Vexillary is the sonic project of New-York based producer Reza Seirafi. The name of the project stemmed from his need for something abstract that didn’t convey a meaning right away. A name that took on color and meaning overtime as the project evolved. Vexillary sounded witchy, dark, and abstract. The sound is mixing different influences together; from Techno to Cold-Wave to EBM to Electroclash to Industrial. Reza Seirafi this year unleashed his second full length album “Crash And Yearn” by Con:trace. The work moves on there where the debut album “Full Frontal Lunacy” stopped while there’s a Pop touch on top. This is a project you definitely have to discover and talked about it with Reza Seirafi.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Vexillary is already active for numerous years. How do you look back at the earlier work and your evolution as musician/producer, but still the evolution in influences and music styles?
Reza: Might seem a little cliche but the key to moving forward and evolving the project is to not look back often. I’m beyond proud of every release of mine but it’s pretty apparent that the first 6 EP’s were like an apprenticeship of sorts to get me ready to do my recent LP’s.
There’s been lots of leaps and growth musically in recent years thanks to the earlier work that set the foundation, but I only rank the quality of my music based on the latest projects and outputs. Luckily in my case the latest is usually the greatest and I hope to keep up that trend.
Of course, over time you grow to create your own pallet and box of tricks but for me it’s always about expanding that pallet and getting outside of my comfort zone. I’m inspired and influenced by new things as well which is something that I’m proud of. It’s good to be influenced by new things and try to put your own lens on it. It’s a sure way to end up in interesting territories.
Q: Your debut-album “Full Frontal Lunacy” released last year was a kind of introspective- and very personal work dealing about inner demons, right? How do you look back at this period and what has been the strength and impact of music as ‘cure’ or ‘therapy’?
Reza: I always saw “Full Frontal Lunacy” as an exaggerated self-portrait. it was very me, I was that leather clad burn out drinking absinthe in odd corners of the world. So, tracks like “Burnt Leather” and “Absinthe Minded” and others were self-reflective.
But I’ve always been lucky enough to come back from the fringes naturally one way or another. That’s where the similarities stop. The album highlights a story in which the protagonist couldn’t return to normal and the flirt with madness quickly descended into a downward spiral. It was asking what if there is no return, what if I pass that point?
I think music has always been an anchor for me, more so than a cure or therapy. It’s a way to stay grounded through the madness of the day to day. The recording sessions for “Full Frontal Lunacy” was proof of that. Despite the intense vibes of the album it was actually some of the most methodical and focused working sessions I’d ever had.
Q: The new album “Crash And Yearn” seems to be inspired by the famous fall of Icarus? I see the title as a metaphor to the world we’re living in, but what did you exactly try to express and deal with? And how do you transpose themes into music?
Reza: Yes, it’s loosely based on the Fall of Icarus. Not sure if the theme was there first or it slowly shaped up throughout the recording of the record. Not to reveal too much, but It was again stemming from a personal crash, highlighting a time where I totally hit a wall through the endless pursuit of my own obsessions. I’ve always been an over doer for better or worse and my life has echoed the story of Icarus numerous times. I think most people who are driven by their passions have a similar story to tell. To me, it’s totally humanistic.
But I like to leave things open to interpretation and your point is an interesting take. I think as a society we’re approaching a melting point and an inevitable crash. To me it’s also a fetishistic idea too, that no matter how hard the fall, one would do it again and ‘yearn’ for more just because the potential reward seems worth it.
About the use of themes, for me it’s nice to have a concept when approaching songs or albums, it helps with staying focused and work with specific type of sounds and tempos, etc. For me it’s crucial to keep it somewhat abstract though, so that it’s more of a personal or unique retelling of a story vs the obvious. The concepts are there if you choose to look deeper but it’s way more important to make sure the record works sonically on its own when removed from the story.
Q: How did the transition from “Full Frontal Lunacy” towards “Crash And Yearn” happened? Do you see an impact of the theme(s) you’re dealing with upon the atmosphere, rhythmic… and global production of the songs/albums?
