Written & Produced by Meryl "LJ" DeWitt
Edited by Rachel Rosell | PC Spencer Peck, JWalt Photography
In my line of work, I hear a lot of new music and rising bands—a lot. One problem I see facing the metal industry is everything sounds the same right now. That's why I've come to love St Louis natives Arkangela so much. Their sound is unlike anything I've ever heard. While you can detect their influences in their songs (like any artist), they've managed to create something fresh instead of stamping out a copy of whatever's on the top of the charts at the moment.
I'd like to credit a good portion of their uniqueness to frontman Ryan Beck's vocals. His voice differs greatly from the sound we're used to in this genre—and that's what makes their music so dynamic. I'll admit, it's like trying ice cream and fries. The first time, it's a little strange, but you'll soon find yourself craving it. There's a great deal of heart in their music. Their first EP perfectly captures the spirit of youth and the struggles that accompanies it. Whether it be their own tales or another's, they are storytellers.
On top of their beautiful sound, I hold a great deal of respect for Arkangela. The average band fears touring in St Louis for one night. Any musician can tell you it's a city that's very unkind to artists. Yet, they've kept their heads up regardless of the amount of hurdles that have been placed in front of them. They're a rarity in that they continue to enjoy what they do and they've managed to still find joy in an extremely trying industry. It takes a very special kind of person to hold onto that spark. I know that Arkangela has the ability to become true trailblazers in modern metal.
As they're heading closer to new releases, I wanted to take time to speak in-depth with their vocalist, Ryan, regarding their debut EP Limbo. The six track record dropped in 2015 and marked the band as something poetically strange.
Meryl "LJ" DeWitt: You've now played a healthy amount of shows on this EP. What is your favorite song to play live? As well, what is your favorite memory from playing live shows so far?
Ryan Beck: There was a show a few years back where someone in a green morph suit was thrown at us by someone in the mosh pit. It ended up being a friend of mine, and he broke his ribs. That wasn’t the best memory, but it was an definitely unexpected one. Regardless of how well a show goes, we definitely love a good story.
More recently, we’ve started throwing sex dolls into the crowd during our set, and that always gets a strange reaction. I’m not sure if it’s metaphorical or not, but once again, interesting. I don’t see great shows necessarily being the biggest ones, as fun as they are. We joke and say we’d play at your wedding, birthday party, bar mitzvah, or funeral. We aren’t above anything. That’s right...we will play your basement if you let us in. Host discretion advised.
Personally for me [my favorite song is], 2084. That song is 200BPM and usually gets things going.
LJ: Many of Limbo's tracks touch on sensitive topics. If you don't mind, I'd like to go through and discuss a few with you. Several of the songs on the record tend to address the masses or a general idea. The title track "Limbo" seems to be the one song that speaks from a more singular perspective. Are you willing tell us about the person or situation that lead to the lyrics of this track?
Ryan: The opening line “These walls have never felt so thin...” was written while bedridden after an abdominal surgery I had when I was younger. I was extremely high on the pain medication they gave me for it, and woke up the next morning with it sharpied on my wall.
I had someone I was close with years ago tell me about a story they had written about a twisted Romeo and Juliet type of situation, where in a Shining-esque way, the lover went psychotic on the other for being unfaithful, and ended the story the same way that Shakespeare did. It was a point about mentally abusive relationships, I suppose. Not necessarily in just the relationship context. I’m not exactly sure which side I ever sympathized with, to be honest. More so wondering what metric we value more; getting ahead or even?
People use, are used, and are used to it. Part of that story was the lover; was a singer in a band.
LJ: "Immortal" has a very striking presence, both in the way the song opens and the lyrical content. The track does convey a certain kind of anger and frustration that is very present in our country at the moment. For you, what type of emotions went into fueling this song? What kind of message or concept do you hope people take away from it?
Ryan: I started analyzing a portion of our culture in America, where two of the fundamental ideologies intersect, and result in the new headline with someone going off their rocker to be remembered. Not every time, is that an understatement. In a sense, everyone wants to be immortal. Maybe not in the sense of living eternally, but their ideas and achievements being remembered after they leave the world.
Nowadays, it seems we celebrate the villains more than we do the heroes—Not by condoning their actions, but by advertising their “achievements”. Sometimes they don’t even murder people. Good journalism comes at a cost, perhaps. People get angry for a few minutes and change the channel afterwards, but long after, these people are remembered by disenfranchised individuals as heroes, even though they clearly are twisted and awful people. I found that strange. Never was sure if it was sympathy for the devil, or sympathy for being one.
Influence is influence, even if you are under it. Everyone has a narrative and I found people very commonly use the death of others for politics, instead of trying to understand why these people are doing such terrible things in the first place. I started reading Manifestos and other videos/photos left by the sorts who did, and found every single one was trying to achieve the same thing. We never fail to give it to them.
What’s extremely disappointing, was this song was written before Orlando, Parkland, Vegas, and many other recently notable US shootings. Just like every other time, we talk about guns, video games, and some other excuse to digress from the fact mental health is a huge issue in this country, and we aren’t talking about it. “The crowd goes wild and all remains the same.”
