INTERVIEW: Javier Reyes – Animals As Leaders

ANIMALS AS LEADERS have been at the forefront of the tech metal scene since the boom at the end of the last decade. Still going strong and currently touring the UK on a run that included a headline slot at Tech Fest, we sat down with guitarist Javier Reyes at a much smaller show in Plymouth for a chat about where ANIMALS AS LEADERS are right now.

It’s been a couple of years since the release of The Joy of Motion. What are your feelings now reflecting on that album?

Javier: I still think the album’s great. We were pretty happy with it. I think it was a good representation of where the band was.

Are there any lessons you learned from it that will be applied to the future of ANIMALS AS LEADERS?

Javier: Not really, we always try to write from where we currently are as people and musicians.

Seeing as there are no lyrics, what is the thought process behind song and album titles?

Javier: I think a lot of our music is pretty emotive and we try to pull feelings from the actual riffs and parts themselves. Once the music is complete the vibe of the song will dictate what we call it.

Aside from the technical aspect which is a big part of ANIMALS AS LEADERS, are there any specific feelings or messages you try to express within your music?

Javier: I think we try to aim for a very ambiguous feeling. Our music isn’t necessarily happy but it’s not sad or angry music. It’s always kind of lingering in this purgatory of feelings if you will. We don’t necessarily try to write happy music but we have uplifting parts or the parts that will sound a little goofy here and there but it’s still not completely one-dimensional.

As a live band obviously you don’t have a frontman for the audience to focus on. Do you ever feel like you have to compensate for that and how do you tackle that?

Javier: Having that frontman is essentially like a hype man, so we try to headbang and look at the audience as much as possible but due to the nature of the parts sometimes we just have to stand still and if it weren’t for Matt smashing on the kit there wouldn’t really be that much to look at. In the US we actually have visuals and a light show which will be coupled with our performance. I compare that often as having like the soundtrack to a movie. The experience of having a movie without the music is very dull and I think it’s the same at a live show, where we are all listening to music and seeing guys perform but having the visual production coupled with the performance really adds to the show. We’re not as big of a band in Europe as we are in the US so the budget doesn’t permit bringing that over here, so it’s a little harder depending on the venues. Sometimes there will be a good lights guy who knows the band and our music and can do something.

Do you see any other differences in Europe compared to the US?

Javier: It’s hard to say. The first time we were in Glasgow for example people went crazy, but this time everyone was really calm which isn’t what most people know about Glaswegians! Manchester was awesome, it’s kind of hard to say with our fans really. Sometimes people wanna mosh, sometimes they just wanna watch and see what the hands and feet are doing. It’s pretty similar everywhere.

You say you’re not as big a band here but you did manage to headline Tech Fest on this run. How does that feel to be considered a festival headliner for an event like that?

Javier: I think it’s awesome. That’s definitely where we want to be. We’re always trying to move forward and grow, and prove ourselves to be this entity that is coming for you.

How positive do you think having an event like Tech Fest is for this scene?

Javier: I think it’s good, we don’t have that much comparable in the US. There’s a couple of festivals here and there but in Europe I think people have a different appreciation for it. I don’t see much of the camping stuff like Tech Fest in the US. You have the Coachellas where people do camp but they’re not as common and accessible. The thing with the US is that it’s so big that you can’t get people coming from every corner like you do at festivals in the UK. Washington and California are only three states away but even just to get from the north to the south part of California can take you eighteen hours so it’s a big country.

There are lots of instrumental prog outfits out there but ANIMALS AS LEADERS have gotten more popular than most. Why do you think that is that you’ve risen above many of the others and crossed boundaries?

Javier: I feel like the music is refreshing for a lot of people. We’ve always tried to write music that doesn’t sound like anybody else, and I think people acknowledge that. Coupled with the technical side I think that’s something that’s cool and unique, especially when you come to see it live. Even for myself, I don’t think I could just be in any metal band or any band for that matter, I definitely want to be something that’s unique and fresh and like I said I think we always try to do that. We borrow from every possible genre that we can think of that we like and we put it into our music, which in the context of where we are surrounded by all these other metal bands is in some way a breath of fresh air just to hear something not the same as everybody else.

How much metal do you listen to then outside of what you do?

Javier: I would say like 5%. Currently I’m listening to this band called EXOTIC ANIMAL PETTING ZOO but even that’s not strictly metal, they’re more post-hardcore or something. Good sense of melody, a lot of emotive screaming.

What goes on the stereo when you’re touring?

Javier: TIGRAN HAMASYAN. Some jazz shit. Everybody tries to show each cool stuff and I think on this particular bus everybody is listening to some nerdy stuff. Plus some RIHANNA.

Have you seen much of a change in your audience from when you started to now?

Javier: I’m starting to see more girls. It’s hard to say, every time we’ve gotten a little bit bigger so between getting both younger and older people it keeps growing. We’ve always got musicians and people who have been around instruments for a long time one way or another so understand the musicianship which is the core fan.

So is there any more material coming up soon?

Javier: Yeah, we’ve just finished an album which is in the mastering process now. That’ll be out this year, hopefully some time in November or December.

So to round off, what are the goals that ANIMALS AS LEADERS have going into the future?

We just want to keep doing our own thing. Keep writing cool shit.

The Joy of Motion is out now on Sumerian Records.

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