With their current album „Retrofuture Caveman“ METHADONE SKIES have created a wonderfully coherent hybrid of instrumental doom metal, stoner, psychedelic and post-rock. In our interview on the occasion of the album’s release, Raul Stanciu told us why the metal scene in his home country Romania hasn’t been able to make big waves yet, how a song can benefit from an extensive drone part, what kind of music he himself can’t get into, and what he thinks should be taught in music classes.
Hi, thanks for answering a few questions for us. How are you doing at the moment? How are you coping with the situation around the pandemic?
Hello, thank you for the interview. Right now, we are busy rehearsing for a live performance that we will film and hopefully release online by the end of the month. Since we cannot play a proper concert yet, this is the best way to present the new album at the moment. Regarding the pandemic situation, we are trying to be optimistic now that things will gradually return to normal again. We were lucky to not have been personally affected by it, but on a psychological level we’ve been through some ups and downs in the past year. Luckily, we kept busy by working on this new album and felt like we had a purpose.
You are from Romania, where there are rather few rock and metal music groups that attract international attention. From your point of view, what is the reason why bands from your scene mostly remain relatively low profile?
There are a number of reasons for this. First, few bands consider investing their time and resources to hone their ideas and sound. Many are happy to be a „weekend band“, playing a few times per year in local pubs for friends who tell them „you’re great“ and that’s it. On the other side, there are veteran acts who don’t even try to play outside the country, because they consider it’s not worth it. They got stuck in a rut and are not willing to challenge themselves anymore. Luckily, newer generations are trying to get out there and play no matter what. It actually helps you become tighter and better sounding, due to a whole different level of performances in other countries where local scenes are more developed. Thankfully, ours goes through a professionalism upgrade in the major cities, getting closer to what is already present in Central or Western Europe. Hopefully in the next 5-10 years more bands will be willing to tour outside Romania.
What bands would you recommend to someone interested in music from your country?
Right now, I believe the most interesting bands in the underground scene here are Dordeduh (progressive metal/black metal), Valerinne (post-rock), Fluturi pe Asfalt (post-rock/post-metal), Pinholes (alternative rock/post-rock), Alternativ Quartet (post-rock), White Walls (progressive metal), The Thirteenth Sun (progressive metal), Cardinal (garage rock/math rock), VVVLV (crust punk/sludge metal) and Cold Brats (hardcore punk).
You have a new album out titled „Retrofuture Caveman“. How did the release go? Are you satisfied despite the limitations due to the pandemic?
Since we are not a major touring band and don’t have a label pushing us, we never have big expectations. However, we were positively surprised with the interest expressed right from the moment we revealed „Retrofuture Caveman“. Our previous album, „Different Layers Of Fear“ was uploaded on multiple music channels on Youtube and it helped us reach a bigger audience. It seems the new LP has the chance to gain some momentum for us and we are grateful for this. Also, with no concerts and festivals in sight, people probably have had more time and desire lately to check new artists/bands out and buy the music they enjoy (us included).
The title and the artwork suggest that the album has a time-related concept, with the word „caveman“ hinting at a reference point in prehistoric times. What is the thought behind this?
Most likely each of us has his own interpretation for them. The song titles usually come randomly, since we do not have lyrics. For the artwork, however, we toyed with the idea of humanity during different eras. There is also room left to fill gaps. The idea of „Retrofuture Caveman“ for me is about the mentality and civilizations through time. You can be or act as advanced as possible and at some point the primal survival instincts kick back in. This past year we saw how people react to various issues or dangers and often felt uncanny how cold many became in front of threats.
Since your tracks don’t feature vocals, there are no lyrics to take clear messages from. Is there nevertheless a certain feeling or a mental image, which you want to convey to people with your music?
Just let the music make you imagine whatever you wish. If it takes your mind away from the daily routine, then we played our part.
As your first single you released „Infected By Friendship“ including a music video. You yourself wrote that it is one of your softer tracks. Why was it the best choice from your point of view to give people an impression of the album in advance?
We wanted to try something different. It would have been safe to just release a shorter, heavy song like „The Enabler“ first, but we all voted in favor of „Infected By Friendship“ instead. The album strays a bit from the stoner rock stuff we focused more on up to „Different Layers Of Fear“. Plus, I think that usually the first song you reveal generates the most interest from people.
There’s a certain disparity in the title – you don’t normally associate an infection with something positive like friendship. What’s that all about?
The title was a tongue in cheek reaction last year to the pandemic growing around the world. Everyone was getting more frustrated, meaner or rude, especially on the internet where they could comment on anything without actual consequences. It‘s almost like we need a friendship pandemic next.
