Als BLOOD AND SUN im Jahr 2014 ihr erstes reguläres Album »White Storms Fall« veröffentlicht haben, staunte die Neofolk-Szene (und nicht nur die) nicht schlecht. Ein so relevantes Album hatte man lange nicht gehört, die Szene dümpelte doch leider ein wenig bedeutungs- und belanglos vor sich hin. Jedenfalls fallen mir – mit Ausnahme von OF THE WAND AND THE MOON, SONNE HAGAL und DARKWOOD – nicht viele Bands ein, die in dieser Zeit Alben veröffentlicht haben, die ich auch heute noch regelmäßig auf den Plattenspieler lege.
Am 28. Februar erscheint nun endlich der Nachfolger, »Love and Ashes«, auf dem schwedischen Label NORDVIS. Wir haben die Gelegenheit genutzt, um mit LUKE TROMICZAK, dem Kopf hinter BLOOD AND SUN, zu sprechen: Über das neue Album, seine kreativen Einflüsse, Liveauftritte und noch viel mehr:
- Hi Luke! First of all: Thank you for taking some time for us! It‘s been five years since your last album »White Storms Fall« was released. Could you give us a short summary of what happened since then?
- Since then I’ve toured Europe, I’ve toured Canada a few times, performed with many of my influences, spent time in Northern California, painted in rural Mexico, visited holy sites in Iceland, and found solace in the trees of New England. I’ve been through some rough times, some self inflicted, some lobbed against me, and through it all I’ve been lucky enough to find and build on love. This release will coincide with the two year anniversary of a friend’s death from cancer, my two year anniversary of becoming sober, and five years from meeting my partner who has stayed with me through thick and thin.
- So I guess it’s not just ›another album‹ for you? But then you really don’t seem to be the run-of-the-mill band in music anyway …
- I suppose I’m not a run-of-the-mill band. And yes, »Love and Ashes« is really important to me personally. I became enamored with and a part of the underground over a decade ago: music made, not for mindless consumption, but with thought and experience intertwined with it.
Tape trading and mail orders, home recording, xeroxed fliers, and hidden shows became my world. So the industry is still foreign to my way of understanding music culture. This is not to say I kept hard lines of liking genres, and in the last few years I’ve been trying to fill in rock and roll and folk music history. That said, I know that working on art and music fulfills me, and so I would like to release with more regularity as an exercise of will. We’ll see how things progress from here.
- How do you write your songs? Since your last album, you released two singles (one of them a split with BRITTSOMMAR). Did the songs on the new album and the singles develop one after another or did you write the songs altogether and chose later when and where to release them?
- I write them when I can. »At Rest« came in the fall of 2013, »Cain’s Orchard« and »Lavender Letters« in 2014, and »The Hunt and the Fall« and »The Confession« in the spring of 2016. »Love and Ashes«, however, was generated from 2014 – 2018 by drawing on experiences from the last six years.
The songs touch on leaving my hometown, the deaths of close friends, broken hearts in a burning building, finding love in a snow-swept city, casting thorns at vile snakes, coming close to dissolution in flickering fires hallucinations and rains of Humboldt county, delirium tremens on the old man’s road, rekindling love that was holding on despite all, by a golden thread. »Until the Dawn« is the eldest song, and »Love and Ashes« is the youngest but perfect cap to the tale of these years.
- Your new album was produced by Robert ›Bob‹ Ferbache, which is probably known to most of our readers from his work with BLOOD AXIS. How was it like to work with him?
- Bob and I have been fast friends since he mixed and mastered »White Storms Fall«. He since relocated to New England and more or less retired. But in his retirement he produced and had released three or four records this last year. He approached me at a festival some time ago and expressed interest in working on the next album I wanted to record.
To have Bob work on your record is to have a man dedicated to rock and roll since seeing THE BEATLES live as a child put his years of crafting influential underground records behind your vision. He builds and works tirelessly and patiently though sternly on allowing the projects to blossom and unfold. Co-producing many WOVEN HAND and 16 HORSEPOWER albums as well as to, IN GOWING RING, MUNLY, BOBBY BEAUSOLEIL, NON, FIRE + ICE, TARANTELLA, DEVOTCHKA, LILIUM, ITCHY‑O, IAN COOKE, and most recently, besides myself, Brooklyn based, EVA GOODMAN’s Ghostly Dream Folk project NIGHTTIME’s debut album »Hand in the Dark«.
