Darren: The band started while Simon (vocalist) and I were going to music school together. Simon approached me about starting a band together and I recruited Carl, Stephan, and Erik to join. I had been playing in bands with Carl and Stephan since we were in high school, so Diatessaron started as a four-piece with Carl and I trading bass responsibilities. We quickly realized that both of us were much better suited to guitar and I asked Erik to come save our low end. I originally met Erik because we both played double bass and did some concerts together with the Calgary Youth Orchestra and University of Calgary Orchestra.
Darren: I feel that our genre came to us. Everyone in this band is a fan of many styles of music, and our tastes seem to overlap the most in the area of progressive rock. We did play a number of covers when we started out, but it didn’t take long for us to want to start really pushing boundaries. It can become a bit of a game for us, and we’re always trying to figure out the next crazy idea we can pull off.
Evolution of the initial musical and thematic elements:
Darren: Our first original song came from our guitarist Carl. It was a song he had written for his previous band Dorian Gray called “Revolt of the Dogs”. Simon wrote some lyrics for it, and changed the title to “Monument”. Eventually that song would grow into the 5-part monolith that is our second EP, probably our most explicitly prog release to date. At first we had this batch of songs that were super progressive and another batch that were borderline radio pop, and in retrospect it probably sounded a little insane when it was put together in a live set. Over time, we have found ways to merge those two styles into our quote-unquote “sound”, which I suppose is especially evident in the “Sunshine” trilogy on our new album.
Simon: I think we started off trying really hard to break the mould wherever possible. After maturing a bit as a band, and as individual musicians, we’ve learned to use complexity a bit more sparingly but to greater effect. Instead of trying to fit as many jarring musical moments as possible into each song, we’re grooving a bit more and letting those prog moments happen more naturally. That’s not to say we couldn’t still dislodge your brain from its socket, though.
Lyrics, themes and concepts:
Darren: Since this record is called Sunshine, you can imagine there are a lot of references to the sky, and things beyond the sky. Both Simon and I have this tendency to look at what exists beyond our lives. Sometimes that means death, other times that means extra-terrestrials, sometimes that means all of the particles that make up the entire solar system. The songs for this record all seem to happily fit that theme, even though it is not technically a concept album.
I’ll say a few words about how the “Sunshine” trilogy came together. After we finished writing “Monument”, which took a long time in its own right, I had an idea for a second “symphony”. The idea was that I would take one lyric (“Sunshine, the horizon never ends”) with one melody and chop it into three pieces. So each movement of the trilogy is based on a fragment of this longer melody. At the very end of the piece, you finally hear the melody all together and I would call it the “thesis” of the song, because I am a huge, gigantic nerd. The lyrics are personal, and they were the hardest part for me to get together, but I think the more universal message of the song is that there is no such thing as total loss; there is always a new journey ahead.
Simon: It’s funny, most of the lyrics I wrote on this album are about endings but don’t necessarily have the same redemptive quality Darren just described in “Sunshine”. “All the Way” is a song written from the perspective of Death, the Grim Reaper. “Deexister” deals with themes of transformation, and “Sky Blue” is about the loss of self that can occur in tandem with an external loss. “In the End” is an apocalypse song. It’s not all doom and gloom though; all four songs have an air of acceptance to them now that I think about it. The other song for which I wrote lyrics on this album is “The Hummingbird”. It’s a bizarre sci-fi space opera that I just can’t bring myself to explain in writing. Trust me, it would be awkward.
Ideas about the album:
We are ecstatic about this record. It has been a really cathartic process, finally getting this record to see the light of day. Our previous releases had been fairly rushed; we did not spend nearly enough time polishing them in the studio and it showed. This time we made sure we took our time and put together the best possible product. Of course there are always things you wish you could fix – maybe one guitar tone isn’t working for you, or there’s a section of a song that came out much differently than it does in a normal live situation, but I think that it is all a learning process and we will always find ways to improve from release to release.
