July 7, 2020
Tune-In Tuesdays #77: Novarium on Creating “Virus”
Group photo of heavy metal band NovariumSource: Novarium
The bi-coastal goth-metal band Novarium is re-emerging from their hiatus. They’re back — and with a viral vengeance.
Recently, we spoke to Novarium via email to learn more about their musical roots and their latest single, “Virus.” As a whole, the band is packed with personality and brimming with an energy that radiates beyond their immensely captivating sound.
Novarium Band Members
- Jen Janet — Vocals
- Dean Michaels — Guitar, synth, backing vocals
- Sean Gronholt — Guitar, synth
- D. Anthony — Drums
- Carey White — Bass, backing vocals
- Micah Consylman — Keyboards, vocals
Summarize your sound in just three words. Why did you choose those three?
Jen: For me, I’d describe it as gothic, rock, and metal. I think “Virus” encompasses all those.
D. Anthony: Dark, bipolar, and symphonic. I believe it sums up our music nicely.
Sean: Lush, melodic, and evolving. There’s a decadent richness in those layers of guitar, orchestral bits, and singing which sometimes seems excessive, but in a positively indulgent way.
I think our music rewards repeat listening — there’s always some new textural element to discover.
How did each of you get into the gothic metal scene?
Micah: When I later found out that bands like Theatre of Tragedy and Paradise Lost were part of that scene, I knew there was no going back.
Luckily for me, I was living in Charlottesville, Va. At the time, there was an amazing goth, scene, and metal scene. It was really cool.
Since it was such a small town, all the subculture kids came out to all the shows. Goth kids at metal shows, punk kids at goth nights, metal kids at hip hop nights. It was a really incredible time. I haven’t seen as much unity among different scenes ever since then.
Jen: When I was in college I became involved in the metal scene by performing in bands.
I was in a band in high school, but it was generally just a bunch of people jamming together, not really playing live yet.
I became involved heavily in the New England music scene after a few years.
Sean: Completely by mistake.
From day zero, I was into heavy music. If it had a crushing beat and brutal guitars, I wanted it in my life. All applicants were welcome. And once I took the occasion to grab myself a guitar and pretend to play, my future was set.
Years passed, bands came and went, and after quitting/being fired from one, I found myself in the unexpected company of a couple goth metal auteurs with top-shelf talent.
I loved Type O Negative and Lacuna Coil, so working with these guys was less a “When in Rome…” moment, and more an opportunity to do what I’ve always enjoyed doing, but with a slightly different vibe: making music that could be the score to Armageddon.
Dean: I had been in bands for years that followed the same formula: drums, bass, a guitar or two, and singer. At the time, my influences followed that formula too, but it was just getting stale.
I’d always loved classical music and orchestration, and it was just a matter of marrying the two. A friend of mine handed me a Type O Negative CD he didn’t want. I’d seen them on MTV (when they played videos), but I really wasn’t into them. I remember seeing them open for Ozzy in ‘96 and barely paid attention to their set.
But when my friend gave me that CD and I gave it a second listen, I realized that there was a whole style of music I’d been closed off to. It was something new to break the monotony of that bare-bones formula.
There wasn’t a gothic scene where I lived at the time. The closest was Charlottesville, Va. I just started writing new music with a different soundscape in mind and gravitated to other like-minded musicians.
D. Anthony: Type O Negative got me introduced to Gothic Metal but, even at that time, I didn’t give the genre the attention it deserved. It wasn’t until I went to my first Bella Morte show (based out of Charlottesville, Va) that I was inspired to explore it.
This was back in 2008 when Dean Michaels and I met up with former Bella Morte keytarist/engineer/producer in talks to record our first album.
Carey: Before my 9th-grade year, I grew up with different musical roots and was — in a way — searching for my musical home.
I never really felt fulfilled by what I grew up on, always gravitating toward something more complex or more assertive as far as music style goes.
When I discovered that Rammstein exists, it was all over from there. Pretty immediately my life and views on reality totally changed (and I say that dramatically because I was a bit of a sheltered kid). Although they’re not goth per se, that was a gateway into the wide and wonderful world of industrial, goth, and aggrotek for me.
The press release says you guys have been working together, despite being “scattered across opposite coasts.” How did you meet? How long has the band been collaborating remotely?
Jen: I started as the band’s vocalist much later — Novarium has been around for a while. I met the band while they were on tour and playing a show in Salem, Mass.
My previous band was opening for Novarium and I really liked their stage presence and songwriting. We stayed in touch, and after a few years, they happened to need a vocalist.
D. Anthony: When the band first formed with its original members, we were all living in close proximity. It wasn’t until much later that we became scattered with the current lineup.
Since then, Jen and Sean have relocated to the west coast. Technology plays a huge part in us still being able to be an efficient band and continue to make the music we love to make.
