So, a band release their debut EP and 1,5 weeks later they're asked to play Keep It True festival. Doesn't sound believable, does it? Yet it actually happened to the Aussie rockers from Sabïre. "Gates Ajar", the EP that got them the gig was enthusiastically welcomed in the metal underground circles and the guys are currently working on the follow-up full-length album. I saw them open KIT earlier this year, thoroughly enjoyed their set and met this positively crazy bunch after the show so, the natural next step was an interview with the band's founder and mastermind Scarlett Monastyrski.
As far as I know you founded the band in 2010 so, why did it take you 8 years to release the debut EP?
Well, it was at the end of 2010 to be fair, so for me finally putting a tangible line-up together with enough songs for an album or so by March/April of 2012 is reasonable. I spent 2011 writing songs and was bedridden for two months over the summer due to injury. A year after putting a line-up together, I was making plans to move to Australia so I dissolved the band. I kept on writing though, but I slowed it down to a crawl. In Australia I simply had no luck finding suitable members. Everyone was in bands already and the ones that weren't did not want to play the kind of music I was presenting. Even when I did eventually get a line-up going, the work going into the live show was not in the interest of the players. People got fired, people quit. By June of 2016 I said goodbye to my last bass player and I had had enough. I was over this idea of finding the members, rehearsing to play shows, then hopefully record and get big. It wasn't going to happen that way. So I opted to do it Bathory style and just go straight to recording. We were meant to do a simple 3-track professional demo to send to labels with an attractive press kit, but by February 2017 after recording the guitars I thought, "If we have to re-record one of these songs, let's record three more and actually release it ourselves as a proper mini album. To hell with a label demo!" So we spent the rest of that year rehearsing to record, and I built my own studio. The guy I was meant to work with, well let's just say I was informed it would be detrimental to the product. I had to do it myself! It took all of 2018 to record, and re-record all the guitar, bass and vocal tracks plus mix, and remix, and re-remix the record, as I was doing this all for the first time. By December of 2018 it was ready, and we let it out into the world.
So the material on "Gates Ajar" is a collection of tunes written over those 8 years?
It's a collection of material over those 8 years, yes. The thought going into the mini album was this: if this is to be the only Sabïre release ever made, it must be wholly reflective of what the band is. So we didn't necessarily choose the "best" songs, just the songs that could best describe seven aspects of the band if there were to be no subsequent releases. Mission accomplished.
Were the other guys in the band involved in the actual song-writing at all, or just in the final arrangements and fine-tuning?
They were not involved in the song-writing, no. Paul, of course was involved in the final tuning of how the drums were to be played.
When googling "Gates Ajar" I came across info about a well-known novel about afterlife, with the same title. But based on your lyrics, it's not what inspired the EP's title. So what did?
Gates Ajar is an actual place in Canada in an area that I spent a considerable amount of time in during my childhood and formative years. When I was pondering on a title for the mini album I went through many working titles, none of which really clicked. Titles like, "Genesis," "Open Wide the Door," "Door to the Beyond," or even the word "Showcase" in different languages. Nothing worked, but all those titles were tying to say the same thing. After some time, I was struck with the lightning bolt of memory back to the ominous name of a remote part of Canada that always frightened me as a child. It was then that I knew that "Gates Ajar" must be its name. Intensely personal, just like everything about Sabïre, it worked perfectly.
The EP was out with two different covers. Why?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Sometimes in life you have to do what you got to do. This was one of those times. In future we may put the record out again with the original cover, but it won't be now.
If you had to pick one tune from "Gates Ajar" to represent what Sabïre is about, which one would you choose?
Probably "One for the Road" because it is the easiest to brush off, yet the hardest to explain what it's about with its deceptively deep lyrics. Sonically, it has everything that is typical in a Sabïre song; a fast steady beat, backing harmonies, an exhibition of guitar tone, and a full body swell. Perfect acid metal. I would say it's the song to mark Sabïre with.
You had a chance to present your music to quite a significant crowd at Keep It True festival earlier this year. Did you enjoy that event? Did you get to see any other bands?
Yes, we had a great time. Everyone was so nice and we met so many fans. We made a heap of new friends and it was nice to catch up with my friend Geoff Thorpe from Vicious Rumours. I only got to see a few bands, but the other boys saw a few more. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the band I was most excited for (Satan) because we had a flight to Sweden to catch.
How hard is it for an Australian band to get gigs in Europe?
I actually really couldn't say, as we have not encountered this problem. We were fortunate enough to be asked to play a good European festival within a week and half of the record being released. Offers to play shows came in after I organised the Stockholm gig and haven't stopped!
Let's go back to 2010. What was the band name inspired by? Apart from the fact that it's a rare first name, I couldn't find any info about the origins of this word. Does it have any special meaning for you?
