I could be witty here. I could be sarcastic. This isn’t the time for that. Wings Denied are the type of band who prove how valid metal is as an art form, as human expression on an individual and community and even spiritual level. This D.C. prog band (with an old school kind of 80’s sounding name) are a blend of BTBAM-style/Faceless trickery, solid songwriting and pure chemistry. But they are really on their own trip. This is undeniable music made by real, brilliant players with passion in their blood and a lot on their young minds. The best discovery of the month was learning of this band through my PR friend Zach Shaw (not to be confused w my former Divest bandmate and current Dead Unicorn drummer Zac Shaw).
Mirrors For A Prince, the band’s current album, could appeal to fans of everyone from Coheed to Car Bomb, in pretty equal measure, as well as the other bands I name checked above. Dark at times yet soaring and techy without losing sight of impactful emotion at others, this is the super real deal bomb ass shit, kids!
It is inspiring to hear music and know right away the band really cares about things, just from getting a glimpse into their inspiring work. I had to chat with the group about prog metal names, mental gridlock in society and much more. The thought provoking answers by Zach Dresher (Guitars) and Luka Kerecin (Vocals) are below.
Band photo by Ryan Biller.
I must say when I heard Mirrors For A Prince, I was a bit jealous. It must be great to be releasing such a powerful record of creative energies and to have that outlet! How does it feel to listen to your newest record in full after working on it hard?
ZACH: Thanks so much for the kind words. Honestly, I listen to Mirrors nearly every day when we’re not on tour, and every time I find something which I love more about it, and something else I wish we could go back and change. Overall though, I couldn’t be more proud of Mirrors For A Prince. That album was the product of two years of writing, touring, and all of us learning to really understand each other as musicians to create something special, and I think the results speak for themselves.
“Generation Y” opens with a perfect mix of what makes Wings Denied special. Some aggression. Some technicality. Ambient and interesting textures and such great melodic vocals. It is thrilling to see people not shy away from melody but also not abuse it by doing it in a cheap way like too many bands. How did you pick this for the first song?
ZACH: It’s kind of funny actually, because “Generation Y” was the last song written for the album. Originally, I had planned on “In Search of Sunrise” to be the first track, but we toured for a month before recording the album, and quickly as a group came to realize that “Generation Y” conveyed that sort of all-inclusive sound, and energetic feeling that we wanted to represent us at first listen.
What was it like working with Jamie King on the album, and can you also discuss the guests?
ZACH: Jamie is awesome, end of story. He’s obviously an incredibly talented recording engineer and producer, but on top of that, he’s an incredibly amicable character, with a great sense of professionalism. We plan to continue to work with him on future albums.
Everyone who guested on the album is a personal friend in some way. Michael from Lorelei was actually the singer of my first band, and we’ve known each other since our early teens. Dave Cohen and Nick Llerandi were both people we met on our 2013 summer tour, and both are exceptional guitarists that we wanted to have featured on our album in some way. We’ve been friends with the Intronaut guys for ages, we hung out after a show once, and have kept in contact ever since.
So, the lyric video is out for “The Machinist.” Can we get a bit more into what the song means to you? The bridge part with the uplifting guitar riff before the vocal part comes back in is fantastic.
LUKA: Thank you! I remember when Zach first came to me with this song and I gave him a hard time because, at the time I felt the melodies of the lead guitar were too overpowering and left no space for me to write vocals. The lyrical content of the song itself deals with the plagues of our society- greed, false sense of morality, lack of comradeship and overall decay of inherent human values. These have become acceptable, and in some cases encouraged. We are easily manipulated, much like machines and our machinists do with us as they please, discarding us once we’ve served our purpose. I’ve encountered this pattern no matter what continent or country I have lived in. “The Machinist” serves as a constant reminder that, unless we speak up, educate ourselves and actively fight the way things are currently ordered, we will remain machines who serve instead of live.
What were some techniques used to get such a crisp, beefy guitar sound? The leads are so fluid and sound great/lively.
ZACH: Honestly, Jamie is 100% responsible for that. We gave him a few songs that we wanted emulated, tone-wise, and essentially just went with what he programmed in on the AxeFX 2. All the guitars were tracked with my Carvin DC727. The rhythm tones were modeled after a combination of Recreate by Born Of Osiris, and Parallax 2 by Between The Buried And Me, and the lead tones were modeled specifically after the solo in “The Spirit Caries On” by Dream Theater, which is one of my favorite songs ever written.
Bad ass. You guys remind me a bit of two of favorite bands, Between The Buried And Me and Dead Letter Circus, but are also doing your own thing. How did you find like-minded musicians in the D.C. area who wanted to not only cover a lot of musical ground, but were also capable of it?