Micah: I have been working with Novarium since I was in Bella Morte, around the time I was making the album Beautiful Death. I did engineering, production, and writing work with the band until a few months ago.
A few months ago, I became unemployed and finally had enough time to do band stuff again. Now I’m in the band.
Carey: A couple of years ago, I got a text from Sean asking if I could sub in for a few shows. Eventually, when the roster changed, I was asked if I’d be willing to step in as a full-time member.
We’ve more or less been a remote-collaboration band since the beginning.
Give us a behind the scenes glimpse of your songwriting and recording process
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COUNTING DOWN…… Get a glimpse into the studio as we mix the single for our first official music video at Deep End Studio – Tony Correlli! Still more to come, so “like”, share, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and add our Pandora channel to your list! @thedeependstudio
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Jen: For songwriting, we usually work on things individually. When one of us has a cool idea, we record at home and then share the file with everyone.
If we all dig it, then we start building off of that and putting parts together.
I go to a recording studio for my final vocals, but we all live in different parts of the US, so the rest of the band records at different studios.
Dean: The melody, the riffs, some of the instruments, and just get a skeleton structure together. I record ideas on my phone all the time, whether I’m actually playing something or humming into the phone. When inspiration strikes, you don’t want to forget it!
I have a fairly decent home studio set up, so I’ll commit the idea to tape and see where it goes.
We’re all songwriters. Our drummer has sent me drums with no music and he’ll say, “Put something to this,” or our keytarist will send some keys and say, “Hey, what do you think?”
Recently, I had a chorus idea and lyrics popped into my head. I sent the idea to Jen and she laid down a track and sent it back.
Eventually, what you get is a streamlined process where fully-formed ideas come together in a way that serves the song. I’ve never been a fan of getting in a room and writing on the spot. Well thought out ideas for me take time, and I don’t feel my best when someone is staring at me waiting for the riff of the century.
It’s not about just one instrument for me. I’m all about the small details and nuances of how things come together. When the demos are recorded to the point we’re fairly happy, we take them to a recording studio in Baltimore.
Sean: Fortunately, my bandmates aren’t West Coast hippies like me, so their frequent oversight of my ideas usually leaves us with stuff that gets the job done.
Beyond that, songwriting is a totally brute force process for me, not unlike grabbing Lego bricks at random and building something that hopefully looks like a castle when it’s done. But for me, it usually looks like a pixelated abortion. Which is still metal.
D. Anthony: Since we have talented musicians in this band, we all inspire each other with song ideas. A lot of times we will contribute a full song idea, individually, and everybody will start tweaking the song.
After the full song idea, it is a completely collaborative effort until we are happy enough to take it into the studio.
Creating a song on the spot while jamming together in a room is fun, but sometimes the best ideas can be the ones you have time to process. Like Dean mentioned, there are times you feel pressured in a spontaneous environment that playing in one room can create.
Micah: Up until recently, I would just say “That sucks, try this instead,” but now I am actually helping from the start — as a band member! 🙂
Carey: I tend to have a similar mode of songwriting as Dean. Most of the time I’m not actively writing music, so while I’m doing other things I tend to get a vague idea, flesh it out in my head, and sit down later and translate it into a demo.
I’m not very good at writing a whole song out, so I seem to get stuck in the vortex of “Well I’ve got a cool chorus,” and I can’t seem to think of anything else for it. Then it’s just a case of hoping someone else has ideas for it.
If I’m not passively developing song ideas in my head, I’m at home banging around on the bass or guitar until I get something interesting, then I go from there.
Has your musical process been impacted by COVID-19, even though were you already used to working remotely?
Jen: For me it was not impacted at all, because we were used to writing remotely and sharing files back and forth.
I actually was able to get more songwriting done than usual, but I know it’s an extremely stressful time for many people.
Sean: It’s had a big effect on me for sure. Way back when — in those halcyon days when shaking hands with people was normal — I had my choice of how to spend my free time, where to go, and what to do.
Now I’m living under what’s basically house arrest, so any excuse not to practice guitar has evaporated. Probably for the best, really.
D. Anthony: Before COVID-19, we were already operating remotely and the songwriting process is as it still is today. COVID-19 just allowed for us to work on the music more.
Carey: I’ve been working remotely for most of my creative life. Very few of my (or band) music has been written in person, with others in live collaboration.
It feels natural to me to sit in my dark corner and pull from the dark, gothy abyss, the moist sinews of whatever faint idea is going through my head.
While I have nothing against writing with people, I find that the music with the deepest meaning in my repertoire comes from being alone and hashing it out on my own.
Tell us a little about your latest single, “Virus.” What’s the story behind the track?
Jen: The lyrics are a bit different than what the video story turned out to be, which I discuss below.
