Photo credit: Allen Martin; Irata left to right: John Kimes (touring guitar player), Jason Ward, Jon Case
Oh, Carolina. What have you not supplied the music world with? Hailing from North Carolina, Irata is an odd beast of a band. Combining elements of your basic rock formula with a not so basic metal and psychedelic and even blues style can be potentially hazardous, but these guys kick it off in form and in style. I talked with them recently on the phone about literally almost everything but most importantly about the art they create and where they see the music and metal world today.
As far as how to pronounce the band’s name, what is the pronunciation?
I’m a huge fan of the psychedelic sound you guys are making. When you guys got together Jason, what were your goals for the band? What did you hope to achieve as far as your sound and the art you are creating?
Jason: Our goal is to one day rule the world.
John: Musically our goal is just to continue to progress, keep writing it and keep doing it, and on the business side to make enough money to be able to keep doing it.
When you look at the music scene today and consider the availability of music to a wider audience, from where you guys have been until now, how do you feel that music has evolved, specifically the rock scene or the metal scene?
Jason: It’s definitely become more accessible, music in general; it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. (Both laugh)
Right. I think the same exposure you get to good bands is the same exposure you get to shittier bands.
Jason: That’s kinda what I was going at. There’s some convoluted mess out there. Metal in general—I don’t know if we’d classify as straight up metal, I guess we do—I think it’s making a comeback. I think the southern type metal is making a comeback and I think that’s new to the metal scene. You don’t get this what I call cheap metal and I may offend some folks by saying that. Like an Iron Maiden or something like that – I don’t particularly care for that type of metal but the stuff I’m hearing from other bands coming out
John: — well rock and metal have really kind of evolved apart. Rock has done this thing where it’s sort of returned to its roots. And metal has gotten more experimental. People are experimenting a lot more in metal than I think they used to. Rock has more gone back to this 60’s and 70’s sound
That leads into my next question: as far as the evolution of metal and kind of seeing – when you look at metal in the 80s and 90s there were good bands but for me it seems like metal lost of lot of respect. A lot of critical respect and a lot of respect as an art form at that time and just like you said, Jason, I think it’s getting that respect back now. Why do you think that is? What do you think the causality of that is? Why is metal getting the respect now that it previously had?
John: I think it’s funny – over the weekend we played a show in Wilmington, North Carolina and I looked out and playing with the other bands- and I looked out in the audience and there were some typical metal heads with ya know, long hair and the black t-shirt thing going on—but it seems like metal has gotten more, for a lack of a better word, more accepted by people that aren’t slaying cats and eating bat blood or something.
Like I don’t want to call it mainstream, but there are nicer people playing metal. Everybody’s giving hugs at the end of the show and patting each other on the back.
Is it safe to say that Irata is not in fact drinking bat’s blood or goat’s blood? Can that go on record?
John: Yeah, yeah (Laughs) I think that the people in general have changed, who like metal and who play metal.
I think you’re right. People are making metal for fans who like to read books.
John: Right. That’s a good way to put it.
That’s what stands out to me about the music that you guys are creating- it’s not typical. You can’t compartmentalize it. I think that’s what sets Irata apart, honestly, and I’m not here to kiss your ass. I’m not on your payroll.
I guess that’s where the question comes from as far as the respect that fans have—it’s not so much for the artists themselves as it is for the art form.
John: There’s kind of a general trend in heavy rock and metal anyways because there is more experimentation and people are going out on a limp. It sort of peaked with Pantera the violence that is associated with metal turned a lot of people away and I think that perception has largely been reduced. So I don’t think people associate it with this violence that it once did.
Certainly. There’s definitely been a shift, and you can at least partly attribute that to a lot of your media outlets like Pitchfork and AV Club and these places that review a lot of electronica and dubstep. All of a sudden they are doing reviews on Agalloch, or they’re doing reviews on Black Breath or Torche. I think you hit it on the head. The stigma that was associated with metal in the late 80s and even 90s - a lot of that has gone away, and you’ve seen a resurgence of metal as an art form.
It seems to me when I go to metal shows people are constantly trying to put these artists in boxes. You’ve got doom metal, folk metal, psych metal, just an endless shithole of terminology. Why do you think that is? It seems metal fans are really bad about that. Why do you think there’s a need to compartmentalize bands?
