Hey, thanks for having us! We’ve been busy with 3/4ths of us separately moving up to Buffalo this week and last week, but we are doing great! Excited to have some new surroundings.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “To Know Better“?
It’s almost strange to me in a way that “To Know Better” became the title track and the lead single, if you will, for the album. All the other tracks on the album, minus “Pure Sorrow”, were written by me (Justin) awhile ago, long before the release, and we had been playing them consistently at shows and practices for well over a year. But “To Know Better” was a song primarily written by Brent after we had already fleshed out the other tracks. He had a handful of riffs that he showed me and we kind of just sat down and worked out a structure for them. I added a few transitions, thought of the vocal melodies, and quickly wrote some lyrics that had been in my mind for awhile. When the whole band was able to learn it and get on the same page, we all agreed that “To Know Better” was a very smooth and cohesive track that wouldn’t offend anyone. In a way, that song was on the outside looking in and written at a different period and from a different mindset than the other tracks on the album. For that reason, we think “To Know Better” in particular radiates a different energy and has its own personality, for better or for worse.
Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?
No, I can’t accurately say anything in particular inspired it. Lyrically to me it is the culmination of about 6 years of important life experiences. It is the realization that getting too comfortable and stagnant is dangerous because without warning or consent, things can change. But you also need to live in the moment, if you will, and appreciate what is in front of you in the now. It’s so easy to overlook the greatness of what you have in the urgency of the present. Which is why the saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” is so painfully cliche, because it is true. So, in my mind, life is essentially about walking this imaginary fine line of living in the now and looking forwards towards bluer skies. Which all seems purposely vague, because it is. I didn’t want to deliberately allude too strongly to an exact situation in my life. Essentially it is about being forced to learn from your mistakes, to grow from pain, to appreciate what you have, and to cope and move on. These actions or ideas led to the creation of the song.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Yes, actually! My cousin Caleb G. Abrams, who is an immensely talented film producer and director, and I have met up a few times to discuss ideas for a music video for “To Know Better”. We plan to film it in the middle of September. So, I’m not sure what that means for when the video will be released, but my best guess would be around the middle of November, maybe sooner. Without giving too much away, the video will feature some ace coats, a Corvette, and laying some rubber on the Western New York asphalt.
Why naming the album after this track in particular?
We felt that the name or phrase, and the lyrical content of the song, “To Know Better” pretty much encapsulates the overall feeling and message of the album as a whole. It felt relatively natural and suitable, so we went with it as opposed to trying to force and introduce a new or foreign title. It also has a bit of a ring to it I thought. “To Know Better” sounds curious and interesting to me. Like the music, we needed a title that wouldn’t come off as bloated or pretentious, it can’t try to be wacky or funny, nor can it seem cliche or corny. I think “To Know Better” successfully avoids those points pretty well. Not to mention, the song itself was one we felt that could be pretty much enjoyable and palatable by just about anyone.
How was the recording and writing process?
The whole process lasted well over a year, approaching 2 years even. A good portion of the songs were written in the fall and winter of 2016, but we never started recording for the album until the winter of 2017/2018. The recording process alone then lasted into the spring of this year. It never takes us this long to get a release out there, but this one we really took our time with. The length of the process was a combination of everyone in the band being older and more busy with full time jobs, finishing school, and living in different cities. It just made getting together so difficult at times. We record everything entirely on our own and are proud of our DIY-ness, and that works in our favor, I think. We didn’t ever feel pressured to get things done and took our time with fleshing song ideas out. In the studio we love to heavily layer guitar, vocal, and keyboard tracks and that can really take a long time, especially when we often experiment and add new sounds and textures to a song. The experience is much more comfortable for us at least, when you don’t have an outside engineer or producer breathing down your neck while you record your tracks. Plus, the more time you take in someone’s studio, the more money you pay. Overall I think this was the best recording and writing process we’ve ever had. Nothing was rushed at all and I think for that reason, the recording and production quality is at an all time high for us. These songs too are our strongest to date, so obviously we are happy about that as well. We were just so used to trying our best to pump out material as quickly as we can, that stepping back and changing our pace was certainly different for us. In the moment it was definitely stressful and frustrating, but now it’s over and I think the results are better for it.
