The band’s Luke Fabian and Kate Davies detail the lessons learned from their lauded debut and how the last two years have led to their next creative chapter.
For the last couple of years, London outfit Pupil Slicer have been on a trajectory that has catapulted the band beyond the greater awareness of the heavy music community.
Garnering universal acclaim with the potent introduction of their 2021 LP, Mirrors, the band’s collision of catharsis and capability landed their first full length rightfully on many year-ending Best of lists. Pupil Slicer’s calculated, arrhythmic assault earned fitting comparisons to the likes of its predecessors like The Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge, while establishing an identity all its own.
Roping in stylistic accents that ran the gamut from destructive death metal, to airy shoegaze, to cinematic post-metal, the compositions from Pupil Slicer showcased a songwriting wherewithal that positioned the band far ahead of their contemporaries and suggested the best was still yet to come.
In the two years since, Pupil Slicer have processed their powerful reception and better focused their strengths to craft the kind of follow-up record that reiterates their own signature while. Given the visceral quality of Mirrors, both in tone and execution, the band’s forthcoming follow-up in Blossom, serves as an example of channeled energy, creative focus and performative prowess refined over a two year stretch and now achieving full stride.
The band’s Luke Fabian and Kate Davies, reflected on the significance of the last two years since Mirrors and how that debut ultimately paved the way for the band to better refine their approach. They spoke about the creative kinship with producer Lewis Johns, the merit of their work outside aside from their influences, the expectations that come with starting out so strong and how Blossom is the best version of Pupil Slicer yet.
What have these last two years been like given the kind of reception Mirrors earned. What kind of headspace did that put you in when it came time to go into the studio for what would become Blossom?
Fabian – The intervening time between the release of Mirrors and now, brought about changes that none of us in the band could have anticipated. The critical and street reception and reach of Mirrors was totally unexpected and as result going into Blossom, Slicer were in a much different headspace.
There was more confidence and an element of self-assurance for sure, second time round with regards the new material. Some of the more left field musical moments in Mirrors were included with a little trepidation, however this time the clean vocals, black gaze, etc. were included and incorporated to a greater extent with more confidence. People loved the moments on Mirrors were we were grasping towards a more authentic Slicer sound rather than simply servicing Converge, Dillinger worship.
That’s the music. With regards to going into the studio, that was a new experience as Mirrors was recorded over a long period of time at various locations (homes and studios). As we approached the studio session, all the Slicers knew we had to deliver the performances of our lives to better Mirrors, not only for ourselves but also to demonstrate the bands’ growing scope and artistic vision. This headspace was crucial to us delivering Blossom.
Thematically Blossom contrasts Mirrors more biographical experience with narrative imagination. Given the personal weight of your last album, did reliving personal trauma in song have any bearing on moving directions for this time around?
Davies – There was more of a concentrated effort to craft a narrative around the experience on Blossom. Where Mirrors was more of an explosion of raw emotion and everything taken to the extreme, I suppose Blossom would be a more contemplative and thought out reflection on things which are then distilled and translated into a cohesive story which still draws inspiration from personal experience.
Fabian – I interpret Blossom as a palette cleanser to the weight of Mirrors. Strict interpretation of the material aside, the overriding vibe of our second LP is one of far greater positivity, and optimism. Musically it feels more expansive and boundless as opposed to the grinding, claustrophobic feel and constant hyper-intensity of Mirrors.
What was some of the source material you dove Into for this record? Can you rattle of some of the movies, books and video games that resonated with you enough to become integrated into the music?
Fabian – I provided Kate a huge list of prompts from ideas, quotes and fragments from what I had been reading to act as jump off points and to help those creative neurons fire. This centered around existentialist thought in the form of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Nietzsche and so on, plus a healthy dose of Dostoevsky – this is how we got the titles for ‘No Temple’ and ‘Momentary Actuality’, for example.
Davies – The main inspirations for the album were Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker and Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye. Both are incredibly rich and depthy stories around despair, existentialism and cosmic horror whilst maintaining a light at the end of the tunnel and both affected me personally very much so. I wanted to pull those elements that I found very inspiring together and blend them with other works I was a huge fan of that held similar through-lines. Those included Silent Hill, Jacob’s Ladder, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, Event Horizon, Sunshine, Bloodborne: The Old Hunters, House of Leaves and The Matrix.
Employed to Serve, Rolo Tomassi, Ithaca – Lewis Johns’ track record is tough to deny. How valuable has he been in terms of being a creative ally for the band? What did he help you discover about Pupil Slicer for this record?