But for the music video’s story, the band plays characters that have died in different ways and passed on. My character is sort of a “goddess of the underworld” type of person. She appears to each person, one by one, waking them up in the afterlife. They are injected with a substance and then transform into Novarium.
We wanted this to be the story for the video to show that Novarium is back, and we figured it would be fun to have the members in normal, plain clothes first, and then transform into costumes later.
On stage for live shows everyone looks very gothic and we keep that aesthetic, so it was fun to have both sides in the video.
Break down some of your favorite lines from “Virus.”
“Virus” by Novarium music videoSource: Novarium – Virus (Official Music Video) | Novarium
“I was Isis, I said I’d sacrifice– “Virus” by Novarium
You were Osiris, I said I’d bring you back to life,
You said you’d bleed for me,
If I cure you of your disease,
I fear, I have tried too many times,
Now all that’s left is the virus inside.”
This was fun to write because I wanted to use a lot of god/goddess imagery in reference to life and death in the song. This is a reference to the ancient Egyptian story in which Osiris died, and Isis tried to bring him back to life.
If someone wants to change their life in a positive way, they alone need to do that. No one can really do it for them.
“Let me tell you a story,– “Virus” by Novarium
About a man, so sickly,
Awakened the fever in me,
I was drowning in the Dead Sea.”
This is my favorite part — but not because of the lyrics. This is the first introduction of that kind of rhythmic approach that can be heard in some of our newer songs. It gives it a fresh new feel and a fresh idea that we have not done in the past.
Carey: Without a doubt, “I prepare for your dissection.”
I’m a big fan of violent and gruesome sci-fi horror (Event Horizon, Hellraiser 1 and 2 anyone?) and this single line, being open-ended yet definitive simultaneously, invokes some pretty dark images.
Although it’s meant more metaphorically in this case, it’s based on the physical act of systematically separating layers and components to reach the center of a mechanism in order to find a problem, a solution, or simply how or why something happens.
That appeals to me as an engineer-type-mind, as an amateur student of psychology, and as a fan of sci-fi horror.
What drew you toward such powerful imagery?
Jen: I’ve always been very interested in history and theology. I think some of the most powerful questions we ask ourselves are:
- “Who are we?”
- “Is there a God?”
- “Is there life after death?””
- “Is there a higher power, or just some bigger meaning to everything?”
This song uses ancient Egyptian history and religious imagery to move the story along. That period in history was always very interesting to me because the kings and pharaohs were revered as living gods.
A lot of people don’t like the idea of a human being a god, but I think it’s fun to think about.
If you love someone, for example, you may treat them in a way, like a god. We treat celebrities like gods, sometimes. It’s an interesting concept.
This song is about loving someone very much, to the point where they are put on a pedestal, treated like a god. Sometimes this can go to your head, and that person changes, even though they didn’t want to.
Ultimately if one wants to change, they need to do it themselves. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want your help.
Carey: And interestingly enough, that allegory is quite relevant to the (especially current) human condition. I’m very interested in this phenomenon.
What was the highlight of creating “Virus” and why?
Jen: I really enjoyed the day we shot the video. We hadn’t all been in one room together for quite a while because we all live in different places, so that was nice too.
Dean: The highlight for me was hearing Jen’s vocals for the first time. The music was written before Jen came on, and it had a different vibe. I’m a big fan of vocal layering and accents. Jen had that from day one.
D. Anthony: Like mentioned already, “Virus” was around for a while before Jen joined the band. We had heard it in its original inception and liked it the way it was.
You can have a great song but if you don’t have the right vocal approach or the right melodies, the song can suffer.
Sean: Being done with it, honestly. One of the trickier parts of writing this type of music is knowing when you’ve added enough bits and effects and parts, and you can drop your tools and stop.
Being able to finally sit back, relax, and say to yourself, “Yeah buddy, we got ourselves a song” is a feeling I live for.
Carey: Everything, really. I love recording, editing, polishing, and finishing anything. I just love the process of production. Music, video, audio, anything.
I’m also a particular sort of perfectionist, so the process of recording was a blast for me, though it took me far too long and far too many takes to record a bass track that I was happy with.
Creating and shooting the video was also an extension of that love for production. Taking something from nothing to a finished product and invoking the meaning you intended in the first place for that product is such a rush.
What was the most challenging part of creating “Virus?”
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Introducing our new vocalist, @jenjanetmusic from the Boston MA area. Jen has been in the industry for some time now, sharing the stage with bands such as Motionless in White, Devildriver, Amorphis, Buckcherry and more. Last year she was nominated for a New England music award. Jen is currently hard at work writing lyrics for our next album. Can’t wait for you to hear what we are cooking up… . . . #lyricist #musicianportrait #musicislife #femalevocalist #singersofig #gothgirls #gothicbeauty #alternativegirl #metalhead #metalgirl #newvocalist #melodicvocals #hardrock #ladiesofmetal #bostonmusic #alternativemodel #singer
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Jen: For me when this song was written lyrically. I was still new to joining the band, so I just wanted to do a good job. I was still feeling out what style I should write in, etc…
D. Anthony: I don’t particularly remember “Virus” being that challenging while creating the instrumentals. However, it was the beginning of our sound starting to expand beyond what our debut album encompasses.