It definitely comes from a perspective most people wouldn’t agree with. I wouldn’t either. I enjoy writing in third person, and that’s all I have to personally relate to the character.
LJ: Finally, I wanted to talk about the absolutely beautiful track that is "So Below". Personally, it's my favorite song on the EP. The song delves deep into many of the frustrations and pain that comes at our age, and—in my opinion—perfectly captures the exasperation and depression that comes from working in our industry. What personal struggles influenced you to write "So Below"? Did writing this song or performing it work as an outlet to help relieve some of your personal plight?
Ryan: Unfortunately, we haven’t played it live yet! Looking forward to it at some point. We try to keep the sets as upbeat as we can because most of the time, we are playing in a heavier market. "So Below" is the only song on the album I can say was written from a personal narrative. In respect to the duality concept we had going, I wanted to write from a more honest place about some personal demons of mine.
Everyone has a breaking point or threshold of some sort, whether or not they admit it. Like many of us, sometimes I go into a dark place and stay there awhile. Writing music helps. I often struggle to convey things in a straightforward way, I’m always on some weird metaphorical nonsense.
People often love to point the finger away from them, and everyone loves pretending that their life is better than someone else’s, or just better than it really is. For every person like that, perhaps maybe just behind them, is someone else who could really use your company. We often act surprised that one of the biggest things we have in common with one another is our suffering.
I expected too much in others and not enough in myself at the time, which led to disappointment in both parties more often than that. I thought often about the phrase, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” It perplexed me greatly because I couldn’t find the right way to apply it to my life. I was the weird kid with the notebooks in school, if that provides a visual representation as to why maybe I did. Hahah.
LJ: Those last few questions were a little heavy, so let's lighten it up with an question from an old school Bryan Stars style question. Describe your sex life with one of your song titles.
Ryan: I write pretty depressing lyrics sometimes, and don’t want to jinx myself when I get older. I feel there could be some reaching puns from the record though. Maybe "A Final Moment of Clarity" is a good euphemism. Even then though, that’s not completely arousing. I’ll have some good ones next round.
Is that guy still around?
LJ: Whether it be from Limbo or other songs not featured on the EP, what Arkangela lyrics do you want on your tombstone?
Ryan: If I couldn’t change my mind, a newer one. “To understand the peace you seek, you first must see the one it
From Limbo, “Don’t tell me resistance isn’t part of existence.”
LJ: On "So Below", you featured the talented Eric Stadler. In the future, what other artists would you like to work with?
Ryan: Eric was my old guitar instructor! He is stupid good and it was awesome having him on. He is doing really cool things with scoring right now. From a limited standpoint, I love working with anything and anyone, even if it sucks. We like to jam with our friends and keep things lighthearted. Even if it’s rap fusion jazz only using curse words at 2am.
For a greater one, I’d love to work with Nothing More, A7X...is saying Metallica a cliché? I’d probably faint. Producers? Too many to name. I’d love to work with some non-metal musicians, too. I always joke that if Lady Gaga ever needs a metal band, to hit us up. But obviously now it’s cliché. Thanks, Lars.
LJ: Speaking of the future, can you give us any insight as to what's in the works in the way of new music?
Ryan: We are currently working with producer Nikk Dibs, guitarist of the band Dope. He’s a good friend of mine and knows how to make music explode. Instead of writing specific styles of “songs” (e.g. heavy, soft, etc), we wanted to write songs that sort of do both. Heavier instrumental, less heavy vocals. Keep that duality thing going and see how that goes. We are hoping the get things out in the next few months. We are recording now. Maybe ironic, maybe not, but conceptually much of the music is about time and how we use it, or waste it.
LJ: We did use this interview to focus primarily on discussing the music, but our readers know I love to get the stories out of bands. If there's anything I know about Arkangela, it's that you fuckers can't stay out of trouble. What's one story you can tell us from when you were in the studio working on Limbo?
Ryan: We enjoy finding abandoned (or mostly abandoned) buildings for photo shoots, that’s usually what puts us at the greatest risk. Apart from the roof potentially caving in 6 stories high, we’ve had some people follow us in with guns before. Fortunately for us, they wanted photos too.
We have lived together for almost two years, and our house/van sometimes is like Patty’s Pub. We all exchange roles and it usually leads to something weird. We started “doing thing ironically” at one point, and it sort of escalated from there. It’s been like a fucked up sleepover that never ends, even when we go home. We probably watched too many Jackass films as kids. We had an all out prank war one time that involved them locking me outside naked, Sriracha, and lubricant. Showers weren’t safe, either. I don’t miss that. Not what it sounds like, but telling the story doesn’t help much either.
Recording Limbo was pretty straight up though. It was our first time at a professional studio and we didn’t want to be super idiots. Though, any recording band knows how fun it is to bully people who make mistakes, which is everyone.
LJ: Finally, what random facts, statements, or words of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers and your supporters?
Ryan: This is a defining question. Is this interview serious or not? There are two sides to everything because we live in a balanced world. Also, I’ve had pineapple on pizza, and I don’t understand why everyone is so angry. It’s not my favorite though. Pineapple is great. So is pizza. But we can enjoy things separately too.