Jason: I think initially people come up with different names for metal so they can feel original. I think people compartmentalize so they have a reference for what you sound like. I think describing music sometimes is like describing color to somebody. It’s nearly impossible. If somebody asked you “Explain the color red to me” how do you do that? You have to associate something with red in order to explain it. So I think that’s what people do with music – they are trying to associate something so they have a reference point. But I agree with you I don’t classify us as metal either, but I don’t want to say that we are hard rock either because I think of Creed when I do that.
John: It just gets back to the experimentation of it all. The last decade has actually been a really cool decade for experimental music and especially in the metal world. There’s just so much coming out that people are doing all these different things, and it’s like Jason said, they are trying to be as original as possible and whether or not they are successful is for other’s to judge. It’s almost like redefining an art form every time you do it or attempting to because you want to come up for a different name for it.
On that note, what are some contemporary musicians that you listen to?
John: Jon and Jason are on the cusp of new bands more than I am. I still listen to Dream Theater, man.
No shame. Dream Theater can be awesome.
Jason: I’m a huge Melvins fan, that’s kinda what I’m listening to right now, and what I have been listening to for many years. I like the Baroness album too; Baroness is doing some good things.
Yeah, hopefully those guys will recover pretty soon. John broke his leg and his arm, I just got that press release actually. They are all pretty banged up, I hate that for them.
Jason: It’s funny, it’s kind of weird we played a show this Saturday with Brian – Allen Blickle’s brother, and I texted him when I heard about it and he said that his brother had a punctured lung or something and had a broken back vertebrae.
Yeah, two of the guys have broken vertebrae.
Jason: So he was pretty bummed out. Kind of weird, we didn’t even know he was related to him until we were hanging out after the show at 8 o’clock in the morning. We hope they get better.
What is the official release date?
Jason: November first is the official release date.
I know you have a member of Kylesa as a producer on the record, is that correct?
John: Phillip Cope, yep.
How exciting was that? I have an incredible amount of respect for that band. How exciting was that for someone like that to step in and want to be a part of what you guys are creating. It certainly speaks volumes about the quality of music and art you guys are creating.
Jason: It was cool as hell, man.
John: He was a complete pro. We didn’t know what to expect going in because we had never met him before. We were a little intimidated when we first met him but it wasn’t long and he made us feel comfortable and set us all down and it was completely professional.
Jason: He worked his ass off and it shows. Great production. He’s a nice dude.
Do you guys find any time to read while you’re recording or have you had any time to read lately? If so, what have you been reading?
Jason: I’ve been reading Ayn Rand. ATLAS SHRUGGED. THE FOUNTAINHEAD. Actually when we were writing the EP, I was reading THE FOUNTAINHEAD and a book called TWO CUPS OF TEA. Both of those books influenced the lyrics and contributed to the music in one way or another.
Whenever I talk to bands from the south, I feel camaraderie. Being a southern band, why do you feel that the quality of metal that’s coming out of the south seems to be a little bit above the bar? What is it about southern culture that seems to procure these artists or this art? I include Irata in that group.
John: Southern culture has always been a little bit isolated. A bit removed from the rest of the country. We don’t have family so much as clans – I mean that in the historic sense. Southerners are always a bit more tight-knit. When you have a culture that is so tight knit, and subscribes to the idea that it takes a village then you have a much tighter exchange of ideas. You get this network that develops all the artists and musicians. So you’re constantly bouncing ideas off of each other and hearing new things that are pushing you to the next level. Whereas if you’re in NY or LA or the larger cities, I think it’s much more competitive rather than a working coexistence and camaraderie between the groups. It’s not so competitive here so we are able to exchange ideas and work with each other and get a sense of how things are moving and what ways people are being creative.
Thanks again to Irata for their time. It was an absolute pleasure talking to these guys, and if you haven’t yet listened to them, then start here. Their EP, Vultures, which is easily one of the best straight-up rock releases I’ve heard in a long while, drops on November 1st courtesy of Pig08pig/Silver Records. Hopefully these cats will make their way to Birmingham soon. Until then, I have no doubt these guys will easily make their mark. Support good metal. Support good music.
Cheers. - D