The real challenge was definitely on Jen’s part. With vocals and melodies already in place prior to Jen joining, the challenge was being able to incorporate Jen’s approach and sound, while still staying true to Novarium.
I believe that goal was accomplished and the listeners that have been with Novarium from the beginning will appreciate what’s to come.
What do you hope listeners take away from your latest single?
Jen: I want to show everyone that Novarium is back and hopefully get people excited about the music we are going to release in the future.
D. Anthony: For the Novarium listeners that have been around for a while, I hope they hear it and realize that Novarium is back and ready to see everybody when it’s time to tour. We were on hiatus for a while and I hope the work we put into this will explain that hiatus.
Micah: Not to be too literal, but I think it would be cool for people to take away that sometimes hard changes can be good.
With the way that the pandemic has affected everyone’s life, there are a lot of hard changes that are being made.
People who are the truest versions of who they can be, people who are willing to give up their own (social) lives for a cause that they believe in…like not accidentally giving Robert Smith COVID-19.
Carey: To piggyback off of Micah: I’m a big proponent for a little suffering now and then. Too much comfort will kill you and destroy the human spirit, so every so often a painful, new, or uncomfortable (but conquerable) experience is a great way to metamorphosize into something stronger.
Overall, how do you hope to impact your listeners through your work?
Jen: For now, I feel like a lot of people just need an escape. There are a lot of very stressful things happening in the world right now in particular. I hope that our music video entertains, and allows people a small escape, even for a few minutes.
I really enjoyed writing the lyrics for this, too, so I hope there are some people who look them up and enjoy them.
D. Anthony: Our music seems to be either aggressive or very melodic and emotional. I think there’s something that most people can relate to and get a release from.
I’m not the type to get a release through lyrics, or the vocal message, but there are a lot of listeners who do and hopefully that can also impact them.
Micah: I hope that our music can be whatever our listeners need it to be, whether that is a temporary escape from reality, or a soundtrack to their rage. I also hope that people say, “Wow! Listen to all those cool notes!!!”
Carey: I like to take people to a specific place with the song, so I hope that our music is enough to take people to that intended place for a couple of minutes at least.
With all the music I write, I tend to go to a pretty dark place. I think my personal goal is for others to experience that place with me for a little while, then come out with a little more clarity on a subject or situation than they had going into it.
The press release also mentions you guys are working on your second EP. Could you tell us a little about your upcoming EP or is everything still on the down low for right now?
Jen: We have been in the studio working on some songs. That’s all I will say for now 😉
D. Anthony: While the first EP is still being mixed and mastered, the 2nd EP recording process has started. Without giving away too much information, If the listeners enjoy our new single “Virus,” they will surely enjoy what else we have to offer.
Micah: Get ready for some crazy new synth sounds and bass heavy screaming.
Carey: It’s gonna be great, it’s gonna be fun, it’s gonna be great fun. And you might die from listening to it. Buyer beware. But buy it anyway.
You guys are gearing up for East and West coast tours following your second EP, too. What part of touring are you most looking forward to?
Sean: The stories that we’ll tell later. Oh man, the stories… Whatever you think tour life is, it’s not that. It’s far stranger and more magnificent.
Jen: Touring is on hold for now and honestly will be for a while due to COVID-19. But I haven’t been able to perform in a very long time, so I’d just be happy to get on stage again, in general.
Dean: I’m a wanderer and I love the idea of seeing new places and meeting new people.
As much as the daily grind is drive/soundcheck/show/sleep/repeat on tour, you get into a rhythm. When you get home you sort of stare at the walls and have tour withdrawal.
We have new members, so I’m mostly looking forward to continuing the adventure with new faces.
D. Anthony: As stressful as touring is, I’m really looking forward to getting back on stage and sharing the music live with the audience.
Micah: Seeing all my friends, fans, and family from my years of touring with Bella Morte. I can’t wait, it has been so many years!!!
Carey: Stories, experiences, and all the crazy stuff in between. Plus I like putting my hair up and I don’t do it at home so I look like a doofus all day every day. At least on tour, I have planned on looking like a gothic doofus.
Do you have any additional comments or final thoughts to share?
Jen: We would love to stay in touch with anyone who enjoys our music! @novariumband.
D. Anthony: Stay tuned for updates about shows, new merch, and look for the first EP since our debut to be out soon. See you on the road.
Micah: Live long and prosper.
Carey: What the hell happened to Blockbuster?
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