Ascendia

Ascendia is a newcomer from Canada, which has just released its debut album. Grande Rock had a chat with the guitarist Billy Lov so as to find out more about this budding heavy/power metal band…
Ascendia band pic

Hey Billy… first of all, do give us a brief bio of Ascendia.
 
B: Ascendia is a Canadian metal band that was born sometime in 2009. We were originally called “Our Covenant” but switched the name just before the release of our debut album “The Lion and the Jester” on February 24th 2015. All the members of the band actually went to the same elementary school, but it wasn’t until high school that we realized we wanted to be a band. We all listen to many genres of music and all subgenres of metal.
 
 
At first, you focused on your live shows more. Was it more crucial for the band than writing your own material?
 
B: Playing live in the beginning was a crucial part of our development as a band, and as individual musicians. We would only play covers which really ingrained our influences into our playing. We had the chance to play with all sorts of bands which really helped us realize what it took to be an excellent band. It also allowed us to hone in and master our skills which in turn allowed us to write an album of a much higher caliber.
 
 
What was that thing/incident which made you reconsider things and deal with music more seriously than before?
 
B: In the beginning it was just a general love for music that brought us together. We were playing high school shows and only doing sets of covers. We started playing some battle of the bands and won a whole bunch of them. We decided it was time to write some original music, and started writing really good tunes and thought why not become an actual band. And here we are!
 
 
By the way, how did you come up with the band’s name Ascendia?
 
B: Every one in the band was brainstorming names. We came up with many sub par, generic names before we chose Ascendia. We were actually at the movie theatres when I (Billy Lov) just randomly thought of Ascendia. Honestly I think we were watching Godzilla ha ha!
 
 
Which were the bands and the music genres that urged you to form Ascendia in the first place? You must have been listening to heavy/power, melodic and symphonic music for many years, right?
 
B: Lots of really incredible bands like Nightwish, Kamelot, Sonata Arctica, Firewind, Symphony X, In Flames, and early monsters like Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Whitesnake, Boston, etc. We have listened to classic rock since we were like 4 years old, and by the age of 9 we were completely engulfed in melodic symphonic metal.
 
 
How would you describe Ascendia’s music to someone that hasn’t heard of you before?
 
B: Classy, elegant, but edgy. We are a product of what happens when European and North American metal collides. Pretty much contained chaos. We worked very hard to find a perfect threshold between heaviness and beauty, traditional instrumentation and classical symphonic, melody and maturity.
 
 
What is the thing you wanted to present with your debut initially? You know the first impression is always a barometer for any band, right?
 
B: We wanted people to be completely taken aback. We wanted them to think “where the hell did this band come from”. We never wanted to write and album that made people think that it was not bad for a first release. We wanted to create and album that made people around the world know that there are some serious metal bands in Canada.
 
 
Thus, what does the album title “The Lion and the Jester” declare? How is the cover art related to the album title?
 
B: “The Lion and the Jester” is a metaphor for extremism. It can relate to all forms of extremism but we focused in on religious extremism. The lion is a very proud creature and represents aggression, pride, and the willingness to fight for what it believes in. Jesters were the comical entertainment back in the medieval times, they didn’t have the most educated jobs. The jester represents laughter, jokes, and ignorance. Together they make an extremist. Someone who is so fierce and proud of what they believe in, but also so ignorant. From the outer eye extremists look almost laughable. The thing is, neither the lion nor the jester believe that the opposite party is a part of them. The lion and the jester strongly disagree. We want to just lay it on the table here that we are not a religious band, religion is just one of the many topics we explore in our writing. Lots of people look at the album art and think it’s just a lion mauling an angel, and what does that have to do with “The Lion and the Jester”? Well the album art covers themes across the whole album as well as the album title. The angel is beautiful and one of the most widely acknowledged religious symbols. The lion is a creature that is “created by God”.  The album art is a metaphor that says religion is beautiful (no matter what religion you believe in) but things “created by God” such as humans, are destroying it with acts like religious warfare. You will also notice the angel is crying and holding a dream catcher. The tear drop relates to the song “Why Angels Cry” and the dreamcatcher represents a crucial part of a four song story that includes “Moonchild”, “Last Forever”, “My Last Song”, and “Faded Away”.
 
