Interview with Seven Spires – “We’re making the art we want to make.”

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With “Gods of Debauchery,” American symphonic metal unit SEVEN SPIRES has released its best album to date. This record is also one of the best to come out this year. Naturally, we had to know more about it, the storyline, the wonderful collaborations, and what it’s like to be on Frontiers Records’ roaster. We caught up with guitarist Jack Kosto, who provided us with detailed answers to our questions. Read the interview below.

Hello! How have you been doing in these crazy times? 

We’ve been doing pretty well, all things considered! It’s been a crazy time for everyone in this industry or adjacent to it, and we’re grateful to just be continuing to make music.

Since “Emerald Seas” received high marks and was a critically acclaimed release, what was your mindset going into “Gods of Debauchery”? Did you consciously think that you had to top it?

The mindset is always to do a “better” album than the previous, I think! When you make art, that’s a hard thing to quantify, but for us, I just think it means we want to play and sing better, write the absolute best parts and songs that we can, use the experience we gained from the previous ones, and record it all to the best of our ability. I don’t think it’s possible to say whether or not any particular song or album is objectively better than another, but we give 100% to every album and that 100% gets “better” because our experience grows.

Gods of Debauchery” is a concept record, like the previous two, that follows the journey of an unnamed hero. Where are we now in the storyline and what is the hero’s mindset going into this album?

“Gods of Debauchery” follows the story of a sea-captain-turned-psychopomp who now roams the earth with a duty they resent, an eternal life they do not want, and the crushing belief that they do not deserve happiness. The events of this album unfold just after the incineration of the demi-plane/underworld they created at the end of “Solveig.” Our exhausted anti-hero is now on the run from their soul-keeping duty and the demons of their past, wishing for a restful true death they can never have.

Do you have an outline of how the story will continue on the next album(s), or is this the end of the road? 

This album marks the end of the trilogy that we have released so far. I can’t really say anything definitive at this point, but we don’t have plans to continue this story with these characters. There was a lot of world and universe building that went into writing these stories, so maybe future releases will be set in the same world, but it’s unlikely we’ll revisit the particular characters or timeline, at least any time soon! We’re quite happy with how the story ended.

I think this album is a great example of the importance of having creative freedom when working on a new release. Were there any discussions with the label about the music you guys were writing? 

One thing that’s fantastic about working with Frontiers for us is that they don’t pressure us creatively in any way. We write the album how we want it, and they get a finished product, and that’s really how it should be, I think. Of course, I’m sure that if we asked for input, they’d have some, but I think it’s understood that we’re making the art we want to make, and they really respect that. I think on a personal level, they all enjoy what we do, which is a nice environment to be in.

In between “Gods Among Men” and “Lightbringer,” the album is very rich and offers many different sonic textures. Was this your goal going into this record? Was it to make it as varied and nuanced as possible?

It’s less of a goal and more of a byproduct of being influenced by all kinds of music and art, and then having the freedom to express what we want to with the tools that we have, which are basically a metal band + full orchestra + a really versatile vocalist. We’re all individually inspired by everything from death metal, to pop, to jazz, and using all of those influences to color the stories we want to tell lets us express a large spectrum of emotion and feelings. 

Speaking of “Lightbringer,” that song showcases a very different facet of the band. How did your fanbase react to it?

Our fans know what we’re about at this point [laughs]! Even for our debut album, the first single we released was “The Cabaret of Dreams,” which swings and is almost like a metal take on a Broadway opening number. Then the second single was “The Paradox,” which is heavily inspired by our favorite symphonic black metal artists. There’s always been a lot of variety in what we do, and I think the people that are thrown off or upset by it just haven’t discovered a lot of our catalog yet. It’s easy I think for someone who discovered us via the video for “Gods of Debauchery” to then hear “Lightbringer” and be totally confused because they’d labeled us a certain way based on the first thing they heard, but hopefully, they go digging through some of our other material and just enjoy listening with an open mind!

The epic “This God is Dead” features Roy Khan (CONCEPTION, ex-KAMELOT), which is one of Adrienne Cowan’s vocal heroes. How was it to actually collaborate with him, and what did he say to your invite to be featured on your music? 

It was an awesome experience for all of us, I think, to collaborate with Roy. He responded to our request in a really classy and professional way, and in a way that really shows just how much he cares about his craft. He basically said that he knew about us a little and thought Adrienne was also a great singer. I think she may have had a heart attack reading that [laughs]. Then he asked us to hear the song, asked about the melodies we wanted him to sing, asked about the lyrics, the title, the character he’d be singing as, etc. He wanted to really know about the artistic side and not just sing a few bars and collect a paycheck. It was gratifying, and I think he made that song so much more special than we had even hoped for.

