An e-mail chat with unexpecT in light of their recent release Fables of the Sleepless Empire
First things first, and the introductions are important. Who are the unexpecT, who are the members, and what do you do in your lives in and out of the band? What do you all do in your time away from the band? Any cool side jobs or hobbies?
For starters... we are 6 very different individual... which is both good and bad.... and which is also the vague-est thing I could write... that really doesn't tell you anything... and, to be honest... most of what I do outside of the band is still band stuff, or it's never far from there. Other personal interests would be wine and the search for happiness (not necessarily related). We work to keep the Art alive and we are first and foremost Artists.... which means we do work, yes....
In A Flesh Aquarium was pushed by The End records, a relatively big label. What has happened since then and what caused the choice of recording independently?
To be honest, I'm not even sure. It's an idea that we had for a while and unexpecT is very particular on everything and we like to know what's going on and we like to control our ''product'' a 100% and it just seemed like something we could do. We've always been very ''hands on'' with everything in the band so we figured that we would know how to handle things and try to push the band to the best of our capability. Don't get me wrong, we really appreciate that The End Records gave us all that exposure and kickstarted our international career but we just thought we'd start our own ''business''. We're still in business with them in the way that they do carry our latest album.
How has the reception to the new record been so far?
Great, all the reviews seem very enthusiastic about it and we're proud of what we've created. It's still very young and the next step is to take it on tour and give it wings. No.... literally.... we will staple wings... to the record......
Your songs are incredibly complex and layered, what is the songwriting process like?
Well that's the million dollar question. I've never been able to answer this one, I don't think we have a specific way of creating. At least for this record, we all had demos of some songs at home (we all use recording software) and we send each other tracks and then we come together with the drum mainly to lay some foundation and see where it goes, and from there we just throw a thousand layer on until were happy, hehe. I don't know... I don't think we have one way of creating music but all the songs on that record came originally from 1 or 2 musicians in the band and then we orchestrate them as a whole, as a band. Everybody can write for every instrument which is very interesting because it often takes you out of your comfort zone and these are the moments where a musician grows the most. I'd say Landryx suffers from it the most. We literally make a circle around him in rehearsal when we are working on some beats and we just throw ideas at him until we all smile and scream ''That's it!!''.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard of unexpecT?
I actually often have to do that when somebody discovers that I'm in a band and wants to know what it's like but I always make it very minimal because there's no point in trying to explain music, especially this kind of music if I may. I'd probably say Progressive Metal and then add that it's a blend of extreme metal and classical and circus music..... and then they nod with a blank stare anyway....
What about the lyrics? Are they a group process or more of a personal thing?
Most of the lyrics are written by Syriak, he's the main lyricist of the band. I only recently took the time to sit down with a drink or 3 and the album and listened to the whole thing reading his lyrics and I think it's really well done. After 2 years in the making, it's good to step out of it and discover it as an outsider. I personally wrote lyrics for The Quantum Symphony and Artagoth wrote Silence this Parasite... or else, it's all Syriak.
Fables has a more mature sound than In a Flesh Aquarium has. Do you think that is reflective on where the band is now?
Quite obviously it is. 5 years and a couple hundred shows does make a band evolve and mature and I'm glad that people are making that distinction. The philosophy of the songwriting was very different for this one and it was an amazing collaboration of all 7 musicians (7 at the time with Exod who DID compose on this record).
unexpecT have been on tons of great bills, most noticeably in recent years on the European Progressive Nation with Dream Theater and Bigelf. How does it feel to be a part of this new interest in progressive music?
I have no word for it. That was the best experience of our lives and I thank Mike Portnoy and Dream Theater a million times to have given us that great opportunity. We felt just at home in that ''progressive'' crowd. We usually hook up with metal or more specifically female-fronted-metal bands due to the nature of our band but it was very refreshing to be presented as a prog act on a prog show. Cool thing about this line-up or this kind of shows is that everybody is very open-minded and eager to hear something new and refreshing because, well, that's what prog is about. No arms-crossed guy with a Slayer shirt yawning. I guess that the varied style of UneXpecT is a curse and a blessing because on one hand, we have no specific scene but on the other hand we can play all kinds of bills.
What are some of the best bands you’ve played with?
Again obviously I would start with Dream Theater and Opeth.... the Faceless was impressive, many of our Quebec friends like Augury, Martyr, and so many others.... we usually make friends very easily on tour.
What is the atmosphere like in such a relatively big band like yours? Is it a problem to fit everyone on a bus?
Yes it is hehe, sometimes... but I guess that's every band stories. It's hard to always get along when you spend 4-5 weeks straight in each others face while not sleeping or eating well. Overall we get along well... except is we abuse hard alcohol... or if someone takes Landryx's cheese.....
What do you draw inspiration from? I can imagine there being quite a difference in tastes among members.
So many things. Another million dollar question. We don't always agree on what to write and what to play and the band wouldn't be what it is if it was 6 Artagoth or 6 Landryx or 6 Borboen (no satanic reference intended) but we know that these discordance and tensions make the band what it is so it makes it easier to go with each other ideas and we learned to trust each other and work in every direction. Personally, I'm really into RadioHead, Dillinger Escape Plan, Daughters, early Mars Volta, Bjork, Efterklang, Venetian Snares, Victor Wooten, Ben Frost, Arvo Part and so much more my brain hurts, but these would be some of my favorites and it goes from grindcore to experimental to contemporary to funk to ambient/noise to pop. But after all these years I must admit that one of my biggest influence, if not my biggest influence, and that's gonna sound weird or pretentious but it would be my own band! These musicians and their ideas are very inspiring and they taught me so much of what I know now. Knowing that they can play anything opens the doors for me to write anything and it's very liberating.
What is the most embarrassing moment you’ve had on stage?
Well... hm... it was more embarrassing for others as I was completely wasted and careless but... let's say that I don't even know if that was legal in that State. I shouldn't talk about it.... really... just.... just forget about it....
What about your most proud moment?
Clearly playing the Wembley Arena in London with Dream Theater and 10,000 people screaming. That was an incredible night. That's the only time in my life that I was in London and I saw nothing! I woke up in the bus around noon that day and this venue is so big that the buses actually go in the venue so, from the minute I woke up to the minute I closed my eyes, we were inside... anyway. That night, Landryx played a little drum solo with Portnoy on his kit during DT's set and it was a great moment now immortalized on the Tube of the You.

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