By Ryan Meehan
In May of 2012, Ides of Gemini unveiled their debut full-length, Constantinople. Its mere existence was a triumph for the three band members — Sera Timms (vocals/bass), Kelly Johnston-Gibson (drums/backing vocals), and Jason Bennett (guitar/backing vocals) — but other folks had some nice things to say about it as well. Following the release of their debut, Ides of Gemini spent much time touring. They performed a pair of shows with Old Man Gloom in the autumn of 2012, before embarking upon a European/UK tour that kicked off at Germany’s South Of Mainstream Festival and saw the band play direct support to Saturday night headliners, The Obsessed, and later to a full house at Holland’s Incubate Festival. In January of 2013, Ides of Gemini had the honor of opening for their labelmates (and label bosses), Neurosis, at the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles. A month-long North American tour as sole support for the anonymous Swedes of Ghost B.C. followed in the Spring. This successful journey coincided with two new Ides of Gemini songs on Hexagram 45, a special Record Store Day 7-inch released via Magic Bullet Records that had to be repressed before it even came out due to overwhelming record shop demand. Upon their return to Los Angeles, Ides of Gemini shared stages with Boris, Deafheaven, and True Widow before hibernating to finish writing and rehearsing new material. That new record is ready to see the light of day. Listed among Alternative Press’ Most Anticipated Albums Of The Rest Of 2014 as well as The Obelisk’s Records Not To Miss Before The New Year Hits, the follow-up to the band’s 2012 Constantinople debut, Old World New Wave was recorded at Valley Recording in Burbank, California, engineered and mixed by Chris Rakestraw (Danzig), mastered by Grammy award winning producer Matt Hyde (Slayer) and boasts the striking hand-drawn cover art of Johnston-Gibson. “The foundation for Old World New Wave was laid before Constantinople even came out,” Bennett reveals. “We had the title, most of the guitar tracks and basic arrangements in place at that point. We’ve been planning this record for a long time, so it’s incredibly rewarding — and a total relief — to finally have it out.” We are very excited to have Kelly Johnston-Gibson from Ides of Gemini as our guest today in 10 questions.
RM: How and when did the formation of this band come to fruition; and what was it about the way the personalities of the three of you clicked which led you to believe you’d make this beautiful music together?
KJ-G: I was introduced to Sera and J at a mutual friend’s birthday gathering. We got to talking about music, particularly how we all loved dark, heavy music, and they had mentioned the Disruption Writ demo (with only the two of them on the recording) and that they wanted to work with a live drummer on future recordings and performances. At that time, I was interested in forming an all-female doom metal band, but after hearing what J and Sera were doing with Ides via the demo, I felt strongly pulled to join forces with them instead. As far as personality/sensibility, it was also important for them that my drumming wasn’t flashy or overplayed. They really wanted someone who could serve the songs in a unique minimalistic way and also someone who could sing harmonies that Sera writes..although it continues to be challenging as a drummer singing falsetto harmonies and I’m still working out those kinks! We really click because we care about the music more than other selfish forces and we each have distinct traits that serve one another. We genuinely get along and we share some really strong ties artistically and psychologically.
RM: “Old World, New Wave” showcases a wide range of heavy sounds…When you guys set out to make that record, what were a few of the aspects of musical creation that you wanted to make sure you focused on when it came to getting the sound you really wanted?
KJ-G: We each have really different musical influences and search to find our common ground. I think that’s really a big factor in the way Old World New Wave sounds. We wanted to do something that felt like it was evolving from Constantinople a bit and it ended up almost unintentionally sounding bigger and more dynamic. We didn’t really sit around and say “This is what the sound should be now”, it just naturally progressed that way through playing more together and weaving in more of what interested us as we dug deeper as well as playing to each others’ strengths.
RM: I read a review of “Old World, New Wave” by Kim Kelly of Pitchfork (insert link here http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/19721-ides-of-gemini-old-world-new-wave/ ) where she said “The dreamy nature of Ides of Gemini’s music doesn’t require much technical flair, and it sometimes seems that the rhythm section is content to take a backseat to its flashier fellows…” When you read something like that do you simply view as the opinion of one person, or is it something that you take either personally or as constructive criticism when putting together new material?
KJ-G: Frankly, reviews don’t influence what I do and I think I can safely say the same for J and Sera. Kim’s assessment isn’t inaccurate or negative in my view, although it’s likely intended to be negative. The downplayed and minimalist rhythm section is intentional and what works for now. Not to say that won’t change in the future, but it depends on the song or the album we’re writing. There are people who will love what I’m doing, and those who won’t at all. The thing that matters to me is that I’m making music from an authentic place, that I’m serving the song as well as my bandmates and that I get to share it with the people who do love it.
