LUNAR: Extreme Diversity

Alex Bosson

After Sacramento-based prog death metal band Lunar launched their full-length debut ‘Theogony back in November 2017, the group was faced with heartbreaking news that one of the band’s co-founders, guitarist Ryan Erwin passed away. Mourning the loss of his bandmate and friend, drummer Alex Bosson took it on himself to pen up a release inspired by this tragic loss.

Fast-forward to November 2019, Lunar returned with their sophomore effort entitled ‘Eidolon‘ which saw the band collaborating with a number of guest musicians including members of Haken, Caligula’s Horse, Steven Wilson band, Fallujah, and more.

Bosson spoke for Prog Sphere about the creative process behind ‘Eidolon,’ overcoming challenges he faced during that time, and more.

How did you come to do what you do?

Well I started playing drums at the age of 13. When I was in my teenage years and early 20s I played in death metal bands. Then I had a few years when I couldn’t play due to some back problems and surgeries. During that time when I couldn’t play drums I would dabble a little bit in guitar and piano. Never anything too serious, but learned some of the basics of playing. When I was in my mid 20′s I was able to start playing drums again. At that point I was easing back into playing, so Ryan [Erwin] and I casually started making some music together in what would eventually become Lunar. We started off by doing Provenance, the first EP. After that we did the first album Theogony, with the help of a lot of guest musicians. Shortly after the release of Theogony, Ryan, unfortunately, passed away. A few months after that, I began the process of writing the next Lunar album without Ryan.

You released a sophomore album with Lunar entitled Eidolon in 2019. How did the creative process for the album go?

It was very different this time around doing this album without Ryan. With Theogony the riffs and ideas were about 50/50 between us, and the construction of songs and lyrics was mostly me. So I felt I was up to it with this one given the amount that I did on Theogony, but it definitely made it harder to not have him to contribute or even just to bounce ideas off of.

So with this album I started with the concept idea I had, which was heavily inspired by Ryan‘s death (amongst far too many other people I’ve lost in life). The concept of the album is based on the stages of grief one goes through after losing a loved one. After that I started on writing the guitar riffs and constructing the songs. After that I wrote lyrics and then came up with drum parts, although the drum ideas were going in my head basically the entire time of writing all the other parts.

Lunar - Eidolon

Where was the album recorded and how long did it take you to complete the work on it?

Doing the entire album from the start of the idea to finishing recording took a little over a year. It actually went quicker than it probably should have. I remember writing the initial guitar riffs and constructing the songs took me 12 days. I was on a mission! [laughs] I had the idea in my head and I was determined to get it done. Just kept having the ideas coming to me. After that was done and I had my shitty pre-pro demos done, I went to the studio to record my drum tracks. Then Balmore [Lemus] came and learned everything that I had written and put his own flair on it, being an actual guitar player.

My drums and percussion, Balmore‘s guitar, Ryan [Price]‘s bass and Brian [Lewis]‘s growl vocals were all recorded at Sumplace Studios in California (which is where I’ve done every Lunar recording so far). For Chandler [Mogel]‘s vocals (the main / clean vocals) I went out and met him closer to where he lives. We recorded his vocals at The Den Recording Studios in New Jersey. Then all the guest appearances were recorded by each individual guest, mostly in their own home studios.

To someone who hasn’t heard the album, what can he or she expect from Eidolon?

I think the simplest and most concise answer I can give to that is: diversity and emotion. For the musician side of me, I always appreciate diverse music that can span many genres and feelings (pretty much the definition of ‘prog’ in my opinion), so I think that will come out in anything I write. Expect to hear extreme diversity. One track can be a mellow soft-rock kind of song, and another track will be a pure death metal song. Then for the more, I guess we’ll say, “human side” of things there’s the emotion. The album is very emotional to me given the subject matter of losing one of my closest friends, whom which I started this project with. And I think it’s something pretty much everyone can relate to. Everyone has lost someone in their life in one form or another.

