Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Interview with Rhiis of Ana Kefr!

Frontman of Ana Kefr Rhiis D. Lopez took the time out to tell us a little about the meaning of The Burial Tree, the history of the band, and the "two time" rule.

Foul Feast: Can you tell us a little about how Ana Kefr formed?

(I'm going to answer this question in second person perspective narrative just for kicks.)

Rhiis: So you're eking out a quaint little existence in Cairo; you tried making a living as an English teacher, even got certified, did some of that shoddy freelance writing for a stint. You never really found "it," whatever "it" was supposed to be. A friend of a friend of a friend introduces you to the right guy, a couple months later you're a casting director for movies, life smells real good. Fava bean breakfast, felafel lunch and a pasta dinner. Tea, coffee, hookah, bad breath for less than a dollar. Your mother's on the phone complaining about health problems, next thing you know you're back in California for what you are calling a "visit." The visit introduces you to Kyle, he's already got a music thing going but you try out on vocals anyway, you know, just for the hell of it. Bang-boom-pow, you're writing music now, line-up changes, living arrangements, sleep on a couch for a year. Two years piss by and your couple-month visit becomes a joke. Clarinets and saxophones, album number two on the way...life has a funny way of working out, you think.

FF: What can fans expect from the new album?

Rhiis: Anyone hoping we'd go softer is going to be disappointed. It's a lot harder than "Volume 1," with less structure and wilder musicality. Some of these songs have 20-23 different riffs in them, we're not talking about radio rock here. At the same time, it has the Kefr feel to it - it's intense but has the melody and emotion behind it. There is still a variety in the sound, but the hard got harder and the soft got more epic and complex. They should expect something different, one thing we aim for is to never repeat an idea, and this album is a big step forward from our first album. Every album should be the next step forward.

FF: Are there any plans of a tour in support of the upcoming album?

Rhiis: Yes. Since we are an independent band, it isn't financially easy to just throw together a massive tour. We do plan on putting together a few different things, something focusing on the westcoast and something else eastward bound, as well as our normal circuit throughout southern California. We're going to get out there and hit the road, but it will probably be spaced out a bit to make it financially practical.

FF: When it comes to tours you take part in are you normally the odd man out?

Rhiis: We've never actually been a part of a tour! We've played a fair amount in southern California and once in Las Vegas, but this album will have us getting out there finally. It needs to be done, whatever the cost. As far as shows we've played, we are always the odd man out, no matter what the line-up. I think we all see this as a good thing, though. Love or hate us, you'll probably remember us when the show is over.

FF: What inspired the album title The Burial Tree?

Rhiis: Mythology and religion. As the concepts for the album came together, I began polishing some ideas and weeding out others, coming closer to finding what the album needed to be centered around. I don't want to get too into it because a) it will take forever, b) it will take all the fun out of people finding things for themselves and taking their own meaning from it all, but the album generally centers around the idea of a path to enlightenment. As the second track, Emago, says, "For if from ignorance hails bliss then with enlightenment comes the abyss and hopelessness." One idea embedded in the album is that enlightenment/the search for truth can actually be a very dark and painful thing, however necessary it may be. Truth isn't always pleasant, but it's always truth and therefore valuable.

FF: Would you say The Burial Tree is a concept album?

Rhiis: I'd say it is both a concept album and a collection of individual songs tied together by underlying themes. There is an obvious thread going through it all, but the songs aren't all talking about the same thing over and over. There are a lot of hidden connections and meaning in both the lyrics and the music notation, some of them might jump out at the listener over time, others won't be found unless you dig really deep and thoroughly into it all.

FF: Are you satisfied with how the album came out?

Rhiis: Extremely, we put a lot of time into it. We spent about 3 months recording it, spacing the recording days out by going in on weekends and Wednesdays, and this gave us the opportunity to have time to sit on the rough mixes and really analyze it. It got to a point where we were overanalyzing and driving ourselves insane, but in the end it was worth it. The production quality is strikingly clear and sounds very big, we are all pretty happy with it.

FF: The band's sound is very progressive, is this something you were shooting for or did it just come naturally as you began writing?

Rhiis: We never sat down and agreed to write progressive music, it really just happened by chance. Starting with the writing core, Kyle and I both listen to a lot of different kinds of music and don't limit ourselves at all when we write. Everyone in the band listens to a weird mix, enjoys playing different styles and has been in other bands of different genres before, so we all bring a lot of different angles to the drawing board. There aren't any rules other than keeping away from repeating an idea, and that alone has probably had a lot to do with our songs all simultaneously sounding like the same band but still sounding very different from one another.

FF: Your music challenges the listener, do you find this to be important with how dumbed down a lot of modern music is?

Rhiis: Yes, it's very important, I feel pretty appalled by what's popular these days. There are some good new bands, but so much sound-alike crap gets churned out, it makes it difficult to sift through it all and find something actually worth listening to. We never made any conscious decision to make music that is unpredictable or whatever you want to call it, it kind of just happens because we get bored playing a riff four times and then following it with a chorus. We are fond of things happening two times, though, and only rarely does something happen four times. If you listen, you'll hear a lot of twos in The Burial Tree. I guess that's another general rule, along with not repeating an idea - don't repeat a riff unless you absolutely have to. Repetition is repetitively repetitive.

FF: Ana Kefr translates to "I Am Infidel" can you explain a little behind the meaning of the name?

Rhiis: One of the first songs I wrote the lyrics to was called "Takeover," from our first album, "Volume 1." We hadn't chosen a band name yet, but the music and lyrics to this song were in place. A friend of ours, John Treadwell, pointed out a part in the song where "ana kefr" is chanted, and said that would be a great band name. We whole-heartedly agreed and the rest is history. The name being Arabic is obviously inspired by my time spent in the Middle East, I traveled Jordan while living in Egypt, as well as spending some time in Palestine/Israel, and my experiences really changed everything for me. We're obviously not hardcore Jesus-humpers, I feel that picking that name for the band totally marked the path we'd walk. I couldn't be happier that this is the path.

FF: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Rhiis: Thanks for the great questions! It's been fun.

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