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Interview: Karl Buechner of Freya

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You may remember Karl Buechner as frontman for seminal Syracuse, New York, metalcore band Earth Crisis. These vegan warriors reawakened straightedge in the early 90s, grabbing the baton from earlier bands such as DC’s Minor Threat, Boston’s SSD, and New York’s Youth of Today. Earth Crisis dissolved in 2001 although this year, it played select reunion shows in Baltimore and Los Angeles and had a short European festival tour in June.

After EC ended, Buechner and EC guitarist Erick Edwards formed the band Freya. Their first release was a split with California hardcore band Hoods, followed by a full-length called As the Last Light Drains. This 2003 release, although undeniably heavy, was far more melodic. The band returned to its heavier roots with the February 2007 release Lift the Curse.

Freya’s current line-up is Buechner on vocals, Edwards on guitar, Ethan D. Henry on drums, and recent newcomers to the band from The Last Season, Jeddie Gentile on guitar and Mike Lagrow on bass. Buechner and Edwards are also involved with the occasionally active straightedge band Path of Resistance.

The band recently released a video for their song "Suffer Not One" which you can see it at Victory Record's Youtube channel. Freya has an upcoming European tour that begins in mid-September.

One of the things I noticed when I listened to Lift the Curse is that it sounds really different from As the Last Light Drains. What inspired you to make different choices about how you wanted this one to sound?

We’ve had some line-up changes. On the first CD As the Last Light Drains, our rhythm guitarist Darian Lizotte sang with me. So we divided out the vocal duties. He went to California and we continued on. The release which set things up for Lift the Curse was the Hoods/Freya split. That’s where our sound evolved into what we have now. So it’s drastically different for people who haven’t heard the first release. It’s a lot more melodic, like “Lilith.” But it’s more fun for me to do what I’m best at, which is what Lift the Curse is.

Is it a concept album?

The imagery of the art work tells the story, before a person listens to the music or reads any of the lyrics. What’s on the front cover is Cain and Abel fighting in the Garden of Eden and on the back cover are two soldiers in modern times, fighting in the ruins of a city with a mushroom cloud behind them. So the concept is from Eden to Armageddon. Human beings are warlike and violent and despite all the technology and all the other appearances of being civilized I think people are still basically barbaric.

I wanted to ask about the artwork, I really like that style. I looked at the artist’s website. It has a lot of tattoo designs and t-shirts which are really cool, but I didn’t see anything like the cover art.

I came up with the concept and I gave him specific ideas of how I wanted him to paint it. You’re right; most of his other art doesn’t look like that. He’s done designs for us in the past and for a lot of other bands. I knew he was capable of pulling it off.

How do you create the music? Are you the lyricist?

I write all the lyrics, musically everyone contributes. Music is written first and then I write specific lyrics to fit it. Or the music itself will give me a vibe about what the song could be about. On the next album everyone is going to go through my lyrics and write the music from it. They’re going to do it backwards, which will be interesting for us.

Do you expect the sound of the band to change dramatically now that you’ve got the two new guys?

No, because Ethan wrote a good deal of the songs on Lift The Curse.

Let’s talk about the new video. What about the background image at the end, the nuclear bomb background?

It goes with the theme of the album. That song “Suffer Not One.” And a song off Freya/Hoods “Prey to the Gods of War.” When we were talking about the theme of the album and how people haven’t really changed, the one thing that has changed is obviously things like firearms, or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. People can obviously communicate and disseminate hateful ideas a lot quicker than they ever could in the past. Dividing people, or unifying one group in order to fight another. I think we are going to see more wars breaking out on this planet and we’re probably going to see these weapons used.

Is there a specific political incident, or just the unending shittiness of humanity?

Yeah, it’s just adding everything up. I think if people start thinking about it now, at least they might be able to save themselves.

You mentioned the song “Lilith,” and then the name of the band Freya… they are both goddesses of love, but at the same time the goddess of destruction. Is that something that played into your choice of the band name?

We chose that name because we thought it was a pretty interesting grouping of things for a goddess to have control over: love, lust, and war.

I noticed you have a video with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Would you mind talking about your involvement with animal rights?

Sure. We wrote a song called “Struggle to Survive” about an animal’s experience in a vivisectionist’s laboratory and it’s written from their perspective. I think that makes it different from other songs we’ve written in the past about animal rights. And on the new album, we wrote a song called “Down To The Last” which was inspired by a couple of my friends who actually went with the Sea Shepherds on one of their ships to Antarctica to interfere with Japanese whaling.

When you did the video with PETA, how involved were you with the imagery and the choices that went along with the song? Did you work pretty closely with them?

Yeah. Jason Bayless was in charge of that project and he did a great job.

I haven’t been able to watch the whole thing. It’s hard to watch.

It should be hard for people to watch. And hopefully it will motivate them to buy products that were not tested on animals. There are cruelty-free alternatives out there. So hopefully it will be a motivating factor for someone to become vegetarian or vegan or at least stop buying products that were tested on animals. That’s the point of the video. It’s not to be shocking or grotesque. We care about those creatures and we’d like for those abuses to end.

And PETA’s website has a list of companies that don’t test on animals.

Yes.

What do you read?

Well, before [Earth Crisis] got signed, I was going to college. My goal was to be a history teacher. So I’ve read a lot of books about Native Americans and the Norse people and the Druids. And all that stuff actually comes up in our lyrics.

Find out more about the band and check out tour dates on their myspace profile.

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