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

I think there were 2 main challenges I faced with this album. One, as I mentioned before, not having Ryan on this one. It was definitely difficult to not have his aide in writing and not have him (or anyone) to bounce my ideas off of during the writing process. And two, as was the case with the previous album as well, having so many guest appearances and handling all the moving parts. What I mean by that is; throughout this process it’s not only the writing and recording that I had to worry about, which can be difficult enough as it is trying to work around everyone’s schedule’s with travel and booking studio time, etc, but then having to deal with guest appearances and figuring out who was willing to contribute, when they were able to have a piece finished and delivered by, and handle the other aspects like making videos and release schedules and things of that nature.

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?

I don’t know that I’ve made many new discoveries, unfortunately. Between doing Lunar, Helion Prime, session drum work and having a one year old at home, I don’t have near as much time as I’d like to listen to music these days. One I did discover around the time I started writing this album, which I can’t believe I hadn’t listened to before, is The Pineapple Thief. Gavin Harrison is one of my favorite drummers in the world! And Bruce Soord is a fantastic songwriter. I’ve also gotten a lot more into Caligula’s Horse since starting this album. I had heard them before, but I really got more into them as of late. That’s part of why I asked Sam Vallen to have a guest solo on the album. He, and all the guys in Caligula’s Horse, are absolutely incredible!

As for the writing approach, I don’t think it’s changed too drastically. I think the biggest change on this album is having more of the metal influence. Ryan brought a lot more of the soft rock, classic rock and grunge influence on the first album that I think may not be there on this one. So I think some of the influence has changed a bit, but not really the writing approach.

Tell me about the complexities of creating this album.

As I mentioned before, it’s always difficult having all the people and managing the schedules of everything. Worrying about the musicians and schedules, booking studio time, guest musicians and when they can deliver, doing videos, etc. There were A LOT of moving pieces going on at once. It became very difficult to schedule some of these things. Then with some things it became “well ‘x’ is already being done and if ‘y’ and ‘z’ don’t deliver in time then ‘x’ gets delayed and that’s not an option. I definitely had to make a few sacrifices along the way to ensure everything got done in time, but ultimately I’m still very happy with the end result.

Alex Bosson

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

I’m not sure that I would expect it to initiate any change, at least on a grand scale of any kind. I think there’s only 2 things I would ever hope for to change from someone hearing this stuff. One; to think of someone besides yourself. There are a number of Lunar songs that are derived from someone else’s selfish behavior. So I guess I would hope maybe someone could hear something like that and take a step back from their own actions just to think “how is what I’m doing going to affect the people around me?” Frankly, I feel there is far too little of this selfless, empathetic behavior in the world today. And two; I would hope that maybe someone can change their mind set when they’re in a dark place. So much of what I’ve written with Lunar stems from a dark place in my life. I’ve been through an incredible amount of dark times of drugs, death and extreme physical and emotional pain. A lot of really fucked up stuff. But I’ve gotten through it. I know music in general can help a lot of people through times of hardship, so I guess I would hope if someone is in a similar place of darkness in their life, maybe they could hear this and change their mindset and attitude. Maybe just to know they’re not alone. There’s myself and plenty others out there that have beaten the hard times and want to see others beat it too.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

No, I don’t believe that I do. I work with the mindset of “go where the music takes you.” The closest thing I can think to a pre-defined pattern I would have is that I have the idea in mind for what the song is going to be about before writing the music to it. I don’t always necessarily have lyrics done, but I have to at least have an idea of what the basic theme or idea behind the song is going to be first, because I want the music to convey the feeling and emotion of the song just as much as the lyrics do.

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

For me I think the biggest impact comes from people. My family, my friends and even just humanity as a whole. Seeing how people interact and how we treat each other. I can’t say that my music is every deeply influenced by a painting or a movie or anything like that. I just write from what I feel… what I know… what I have experienced. Seeing the world around me and the wide spectrum of affects people actions (or lack thereof) have on others. Loved ones I’ve lost, and loved ones I’ve gained. People I love and people I hate. Humanity’s brilliance and their stupidity. I feel like that’s where the things I write about come from.

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

The only piece of advice I think that truly matters is be true to yourself. Keep doing what you want to do with your music no matter what. Stay passionate about it. Because no matter the outcome of how well an album sells, or the overall response from fans, you always want to end with a piece that you can be proud of forever.

Eidolon is out now; stream/download/buy it from Bandcamp, and follow Lunar on Facebook.

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