What role does Salamanca play in your writing?
I can’t say if Salamanca plays a role in my writing. Lyrically I never touch on anything regarding the city or the territory, so if it does sneak into our music, which it just might, it is certainly not intentional. There is also not a musical style or sound associated with Salamanca or Western New York like there is with Seattle or Minneapolis, so I can’t say that it affects the music either. I can say though that, because I am a proud Seneca, I have an innate connection to the Seneca Allegany Territory on which Salamanca is located and where I’ve lived most of my life. It is where I am from and where my ancestors and family are from. So regardless of the state that Salamanca is in or that I live in Buffalo currently, I’ll always be drawn to the territory. It’s also a possibility that in the future I could write a song about or related to anything of that nature.
How The Smashing Pumpkins and The Appleseed Cast has influence your music?
Without a doubt, The Smashing Pumpkins influences our music strongly. For me being a guitar player, Corgan’s playing definitely inspires me to be a better guitarist and musician. He plays with such an immediately recognizable attitude, especially with his bends and pick attack. His playing helps drive me to further develop my own sonic personality on the guitar. Jonah, our drummer, certainly takes an influence from Jimmy Chamberlain of the Pumpkins as well. Mainly Chamberlain’s ability to play and mimic the vocal melody and guitar riff of a song on the drums. That is something we’ve tried to incorporate into our music. The pumpkins too have such a carefree attitude with the styles or genres of music they write. They have aggressive and dense songs like X.Y.U or The Aeroplane Flies High, but also beautiful and weightless songs like Luna and Once Upon A Time. I would hate to be in a band that sticks to one style and one style only, which is why we mix it up a lot. The Smashing Pumpkins prove, to me at least, that you can write any song you want and still be successful. The Appleseed Cast is a band that we all love as well, but Brent certainly listens to them the most. A lot of his writing on Foreign Breath took influence from them, particularly from their album “Low Level Owl”. Their ability to blend post rock with pop and emo is something they do as well or better than anyone. “Mare Vitalis” is a perfect example of a band finding their stride and running with it. They are able to create an immense and organic sonic landscape without sacrificing strong vocal melodies and concrete structures. That’s essentially what we try to achieve, they just have done it a lot better already!
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I think the majority of the lyrics are all pretty self explanatory, honestly. Plus, I’d like people to have their own interpretation of what the lyrics mean or what influenced me to write them. As a listener I usually prefer that anyways. Sometimes when you learn what the song actually means to the songwriter, after you’ve already made up in your mind what you think it means or what it means to you, doesn’t it kind of ruin the song when the two are way off? Musically the influences are pretty far reaching on this album, not unlike all of our albums. A few artists that some wouldn’t immediately think of that influenced the music rather heavily for this album are Prince, The Melvins, and Rush. Of course there were the obvious influences of The Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, Sunny Day Real Estate and whatever other bands people would guess, but that’s not fun or interesting.
Any plans to hit the road?
We have a few shows coming up in the near future! August 25th at Nietzsche’s in Buffalo, NY and September 12th at BJ’s in Fredonia, NY. We would absolutely love to go on another tour because the tours we have done were some of the most fun and fulfilling things we’ve ever done in our lives. Unfortunately our Ford E150 is pretty darn shot and we are lame and work full time jobs and I’m going back to school. Never say never though, we are definitely gonna get another tour going here soon. Just no word on it at the moment. Hey, buy us a new van (it doesn’t have to be even remotely nice, and the older the better) and convince Brent to quit his job and we’ll tour the whole dang country for 6 months straight.
What else is happening next in Elemantra‘s world?
We are going to take over the world. And once we do that, every able bodied human on earth will be subjected to listening to “To Know Better” in full on constant repeat, track after track all day, while they are forced to play Gears Of War 4 every waking second of their life. But, if we can’t achieve that, we’ll keep playing shows and writing music. We’ll watch the Bills and drink some Budweiser. Hopefully eat some good wings and a few burgers. Live the absolute dream. Thanks for having us, have a good night!