Periphery - they're bloody everywhere on the interwebs at the moment...

Periphery's Spencer Sotelo talks albums,singles and Foxy Shazam...

He’s munching turkey. I’m sick as a dog. The phone-line’s being a bitch. Welcome to my interview with Periphery vocalist Spencer Sotelo.
Spencer is apologising as his voice comes fizzing and crackling down the trans-Atlantic connection; he’s busy scoffing turkey between interviews. No problems, Mr Sotelo; I’m sick as a dog so I’ll try and muster as much enthusiasm as I can. And so he swallows his last mouthful of delicious turkey and I try to maintain my (limited) sanity and fight the hideous fever that threatens to consume me.

First off the bat; how does the new album Periphery II differ to the debut that we loved so much? “I would say the biggest difference is probably the singing – I’m not saying that just because I’m the singer and I wanna talk about myself! But honestly that’s probably the biggest difference. For the first record I didn’t write all the vocals on it but on this record I wrote everything, all of the vocals, all of the lyrics, everything, and that’s probably why there’s such a big difference.”

Because you wrote all of the lyrics for the new album, was it easier to fit them around your vocal style? “Hell yes! Absolutely. I had the time to do it as well. I had all the time in the world to sit down and really dissect the parts and write the parts how I wanted. I just had some time to play with them. I wrote half the songs and I scrapped them and rewrote. I really got to just have all the time in the world to perfect them. It was awesome.” So what have you learnt, either as a person or a musician, between the two albums? “I’ve learnt a lot. I don’t know if you know this but when I first joined the band, I joined and went right into the studio to record Periphery 1 and then I got shoved out on the road right after that. It was my first time playing shows as a vocalist and I really had to learn on the fly and I just got shoved out there and here we are three years later and I’ve just learned so much from touring, being around other musicians and I’ve been able to take it all in and apply it in my own musical life.”

So what were some of the challenges with recording Periphery 2? “I decided, because I had the time to do it, I was gonna do it without any tuning on the vocals; do it like you’re supposed to do it, you’re supposed to sing the part and that’s how it’s supposed to sound and that was quite a challenge. Before going into the studio, I told Taylor (Larson) ‘We’re gonna do this with no tuning’. I used mild tuning on harmonies here and there but that was just so everything’s nice and neat but all the main vocals on the album; there’s no tuning whatsoever, and I feel more accomplished as it was more of a challenge but you feel better in the end and I’m really glad we did it that way.”

I ask Spencer if bands even bother with singles anymore, what with the digital age smashing down our doors and relieving itself on our carpets. He tells me the single’s getting released in a week or so and it will be Make Total Destroy’, a delightful track off the new album. You, dear readers, might have heard about it on the web? Apparently for the new album Misha Mansoor gave away mixing duties (he still produced the album); according to Spencer “Taylor, he owns a studio called Oceanic Recording, he recorded it and mixed it but Misha was at the helm producing. He got the guitar tones and stuff like that but he didn’t record it this time.” I ask if Misha has a touch of the control freak about him and Spencer just laughs...

So as a singer, do you get much of say in the composition of the music? “Oh yeah! Absolutely. I even wrote an entire song for this album; it’s the third track on the album. It’s called Facepalm Mute. I wrote all the guitar riffs...” He also programmed the drums for Matt (Halpen) to get an idea of what he was going for and as Spencer puts it, Matt ‘Peripherised’ them. That’s a new verb form, right there. Use it, boys and girls, use it...

So do you have a favourite out of composing, recording and touring? “I think I like writing the most. I think I like composing; that’s when I have the most fun. I like touring too though, but writing is my favourite thing.”

Speaking of composing, how do you guys get that huge Periphery sound? Is it layers upon layers of tracks? “It’s tons of layers of just SHIT! Piled on one another; if you get done with one of our songs, there is no space in the mix! You can’t fit anything else in there, it’s fucking taken up! I wish people could hear the stripped down version of the mix and single different things out because there is so much going on, you can’t really even tell what’s happening until you solo it out and you go ‘Oh yeah, that’s in there’ or you mute it and then you can tell but it’s definitely there.”

