Monday, August 27, 2012

Interview: Rebecca Press of Burn the Yeti

Lying about ten leagues to the north of London is the town of Stevenge. Once known as the home of the Vincent Motorcycle company, whose Black Shadow model was the world's fastest production motorcycle, Stevenge can now lay claim to being the base of operations for the emerging heavy doom outfit Burn the Yeti. Fronted by Rebecca Press, Burn the Yeti draws on both classic and modern metal influences as they continue to evolve their sound. Rebecca recently took some time away from writing and recording new material to participate in Harvest Moon Music's Women of Heavy Metal interview series.

[HMM] For readers who may be unfamiliar with Burn the Yeti, would you introduce the band and describe your role?

Rebecca Press - Burn the Yeti
[Rebecca] Burn the Yeti is an old school metal band with female vocals floating around on top. We have recently upped the tempo to create more of a groove. Our music is generally about overcoming negative aspects and reaching out for the positive. We started as a doom band, but this has now changed. Burn the Yeti is a mixture of influences as every member is unique in taste. We have often been related to bands like Down, Swallow the Sun, Sabbath and a few others. The main motto the band follows, if at all is to have fun and make some noise. I sing for the band and provide any random or weird suggestions. I also do the occasional art and editing.

I understand that Burn the Yeti was founded in 2010 by Bruce Hamilton (guitar) and Jim Males (bass).  How did you come to be involved with the band?

By the time I joined the band I believe they had already been going for about 9 months. I put an ad out on a site named Join My Band. I had recently left a previous project and wanted to find a band to sing with. I was contacted by the guys to come along, sing a bit and meet them. I think I was just warming up with some Nightwish when the decision had already been made.

With the word yeti being quite uncommon in the music world, is there a story behind the name Burn the Yeti?  Any implied reference to the American outfit All Hail The Yeti?

Haha the band name was chosen by Bruce and the original singer. The idea was to make it something which stood out and wasn't typically doomy. The name came around in reference to one of their friend's snoring habits. There is no reference that I am aware of, but I think it's interesting to note most speed, power metal bands reference fire, flames, but the bands which reference snow tend to be more doom, so perhaps that was also a reason behind the band name. It is often joked that many band names can tell you the band's genre. Me and a friend went through every band beginning with 'The'. We decided most of those bands were Indie. Another example would be black metal logos which cannot be read with human eyes.

Burn the Yeti released a debut, 4-track EP back in 2011 called Out of the Darkness.  Where was the album recorded, and how was the recording experience?

Our EP was recorded mainly in Stafford with the help of the University up there. We all travelled up to record our separate parts. The recording experience was interesting to say the least. I ended up recording vocals around 3 times for varying reasons, which was frustrating. However it helped me learn my lyrics and also made me consider the way in which I sang them. I became more aware of my musical cues. We took our time with recording and it was done over the summer. Sammie our drummer studies musical engineering. He and a friend worked on the mixing and mastering. The benefit of this was we had the final say on the final sound.  The experience as a whole was a learning curve which had its ups and downs. I ended up making Sammie his own badge with the words F**k you cubase on it because of how much he hated the program by the end of the process.

Burn the Yeti
How long did it take to write the songs for the album?

Originally Burn the Yeti had a male vocalist and they had a few songs already, however with the change of singers all the songs ended up going through a rewrite because singers all sing in their own ways. Burn the Yeti has undergone a fair few changes as the sound had never really been established. Since then the band now plays a key higher and faster. The four songs on the EP are the result of about a years tweaking and changing.

Is the songwriting for Burn the Yeti a collaborative process?  If so, what contributions to the writing of Out of the Darkness did you make?

Most of the song writing is collaborative, usually one of the guitarists or the bassist will record a few riffs or song ideas and send them around. We then feedback and make some changes or create a song structure and then go from there. I rewrote most of the songs and also made a few suggestions towards Out of the Darkness' intro. The lyrics are generally my territory, but with the song "Let Me Go" me and Sammie actually rewrote the lyrics together as the original's didn't fit quite right. The great thing about having many influences is the stuff we write and produce is a mixture of all our ideas. The newer songs sound a lot more heavier and melodic. Burn the Yeti's sound is gradually developing and I think this will become more noticeable when the new tracks are released.

Where does the band’s lyrical inspiration come from?

The original lyrics were written by Bruce and Jim. They were the result of personal experience and alcohol. However during the big rewrite which happened when I joined the topics and themes started to change. A lot of my themes are about overcoming personal problems and reaching out for the light or something positive. That being said, the newest song "Hit the Road" is a bit special. The song is about a girl who wants revenge on her ex so takes up the guitar to join a band. She doesn't make it as a guitarist so takes up the drums instead and decides to become a demon drummer. The song "Death of You" is almost a polar opposite. The theme is World War One and about a solider at the eastern front. Once a song has been decided and structure set up I usually write depending on my mood and the song's pace.

How has the reaction to the album been in the UK?  Have you received feedback from other countries as well?

We had a very positive response to the EP and our reviews, which can be seen on Reverbnation, were in response to the CD. We have a few listeners in the states and Europe. I have a few German pen friends who seriously enjoyed the EP and were enquiring about another CD. There has been occasions where I have sung different lyrics live and people have commented on this afterwards. Haha it is an odd experience to actually have others knowing the lyrics.

Where can readers purchase Out of the Darkness?

