This is a band which I have had the pleasure and honor of seeing live. Not only are they a great promising act, but their live performances and attitude are nothing short of professional. I have honestly never seen such a dedicated and driven band, and with that respect and admiration I have for them, is that I have done this interview.
First and foremost, what is the main message behind Alexandria's existence? In other words, what would you like for people to consider as your legacy in the world of metal, music, and art in general?
Unfortunately, recent decades of music history has caused metal to often be wrongly portrayed as a drug-related, violent or just plain angry genre. In response to these assertions, Alexandria offers a constructive alternative, a fusion of upbeat metal that leaves listeners feeling empowered and inspired, rather than destructive or victimized. Through our music and the message behind it, we hope to help people find greater meaning in life, motivating them to push on through all of its challenges. Furthermore, we recognize that not everyone who listens to dark or negatively-charged metal feels affected by it, and completely support this outlook. In our eyes, there is simply a better side to life that we feel everyone should be allowed to experience.
Why did you guys choose the name Alexandria? Do you think bands should have names which represent their sound/message?
In the early stages of creation, many different ideas surfaced surrounding the various themes and visions our project would eventually have to embody. It was finally suggested by a friend of the band that we use Alexandria, a Greek name which we found meant "helper or defender of mankind". Its evocative literal meaning, strong historical significance, and sheer verbal beauty made it a perfect candidate for expressing and representing the band's principles. Although many other bands may have chosen their names based on a more conventional appeal, we feel it is important that above all, bands make these decisions based on their own feelings, not on the expectations of others.
I'm aware that the members in the band all have different influences and enjoy different genres of metal; this indicates everyone is very respectful and receptive when it comes to music. How much of a role do you think it plays in the final product of your music?
No doubt this makes an enormous impact. Each of us brings such a distinct variation of sounds and musical values to the table, that it really serves most as a checks-and-balances system, helping us to add innovative technique and a bit of cultural flavor to our songs, without overdoing it. Likewise, it creates a sound that is more well-rounded and cultured than it would be if we all shared exactly the same influences. As a result, we've noticed our music usually reaches out to people coming from a wide spectrum of musical tastes.
What would you consider to be the band's biggest weakness, or what aspects need to be improved the most, whether musical or otherwise?
Probably one of our biggest pitfalls as a band comes from the consistent void we've encountered trying to recruit pianists and the like. The gap between Allie's voice and the heavy undertones Robs guitar provides is a space we'd desperately like to fill, though that might qualify as more of a personal challenge than a weakness. Aside from that, time management would probably be next in line. It has been very difficult being a self-managed band and finding time to do all the things a normal band should be doing: writing new material, promoting, practicing. We put so much hard work into the business side of music, that our creative time is usually more limited than any one of us would like.
What do you believe puts you aside from the rest of the metal world in terms of your sound, attitude and aptitude?
Because Alexandria is self-managed, we are extremely serious when it comes to band business. We are not out to waste anyone's time, especially our own, so it is imperative that all members reciprocate this commitment in their actions. In addition to these factors, we put a lot of hard work into music composition as well: writing, organizing and re-writing, then re-organizing; it is all lots of time, as most musicians are aware, to make sure our music is the best it can possibly be. During this process, we try always to examine and evaluate our strengths and weaknesses as shown in the end product of our music, to help the band pursue faster growth and a better sound. Moreover, because running a band is also like running a business, Alexandria has always strived to be nothing short of professional and courteous, two qualities that we have noted to truly distinguish a band from those professional and those not-so.
I know that Alexandria is currently looking to add not only a keyboardist, but perhaps other instruments which can help improve the sound. In my opinion, your style of music- especially with a singer like Allie- could benefit tremendously from more classical instruments. Is this a sign of the band's more experimental side, or do you already have an idea of what you are searching for?
The past few decades have shown us some tremendously innovative artists, combining all sorts of unconventional elements into their music. Because of their work, it would be unfair to say that our concept of Alexandria's instrumental endeavors is all experimental, and has not evolved from their influence. Bands like Mago de Oz, and more orchestrated metal by Lacrimosa and After Forever, as well as many others, have all left their mark on the band in one way or another, giving us examples of the various styles we'd like to emulate, and eventually incorporate in our music. However, it is also not on our agenda to become a replica of any one of these artists, despite the great sources of inspiration we may find in their influence. No matter how many times one may be certain of something, it is always important and valuable to take into consideration the possibility of change.