We worked in three or four blocks of time each spanning a few months. We got the bones laid out for four songs in the summer of 2017, and then picked back up in February 2018. I wrote the final song in June 2018 and in the winter of 2019 I traveled to record accompanying instruments. We finally had all tracks by March of 2019 and we mixed and mastered until summer solstice of 2019.
Bob helped me learn to use his equipment and taught me some of his techniques. Often he let me steer the ship and then when necessary, as it often was, bring the project back to cohesion with his experienced hands.
- You mentioned Bob’s work on your first album »White Storms Fall«, which was released on Pesanta. Are there any plans of reissuing that album? It’s really hard to get these day and the prices that are called for it on Discogs are really, really high.
- There will be a time when »White Storms Fall« is re-released. Most likely without the same book as before for the sake of getting it into people’s hands at a more reasonable price. But with the new album we worked really hard on making sure the layout was on par if not better than the first album. Attention to detail and aesthetic is something I will not deviate from.
There is no particular set date for a re-release. I know there are still copies somewhere, but it shamefully never got proper European distribution. I will work to rectify this in the next year: a loose goal of this summer 2020.
- Speaking of »White Storms Fall«: To many people, me included, this album is probably one of the most relevant and beloved neofolk albums in the last decade, along the side of OF THE WAND AND THE MOON’s »The Lone Descent«. What dou you personally think of the album today?
- »White Storms Fall« was a magical album to work on. I had finished my undergraduate studies, had been accepted to grad-school, and received a grant, which let me stay on in Minnesota another year. I had been making narrative figurative work which in academic circles is immediately considered reactionary, and naive. The deskilling of the ’60s and Clement Greenburg’s critical writing about painting still looms heavy in the fine art world. I fought tooth and nail to work the way I did and bested some of the faculty of the school in receiving the grant. It was a triumphant moment. This offered me the time to work on large paintings and, as it would happen, meet Adam of Pesanta and start working on »White Storms Fall«.
We worked really hard on that album. I had a tireless engineer who worked countless hours in exchange for a large painting. Thankfully we were pretty well rehearsed and the tracking came together in a few months time.
»White Storms Fall« is a dedication to willing my way out of where I was from, and a sonic tribute to much of the music that influenced me. OF THE WAND AND THE MOON of course being one. I’m glad it was received well by fans of the genre.
- Given the huge respect the people have towards your last album, there are also high expectations to the hew one, I guess. Did you feel any pressure for writing and releasing the album?
- Yes absolutely. It was a call to grow. What does the next album look like? What changes in your songwriting when you leave the soil you grew up on? How do you make a record when people you work with are scattered across the country? In »White Storms Fall« everything played all at once on every song: punk rock with cello and a hammered dulcimer. So with that in mind, how do I arrange for the next record to bring more dynamism? Specifically what should change with my guitar playing? But the greater concern was, how will this be released? How do I make sure it gets to those who will appreciate it? Of course, even now I don’t know how it will be received, but I am incredibly grateful and excited to get it out there.
- When your new label, Nordvis, talks about BLOOD AND SUN, they use the term »Luke Tromiczak and friends«. Would you describe the band like that? Is BLOOD AND SUN your project or could it also exist without you (not that I wish for it!)?
- BLOOD AND SUN from the beginning was my project. I’ve had the utmost pleasure of having some exceptionally talented people help it along but it‘s a revolving door. It makes it easier for me to travel alone when necessary and keep the artistic aim of the project as close to my vision as possible.
If someone wanted to perform one of my my songs at my funeral that would be a welcome parting gift, but no one in their right mind would want to carry BLOOD AND SUN and no one can usurp the project as I breathe. But I should also mention they should play some other tunes as well in case of my untimely ending.
- That’s an interesting thought. Which songs would you actually choose yourself for your funeral?
- For my funeral ideally I’d like 40 minutes of renditions of Raffi songs sung by a soprano accompanied by a slightly out of tune piano … The reception following would be catered with bologna sandwiches, decaffeinated coffee, and anchovies labeled as »dehydrated herring.»
But really? If I could have a few trusted musicians do renditions of these songs as a concert surrounding my death that would be an honor I’d show up for. In no particular order:
1. If It Be Your Will – Leonard Cohen
2. Dirt in the ground – Tom Waits
3. The Seeker – Fire and Ice
4. Wayfaring Stranger – Trad
5. Hope theres someone – Antony and the Johnsons
6. In a robe of fire – Of The Wand And The Moon
7. 60 horses in my herd – Mongolian Traditional
8. Herja Father – Blood Axis
9. The Skye Boat Song – Scottish Trad
- Where do you take your inspiration for your music from? Is it mostly other bands/music? Or also literature, the arts and nature?
