Lionel Pryor: The Strife of Sound
As indie rock continues to pervade the New Jersey music scene, members of Lionel Pryor are not afraid to stand apart from current buzz-worthy bands. Inspired by life’ s most prominent antithetical forces, Zakk, Mike, and Andy are attempting to melodically deliver the meaning of their band through bludgeoning riffs and tuned down guitars, which ultimately prove to listeners: a band doesn’t need to have a singer in order to deliver an effective message.
Who are the members of Lionel Pryor? What instruments do you play respectively?
The members of our band include: Zakk Gilbert, 22, who plays guitar, Mike Coviello, 24, who plays the drums, and Andy Longo, 26, who plays the bass the guitar and the elka.
Where are you all originally from? When did you meet? How long have you been a band? How old are you?
Mike and Andy are from Hasbrouck Heights, and Zakk is from Bogota. Zakk and Mike have been playing music together since the 6th grade in their garages. In 2006, Andy and Zakk formed a black metal band Grim Monolith. Andy left the band to further pursue his band, Burbis. Burbis was an instrumental band that had a huge influence on the sound of Lionel Pryor. After Grim Monolith, Andy and Mike both strayed away from what they loved. Andy was in a pop punk band called American Classic, and Mike was hitting the cover circuit trying to become rich. Zakk was in a Death Metal band, The West Memphis. After the West Memphis broke up, Mike and Zakk started jamming again. A bass player was needed. The first person they thought of was Andy. It did not take much convincing to get Andy to join, and then Lionel Pryor was born. We have now been a band for a year and a half.
How would you describe your musical style? Who are some of your muses? Who are you most frequently compared to?
We like to consider ourselves an Instrumental-Progressive-Stone-Metal-Jazz-Doom-Fusion-Core.Some of our musical muses include Black Sabbath, Radiohead, Meshuggah, Miles Davis, Steven Wilson, Sigur Ros, Opeth, Animals as Leaders, King Crimson, Minus the Bear, Mogwai, and This Will Destroy You. People tell us we sound like nothing they have ever heard before.We don’t mean to sound pretentious, but it’s the truth, and that’s what we are trying to get across. We want to be something original and unique. We don’t even really get compared to other bands. People tell us things like “I can’t even get off anymore because it does not even feel half as good as the eargasm I just got hearing you guys play live.”
How would you describe Siam? When did it debut? Is it your first effort or have you had other EPs prior to this one? How long did it take to record? Where did you record it? Can you talk about your song-writing process?
Siam is the constant struggle between good and evil, light and dark, and all the positive and negative forces in the world battling for control of our souls. In its most elemental form, Siam is a collective vision to create the soundtrack for this silent struggle. We give it a voice with our music. All the dark Matter that surrounds us, and everything we can’t see in all other dimensions – that is Siam.
The CD came out on April 13th 2012. We recorded it with Kevin Antreassian at Backroom Studios in Rockaway, NJ. Kevin totally understood what we needed. He is a great producer to work with. He really pushed us to challenge ourselves, which is always the sign of a great producer. This is not our first CD; we recorded two prior albums that we were never able to complete for many different reasons. So Siam could be considered our third album.
Our songwriting process is simple. We get inspired, and then we jam for hours. We tend to write two or three songs at a time. We usually have no idea what any song will sound like, but we just go for it. The album artwork was done by Andy’s brother Josh (you’ll find his website here), and the layout was done by his other brother, Lenny.
Do you feel like you connect to the current New Jersey Scene? What connects you to it and what sets you apart from it?
Zakk: To be honest, no. There are too many carbon copies of bands just trying to stick to a specific genre. There are too many bands that are just trying to jump on the current fad. Too many bands in the music scene are too concerned with the actual scene, and not the music. That goes for a lot of fans, too. A lot of people just go to shows to be a part of a scene. They don’t even care about what music is being played. To me, there is a severe lack of musical integrity in New Jersey’s scene. I want people to see this, get pissed at me, and write some great music to show me that I’m wrong, because I want to be wrong about this. There are always exceptions. Sometimes we come across great bands that have something original to say. What connects us to other bands is when we see a band that has something new to say, like bands that take genres and merge them with other ones to create something that sounds fresh and unique. Music should never stagnate and get stuck in genre conventions; it should be like China Under Mao, always in a state of constant evolution.
Mike: It’s hard finding a scene accepting of the sound we are trying to play. Like Zakk said, people are so caught up in just being there that they are quick to not even give instrumental music a chance. Musicians, and people who are not afraid to enjoy something outside of their comfort zone, give us great feedback, and it really inspires me. It makes me want to keep writing this style and turn it into a scene of its own.
Andy: I do not think we connect with the current scene. Yes, people come to us and tell us how mind-blowing our music is, but it only goes that far. I want to gain fans by playing incredible original music. I do not want to fall into a trap and have to play something that has been heard. I want to keep my musical integrity. People in NJ need voices, need lyrics; otherwise, the common person doesn’t know how to handle instrumental music. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing in NJ, and playing with different genres of bands. It makes Lionel Pryor stand out even more.
I saw you guys perform live at The Lamplighter Release party, and you put on a very theatrical live performance. I felt like I was watching an indie progressive rock Phantom of the Opera – what are you looking to achieve when performing live?
Andy: I always love to put on a show. Before the white mask, we used to play with lights and strobes, which I controlled with foot pedals. The lights created a different element which connected with people. Since all of them broke, I had to come up with something new and outlandish. One day, I decided to wear a plain, emotionless white mask. This created a totally new element to our live show. The mask really motivated people to stick around and watch us. I like to stare into people’s eyes as I play, almost to make them a part of the show, whether it scares them or hypnotizes them. At our CD release, I brought back the white mask, and I have been wearing it since then. Overall, I love how people like the mask – it lures people in, and then I want the music to blow them away.
Mike: I really enjoy the visual aspect of the music. It just adds another element to our live show. It is easy to listen to an album, but anyone who has been to a live show can tell you that we are a live band. Growing up going to Kiss concerts, Slipknot concerts, and Ted Nugent concerts always got me super pumped, because these guys would go out, and they wouldn’t be afraid to be different, and they’d just wail on their instruments to make you have a good time. By painting my face and adding black lights and strobes lights, it gives the audience another reason to keep coming back to see what we will do next. Art and music should go together and enhance one another.
What are your plans for summer 2012? Do you have any upcoming shows? What is some of your favorite NJ music right now?
We plan to tour wherever we can this summer, and hopefully to get noticed by a label. There is no show we won’t play. The best feeling in the world is playing to people who have never heard us. Get at us – we want to play by you, and we are great house guests. Here are some good bands we believe in from NJ: Science, The Sun the Moon the Stars, Float Face Down, Audio Insight, Dutchgutz, Wild Smells, Hollywood Kills, Gyre, Indiana Bones, and the best band you have never heard of, Mothership.
You can find more information about Lionel Pryor’s upcoming shows at www.facebook.com/lionelpryor