RM: What is the biggest fundamental difference between the songs on this record and those which appear on “Constantinople”?
KJ-G: Rhythmically speaking, more than half the songs from Constantinople were written before I joined the band and Sera programmed drums. We were all just getting our bearings as a band with Constantinople and the influences and personal states of each member in that record, although built-upon in OWNW, were different. J was really suffering from his intensely painful sciatica situation, I was still feeling out my place in the band, we were all learning a lot both musically and personally — things were just a bit tenuous. The new record comes from a place of more confidence, more flexibility and just a better sense of who we are as a band.
RM: Are you more into faster crashes like 15s and 16s; or do you find that you tend to favor larger ones like eighteen-inchers? Out of all of the cymbals that you own, which is your favorite and why?
KJ-G: I like my big guns. I usually play an 18-inch crash and a 20-inch crash ride or 22-inch ride. Anyone who knows our music knows that I don’t incorporate a ton of cymbal work. When I do I like them to be strong and poignant accents and I let toms usually drive the beat. So in general I like my cymbals lower toned, big and mean. I just broke my favorite cymbal, which was an oldie, but a goodie. It was a Paiste 2000 20″ ride. There are so many other cymbals on the dream list that I love as well and look forward to incorporating into my kit.
RM: You have designed a fair amount of the band’s merchandise…Why have you decided to be so hands-on with regards to that aspect of the business; and what can you tell us about these necklaces that are available on the website?
KJ-G: I’m hands on mostly because I can be and the band needs those services. I’ve been a graphic and product designer by trade for many years and because I’m so familiar with the aesthetic of the band and the themes we integrate into the music, it’s a no-brainer to work on the merchandise. The necklace is a pet project that I dreamt up after designing the artwork and the alchemical-based illustrations for Old World New Wave. I had met Leslie from Chime Jewelry at a Tom Tom Magazine event and she gifted me a necklace she had made from a recycled cymbal. After creating the activated geometric symbol that appears on the album art and then breaking my favorite cymbal that carried lots of great energy after being with me for a while, I thought it would be cool to give the cymbal a new life in the form of a wearable sigil for fans.
RM: Why is the notion of keeping vinyl alive so important to you and the other members of the band? Do you think that in our lifetime we will ever see the sad day when vinyl will have become a thing of the past, or do you think it will always remain a medium that is popular among record collectors and really hard-core music fans?
KJ-G: Vinyl is just special. It connects more. I don’t think the value of it will see an end for true music fans. It’s rich, warm, tactile, engaging — and in tandem with its sonic value, artwork always looks better on a vinyl sleeve/jacket than in any other format. I’m a print and packaging nerd so that’s a special thing to me.
RM: You shot a video for “Seer of Circassia”…Who came up with the concept for that clip; and what’s your take on the whole video-making process?
KJ-G: Daciana Birladeanu directed that video but the concept is Sera’s based on her lyrics for the song. I really enjoy shooting videos and think it’s a powerful creative tool in conjunction with music, especially ours because it tends to be so narrative and concept driven. Although it can be really tedious and time consuming, I enjoy the further exploration into our themes that lend so well to visual expressions.
RM: For you, what’s the most rewarding part of being a musician? In other words, at the end of the day what is the one thing that makes all of the travelling and hard work so worthwhile?
KJ-G: Many things are rewarding about making and playing music. Everything else melts away when I’m playing — I’m really in the now. I love the adrenaline rush, and I enjoy the energy exchange between all involved. It’s amazing what a good audience will do for the spirits and I feel fortunate to have that exchange. Also, I get to create with 2 people I respect and admire — collaborative music making is really unique bonding experience. Playing drums in particular connects me with my animal while at the same time elevating me. It activates all true aspects of who I am. All of the other BS that goes along that is grueling or annoying is far outweighed by the ability to experience all of the above.
RM: What’s up next for you guys in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
KJ-G: We’re starting to write album #3. We also have some U.S. festivals coming up over the summer and we released a new 7” on Record Store Day back in April with a track called “Carthage” and a very special cover on the B side.
Official Website: http://idesofgemini.com/
Ides of Gemini on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IdesofgeminI
Ides of Gemini on Twitter: https://twitter.com/IdesofgeminI
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