Given the recent line up changes, do you feel that the band is now a solid, permanent outfit? He’s adamant that this is the case: “I feel Periphery is a strong as it’s ever been right now, and I’m not knocking on any former members that we had – they’re all great – but I feel that with the line-up we have now, Periphery has never been this strong before and on the next album, I think it’s really gonna show on that too. Everybody having had time to be together, because the new people that we hired, they haven’t been in the band too long but I feel by the time the next album rolls around they’ll have found their spot comfortably in the band and we’ll all be able to write together that much more inspirationally.”

So you don’t see the band as a fluid entity with the whole being greater than sum of its parts? His answer is a resolute “No, no, no, no, I don’t want it to be like that. I don’t want it to be like a revolving door like ‘Once that opening comes around, get the fuck out of the band’. I don’t want to be like that. I wanted to find a solid line-up, which I feel we have now, and just stick with it, you know? We’re looking to find the right people and stick with ‘em because I feel our band will function most efficiently that way.”

Going back to the new album and that easily recognisable Periphery sound, what is it about that juxtaposition of the soft, ethereal parts against the heavy djent riffs you enjoy so much? Spencer ponders for a moment before answering: “It’s the contrast I think. That contrast between something being super heavy and brutal and something else which is on the other side of the spectrum being ambient and pretty and just melodic. When you mix the two together you get a really cool sound and we’ve kind of taken that and run with it over the years.”

Periphery are doing a huge tour from June to October, going to Europe then back to the US and then back to Europe again; what the hell’s going on there? “We’re heading over for a couple of festivals in Germany then a week later we’re going to Download then we’re coming back here, doing the Summer Slaughter then we’re back to Europe with Between The Buried And Me. It’s gonna be great. We’re doing a co-headliner with them so I guess both of us will be switching on headliner dates or something like that.”

So we know Misha is like some kind of composing machine, churning out tune after tune. Do you guys have lot of spare material for next couple of albums? “Yeah but we don’t like to use old stuff anymore. We’re at a point where all of us are writing so from here on out it’s gonna be mainly new material. You may hear some riffs from certain old demos or from Misha’s old Soundclick page but it’s pretty much going to be new songs from here on out.”

So what are the stand out tracks for you? “I think right now my favourite is Ragnarok...it’s between Ragnarok and The Gods Must Be Crazy!” I have to say Ragnarok is one of my personal faves. Spencer agrees saying ”It’s heavy! It’s heavy as shit!” and you can hear the pride in his voice as he says that. There are no definite plans to come back to Australia any time soon but Spencer alludes to the possibility in a mysterious, enigmatic way: “There’s been some talk about it, there’s nothing set in stone yet but we’re talking with the people we need to be talking to and we’re going to get it happening as soon as possible. I’m sure later this year there’ll be some announcement or something but like I said; there’s nothing set in stone yet...” So you’ve toured Oz with Tesseract and Dillinger Escape Plan, who would you like to tour with next time? “I would love to tour with Karnivool, if we were gonna tour with an Australian band I’d love to tour with Karnivool – they’re an amazing band – they’re actually one of my favourite bands.”

And who are you listening to right now? “Right before you called I was listening to Foxy Shazam. I’ve been listening to them for a while but I just saw them live for the first time a few weeks ago and they blew my freaking mind open. It was ridiculous! The best live show I’ve ever seen in my life.” So can we expect you to incorporate some Foxy Shazam into the Periphery sound? Sadly, it doesn’t look like it: “I don’t think it’ll work – but I have been adding some more soul style singing into Periphery – you’ll hear a little bit of it on this album and probably some more on the next one.”

And finally, do you have any interests outside of music?
“It’s constantly music for me. Right now, when I’m home I produce singers in the studio and right now I’m working with two bands and it’s non-stop. One of them, I record in the day and the other one comes in at night so there’s no rest for the wicked!”
There may no be any rest but there’ll always be turkey...and Periphery.