The reception has been great so far. Written reviews are still on the way, but the people who have heard the record have been nothing but overwhelmingly positive about it. We have had a number of people message us after seeing us perform at this year’s Bloodstock Open Air festival telling us that they love the record, and we are receiving more press than we ever have before. Our track “The Hummingbird” was featured in Metal Hammer magazine, we have a feature coming out in the new issue of Prog magazine, Ticketmaster UK included some highlights of our time at Bloodstock on their online blog, and a whole bunch of online music publications have done interviews with us.
Preference; live or studio:
Darren: For me, being on the road. I love getting to meet people, seeing new bands, and performing. Touring is probably my favourite thing to do. That said, I love getting involved in the studio and bringing all of our imaginations to life. It’s an invigorating process.
Darren: We have all contributed songs to the band. Simon and I have written the most, but no matter who brings forward the original idea the rest of the band is always crucial in creating all of the parts that make up the songs. As for the lyrics, Simon and I usually insist on writing lyrics to the songs we compose. I wrote all of the lyrics for the “Sunshine” trilogy on the new album, and I also wrote the lyrics for “Moonshine”, the music of which was written by Erik.
Simon: Some of the most interesting moments for me as a singer working with Diatessaron are the times when we’re arranging a song by one of the other band members. Being able to write a song – words and music together – is once skill, but being able to create a melody for words someone else has written over music someone else has written is another skill entirely. This was the case for me with the Sunshine Suite, for example. Since Darren wrote the music and the lyrics, my creative contribution to the piece was the vocal melodies/harmonies only. Even as I was writing melodies I was being careful to stay true to Darren’s melody fragment ideas for the piece, using material from the Sunshine Chorale, which is Darren’s original arrangement. It’s a very different experience from writing on my own, but challenging in a good way.
Next step; live or studio:
Darren: We have an interesting situation in that our drummer lives in Berlin and the rest of us live in Calgary (Canada), so our live performances can only happen under the right circumstances. We will probably do a proper release party for Sunshine in December when Stephan pays Canada a holiday visit, but beyond that we are looking at touring mainland Europe in Summer 2016, and potentially a couple of festivals in the Spring of 2016.
Darren: I think our future holds many interesting possibilities. We are starting to gain traction in the UK and Europe, which is incredibly exciting, and all that really matters to us at this point is that we have been given some great opportunities and we hope to be able to continue making music together. It’s an interesting time for us – Stephan is living in Germany working for Ableton Live, and the rest of us are busy with a number of musical projects beyond Diatessaron. We are trying to balance our individual successes with the success of the band, and so far I think we are managing it quite well. No matter what life circumstances change, Diatessaron has remained a constant for the 5 of us for the past 8 years, and we’ll just keep playing together and looking for new opportunities as long as we are able.
Darren: So many bands. For me Coheed & Cambria is undeniable because I was a huge fanboy of theirs for years. There’s also a great deal of Mars Volta, Yes, and Rush in there – but also a bit of Weezer, just to throw things off a little. Nowadays I listen to so many different bands and styles of music that I like to say I am just influenced by sound.
Simon: Coheed & Cambria are a big influence for me as well when writing for Diatessaron. Lately I’ve tended to listen to more pop music than I used to, which I think has informed my approach to some of our newer material.
Preference; cater to the audience or music for its own sake:
Darren: Definitely music for its own sake. I think your audience knows when you are pandering, and I would never feel good creating a product that feels condescending or underachieving. Bands need to truly create, and in order to do that they need to abandon expectation. If you spend too much of your time worrying about what your audience wants you will most likely alienate them as well as disappoint yourself for not making the music you wanted to in the first place.
Darren: Sunshine. I am so proud of this album, and I am so grateful to have such amazing friends and collaborators in this band. Over the past couple years this band has grown so much and we have done so many things that I never thought would happen, and even more exciting is that it seems to be continuing to get better all the time.