In the microcosm of friends that I live in there are many women coming together to support and exalt one another in the arts. This is a marked shift from what you see in pop culture which is women competing with one another, exploiting their selves and each other for success, and approval from our patriarchal culture. – Sera Timms
Ides Of Gemini are one of the more deserving bands in the underground, always searching for both revelatory experiences and the breaking of new ground within their art. While the band have benefited from strong support from major players within the scene, from early support from Neurot to a tour with Ghost to finding a new coveted home with Rise Above Records, the band have also faced their share of setbacks that have forced their momentum to sort of develop via ebb, flow and word of mouth despite their hard work. Original drummer Kelly Johnston-Gibson incurred a career-threatening injury while on tour in the US in 2015, causing founding members J. Bennett and vocalist (and then-bassist) Sera Timms to reassess their next move. After enlisting Scott Batiste of Saviours as a stand-in drummer for a short West Coast tour, things clicked and Scott soon became a permanent member. The band then expanded to a quartet for the first time, as Sera relinquished her bass-playing duties to newcomer Adam Murray.
The band have never shied away from making their own path and now return with an album called Women, a simple celebration and study of the sacred feminine perfect for these times when the President sexualizes his own daughter while cutting off all funding to UN Family planning or when just the other day one of the premiere and most dedicated writers in metal – who happens to be female – was attacked deplorably by a site for having a disability . It is great to see some bold art from a band that is far more respectful and also features a woman in a primary – not token/ fashion appendage – role. Sera’s drifting vocals on the hook of new song “Mother Kiev” are positively consuming yet far from predictable, while many still gush about the band’s bold recent take on “Strange Fruit” as a doom dirge. You can hear a mid tempo new track “The Rose” now at Cvlt Nation.
Women is produced by the talented Sanford Parker and features guest appearances from Tara Connelly of Clay Rendering (on Queen Of New Orleans) and Marriages and solo singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle (on She Has A Secret), a personal favorite of mine. Nicola Samori’s cover art looks like something out of a museum, delicate and yet strong and romantic despite being interpretively marred by a partial smear. But perhaps that is up to the viewer or listener to decipher if the art or songs indicate damage, obscurity or survival.
Read my latest interview with the band, this time with vocalist Sera Timms, below.
Adjusting to vocals only, is it odd? I had a reverse trajectory where I was frontman for years in bands and then play more instruments now, and it is a fun challenge. IS there more or less comfort zone for you?
It is odd in a way that I could compare to maybe when a person gets out of prison and has all this freedom and is overwhelmed with the space. So I really just had to allow myself to move around, which is all I’ve really wanted to do for years now. The 1st thing I wanted to be as a child was a dancer, and I still find great freedom and joy in allowing the body to be overtaken and animated by sound. Playing the bass did that in a way, but most certainly limited my singing ability.
Yeah. It is hard to have as much vocal movement when you also have to concentrate on your fingers! So, I know it was a set back when you had to drop off that mtn goats tour. Ides have had a few moments where you sort of had to rebuild momentum. But at least people love the releases every time! Is it frustrating or just something that you try to see as a learning experience?
It is most definitely both frustrating and something that is perhaps the opposite of a lesson, which is that sometimes you must just accept what is. There’s nothing we would have done differently than we did. I see the world through symbols, and with every derailing that we’ve had there have been blatant signs and warnings, and the same for when something very good was/is going to happen for us. Overall I believe the highs and the lows serve to teach that coming from a place of neutrality is the only true peace.
Did Trump prompt the urge for a record with songs focusing on women as a theme? Or was it already something you wanted to do?
HAHA! No, that was just a fortunate alignment! J had named everything far before Trump was even being legitimately considered. J gets full credit for that idea by the way. He told me and I said, “really?! YES”.
Where is everyone located now? Do you all live in the same state? You used to be East Coast, right?
We have always been Los Angeles since the band started.
Oh, ok. My bad. Slipped my mind. Anything you’d do with Black Mare that you wouldn’t for Ides?
Oh yes. I write most of the music for Black Mare so I can do all kinds of egomaniacal things I cannot do with Ides Of Gemini which is a regular band with other people to consider. I have wonderful bandmates in BM which play live with me but no musical collaborators in that project at the moment. I include a lot more feminine energy and imagery in Black Mare and plan to even release an EP which could be danced to.
Good heavens! Actual dancing? Haha. Just kidding. So, Kelly was a big part of things. Has it been maybe easier moving forward into a new era of the band where you are ‘just’ singing? I ask because the rhythm section of any band are often like super bonded, even beyond personal friendships. You just develop a sort of language as players. Is it weird not having her around? How about the testosterone balance shift in the group?
I miss Kelly a lot! But I was just texting with her a few minutes ago..we did bond quite a lot, and she will forever be our family.
