The progressive band The Anchoret are in this week’s Meet The Band spotlight. Their debut album It All Began With Loneliness was just released. Vocalist Sylvain Auclair and bassist Eduard Levitsky introduce us to their band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of The Anchoret.
Eduard Levitsky: I’ve always had the idea to bridge prog rock and my love of metal but truth be told, The Anchoret was, in a way, born out of necessity. During the 2020 lockdown I felt isolated from the world and needed an outlet. I felt that the best way to say how I felt was through music and it was through music that I was able to reach out and connect with new friends and colleagues and work on what eventually became It All Began With Loneliness.
Sylvain Auclair: I got a phone call from Ed, we talked and he sent me the music. I was instantly hooked
Describe the songwriting process for It All Began With Loneliness.
Ed: Musically, The Anchoret is a love letter to all the bands I grew up listening to – the DNA of which is found throughout the album. I would decide on a direction for a song, figure out
melodies, play with riffs and try my best to integrate these homages while hopefully staying true to my own, more extreme, voice! I wrote and recorded the demo the best I could and used virtual instruments as placeholders for instruments I could not play – some of which still made the cut on the finished album! (laughs) I would share the demo with the musicians featured on the album and one by one, the virtual instruments were replaced by absolutely killer and inspired performances. Once the demo was finished and produced, Sylvain Auclair had the gargantuan job of giving stories to these songs and tying everything together.
Sly: Gargantuan? Well let’s just say inspiration came easy when listening to those incredible songs Ed wrote! Also the fact that we were in isolation during the pandemic, the creative
process helped to put those feelings into lyrics and vocal melodies and served as a necessary outlet to retain some sanity!
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Ed: I worked in a silo for most of the album so I was anxious to start collaborating with other musicians on the songs. What if they don’t like it? What if none of this makes any sense? I will
always treasure the moment when I received those first few saxophone tracks. It was like finally hearing the music. It was pure closure.
Sly: Hearing the songs come together with the addition of vocals and lyrics. Ed’s music was so well put together so finding the right emotion and vocal textures to please him was extremely
important to me.
What was the biggest challenge in recording It All Began With Loneliness?
Ed: As all the musicians on this album are from different countries, the biggest challenge recording this album was managing all the different time zones! At times I felt like I was more of
a project manager than a musician! (laughs)
Sly: Actually, the creative process came to me naturally and seamlessly. The headspace I was in creatively and personally at that time was aligned with Ed’s musical needs.
How would you characterize its style/sound?
Ed: The Anchoret is a prog metal band that occasionally bridges over into prog rock territory. While most prog metal tends to push the boundaries of musicianship, I think that The Anchoret
is more of an exercise in restraint and musical left turns.
Sly: The Anchoret definitely is a heavier project than what I usually tackle. That being said, it feels like the next step for me creatively and helped me step out of my comfort zone as a singer.
What inspired the album title?
Ed: It All Began With Loneliness is called that because it really did begin there! I was in a new city, away from family and living through lockdown. That isolation is what inspired both the album title and the name of the band.
What lyrical topics do you cover?
Ed: Every track on the album deals with isolation in one form or another but, more importantly, every song has a message of hope, self-growth and self-love! Sure, the project started to take
shape during the pandemic but it was our form of escapism and I thought that our songs should reflect that sentiment too.
Sly: The lyrics are inspired from personal events that triggered emotional responses that I then translated into stories. Those stories are shaped around tormented characters seeking to find
alternatives and solutions to solve their current miserable state and better their surroundings.
How did you come to sign with Willowtip Records?
Ed: This was an absolute shot in the dark. I’ve been following Willowtip Records since the Arsis days and this label has always been synonymous with quality for me but I thought that The
Anchoret might not be extreme enough to fit the roster. An Abstract Illusion and Parius were the two bands on the roster that convinced me to try…and I’m extremely glad I did.
What has the response been to the singles you’ve released?
Ed: Aiming to be a bridge between two genres, I was scared that The Anchoret would piss off both the metal and the prog fans because we might not be metal enough or not progressive enough…but I am absolutely humbled by the response we’ve had so far!
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Ed: With the release of the album, I would love to start figuring out opportunities to bring the show on the road! We have quite a few moving pieces in our music so this is easier said than
Do you have plans to play live?
Ed: I do! I feel like our music would not translate very well onto backing tracks. Some instruments, sure, but most of the guest instruments have lengthy solo parts while the rest of the
band supports. I don’t see us playing live without those and I think that our fans don’t either.
How did you get started in music?
Ed: I played the trumpet in the high school band and eventually, like every other teenager, soon started playing guitar! It wasn’t too long before I formed a band with my best friend who played the bass and started playing local gigs. Years later, my friend passed away under tragic circumstances and when I started playing again, I picked up the mantle of bass.
Sly: I fell in love with my parents’ record collection as a kid. I got involved with my first band and did my first show at 14. Started playing bass in 1991 and got a first record deal in 1996 with my band Heaven’s Cry.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
Ed: Growing up, my dad introduced me to a lot of music from Supertramp to Space to Procol Harum to Uriah Heep to Radiohead. But looking back now, I think that Nightwish and Kamelot are both responsible for getting me interested in writing music and Opeth and Dan Swano were my gateways into more extreme forms of music.
Sly: As a kid, Elvis Presley was the KING! Later, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson. Then Shout At The Devil got me hooked. After that I became a metal head for life!
What was your first band, and what style of music did they play?
Ed: My first band was called Hollow and started out as power metal and eventually evolved into more of a blackened death thing with lots of orchestrations.
Sly: My first band is Heaven’s Cry. It’s progressive metal.
What was the first rock/metal concert you attended?
Ed: My parents swear that I was at a Pink Floyd show as a toddler, but I have no recollection of that! From what I remember my first serious concert was the Summer Sanitarium tour in 2003.
Sly: Mötley Crüe Theater Of Pain tour in 1985.
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
Ed: I love drawing and graphic design but mostly, I love anything with a good story: books, video games, movies and even podcasts!
Sly: I love hiking and doing weight training to balance a healthy life with rock n’ roll! (laughs)
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Ed: I wanted to thank you for this amazing interview and would like to thank everyone who has been supporting The Anchoret! If you can, take a moment to follow us on social media:
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bandcamp.
(interview published June 24, 2023)
Listen To The Anchoret – “Buried”