A week ago I did a review for the band Ana Kefr's upcoming release 'The Burial Tree". And I was pretty impressed with the quality of music I heard to say the least. So fast forward a few days later and I was asked to do a followup interview so as someone who can't refuse chatting up musicians I agreed. After the jump is my interview with lead vocalist/guitarist Rhiis Lopez.
Thanks Rhiis, for chatting with us. Here we go.
•I understand that Ana Kefr formed in a fairly unique way. Can you expand on how the band came to be?
I've told this story quite a few times, so this time I'm going to tell it a little differently for your sake, as well as the reader's. I was living in Cairo, had been in Egypt for about 3 years working as a casting director for the film and television industry (Youtube search "Keda Reda" or "Andaleeb el Dokki" to see a couple I was involved with). I found out that my mother was having heart problems so I flew back to California to visit, figuring I would spend maybe 2 months and then head back to Cairo as long as her health was improving. A couple weeks later I met Kyle, who was playing with a more rock/screamo-oriented band then. For kicks, I tried out to replace the vocalist. The next thing you know, Kyle and I were (and still are) basically the main creative team. We kicked out the bassist, who was a complete douche. We changed the band name, I pushed for a harder musical direction and took over lyrical duties, as well as bringing synth into the band. The rest has been, more or less, a steady ride. I'd say keeping a band alive and moving forward has a lot to do with how lenient band members are towards complete douchebags sticking around. The current Ana Kefr line-up is doucheless. I think. So far.
•Based on what research on the band I’ve done how accurate would an assessment be if I was to guess that you guys are for human freedom from religion and oppression?
I love the fact that you wrote "freedom FROM religion and oppression," instead of "freedom OF religion." You're absolutely right. I'd be fine with "freedom OF religion" if all religions didn't have the clause whereby it becomes right to scorn, murder, oppress and abuse those who think differently.
I'd like to make a point by comparison. Charles Manson, as far as I know, never personally murdered anyone, yet he will remain imprisoned until death. Why? Because he was found guilty of conspiracy to murder. Manson didn't actually kill anyone, he simply ordered others to do it for him, yet he will die in prison (and rightfully so). Meanwhile, the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, and the religions they represent - they are among us, in bookshelves for all ages to access, in libraries, in churches along with children's books of old fables. These books command us to destroy those who do not believe, to kill those who disobey and disrespect their parents (what if your parents raped you?), to murder gays. I've read these books over and over, they're not sources of morality but instead are filled with genocide, hatred, misogyny and total misanthropy. I'm not saying we should ban these books and remove freedom of speech. I'm saying that, if Manson should be imprisoned for conspiracy to commit multiple murders, then the entire history of religious-inspired violence and the books that inspired the madness should be enough to toss every believer in a cage for conspiracy to destroy human rights and commit genocide.
•In a recent review of The Burial Tree that I wrote I ended up making a few comparisons to early Opeth. Did you guys draw any inspiration or influence from that band or am I just talking out of my ass?
Actually, most of us are Opeth fans! I wouldn't call Opeth an influence, but they're definitely an inspiration. I see an 'influence' as someone whose body of work has affected the way you approach writing music, whereas an 'inspiration' would be someone whose work has somehow lent hope to you on your own path towards a goal. The influence helps paves a path while the inspiration is the lamp that lights it.
•The Burial Tree was a fascinating listen with so many nuances on each song. What is the song writing process like for you guys?
The process is a lot like evolution and natural selection, actually; survival of the fittest riff. For most of the songs on The Burial Tree, it began with Kyle and I sitting together, he with his guitar and I with my keyboard. One of us would throw out an idea, the other would take it and tweak it, add to it, and we'd bounce back and forth until a full song emerged. Then, we would bring the song to Brendan and Fonzie, and they would also throw out more ideas, tweak more bits, remove some parts, add new things, and then Shane would be brought into the mix and we'd hash it out as a full band until we were all happy with the final product. Some things just happened by accident in the moment - "Fragment." was a short jam session the full band did one rehearsal, based off of a riff Kyle threw into the open; "Thaumatrope" was originally an orchestral song I wrote with no intention of it being used for Ana Kefr. I played it for Kyle just to show him what I'd been working on and he convinced me that we could make it heavy and retain the epic feel. I have a feeling that there will be more group contribution on our third album. With The Burial Tree, the guys were getting used to the way Kyle and I approach music and, now that we've reached an understanding, I have a feeling the music machine will work a bit faster.
•Are there any plans to do any touring in support for The Burial Tree?
Yes, apart from playing in California we plan to put together some eastward-bound tours finally, as well as aiming to get on some festivals and possibly support on a tour.
•Since Ana Kefr in Arabic means ‘I Am Infidel’ and based on some of the lyrical content have you received any negative responses yet from any religious organizations?
We've had some Christians chattering on the Internet over our lyrics or activities, and I was accused of being a Satanist (I'm not, by the way) but nothing too substantial yet. I think the keyword there is 'yet.'
•Many bands claim to be progressive when in fact they’re either a carbon copy of other bands or some other genre. Do you forsee Ana Kefr being a part of a new wave of prog metal where the prog is actually prog?
That would be such an honor! We all feel like music is becoming a very stale parody of itself these days, there are too many bands and almost all of them suck. It's all about image, not so much about ingenuity. Progressive music seems to be getting more relevant, maybe people are getting sick of the same old thing, but even progressive music gets kind of predictable after a while. The real challenge is to never repeat yourself, to never repeat an idea, but to present something fresh with every album. We haven't even released The Burial Tree yet and we're already discussing what should be the next step for the third album.
•After a long day of creating thought provoking and deep music what vapid guilty pleasures do you listen to?
I was listening to the Pearl Jam discography today, I was into them when I was 13 and their music kind of brings me back to the past (in a good way). I go through really strange music phases where I'll listen to something intensely for a short amount of time and then never listen to it again. I did that with Alice in Chains a while ago and...here's one that will raise an eyebrow...Kool and the Gang. I've seen Kool and the Gang live twice, nothing beats a bunch of happy black guys dancing and playing horns onstage. NOTHING!
•Here is a philosophical question for you. Many people claim they want world peace. How feasible do you think something like this is and how interesting would life be without conflict?
I don't think we are capable of peace, tribalism is firmly embedded into our minds. It's just a part of our psychological make-up, we will probably always view the world as an "us and them" kind of place. And even if there could be peace, it would be boring as hell. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some hardcore fan of war, I don't think anyone really is. But could we really handle peace? Maybe the reason we start so many wars is that we're actually terrified of peace.
•Any last words or promotions you’d like to throw out there for the audience?
Did you know that the glue on Israeli postage stamps is certified kosher? Thanks for the interview and great review!! :) Our album, The Burial Tree, releases May 3, 2011, thanks again for your time.
So there you have it. I'm really impressed with some of the answers I received and based on that plus the absolute high quality of music on the Burning Tree album it's pretty safe Ana Kefr has a new fan. Check out Ana Kefr when the Burial Tree Releases.