SXSW Music Interview: Mastodon

Prog-metal giants go heavier yet



The movie that sparked Emperor of Sand: David Lean’s 1962 classic Lawrence of Arabia.

Heavy music, heavier subject matter, Emperor of Sand finds Mastodon trudging into the barren desert on the Georgians' seventh prog-metal odyssey, out March 31 on Reprise. The tale of a man sentenced to death in desolate, dry lands, it summons supernatural forces as his life expires. The unforgiving hourglass, the finality of death, and reckoning your true self all come into play.

The quartet's penchant for concept albums often begins with drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor, who wrote the lion's share of the new album's lyrics and reveals that he often conceives Mastodon's narratives in cinematic visions. The movie that sparked Emperor of Sand: David Lean's 1962 classic Lawrence of Arabia.

"I don't think a specific song came out of it, but it was the jump-off point for basing the record in the desert," he explains. "The first song we wrote and put together was 'Sultan's Curse.' The vibe of it conjured up the cinematography from Lawrence of Arabia – this vast wasteland of a desert."

Meanwhile, mortality pervades the heavily melodic LP – recorded by Crack the Skye producer Brendan O'Brien – something attributable to three band members dealing with illness in their close circles. In contrast to previous efforts relying on variant compositional combinations, Emperor was born from jams between Dailor and Mastodon guitarist Bill Kelliher, who've been playing together since their Nineties tenure in experimental heavies Today Is the Day.

"It just so happened that Bill was really needing to get some songs out," shares Dailor. "He had a stockpile of riffage and was dealing with his mom's cancer. It was not only a distraction, but Mastodon is also our job, so I went over [to his house] every day and we talked about the state of our moms' medical stuff and we'd commence to jamming in the basement and we'd start recording stuff. Eight months later, we had just about everything we needed for a new album."


Mastodon

Fri., March 17 @ Empire Garage, 12mid

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
Spoon's <i>Hot Thoughts</i> Remodels the Locals' Art-Funk
Spoon's Hot Thoughts Remodels the Locals' Art-Funk
Britt Daniel and Jim Eno talk about the rise of R&B in the band's sound

Tim Stegall, June 2, 2017

Playback – SXSW Recap: Love, Hate, Garth & Trump
Playback – SXSW Recap: Love, Hate, Garth & Trump
Final love / hate SXSW listicles

Kevin Curtin, March 24, 2017

More by Kevin Curtin
Local Music to Livestream, Download, and Otherwise Enjoy Digitally
Local Music to Livestream, Download, and Otherwise Enjoy Digitally
What we’re watching and listening to

March 20, 2020

Livestreaming in the Age of Quarantine
Livestreaming in the Age of Quarantine
Austin musicians “going live” instead of playing live

March 18, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Mastodon, SXSW Music 2017, Brann Dailor, Empire of Sand, Bill Kelliher

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle