Tuned Up and Sitting Down with Skyharbor – Band Interview
(Photo courtesy of Skyharbor’s Facebook page.)
I had the privilege of sitting down with Skyharbor frontman Eric Emery when the band rolled through Indianapolis supporting The Contortionist on the Clairvoyant tour this past Friday. Eric and I touched on a few different topics, most notably the band’s forthcoming record, Sunshine Dust, which will be their first full-length since 2014’s Guiding Lights.
For those unfamiliar, Skyharbor began as a collaboration between guitarist Keshav Dhar and TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins. Eric joined the band after Tompkins’ departure in 2015, and together they released three singles in 2015 and 2016, including my personal favorite, “Blind Side,” which was my #8 song of 2015. Though Eric is a Cleveland native, the quintet still very much has its roots in the band’s home country of India.
TUNED UP: With Skyharbor still anchored in India, how does that look for you [as a band]? Is it similar to how things were with Tompkins?
Eric Emery: It’s the same work flow… Devesh [Dayal, guitarist] lives in Los Angeles, but the rest of the guys are still in India, and we just utilize the internet: Dropbox, Skype, etc., is really the only way this is possible. We wrote most of the album that way, submitting ideas and so on, so it really came in handy.
How about when you recorded it? Was it the same idea? Did you get together? How did that look?
With the first iteration of the album, we tried a DIY approach to it, but we finished it and it was just missing that sort of intangible magic you like [to hear] in a record. It didn’t sound like a bunch of guys jamming songs; it sounded like people recording their separate parts across the world. We ended up signing to a label which gave us the means to go to Australia and record there with one of our favorite producers, Forrester Savell, who’s worked with Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus, The Butterfly Effect, all the bands we really love. We all got to be in one room to come up with ideas, mess with the songs, and have everything evolve organically as opposed to through a computer screen. Forrester pushed us quite a bit and produced the record and we’re really happy with how it’s turning out so far.
How long did you have to record there in Australia?
It was about a month—we went to Studio Circuit, and we slept in the studio as well. Pretty much day and night we were working on the record, most of the time in pre-production, reimagining the songs, tightening things up, and trimming the fat, so to speak.
I actually ended up scrapping most of the vocals that were written just because the songs ended up changing so much structurally that what I had almost didn’t make sense anymore. Most of my time there was spent in a room with a laptop writing lyrics and redoing all the melodies while [the rest of the guys] were recording the real parts. Towards the end I started to record vocals, but there wasn’t a lot of time left at that point. I probably recorded around 60% of the album’s vocals there before I came back to Ohio and finished the rest of the vocals there. All the parts were done and established, so it was just a matter of coming back to my studio in Cleveland and tracking them for real – I’ve produced and mixed records for a living for about ten years now.
Okay, so you still had that continuity. There were a few minor parts to finish but that didn’t really mess with the flow, per se. On top of that you’ve been fully immersed in that for quite some time now, so I’m sure that also helped play a role in your writing, especially as a band allocated across the globe like you are. As the vocalist and lyricist for the band, who or what do you tend to draw your inspiration from?
I’m a big fan of Chris Cornell, Maynard [James Keenan], and Brandon Boyd—those are probably three of my favorites lyrically. What’s cool about them is there’s sort of an ambiguity to their lyrics, so I try to maintain that—I don’t just flat out say what I mean. While I try to keep it as poetic as I can, I don’t want to be too meandery with it; there’s a fine line, so as far as lyrical direction, I try to live in that space. In terms of inspiration and what to write about, it’s literally anything. I’m a huge movie fan so I’ll a lot of times take a movie plot and write lyrics about that. Some of the songs are inspired by my dislike for Donald Trump and the current state of the world, and others just by things I find interesting in the day-to-day. I have a notepad on my phone to write down all of my ideas.
Right on. You said you’re from Cleveland, and as the frontman you’re obviously just one aspect of the band, but Cleveland must hold some sort of significance to you on a personal level at least. How would you say those roots play a role for you as a musician? TUNED UP is based in Columbus, and we very much recognize the importance of that Columbus scene, so I was wondering how that looked for you as a Cleveland native.
Well that’s why all of our songs are about LeBron James. *laughs.* Growing up in Cleveland is what first introduced me to metal music. A lot of metal bands are from Cleveland, so my first concerts were bands like Chimaira and Mushroomhead, and being exposed to it definitely influenced where I am today, but I will say that I don’t listen to much metal at all anymore—it’s probably 10% of what I listen to nowadays. I likely would have never really gotten into it had I grown up somewhere else.
Folks who have been following Skyharbor for a while now know about the 3 singles you released, “Out of Time,” “Blind Side,” and “Chemical Hands,” but are no doubt itching to hear more, as it’s been a while since even those tracks were first unveiled. What does the timetable for Sunshine Dust look like? Obviously it’s coming this year, but how soon this year will it be, and do you have anything else planned in terms of tours or anything else like that coming up? When the record does release, will those 3 singles be on it?
Essentially the record itself is complete; it’s at the point now where the label is putting together the marketing and release. They’re looking to tie that into something, probably some tour we’ll be on, so it’ll probably release around that time. So maybe in a couple of months? All I can really say is that it’ll be this year for sure.[The rest of] the band actually just got their 3-year US visas so we can now comfortably tour the US without going through the struggles of visa nonsense for at least 3 years. We also have a single coming soon that we just filmed a music video for. As for the 3 singles we’ve already released, a version of each of them will be on the record. We re-recorded all of them… I don’t want to give anything away, but some of them have been pretty drastically changed. All three of them will be on there at some capacity though.
Right on, well that’s something to be excited about for sure. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me, and I look forward to hearing Sunshine Dust when it does end up seeing the light of day.
Skyharbor just announced a brief stint in May touring the U.S. in support of BABYMETAL, so be sure to check out those tour dates and stay up to date with the band on their Facebook page.