IN THE PRESENCE OF WOLVES: Moby Dick Meets Tron Legacy

In The Presence Of Wolves

In The Presence Of Wolves is a progressive rock/metal band from South Jersey/Philadelphia area. Established in 2009 and fully realized in 2012, the 4-piece quickly became a staple in the local prog scene and has performed at such esteemed venues as the TLA, Trocadero, Kung Fu Necktie, and The Legendary Dobbs. Musically, the band combines the composition of classic prog rock with the intensity of modern metal and the finesse of jazz, resulting in a sound that is both music fans of many genres and unique amongst the progressive scene.

In December 2014, In The Presence Of Wolves released their debut album entitled “Thalassas,” and Prog Sphere talked with guitarist and singer Chris Capitanio about the creative process that informed the record, among other topics.

Define the mission of In The Presence Of Wolves.

Our mission is to make good music and have fun doing it! Yah boobay.

How did you go about forming the band? Why “In The Presence Of Wolves” as name?

Vini [Stamato, bass/vocals] and I have been playing together since high school. We spent several years trying to find other members and eventually met Justin [Alexander, guitar/vocals] at a jam session. He brought in Mason [Ingling, drums/vocals] on drums and things started developing very quickly. We spent a long time trying to figure out a band name and eventually started going through song titles from some of our favorite bands. At the time, Incubus had just released “If Not Now, When?” which featured the song “In The Company Of Wolves.” A few bands were already using that so we just changed “Company” to “Presence” and haven’t looked back.

In The Presence Of Wolves - ThalassasTell me about the musical concept behind your debut album “Thalassas.”

There is no single underlying concept behind the album as the songs were written over such a long period of time. That being said, all of the songs do deal with dark themes, such as loss, abandonment, and mortality. I like to believe that even though the songs each have their own self-contained story, they are somehow connected in our own fictitious universe that we’ll continue to explore.

Thalassas” seems to be quite a challenging work. Lead me through the creative process that informed the release.

Vini and I had written pretty much all of “Palladium,” “Hypoxia,” and “Thalassas 1 &2” on our own over several years. Once the other guys came in, the creative process became much more collaborative with everyone contributing firstly with “Man of the Times.” Finally, “Birdsong” was a random song that I had written and brought to the guys. They all enjoyed it and we fleshed it out as a group.

Where was the album recorded, and how long it took you to complete the work on it?

We recorded the album at Backroom Studios in Rockaway, NJ, USA over about 13 days. Though we technically started writing the music as far back as 2009, we were writing some of the most challenging parts up until we had to record them.

Speaking of challenges, is there a creative challenge to deal with in that the band members occupy similar sonic spectrums?

One thing that helps in terms of the sonic aspect of the band is that we play everything in standard tuning, with the exception of “Man of the Times.” When you drop tune, there’s always problems with the guitars taking up some of the bass range. So we manange to bypass that. Though sometimes Vini likes to play really high on the bass and it occupies the guitar range. Then I yell at him and he goes back to a solid supporting role. [laughs]

I suppose that title of the album has to do something with the Greek mythology. Elaborate on that.

The album title stems from “Thalassa” who is a Greek goddess of the sea. The story behind the title track is that of a sea voyage so it felt like a cool title that not only encompasses part of the story but also personifies the sea as a character.

Delve deeper into what “Thalassas” song triptych is communicating.

Vini describes the piece as “Moby Dick meets Tron Legacy.” It’s a story of a young man who’s trying to find the father who abandoned him as a child. He goes on a sea voyage full of obstacles, including an interdimensional portal and a sea monster. It’s a story of not only abandonment and loss but also of love, self-empowerment, and the lengths that you would go to find that which you’ve been searching for your whole life.

Do the lyrics on “Thalassas” apply as metaphors to modern life?

Absolutely. Even though each of the songs has a story or concept, they are still based in reality. It’s fun to write lyrics conceptually but they still need to be personal in order to really connect with the listener.

In The Presence of Wolves

What were the biggest challenges you faced when working on the album?

Writing with four people was definitely the toughest part. Everyone in this band is capable of writing amazing music but it can be really tough to work collaboratively when everyone has their own idea of where a song should go and we have to try to keep everyone happy. Despite that, the songs where we worked very closely together as a band are some of the ones we’re most proud of.

When we were in the studio, the biggest challenge was actually in beating our producer, Kevin Antreassian, at Marvel vs Capcom. [laughs] He has an arcade machine with hundreds of games and he’s awesome at all of them. I managed to beat him a couple times and it was definitely a fulfilling part of the recording process!

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

Like I mentioned prior, we learned just how difficult it is to write with all of the members at once. We’ll definitely be switching how we write our future material to hopefully make the process a little less painstaking.

What have you been listening during the songwriting process of “Thalassas”, and in which measure it shaped the album’s final structure?

We listen to a lot of music all the time, from the big prog bands to a lot of jazz and even pop music. When we first started writing the material for the record, we were listening to a lot of Incubus, The Police, Rush, Muse, and Mars Volta. Since then, we’ve really been influenced by the likes of King Crimson, Porcupine Tree, Mastodon, Tool, and Opeth. But we also take influence from acts like Steely Dan, The Dear Hunter, Meshuggah, Jamiroquai, and Prince.

What types of change this music can initiate, in your opinion?

We don’t expect our music to ever promote any kind of social change but we do hope that our music can act as a gateway into more complex music for some of our listeners. Even though our songs are long and contain lots of unique time signatures and harmonic content, we still strive to make sure that our music is accessible to those who may not typically be fans of progressive music.

Where do you draw the inspiration from and how do you go about channeling it into writing?

For us, the most inspiration still comes from other music. A lot of ideas have come from trying to learn other music and stumbling on a cool riff or chord progression. We also draw a lot from experimenting with concepts from music theory that we may be learning or unfamiliar with.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

Unfortunately, we’ve dealt with a lot of personal issues in our lives recently and that has certainly made its way into our music and will continue to do so. Also, we’re fans of so many movies and pieces of literature which have played a big role in our method of storytelling.

What is your viewpoint on the struggle bands are facing today as they try to monetize their output?

Making money from music is one of the most difficult things to do. We all have day jobs that allow us to pay bills AND play in a band. Obviously, we all hope to do this as a career but right now our biggest concern is just writing great music and trying to get people listen to it. It’s really unfortunate that the industry is in the place it’s in now but at the same time it’s very exciting (in both good and bad ways) to see music going in a direction that’s totally unpredictable.

What does the future hold for In The Presence Of Wolves?

Right now, we’re just trying to get our music out to a wider market. We hope to begin touring very soon and are really excited to hit the road. We have numerous shows coming up (anyone interested can find those dates on our website, ReverbNation, Facebook, Bandcamp, etc.) and we are thrilled to be opening for Haken at Bullshooters Saloon on May 1. Also, we hope to be a part of as many festivals as possible this summer.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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