In taking inventory of the kind of turmoil that has plagued the Djent trailblazers of Volumes in the last few years, there is no way in hell a new album seemed likely.
The band would endure a messy fracture of it's core personnel following what seemed to be an auspicious start to 2019. Volumes would drop a surprise EP in Coming Clean in the spring and by December of the same year, the band's then vocalist Gus Farias was spilling the band's tea over Twitter in an unceremonious departure from the collective.
Then, the all too familiar wrath of 2020.
With no inclination of the havoc that the year would soon wreak, Volumes would establish a strange, almost tragic subplot in their narrative, characterized by a series of giant leaps forward countered with the kind of devastating setbacks that would no doubt derail most other units.
A little more than a month following the news of Gus Farias and his less than amicable split with the band, Volumes seemingly turned the page on their previously turbulent chapter with the release of the single, "holywater". The song confirmed the rumored return of the band's beloved vocalist Michael Barr while simultaneously marking the departure of Volumes' founding member, Diego Farias - who opted to pursue his work as a producer rather than continue on with the band.
The excitement of Barr's return, coupled with the separation of the Farias brothers entirely proved bittersweet and prompted a sense of apprehension about the forecast for the band. Fans certainly wanted to be optimistic about the direction, however Volumes's longest-running supporters were understandably shaken in knowing that such drastic changes were unfolding so quickly.
One week later, the collective community surrounding Volumes was dealt a catastrophic blow with the news that Diego Farias had passed away unexpectedly. It was the kind of shift that stopped everything and compartmentalized all the band's previous drama into a category that seemed completely irrelevant. Despite the fact that Volumes had opted to move on without Diego's creative stamp, the news of his loss superseded his role in Volumes and cut to the core of his legacy as a friend, a brother, and a co-creator.
While Volumes worked to cope with the surreal loss, the outside world would find itself thrown off it's axis in the wake of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Lockdowns loomed, everything shuddered and when Volumes needed the light of the outside world the most - reality as everyone knew it, had plans otherwise.
Despite such insurmountable circumstances, Volumes somehow persevered. In May of 2020, just months after withstanding such a critical blow, the band resurfaced with the track, "Pixelate". Loaded with applicable commentary on reality's distortion through the lens of social media, the song was as rousing as it was relevant. Furthermore, it's release affirmed that the band was transforming their trauma into fuel for their creative fervor.
Closing out a formative 2020, Volumes dropped the track "Weighted" which seemed to address the kind of mindset that had to be permeating throughout the camp. Michael Barr shared of the track, "This song is about self-doubt and the shortcomings that come with any type of success. It's about the ups and the downs in life and the interpersonal and irrational conversation you have about convincing yourself into doing things."
The band's next chapter would officially commence a full year later when the single "Get Enough" introduced the Volumes less than likely return. Paired with the then stand alone single in "Bend," each of the tracks highlighting the dynamics of personal relationships, adversity, and the kind of self-discovery that can only come from such upending change.
For Volumes, Happier? is a bittersweet victory. Its completion alone is an accomplishment worthy of admiration, but it's conviction is the byproduct of the kind of therapy it provided for its craftsmen. This was the album that had every reason not to happen, but had to. Packaged with all the grief and angst of a two year stretch that ripped a gap in the group, somehow, Volumes galvanized to turn their trauma into a tribute.
Volumes longtime bassist and contributing songwriter Raad Soudani framed how Happier? fulfilled a sense of personal gratification that makes the album among the band's most cherished trophies.
Given the kind of trauma the band has endured, what kind of added significance does the release of Happier take on?
Soudani - It marks a period in time. Understanding all the blows that the group has absorbed, we need to strap in and take control of the band and ourselves. That creating and sharing music is a personal and beautiful activity. That the band deserves our attention, focus, care, and love. It marks a time when we need to set aside personal agendas and focus on what Volumes' collective needs to flourish. With that understanding, with a mindset of accountability of actions, with the hardships endured, can we be happier?
Lyrically, there seems to be an especially personal stream of consciousness going on in these songs. How therapeutic was it to pen these songs and see them come to fruition?
