NUMPH: Dreams and Nightmares of the Subconscious

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Coming from Carrara, a small town in the northwest Italy, progressive rock quartet Numph emerged in late 2010 aiming to create a unique sound what is, you will agree, something we hear way too often these days. Following a good acceptance of the introductory “Four Zoas” EP by the audience, Numph produced “Theories of Light”, an album that borrows a wide spectre of elements from variety of genres.

For the “Theories of Light” album you worked with Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, The Sword) on mixing and Ed Brooks (Isis, Pearl Jam) on mastering. Are you satisfied how the final product turned out?

Numph: Absolutely. We were looking for someone who worked on albums which we feel that resonate with us. We knew Matt Bayles because of his excellent works with some of our favourite bands and we are impressed with his work on Theories of Light, because not only he undestood immediately the sound we were aiming for, but added a lot to it. A great artist and a cool person. He wisely suggested us to work with Ed Brooks on mastering. Once again, he was absolutely right. The album sounds as it should.

The album has been out for something more than 2 months now. What is the response of the audience and media on it?

Numph: We are starting to promote the album right now, but putting it on bandcamp gave us the possibility to be found and work with Killshot MGMT, so I think it was a wise move. We have a beautiful relationship with our audience, because we put a lot of hard work and and artistic honesty in what we do and they seem to spot it. People ask for a physical copy of our album from various parts of the world, they ask us about the band and the album, and want to know more.

Numph - Theories of Light

Tell us more on the creating process of the record. You started working on the album in late 2011 and it took almost two years to have it finally released. Were there any difficulties that kept you from releasing it earlier or you wanted to give it a time and place the things the way they should be?

Numph: Both. Between our fist EP and this album we changed the bassist and we needed some time to regain some balance. We played a bunch of live shows, hang on between ourselves listening to records and talking about music, then we finally come back working on the album. At this point, we took all the time we needed. We started crafting patiently every piece of the puzzle. Having a lot of different elements and styles the variety was not lacking at all, but our goal was to give all this material a distinctive sound, to make it sound like a whole. I hope we succeded in this.

Which bands/artists influenced your work with Numph? I have to mention two names in particular that echo off “Theories of Light.” These are Soundgarden and Pink Floyd. What can you say on this?

Luca: We listen to a lot of music, so the influences are really varied. Regard this record I would say Mastodon, Tool, Isis, Baroness, Mars Volta, Intronaut, Soundgarden, Pink Floyd… I could go on and on… Soundgarden is doubtless my favourite band from the grunge era: very creative, great guitar work, an interesting use of odd time signatures, plus they are fantastic songwriters and Chris Cornell is one of the best rock vocalists ever. Pink Floyd is one my favourite bands ever… I grow up with them and they are an endless source of inspiration.

Which song off the album would you chose as a track that sums up what Numph is about?

Numph: The title track, Theories Of Light. It contains a lot the elements and atmospheres you will find in the album, is kind of an overture.

The beautiful artwork for “Theories of Light” was designed by Jeffrey Smith. What does it symbolize?

Jeffrey : Everything I put into the artwork started to heavily develop when I heard the music. The band’s music itself is what shaped and defined the atmosphere of the artwork. It was very easy to create actually, easier than my personal work because Theories of Light is so potent with visual aspects, and the music is very vibrant. I took aspects of Luca’s description he gave me early on about the album and wanted to create something that had contrast as well as unity within the design.

The inside of the package is very dark, while there are brighter elements on the outside. The front cover was heavily inspired by their song ‘Deep Impact’ I took the symbol of a tree that gave life within a barren landscape. This somewhat symbolizes a journey, to find the source of light, hope and life, similar to how the songs evolve throughout the album. From the tree it spirals up into the sky, which the back cover depicts. This symbolizes a freedom at the closing of the album, leaving the listener looking forward and beyond. Overall I focused on the importance of light all throughout the design, light within darkness.

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What are you dealing with in your lyrics? Are they metaphorical visualizations related for your personal experiences?

Marco: We’re living the crisis of our culture, tossed into the pervading sense of the irrational and chaotic that clutch the soul whenever we face the choice, or the truth. Our lyrics seek to address the dreams and nightmares of the subconscious, to change our sense of things and identity. Metaphors, by their nature, open semantic vortices in which everyone can hunt their own white whale.

Is there any space for improvisation in Numph’s repertoire when playing live?

Numph: Our idea right now is to perform Theories of Light from start to finish, without pauses or substantial variations. In the second part of the show, where we perform new arrangements of songs from the EP and other tracks we wrote during the TOL sessions, you might expect some surprise…

What kind of gear you use in studio and live?

Luca: I use PRS guitars, most of the time my Custom 24. I absolutely love her! For my guitar tones I rely totally on my Axe Fx 2, from Fractal Audio. I use it in the studio and live and basically I don’t need anything else, just a MIDI pedalboard and some expression pedal to control it. In my opinion it is the best piece of gear EVER. Antonio uses a 5 string warwick corvette FNA for live and studio session, and occasionally a 4 string thunderbird for lower tunings. In Theories of Light bass is recorded with Axe fx 2, while live he uses Markbass amplifiers and MXR pedals. Vocals were recorded with C414 and a TLAudio PA1 and Marco uses TcHelicon Voicelive2 on stage. Giuseppe uses Pearl Masters Custom drums, Pearl Ian Paice signature snare and Sabian cymbals.

Name five most inspiring and influential albums that were/are crucial for the Numph’s existence.

Luca: If i have to chose only five I would say:

Mastodon – Crack the Skye
Tool – 10000 Days
Isis – Wavering Radiant
Soundgarden – Superunknown
Opeth – Watershed

What comes next for the band?

Numph: We are currently programming the live dates with our management. We want to play our music in front of the broadest audience possible and we work every day to perform it at our best.

Purchase ‘Theories of Light’ from Bandcamp.

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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