The rest of the songs are by no means all heavy or gloomy, but also contain even encouraging passages. How did you manage to produce such optimistic tones during such hard times?
We only keep the ideas which everyone feels they are interesting or different than before. Initially, I felt that „Retrofuture Caveman“ was the moodiest record we made so far, but I think now it is the most calibrated. It has a bit of everything we’ve tried from softer, post-rock stuff to doom riffs. Maybe it was a subconscious decision to play some optimistic sounding chords.
Your songs are quite long and completely instrumental – not necessarily a combination that makes it easy to get into playlists or otherwise reach new listeners. Doesn’t it bother you that this might mean you’ll only appeal to a niche audience in the long run?
We asked ourselves a number of times a decade ago if we want to go for a more accessible sound or not. We agreed to do what comes naturally and kept jamming. In a weird way, the longer songs kept resonating with us and people who listen to our music, so that was it. It’s sad to jump on a bandwagon and play the same songs as 100 other bands, especially at an underground level.
Especially the title track of your new record with its running time of 18 minutes and its extended drone part is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. How would you explain the purpose of parts like that to someone who hardly considers such sounds to be music?
For almost a year, the title track ended at around 8 minutes. Last summer we rehearsed it and we just kept the feedback going and then played the final chords slower. I think it gave the song an entire new dimension, this is why we kept it. I find it quite an immersive listen, but it flows nicely. Even if you don’t find drone music interesting, maybe in this context you’ll find that it has a transitioning purpose. You should listen to the song without preconceptions.
Are there, on the other hand, also forms of music that you yourself can’t get into?
I never managed to get into trap music. I enjoy old school hip hop, but this new wave of mumble rap, trap and stuff like that I just don’t get it.
Your songs don’t follow a uniform pattern, but are very different from each other in their structure and instrumentation. How do you approach your songwriting – do you always have a concrete goal in mind or do you rather let yourself drift intuitively?
Most of the time we jam and keep certain ideas we find interesting. We just drift wherever we feel like and then start finetuning each part. If we already have 2-3 tracks in a certain direction, then we try to come up with 1-2 counterparts. Our main concern is to keep the album dynamic, especially since the tracks are long.
Members of Dordeduh are said to have been involved in the production of the album. How did this come about and how did your collaboration work?
They are good friends of ours. Edmond and Cristian (Sol Faur) were sound technicians at a former main rock/metal club in our hometown. We got along well and decided to record „Eclectic Electric“ at their studio (Consonance) in 2013. They worked on every album of ours since then, because they understand how we want to sound and have a lot of fun together. Also, in the past couple of years we took Edmond with us wherever we played and our drummer, Flavius has become a part of Dordeduh‘s extended live line-up, playing percussion.
Especially in post-rock there’s a lot of emphasis placed on the sound. Some people think of music from this genre as overproduced. What do you think about that?
I believe that post-rock has a very dedicated core audience. They want a certain vibe, sound and progression, so the genre kind of hit a wall because of that. Many bands use the same formulas and production to make sure their songs make their way into the right corner. It’s nice to see when a certain band shakes things up a bit, mixing with other genres or finds different ways to present itself. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of overproduction overall. I think it’s more like many people look for artists that sound exactly as certain overproduced bands/records.
What do you plan to do next with METHADONE SKIES?
Well, we hope to have that live performance I mentioned online by the end of the month. Also, we are working on another music video for a song off the album. Touring is most likely postponed until next year, unfortunately. So, chances are we will start working on new music over the summer. We are looking forward to it, because we want to shake things a bit sound-wise again to keep things interesting.
Finally, a quick brainstorming session. What comes to your mind about the following terms?
Time travel: Would be amazing. I’ve been reading a lot of sci-fi books and would love to see how things will evolve in a distant future.
The voice as an instrument: Not easy to pull off, but when successful, it sounds awesome.
Wall Of Sound: Love it, especially when a band manages to recreate it live.
Social media: Exhausting and crazy, but a bit of a guilty pleasure as well.
Vintage rock: Music classes in schools should dedicate a number of hours for children to listen to vintage rock among other contemporary genres. There were so many great bands that influenced various other genres too. Still, don’t get caught in that „there’s no good music these days anymore“ state of mind.
Apocalypse: Bring it on! No, I hope we manage to stay alive and colonize Mars plus other planets. If there will be an apocalypse, I’m sure it won’t be the biblical one. It will most likely be something far less epic than specified there.
Thanks again for the interview. Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Thank you very much for the thorough interview and interest in our music! We hope you enjoy our new album, „Retrofuture Caveman“ and hope to see you somewhere live soon!