An Interview with URSUS

Ursus

UK progressive metal/djent band, Ursus have just released their debut EP titled “The Migration,” a release that’s heavily influenced by likes such as Periphery, Veil of Maya, Between The Buried And Me, Intervals, to name but a few. Prog Sphere talked with the band about the record, which is available from Bandcamp as name-your-price/free download. 

Tell me about the band’s beginnings. How did you go about forming the band?

Ursus originally began a few years ago, in the beginning there was Dom (Guitar) and Aaron (Drums) who had been friends for years and tried to start projects before Ursus but never managed to get things off the ground, Wiltshire can be a bit of a pain for finding fellow musicians who share interests and passion for going somewhere with a band and not just playing to the same 50 mates in a pub once a month. Through mutual friends Dom and Aaron met James (Guitar) and got together to jam, this was about 2 to 3 years ago, this carried on for about a year until we eventually found Ryan (Bass) and things started to take form, then it was just the task of finding a vocalist, we had approached Rob once or twice mid 2014 but he had being working on other projects, around December/January time he approached us asking to hear some of our songs, he really liked what he had heard and asked us if we were interested in giving him an audition, around the same time we decided that we needed a third guitarist as there was too much stuff in our songs to be covered by just two guitarists so we recruited Jamal, the day Rob had his audition was also the first time Jamal had rehearsed with us, after years of trying to get the project off the ground it was incredible to have a room full of people passionate about making music and having a full line up.

Were any of you guys involved in any other projects/bands before forming or joining Ursus?

Because of all of us being quite young we had never really had the opportunity to play in many gigging bands before. Rob, a few years older than the rest of us had a bit more experience in gigging bands having fronted an experimental Metal/Hardocore/Electronica band for about a year before playing around with a few other genres and then joining us.

What does the name of the band mean?

The word Ursus is Latin for bear, we wanted to find a name that matched the aggression of the bands sound and stage presence, bears can be pretty aggressive so we figured it was quite a fitting name.

Ursus - The MigrationYou have just released your debut EP called “The Migration.” Tell me about the creative process that informed this recording.

The creative process was quite straightforward for this EP. Our guitarist James wrote all the songs originally and recorded simple demos before we even had the bass player. After that as members joined and it got closer to the actual recording the rest of the band acted in a producer role for the songs suggesting any alterations and extra parts that were needed for the songs. The finished songs were then sent to Rob when they were done who wrote all the vocal parts by himself.

Where did you record the EP, and how long did it take you to complete the work on it?

The recording, mixing and mastering of the EP was all done by James (Guitar) so the EP was almost completely recorded in our own homes. The drums were all programmed in however we had Aaron (Drums) run over all the parts so that we could make the drums exactly as he would play them. Therefore even though it wasn’t his actual performances it was his parts. The guitars were all recorded at James’ home and the bass at Aaron’s just to keep everything on as low a budget as possible because when it was all done we wanted to release the EP for free. These were all actually completed before we had a vocalist so after this the vocals which were done by both Rob and our third guitarist Jamal were all recorded at our friend, Sergio Hunt’s home studio so we could get a studio quality vocal at low price. Each part of the process individually was very quick with all the guitars being done in 4 days and the bass in 2. The vocals took a bit longer as the recording sessions were very spread out and we were very picky with the parts as we wanted everything to be as good as possible so this probably ended up being about 4 or 5 separate days in the end for the vocals. This also includes the evening we spent tracking the guest vocal part done by Beth Humphries. Despite each part being relatively quick the actual process took a very long time. The guitars were all recorded back in December before we even had a vocalist or our third guitarist and the bass in January but then because of gigging commitments and studio booking it took up until the end of June to complete all the vocals and the guest part was done mid-way through July.

What kind of gear did you use for recording these songs?

The gear used on the EP was quite a low budget set up. The guitars were all recorded with a reasonably cheap Marshall stack being miked up in a coat cupboard with James and Dom using their stock 7 for all the rhythm guitars. Luckily because of James’ dad also being a musician we had access to some seriously nice guitars for the cleans and lead parts on the EP like a Gibson Les Paul as well as an American Telecaster and a 1973 Strat. The drums were all programmed using the stock avatar kit on superior drummer. The bass was done using a sans amp pedal and a vst bass amp plugin mixed together. The vocals were just done on a simple condenser microphone at the studio we used.

Which bands influenced your work on the EP?

Generally bands like Veil of Maya, BTBAM, Korn, Intervals, Monuments and Periphery are big influences but our influences vary a lot between each member, we think this is great because it helps to give us a slightly different sound and also influences our stage presence live, for example Rob is heavily influenced by bands like letlive, Gallows and System Of A Down, which means he goes completely nuts on stage, climbing on the bar, getting in the faces of the audience and really connecting with the crowd to give them a memorable performance, I think this definitely fuels the rest of the band and makes the beast that we are live.

Did you perform any of the songs from the EP live? What was the response from audiences like?

As we released the EP on the same day that we had a local show with Belial and From Dusk Till Dawn we decided to turn that into our EP release show. We played the EP in full and got an amazing reception. There was a great turn out for the gig and everyone seemed to really love the songs. We printed a bunch of copies of the EP and we were giving them out for free at the show and every last copy went, we had so many people come up to us and compliment us on our set, it was completely incredible and it made us feel honoured to be part of such and awesome event!

Ursus live

Are there any plans of touring Europe in the near future?

Touring is something we would all really love to get into, we’re still looking for the right band to go on our first tour with, we also have to work around our day jobs and studies which can be an absolute pain, so at the moment we don’t have any plans for a European Tour.

What’s your view on modern prog metal scene?

With so many bands now leaning towards a more progressive sound, there is definitely the potential for over saturation in the market however because of sites like It Djents and Got-Djent among others there is also an amazing platform for new progressive metal bands trying to break through that there simply wasn’t a few years ago, his is making it much easier for bands who prefer that genre. Obviously the most important thing is that fans of the genre get involved with their local scene and support the underground, in our local area a lot of promoters who work so hard to bring amazing shows the area have to call it quits because their aren’t enough people supporting the scene.

Which modern progressive metal bands do you find inspiring and pushing the creative envelope?

Obviously bands like Periphery are always surprising people with each release and probably among other bands leading the progressive metal genre. At the moment though bands that have been around for a while like Northlane and Veil of Maya have both come out with albums drastically different from their original material and both are stunning albums.

Where do you see Ursus in the future?

We would love to play some of the major festivals, especially Tech-Fest! Getting the opportunity to properly hit the road and do a full UK tour would be incredible, to be honest the chance to make Ursus something that we could devote our full time to, so that we could really give everything our full attention without having to work it around full time jobs and everything else would be the best feeling in the world.

Follow Ursus on Facebook, and grab a copy of “The Migration” EP from Bandcamp.

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