INTERVIEW: Vicky Psarakis – The Agonist

Canadian metal outfit THE AGONIST are on the verge of releasing their new album, Five, the second album with their newest vocalist Vicky Psarakis. Lineup changes can make or break a band but THE AGONIST have re-grouped and are back with a statement. We caught up with Vicky to discuss the latest album, tours, and how it feels to be the new singer.

Did Five turn out how you expected?

Vicky: Absolutely, it exceeded my expectations if anything!

What inspired the album?

Vicky: Nothing in particular I don’t think, we just love writing music and writing lyrics that really mean something to us and based on personal experiences or other people’s stories so, you know, once we were in the song writing mood we just kept writing and writing and had an album after that.

Can you explain your writing and recording process?

Vicky: Well usually what happens is Danny [Marion, guitar] writes most of the music for the band. He’ll come up with some riffs and the guys will sit together and they’ll create an instrumental track that I will get afterwards. I’ll then listen to the song and feel it out and see what the music is trying to say to me based on my emotions and I’ll come up with some lyrics and vocals for the track.

So the guys don’t really know what the lyrics are going to be until you’ve finished writing them?

Vicky: Yeah, pretty much! It happens sometimes where I’ll get inspired and I’ll write some lyrics just randomly without a song in mind and I’ll have them on the side and if I hear music where the lyrics I had written previously kinda fit, I’ll see if I can put them on the track.

Are they ever surprised with the lyrics you put on the track? Perhaps they had envisioned something different for the song?

Vicky: Not usually for the lyrics, but for the vocals it happens sometimes where maybe the guys pictured me to scream over a riff and I’ll be singing, or the opposite, they’ll imagine singing over a riff and I’ll scream over it and sometimes it’s cool because the riff could be really brutal and I’ll be singing soft over it or the riff could be really soft and I’ll be screaming then it creates a dynamic you wouldn’t expect.

Is there anything you would have liked to be different?

Vicky: Not really, it was written really fast because we started song writing and then six months later everything was done, the album was recorded and mixed and everything so some could say that it seems rushed but once we started writing, creativity just kept flowing and we just wrote all these songs but nothing felt forced or rushed or anything like that. It just all happened very naturally.

That’s probably the best way to do an album!

Vicky: Yeah absolutely! Sometimes as a band you set deadlines for yourself because you’re not just dealing with the band internally, you’re dealing with your label, with your managers, you know. Or there’s a timeline where you want the album to be released then, but for it to be released then, we have to record it then, and sometimes that might be pressure on you, but at the end of the day if you’re not ready, you don’t make that move. We’re never gonna put out an album just because we had to if it’s not ready.

What is the aim with this album?

Vicky: The ongoing goal is really just to keep putting out albums, and growing our fan base and maybe reaching out to people who have never heard of us before, and that’s another reason we go on tour, we have upcoming tour with EPICA and FLESHGOD APOCALYSE in North America. It’s good to play support tours because you’re playing to crowds who have probably never heard of you before and the goal there is just to grab those people and make them remember you at the end of the night, and having them go home like “oh THE AGONIST, they were really cool, I need to check them out!”

Are there bands you want to tour with because you think their fan base will relate to what you do?

Vicky: It’s really hard for us to be placed on a really good tour package because sometimes, depending on the bands we’re touring with, we could be the heaviest band on the bill or we could be the softest band, so it’s really hard to tell. Sometimes, I don’t know, it seems like when we’re touring with other female fronted bands it works really well for us, like the tour we did with ELUVEITIE last year, it seemed like a lot of their fans really enjoyed us. Whereas, if we go on a pure death metal tour I don’t think a lot of people would be impressed by us, you know, so it’s really hard to place us. I obviously have my own personal influences from growing up, there are singers or screamers that I look up to, but really it’s like mostly the bands I got my inspiration from don’t really fit our style. My favourite all time bands would be like OPETH, THE GATHERING, or DEVIN TOWNSEND and prog metal bands like PAIN OF SALVATION, there’s a bunch of bands and bunch of vocalists I look up to, even in the metal genre, but I don’t really see us with them in a tour, you know?

Is there a specific song that you’re looking forward to playing live?

Vicky: There’s a couple, definitely The Moment, which is the opening track on the album, I’m not sure what we’ll be playing live but The Moment, The Hunt, The Chain, which we’ve just released a lyric video for, but we’ll see. We need to sit down as a band and decide what we’re gonna be playing.

How do you decide what goes on the setlist?

Vicky: We really just propose some songs, let’s jam these five songs off the album, and we’ll jam them and if it feels like it’s a good live song then we’ll put it on the set, and if not, we don’t. But we never know until we actually play a show and see a crowds response, you know?

Five is your second album with the band, was it different to Eye Of Providence?

Vicky: I feel like for Five I was a lot more inspired and free to do my own thing vocally and lyrically, whereas with Eye Of Providence I had just joined the band and, while it was still me, everything I wrote was still Vicky, I had in the back of my head a lot of reservations thinking about how I was going to please the existing THE AGONIST fans, whereas this time around it was just, this is the music, this is what I feel like I should do with the music and I just went along with it.

How is THE AGONIST different to previous projects you’ve done?

Vicky: Well, it’s the first actual band I’ve been in because before THE AGONIST, I got discovered by doing YouTube covers, but aside from the covers I had done some session work for bands and participated in albums as a guest vocalist, it’s not really the same, it’s just me lending my voice to other bands and other musicians whereas this is different because we’re a team and in the end we’re doing everything together and we’re making all the decisions together as a team.

What’s in the future for THE AGONIST?

Vicky: Well, for the time being we have two tours: one in Europe in October, and the other in North America in November and hopefully, in 2017 we’ll be able to tour a bit more, hopefully to Europe again, and other places in the world like Japan, Australia, South America. There have been discussions about going to these places but it’s not the easiest to organise and do. But I just hope we’ll be able to tour as much as possible to promote this album.

Thank you for your time!

Vicky: Thank you!

Five is set for release on September 30th via Napalm Records.

For more information on THE AGONIST like their official page on Facebook.