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  • LJ DeWitt

Arkangela Interview

Photo by Curtis Ebl

After a long and fraught four years, Arkangela proudly debuted their first full length record, Tempus Deserta. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again—Bands like Arkangela are the ones that make my job worthwhile. Despite the hardships, they remain one of the kindest and upbeat bands you could ever meet. Like coal turning to diamond, the pressure has only refined them into a better version of themselves. Tempus Deserta is a marvelously macabre body of work, and it was an absolute pleasure to pick vocalist Ryan Beck’s brain.

D&D: Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s start with reception on the album. Was it all you expected? Did you have any worries surrounding the gap between this and Limbo?

Ryan: So far it’s been great! We knew that taking that long on new music in a world that’s constantly evolving was going to take some time to get the buzz back up, but so far we’ve had a lot of great conversations with people that have already devoured the record a few times and gave us some really intimate thoughts on it. In reality, though we aren’t technically a new band, in a sense, we are, both to ourselves and to most people. So, our expectations weren’t high for immediate release; the plan is to keep spreading the word that this is who we are now, and the rest should work itself out in due time. Considering how much we dealt with during production, we are just happy people actually get to hear it now. It definitely was a “big things coming soon” cliché for so long, even I got nauseous hearing it. Looking back on it now, I’d say it was worth it. It would have been nice to release music sooner, but given the situation, I’d say we made the best of it.

D&D: Have you noticed any commonalities in people’s responses? As in, have any of the songs stood out as fan favorites?

Ryan: Everyone has had a different favorite, however we were surprised at how well received our song “Weightless” has been so far. That track jumps all over the place genre wise, but really does centralize the message of the record, at least to me. As far as a common response, I’ve noticed that several people would bring up an experience where they felt these emotions (loss, grief, frustration) and said they struggled to find music that embodies those feelings. I had the same issue myself, and I’m happy that my experiences could create something that helps someone else through those times, as I know how truly deep and painful those feelings can be. Apart from that, the heavy music fans like the heavier tracks, and the more contemporary crowd really enjoys “C’est La Vie” and “Goodbye”. We really appreciate that we can cross over genres and bring people together that may not normally be at the same concert. I predict genre will be less important to an artist in the coming years, which is very exciting.

D&D: I’m so glad you brought up “Weightless” because that’s the first track I wanna get into! From a technical standpoint, how’d that come to be? Did you go into it with a plan or did the dramatic genre jumps come in later?

Ryan: For starters, “Hollow” and “Weightless” are supposed to be sister tracks, inspired by a bit of some Alighieri action in the sense of going through hell mentally and then literally to find meaning. “Hollow” was easier to write because it’s a tad more straightforward; dark and gloomy, almost a goodbye letter. We wanted the two tracks to exist independently but be symbolically one story. “Weightless” had been written up to the chorus and hit a real block for nearly a year, mainly because we didn’t know where the journey was going. The normal songwriting pattern we generally use wasn’t working at all, so instead of recycling sections, we started getting animated with the parts, writing some extreme contrasts to introduce more of the nuance of the protagonist. I remember when writing the guitar parts for this section, once we finished the first bridge section, it didn’t feel finished even though we had 5 minutes of music already... So instead, we took it in a completely different direction, leaning into the orchestral/showtuneish element a tad more, making death itself almost a chauvinist, slick and snarky. The main character during this section is supposed to feel an extreme rise in tension, in the sense of facing all the pain they created and experienced in their life. The rap part was a result of us wanting to raise that tension so hard, it almost breaks the song for a moment, making the listener think they hit their radio on accident or something, providing another symbol to the character. All of these contrasting ideas are supposed to make the parallel major resolve of the final chorus more profound, since the character goes from wanting to die, to being afraid of death, to finally being courageous enough to live again across the two songs. I feel that even though it’s a long song that goes a bit all over the place, it’s also very consuming in a sense, because the genres go wide but the message stays linear. Our sound designer, Kenneth, Louis and I all three worked hard on the melodic arrangement of this track, and if I had to say one song IS Tempus Deserta, it's probably that one. I really hope to write more out of the box stuff like this, especially with how many people have enjoyed it so far.