Reza: I never stopped recording after making “Full Frontal Lunacy”. I knew that the record was done at some point but I was enjoying staying in the studio mode so I just kept going. First few songs after the album lacked direction but I was naturally writing more rhythmic patterns.
I knew I wanted to do something different this round but it was the recording that told me where to go vs me coming in and saying the next thing has to be x, y, and z. Once I started seeing a trend towards the higher bpms, lyricism, and emotions in my new stuff that’s when I realized that the new album was going to be this Technoid Dark-Wave album. From then it was a matter of filling the blanks.
Working with Baylee, the vocalist on most of the album, also brought a new angle. Suddenly I felt like I could push the song driven ideas more and move away from writing ‘tracks’. There were some growing pains to get that right though, I have to say. Songs like the title track and “The Fall” and “Bow Down” were a completely new territory for me but it felt exciting, so I forged ahead.
I’m beyond happy with where I’ve landed with this record at the end. When you make records and albums back-to-back in a short period you run the risk of making the same thing over again, but here we are. “Crash And Yearn” feels completely different, which is great.
Q: The vocals are getting more important and definitely are an important evolution compared to early EPs. What are vocals adding to your music and what are the main criteria you’re using to work with guest singers? What’s their impact and input on lyrics and eventually composition?
Reza: I think there’s more vocals now cause simply I got more to say. I’m well aware that I mainly did instrumentals in the beginning so those are still a strength of mine and fun to work on. Things kick into a new gear however once I’m thinking about vocal melodies. Think the vocals are simply replacing some of the extra synth parts that occupied the same space in the past. But now the concepts can be conveyed lyrically as well as musically.
In terms of the guest vocalist I’ve been lucky to have had a few great collaborators. I foolishly think I can do all sorts if male vox which is why so far I’ve done all the male vocals and guests are invited to add the female voice and POV. Think some lyrics can be more potent when delivered by a female voice which is how I generally assign tracks.
On “Crash And Yearn” however, I stuck with Baylee on 6 of the tracks and I did only one myself. Think her voice brought a nice focus to the record and kept the album in a viewers POV. With “Full Frontal Lunacy” most of the lyrics was from a first person view, “I’M Absinthe Minded”, “Welcome To My Lunacy”, “I’m Tarred And Feathered” to paraphrase a few parts. This round it was all about how the actions were viewed “You Crash And Burn, You Never Learn” and so on.
“Crash And Yearn” as a result is like the flip side of “Full Frontal Lunacy” to a degree.
Q: What’s your way of working and composing songs? How do you see yourself as musician/producer? And what’s the next step now?
Reza: I’m a beat maker at heart and naturally all else is designed around the initial beats that I’m putting together. Once I have a series of beats that are connected and react to each other, I have the basis of an arrangement. From then I usually pick a key for the track (not always though) and write riffs, bass lines, and synth parts.
I’m an Ableton producer so I don’t write in a linear way, I create jams and see how they all sit with each other. Things that work together and gel are elaborated on. Once I have an arrangement, I get into sound design and pick the right sounds much like casting a movie, the sonic characters must be right for the parts that I’m assigning.
The vocals are next, usually working off a demo that I track earlier in the process. Once the final vox is ready, I go to town with the mix. The only part that I don’t do is the mastering, simply because you can get immune to certain sounds after mixing a track for a while so nice to get that taken care of by someone with fresh set of ears. Eric Sneo killed it on the masters this time I must say.
Next steps for me are releasing the videos for the new album. The video for “Come As Your Madness” should be out by the time our chat is published. I’ve also made videos for “Le Diable”, “Bullet” and “Haute Cadaver” which should be following soon. I’m also working on a split EP with an exciting artist from Spain that might drop before the end of the year. And yes, album number 3 is in full gear too, so hope to share that with you guys as soon as it’s ready.
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