Tuesday, 31 March 2015

INTERVIEW: Narrow House

Calling themselves Apocalyptic Doom and experimenting with countless influences, Narrow House have a unique sound which has grown and developed through the years and looks set to continue doing so. Their most recent album, Thanathonaut was featured back in August 2014 on the site and we recently had a chance to speak Yegor Ostapenko from the band to talk about the album, their live music experience, what is coming up and much more.

Can you introduce us to Narrow House? 

We are Kyiv based band from Ukraine who started out back in 2009. Narrow House continued funeral doom legacy that was started out a year before by the same group of people known as Funestum. However after the first album was out in 2012 we’ve drastically changed our musical direction with the second LP released two years later (both were published by Solitude Productions). Currently we are working on the follow up that will continue to explore the direction set by our latest work.

You’ve started referring to your musical style as “apocalyptic doom”. How did the transition from funeral doom come about?

That wasn't a choice, that was a necessity. There was no one left in the band who could actually compose funeral doom anymore. Sure, we could try to continue doing this to please our existing fan base, but creating music just for the sake of it sounds like a pure torture to me. The other logical move would be taking another name to prevent further confusion, but that seemed to be total waste of everything that was done prior to make Narrow House known at least at some extent. Basically it was just me who had enough time and resource to continue the band at some point so it was for me to decide what to do next.

I was really enjoying what we were doing as a funeral doom project although the “exclusive” nature of this kind of music with all its “rules” and borders was offering a little room for experiment. I believe that we could do something else in this field if we were able to save the original line-up. However this never happened so no one will ever know.

Speaking about “apocalyptic doom”, with Thanathonaut I’ve tried to combine many things I’ve enjoyed in music for years and felt like I would like to give a proper name to this symbiosis. Being a huge fan of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic media and taking into consideration the nuclear war concept of our latest effort, “apocalyptic doom” sounded as an appropriate tag. Anyway we were classified as “dark metal/doom death” by our label which seems to be more accurate and ”real world” description to what we did. In the future I probably will try to avoid naming Narrow House music anything but “experimental doom” to make it easier for everyone. Not sure if I will stick to apocalyptic concept in the following releases – it was fun once, but I like to try new things.

The band lineup has been in flux since the release of A Key to Panngrieb. Are there any plans to make a permanent lineup now that Thanathonaut has been released?

Permanent lineup sounds like a dream to me. I’ve tried to gather one since the original one split. Searching for appropriate people is a tough job and requires much effort to accomplish especially when it comes to “out of the box” type of music. I would be glad if someone else took care of this task for me but this is unlikely scenery in the nearest future. However being a part of the scene for some time makes you know people, and there’s always some candidates that can help with everything, would it be recording of the new material or live shows. The one thing I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t force anything – let it all flow naturally. Creating great music is the priority number one and stable lineup will eventually follow if it will be really necessary.

Your touring schedule sees you sticking to local venues, but it would be great to see you in the UK. Have you played internationally, or is it something you have plans to do?

One thing leads to another. Having an unstable line-up makes it difficult to tour etc. We haven’t played anywhere but Ukraine so far, however going abroad is always the plan. Talking about UK – according to reviews and the number of CDs sent there makes me think of it as a logical destination. However we would probably start with closer European countries at least due to easier visa acquiring process. Anyway, UK is a doom metal Mecca to me and I’m really looking forward to visit you guys in the future.  

What is the live experience of apocalyptic doom like, for the band and the fans?

We try to stick to our classic live show model – support our performances with appropriate video content and stage appearance. When we first started it back in 2008 as Funestum video projections were still fresh for Ukrainian underground scene, these days – not that much, so you have to come up with something else to make people wonder. And this is where “weird” (in terms of metal music) instruments enter the spotlight. We started with violin, continued with cello, and finally – saxophone. Again, it takes not that much time for a trick to get old as I already see other local metal bands using sax for their live shows as well.

Don’t get me wrong, my goal is not to add some unusual elements just to stand out from the crowd; I do this only if I really feel that Narrow House sound will benefit from this. Sure, my head is always filled with crazy ideas, but the reality is that you’ve got to invest money to make them real. And when it comes to the decision whenever spend funds on the studio time or some fancy live show idea… well I prefer the first one.    

There are not many bands that incorporate saxophone and cello to the same extent as Narrow House. Are there any major influences in the Narrow House sound that you find yourself returning to?

In Narrow House I tend to incorporate everything I love about the music. Well, almost everything. The current album was influenced by many bands like King Crimson, Apocalyptica, Candlemass, Marylin Manson, Saint Vitus, Virgin Black and Electric Wizard. This list might sound weird but this is exactly what kept me rolling while creating Thanathonaut. Currently my playlist changed completely although I still believe that heavy riffs and groovy melodies will still be a part of future Narrow House works. Saxophone and other instruments like cello played certain role but I don’t think that they will define our sound in the future as well.

How have you found fan reception to this radical new sound?

Some of the fans of our earlier funeral doom music were clearly disappointed with our new direction, but that was expected even though I did all I could to prepare people to this change. However I feel that “Thanathonaut” did a good job at earning new followers for us and establishing Narrow House as a unique entity. There were people who weren’t really pleased with hearing saxophone throughout the album, operatic female vocals or even the duration of the songs haha. This indicates only that you can’t please everyone, and, well, there’s no need to. There are billions of people out there. Do what you like and eventually someone will be pleased.

Narrow House are very open and interact with fans online a great deal through video diaries and social media. Is it a big job to keep on top of, and do you find it rewarding?

This serves as an ersatz for not being able to perform live as much as I would like to. All this video content is just another form of art, another way to express myself when I don’t feel like doing music or have no opportunity to. So yes it’s rewarding when you think of it this way. Keeping in mind our albums are out within 2 years span it’s a good idea to keep ourselves visible in between. We don’t do singles, EPs or splits although it’s always an option. I have a full time job as most of us do, but it’s always connected with online activity this way or other, so I can usually invest some time to promote Narrow House as well.

It took a decent amount of time to keep people posted when A Key to Panngrieb was out. I had dozen forum boards on my list that I used to post news to, but this list became shorter with time and only the most relevant links remained.

Sometimes when there’s nothing going on and promoting Narrow House remains the only remaining music related activity, I feel almost sick. This can be easily fought with some rehearsals or even solo guitar practicing. Playing music is a real relief that can be hardly replaced with something else.  

If you could share a stage with any band, past or present, who would it be? 

Well this is simple. That would be Candlemass. Though I would be happier if they were still performing with their classic line-up.

What’s next for Narrow House? 

Hopefully more live performances, and coming up with new stuff for the next album. This year shows some signs of great opportunities to come. Thanks for having us at Femetalism!

Thanks to Yegor for taking the time to talk to Femetalism.  Narrow House is a fantastic project and one we look orward to seeing more from in the future, whichever direction it decides to go.

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Originally posted by Emma Sheridan on Femetalism.