Javier Reyes of Animals as Leaders: Interview


Since joining Animals as Leaders in 2009, Javier Reyes has helped the group firmly plant itself in the upper echelon of the progressive metal movement.  We thought it would be an excellent idea to pry into his mind a little bit for some perspective on writing new material, musical inspiration, tour life, and his thoughts about his current tour-mates on AAL’s current Summer tour. Check out the interview and don’t forget to read our full review of the June 1st show they played at Trees, Dallas.

Sam Thompson: Do you guys visualize certain imagery when writing new material?

Javier Reyes: No… I don’t think so.  At least for myself.  I’ll start with a simple chord progression and it kinda flows from there.  A song usually leads me to where ever it does.  Once it’s complete I look at it afterwards and kinda go, “What’s the vibe that it’s giving me?”, and I come up with a song title from that. Because it’s instrumental, it could mean anything.  Songs take several days to make, so one emotion one day doesn’t necessarily reflect the same way the second day.

ST:  Does that process help develop track titles or album themes?

JR:  It’s all an after-thought really.  All the songs will be done, we won’t have any order. Then it’s like “Okay, we have this group of songs.  This one sounds like this, and this one has ‘that’ kinda vibe…”

ST:  Who would you say influenced your style?  A teacher or a musical group?

JR: I had a teacher named Julio “Koko” Sosa, who is an Argentinean classical guitar player.  We didn’t really do the classical school of music, since there was already a lot of Latin American music on classical guitar.  I was his apprentice (in a way) for a long time, starting in my early teens.  I just kind of absorbed that style, it became me.  It’s just what I do.

ST:  Thoughts on Conquering Dystopia.

JR: I think it’s sick! I think Jeff Loomis is an amazingly clean guitar player. It’s awesome to see everybody in that band constantly practicing, or warming up. They’re really aware of their instruments.  I’m stoked we brought them up; they are an excellent addition to the bands on this tour.

Chantelle Prejean: I’d like to chime in on that.  Is this the first tour you’ve gotten to know these guys or did you know them prior?

JR:  I only knew Alex Rudinger.  He’s from the DC are as well.  He actually auditioned for Animals As Leaders when he was 17 and was super skinny and had long hair.  Never lifted any weights.

CP: Yeah, now he works out a lot on tour?

JR: Hahaha, yeah now he and I work out together on tour.

ST: That’s awesome.  Alright, thoughts on Chon?

JR: I love Chon.  I love them.  I wish I was their father. I love them a lot. I think they’re awesome as people, and I think musically they’re incredible.  They’re inspiring.  We’re kinda looking at them like, “Holy Shit! Alright, that’s a new level, we gotta step our game up.”  But I’m also stoked we get to do this for them.  Most appropriate tour for them to start their young career.

ST: Are you guys stoked to play in Dallas again after your last experience in March when it was freezing cold and you guys had to play outside?

JR: Yes. Definitely!

ST: So it’ll be nice to play a full set?

JR: Absolutely. It’ll be nice to feel my fingers, feel my strings.  I’ll be consciously aware of the notes I’m playing as opposed to not. Because my hands were numb.

CP: Didn’t y’all stop the set halfway through that day?

JR: It was literally impossible to keep going.  For one thing, we were having technical difficulties. None of us could hear our clicks because there was so much interference from all the other wireless units.  So Matt (Garstka) was the only one.  Our wireless packs weren’t working.  The laptop was on the other side of the stage, because the stage was split in half. So it was already the most worst ideal situation?  Hahahaa, so we ended up being like “Fuck this.”

ST: And y’all only played older material on that set, I’m excited to see new material tonight.

JR: Yeah, that sucked too. We only got to play Tempting (Time), Wave (of Babies), and Cafo.  And on tonight’s set we’re playing five new songs.  I think the new material translates live really well.  We still love them though and wanna keep playing old material too.

ST: Speaking about new material, talking about Woven Web.  There’s a groove pattern about midway through that song.  I was wondering if parts like that maybe hit you guys really deep as you were writing them, and you hear it think “Oh my god, this part is gonna pop?”

JR: You talking about that thumping part?

ST: Yeah, the thumping part.

JR: Tosin (Abasi) wrote that with Misha (Mansoor, Periphery). Tosin had the idea of bringing the thumping idea in a slightly different way than the bass.  Kind of have a pattern based technique based on hammering-on, away from the original technique bass players used where it was thumping first. So they had the idea, and originally glued it together from other parts and made a riff.  And when it came time to record the real track, Tosin went and made a more realistic version that’s actually on the album.  We play it live now.

ST: Did Matt develop the drums for that, or did Misha and Tosin have them pre-written?

JR:  Pre-written between Misha and Tosin.  And then Matt came behind and did his own thing on it.  We wanted Matt to have his sound on it, and I think it ultimately glued the whole album together. There were 7 songs demoed the same way as the first album.  Just kind of the skeleton of the song, the drums, rhythm guitars, and some synth.  Some things actually got really changed because Navene (Koperweis, Fleshwrought) went in and altered a whole bunch of shit. A lot of people worked really hard to make this album come together.

ST: Well thanks for your time, that’s about all we have for you.

JR: Anytime, I’ll always be here.

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