As music fans living in St. Louis, MO, we here at Damnation Magazine are fascinated with learning as much as we can about the bands and music scenes which also call our fair city home. Last year, we conducted our first interview with local band Black Fast. Since then, the blackened thrash quartet has gone on to build a strong beginning to their career, breaking out of the St. Louis market to make an impact within the national metal community. To celebrate and commemorate the release of Terms of Surrender, the band’s debut on EOne Music, Black Fast headlined a concert on Saturday, August 1, 2015 at the venue The Firebird with fellow St. Louis acts The Gorge, Hell Night, and The Lion’s Daughter, of whom we had the privilege of speaking with vocalist/guitarist Rick Giordano at the show.
Since forming in 2007, The Lion’s Daughter has made a notable name for themselves within St. Louis’ fragmented metal scene. Opening for bands including High On Fire, Pig Destroyer, Misery Index, and Dark Funeral (just to name a few), the trio’s diverse combination of extreme, underground styles has separated themselves from the more mainstream sounds of loud rock while still earning them notoriety among their metal community peers. Thanks to the members’ tenured resumes as musicians in this city, combined with their educated awareness of other bands and sounds within the St. Louis scene as well as others, The Lion’s Daughter has been able to separate themselves musically to establish their own identity. One that caught the attention of Season of Mist, on which their next album will be released. Before they took the stage that night, I spoke with Giardano regarding his experiences and observations as a St. Louis musician that has led to this point in his own career and musical journey.
While The Lion’s Daughter is a relatively new band, just under ten years since forming. None of its members are by any means new musicians. What led to the formation of this band and the kind of music you make?
Actually, Erik [Ramsier, drums] and I were in a band together for a while that’s best left unnamed. If people dig, they can find our embarrassing past [laughs]. Honestly, we both stopped doing that band, and it was kind of a reaction or response to what we had been doing for years, which is not what we wanted to do. So we were like, “You know, let’s just… do our own band and do whatever the fuck we want. Nobody will like it, and that’s fine.” That’s why we even took the name from a romance novel, because we were just like, “Fuck it, who gives a shit? We’re not even going to try to have a cool name.” So that’s kind of how it came together. And we just kind of played with sounds until we found something that we liked, that’s kind of what we still do.
There are clearly a lot of different styles and influences going on in The Lion’s Daughter’s music, ranging from black metal to doom and sludge to even hardcore and crust. How do you approach your songwriting to make it all work for you?
I try and not think about it at all. I’ve done that thing before where I sit and [I’m] like, “Alright, I need this kind of riff,” it always sucks. Or really, if I even, for the most part sit and write riffs ahead of time, or try to write songs ahead of time, it never works. Because then, when Scott [Fogelbach, bass] and Erik come in, it sounds different than it sounds in my head. So, that’s part of the reason that it takes so fucking long to write stuff, is just because we have to get together and just keep trying things, and trying things until we find something that sounds right. And some days, you can spend four hours just trying to find just a cool riff or a cool part and never fucking find one. We definitely don’t want to find anything that’s just like, “OK, well we figured that out and we wrote it and we all know how to play it. I guess that’s a song.” It’s like, “No, let’s just try to stick to the stuff that we actually dig.” So, I’d say that’s it, for the most part. Although, on the newest record, it was a little more premeditated. We kind of found something we liked and tried to steer ourselves in that direction. But we let it happen pretty natural, I’d say.
Is there a theme when writing lyrics and composing vocals with The Lion’s Daughter, or is that something you either don’t plan or think about much or at all?
