SEPTA is one of the bands that I was really amazed by was their output and creativity this year. I reviewed earlier their latest album “Bitten By The Serpent Of The Kingdom Of The Spirit.” and their metal vibes are incredible. I was lucky to have an exclusive interview with the band talking more about their philosophy, themes, music, and upcoming plans. Let’s get started!
● Describe the musical frameworks Bitten by the Serpent of the Kingdom of the Spirit explores.
Basically for this album, we’ve decided once again to challenge ourselves with something completely different, but still familiar to our fans. Broad strokes are the same: it’s heavy, dissonant, progressive in structures, alternative by nature, with a couple of twists and shifts to unknown terrains. But this time around we’ve expanded our prog side, with a lot of Tool-esque guitar riffs and a more theatrical approach to song-writing, long build-ups, and reprising themes. I think the most noticeable change is in the vocals department, I’ve almost completely ditched all the screaming and tried to deliver lyrics in a more Broadway-like manner, bathed in harmonies and giant hooks. I’m certain this will be equally a huge selling point for some and a big turn-off for others. But at the end of the day, anyone can find something for their liking in this record.
● Tell me about the ideas that inform the album.
Yes, this is an interesting one. I remember reading a book by Gustav Meyrink, a twist on traditional tales of Golem, but this one is very trippy and surreal. It’s like a fever dream, nauseating, but so intriguing you can’t let go. The first song we’ve written for the album was Golem, when I heard the first demo this medieval vibe it emitted was so certain for me that the idea of making the whole record in that vein came almost instantly. I’ve developed a story of a distant future where humankind learned to create artificial sentient lifeforms, like androids, or like golems, yeah, and their plan was to send one to the past and maybe try and change all the horrors that happened in the beginning of the XX century. There’s a triumvirate of protagonists: creator of Golem, Golem, and a father-figure he meets in the past, first and later actually the same person sending each other the Golem through a Bootstrap paradox. The album forms an infinite cycle of failure repeating itself, all because Golem suffers from the existential crisis somewhere along the way, abandoning his mission and actually turning against men. Themes of purpose, the meaning of life, and higher power are all very interesting for me to explore, and I think this is the most inner-reflecting album we did, once you transcend enough there’s no way to escape these thoughts of what the hell is actually happening and what our lives are all about.
● How do the diverse, complex rhythmic and global musical influences serve the storylines of the record?
I think we won’t be very much affected by the tendencies that are currently happening with the music in the world. I mean it’s a very introspective record, both musically and thematically. So our main approach was to analyse everything we’ve already done, pinpoint aspects of our music we like the most, capitalise on that, and diversify our sound further. For what is worse I think we even narrowed down our musical palette on this record, for it to be more cohesive and better sewn together. There’s still a lot of stuff happening though, we have our first fully acoustic number, a lot of Vangelis inspired electronics, I’ve even tried my hand in composing cabaret music, so yeah, we’re still the same Septa from the block. Just an improved version.
● What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process?
Well, there were none this time around. I think as a band we’re stronger than ever, we understand each other and most importantly listen to each other. I personally matured as a songwriter a lot and for the first time wrote on a guitar the whole song for the album myself, so that’s that. And I think this also provided guys with more creative freedom, some of the songs were completed without the usual amount of my involvement and it’s a good thing. One challenge for sure was a timeframe: we recorded the whole record in like a week, and Lewis Johns mixed the whole thing in five days or so. It was an amazing experience to produce something that good that quickly without all these birthing pains we usually have, hope it’ll become our new normal.
● Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?
I’ve researched a lot for the concept of BBTSOTKOTS, and I’ve read a lot about Jewish culture and struggles throughout the times, and of course, Gustav Meyrink’s book is a great find for me, as well as 1917’s movie Der Golem. And once I’ve got the full picture of what topic this record will cover, yes, I think our approach changed, at least in the vocal department, that’s for sure. I wanted for lyrics to be more comprehensive and less repetitive, some of my voice dynamics suffered because of that decision, but it definitely brought some sort of balance to our music, with everyone having enough time in the spotlight.
● What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?
We’ve always been aiming to make thought-provoking music, not only something to headbang to, but to head-scratch too. If our songs start some kind of an inner dialogue in our listeners that’s more than enough. We’re working a lot on bringing a unique aesthetic to our songs, something very distinguishable, that brings a pleasant feeling you get looking at a beautiful piece of art or watching an amazing movie.
● Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?
We try to run away from those patterns and never repeat ourselves. One guy wrote something like “3 albums, 3 different genres” after we’ve released Sounds Like Murder, and this time new comment appeared on our page stating “4 albums, 4 different genres”, so this is very important for us. Hopefully, we won’t disappoint anyone with our fifth album.
● What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?
Movies, definitely, I really like to visualise music and vice versa, when I’m watching movies I get this vibe of how cool this scene would sound accompanied by something like this and so on. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner had a huge impact on this record, and this is kinda obvious, it’s like the greatest story of manmade lifeforms rebelling against their creators. The famous monologue from this movie even made it on the record in a form of a vocoder part in Tannhauser Gate. Also, this computer game Detroit: Become Human has a lot of the same ideas and interlinking thoughts I had while writing the story for Bitten by the Serpent of the Kingdom of the Spirit.
● What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in form of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?
Okay. I think it’s good to keep in mind that this is your only try, there’s not gonna be a do-over. You write songs, you learn to play them, record them, release them, and then promote them. In this chain of events, there’s no place for slacking or half-measures. You do it one time, and one time only. So do your best, apply yourself with enough effort, and results will be something to be proud of.
● The ‘Pogroms’ music video is really nice, still, I didn’t find any other videos from the album, are you planning to film one soon?
Actually we did another video for the lead single Golem, and it got kinda lost after we filmed it even before the album was released. Then after a year of re-shooting and re-editing we’ve finally dropped it. It’s really trippy and referencing a lot of things that’ve inspired BBTSOTKOTS. Its aesthetics are something we were really excited about, to have another man’s vision blended in with our own to make something that unique is a really cool thing. We just love that this video is so different from any other in the genre.
● Each record try to evolve your prog sound, but aren’t you worried that may affect the band’s sales, since everything is becoming trendy electro-pop these days?
Sales are the last thing that we’re worried about. I think we’ve incorporated enough elements from other genres to push our sound forward, for better or worse. But with our forth album we were really confident in the overall concept and how it should sound. This time around we referenced other bands as little as possible and really tried crafting something unique. If we feel the same way about electro-pop it will be electro-pop next time, but it has to be natural. Hopefully our fans are onboard with these sudden shifts in our music.
● Finally, thank you for the chat, tell your fans more about your upcoming plans.
Thank you for the interview! “Big things coming!” Something is always cooking in our backyard, but I don’t want to spoil anything. But yeah, album five is getting ready to be recorded, first vinyl pressings are coming, first animated video is on its way.