LA-based instrumental band Animals As Leaders aren’t your typical metal band. Though many fans and music journalists have struggled with a label for the band, (djent, progressive metal, experimental, etc), it doesn’t matter what the music is called, all that matters is the emotion, energy and connection listeners feel. Since 2009, the trio, which is comprised of guitarists Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, along with drummer Matt Garstka, has been creating some of the most ethereal, mind-boggling and innovative instrumental music that delves into the realms of death metal, progressive rock, Jazz, Latin fusion, electronic, classical, and even world music, defying conventional thoughts on how heavy music should be approached and consumed. What stands out about the band is not the overwhelming sense of talent and creativity that is displayed by the musicians, but also the out of the box thinking, an absence of lyrics lets the music literally speak for itself.
With a fourth full length album, The Madness of Many due out November 11, the band is set to embark on a national tour, which stops at the Glasshouse in Pomona, guitarist Javier Reyes took time to speak with the Weekly about the band’s music, setbacks to not having lyrics, his musical background and what inspires him to make music.
OC Weekly (Alex Distefano):What can fans expect from the new album, The Madness of Many?
Javier Reyes: This is just an evolution of the band. It still sounds like us but we let a lot of new influences come into our music. This comes from a lot of music we listen to and it’s always around us. Fans can just think of this as the next step in our evolution. This is the just a different version of the same band’s sound. We are all excited to get this out there. We hope fans will be excited about our new music too.
When you go on tour do you play the same song, or change up your setlist from show to show?
We do it like most other bands, and have the same set list each show. We like to have some type of light show, or visuals though to break the monotony. This all helps to keep things consistent, both for fans and us as performers and musicians. It helps to alleviate stress, or not make new problems, there is already so much going on with a tour it’s just less to worry about and it would be more work to play different songs each night.
What are some downsides, or set backs to not having lyrics in your music?
I would say it’s more in the business side of things I think. Sometimes promoters and people who throw shows, organize festivals find it difficult to book us. Getting on these types of show can be difficult because it’s hard to place us. People will listen to our music and say we’re not really metal. So it can be a challenge to get on any type of festival for heavy music. Sometimes people are reluctant. But at the same time, we’re not going to get on the strict instrumental Jazz or experimental music shows either, because we’d stand out there as well. We would like to be on bigger metal festivals, but most of those bands have vocalists and lyrics and that makes it hard. People don’t know what to think of us. There are more bands like this coming out but still that can be a tough issue sometimes, business wise at least.
How do you find inspiration for meanings of songs, and how do you come up with song titles, if there are no lyrics?
Usually the titles are the last piece to the puzzle. We don’t have stories behind songs we write, usually, the vibe we feel while playing and writing is what we go on. As an album we try to come up with a concept we feel is cool and has a cohesive idea, but then we use that for titles, it;s all about how the music makes us feel. Some songs are kind of random, we use word play or like the meaning or words.
What else besides music inspires and influences you to be creative?
I like different forms of art work, looking at art. I also literature, and reading, we do a lot of reading and are into all kinds of art. We focus on free thinkers, people who think for themselves, and think outside of the box with the art they create.
Do you pay attention to all the press the band gets and all the labels and classifying of your sound?
Yes and no. I do sometimes, but on the whole, not really. It is hard to filter out what’s reliable and what’s not. What matters what doesn’t. It doesn’t really concern, me, because at the end of the day we don’t look to the Internet or stories about us to write our music. We’re going to just keep doing what we do, and whatever happens happens.
Tell us about your musical background, were you self taught?
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I had a private guitar teacher over the years. I studied theory of music at community college for around two years, and did one year at a university, a four year college. But from childhood to adult hood, I had guitar teacher, off and on, and a lot of my training and background with the guitar is Classical, Jazz and Latin, and I got a little unique but of musical upbringing.
Tell fans about your live show, including the 11/11 stop in Pomona at the Glasshouse
We always have such a blast playing shows. Southern California is our home we love playing here. People that go to our show can expect to feel the music. And there will be a lot of notes. The most notes. All the notes. Every note on our guitars.
Animals as Leaders perform with Intervals and PLINI at the Glass House on Friday, November 11. For full info, click here.