D&D: I know a good amount of the writing on this album is personal to you, but with you explaining the story of “Hollow” and “Weightless” in this way, I’m curious if you consider it a concept album now?

Ryan: I wouldn’t consider it a full scale concept album, but I do feel there are hidden themes and takeaways that can connect them in a similar fashion. “Hollow” and “Weightless” are really the two songs where it ventures more into that territory. In essence, it’s more of a thematic record, using symbols of life, death, and points in between to face the weight of existence thrust upon all of us at birth. We often take things for granted and wish to rush to the good parts, only to find those moments become your fondest memories you can’t relive ever again. I found a lot of regrets in my life, but the worst ones were the things I failed to do, not things I did.’ What if’ always hurt more than ‘what now’. “Time is wasted” being the album's rough translation, brings it together. It’s a warning. Instead of waiting for the best days of your life to happen, live today like you don’t get to experience another one, and ironically, that alone would make a moment more genuine, perhaps even more profound. It’s the fact we don’t live forever that makes our lives truly valuable. If we did, we'd have no reason to pursue anything now, because we could always do it tomorrow. I believe that is a reason to live each day tremendously, and I hope that this music can help inspire that message.

Photo by Spencer Peck

D&D: I’m not sure how much you’d like to go into it, but you certainly have the experiences needed to realize life is short. I believe years ago in any interview, we’d talked about one of the songs on Limbo referencing your time with illness and that’s something we’ve formed a friendship over—Silver linings and all that. Are there any songs on this record that specifically go to reference that aspect of your life? Or was it all melted into the grander theme?

Ryan: I dealt with a few hefty diagnoses during the production of this album, both mental and physical, that took a pretty heavy toll on me for a while. The record itself doesn’t delve too deeply in those topics (however the newer songs we are writing are starting to in some way), but it does encapsulate the fear I felt during those moments. “Fact of Life'' specifically addresses the sentiment I felt at the time. “Not everybody lives, but everybody dies.” The quantum possibility of HOW we leave the world is a huge variable, but the fact itself is constant. I hated the idea of leaving the world before getting to share these ideas. Almost an immortality project, ironically, since the topic is of our impermanence. There is a certain amount of futility in fighting this idea, similar to fighting an autoimmune illness or depression episode. In order to grow and heal from these situations, acceptance must come first. From there, you can do the work you need to do to fix it… Insurance helps too. Holy hell.

D&D: Haha, I hear that. Okay, well would you like to tell the story of “Goodbye”? I think that’d be a good ending to the interview.

Ryan: “Goodbye” is the most personal track on the album for me, certainly inspired by an event that led me down this whole thing in the first place. I don’t think I’ve overthought a song more. I had a friend named Arissa, who was the band’s first drummer. She was one of the most tenacious people I’ve ever met, but also was extremely dedicated to helping people. We eventually started pursuing other genres and we fell apart over the years, me being focused on whatever at the time. She unfortunately got very sick, and I did not realize the severity of it until she was beyond recovery, and I never got the chance to tell her how much she meant to me. Seeing how many people she touched was a humbling experience, and I really miss her still. We got to play together one more time before she passed, but that wasn’t enough. She was too young, too golden. I feel that that moment probably started the whole album for me, lyrically at least. I have a complicated view on the universe and spirituality, but it would be nice to think she’s around somewhere.

D&D: I think that’s a beautiful place to end it. Usually this is the part where I ask if you have any last words to share with your supporters, but you’ve already given us so much haha. Regardless, if you have anything to add, the floor is yours.

Ryan: Good thing you aren’t paying for ink! Haha, sorry for gushing. Final words; Enjoy the record!


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