The band dynamic is very different without her around. It is of course a much more masculine environment now which is fine as I feel that they all work extremely well together as musicians. I enjoy being able to sort of vocally just wander and float through the halls of the castle they create.
Is ‘Heroine’s Descent’ about Persephone from Greek Myth, perhaps?
It could be! But it is specifically about me…a very personal song. I have been Persephone.
Gotcha. So… subject matter/long tangent…There is a lot of focus on women as occult sort of symbols in a lot of “dark” bands imagery. Sometimes as women in power. Other times a more exploitative spin on it. In pop culture as well. I liked, for example, how the tv show Salem showed witches sort of running the town and powerful, but they also made the black witch Tituba the sort of evil root cause of it all (that seems pretty racist to me) and erase her real benign history as a healer who was demonized by Puritans. Do you think we are ever going to see a real more feminist breakthrough consistently in this realm of fiction or musical entertainment in the ‘mainstream’? At least people have sort of stopped using ‘female fronted’ band as a marketing tool as much. I used it early in my writing career but stopped when it seemed much more courteous to just recognize people as humans and equal musicians, lol.
Lol. Yes we’ve certainly come a long was as a society as far as seeing women as equals but there is much more work to be done. The women have to do the work I’m afraid, and I believe that we’re starting to realize that as a whole. In the microcosm of friends that I live in there are many women coming together to support and exalt one another in the arts. This is a marked shift from what you see in pop culture which is women competing with one another, exploiting their selves and each other for success, and approval from our patriarchal culture.
I don’t think that women will ever be equal in the current cultural model that we live in, nor would I want to be. The status quo requires that one place popularity, money, and conformity above ones artistic integrity and freedom. Women are the keepers of wisdom, of compassion, and communication. It’s our job to weave a new cultural web which is composed of threads which unite humanity through our differences, accept individuality, open to darkness, transcend duality, and above all we need to form a mirror for people to better understand and enjoy their human experience through art, through a vibrant culture based on authentic expression which unites our conscious experience.
Do you have a favorite tarot deck? And why in particular, if so? I mean, different ones suit different people or occasions.
Well let me just get myself into trouble after that last response and say that the Thoth deck is my favorite, which was of course authored by Aleister Crowley who does not have the best track record with treating women nicely. Like many mystics he was a greatly flawed human, but most certainly had access to truly enlightening information that exists beyond our everyday consciousness.
True. I love that deck also. That’s the deck that first fascinated me. But yeah, scarlet women and all that. Sure.
The cards were actually designed by a woman and for me, the Thoth Major Arcana serves as a stained glass window with both Heaven and Hell directly on the other side. The deck is completely aligned visually with the Sephirot, and holds endless keys which open esoteric doors of perception in oneself.
Ides songs don’t overstay welcome, like some have ‘doom’ qualities but still a sort of pop rock structure. I love that. There is an epic feel but they are not usually super long, so each one really grabs you. Does that feel accurate? I mean, I love some super long music also…
Yes! You really just summarized J’s goals in songwriting there. He’s not a fan of long songs.
What is “The Dancer” about? Or rather, whom?
Me again…haha. Symbolically it is a drama I have experienced.
What do you think would be the ideal concert setting for Ides? or is that too confining? I feel like you would just adapt to whatever environment and absorb it somehow. But also can see you fitting really well in some outside amphitheater made of tree branches and paper lamps with like, A Forest Of Stars or someone else fitting on the bill.
Pompei! That is just my ideal setting actually because of Pink Floyd. I do think the 2nd scenario you described would be excellent. Anywhere with nature or ancient ruins would be ideal. We played in the Austrian Alps in an old barn full of taxidermy, and a ritual stone altar across the field surrounded by a forest and fallen deer antlers. It had been in the host’s family for 300 years, and had been passed down generationally via mushroom ceremonies which grew wild on the land and informed the family when it was time to hand it over to the next heir. The mountains there were full of places that had ancient mythological stories, divinities, and spirits attached to them. We most certainly felt at home there.
This project always seemed very personal, rather than rushing out to fill a genre niche and make some bucks selling merch to fans. It has developed at the pace of self realization also, which has been great to see as a fan. Watching you all get to grow as a group or artists, it makes it feel ‘real’. Def an inspiring band that way who remind why it is worth doing and that some bands are really living it.
Why thank you! I envision it as an alchemical vessel for those within, and hopefully for those who consume it without.
So, Rise Above Records. Cathedral fans? You toured with Ghost once, right? How’d the new label come about?
YES re Cathedral! Yes re Ghost! Scott Carlson of Repulsion, Cathedral (and more) who now also works for Rise Above is largely responsible for that.”
Thank you for your thoughtful questions!