Interview: Cameron Maynard of The Contortionist
Progressive wizards The Contortionist are back with their fourth studio album, Clairvoyant, which will be released September 15th all around the world. The new LP is the highly anticipated follow up to Language, the genre defying LP that continues to garner critical acclaim. Clairvoyant, which reunited the band with producer Jamie King (Between The Buried And Me, Through The Eyes Of The Dead), takes the best elements of The Contortionist’s past and reshapes them as the band follows their individual creative muses toward the future. The Contortionist ultimately prove to have as much in common with the psychedelic experimentation as they do technical heavy music, but they’ve never sacrificed urgent impact. In whatever The Contortionist endeavors to do, there will always be a great amount of thought, attention to detail, and shared love of musicality. They have committed to never surrender to the path of least resistance, always challenging themselves and their audience. We spoke with founding member and guitarist, Cameron Maynard, as we discussed the evolution of the band, the new album and their achievements during their 10 year stint as an important band in music.
Firstly, congratulations on your upcoming album 'Clairvoyant' which is due for release on September 15th. What's the overall anticipation and excitement level like for you guys in the build up to this release?
We're very excited. This is the second record where the same group of people have come together to make an album, but it's the first time that we've kind of written together collectively and wholeheartedly. We went and stayed in a nice little cabin to write and record which was cool, it was out in the sticks in the middle of Winter late last year. We basically just put our heads down and composed everything, and a lot of it from scratch and just being together and trying to make a project out of it instead of just piecing things together which is what we've done in the past. It was kind of refreshing because for the first time ever we've come together and written an entire record from scratch with nobody left out of the process. It turned out pretty cool and I'm curious to hear what people think of this record.
Very good. It's a great album and some of your finest work to date as a collective. You're also heading out on the road this October with Between The Buried And Me, is it cool to be playing with a band that has influenced your sound over the years?
Yeah, they've been highly influential on our band and me personally. They've really taken us under their wings for the past few years whether it's just taking us out on tour or even if we're in the studio. Some of them will provide entertainment for us and give us advice which we really do appreciate. They've got great minds and we're really good friends with those guys. I remember Robby (The Contortionist guitarist) and I in High School had so much fun listening to Between The Buried In Me as we'd try and write music. That's pretty much how we came together, so we've definitely got a lot of respect for those guys and we can't wait to be out on stage with them.
You've toured Australia a couple of times in the past few years. Do you have any memorable moments from the times that you've played here and will you be returning for a run of shows during this album cycle?
Yeah, the very first time we came to Australia back in 2011, and we were staying on the Gold Coast. We woke up one night to a huge huntsman spider on the wall of the motel room and obviously we don't really see stuff like that here. It was one of those crazy moments of realising exactly where you are. Then another time we were in Sydney playing at The Metro, that's a great club by the way, we've played there a few times now. The last time we played there was with sleepmakeswaves and they brought us out, anyway we were playing our set and the fire alarm went off. That's never happened to us before either, it's always a good time in Australia and we love it there.
Do you still enjoy playing songs from your first album Exoplanet despite the shift in styles from that album to where you guys are at now? Is there still a lot of demand from fans for you to play the old stuff?
Yeah there's definitely demand and a lot people really fell in love with the sound that we tried to go for back in the earlier stages of the band. Obviously with this next tour with Between The Buried And Me, it'll be our 10 year anniversary so it's only right for us to play some older material as well. We'd like to play as many new songs as we can, but we have to stay well rounded with our set-list. We always like to revamp old stuff and still play the composition but at the same time our minds are always changing and years go by and we're playing the same songs and working out new and different techniques for each song.
For sure, I personally love your first album Exoplanet but I've loved everything you've done since then. Your sound has evolved over the years and it's great to see, but what would you say is your proudest moment being in The Contortionist?
Well I think it would have to be when we got the final cut of this new record. Playing with the Deftones would have to be another highlight for me personally, looking up to them and being a fan, that was great. It was another one of those childhood dreams that came true for us and it's really insightful to see how a business like the one we're in works from bands like Deftones who have been doing this for a lot longer than us.
Did you grow and evolve as a band to move away from that "Deathcore" tag us a band or was it more or less just a natural progression to showcase your strengths as a band?
It was a natural progression honestly, it was pretty much just based off the fact that we were growing up and learning new ways to write music and different compositions. Ultimately is made things easier on ourselves making music that we really enjoyed and at the end of the day we're always just trying to do something that's musically driven, and whether it's something that is a certain sound that we're trying to go for or not, it's always just going to be us trying make the best sounding music possible. We just try and make the best product that we can and make it sound as good as it possibly can. We'll always be changing but the recipe is always going to be changing so it can still taste and sound good.
Definitely. You guys played a massive Download Festival in the UK this June, was that a bucket list moment for the band? Do you have any cool stories from that weekend?
Yeah that was great, it was pretty crazy. It rained for pretty much the entire time we were there. It was the last day of our little run of shows that we did in the UK, as we were wrapping up a European tour with Periphery then we went straight into about 2 weeks of shows in the UK on our own for some headlining shows. Download was the very last day of our tour so it was well timed and we all very tired by this point. So we had a decent sleep in the plane ride back home that's for sure. But yeah, Download was amazing and just an incredible experience.
Awesome. Back to the new album, and I know not every progressive metal band needs to or has to write a concept record but did you do anything like that with Clairvoyant? Was there a theme or concept behind the writing of this album?
Well I think we're always going to be a little more blatant about conceptional ideas that are included in our albums. But this time it was basically a story that is based in non fiction, so it's like real events. Basicially we're just trying to be as vague as possible but still have songs that you can learn and sing along to. We're trying to be a bit more real and honest with this album and the lyrical content. There's still themes going on and musical elements that we've reprised, we're always trying to do something where we have a melody or a phrase that we repeat differently or maybe in another key and change it somehow and put it in another song. A lot of it goes unnoticed and you have to sit there and sort of check for those moments, but they're in there. Even things like in the past where we've taken ideas and written music and changed the feel and maybe slow it down drastically. the patterns are the same but it ends up sounding like a completely different piece of music. We have a lot of fans that do catch that stuff and it's rewarding.
Clairvoyant is out September 15th via Entertainment One Music / Good Fight Music.
Written by Steve Jenkins