- Well of course there are inspirations from music — after all it’s a language with incredible cultural subtlety. Sonically, my music certainly shares commonalities with friendly contemporaries. Thematically, it wrestles between the mythic influence I see play out in life, the tapestry of the seasons, and personal experiences.
I hope it doesn’t rest too heavily on any one of those poles. I think it oscillates between the temporal, personal, mythic, and imaginary. Other things that influence my artistic helm are definitely film, literature, and philosophy.
- Can you name the most important ones for us? Or maybe even suggest something? In times of the internet there’s pretty much everything available, but it’s sometimes hard to choose. So recommendations are always welcome!
- You will now experience a ranting list – I hope it’s welcome:
»Carl Jung: The Earth Has A Soul Edited« by Meredith Sabini, »Gods and Myths of Northern Europe« by H.R Ellis Davidson, »Songs Dance and Customs of peasant Poland« by Sula Benet, »Society Must be Defended – Lectures« by Michel Foucault, »The Eldritch World« by Nigel Pennick, »The Man who Planted Trees« by Jean Giono, »The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift« by Anabella Pollen, and »Bali: Atlas Kebudajaan (Cults and Customs)«. The »Foxfire« book series, which is a practical journal of rural Appalachian living. Neil Gaiman’s »American Gods« I think is a must read for anyone living in North America who is interested in the Old Gods whoms antecedents originated from elsewhere in the world.
Podcasts worth mentioning: »Weird Studies«, »Brute Norse«, »The Fair Folk«, Dan Carlin’s »Hardcore History« (any and all, but especially »Steppe Stories« and »The Wrath of the Khans«)!
Radiolab, specifically the specific episode »From Tree to Shining Tree«, Paul Stamets on the Joe Rogan Experience, and »Mushrooms as Medicine« with Paul Stamets at Exponential Medicine on Youtube.
I haven’t been keeping up with cinema as much as I’d like, but some standouts are »Synecdoche N.Y.«, »Jacob’s Ladder«, »Angel Heart«, »La Vie Nouvelle«, »Un Lac«, »Melancholia«, »The Turin Horse«, »Moonlight«, »Satan Don’t Deliver Us From Evil«, »The Grand Budapest Hotel«, »Good Time«, »Victoria« (2015), »Tasogare Sakaba« (Twilight Saloon), and »Embrace the Serpent«. Most recently, »Midsommar«, »The Light House«, and »Parasite« were all worth the popcorn.
Also, the B.B.C. miniseries based on Terry Pratchett’s »The Hog Father« has been on yearly repeat around Yule. Death has a great monologue about holiday traditions in that.
- Do you plan to tour with the new album? Any tours in Europe planned maybe?
- I’ve been touring this past year – small engagements across the U.S. and Canada. They have been a real treat. I will tour on this record, but it probably won’t be standard. I’d rather play for small groups of fans than have a career-building opening slot. This art is serious to me, to a fault. It’s not just entertainment to be jostled about in the consumer market. I don’t want to entertain tourists. So yes, if you want to see me perform, please get in touch.
- Last question: What was your favorite place to play live until today? I can imagine you playing all sorts of venues, but playing at open air festivals somewhere in the woods or the mountains (like »House of the Holy«, »L‘homme sauvage« or »Mėnuo Juodaragis«) seems to be the perfect surrounding to me.
- From big festivals to small invite-only house parties, I enjoy any opportunity to play for friends. Playing larger festivals in Germany where – to my surprise – people sing my songs back to me, or small rehearsal spaces in Canada where people cram themselves in like sardines to see the performance, is incredibly flattering. It is also an honor being invited into people’s homes to perform for their neighbors, family, and friends. I’ve had experiences across Europe, the United States, and Canada like these. I’d like to see more of the world besides so hopefully there will be more opportunities on the horizon.
Outdoor festivals away from the bustle of the city, with a mind to slow down for a few days and celebrate nature, and the old spirits, is always preferred. But hands down my favorite performance was playing to a room of forty people. It was populated by fellow artists and friends, with a six course meal of traditional Eastern European food, and an offering table set to Frigg, Frau Holle, and the attendees‹ loved ones who had passed to the other side. I carried offerings from that night across the country and buried them in the mountains not far from New York. It was a night that would be hard to replicate, but I hope for opportunities to share in that spirit again.
- Thank you for taking your time, Luke! Hope to see you soon in Europe!
- Thanks for the thoughtful questions! I hope to meet you on your side of the pond as well!
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