‘we’re constantly trying to “disconnect” as much as we can’ | Interview with Derev

Derev’s song “Futile” develops for 5 mins before erupting into an anthemic, adventurous riff best enjoyed with an appetite for experimentation. A tight, polished production. A compelling debut single. Read our discussion below.

Describe your sound in three words please.

Bold, dynamic, bittersweet

How do your different origins and life experiences come together through your creative process?

Michel: The EP was written entirely by Armando (guitarist) and me (drummer). We’ve been writing together on and off since we met in high school in Kuwait and have always embraced our different and shared origins. While we are both heavily influenced by western Rock music, we grew up in the middle east, so we were immersed in Armenian and Arabic cultures, and that clearly comes across in our music.
The core melodies of all the songs were written during our jam sessions. We’d then record these ideas and build on them according to what flowed best with the music. For most of the songs on the EP, the lyrics and the music were written simultaneously, often one driving the other. For “Futile” however, we had a clear vision of the story we wanted to tell, and the music was written according to that. The story was so vivid that we decided to have an animated music video to deliver the message of the song as best we could.

Would you like to give us some hints about your forthcoming EP?

For sure. Lyrically, the EP targets numerous controversial topics and social issues that our community faces on a daily basis. It starts with a track that talks about questioning things that are culturally presumed as absolute truths, what is moral and what is taboo, the idea of going to war for peace and so on… The second single to be released later in the year “Delayed” discusses personal struggles and hurdles that bring us down leaving us stumped and overwhelmed with self doubt and remorse, rather than taking action and achieving what we set out to do.
Although the EP is not a concept album and each song aims to discuss a different topic, the common theme is about seeing things from a different perspective and taking action to make a change, thus the EP’s name “Leap of Faith”. The overall experience of the album delivers a message that every listener can relate to and be moved by.

Musically, the album combines the energy and intensity of metal music, with the atmospheric feel of the old school progressive rock music, while incorporating elements of our Arabic and Armenian heritage. It’s also filled with mellow sections and solos that trigger the listener’s emotions to deliver the message of the EP not only through melodies and lyrics, but also through a personal intimate experience.

Your single “Futile” describes the embeddedness of technology in every aspect of our everyday life. Which are your ways to “disconnect”, if you have any?

Well you could say “Futile” is a journey through the mind of an individual who is subconsciously exhausted from living this modern way and yearns to go back to the natural way of life and connecting with nature. We’re fully aware of how technology has become integrated with our everyday life and daily activities, we’re constantly trying to “disconnect” as much as we can.
A great way for us to do so is to simply get our acoustic gear and get lost in nature, whether through a prolonged camping trip or a simple hike. It’s truly mesmerizing to connect with nature and to hear its interaction with your music. It’s a magical experience and I urge everyone to take a break every once in a while to experience these moments that a lot of us take for granted today, each in their own way.

Which places would you choose to visit as part of a tour if you were to have one in the near future?

Short answer… everywhere. But realistically, our first tour will probably start with local shows around Ontario, Montreal, Quebec and possibly Vancouver and Halifax. It all depends on how things progress with the virus and live shows. We definitely can’t wait to play live.

What do you love about Canada and what annoys you the most?

Michel: The weather (laughs). But in all seriousness, I’m personally very thankful to be here. Coming from Syria and the middle east where every musician and artist is constantly struggling on a daily basis to find work or in some cases a place to stay, let alone expressing their ideologies and art, is absolutely frustrating. In less than 3 years here, I’ve achieved what I’ve been trying to accomplish for the past 12 years of living in the Middle East…I’m truly blessed to be here with my bandmates and to be able to pursue this career as a musician.

Can artificial intelligence replace composers?

Michel: That’s a great question, I’d say yes, and no. The pace of advancement in technology today is truly phenomenal. Every time I think about how we were living just a couple of years back, I’m astonished by how far we’re going with this. So, to answer your question, yes theoretically speaking, I think it’s possible and probable to be able to come up with software to compose music and arrangements that a lot of people might dig or find interesting without any human involvement. In fact, technology is embedded in a lot of the music we listen to today, whether in genres like EDM & Techno, or even bands and live shows like “Compressorhead, The Trons” or “Captured by Robots”.
With that being said, composing music is a very personal and intimate experience. I find it very hard for a machine to imitate or capture this essence of what we call “the human element”, at least for the time being.

Armando: I remember watching a TED talk where they played a piece of classical music that was fully composed by AI, and if I hadn’t known, I would have thought that it was written by a famous classical composer. Having said that, I’d like to think it won’t ever fully replace composers. It will definitely be able to imitate and create similar pieces of music, but when it comes to emotions, inspiration, nuance, and imperfections, especially in rock music where real live instruments are recorded, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

What would you all do if you weren’t pursuing music?

Michel: Both Armando and Liam are engineering graduates from University of Toronto and are working in that field. As for me, I received my dental degree in Syria and currently working in the medical field as we’re writing and releasing music. We’re still not fully dependent on our music as a source of income but we do hope that things take a turn after the EP release.

Thank you!

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