a bit more unique and…”
“…and mature and it has been so many years that we have been in those bands for… a decade or close to it. So it is like we are just combining at the very end and making something new that is just different from both of them but also just takes a lot of the best elements from both.”
With the tour though, you are going to be… how many of your band members will you be bringing along because I guess it’s just session guys for your additional instruments?
“We will probably bring the full band…”
“Hopefully it will be everyone… female vocalist, another guitarist and a drummer.”
Ok so a nice full stage…
“Yes we will be a full stage.”
“Yeah… It won’t just be the two of us (laughs)!”