Sydneysiders Visualis recently released their new EP Sunrise in Black, a diverse range of musical styles within the heavy music genre. Visualis began recording Sunrise in Black back at the end of 2019 with Geoff Lee at Zen Studios (St. Peters, NSW). Its initial release date was March 2020 but due to the global Covid 19 pandemic, Visualis decided to push it back. In August 2020, Finley Ford joined the band as the drummer and in the beginning of 2021 Visualis completed the recordings.
We catch up with keyboardist Roman Ibarra to discuss the new songs and more.
MK: Hi, Roman, thanks for doing the video call. Nice to meet you. Let’s talk about your band as well as your recently released EP, Sunrise in Black. How would you describe your style?
Roman Ibarra: No worries! We describe our music as Melodic metal., as we draw influences from several subgenres like classic/heavy doom, goth rock, power metal… but usually, we try to emphasize the melodic bits rather than, say, rhythm bases or gutturals.
MK: ‘We are the Disease’ has you on vocals, do you many of the vocals?
Roman Ibarra: Most of the songs are sung by Johnny, who is the (other) guitar player, and I pretty much sing most of the second verse. Trying to do the vocals 50/50 to give a bit more color to the music.
MK: Yea, of course, yeah, yeah. So, you are Sydney-based?
Roman Ibarra: We rehearse in Sydney, but Zoran and Finley live in Wollongong,
MK: Where do you rehearse?
Roman Ibarra: We rehearse in Marrickville. There’s a couple of studios that we like there.
MK: So, I know that most of the country is in lockdown, but what was your last gig?
Roman Ibarra: It was MUDU back in May or June last year.
MK: Have you played any gigs outside of Sydney?
Roman Ibarra: We have played most of our gigs in Sydney and Wollongong. Two of us live in Sydney and two of us live in Wollongong so we are bouncing to and fro.
MK: Nice. What’s the plan for the future of the band?
Roman Ibarra: Well, at this point we want to see what the aftermath of the lockdown is, what venues are still available. We had to cancel our EP launch gig because it was scheduled to happen on the 30th of July, and by then the lockdown was already in place, God knows if we can still do it…probably by the end of the year if we can and if the venue allows it. But, yeah, we want to keep going, we want to gig as much as we can locally or within Australia and see where it takes us, and in the meantime, we keep writing songs.
When we aren’t in lockdown, we practice every week, so we really like getting into the room and jamming ideas and start bringing songs to life. But we are going to try to keep active, for sure. Yeah, we have a lot of energy, a lot of ideas. It’s just the hindrance of the Covid that doesn’t allow us to put it into fruition.
MK: I know that it has been tough for people in the creative arts. I hope that it all come back soon.
Roman Ibarra: We’re going to try and keep gigging. I don’t know how many of the metal venues are going to make it out alive from the lockdown, really, so… and, you know, for the bands that started a couple of years ago, that just started in motion and are trying to make it in the local scene… it’s been particularly difficult because there haven’t been as many opportunities… it’s a scenario where you have no international bands coming to the country, so there are no opening spots for little bands to start pushing their way up. But there is the same number of bands coming up every year, so you have more bands trying to get into fewer gigs, trying to get into fewer venues, so it creates a little bit of a difficult situation I think to start or to push a band in this time.
MK: I like it that you have a keyboardist in the band, yourself, can you tell me a bit about that?
Roman Ibarra: I do all the keyboards
MK: Do you prefer keyboards or guitars?
Roman Ibarra: I prefer guitars. If I had to choose between the two, I’d choose guitars, but I also like a lot the atmosphere you can create with the keyboards, so that’s one idea that I brought into the band when I joined. I told the guys “hey I usually do this with my songs”, and they were like “go for it” and if you see one of our live videos you can see I constantly jump between a guitar and keyboards. And in the EP, we try to have an approach where we have nice atmospheres and keyboard parts we don’t want to over-promise the keyboards… so we don’t have to use a sampling “chaos scenario” where I am trying to play guitar and keyboards at the same time. I strive to find a balance between the right amount of keyboards so we don’t have to use samples when we are playing live.
MK: Yeah, yeah… so when you play, do you sample the second guitar while the keyboard is playing?
Roman Ibarra: No, usually when I am playing keyboard, I’m playing keyboard and Johnny is taking care of all the guitar parts during that time. I bought a little toy a few months ago, it’s like a new pickup that allows me to flick a little switch and my guitar becomes my midi controller, so I can play keys on the actual guitar.
MK: Who are you influenced by in your keyboards?
Roman Ibarra: Well, I’m not a keyboardist, so the way I play keyboards… I play a lot of covers and I try to get everything by ear. The way I play is I try to create atmosphere, or little hints and little bits and pieces, rather than virtuoso solos. So, I create stuff that Amorphis does, for example, and they create this background using keyboards, Amorphis and Moonspell, specifically, these very thick backgrounds that you don’t really hear but you know they are there. So, I like how Summoning uses its keyboards to create an atmosphere. The only keyboard solo we do on the EP was is that little funky Egyptian solo in Doom Arise, and I think it works well.
One of the criticisms we have is people saying, “you need to find your own sound”. We don’t want to sound dated. Some people are used to (clear cut subgenres), but you need to find your own sound. We try to create contrasts, and we are very creative people, the four of us try to bring new ideas to the table no matter what they are, and if it’s metal, that’s great!
MK: Do you get influence from any non-metal music?
Roman Ibarra: I cannot speak for the rest of the band, but personally, I like the 80s, 90s kind of synth-wave and Euro electro-pop – Melotron, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, and I listen to a lot of Latin American music, Mexican music, folk music. It’s hard to incorporate the Latin influences, but definitely, the electro-pop influences come through when I write a song.
MK: Some songs were really catchy, and you put the title as the last track, was there any way you ordered the songs on the EP?
Roman Ibarra: Actually, we thought about the order for a bit, and we think of it was a ride, y’know, when you are on a roller coaster, we didn’t want to have all the thrills at one time, so we want to take the people up and down, up, and down, and I think that’s how we like to plan our setlists as well. So, we thought to order it in a way that it can include a bit of variation between songs and it’s not that similar to the previous one. The reason we put Sunrise in Black (at the end) is that the end riff is a good closer, I think. It’s a very long outro, it is like this funky, kinda metal-corey breakdown that just can wrap everything up and slowly fade out. We like it as the final riff in our EP – it’s very slow and chunky. If we’d put something after that, it’d kind of undermine it.
MK: The latest video has just come out and it is getting some decent views on YouTube.
Roman Ibarra: We try to push it a bit, and once we released the EP, we did some paid promotion and some promotion with Michael from Metal-Roos as well. We are trying to give traction to the material, we knew it was going to inevitably be released during the lockdown, so we didn’t want it to fall on deaf ears, we are keen to promote it as much as we can without being too spammy.
MK: I think you guys are doing well. Thanks for taking the time.
Roman Ibarra: Thanks, Mike
Interview Date: 2021-09-20
Interviewed by Mike