Interview with Rebecca Vernon ( SubRosa)

Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal from Salt Lake City, Utah

Hello and thank you for following my request ! For those readers which have no clue about what SubRosa can be, would you tell briefly something about over band’s history?

Thank you for the interview, Miruna.

SubRosa started in 2005 with Sarah and I, in a haunted basement that I lived in with a friend. We found out close to moving out that one of the previous tenants had killed himself in our basement apartment; he was a security guard who was suffering from depression.

We started putting together music to perform, and played shows in and around Salt Lake City, just like any band. In 2008, we got signed to I Hate Records, and from there, Chris Bruni of Profound Lore caught wind of us, soon after the release of Strega. We signed with Profound Lore for the next release, No Help for the Mighty Ones, and continued on Profound Lore with the next two releases after that.

We started from humble beginnings and grew very slowly, but I think that is a good way to be a band, to sink down roots and never take for granted anything good that might happen to you.

Where do you think SubRosa fits musically? Doom metal? Avantgarde metal?

I’ve always thought we were closest to “sludge metal” or “post metal,” closest to Isis and Neurosis and Cult of Luna than anything else. However, Profound Lore thinks a better label is “chamber doom,” since that takes into account the violins. I think “doom metal” is the label I use for us the most. For people outside the metal scene, I say we’re “heavy rock with violins.” Haha.

How vital is the emotional depth that the violins bring to your music? 

They are very vital. The emotions that the violins bring to a basic riff that I might write is incredible to behold, from my perspective. I’ll write a riff I think is more aggressive, and not very emotional, and then they’ll write something over it that brings out all the hidden nuances of the riff, that stabs you in the heart and brings tears to your eyes. The violins make the music much more three-dimensional and emotional than it would be otherwise.

What are your biggest sources of inspiration? (personally I do think of Jex Thoth from time to time while listening to your music)

I do really love Jex Thoth. I think they could and should be a lot bigger, even outside the metal scene. I wouldn’t say she’s been a direct influence, but I consider her a compatriot in the metal scene for sure and I have a lot of respect for her.

My biggest inspiration with SubRosa was a band from American Fork/Provo, Utah called the Red Bennies, and even though we’ve absorbed many more influences over the years after being exposed to more bands and genres, the core of SubRosa is still very based on the spirit of that band. Sarah is very influenced by Devil Doll from Hungary, Brian Eno, Zappa and many others. Kim also has a ton of influences, from math metal, indie rock, goth rock, classical music, noise and electronica … the list goes on and on.

Which of your albums is your favourite one?

I think I like the most recent album the best, because we reached a level of meaning and complexity after pushing ourselves very hard, that I don’t think we’ve reached with any other album. We also wrote the music to reflect the movements and themes of the book We and other related literature, and that was a fun challenge. But my favorite song we’ve written is “The Usher,” off More Constant than the Gods. It was based on the death of my mom, and I feel like there is something about the lyrics that seemed to come from a place beyond me.  They are some of the more bittersweet lyrics I’ve written … with more emphasis on the bitter, of course. 

Because lots of ppl ask themselvs what has to do a woman with metal, I started a project based on this idea. My target is to talk with most remarcable women in metal. I want to know your honest opinion: Do you think that a female vocalist can give credit to a band or is this a disadvantage? What about a woman which is the main vocalist?

When SubRosa started, I also felt like I was doing something that was against what was expected of me as a female, to sing in an aggressive, defiant way to heavy music. At the same time, I didn’t want to use being a woman as a gimmick to sell the band, and we’ve tried hard to avoid that. I think women face enormous pressure to look a certain way or present themselves a certain way to get their music recognized. To me, that’s a shortcut. I wanted to make music that would get attention for its own sake, for what it was trying to say, so that even if we were behind a curtain, the music would still speak for itself.

I think it is good if other women feel inspired and empowered to make heavy music, and to not be afraid to express yourself. But I think it is tricky because I don’t think your gender should be the main focus; it annoys me when bands have a female vocalist who is front and center in every band promo shot, and no one ever notices the rest of the band.

It will be great when it doesn’t matter what your gender is in metal is and no one will notice because there are equal amounts of female contributors.

What advice would you give women just getting into metal music and culture on what to possibly expect? 

I would tell them to focus on the music instead of their gender, to respect the music and it will then be respected in turn by other musicians and fans who connect with it. I would also tell them to be confident and unapologetic with what you are presenting, to believe in your music and what you are trying to do, and to not be focused on rewards or outcomes, because being in a band can be very difficult and discouraging at times, and you need to have that belief in yourself to get through those times.

I have actually encountered very little sexism in the 12 years SubRosa has been together. I think that has a lot to do with the genre we’re in, doom metal, which is a very open-minded, progressive genre that adopts a lot of punk/DIY philosophy and where the prevailing attitude is definitely anti-misogyny.

I think the other reason, though, is because we do not make our gender a huge emphasis, like I mentioned. We just do what men in the scene do – just try our best to make music that means something to us and hopefully will to others. If you are genuine, people pick up on that and that is the all-important thing – to be sincere.

Which show was the most remarkable for you? But the worst?

There have been some really memorable shows that really stand out in my mind. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think when we played Roadburn in 2015, that was a very special show for us – to play Het Patronaat for the first time. Playing our Subdued set this year for Roadburn at Het Patronaat was also very special, and playing our last album in its entirety on the main stage. Another was both Hellfests, in 2014 and 2017.

The worst show for us was probably the show we played for the Utah Arts Festival sometime in 2009 or so. We played in bright daylight under a tent to a bunch of families holding children licking ice-cream cones, looking dismayed and perplexed, and the sound guy kept telling me to turn down until my guitar sounded like Dave Matthews. It was pretty dismal.

Do you guys plan to release a new material in the near future? We can expect to see you in Romania?

We are going to be releasing the live version of our Subdued set from Roadburn 2017 early next year, on vinyl. After that, we are taking a bit of a break, since Kim will be having a baby in March, and I am going to be working on material for another project.

We would LOVE to come to Romania one day! In fact, I really do want to do an entire tour that is almost entirely focused on Eastern Europe! 

Thank you for your time and for your answers! Was a pleasure for me 🙂  now if you have something to add, last words belong to you…

Thank you again for the interview! I have always wanted to visit Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains … what other places do you recommend seeing in Romania? Hopefully one day, I will make it there, whether with SubRosa or by myself.

 

 

photo credits: Carlos Funes 

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