Fabian – First off, Lewis’ CV speaks for itself as you just demonstrated so nicely. The importance of Lewis in the making of this record cannot be underestimated as you say. With singular focus, Lewis marshalled high-quality performances out of all of us Slicers. His commitment to excellence is tantamount to an obsession with the superior. Aside from his coaching and overall control on the sound Lewis had valuable input and helped fine tweak riffs, drum parts, soundscapes, and vocals. It was a pleasure to work with Lewis and my advice for anyone considering approaching him would be do your homework and come to The Ranch with the best chops on your instrument, you’ve ever had in your life.
The band has had some important firsts in the last couple of years. What were the lessons learned from touring? What did experiencing your own songs live with fans teach you about songwriting?
Fabian – So many firsts indeed, where to start. Big takeaway from touring is that you should be ready for the tour / shows in the best physical and mental shape you can possibly be, this will pay off in a plethora of ways. It is also important to think about the overall condition of the group and consider how the group can best function and how you can support each other. These sound like obvious, and dull things, however – this is what is at the (math)core of keeping Slicer operational.
Seeing how the audience can respond to the material, changes in tempo and vocal hooks / call-outs for example was very powerful and for sure influenced how the new record was put together. Heavy music hits different live and going into Blossom we had first hand experience of this.
Roadburn, ArcTanGent, Download all in addition to tours like your supporting run with Boris – what is the anticipation like with a touring slate as hefty as that?
Fabian – Physical and Mental conditioning is key, as well as having a strong logistical backbone. Our wider support team in the label has been amazing – thanks for the Prosthetic Records crew!
In anticipation of this we are upgrading our live rig and locking in a solid rehearsal schedule.
To add to all of this, our 2nd guitarist Frank is having a baby with his partner, so he will be focusing on being a dad for awhile and bowing out of slicing.
With Frank, I have been working on bringing on board Alex Brown to replace Frank. I know Alex from playing in his technical death metal band, Infected Dead, who are based down in Medway, Kent. We have been working hard to bring him up to speed, and even last week had a triple guitar slicer show for Chaos Theory festival in London, as an in-between state before Frank goes on pat leave. Perhaps it won’t be too long until the 2000s Maiden triple guitar set-up comes to Slicer.
With success comes expectation. How are you navigating that with Blossom and did that have any impact on the process of composing this new crop of songs?
Fabian – As opposed to actively feeling and internalizing any real or perceived external expectations, I’d say we felt more laissez faire and approached the record with a devil may care approach to make the most interesting and dynamic music possible.
As mentioned earlier, we were praised for the sections on Mirrors which could be could more called more authentically ‘Pupil Slicer’. We embraced that and it’s evident at a compositional level throughout the pieces, and from my individual perspective, I pushed my bass abilities and ultimately expanded my own capabilities with the dark-jazz shred at the end of “No Temple’\” and the slap break in “Creating the Devil In Our Image”. Neither the band or I are quite a Dream Theater proficiency levels, but by LP number 7, maybe?
Blossom, the sophomore album from Pupil Slicer arrives June 2nd via Prosthetic Records.
Pre-order the album – HERE
Catch Pupil Slicer live on the EU/UK leg of the Heavy Rocks Breakfast Tour supporting the legendary Boris. A full list of dates, including confirmed festival appearances can be found below.
“Heavy Rock Breakfast” tour
w/ Boris, Pupil Slicer
Apr. 29, 2023 – Dudefest – Karlsruhe, DE
Apr. 30, 2023 – Les Cuizines Chelles – Paris, FR
May 2, 2023 – Cyprus Avenue – Cork, IR
May 3, 2023 – Button Factory – Dublin, IE
May 4, 2023 – Limelight 2 – Belfast, UK
May 5, 2023 – Room 2 – Glasgow, UK
May 6, 2023 – Victoria Hall – Settle, UK
May 7, 2023 – Desertfest – London, UK
May 9, 2023 – Colos Saal – Aschaffenburg, DE
May 10, 2023 – Trix – Antwerp, BE
May 11, 2023 – Patronaat – Haarlem, NL
May 12, 2023 – Hafenklang – Hamburg, DE
May 13, 2023 – A Colossal Weekend – Denmark, DK
May 15, 2023 – Bla – Oslo, NO
May 16, 2023 – Bla – Oslo, NO
May 17, 2023 – Debaser – Stockholm, SE
Pupil Slicer live:
Apr. 22, 2023 – Roadburn Festival – Tilburg, NL
May 28, 2023 – Portals Festival – London, UK
June 9, 2023 – Download Festival – Donington Park, UK
June 10, 2023 – Mystic Festival – Gdansk, PL
Aug. 17-20, 2023 – Arctangent Festival – Bristol, UK