Yes, it has a tremendously special meaning for me. "Sabire" is a name I made up when I was about 9 years old. I held onto it for a few years and gave it to a "successful Hannibal or Spartacus-type character" of my creation in middle school. So when the idea for the band came into my head, the name came right after instantly. If I started a project like Sabïre that was that personal, the name needed to be something personal too.
I think you've played in punk and black metal bands before Sabïre so, what inspired you to found this more classic hard rock/metal band?
That is correct; I did play in many punk bands, most of which only ever recorded, only one managed to play live, and one black metal band. When I started Sabïre, my desire was to build a project that just played what I came up with naturally when playing an instrument. Now, because that was not really what I had been doing previously, this wasn't something I was totally comfortable presenting yet. Believe it or not, this approach was not something I realised I could even do, because everything before had to fit into whatever style of band I was playing with. So, Sabïre was a secret personal project of mine for a short time before I was ready to start talking about it to people and finding members. I didn't think of it as "classic hard rock/heavy metal" when I started, and still don't, I just regarded it as "playing."
Yet the music you write for Sabïre actually is a mix of classic hard rock and metal, with a dose of Motörhead-ish rock 'n' roll. Are there any particular bands you draw inspiration from?
That's a bit of a hard one to answer. We've been around closing on 9 years now so inspirations change as the band has evolved into what it is today. There have been 9 years worth of songs written, albums and albums worth, and I continue to expand as a songwriter. I draw inspiration from many sources more as a way of challenging myself to do better and learn new tricks. But my base influences really come from the music that shaped me as an artist; early Beatles and Offspring, Loreena McKennitt, Rudimentary Peni, S-Haters and Underlings, Eric Clapton, and Dire Straits. That's it really.
You're sometimes compared to W.A.S.P., but I think it's your image that people have in mind, rather than the music. So, has Blackie had an influence on you as an artist in any way?
Certainly. In two profound ways Blackie Lawless has had an impact on me. The first way was from simply listening to the song "B.A.D." for the first time. It was through that song that I felt like what I wanted to do with music and with Sabïre was OK, like it was OK to be entirely myself. I couldn't believe I was listening to something that sounded like what I was apprehensive to show the world. It was the final straw that broke the dam, the final boost of confidence, and the rest came pouring out with a vengeance. The second was regarding lyrical intention. I was watching a video of Blackie talking about the approach to "The Headless Children" where he spoke about finally writing about the things that were really going on inside his mind, what he was really carrying around and thinking about. Once again, it was just another "aha" moment for me just to 100% be exactly myself with lyrics and write about what's really going on in my head.
And where did the term "acid metal" come from?
That's a good question, I'm glad you asked. The "acid" term for describing overall sound has been with me for a long time; all the way back to 2006. I had seen a genre tag called "acid punk" attached to the Rudimentary Peni song "Pig in Blanket." I pondered on this tag for days after, just utterly fascinated with the severity of the song I was introduced to. "Acid... acid... acid," I kept thinking. The word fit perfectly with Nick Blinko's guitar tone and Grant Brand's octave, twisting bass. I was hooked. That began my obsession with chasing the perfect acidic tone. I even wrote a song for one of my early bands the Kidney Stones called "Acid Punk" about my vision of the genre. So that's how the word and the general sound got its start for me. Over ten years later and the word was still with me, as was the approach and vision. Sabïre's music could be described as nothing else but acid metal.
If you don't mind me asking a personal question, your family name is of Eastern European origin. Do you maintain any ties with your ancestors' homeland?
That part of my family is actually Ukrainian, and unfortunately no, I have no ties to Ukraine. My grandfather, who bore that name, despite being born in Canada to two Ukrainian immigrants, had to change it to a more anglo-friendly name to obtain work as a school teacher back in the 1940s. "Ukes" weren't being hired in abundance at that time. To make matters worse, my grandmother did not want their sons learning anything about their Ukrainian heritage. They were not raised Orthodox, they did not learn the language, the dancing, or their history, yet they still ate the traditional food oddly enough. So I know nothing, and it does bother me. I took his true name as my professional name in honour of him.
You're working on a new album. Can we expect any changes in style or sound, any surprises, or are you just continuing along the path taken on "Gates Ajar"? When will it be released?
That's the thing, I don't know if I can be too much of the judge there. I'm not sure what you mean by the path taken on "Gates Ajar." That mini album was a showcase of identity, whereas "Jätt" is an exploration of the broad concept of hell. "Jätt" will be out in 2020. What I can leave you with is an excerpt from the accompanying epistle from the upcoming full length:
"December 11th 2018
Jätt: the Streckish word for Hell. Aptly fitting for this album's title. The songs in collection here express in general, a feeling of discomfort, some more severe than others. Discomfort at its extreme is hell. Hell is more than a location, it is a state of mind, an emotion, and in some cases, a way of life."