I had the opportunity today to discuss with Nick Thornbury, the lead singer of New Hampshire’s Vattnet Viskar about their stellar new album, Settler, as well as their future plans for touring. Nick was gracious enough to respond to my request, below you can find our exchange.
CFD: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions, Nick. I saw you guys last year on Halloween with Pallbearer and I’m excited to see you all again in a couple weeks. Settler is such a brilliant album; I can’t wait to see it live. Settler represents a much more refined and evolved sound from Vattnet Viskar compared to Sky Swallower. Your ability as a band to draw inspiration from different genres and styles is impeccable.
NT: Thanks a lot! Our individual musical tastes are very all over the place, and we all like to think that that comes through in the music one way or another, without wanting it to sound forced or disjointed in that way. We’ll be playing mostly Settler material live for the time being.
CFD: Vattnet Viskar is considered by some (myself included) to be a leader for this evolving United States Black Metal scene. There also seems to be this need to break everything down into further sub-genres and you guys have fallen victim to this categorization. Do you consider Vattnet Viskar to be a black metal band or a part of any of these sub-genres?
NT: We certainly get that a lot. If people feel a need to or like to classify it for whatever reason, that’s fine. But if you ask us, we’re just a metal band. It’s easy to fall into that sub-genre game and start sub-consciously putting restrictions on what you’re writing. That’s part of why Settler is a little more wide-ranging I think, I’m sure I was still in much more of a “post black metal” mindset for previous stuff.
CFD: Settler is a very personal and emotional album. I know it draws on a lot of hardships each of you had gone through over this past year. Was there any emotional or mental difficulty in deciding to incorporate the feelings from those instances into the album?
NT: I don’t really think so, speaking for myself. I feel that if I didn’t use those experiences for the band, I wasn’t truly putting everything I had into it. Last year was probably both the worst and best year of my life, to not put those experiences towards something positive in the band seems like you’re letting them conquer you entirely and go to waste. The hard part was more just actually dealing with these things in real life, how that affected my mental state with the band, and just trying to push through it all.
CFD: I think everyone understands where the cover art for Settler comes from and the significance of using the likeness of Christa McAuliffe’s iconic picture. Casey (Aylward, Bass) mentioned in a prior interview you guys had to fight your asses off to use the cover. What kind of opposition did you all come across in using the cover for Settler?
NT: Well, we knew there would be some mixed feelings on it from the get-go. We had a few people involved with the band that were definitely not sold on it, and some that probably still aren’t. Luckily we were never told, “No, you can NOT use that”, so in the end we just stuck to our gut and our guns and decided to go with it. And we’re all extremely happy that we did.
CFD: How did you guys get set up with Sanford Parker for production of Settler?
NT: When we played Roskilde Festival in Denmark last year, one of Sanford’s bands, Corrections House, was playing right before or after us. We have a bunch of mutual friends but hadn’t actually met, so we got chatting about future plans, and decided we’d like to work together at some point. So when it came time to find someone for Settler, it just made perfect sense, especially with the sort of sound we were going for this time around.
CFD: The binary code you scream on “Colony” translates to “We” which I assume means it rolls into the next line of the song, “…are the new lords”. Where did the idea of using binary code come from?
NT: Well, I had read an article quite a while ago about how a colony of ants actually learns faster than Google, which I thought was pretty insane. So the whole song is loosely based on the idea of nature acting as a computer, and that it’s taking back the power from us. There are actually a lot of lines in that song that are taking computer terms and applying them in a more natural, vague sense. Once I had most of the lines written, I just happened to think of binary and it just happened to fit there perfectly.
CFD: You left a song called “Hoof” off the album. What was the reasoning behind its exclusion and are there any plans to release that in the future?
NT: This was actually one of the earlier songs we had written for the album, and by the time we were writing the final few songs, we just didn’t really think it fit or was strong enough to be on there. I’m really not sure what we’ll do with it; it could possibly be released in the future, but no guarantees.
CFD: Is there one song on the album that is your favorite or are there songs that resonate on a more personal or intimate level for any of you guys?
NT: For some reason I’ve been finding that it’s never the most lyrically personal song for me that ends up being the most emotional/my favorite. Right now I’d have to say that “Dawnlands” and “Heirs” are the ones that get me the most charged up, especially playing them live.
CFD: I like to ask this next question because it provides some insight to who some personal influences are to a musician. If each of you could choose a “dream tour” for Vattnet Viskar with anyone current or former, who would be on this tour?
NT: Well, if I had to speak for everyone here, I’d have to say Metallica, Deftones, Mastodon… Seem like pretty obvious choices. But if you asked any of us on any given day you might hear Coheed (& Cambria), Norma Jean, Gojira, Slipknot, Ghost, Underoath, Balance & Composure, Alice in Chains… The list could go on forever and keep getting weirder.
CFD: You guys just wrapped up your tour with The Atlas Moth and Atriarch. Are there any plans in the coming months to go back out on the road for a tour?
NT: For sure! We have something in the works for later in the fall, that’s all I can say about it right now. We prefer to be on the road as much as we can.
CFD: Not really a question, more of a statement. I’m going to be seeing you guys in Raleigh in September with Locrian. I know you’re a fan of IPAs and Raleigh is a huge hub for craft beer breweries and also houses the world’s largest selection of taps (366) at the Raleigh Beer Garden. You all definitely need to make a pit stop there either before or after the show.
NT: Hell yeah! Actually one of my favorite beers I’ve only ever had at the Remedy in Raleigh, the Dark Cloud Dunkel from Mother Earth Brewing. I obviously can’t get that up here, so I always have to grab it when we’re in the Raleigh area!
CFD: Thank you for your time, Nick! It’s an honor to get to talk to you. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys again as well. All the best over the next couple of weeks and let me know if you need help finding the Beer Garden!
NT: Thanks! We’re looking forward to the show at Hopscotch!