Gilded Lily: Fenced Dogs and Creating Beauty (interview)

Gilded Lily released one of those albums that pushes the boundaries of the genre. The group from Barrie in Canada just released ‘Mongrel’s Light’ and it blew me away. It sure as hell is not casual listening.

There was a little bit of info to be found, but I was keen to find out more about this band and Andrew Helinski was keen to share, so I asked them a few questions about their band, the urban environment and Canadian metal (not referring to the hilarious Darkthrone song).

Check the album review HERE.

Who are Gilded Lily and how did you guys get together as a band? What other projects have you been involved in (musical or non-musical related to your art)?
Gilded Lily began in 2014 mostly out of an itch to create some in-your-face music. Don’t all young guys who aren’t good at sports want to be in a band? Jordi and I had both been in Swarms together before this, which had a more long-winded approach to song writing, and we wanted to try something that felt more immediate. Once we recruited Cameron we realized that the approach was different enough that it warranted another moniker- a clean slate entirely.

I wanted to ask about the name of the band, since it sounds rather different from the more conventional names. How did you come up with this name?
I came up with it, though it wasn’t my first choice. I had actually settled on the name Mongrel for a long while and about 2 months before the demo came out I saw a flyer for a show in New York for Yellow Eyes, and a new band was playing it called Mongrel. So I had to scramble a bit to come up with something new. We ended up going in the opposite direction, instead of trying to convey the ugliness of the band, I went with a name that means “to make something beautiful that is already beautiful.”
In the end, it may have helped inadvertently from a branding standpoint, it’s certainly more memorable for a metal band then a lot of other choices.

What are your musical influences for the ‘Mongrel’s Light’ record, how would you describe the unique sound of this album?
We pulled from so many different places on this album. Some influences are almost bizarrely disconnected from the final product. Just to rattle off some bands, HEALTH, Black Anvil, Prurient, Cobalt, A Pregnant Light, Cattle Decapitation, La Dispute.
We had some trouble knowing exactly how to bill this album; blackened grind, blackened hardcore, post black… they all seem a disingenuous and at least a little inaccurate.
It makes sense why people want genres as a point of reference- but we were pretty happy feeling like the end result wasn’t something that could be easily slotted into anything other than “extreme” metal.

The album feels like a very bleak expression that must have been fed by something of the surroundings or such. What inspired this album? Is there an element of dislike for the urban environment to it?
There certainly is, ha. When we started Gilded Lily, Jordi and I had both just moved back to our hometown of Barrie, it’s an exceedingly average, midsize, conservative Canadian city. The real motivator for me when writing was of course, my personal life- but also the city’s relentless banality, its dumb contentment, the petty criminality.
I don’t necessarily dislike the urban environment itself. I can’t claim some close affinity to nature after being born and raised in the city, but this album at least stays focused on the malaise and ugly aspects of suburban life.
As with anything that’s an artistic statement, the viewpoint is entirely the artists- perhaps someone else could write an album about the same city and it would be a sunny-sounding affair praising it. As it stands however, negativity and specific visions of Barrie and fenced dogs are the main motivators behind the album’s themes.

I was curious how you craft your songs, since the amazing lyrics seem to be at the core of things. How do you go about making and recording the music, who has which role?
The writing process generally begins with my lyrics, the themes being established and the album being sketched out conceptually. After we have the “tone” of each song established, Jordi just hammers out riffs and ideas and begins to piece them together. After the whole album was demoed out we each took two weeks to just listen to the album over and over and draft up a bunch of notebooks, and then just edited out every piece of the album that didn’t 100% hold its own to put ears.
We’re both very respectful of each other’s talents and process, and this album was the most we’ve ever challenged each other or vetoed anything the other has done. I revised my lyrics dozens of times and Jordi had me cut some entirely. And I made Jordi go through four different version of Glass In St. Mary’s Lot until it was at a place where I was happy with it as well.
Pushing each other’s creativity seems to be a big part of why this album felt so successful to us.

Your approach to black metal (if we can call the style of music that) seems to be very eclectic and I feel a kinship with groups like Sun Worship who’ve approached BM from a more artistic and aesthetic viewpoint. Is that the case for Gilded Lily?
I’m not sure we have any kinship with anyone based on style. There are so many bands out there that it would be hard to feel a based solely on the merit of looking or sounding similar. There’s a kinship with other artists or bands we have a working relationship or mutual respect with- Terzij de Horde, It Only Gets Worse, A Pregnant Light, Cara Neir. People who write and create similarly and seem to take the same approach to music’s importance.
That said, not to be too dismissive, Sun Worship are an excellent band and we all really enjoyed their last two records.

Can you tell me about Lion’s Jawbone? Why did you start your own label?
Vanity mostly. We really believe in what we do, and even if no one else did- we both wanted a little platform on which we would be able to display our work and projects on our own terms. To be frank neither of us really wants the hassle that is inherent with a label, so we keep things extremely barebones. It’s essentially just to give a voice to our stuff and retain control of how it’s presented.

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Why are there so many good bm bands coming from Canada? And is it me or is there some abject to civilization, society and the urban environment to it? What do you think are the unique ingredients your surroundings offer that influence that sound.
It seems Canadian bands have a wide swath of influences and space to grow themselves. A band in Calgary is a day and a half of non stop driving away from us, so it’s very removed and disconnected. As such, aside from hearing the records and catching an occasional show, there’s no communal mentality to influence our stuff. The mentality is just do your own thing and own it.
We’re left to our own devices and to pursue our ideas down rabbit holes as far as we can.
Of course there’s exceptions, Quebec has an incredible and incestuous black metal scene and inversely, a lot of Canadian acts seems to have a goofy proclivity to folkish / melodic stuff that we can’t get down with. At the end of the day though, a lot of the gems that shine through seem to exemplify that aforementioned mentality.

What does the future hold for Gilded Lily?
Currently we’re recording a new EP, we have a split and a collaborative release with two different bands in the early stages as well. Eventually writing for a new full length I suppose too; we spread ourselves thin and work slowly as a result. Lots of moving pieces.

Finally, if you had to describe your band as a dish, what would it be and why?
Damn, this is a odd one to answer. Musically we’re a hodgepodge of elements kind of thrown together that only make sense as a whole. So maybe a soup? A burrito? A pierogi? Salad’s probably too boring. Would have to be a jazzed ass salad.

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