We’ve had something of a boner for Rinoa ever since their phenomenal debut album, An Age Among Them, started spinning on our stereo. Which is why Hugh Platt has been bothering their guitarist, Jozef Norocky, with these smarmy questions.
Critics have been split over the album – rocksound gave it a 10, our man Andy Parker gave it a full 6 out of 6, and Rock Midgets gave it 4/5, but Kerrang! was a bit lukewarm on it. Has this divided reaction been a surprise?
“Well, we were all obviously thrilled with those first reviews you mentioned. Yeah, the Kerrang! one was a bit of shame, but KKK aint too bad. The guy loved the music and didn’t agree with the vocals. Neither does my mum. That’s his opinion, and that’s totally fine, we’re just happy to be written about.
“You just have to hope it doesn’t put people off checking us out. In a perfect world everyone would love the album, because for us it was a labour of love, and seeing something negative written about something you created can be hard at first, but you have to realise that its part of the lifespan of every art form to be judged by those who are not invested in something you created in the same way you are.”
Why do you think people find it so hard to describe what the album sounds like? I can’t do it without sounding like a pretentious dick. How do you describe it?
“We’ve had all sorts…post-metal, sludge, prog, melodic thrash…we get the classic Isis, Neurosis, Pelican references. I don’t think any of that’s particularly accurate. For us, we’re hopefully just creating huge, passionate music. We’re not trying to be ‘progressive’, our songs tend to be slower and longer because that’s how they come out.
“I’m sure the others would have their own interpretations but the way I like to think of it, in complete layman’s terms, is ‘post-rock songs played by a hardcore band’. My favourite label we’ve ever had has to be ‘skyscraping hardcore’…to me that just perfectly encapsulates the magnitude, volume and metaphorical highs we strive for, as well as the passion and intensity we play with.”
What would you say the overall ‘’message’ of An Age Among Them is?
“Well, the theme behind the album…the artwork, the song names and the lyrics…is based around the Northern Lights phenomenon. If people want to look into it and do a little research, they’ll find a lot of reference in the song names and stuff that relate to various aspects of the Lights, and such. The album looks at the various interpretations of the phenomenon, and how it was explained by our ancestors before modern science explained them…there’s a wealth of folklore surrounding the phenomenon and it worked well with the music and the moods and emotions that came out. The romanticized idea of the dead wives, the swan trapped under ice, the dancing spirits…I think the album represents and evokes a certain sentimentality and respect for our ancestors and their ways.
Watch Rinoa’s 2009 tour video:
“The title of the record is about spending eternity with your loved ones in the afterlife and whether you believe those things or not is irrelevant – the emotions that come from the ideas the Northern Lights inspire and inspired in people is what the music represents. Unless you ask some of the people I work with, in which case it’s about worshipping the Devil.”
EPs and splits are all well and good, but why did it take you so long to get a full-length album out?
“Well the writing process was about a year and a half, but the E.P. came out June ’08, the vinyl split with Bossk in Spring ’09 and July ’09 we went to the studio for the album so I’m not sure that’s really a massively long time…we completed the recording in October, but all the stuff that you don’t think will take a long time actually does, and suddenly its March!”
When I look at the album artwork (and to some extent, the S/T EP) is very evocative of leaving a space open for the music to fill in. Was this a message were you trying to convey, or was it something else entirely?
“It’s a combination of a few things. With the EP I think you’re right…its simply a spacious landscape, which hopefully suits the mood of the music. It has a clutter-free, natural feel to it, again, like the music.
“With the album there was also that element…but there were also practical considerations. We wanted something iconic; a cover that was a statement of intent and gave you nothing to think about but the band name, so that there was no distraction. That’s why we went with what is hopefully just a simple, elegant and memorable design. Artistically speaking though, it ties in with the themes of the album, which, as I mentioned, is based on the Aurora Borealis. You have the pure white background, hopefully evocative of a vast, horizon-less, snowy landscape. Just calm and natural and beautiful. And in the midst of that you have the swans bursting through the ice and flowing into the atmosphere on a swathe of colours. Not only does that tie in with lyrics, and song names of all the tracks, but hopefully again brings you back to the idea of the music as this giant wall of sound, peppered with moments of melody and beauty. Boom.”
