Odin’s Court Matt Brookins Talks about his band creation and their newest release, Turtles All The Way Down. Formed in 2001 by Brookins, this Maryland based band now boasts 4 major CD releases accompanied by U.S. tours. The band is motivated, wildly creative and driven by passion, an indestructible combination. Definitely one to watch!
May you be inspired!
LBFH: What was the original vision for the sound of the band?
OC: Nice question to start things off…originally, the band was started when I was younger, and I was into the extremes of music. I was aiming for things to be complex– lots of meter, tempo, and mood changes, very technical music, soaring vocals, etc. As we got into the band, things changed, as I realized I wasn’t that type of singer, and over the years my tastes and approach has changed. Now I focus more on writing a song that conveys a mood or theme first and the technicality of it second. But in the beginning, I wanted us to be super technical and more ‘traditional’ sounding within the Prog Metal genre.
LBFH: What is the concept behind Turtles All The Way Down?
OC: It is a pretty big concept in scope – it speaks to the universe and searching for our place in it while finding the meaning. This includes not only asking questions, but asking the right type of questions. And even more difficult, trying to use a limited vessel that is the human brain, to cope with vast concepts like infinity or something’s origins. Origins – that is where Turtles All the Way Down comes in…if the world rests on a turtle, and that turtle rests on another turtles, eventually you have to have something terminate the chain as a source? Well, no, it’s turtles all the way down – keep thinking about it, and if you think things end, well, then what is next? Another turtles I suppose…
LBFH: Do you feel like your audience connects with the concept of the album?
OC: I think these are thoughts everyone has, whether they are religious or not – or regardless of the type of religion they may practice. It is natural for people to question things. Humans are curious by nature. So this album was quite therapeutic for me, mainly because it allowed me to express myself and explore my feelings through music – something with which I connect and keeps me grounded in the often harsh and confusing environment that is our universe. So while opinions are always going to vary, and while we obviously don’t appeal to everyone, the majority of the feedback we’ve had thus far has been very positive. I’ve had some fans write us, post on social media, etc. saying, ‘I get it – I totally get it.’ Not everyone will, but if 1 out of 100 listeners finds some connection to the music and it moves them in a positive way, I’m happy! The press has been very complimentary of the album thus far as well.
LBFH: Is it important to you that your fans get your absolute best?
OC: Absolutely. I’ve spent considerable time and money to improve my studio space, equipment, and my own abilities. Every album we have done has been an improvement over the previous work – the song writing, execution, and sonic balance. In fact, I’m such a perfectionist in wanting to put the best sound out, that I’m going back to our first album that had wide release, that being Deathanity, to do a remix and remaster with a partial rerecord – the rerecord being the introduction of Dimetrius on the lead vocals. While I was – and still am – proud of the album for where we were at the time, I’d love to give fans an improved version that better matches my mind’s vision.
LBFH: How do you stay excited about your music and keep it fresh?
OC: I’m always moving forward, always writing, always brainstorming ideas…I also tend to rearrange our songs, sometimes in minor ways and sometimes in major ones, to change things up. The overall feel of each album is also always changing – I don’t see the point of making ‘new’ music time and time again that just ‘steals’ from an old album in structure and feel. I also enjoy listening to music other’s make; that often fires me up to want to create something that I feel as passionately about as when I listen to some other artists’ works.
LBFH: Are you demanding of the band?
OC: Sure, I think I am. But the work I levy on the band is nothing compared to what I put on myself. I am constantly working. Even if the band is on a break, I am not. I am working on the next phase, next chapter…even if I get worn out and tell the band we are taking a brief break, that may last half a day before I’m personally working again. Meanwhile, they may continue their break! But all the guys work super hard. Something that our fans should realize is, we all have day jobs to make ends meet, and we share our music with them out of our joy for the craft. We do not make money – my goal has always been to simply make ends meet by breaking even, which is becoming more and more difficult with the piracy I see of our material. But I am digressing – all the guys work so, so hard; it is truly a labor of love for all of us. I appreciate their efforts towards achieving our overall goals!
LBFH: What does it take to maintain a high level of energy during your performances, especially when on tour?
