Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters are back with their sophomore album “The Cauldron and the Cross”, so Grande Rock took the chance and had a very interesting chat with the band’s vocalist & guitarist Kyle McNeill about the new album, let alone the funny part regarding the “weird questions”. Read for more below…
Seven Sisters band pic

Hi Kyle, I’m glad we’re given the chance to talk about your new album “The Cauldron and the Cross”. First of all, how did you come up with the album title and what does it declare?
K: Hello! Thank you for having us it’s a pleasure. The book it is based on (The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley) inspired the title of the album. There’s a line very early on in the book where the Merlin is talking about the political balance between the Cauldron and the Cross and I thought it would make a fantastic album title. It really set the scene for the rest of the writing process and gave us a platform to build from.
The cover artwork was done by Simon Pye Parr (2000AD & Realm Of The Damned). Is there any kind of connection between the cover of the album and the title?
K: There absolutely is! Simon went above and beyond with the album artwork. Once we had decided on the album title, the idea for the cover came to me shortly after. I discussed with Simon what we wanted and he went away and did his thing. The result was far better than we could have hoped! We’re super happy with it. It makes us look way better than we are… haha!
Which are the main differences between the new album and your self-titled debut according to you?
K: Personally, I think the songwriting is much more mature on “Cauldron”. The production is a huge step in the right direction for us as well. Everything we had done before this album was D.I.Y. recording, so for us to go in to a studio with a producer we know and trust was a big deal for us! Much like the artwork, the results far exceeded our expectation of what we could sound like. Overall it’s a much more complete body of work.
Did you follow the same songwriting process this time? Which are the new elements that you introduce with the new album?
K: Pretty much, yes. I come up with the main bulk of ideas and I ultimately arrange all the songs. Graeme contributed a good amount of riffs and ideas that made their way on to the record. He also wrote the bulk of the lyrics, he’s much better at that stuff than I am! Once the songs have a framework I pass them on to the rest of the guys and they put their own spin on the parts. Steve, our drummer, completely changed the feel and dynamic with some of the drum parts he came up with. Javi went to town on the bass lines as well, there is some really inventive stuff in there from everyone and that all happened after I’d come up with the initial idea. That was something that was missing from the first album, so I’m really happy we all got to chip in. I think it makes for a better record!
Did you aim for such an 80s-like (or shall I say “retro”?) sound? Do you think that the “digital” sound is not working that well anymore and the musicians & the fans are more fond of the 70s and the 80s sound?
K: Absolutely! Our aim when going in to the studio was for |Cauldron| to sound like a “well recorded eighties record”. We used some Queensryche and Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force as reference tracks when we got to the mixing stage. The drums have a fairly minimal amount of reinforcement from samples and we did just one rhythm track each for the guitars. It may not sound as punchy or as crisp as modern recordings do, but I feel it has a very natural sound. It’s dynamic, and we didn’t squeeze the life out of it in the mastering process. We’re all happy with the results, even if no else is. Ha!
Tell us a couple of things about each track…
K: “The Premonition”: We wanted to start with a bang! This is definitely the fastest tune on the record. The intro is almost ‘reverse’ in structure because it starts off with a big solo and then ends clean, before kicking back in. With the song being about deja vu and reliving past lives, it fit in nicely to have an intro like that.
“Blood and Fire”: This is one of our live favourites. It’s the part of the story where the people of land crown a young Arthur king. It describes the Beltane Rituals and the connection Arthur has with the Druids and with Avalon. For whatever reason, this song took me ages to finish. I got stuck on it for such a long time that I almost gave up on it. I’m glad I didn’t though; it’s one of my favourites.
“Once and Future King”: This is the single off the album. We’ll release a video for this song very soon! This is more upbeat than the previous song, and is at the part in the story where Arthur is revealed to Britain again and is “officially” crowned king by the Church. I love instrumental section in the middle of this song; it’s almost schizophrenic in the way it jumps back and forth between fats and slow tempos.
“Parting the Mists”: This song was nicknamed “Queenslyke” before had a title for it, ha! It has an ethereal atmosphere to it throughout and some interesting harmony going on. The solo in this song is my favourite on the album (of mine).
“Turning of the Tide”: This is quickly becoming a fan favourite! When I finished the song I was a bit reluctant to show the guys because I thought it was too “cheesy”. Of course, in hindsight, nothing can be too cheesy! How foolish of me. It has a super sing-along chorus and some cool harmonies in it. It’s another one of our live favourites.
“Oathbreaker”: Graeme was determined to get a ballad on the album, and he succeeded! I was unsure about this one for quite some time, it was only until after we’d finished recording it in the studio that it really took shape and came to life. It’s the simplest song for us to play, but that brings up new challenges. You’ve nothing to hide behind when it goes wrong!
“A Land in Darkness”: I’m particularly proud of this song, of the last three songs on the album actually. In terms of where I see our sound going in the future, this is probably the best example. Exciting, progressive, but still steeped in melody and sing-along choruses. It’s a 6-minute song, but it fits a lot in there! It’s a real musical workout.
“The Cauldron and the Cross Part I”: The first of two halves, obviously! Initially this started as an instrumental but the guys thought it had more potential as “proper” song. The chorus in this song is an absolute nightmare to sing, but I only have myself to blame, haha! I took lots of inspiration from neo-classical type harmonies in this one, it’s very regal sounding. It goes a bit evil towards the end, it kind of reminds me of “And Justice” era…
“The Cauldron and the Cross Part II”: The chorus for this song was the first thing I wrote for the album. I like to work my way backwards from there, as you want that to be the high point of the song. For me, this song is the high point of the album, and it’s the last track! The acoustic intro was recorded on a pre-war Martin 00-28, which is without doubt the most valuable guitar I’ve ever held in my hands! Much like part one, the harmony in this song was inspired by Baroque-era classical music (I’m obsessed with the stuff). It’s pretty easy to tell just from the intro! I’m happy we managed to get this song across properly without it feeling drawn-out. It’s fairly easy to waffle in longer compositions, but I feel this remains engaging throughout. And as we started with a bang, we wanted to end with one!
