So by now, regular readers of the site will already know the pattern that we seem to follow when it comes to where most of our interviews come from. We listen to an album, we love an album, we somehow convince the band that recorded the album to give us a bit of time via email to ask them a few questions. And we’ve been pretty lucky on that front so far. One thing I’ve learned fairly quickly through the magic of Twitter is that most metal musicians tend to be friendly people who are more than happy to talk about what they do.
This time, I was lucky enough to get Darin Tambascio and Derek Donley, better known as National Sunday Law, to answer a few questions after I found myself knocked on my ass by their latest release, Festival of the Horned God.
Iron Hops: So I always like to start with the basics. When and how did you two come together as National Sunday Law? And for the sake of those of us trying to keep track at home, exactly how many bands are the two of you in? How do you find the time and creative energy for all of your various projects?
Darin Tambascio: Derek and I met after I moved to Los Angeles in 2000. I answered Derek’s musicians wanted ad because Hum was listed as an influence. We started a math rock/post-harcore band called Lux Medium, but could never find the right mix of people to play live. After working on Lux Medium for a while, we started a heavier and weirder side project called National Sunday Law. Soon we decided to scrap our original band idea and focused on NSL. I’m only currently involved in NSL. Derek and I were also both in Graviton along with Sacha from Intronaut. Derek is involved with a bunch of bands/projects.
Derek Donley: In addition to NSL, I currently play drums in Bereft, vocals in The Cruelest Animal and have a solo project called You Big Ox. I find that being in several projects and constantly moving from one to another forces a routine which keeps me motivated and helps the flow of ideas. Also doing most of the recording for those projects allows me to be creative even in times when I’m not necessarily contributing riffs or drums.
IH: Let me ask you a bit about songwriting. Because you have various projects going, how do you know that what you’re writing is a National Sunday Law song and not for some other project? And how much does the fact that you’re a duo influence the way you write? Listening to Festival of the Horned God, I’d never have guessed that it was just two guys making such complex, expansive music.
DT: I write the majority of riffs that eventually turn into NSL songs. Some riffs I write on my own and some are written while jamming with Derek. Once I have some solid ideas, Derek helps with transitions and organizing the overall song structure. We both collaborate on vocal and keyboard parts.
DD: Our first 2 records were written while we were still living in the same city and playing shows so they are 100% representative of what we sound like live. With FotHG we didn’t think about that as much so there are a few extra layers in there that will take us a while to pull off live when that time comes again. Being a duo there are certain riffs that need to be looped live so we can play other instruments simultaneously, and keyboard settings that need to be switched in between parts etc. but those things work themselves out during the writing process. We’ve each had the same equipment setup for years now so you get used to writing within that workstation. We’ve always challenged ourselves with our multi-instrumentation to sound larger than your typical duo.
IH: You took your band name from am oddly enduring and fairly well known conspiracy theory (probably thanks to the book of the same name) that the US government is going to pass a blue law declaring Sunday a day of rest and worship, which will somehow end up triggering the apocalypse (I’ve always been kind of fuzzy on how that last part works). What drew you to that particular conspiracy theory as a name, and how does it influence or inform the type of music you make? And how exactly does Kool Keith play into all of it? I saw him listed among your influences on your Facebook page and he seemed strangely out of place (though don’t get me wrong, I actually really dig some Kool Keith).
DT: A copy of the National Sunday Law book was anonymously mailed to my apartment. I was immediately intrigued by the cover, so I read it. I found the conspiracy entertaining in a scary way. Since I was raised Catholic, I also thought it was funny they said the Pope was actually “the Beast.” As non-believers, we thought the idea was ridiculous and that we’d shine a light on extreme religious propaganda. It was also appropriate because we always rehearsed on Sundays.
We both love Kool Keith, but it doesn’t influence our music. He is one of the best MCs ever and his wacky stream-of-consciousness rhymes are hilarious. Our band influences include a lot of older and newer metal bands, classic prog, 90s post-hardcore/indie/math rock, ambient, electronic, jazz, krautrock, and a host of experimental/unclassifiable bands like Kayo Dot, Jaga Jazzist, and others.
IH: So we’re a website that cover both the worlds of metal and of craft beer, so I have to ask at least one craft beer-related question. If anyone were to ever brew a beer specifically to pair with your music, what type of beer would it be and why?
DT: A dark ale with hints of chocolate stout, maybe some sort of a creamy black and tan? We usually combine elements of light and dark sounds, so I guess that would be appropriate. Do you have any suggestions?
DD: This may come as a shock but I don’t like beer.
IH: Last question: so what’s on the horizon for 2013? New music? Touring plans?
DT: In a few weeks, we’re spending 5 days locked in the studio to write new music. Since I had to move back east a few years ago and Derek lives in LA, touring isn’t happening anytime soon. Maybe if we get enough interest in our little band, we’ll plan a tour. But for now, we’re happy remaining together as a creative unit.
DD: I’m ready to put our heads back down into more recording, hopefully put out another release this year and figure out a real plan for the future. I desperately want to make vinyl of FotHG and get on the road so maybe a kickstarter is in our future. We’ll see what our real lives allow.