 
Please tell us a few things about each track…
 
“At the End of It All”: Hard hitting tune with lots of great melodies, that has a very original sound.
 
“Remember Me”: The most vocal intensive track on the album which includes choirs, and coral vocal dubbing.
 
“Moonchild”: Most progressive song on the album that includes wicked synths and catchy melodies.
 
“Demon Eyes”: One of the heaviest tracks on the album, a bit more straight forward in nature, but smashes you...
 
“Last Forever”: A beautiful ballad that shows you a very different side of us...
 
“No More Tales to Tell”: The hidden gem of the album, we feel it will get overlooked at first but after a couple listens it may be your favourite.
 
“Why Angels Cry”: A prelude that sets the emotion for “Faded Away”
 
“Faded Away”: A song that blends in many influences to paint you a melodic picture...
 
“My Last Song”: A very subtle song that take you through a ride of beauty and calamity…
 
“The Song That You Deserved”: A haunting duet that draws emotion and reveals a very vulnerable side of the album.
 
“The Lion and the Jester”: The album masterpiece. It was the most ambitious song on the album. It shows tons of creative exploration and reveals a very powerful message.
 
“Starlit Eyes (Bonus Track)”: The first song we ever wrote. It has an obvious rock feel that makes it special and different from the rest of the album.
 
 
How did the cooperation with producer Stephen James Kerr occur? Did you give directions about the final sound? What do you think of the production now?
 
B: We entered a couple battle of the bands competitions, ended up winning them,  and were then rewarded with studio time at Epik Productions. This is where we met the beast they call Stephen James Kerr. Epik ended up closing down half way through the album but Steve immediately found solutions for us and enabled us to finish the album. We gave Steve a bit of direction of how we wanted the production to go but the main thing we told him was that we didn’t want to sound like anyone, we just wanted to sound amazing. We wanted the mixes to reflect the feel of the individual songs, and the album as a whole, and he nailed it. We love everything about the album otherwise we would have never released it. Steve is a very talented guy and has definitely secured the spot as producer on album 2!
 
 
Did you try to release the album through some label at any point or you had decided to do it yourselves from the start?
 
B: We decided to do it all by ourselves from the start. We honestly didn’t even think about going to a record label. Playing our style of metal in Canada is kind of like selling popsicles in the arctic, so we thought lets just kill this thing by ourselves and see what happens in the future.
 
 
Do you regret going alone on today’s enormous music market or is it better that way and you have more freedom in doing things?
 
B: We definitely don’t regret doing anything alone but at the same time it could have been helpful. The way it works for us is that we’re not pro label, or pro indie, we just want to do what makes the most business sense at the time. We are very open minded and would be more than happy to sign to a good label in the future, if it makes sense of course.
 
 
When I first listen to the track “At the End of It All”, it was Nick’s voice that impressed me as well. You see he’s not your average heavy/power metal vocalist with the high-pitched vocals. He has a more powerful “tenor-like” voice that adds another plus on Ascendia’s music on the whole. What do you think?
 
B: I think that If Ascendia went to a shop to create our ideal singer, we would have created Nick. He’s got incredible power, gritty rasp, gorgeous cleans, and a super unique sound. His lower tenor style is perfect for the style of music we write and it sets us apart from many clean vocal metal bands. He’s such a raw natural talent that only gets better. We write our tunes specifically to his strengths and he kills it.
 
 
Do you plan to release any other video in the next months? If yes, for which track?
 
B: We are actually releasing one more music video produced by Garret Henry (GGH Motion Pictures) for the song “The Lion and the Jester”. Since the song is roughly eight minutes we made this video almost like a short film. It’s a video that shows how beautiful all religions can be and how humans stain it with acts such as war. It states that war over religion is wrong and does not result in any winners, just immense amounts of loss. We are actually going to be doing an initiative to support the Canadian Red Cross International Fund. Basically we’re starting a campaign to raise money for victims of war caused by things like religion. We will be donating a percentage of all band generated revenues from album sales and merchandise to the International Red Cross.
 
