Puerto Rican prog-metal band Avandra has recently dropped a new album, “Skylighting“, via Layered Reality Productions. The guys answered a couple of questions linked to this release for Distrolution. Check out the full interview below!
Hello Avandra, thanks for your time. Would it be possible to introduce your band to our readers, as well as your roles in it?
Hey guys! We are Avandra, a progressive rock/metal band from San Juan, Puerto Rico. We formed as a band in 2017, though the “idea” for the band started in the early to mid 2010s as a solo project of singer/guitarist and main composer, Christian Ayala. The other members -since 2017- are Gabriel Alejandro on bass, Adrián Arroyo on drums, and Luis Rivera Guilbot (Luigi) on guitars.
With a worldwide pandemic going on, how have you handled the management of your band over the past few months?
Great question. Last year, we released our second album, “Descender”, to great acclaim, and to maintain our upwards motion, we started working on our 3rd album, with hopes of it releasing this year. The same day (!), we were going to start tracking drums back in March of this year, Puerto Rico began its quarantine and curfew, and hence all drum studios closed. We could not even see each other, so that plan was put on hold.
That same week, I (Christian), wrote the music to Celestial Wreaths, and because of the extreme situation that was happening in Italy (which got hit harder than any other European country back in March), I wrote the lyrics. It was supposed to be a single, but it spiraled into a full 42-minute album, written and recorded in 2 months (March to May).
How would you describe, from your own POV, the Puerto Rican metal scene?
Awesome. It is not a huge scene, but the saying “quality over quantity” hits the nail on its head. There are many thrash bands, and, I believe, that’s because the first Puerto Rican band to actually get far was a band called Cardinal Sin, a great thrash band from the late 80s/early-mid 90s (one could argue they started the metal scene here). A lot of people were inspired by what they did and started their own thrash bands. It’s a tradition that stuck, with bands like Calamity and Zafakon being two of the major representatives.
The other band that broke out of the local metal scene was the great Puya. Nelson Varas Diaz, a great metal documentarian from Puerto Rico, has a great documentary called “Distorted Island” which I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject (or just likes documentaries in general, since it’s really well done!). Most other prog bands, like Moths and The Wrongs Sides, belong to this scene (as there is no “prog scene” per se), but they embrace prog as much as they embrace traditional / doom / thrash / etc. metal.
You’ve recently unveiled your new album, “Skylighting”. Where did you find your overall inspiration for this record?
A lot of the inspiration was born out of the world situation. Sheldon Solomon has a book called Worm at the Core which speaks of death anxiety and how it tends to surface into the conscious day-to-day (as opposed to its usual subconscious existence), when one is living through a particularly life-threating situation. In Covid times, its sublimation into our collective daily conscious endeavors has been magnified to dangerous extremes. As such, a lot of the songs are ways of dealing with anxiety.
My way of dealing with it was to dig deeper into my master’s thesis, which I’m doing in a mix of philosophy and neuroscience, with a concentration on Nietzschean theories and concepts and his “most high-spirited, vital, world-affirming” (Beyond Good and Evil 56) ideal that is his idea of the Eternal Return really started to speak to me in ways I had not heard it before.
Any funny stories to share from your recording or writing sessions?
I wish! But it was done in difficult times, and I was quite isolated when writing/recording it.
Is there one song that, according to you, best reflects the overall spirit of this record? If yes, which one and why?
“Eternal Return”. I think it encompasses what the whole album is musically, lyrically and mood wise. The main idea behind that song was to have the recurring main riff appear in various ways through the song. Starts off with the 8-string guitar, then the bass does it, then the keyboards. It symbolizes the eternal return in its different manifestations. Towards the end, the song replays reinterpreted versions from the first 3 songs, again with the same symbolism of the eternal return.
Can we talk about the process of creating the (amazing) artwork of your album and the overall idea behind this visual?
The idea came from the concept of The Eternal Return. The idea of the snake eating its own tale to symbolize time as circular in lieu of the traditionally conceived (some would say Christian-influenced) linear progression is of great importance to the idea. Because Celestial Wreaths was the first song to be written for the album, I thought that having the snake as a constellation would be a great idea. I also asked Mark Facey, the artist, to reinterpret Casper David Friedrich’s “The Wanderer above the Sea Fog” within the other ideas. He did so, beautifully.
I’m sure you are, like a lot of people, missing live shows. Do you already have some dates planned for 2021?
We have ProgPower Europe planned for 2021. We were supposed to play it this year, but like every other festival, it was moved to 2021. We are hoping to do a mini tour around Europe either before or after that fest.
To finish, what is one lesson you’ve learned that you think is important to pass onto other bands?
I guess the cliché “follow you dreams and passion, and don’t quit!” is obligatory (and true), but also, be smart about how you project yourself in social media (don’t be Trapt). If a label is interested, read the contract well, and ask yourself: do I want to own my publishing? Am I ok with giving it away? Steve Vai said that Zappa once gave him the best advice he ever received, which was “always keep your publishing”. Said it saved him millions. I would also recommend reading the Charles Bukowski poem, “Roll the Dice”. I think it’s obligatory reading for any artist.
Thanks for your time!