Was it an easy decision to go with Jonny Renshaw from Devil Sold His Soul on production duties again? Were you ever tempted to go with someone else?
“Yeah it was easy, and no we didn’t seriously entertain the thought of anyone else. We’re comfortable recording with him, he’s great…and the peaceful, scenic surroundings are perfect for us to just be able to tune out of normal life and get on with recording the music. The fact that we don’t have to worry about building new relationships with a producer, or looking for ‘the sound’ when we already have that with jonny, just means we can focus a lot better.”
Is ‘post-hardcore?’ a dirty word? Should it be?
“No I don’t think so. I’m not an authority or anything, but it always reminds me of really great bands like Earthtone 9, Glasjaw and, the more I think about it, The Dillinger Escape Plan, who took that heavy but non-metal approach to their music and put their own spin on it…building on that hardcore foundation with something unique and forward-thinking. Maybe heavy isn’t even the right word with Glassjaw…maybe its ‘abrasive’. Anyway, If people want to say we’re post-hardcore, then to me that certainly makes more sense than calling us ‘most-metal’, which is what we more often get.”
EyesOfSound has consistently wowed us with the bands they’ve signed up. How did you hook up with them? And why do you think the label has been so successful in such a (relatively) short space of time?
“Ryan from EOS was checking out bands Jonny had been recording and I guess Rinoa stood out. He asked for the EP recordings and after a few listens and some positive feedback from friends in the press, he proposed doing it as an EyesOfSound release and bringing the band onto the label’s roster. So actually the band was signed before its first show I believe. I think, as a fan of the bands on the label, they just have a good ear for progressive, interesting music. They put a lot of effort into smaller, more extreme bands and I guess people are becoming more open-minded with what they listen to. Long live EyesOfSound!”
Rinoa playing ‘Memory’ at Southend’s Chinnerys in November 2009:
Despite your music is closer to post-rock, lots of people have lumped Rinoa in with a lot of the identikit t-shirt whatevercore bores doing the rounds. Why do you think people are making this ludicrous assumption?
“I have absolutely no idea. Maybe it’s the heavy vocal approach? Or maybe people just feel more comfortable pigeonholing bands. In any case, it doesn’t really matter to us…if a hardcore kid or a metal kid ends up hearing about us because we’re mentioned in the same breath as other bands they like, then that’s totally cool. I think we do genuinely have something to offer them.”
What’s the single most ludicrous tour story you feel comfortable in telling us? We’ve seen your 2009 tour video and want more.
“Hm. Our merch guy Graeme once said ‘momontous’ instead of ‘momentous’. Another time a couple of us ended up in a Lesbianic pill den in Southampton. We’re not very wild I’m afraid…Kenny G and hot baths for us.”
If you had known just how much disturbing hentai would come up on Google when people search for you, would you have picked a different band name?
“Hand on heart, I don’t think any of the guys envisaged a day that people would want to Google the band. And finding pictures of pretend Japanese girls when you are looking for a band on the internet is kind of awesome. If that’s your thing.”
Rinoa’s quite-frankly fucking excellent debut album, An Age Among Them, is out now on EyesOfSound. If you haven’t already bought a copy (and why the hell not?!?) then bloody-well get your act together and go buy one. You know where would be a great place to pick up a copy? The merch stand at one of Rinoa’s forthcoming shows:
Rinoa UK Spring tourdates
15 London South Of The Border
29 Reading Face Bar
30 Milton Keynes Crauford Arms
06 Southampton Unit
07 Chelmsford Barhouse
08 Portsmouth Edge of the Wedge
09 Sheffield Corporation