Meet The Band: Carmeria

This week we’re spotlighting the Australian symphonic gothic metal act Carmeria in Meet The Band. Their debut album is Advenae. Vocalist Jordan Von Grae introduces us to his band.

Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Carmeria.
Jordan Von Grae: The first iteration of Carmeria formed in 2012, and featured an entirely different lineup, apart from Jerry (guitarist/founder). The group originally labeled their sound as prog rock, and released one EP Awakening (2013) before disbanding due to creative differences.

Jerry was looking to re-invent the band as a symphonic metal act in 2014, which is when I came into the fold. It took us a while to find our footing due to juggling other commitments and struggling to find like-minded musicians who fit our criteria. A couple of line-up changes and a few single releases later, we locked in the collective that would see through the release of our debut album Advenae. It has been quite a long road to get us to this point, but I feel confident in saying that the group dynamic is the strongest it’s ever been, and our creative productivity has never been better.

Describe the songwriting process for Advenae.
Advenae is a collection of songs written over a six year period, and features music created from when Jerry and I initially started the second iteration of Carmeria in 2014 up to material written with the current lineup excluding Emma (bass), who joined the band in 2021. Throughout the length of this process, many of us built our own home recording set-ups, and developed the skills to write and record independently, using a shared drive to collaborate on ideas.

Once we’d chosen the songs for the album, we revisited the old demos and reworked them to a pre-production standard. Once they were up to scratch, we sent them to the album’s producer, Lord Tim (Dungeon/LORD), and began the recording process.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
For me, it was the last day of vocal recording. The years it took to establish the band’s lineup, combined with Black Summer (Australian bushfires ‘19-‘20) and the global pandemic made it feel like this album would never see the light of day. I remember sitting back after delivering the final vocal take and feeling quite overwhelmed that we’d finally managed to finish the recording of our debut album. The studio was a 1.5 hour drive from where I lived at the time, and I remember sitting in silence the whole way home, reflecting on everything it took to get to that point. It was a surreal experience.

How did the pandemic affect the process?
It affected the process quite a lot. Luckily, all of the instrumentation had been recorded prior to the pandemic, however we had just begun vocal production when it hit Australian shores. As a result, we often had to delay recording sessions for weeks to months at a time due to lockdown restrictions. From memory, the overall recording process for vocals alone took around six months, as opposed to the one month we originally had planned for it.

How would you characterize the album’s style/sound?
I would describe the album’s style/sound as a fusion of symphonic metal and gothic rock, with some prog-power elements thrown in for some additional color.

What lyrical topics do you cover?
My lyrical style tends to gravitate towards somber tones and ideas. The bands name is an amalgamation of Carmina Miseria, which loosely translates to “Songs of Misery,” and I feel like the lyrical concepts I explore suit that theme quite aptly. I was in quite a dark place throughout the writing of the album and as a result, the album’s theme is centered around my experience with mental illness (namely depression, anxiety, and complex PTSD).

I’ve often found my mental health issues to feel like an otherworldly force that I have little to no control over. When I was penning the lyrics, I decided to characterize this ‘otherworldly force’ as a demonic influence, which helped solidify the albums concept as psychological suffering represented as Lucifer.

What led you to go the independent route for its release?
I think it was just a mix of timing and opportunity. The album was pitched to a few labels by our management at the time, and we’d agreed that if we hadn’t heard back within a couple of months that we’d proceed with an independent release. We’d been sitting on a majority of these songs for years, and the idea of delaying it further through additional rounds of pitching was exhausting, particularly when we’d already started working on new material and planning our next steps.

What was the response to the Australian release of the album last year, and what are your goals/expectations for the North American release?
It was great, for the most part. Unfortunately there’s not much of a market for symphonic metal/gothic rock in Australia, which is an ever-evolving challenge, but the new fans we’ve made through this album have been wonderful. The reviews for the album have all been fantastic too, so that’s been incredibly rewarding after the amount of work it took to put the album together. The goal for the North American release is to boost the band’s awareness overseas, and hopefully provide the groundswell necessary for us to look into touring internationally.

What has been your most memorable Carmeria live show?
The recent hometown show on our album tour was a personal highlight of mine. Everything just clicked into place, and we played to an enthusiastic, sold out crowd who knew all of the songs and engaged magnificently. We were all on such a high after that performance, and it was a brilliant way to cap off 2021 after all the trials and tribulations the year had thrown at us.

What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
We’re about to begin the second leg of our album tour, which was postponed at the end of last year due to the pandemic. Following on from that, we will be performing at Scream It Out Festival in Sydney on the 23rd of April.

Tell us about the origin and purpose of the Scream It Out Festival.
Scream It Out is a music festival organized by Jerry, that aims to give alternative youth a safe space to express themselves creatively. The festival is hosted at the high school Jerry teaches at, and includes a mixture of live music and informative Q&A panels, the latter of which is provided by the youth mental health organization Headspace. All of the profits from the festival will be donated to Beyond Blue.

How did you get started in music?
I’ve always been in love with music. My parents were fans of rock when I was a kid, and often played the likes of Meat Loaf, Queen, and Motley Crüe around the house. I think that’s where my obsession for rock’n’roll theatrics began, but it really kicked off when I was around 9 and saw the movie Rock Star with Mark Wahlberg. I was blown away by the sheer grandeur of ’80s hard rock and heavy metal, and decided in that moment that I wanted to become a metal singer.

Researching that movie propelled me into the world of rock and metal, and I’d spend hours on the computer sifting through online forums for new bands to listen to, and new vocalists to try and emulate. My musical taste and influences have broadened a lot over the years, but that’s really where it all started for me.

Who were your early influences and inspirations?
My early influences and inspirations came in the form of Miljenko Matijević (Steelheart), Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Meat Loaf, and David Coverdale (Deep Purple/Whitesnake). Later influences (in my late teens/early 20’s) that were important in my development as a vocalist include Roy Khan (Kamelot), Ville Valo (HIM), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), and Russell Allen (Symphony X)

What was the first metal concert you attended?
The first metal concert I attended was The Black Crusade (Machine Head/Trivium/Arch Enemy) back in 2007. It was both mind-blowing and eye opening, and left me with a strained neck and temporary hearing loss for nearly a week. Totally worth it.

What are some of your non-musical interests/hobbies?
Other than music, I enjoy reading books and hanging out with my cat. I also train in martial arts (Muay Thai), which helps keep be sane a lot of the time.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
We’ve been working on a lot of new material for our second album over at Carmeria HQ. We’re not far off the full tracklist, and will be heading into the studio to record it soon. Stay tuned…

(interview published March 19, 2022)

Watch Carmeria – “Celestia” Video


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