ENTREVUE / INTERVIEW
With: Conor Riley
ALBUM REVIEW HERE
Philippe André & Frédérik Roy - August 2022
Hello and thank you for this opportunity!
ProfilProg (PP): It's been a while since Astra's last album, ten years exactly. What have you been up to lately (beside Birth)?
Birth (B): Ten years is a long time! After Astra I took a break from music for a couple of years. I moved out of California to the mountains and was back a few years later. Spent some time focusing on some erudite endeavors and then of course there was covid. It’s been a fairly busy and influential ten years.
PP: How does it feel to start anew? Was this your main inspiration for the band's name?
B: It really helps to start a new project without any expectations. After playing in the same project for a while, once it starts gaining momentum it creates a lot of pressure to make something similar or better than the last album. I feel more creative when I don’t have any constraints or expectations. The name Birth was more about starting a new chapter, not necessarily attached to music but more as a metaphor for every aspect of life.
PP: Birth's formation is essentially very similar to Astra's, except for the drums and bass. Why did you feel the need create a new band?
B: I didn’t feel the need to create a new band it was just that the old band stopped working. I think some people just wanted to focus more on their lives and not have the pressure of touring or playing music. I’m always writing, and it didn’t feel right to continue with Astra without everyone being on board, so a new project was the only choice.
PP: Science-fiction seems to be a major inspiration in the composition of your music. Can you tell me more about that?
B: I wouldn’t say that the music is directly influenced by the books or movies I watch but I would say that the dystopian sci-fi I read seems to have a lot of parallels to the modern world. I think this dark outlook feeds into the way I think and the music I write.
PP: Who is the main composer in Birth, and how do you usually work to create long musical pieces?
B: Myself and Brian write many of the parts but once we bring this to the rest of the band it sometimes takes on a completely new sound. I’d say that we are all composers to some degree. It varies from song to song, sometimes all the parts are written before going into practice and we just jam them out until they are done. Other times we’ll have a few parts and no real direction or arrangements. For these songs we write parts on the spot and work on different arrangements. Those songs typically take longer to write. Ironically the longest song, “For Yesterday”, was written in seclusion during covid with the least collaboration.
PP: Just like in Astra, there's a lot of Mellotron in Birth. Is it one of your favorite instruments? (In my case, it is).
B: It’s hard to pick a favorite instrument, but the Mellotron is definitely up there. I really like how much it can elevate a song or add an extra element without having to mic up a whole orchestra or choir.
PP: I hear a lot of King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator in your music. What do these prog legends mean to you? Can you name other artists that greatly influenced your playing/composition?
B: The way that King Crimson was able to balance complicated and experimental compositions with beautiful singer/songwriter melodies has always been a huge influence on me. I always thought that era of music came and went way too fast. It’s something that I always try to do with Birth. There are too many influences on list but here are a few from the prog realm: Aphrodite’s Child, Osanna, Bo Hansson, PFM, Eloy, Kraan. I also listen to a lot of jazz, classical and pop music.
PP: I find a lot of similarities to Deep Purple's "Child in Time" in the song "Descending Us". Is that intentional? Are they one of your inspirations?
B: It wasn’t intentional at all. We try to blend simple parts with complicated parts. Sometimes finding simple parts that don’t sound like anything else is difficult. To be honest, I probably had heard this song before but didn’t really realize that “descending us” had any similarities until someone else pointed it out to me, years after it had been written. There are many, many songs that go from G to A with that rhythm, I could probably name ten of them off the top of my head and not even list the one that I actually ripped off. I have always wanted to get more into Deep Purple than I have, I really like Jon Lord’s keyboard playing but haven’t yet had the chance to take a deep dive.
PP: There used to be flute in Astra's albums. Is it something you would like to experience again with Birth?
B: Yes, definitely! Right now, no one in Birth plays the flute so it’s I’m not sure when that would happen but if the music gods take us there, I won’t fight it.
PP: What do you expect people to feel when they listen to your album? What emotions do you wish to convey through music?
B: I don’t really expect anyone to feel anyway when they listen to our music. A lot of the songs were written during sad and trying times so some of them have a somber tone to them. I would hope that the listener can relate to this on some level, but I just want people to listen to this album, and any album for that matter, and let it take you somewhere else
PP: Is there a tour planned anytime soon? Is there a chance you might make a detour to play in Montreal and/or Quebec?
B: We are in the early stages of planning some tours. Hopefully we will go on the road before the end of this year, but nothing is set in stone now. We would love to come to Montreal and Quebec!
PP: Birth's first opus will certainly be praised as one of the best prog albums this year. What do you think of that? Is there more to be expected soon from the band?
B: I think that’s great news! I’m happy with the response that we’ve gotten. The support has been overwhelming. We have been working on some new material. Not sure exactly when the next album will come out but I’m optimistic that it will happen.
PP: Thank you for your time and for your answers! The last words are for you.
B: Thanks everyone for listening!