Soudani - Music is freaking awesome. From my standpoint, watching Michael Barr formulate much of the lyrics and vocal approach for this album, it was a learning experience for me. Watching an artist listen to music and create an entire lyrical story, vibe, was eye-opening and inspiring. It shows that these things require practice and time, and that's what Michael Barr has been putting his time and effort into. To see these ideas start as demos and grow into full-blown songs with narratives was just the coolest thing to be a part of. It is making yourself vulnerable to the process and having an open mind.
There seems to be a stigma associated with releasing a pandemic-derived record. Do you feel like this record could have been as cathartic if not for the isolation of the last couple of years?
Soudani - Absolutely. The music industry is already in a state of change, and the pandemic has ultimately added to that. The entire landscape of the business and how we consume music has been changing so fast. It's hard as an artist to see where it goes when your focus is on music rather than the business. But nowadays you must be knowledgeable in both areas. And with that being said, it is freaking challenging to operate within this sort of outlook right now. The pandemic has changed the way we live for the entire world. It has gotten everyone's attention and changed our way of life. Many people's focus kind of shifted away from the arts and into more of a state of urgency for their livelihoods. But from all that pain and suffering, we need ways to heal, and music can help with that. That is why we felt the need to release our music. That is what music is for.
Were there any stretches during the writing and recording sessions that felt strained, labored? Did you ever fear that this album might not see the light of day?
Soudani - Yes. Many times. Many times I wanted to pack it up and go. Many times it's not always a grand slam in the studio. Many days it feels labored. It feels like so much of a stretch. It feels like work. It feels like, 'am i being paid enough to be here?' 'Does anyone care about what i'm doing?' 'What am i doing with my life?' 'Am I good enough to do this?' 'I don't want to do this shit.' 'Fuck this.' 'Nah, nevermind. I can be the best musician in the world.' 'Fuck that music is the greatest gift, and it's one of the only things I can relate so much to in this world.' 'Let's fucking go.'
It's a goddamn battle in your mind.
You have so many thoughts. That's the artist's perspective. Then when you have sort of a producer role, you become like the project manager, so you have to be so beyond those thoughts, you can't have them. You got to be a fucking solid rock. You have to know how to control those thoughts and feelings, navigate through them, and create some magic. You have to manage the entire session, vibe, be alert, be aware, and transcend into the music. It's all about the vibe, and yes, you must be vulnerable to the process and have confidence in what you're doing and reach the goal.
There is an irony in the title of the album. Volumes seems to be as stable and focused as ever but the road to get here was incredibly turbulent. Is Volumes Happier?
Soudani - Goosebumps. Goosebumps. and more goosebumps. Thank you, someone, for noticing the amount of shit the band has been through. No Volumes is not happier (half kidding). Volumes is a battle torn group. Those scars will be there forever. No happy ending here, yet. But resilience is built through adversity. And Volumes have built THICK skin and an awareness of itself. The band has finally reset its mindset. Approaching this in a different way. More calculated and strategic. The amount of shit that we've been through, at this point you could throw an army at us and we will navigate through it. There is big energy brewing for Volumes, I feel it. I feel some monstrous music coming. Happier was just the beginning. For me, it was a way to get my feet wet with Volumes as I took on the biggest roll I have with any album we've done yet. I'm ready to explode out of my shell.
How did Diego's passing resonate with the band? In the wake of his passing was there any thought to no longer continuing on as Volumes?
Soudani - Here is a little timeline. Volumes parts ways with Diego. Diego tragically passes away. One month later a worldwide pandemic shuts down the entire world, everything has changed as we know it as a band, as members of a society, and as a society.
That being said his death, It was an absolute shocker. An absolute ripper. An absolute devastation. An absolute anomaly. An absolute bummer. Winning the worst lottery in the world. Fuck being bandmates, I had lost one of my dearest friends in who I absolutely loved. A person who was a part of my heart. Someone who Is a part of the way I think with my mind and heart. A huge factor in my life. Diego was one of the main reasons I was in Volumes. I absolutely enjoyed the process of being his friend and bandmate. We grew together. He was my partner in this whole thing. We had the vision together. We had this huge objective vision for Volumes being a giant empire of music. Until this day I still cannot believe that Diego Farias has passed away. It puts such a cloud in my life. Never have I thought that when we started this band that Diego would pass away. Like I would take everything back for him to still be here. I'd rather we never met and the band never happened and he still be here. That being said, the band had mutually parted ways with Diego before his passing. It was understood that he would step down and focus on his amazing career and the band would continue without him. The band had already been operating without Diego's full supervision on the tailend of his residency with the band as he was focusing on his personal career producing. He was growing so much he even earned himself multiple grammy awards. It was already an understanding that the band would continue without him. It was already processed mentally for months that the band would continue without one of the original members, and one of the biggest forces in the band. Many times I personally faced doubts of continuing without Diego in the band, and then continuing the band without Diego in this world. Ultimately I came to the decision to take the band and continue to help elevate its legacy.