OC: Since we don’t usually go on tour for more than a week and a half at a time, it isn’t as difficult for us as it is for bands which are on the road for months. But we’ve definitely had to catch ourselves and throttle things back at times…you are so busy traveling, preparing, interacting with fans, at the venue, etc. that you don’t get enough rest. And one lesson I learned a while ago is to ensure I rest my voice. It is hard when interacting with folks at the show – while other bands play, you are shouting over the music so they can hear you, because they want to talk, so I am humbled and appreciative of their enthusiasm and want to reciprocate. I lost my voice one time, and that was tough the next day. With Dimetrius I don’t have to be quite as careful, but still need to keep myself in check since I do sing a lot of backing vocals and still an occasional lead line.
LBFH: What would you say are the golden rules for the success of a rock band?
OC: Interesting…I don’t know that there are any ‘golden rules.’ There is etiquette when dealing with fans, promoters, venues, other bands, etc. – a lot of that is unwritten and just understood with experience. The main rules I live by is to be kind to folks and not burn bridges, and to take grievances offline in a private setting always. The music industry is incredibly cutthroat, and people may do things to you and your band that seem inhumane and shocking; however, you will be the bad guy if you try to oust them publicly, even if you are justified in your stance. The public doesn’t really care usually – they just see immaturity and unprofessional behavior. So I try to always stay positive and look for compromises, solutions, and related ways to fix problems.
LBFH: What challenges does the band face when adapting the studio music to live performance?
OC: When I write, record, and produce music in the studio, I tend to take more of an approach of do whatever it takes…this means there may be multi-layered guitars, keys, and vocals as dozens and dozens of overdubs. So when we play live, we don’t have enough people on stage to exactly reproduce things. Also, there may be guitar harmonies and prominent keys at the same time, but there are only 2 of us able to handle these melodic instrument parts live. So we often rearrange things, both to creatively interpret the song differently, but also to be able to represent the song in a reasonable format live, given the limitation of performers on stage.
LBFH: What do you feel is the next evolutionary step for Odin’s Court?
OC: I think we just took one with this new album. I think we jumped up a few rungs of the ladder in terms of legitimacy – the song writing and production were a big part, but equally were the addition of a new vocalist and the art package JP did for the album. Beyond this, I hope we can also move up the ladder of the ‘underground’ metal scene, perhaps getting on some short tours with larger bands…maybe do some higher profile festivals. I’d love to get to play live in Europe one day too!
LBFH: As an artist and a musician, what do you think really sets you apart from your peers?
OC: That is a hard question – there are so many talented and hardworking musicians in the rock and metal field that I respect and love, and as hard as we work, I know there are always others working harder. As proficient as we may become as musicians, there are always others who are more proficient. If I were forced to pick something, I’d say our overall sound…we seem to invoke such different opinions from people as to the style of what our music is…some say Progressive Metal, some say Progressive Rock, some say Hard Rock, some say even AOR, some say traditional metal, etc. While we certainly aren’t inventing a new genre, I think our overall sound is unique within the various genres I mentioned…at least that is what I gather from our press reviews over the years. So that may be good or bad, depending on one’s perspective, but I think it may set us apart in some cases.
LBFH: Who are some of the bands and artists that you admire most?
OC: There are too many to name, but some of my favorite inspirations are Pink Floyd, Devin Townsend, the Counting Crows, Yanni, Enya, Beethoven, Fear Factory, Angra, Guns N Roses, HIM, Queen, Boston, Journey, Mozart, Annie Lennox, Porcupine Tree, and all things 80s pop. While I don’t listen to them much anymore, growing up, I was obsessed with Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Dream Theater, and the whole 70s and 80s hard rock and metal movement. Though really, I like all music – yes even rap – as long as it is genuine. If I can feel the artists’ intent and expression, I will enjoy it.
LBFH: What words would you like to send out to your fans?
OC: We put an incredible amount of work into our music, so anyone who supports us and enjoys our music is very much appreciated. People who enjoy our work are why we do this – we love music and sharing it. Please spread the word and tell your friends about us. THANK YOU!