Where did the recordings take place and who’s responsible for the album’s mixing, production and mastering?
K: The recordings took place at Knight Time Studios in Ealing, West London. A good friend of mine, Jim Knight, owns it. He produced the album, as well as engineered it and mixed it. I helped out with engineering jobs and did a fair amount of editing before the mixing took place. A chap called Tim Turan of Turan Audio did the mastering; he’s a lovely guy and really understood our sound and was very appreciative of the fact we didn’t want to win any “loud wars” with the album. We can’t thank them enough for the work they put in!
I’ve read that you’re working on a new video, right? For which track and when will it be released?
K: We are indeed. The video will be for “Once and Future King” and it shall be released on 21/11/2018!
Are there any touring plans for 2018 & 2019?
K: We have bunch of European and Irish dates lined up for this October that we can’t wait to do! You can see them advertised on our Facebook and also on Dissonance Production’s website. We have lots of big plans for 2019, I have a feeling it’ll be a good year for us in terms of gigs. All shall be revealed in good time...
What are your expectations from “The Cauldron and the Cross” and what do you wish to achieve with Seven Sisters at long term?
K: I think “Cauldron” has already exceeded the expectations I had for it just from the reception of fans old and new. People are really enjoying the album, and it means a lot to see this body of work take a life of its own after we spent so much time working on it. Of course, as a band, we want to take over the world and play everywhere and have thousands of fans. Our progress so far has been fairly organic and this year has seen us make some big decisions behind the scenes. We now have a label, two albums behind us and very recently we found ourselves a solid booking agent. Things are in place for us to take it up a notch, so let’s see what happens! The long term for me has always been to be as successful as we can be with the band; I genuinely believe we have the potential to take it all the way. We shall see!
What do you think of the so called new Wave of traditional heavy metal NWOTHM movement of our time?
K: As a whole, it’s very cool. If nothing else, it’s been extremely kind to us and for that we can’t be thankful enough. To have a scene you belong to from the very beginning is a big bonus for a band. Especially when that scene is connected worldwide by something like the Internet. If it wasn’t for Youtube and Bandcamp, we wouldn’t have made it this far. We were selling tapes to people in Japan before we even had a gigging line up! That’s crazy.
It’s time for our Weird Questions!!! How did you come up with the name Seven Sisters initially?
K: I saw it on the front of a Tube train, haha! How uncool is that?!
If you were an animal, which animal would you be and why?
K: I’d have to be a fox (I have ginger hair). I had a stupid nickname at university that was “Fox McSteel”. It’d be a good stage name if I were in a glam band.
If you could “erase” one thing from modern music, what would it be?
K: Trap music. That entire movement and all the “musicians” that belong to it can be permanently erased from music history and no one would blink an eye. That and the lack of distortion in modern pop music, whatever happened to a bit of tape saturation?
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
K: It’s a song rather than a whole record, but “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys. It is the perfect song in every way. It’s actually my favourite song of all time! Brian Wilson is a genius. That word is used too lightly these days, but he is the real deal.
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
K: Thin Lizzy! The coolest band to have ever graced this planet. Ripping out some harmonies with Scott Gorham in the mid-seventies. Yes please!
Which are the best 3 Heavy Metal albums of all time according to you?
K: Ooh, it’s a tough one! In no particular order, I’d have to say: “Melissa” by Mercyful Fate,  “Operation Mindcrime” by Queensryche and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” by Iron Maiden.
Fill in the phrase… “Heavy Metal music wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
K: Drugs and alcohol? Haha! In all seriousness, I’d have to say Eddie Van Halen. Where would Heavy Metal guitar be without that guy? He sonically shaped an entire generation!
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in rock history?
K: The best male vocalist of all time, never mind in rock, is Freddie Mercury, absolutely no contest. The best female vocalist in rock, in my opinion, is Ann Wilson of Heart. The tone she has is ridiculous, and the high notes!
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
K: Now that is tough... I’d give them “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys. I think it’s a great musical journey, and a fine example of how good we can be when we really put our minds to it. Either that or I’d give them some Trap music, so they’d know to stay the hell away from us. For their own benefit!
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
K: I’d love to go back and see the moment Jimi Hendrix schooled Clapton off stage. That would’ve been interesting to witness! Either that or go a few hundred years in to the future to see if technology evolves the way we expect it to.
Who is the sexiest female Rock Star of all time?
K: Cher was very beautiful back in the day. I’ve always had a thing for Stevie Nicks as well. That being said, I reckon Jan Kuehnemund of Vixen has been the heartthrob of many a heavy metal fan!
If you had the opportunity to invite any famous person, living or dead, over for supper whom would you choose and why?
K: It’d have to be Frank Zappa; I’d love to have a conversation with that guy. He intrigues me on so many levels. Plus I’d get him to sign all my vinyl!
Where would you like to live… in Middle Earth, in the Seven Kingdoms or in a post-apocalyptic world like the one on “The Walking Dead”?
K: That’s easy, Middle Earth! I’ll go hunt me some Orc...
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
K: Their belongings would promptly find themselves in bags, being launched out of the front door. Also, they’d be getting my damn records back!
That’s all for now Kyle! Thank you very much for talking to Grande Rock. Take care dude!
K: Thank you for having me! All the best. Ugh!

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