Rachel Brown, co-vocalist of the Brooklyn-based sludge/doom outfit Archon, is the subject of the first installment of a new interview series here on Harvest Moon Music that focuses on the women of the heavy metal underground. Archon, founded by Andrew Jude, released their debut full-length The Ruins at Dusk in 2010 and are on the verge of delivering their sophomore effort, one of the subjects that Rachel graciously took time out of her schedule to discuss.
[HMM] For readers who may be unfamiliar with Archon, can you introduce the band and describe your role?
[Rachel Brown] Archon is a NYC doom band, with heavy psych and stoner rock influences. I'm one of two vocalists and recently started playing a synth.
How did you come to be involved with the band?
I saw Archon live in February 2010, at which time there wasn’t a dedicated vocalist. I approached Andrew after the set, told him that I dug the music and thought they needed a vocalist, to which he agreed. I asked if he’d be interested in female vocals, and obviously, he was willing to try it out. So, I joined Archon the next month, at the same time Chris (our other vocalist) did. Coincidentally Andrew had asked Chris about doing vocals right before that show. So, Archon went from no vocalist in February, to two vocalists by April.
Music has always been a huge part of my life. Both my parents are musicians, so I was encouraged to join band and chorus in school, which I did. I was also involved in musical theater and danced competitively through high school. I started to get into metal when I was around 13, thanks to my brother Aaron. I began going to shows soon after that, spawning an addiction to live music that I have never kicked. At age 17 I started hosting a metal/hardcore/industrial radio show on the now defunct 88.9 V-Rock (in Ohio). Since moving to NYC in ’99 I’ve been a big supporter of the underground heavy music scene, though only as a concertgoer. In 2006 I did vocals for some of Paul Feder’s electronic music, and in 2009 I booked my first metal show at the Charleston.
The word archon shares etymological roots with the words monarch and anarchy. How do you feel the name Archon fits with the style of music that the band plays?
The musical style and sound of Archon is powerful, and one can’t rule without power.
The Black Sabbath and Candlemass influences are discernible in Archon's sound (and really, what doom band isn't inspired by Sabbath and Candlemass?), but what other bands or styles influence your music?
Well, I can’t speak for the guys, as we all have pretty diverse tastes. But as far as metal bands go, Neurosis is my biggest influence, probably followed by Acid Bath. I’m also really into what some people call post metal and tech or math metal. Stuff like AmenRa and Keelhaul, for example. The crusty, sludgy stuff like Dystopia and EyeHateGod definitely influence me as well. As for clean vocals, I’m a huge Björk fan, and really admire Lisa Gerrard (of Dead Can Dance), Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Lindsay Powell (Fielded, Ga’an).
You're co-credited with writing the lyrics to two tracks on the debut album, specifically "Nature Is Satan's Church" and "The Hymn of Mendregard". From where did you draw inspiration for your words? Can you tell us a little bit about each song?
Well, Chris had the original inspiration for each of those songs. "Nature Is Satan’s Church" came out of his viewing of the film Antichrist, which deals with the themes of grief, pain and despair in really violent and tragic ways. "Hymn of Mendregard" is about the Iron Warriors of Warhammer. For this song, I had to read up on the Iron Warriors, since I don’t play the game. As I read, I imagined myself as one of these siege warriors, and was struck by their depressing and lonely existence.
With the vocals floating within the mix more as an additional layer of instrumentation rather than providing a distinct message, how importantly do the lyrics factor when writing an Archon song?
Usually the music is written first, and then Chris or I choose a topic or theme. So, I guess you could say that the lyrics don’t influence the writing of the music, but I do think they change the music drastically, in terms of mood and interpretation.
You sing in two distinctly different styles on The Ruins at Dusk, clean and harsh, which alternatingly contrast and compliment the male harsh vocals. Which style are you most comfortable with, and will you be embracing one over the other on Archon's next release?
Though this is my first time screaming/growling in a band, I think I’m more comfortable with that, because I can’t really fuck it up like I can the clean vocals. Because the sound of Archon is so heavy and loud live, I have a really hard time hearing my clean vocals, and thus, if I’m on pitch or not. My vocals are going to be about half clean and half harsh on the new album. I’ve experimented with different clean styles and expanded my harsh vocal range.
The new record is almost done! It’s called Ouroboros Collapsing and will most likely be out in February. We’re all really excited about how it’s turning out.
Without giving too much away, how does the new record compare to The Ruins at Dusk?
We think Ouroboros Collapsing is a little bit crustier, and maybe a bit more stripped down. But overall, it’s still heavy doom.
Who is responsible for the artwork on The Ruins at Dusk? Will they be contributing art to the new album as well?
Derrick Koo, a friend of Andrew’s, did the artwork for the last album. The new album’s art was done by Jacob Hansen, and is already available on our new shirts. Jacob did a sick job bringing our idea to life.
Archon has toured the Northeast relatively often over the last year. Are there any imminent plans to bring your live presence to other regions of the US or overseas?
Actually, we haven’t toured often over the last year (not sure where you got that info). We did our first weekend tour in December 2011, hitting a few NE cities. We’d love to tour the country or Europe, but it will probably be a while until we have the means to make that possible. Maybe we’ll make it to the mid-west this summer, as a couple of us have connections out that way.
Do you have any notable stories from the road that you'd be willing to share?
I think the first night of the recent tour was notable for a few reasons. First, we played with our friends in Queen Elephantine, which was fun. A friend of Chris’ friend agreed to let us crash at her house, although she didn’t come to the show, didn’t know how many of us there were and had never met any of us. Which was pretty fucking cool. But anyway, it turns out, she and her housemates don’t turn their heat on until… well, I don’t really know when, because it was about 30 degrees in Philly that night. Lucky for me, our host let me share her warm bed, since I was a woman. The guys were not thrilled that I managed to get a decent night’s sleep while they nearly froze to death.
Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Archon for the first time?
We’re playing an all-ages matinee at ABC No Rio in NYC on January 14th. If you’re in the area, you should come check us out. And if you’re not around, be sure to watch our website for news on the release of Ouroboros Collapsing: www.archondoom.com.
Many thanks, Rachel. I'm looking forward to hearing the new album!