EMQ’s with MNRVA
Hi Everyone. Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with Columbia, SC based Doom/Stoner/Sludge Metal band MNRVA! Huge thanks to Vocalist/Guitarist Byron Hawk for taking part!
What is your name, what do you play and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
Byron Hawk, I play guitar and sing. We started in the summer of 2018. We wanted to do something sludgy and mid-slow tempo so started out with a few covers of Melvins, Witchthroat Serpent, and Bereft (WI) and then jumped right into working on our own songs. They started coming out with a little 80’s prog, a little 90’s sludge, and a little 2000’s metal, so we just ran with it. Not as bluesy as a lot of stoner rock today, but definitely heavy.
How did you come up with your band name?
Gina, our drummer, wanted to use Owl of Minerva, but there is already a band with that name, and there are a number of bands called Minerva too, so we just stripped it down to MNRVA. Something about the goddess of both wisdom and war fits our vibe I think. The stripped down version is pretty identifiable too so it works well. We’ve had it long enough already that it feels right.
What country are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
We’re a US band, so the scene overall in the country is good, but differs a lot with region and city. We live in the South-eastern part of the country, so most big tours come through the region either in major cities like Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC, or smaller cities like Charleston, SC and Asheville, NC. We live in Columbia, SC, which is the state capital. There is a really good small scene here and it’s close to many other mid-large sized cities to play gigs. The music scene in Columbia is a network of smaller genre-specific scenes across 4-5 venues and we tend to stay connected to those both in terms of playing and attending shows.
What is your latest release (Album, EP, Single, Video)?
We are preparing to release an EP called “Black Sky” on October 4th from a recording session earlier in the year. We’ll be releasing it through Bandcamp and then preparing to release a full record in early 2020. We’ve also got a video in the planning stages, but waiting to put out any specifics about it other than it will be a song from the EP called ‘Not The One’.
Who have been your greatest influences?
This is a tough one. I’ve listened to a lot of music for a long time. As far as more classic 80’s doom goes, I’d have to say Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, and even Fates Warning. Too many artists from the 90’s influenced how I write and play, but I’d say Melvins for sludgy guitar tone and just general attack of the instrument. In the 00’s I listened to a lot of Deftones and A Perfect Circle, both have really influenced my songwriting. In this decade I might say Mastodon—great sound, playing, and songwriting. Their vocal approach influences MNRVA a lot I think. Kevin, our bassist, and I share vocal duties and we try to play off of each other like they do. But even all of this seems like a limited list. I listen to a lot of stuff across a number of genres from blackened doom to experimental noise.
What first got you into music?
Seeing friends play and thinking I could do it too. I grew up in Texas and historically there has been a great music scene there. Getting into that and having a community around music was a huge draw as well.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Chino Moreno of Deftones seems pretty successful with all of his collaborations, so I might put him at the top of the list. Would love to write riffs with him and hear his voice over them. Guitar-wise it would be super cool to play with Jim Matheos of Fates Warning. I think his musical sensibility would be great to write with and learn from. Who would I want to get on stage with and bang out some songs? Refused would be fun.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Another tough question, since there are so many great ones. We’re definitely interested in playing the Maryland Doomfest at some point, but I’d also really like to play Keep It True or Hammer of Doom over in Germany. Was always a fan of many German bands and they of course have a great scene and tradition there.
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
I did a lot of music trading back in the day so lots of tapes, CDs, stickers, zines, and shirts, but nothing particularly weird.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Come see us live if you get the chance!
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
If it is only one, I’d have to say Hendrix. Everything fuzz or distortion-related today goes back to him both in terms of playing and tone. There is no way we’d have the sounds we do today without him. Would love to see what else he could have done with a longer career.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
I love the creativity. Writing songs and developing the music I hear in my head is tops for me. Also just expressing myself through music and performing those songs live. I’d probably say I hate carrying equipment the most.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
I wish there were a better, more sustainable way to make a living as an artist, just across the board. This isn’t a knock on labels or downloading or anything in particular. It’s always been difficult, especially in the US, to survive as an artist. The world would have a lot more great music with more support.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
Going out on a limb I’d say Fear Factory’s “Digimortal”. Probably not even their favourite record of theirs, but I think that one slays top to bottom. Great songwriting, great sound, super heavy and intense! Metal all the way. I used to listen to that one on a loop, and did so for a long time.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Might be out of fashion for the moment, but I’m still a fan of CD’s. I like vinyl, but don’t collect it. Gina, our drummer, is a huge vinyl collector. I’m still not sure what the draw is to go back to cassettes, but there is room in music for all of the above. Bring ‘em on.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
For me personally that’s a tough one. Back in the day I was in a band called Arcane and we played shows with Watchtower, Solitude Aeturnus, Fates Warning, Sanctuary, and one with Death Angel and Forbidden. Those were good times and great shows. For MNRVA, I’d say our last local show in Columbia. Our sound is really coming together and getting dialled in and feels good when all of that happens live.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Trying to figure out how to be a musician!
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
Outside of music, I’d love to get five modern artists together and just talk about making art and creativity in general. People like Pollock and Jasper Johns from the US, and maybe Duchamp, Dali, and Matisse. Creativity cuts across mode and genre and it would be super interesting to hear this diverse group of artists talk about their methods of production and theories of creativity, figure out what might be common across them, and then maybe also common to making music.
What’s next for the band?
Working on a video with a local filmmaker here in Columbia, preparing for the EP release and show, and then shopping the full record around for a record label. We are hoping to get the record a wider circulation and then turning that into some festival shows.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Right now we primarily use Facebook, but will be releasing our EP via Bandcamp. That seems to be the best site at this point. It’s a great network and easily allows fans to buy and download directly.
Jaffa Cakes! Are they a cake or a biscuit?
No idea. Had to look it up! I’m gonna go out on a limb and say biscuit. But in the US we call them cookies. Definitely looks like a cookie to me.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Come check out MNRVA on Bandcamp after October 4th 2019 and give our new EP a listen!
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