Dude, our lyrics are stupid. [Laughter] Honestly, we’re not about anything. Our lyrics are filler. I mean, somebody could, maybe, read them if they wanted to and extrapolate something that seems like it has meaning, but it doesn’t. The next record will be the first one we actually put any lyrics in [the album]. Well, I guess [with] the Indian Blanket [split] we did too, but Joe [Andert, vocals/guitars Indian Blanket] wrote most of those. But, the new one, we actually do have the lyrics in. They’re the first I’ve written that aren’t totally embarrassing… I think. I kind of try to listen to the song when it’s there, and kind of see what imagery pops into my head and kind of write the song from there. So definitely, on this new one, the themes are a little more horror-specific. Not like gore, Cannibal Corpse-style or anything. I [was] thinking a lot about the older Italian giallo films. There’s a song that really is kind of about Swamp Thing, you would never really know it.
I love Swamp Thing.
Fuck yeah, man!
I’m working on a Swamp Thing cosplay, actually.
Are you? [Laughs] That’s cool.
Someday it’ll make an appearance at a con or something.
Yeah, it sounds pretty intricate [laughs]. But yeah, for this [album], the music has kind of gone that direction, kind of started to sound a little weirder and creepier, which is fun. So I’ve kind of tried to make the lyrics match that as best as I could. It’s hard to not fuck up the lyrics, it really is.
Your bio on your social media sites emphasize your identity, pride, and direction in being an “underground metal band.” In your opinion and experience, what does it both mean and take to be an underground metal band? Or does it even take anything?
I don’t know. I don’t want to be an underground metal band. I want to be an above ground metal band – I don’t even know if we want to be a metal band! I would like to… Hold on, let me think of which way to steer this, if I want to be a complete asshole [laughter]. Honestly, being underground doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t know what it takes, I don’t feel like we are a part of any scene or anything, really. I don’t know if any of us even listen to that much metal. We all go to shows a lot and stuff, especially to support friends. But when I think of underground metal, I know that there’s a lot of shit out there. And maybe that’s a part of why so much of it is underground? Man, I listen to like, disco and like, silly shit. I listen to the same Pantera records I’ve been listening to for twenty years. The new Buddy Guy album came out yesterday, and I’ve been jamming that. So honestly, I don’t know anything about underground metal [laughs]. If there is any kind of answer I could give… For the most part, the good side of underground stuff, is that bands are kind of free to do whatever they want, because they don’t have a label pushing them in a certain direction. “We’ve got to do this, because our fans have got to buy it, and we won’t sell our t-shirts if we don’t have this on it,” you know, all that kind of shit. So I think that’s the good part. But the bad side to it is, I think it’s an excuse for a lot bands to just not try very hard and be kind of mediocre. And then fly the flag of being “an underground band,” and using that as an excuse, kind of. But like I said, I don’t really fucking know [laughs].
Also on your social media pages, you clearly voice your displeasure with the modern “mainstream metal scene.” We hear a lot about this (especially in the comments section of any and all metal media websites). How do distinguish yourselves from that area of metal music, and in your opinion, do you think that metal labeled as “mainstream” has a place or purpose in the grand scheme of things at all? Is there a range between one and the other? Or is it all bullshit?
I don’t know, I think it’s not something that we consider [laughs]. It’s not something that I really think about. Not that, “We’re so cool and we’re outside of all that shit,” it’s just something that we’re not exactly concerned with. Kenny [Snarzyk, bass/vocals] from Fister said something to me about [us getting] submitted for a tour with Fear Factory. And he was like, “Dude, that’s going to kill your band, man. The fucking wrong kind of people are going to like you,” and all that shit. And I’m like, “You know what? I don’t give a fuck, man.” It doesn’t have to be cool dudes in jean vests that like my fucking band. I don’t give a shit. It could be Hot Topic “mall kids,” it could be fucking nobody. [We’re] still going to make the same kind of shit and do what we do. It’s just not a thing that we’ve ever been overly concerned with.
Has living in or being from the St. Louis, MO-area affected or played a role in your lives as musicians and the life of this band, and if so how?