Now, I have played with lead guitarist Robert Tripp in the past, and I consider him nothing short of spectacular and professional. I think his progressive style comes through ingeniously in your songs and sets you apart from the more stagnant power metal outfits out there. How much of an asset do you consider him to be?
Most musicians who have ever gone out into the artist world in search of likeminded performers, know that it is very hard and extremely rare to find someone with such extraordinary talent and attitude. An ex-student from Berklee School of Music, Rob's knowledge and musicianship skills are nothing less than extraordinary, as are the ideas, brainstorms, and technicalities he brings to the music equally invaluable. Additionally, he is not only a very humble, hard-working man, but always very willing to help others learn. We are very fortunate to have Rob as our guitar player, and now as one of the core members of Alexandria.
I was blown away when I found out that drummer Erick Castrillon is not only the person who basically started the band, but he's also the main songwriter/composer. To me that's extremely impressive and unique. So Erick, what musical training and knowledge do you posses that allows you to be such a great 'virtuoso' of sorts?
Sadly, I do not possess the abundant musical knowledge of someone classically-trained, because I never received any sort of formal training. Instead, I owe all my musical knowledge to every musician that I have ever played with, beginning at around age 14 or so. (I am 18 now, and not quite sure at all about the term virtuoso, however flattering.J) A good technique that I use often is listening to different songs by different artists, trying to emulate the feel that they give me, (although never copying), then incorporating that feeling into original ideas from both band-mates and myself. Most of my ideas come indirectly from my musical influences, which I take a lot of pride in, as I do have a wide spectrum of musical tastes. From The Verve to Opeth to The Decemberists to Dragonforce& it's all great music. (Don't ever be afraid to break away from your own genre!)
Allie, I know you are part of a choir, and I must say your voice sounds nothing short of angelic and powerful, especially live. With bands such as Nightwish, Epica, Sirenia and Theatre of Tragedy already having showed us operatic singers, what do you think can not only set you apart from them, but also perhaps make you a better band than the aforementioned?
As one of the co-founders of Alexandria, I am living not only a personal dream, but a daily challenge to fulfill to my own standards of what the band should approximate to, and my role in that process. It is therefore very important to me that I play an active part not only in the music and in the thoughts behind Alexandria, but that I maintain a healthy amount of personal growth as a performer, in order to contribute my best to the band. Sadly, I feel that many female musicians have inertly succumbed to being the figure-head for their bands, and the music they front, whether it is a conscious decision or not. Truly, there is nothing wrong with solely being a band's front-woman, but it simply not satisfying for my character. It is my goal to be not only a great musician and part of an amazing band, but to become an inspiring person and a role model to others. Additionally, when integrating vocals into our music, I push myself to be both open-minded and versatile, as I would like others to be when approaching our music. As a result, I am always looking to different genres of music, (especially world music), and cultural roots for inspiration.
This one is for Carlos. I saw you live and was blown away by your ability. You have mentioned Steve Harris and John Myung as influences, and they certainly show. What do you think having a versatile bassist such as yourself does for a band, in an age where bassist are expected to be simply a background feature of a metal band?
If you've noticed my influences already, it is easy to see that I am not particularly fond of background bassists. Steve Harris, John Myung, and Mike Lepond are all musicians that make it a point to be right up front in the music. To play an instrument, one most really explore all possibilities, because there is no right or wrong, only good and bad according to preference. Therefore, being versatile to me is essential to be a good bass player. Different songs (and even parts of the song) call for different techniques and sounds. Playing root notes with a pick, for instance, just doesn't really cut it in progressive metal.
What are the short-term and long-term goals for Alexandria?
In the near future, we would definitely like to make a bigger impact on the surrounding South Florida region. As it stands, we've made pretty satisfactory progress, coming up on only six months of playing shows with over two dozen performances under our belt, though we'd really like to start expanding our fan-base and playing bigger shows on a regular basis. There are also a number of other long-term achievements we would like to set foot on, including finding funds for our music, putting out a full-length CD, following up our music with a music video and DVD, touring, and so much more. There are no limits to the vision we have for our future, which is a tremendous claim, because we are not waiting for these things to happen, we're making them happen. At this point, each goal is a work in progress, creeping along, some slower than others, all one step at a time.
End of Part I