Ascendia band pic

How about any live shows or even a tour?
 
B: Right now we have a bunch of local Toronto shows planned out in April and May such as Wacken Battle, an opening show for Haken, a show for 94.9 fm rock generation etc. We are currently looking for a spot on tour but nothing is set in stone yet.
 
 
What are the band’s further plans now that your first step has been taken?
 
B: We want to take baby steps and accomplish as much as we can in practical strides. We don’t know where this ride will take us, but we just hope to write valuable timeless music that touches people the way our favourite bands touch us.
 
 
Time for our weird questions!!! Name your 3 favorite metal bands of all time…
 
B: This is an impossible question because we have about 3 million favourites. But 3 bands we all love are Nightwish, Kamelot, and Karnivool…
 
 
How do you see the “free downloading issue” of our time? In a world where people easily download music for free and hardly pay for it what can we do in order to change things? Is it different now that you can see things on the inside?
 
B: We were all born in the technology era so we knew exactly what was to come. We are not mad at the people who download our music because lots of the time they would have never purchased it in the first place, also it’s so practical and free, it makes so much sense to download music. I think we’re a little more upset at governing bodies that aren’t protecting artists from the people making our music available for the stealing. But this is the way it is now, we can’t complain, we have to adapt. I think the future of music is going to be collecting royalties off steaming. Platforms like Spotify already do this but I think that musicians will receive higher royalty percentages and streaming will be the answer to help detour the downloading problem. John, Nick and I purchase all our albums and have stuffed CD booklets, we always figured if you like the music why wouldn’t you buy it? We want our favourite bands to have enough money to make a follow up album so we purchase CDs and merchandise like mental. We always had an idea of how bad it would feel for people to take our album, but until it happens to you it’s hard to understand the feeling.
 
 
Do you think that funding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo etc. can give any kind of solution to the “legal downloading” matter? Can bands/artists only be supported by their fans in order to make music?
 
B: I don’t necessarily think that these platforms are the answer but they definitely do help. Like I stated earlier I think the future of bands generating revenue will potentially be in streaming services. In saying that, bands have done very well from crowd funded resources such as Indiegogo. A perfect example is the very amazing Canadian band Protest The Hero. They funded their most recent album “Volition” purely from fan donations. Some genres have more loyal followers than others. Luckily for us metal is a very tight knit community that sticks together, which gives hope for crowd funded platforms.
 
 
Sex, drugs & rock & roll! Do they have any influence on today’s new bands or things are totally different? What should the rock music motto be? Views, tweets & Likes?!!
 
B: We are definitely not in the music industry for the whole party life style. We truly just want to make a living doing the thing we love and the thing people appreciate us for. I can’t speak for super successful bands but independent artists for the most part can’t afford the partying life style. I think if there was a realistic motto it would be virgins, crumbs, and Rock n Roll ha ha! 
 
 
Best pick-up line that has worked for you several times in the past?
 
B: Not bad yourself?
 
 
What’s the worst thing you can say right after sex?
 
B: Win!
 
 
Which character from “Game of Thrones” would you have been – if you lived in the Seven Kingdoms? The other guys from the band?
 
B: Surprisingly only Nick watches Game of Thrones and he said his favourite is Tyrion Lannister. But if there is a big savage with a huge beard and an axe that crushes people, I think the rest of us would all be him.
 
 
Which of the Seven Deadly Sins do you reckon is the one, that’s more likely to send you straight to Hell, in the afterlife?
 
B: Probably sloth, because we all really love sloths!
 
 
Imagine that your wife/girlfriend is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
 
B: If it was the ring forged in Mordor I think we would all be pretty pumped. If not then I think I would put her in a room with subwoofers and give her the brown note.
 
 
Finally, we have come to an end guys. Thx for talking to Grande Rock! Stay metal! Any last words? Wish you the best for the future to come…
 
B: Special thanks to Grande Rock and every one reading this interview! We love you all and hope you check out our stuff!