We first encountered Pariah, the Swiss stoner-rock band, when their excellent debut album, ‘Mirage’, landed upon our doorstep. A band who very much embrace the DIY ethos, Pariah slowly honed their craft out on the road in a mini-van, whilst their attention to detail is such that the album art was created in-house, by band member Ruedi, rather than outsourced to a third party. The album is both powerful and memorable, and remains a high point of this year’s impressive array of releases. When reviewing ‘mirage’, we concluded that “the emphasis on developing ‘Mirage’ as an album is also a great strength and there’s a powerful ebb and flow that runs through the record leaving the listener happy just to drift with the current and let the music take them where it will” (read the full review here). It seemed, therefore, a good idea to track the band down and find out more about their development, writing process and more. Read on and meet Pariah, they may well become your new favourite band.
First of all could you introduce Pariah to us?
Pariah is the project of the brothers Ruedi & Christian Eugster and Stefano & Alessandro Cappilli, based in Zurich / Winterthur Switzerland. Through mutual friends they knew of each other. Finally in 2011 all future Pariah members were not in a band. So it was time for a jam session; would the chemistry be right? Yes, the brothers clicked and a couple of jam sessions later the first songs manifested themselves.
After a handful of gigs, Pariah decided it was time for their first minivan- tour through Germany, France and Switzerland. Finally, after 50 shows sharing the stage with many bands including Valley of the Sun, Kill it Kid, Mothers Cake and Dagoba, Pariah released their debut album ‘Mirage’ in May 2016.
We termed our music energetic stoner. But what does it really mean? Well, I’d say the bluesy groove of stoner rock, with some metal and odd time signatures thrown in just to keep it interesting.
Before you even get to the music, there’s some fantastic artwork courtesy of Ruedi – could you tell us a little about the design process and the importance to you of having good artwork?
Music comes first. Always. Thus the main inspiration is the music for which the design is made. Then the whole band decided on the album title ‘Mirage’ which strongly pointed the direction the design had to go. Every band member handed in five pictures that connected to this title. Finally we all decided all to use the fantastic jellyfish photo by Andy Murch. For us a good album-cover represents its content – the music.
The album sounds amazing – how long did it take to develop from initial ideas to the recorded final versions? How did you get Dan Suter on board for the mastering?
The songs ‘Mirage’ and ‘Gringo’ came to life in their initial form probably in 2012. Touring helped shape them here and there. However, we really started to work on the album last summer. Of course we had some ideas and songs that we thought would fit well in an album format. We made some demo recordings and sent them to Marc Bouffé so he could prepare himself for the recording sessions ahead.
Then we met over the period of two weeks in our rehearsal room every day. There we would work on song details but also thought about the album as a whole. Songs that were cool but didn’t fit were left out. The album closer ‘Ten Thousand Pale White Trees’ was written during those sessions. We believe strongly in the album concept and want to take the listener on a journey. After all, the world is crazy enough and an escape for an hour is what we want our audience to have…and sure, we love to take that trip too.
Dan Suter is simply the man in Switzerland. He does a great job for a fair price and has a great reputation. In fact, the studios we checked all work with Dan Suter when it comes to mastering. He’s worked with newcomers and stars alike. Marc Bouffé, our recording engineer, worked with Dan Suter many times too, both as member of the high-energy rock band Hathors, and as a recording engineer with his own Working Class Recordings studio, where we recorded the album.
Marc and Jeannot (Steck, Soundcheck Studios, our mixing engineer for the album) took an important role in shaping the album. We appreciate the honest feedback and creative inputs both gave so the album could grow. Dan Suter’s quick understanding of what the sound needed in the mastering department was incredible.
When it comes to writing, do you jam on songs as a band, or do one or two members write the tracks and bring them, more or less complete, to the others?
Most of the songs start with a riff and some ideas that Ruedi brings in. We then jam on that idea and record it and put it on our Dropbox. Then every band member listens to it and thinks about how to go on, might develop some additional ideas at home. Then we come back to the rehearsal room and really shape it bit by bit. Most of the time a song is created, sometimes however we just can’t find a fitting bridge, chorus, next part whatever so we leave it and go on with the next idea.
The first real test is of course when we play the song live and quickly get an idea what works and what not. You know sometimes an idea sounds huge and perfect when just played to yourself, but has no impact to the people “outside” of our little group, sometimes you might think the idea is worth nothing but then realize it actually really, really works with the crowd.
It’s incredibly challenging now to get music heard – how have you approached getting your music to a wider audience?
We released our debut album on all major digital distribution channels like iTunes, Spotify, Deezer., GooglePlay. It’s amazing how fast music spreads on the internet. And yes, it’s indeed worldwide. We reached people in California, South of France, UK, Germany, The Balkans, Mexico… So that alone brought more attention to our music. Then we sent out promo packages to radio stations and magazines. The national radio station SRF3 added our first single ‘Mirage’ to their playlist and we were featured in their rock radio show. We have yet to decide on the song to use for a video. These days people “see” songs; a good video-clip elevates the song. Of course our main goal is to gig as much as possible and get our music heard live.
What do the band look for in terms of subject matter inspiration – is there any particular area that informs the songs?
Everyday life and whatever bothers. The topics on the album include whistle blowing, supporting one another no matter what, abuse, about to go insane…
Aside from touring extensively, do you have any other plans to promote the album? I can imagine that you must have some interesting ideas for videos, budget permitting?
A video is a good promotion tool. We haven’t decided yet which song to feature. There’s some budget and luckily we have some very talented friends that might be perfect for the job and of course Ruedi (the singer) is a fine visual artist himself.
We sent the album with a press sheet to various magazines and radio stations via an agent in Wales. And as you pointed out, we’ll play as many shows as possible.
Any final words for UK fans?
Support your local pub, club and any venue that has live music. Apparently even the music capital UK loses more and more venues where live music can be enjoyed.
Find out more about Pariah here.