You have also collaborated with Casey Lee Williams and Jon Pyres. How did these collaborations come to be? 

With Casey, Adrienne has worked with her and her father, Jeff, before for some of the music for the show RWBY, which is an American anime basically. Jeff writes either all or a huge amount of the music for that show, and also has a band that performs the music from time to time, and they asked Adrienne to be a part of that. We actually had a lot of new fans and followers from that, and then when we had the song “Lightbringer” ready to go with room for a guest, Casey was one of the obvious choices because of the way she sings and how cool she is as a person.

Speaking of cool people, Jon is a really good friend of all of ours, and I have another band/project with him called THREADS OF FATE. Jon is one of those people who really feels music on a deeply emotional level and he has a naturally magical way of expressing sadness and grief via singing. The character he plays in “The Unforgotten Name” is basically a reincarnation of the original Lost Soul from the debut album, and we needed the person to express that character to be absolutely spot on. For me at least, it couldn’t have been anyone else!

It seems like more and more bands are starting to collaborate these days. Do you think these collaborations are important to expand the fanbases, or is it just for fun?

As a fan, I do think it’s a really fun thing when my favorite artists guest with others and I’ve discovered a lot of other bands this way, actually. As an artist though, we would never have a guest on a track just for fun or to get more fans, it has to be about the song, the person’s voice or instrument, and what we need to get across musically. I’m not saying that’s the way it has to be, but that’s the way it has to be for us at least!

The songs are, especially the singles, very diverse. Why did you pick those specific songs to become singles? Was it the label’s choice? 

If I remember correctly, we presented the songs as single ideas to the label with a relative order of how they should be released, and the label basically was cool with what we came up with, and actually suggested releasing two extra singles before the first video dropped. The first one, “The Cursed Muse,” was suggested by someone at the label, and it was one we hadn’t thought of as a single, but once the idea was brought up, we thought it was a great idea! This is an awesome example of the kind of idea swapping we do with some of the guys at Frontiers, it’s usually that easy and straightforward.

Adrienne was a touring musician for AVANTASIA and has worked with Sascha Paeth on his band as well as with Magnus Karlsson for the HEART HEALER project. Have these experiences played a role in how unleashed she is with her vocals on this album, or would this have happened anyway? 

I think I’m safe to say on her behalf that when she’s working for AVANTASIA, Sascha, Magnus, or anyone else, they’re usually hiring her to fill a specific role. With SEVEN SPIRES, on the other hand, she has the freedom to write and sing however she feels inspired to, and this means not having any guidelines or limits! It’s a much different experience.

That said, I am certain her time working with and on those projects influences her in quite a few ways. I know that training to do 3-hour AVANTASIA sets really had her work on her technique and stamina, as those kinds of shows would be impossible to pull off if some technique requirements are lacking. It’s like going on a 3 hour run for your voice [laughs]. Massive respect to everyone involved in those productions, and I hope we can do similarly long and massive shows like that in the future!

I have written in the conclusions of my review of the album that I don’t see SEVEN SPIRES in any other lineup than the current one. Do you think the level of creativity and musicianship would suffer if any one of you left the band?

I think all four of us 100% agree with you. Although we have had other members in the past, I consider when this lineup was solidified to be the birth of the band. We found our sound and found such freedom with this lineup that I really can’t see doing it another way. Another cool thing we talk about a lot is that we’re all actually really great friends outside of the workplace. We basically talk to each other every day and love hanging out whenever we’re able, even if it has nothing to do with music. Adding or removing anyone from the mix would be a weird change for sure, but there’s a lot of joy, inspiration, and magic to be had as things are now, that I wouldn’t change for anything in the world.

Did you learn anything new about yourself while going through this pandemic and making this album? 

I think we all did in our own ways. It was really brutal to have our touring plans for 2020 ripped out from under us so suddenly and I think we all took it really hard. We’ve all learned and changed a lot just as people during this experience, but I think now that we’ve seen that we can weather a storm like this, we can pretty much take on anything from here out [laughs]!

Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with our fans and our readers?

Just want to say thanks for the cool questions, greetings to all of our Finnish listeners and fans, as there are a lot of you guys! I think Finland is one of the highest countries on our list in terms of listeners on streaming services, which is really cool. We all really want to come, visit, and perform for you guys, and are always thinking about and working towards that! Hope you’re all well, hope you enjoyed reading this, and hope to see you soon.