ZACH: I’m actually wearing a BTBAM shirt right now. When Wings started, it was just myself and another guitarist named Paul, who just happened to be randomly assigned to be my roommate at American University freshman year. Paul was in the audio tech department, where he met Alec, and Luka just so happened to live across the hall from Alec. We brought in Jackson, who I knew from our old bands playing together in Raleigh, originally on bass, to fill in on our first tour, but he lived in North Carolina at the time and was unable to commit full-time. Not long after that, Paul left us, because he didn’t want to tour, and Rob responded to an ad we put out on Craigslist. After briefly working with another guitarist, Jackson came back to play guitars for our 2013 summer tour, and subsequently moved to northern Virginia to become a full-time member of the band.
LUKA: We all come from very different musical background- I had no clue who BTBAM were until I met Zach. We were extremely lucky to connect. While most bands bond over a certain style or a scene, the main thing that bonds us is the love for music. Each one of us sees music through a different set of eyes, but being surrounded by all the versatility of talent and musical tastes that exist within the band made us all grow as musicians.
How much does this band mean to you? Is it just what you are doing in your life for now, or do you hope it lasts at least several years. I love the band name, it sounds so classic metal, in a way.
ZACH: There isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t make Wings our top priority in life. There’s literally no better way that I can imagine living than playing music in a touring band, and especially one featuring such a talented group of my closest friends. Naturally, we know that no band lasts forever, but at this point, we all intend to take things as far as they can go, whatever that ends up being. 4/5 band members also have, or are close to completing an undergraduate degree, and after Wings, we’ll probably end up pursuing our own academic paths, but for now, this band is the most important thing for all of us.
LUKA: Glad you dig the name- the band was originally named Aeviternity but we soon decided that name does not really represent who we are. The band names, especially in the prog scene, are all similar, pretentious sounding and we just wanted something with a simple, old-school feel. One day I was listening the Alice in Chains song, “Down in a Hole” and thought that Wings Denied, derived from the lyric, was a plausible name. As you can see, they accepted my suggestion and Wings Denied was born!
That rules. I thought of “Down In A Hole”, but wasn’t sure. Cool! “The End of History,” is that actually about how we should end history’s mistakes, by any chance? Rather than end the world? It has such a moving sound. Or is it something more personal? This song has maybe the loosest and dreamiest vocal in the verses before the magnificent “chase your tails” semi-chorus comes in, and I actually had some trouble deciphering the words to that first verse?
LUKA: As someone who has heavily invested their time into studying politics, international relations and economy, this song is based on a theory developed by a philosopher/political scientist named Francis Fukuyama, who wrote a highly influential essay named “The End of History” after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The essay asserts that the Western neo-liberal approach towards state-governance is the final form of human governance and has “won” due to its alleged superiority. The win marks the end humanity’s sociocultural evolution as the clashes of civilization and ideologies now belong in the history. The song ridicules and criticizes such an idea because to proclaim that is not only ignorant, but it is also dangerous and imperialistic in its nature. I dislike the idea of any nation or civilization considering themselves as inherently special or exceptional, which is something Western leaders do on a daily basis. We are all human- ideas and civilizations come and go- and all we have is each other. It is more obvious now, more than ever, that the current system is in a deep crisis as the inequality levels sky plummet and the working class is being eradicated in the favor of the elites. The first verse states: “Oblivious to the obvious, painfully tedious. Thief of my air.” Those lines are written from a perspective of those who have introduced the idea of exceptionality to the common people in order to manipulate them easier. They ridicule the naive nature of a common man to accept such a, to me, outrageous idea. I intentionally went for the dreamy feel as it furthers conveys the idea that we are asleep and pre-occupied by “chasing our tails”.
As a band who seem fairly open minded to trying different musical approaches and channeling what life brings, how do you think we can be more accepting of different viewpoints in society and co-habitat better? I also ask because you are in D.C. and there is so much political gridlock there.
ZACH: You know, I actually used to intern in a congressional office on Capitol Hill. While there, I think the biggest thing that I saw contributing to gridlock and intolerance is quite simply an unwillingness to listen to alternative points of view. This has a strange parallel to how heavier forms of music are portrayed in society; how often have you heard people just lumping all heavy music together as “devil music,” or just simply crap, by people who simply just don’t understand it.
Everywhere we go on tour, we’re treated with respect and kindness by just about everyone we meet, because they are others who appreciate and accept the music we create, and as strange as it may seem, I’ve always felt that metalheads tend to band together, because they’re treated as outcasts by society in a lot of ways. From what I’ve seen, the most effective way to make one tolerant of other views is for one to experience intolerance themselves. It’s easy to hate with ignorance, but it’s much harder to wish ill upon one whose situation you’ve been in.
LUKA: One of the main ideas and the message behind the record is exactly that- accepting different viewpoints and co-habituating with each other by taking better care of our fellow humans and discarding the preconceived notions we have been force-fed about each other. Living all over the globe made me realize that people are the same wherever you go and the conflicts that exist are mostly artificial and benefit those who created them in a first place. Any kind of gridlock, including the political one in the US politics, is a direct result of the things I have talked about earlier. Putting personal benefit ahead of society’s betterment when one’s job is the betterment of society is the core of the problem you speak of.