It’s hard to say, because… I’ve never formed a band anywhere else. I think it is a little more difficult here to kind of get anybody to give a shit, just because the metal scene here – I mean, everybody knows – is kind of lacking. You have huge bands that come through that twenty people come to see. We played with Nachtmystium and I remember there were like seventeen fucking people when they went on [stage]. And that’s a band that will play Roadburn [Festival] and shit like that, when they were still a band. I don’t know; I’ve said this before, but maybe if it were more like Chicago, or San Francisco or something, maybe we’d feel pressure to sound a certain way to fit in with the scene that’s already there. So maybe it’s a good thing that there’s not that much of a scene here, so we can kind of just do whatever we want. I mean, the same for Black Fast, Fister, Hell Night, and The Gorge; everybody can just kind of do their own thing because we’re not trying to fit into a specific scene. I mean, that’s the only thing that I can assume would maybe be different about St. Louis. But again, I don’t really know, because I’ve never formed a band anywhere else.
You were recently signed to Season of Mist records, congratulations! How did that moment feel, and how is that going to change or affect the band and what you can and will do or be able to do, if at all?
The cool thing about that label is they completely support that [being ourselves]. The couple times I’ve asked them just a couple little things like, “Oh, do you guys want a band photo in the album insert? Or would this be better for a track listing?” And they’re completely just like, “It’s your record, whatever you want to do. Whatever you’re comfortable with, we’re not trying to push or pull either way.” Which is really, really cool. But they have such a varied roster that it’s no surprise that they’re so open to whatever you want to do. When we found out [we were signed], I got an email that said, “We’re in,” and I, of course, got it right at the beginning of a four hour class that I was taking. So I had to sit there anxiously through this fucking four hour physiology class just going fucking crazy; like, “I can’t wait to get out of here and call everybody,” because this has been built up for months. So it was sweet, man. Me, Scott, and Erik met up and went to The Waiting Room where Scott works and got fucking hammered and celebrated. It was way cool.
So then, it sounds like that signing was on the “good” scale of things in your career [laughter].
Yeah, it was on the good scale. [Sarcastically] “Man, what a bummer.” [Laughter] But it definitely changed some things. Fuck man, we didn’t have to pay for a record to get made for the first time. And we had the budget to get the producer that we wanted, which was Sanford Parker, who fucking killed it and just did exactly what we wanted him to. We’re able to do a lot of cool things now, that we couldn’t exactly do before. Which is kind of why any band wants to sign to a label, so they have the ability to do that. So it’s fucking great, man. If we wouldn’t have gotten picked up by this label, or maybe another one, I don’t know that we would have continued as a band, just because we’ve kind of done everything – the whole D.I.Y. thing – that we’ve wanted to do ourselves.
Obviously, The Lion’s Daughter is a band that puts its own wants and needs as a unit and those of its members first. So are there any goals or dreams set for where you want the band to go and yourselves within it? Or do you either think or intend that you’ll take the experience one day at a time and see where it leads by itself?
No goals. No dreams. No hope. [Laughter]
You’re a very up person, aren’t’ you? [Laughter]
[Laughs] Right. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I don’t care. We play a show once every couple of months. We’ll do a tour hopefully, like in the fall. So, I mean really, we don’t actively do anything. We’re not writing anything now, everything’s all done and recorded. [We] play shows rarely. So we’re not actively striving towards anything. I don’t know man, Black Fast are young dudes; they’re go-getters, they’re hitting it full-time and they’re serious. We’re dudes in our thirties and we do this because we like doing it. If other people catch on or dig it, then that rules because that just gives us the ability to do more stuff, which we like doing. There isn’t really a goal; the goal is to continue doing this for as long as it’s fun to do. And, the goal is to stop once it sucks. [Laughter]
Special thanks to Rick for taking the time out to talk with us! Check out The Lion’s Daughter on their Big Cartel site, Facebook, and Twitter. Be on the lookout for their debut on Season of Mist records, as well as tour announcements in the future. Be sure to check out the rest of Nick’s photos from the Black Fast CD release show at The Firebird with The Lion’s Daughter, The Gorge, and Hell Night in our photo gallery.