Burn the Yeti's EP can be purchased at out gigs for £3.50 or the band can send out a copy. Fans just need to drop the band a message via Facebook and a CD can be sent out shortly after.

Rebecca Press - Burn the Yeti
Do you have any upcoming gigs lined up?

Our next gig is September the first at Club 85 in Hitchin. We are supporting our friends Mercury House. This should be a good gig as it's our home turf. The weekend after Burn the Yeti play Balstock in Baldock which is a two day festival spread out across the town with many different acts. We are playing on the Sunday with our friends Aghast. I am looking forward to this gig as it is also a good opportunity to hear other local acts and mingle with friends. Our next gig after that is later in November.

Are there any interesting stories from previous gigs that you’d be willing to share?

One time which does spring to mind, after Burn the Yeti had played their set at club 85 a couple of months ago there was alcohol and  a Sharpie * black marker*... I walked into the band room where Sammie and Jim were scribbling on the walls mostly abuse towards Bruce haha. I returned about ten minutes later and these scribbles had evolved up the walls. I think the fire alarm now has an arrow with the words  'use when S**t gets real'. This was also the gig when I for some reason agreed to down a pint of badly mixed sugar water... I do regret doing this as it was foul.

Is there a song that is a favorite of yours to perform live?

One of my favourites to perform is "Time to Live" because the song starts with bass and I am a sucker for bass intros. The song has a very heavy break down riff and the verses break for just vocal so I can sing a little higher and softer. "Time to Live" is also a favourite of mine as it's one of the first songs I wrote lyrics for on my own.

Has the band begun writing material for a follow-up to Out of the Darkness?

Yes. We are currently recording two new songs - "Time to Live" and "Death of You". These will be released by the end of the year hopefully. There is also talk of releasing a full length album, the work of which may take place next year. The words "watch this space" come to mind.

I read that you were involved in a band called Violet Ocean and founded another called Arcane Thunder.  Were those bands similar in style to Burn the Yeti?

Haha not at all. My previous bands were power metal/ Symphonic metal bands. One of my big loves is singing classical and symphonic like Nightwish. Burn the Yeti allows me to develop as a singer on a genre which I wouldn't normal get involved in. However the band has started to change its sound which is really exciting to me as a singer because I have to adapt to new styles and improve my stamina slowly. I use to get tired after 30 minute sets, however that's not the case any more. My previous projects have allowed me to learn and improve as a singer.

Did you record anything with either outfit?

There are no recordings from my previous music project, minus a few rough and ready demos which I have haha. However they are not great. Burn the Yeti is the first band I have recorded with.

How long have you been singing, and what led to your involvement in heavy metal?

Burn the Yeti
I started singing when I was very very small. I used it as an escape from everything going on around me. I use to plug myself into an iPod Touch. I believe music is a way we can convey our emotions and feelings which are not always easy to put into words. Music helped me get over many hardships and it helped me through ups and downs.  My parents were metal heads so I was constantly exposed to metal, but when I was 14 one of my biggest influences hit the big screen. The Phantom of the Opera came to the screen and everything changed. I pushed myself until I could sing the score to Phantom including the famous vocalisation and high e of the main title song. Musical theatre became one of my biggest passions, which slowly led to me discovering Nightwish, Within Temptation, Kamelot, Swallow the Sun. These bands gave me something new to aim for and slowly my music taste crept into the heavy/symphonic and melodic stages and finally I decided to put an advert out to see if any bands were interested. My first band was a small garage band which I joined in the summer of 2008.

Are there any singers in particular who inspire or influence you?

My biggest influences as a singer are Tarja Turunen, Ramin Karminloo, Roy Khan, Tony Kakko, Marco Heitala, Jared Leto and most importantly Freddie Mercury. These are singers I have great admiration for and who have given me something to aspire to. I saw Ramin sing live and he brought me to tears because of how much emotion and feeling he expressed via his voice and songs. Freddie Mercury is a singer who is very close to home he is my dad's second cousin and his story is one I admire. He was different and he wanted to reach people via song which is the same with me. I love most singers of bands because all singers have a story to tell and they have a unique way of showing their feelings.

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to sing in a heavy metal band, what would it be?

My biggest piece of advice is to never lose confidence in yourself. If you believe in yourself you can aspire to do anything. I know this is a very common piece of advice, however it is true if you do not believe in yourself there is no reason others should either. You need to believe in your voice and you need to get out their and find people who also believe in the same goal as you. The band is very important and they can make it possible for you to reach people. Have fun and also use every gig as an experience and learning curve. You learn a lot about your voice and capabilities. It is vital you do not let one bad gig or bad rehearsal bring you down. Use it and move on. We are always learning and music is no different.

Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Burn the Yeti for the first time?

I thank everyone who has supported Burn the Yeti, may it be in a small way and just liking the page on Facebook to those who have dedicated time to work with use or many of my friends who have encouraged me to continue. I also thank one person who has dragged himself to many of our gigs to catch some images for the band which was done for nothing. Acts like this really do make a lot of difference. I hope new readers check out the band and give us a chance and I also hope I can inspire others to get involved with music and the local scene. Many local bands need support and it is important to remember the big famous bands all started out playing to local crowds. Fans are very important and they make a band what it is.

So true! Thank you Rebecca for the great interview and best of luck to you and the band as you continue your heavy metal journey.

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