While Happier is an obvious start of a new chapter for the band there seems to be an element of Volumes past in the album as well. Even with recruiting Daniel Braunstein to contribute. Is it accurate to say that to turn the page you had to revisit the history of the band?
Yes, this goes along with the hindering past that the band has faced. One event being in the beginning, the band parted ways with the full blown founder of the band before we even released our first album, Daniel Braunstein. Daniel was responsible for taking part in creating arguably the band's most favored album, VIA. The leader of the band at the time had made his departure from the band. This man was responsible for the band's fruition and sound as he was responsible for developing it. I was personally bummed because I was such a fan of the way he created music. We carried on without Daniel and we grew into what we are today and he's grown into being one of the most in-demand, talented producers in metal music today. Everyone in the band always knew throughout time that making music with Daniel again would be stellar. And so finally we were able to do that on Happier and makes that album just ever so special. Also we went in a new direction with our previous album Different Animals including so many new elements like rap, hip hop, pop. That we wanted to revisit our sound in which we are most known for which is a combination of heavy and melody without going too musically astray. Not to overshadow the work that we did on Different Animals but we wanted to just hone in on the heavy and melodic aspects and what better way then to get Daniel Braunstein to help out.
With this album being so collaborative, was it difficult to get everyone on the same page creatively? How tough was it to focus on what you wanted this album to sound like?
Yes, it was difficult to get everyone to focus on the same page creatively. The lineup completely changed and that affected the process of the album and there was a worldwide pandemic going on affecting everyone's livelihoods, well-being, and state of mind. That was the difficult part was just managing members schedules and personalities.
First I'd like to say that we have always sort of been a band in which our albums are a sort of hybrid of self-production/home studio effort and outsourcing private studios and producers to help the process. Our records have never been cut in like a 30-60 day process. Everyone dreams of going far away to a studio and setting aside 60 days to do nothing but focus on writing an album together but Volumes have never really had that luxury. However I'd like to do that one day for sure.
We all grew up together, same area, same high school. And so we started in a garage. However the creative process We kind of started as two super producers sending riffs back to each other and translating their production values into a band. And so the albums would get done solely by the members not only being the artist, but the producers. And Diego and Daniel had studios within their own homes so we kind of just went to each others houses and made music. That kinda translated into newer albums, hybrids of home and third party studios.
The way we do albums isn't your average way a band does an album. Usually, you make a bunch of pre-pro demos; sometimes they get in a room together and make ideas with everyone on their instruments. and take them to a studio or facility or home for 30-60 days and cut a record entirely collective and that's that. We made this album over the course of 2 years the same way we did our previous albums. A hybrid of home studio recording and visiting Butter Music Studios with Max Schad and Daniel Braunstien at Hallway Studios. And so hundreds of sessions ensued in which we started creating vibes, aka songs. And after roughly 35 ideas. We narrow them down to 10, the ones Michael Barr, Nick, And Myke Terry like the most - and start building upon those. Then it becomes collaborative when everyone takes these ideas and turns them into full studio works with everyone satisfying their areas of expertise in the song. And viola, album is made.
Given the accomplishments that Volumes have tallied, where does Happier rank on a personal and professional level?
Soudani - For me personally, it's at the top. It's the album in which I took on a huge responsibility for and delivered. Objectively it is also one of the best Volumes albums to digest for any music listener. Heavy music lovers can adore it, easy music listeners, it's all over the spectrum in terms of sonics.
Lastly, which song are most excited to perform live? Given how much we have all missed live shows, which song have you envisioned performing live and what kind of feelings does that image stir?
Soudani - MAN ON FIRE. And due to the high energy of the song, there is nothing to do but to GO ABSOLUTELY FUCKING CRAZY! It is purely just three minutes of high energetic groovy riffs that aren't the easiest to play so it's challenging.
Happier? from Volumes is now available via Fearless Records. Order the album - HERE