Amidst the sea of generic, run of the mill promotional crusades, The Ritual Aura‘s Levi Dale has devised a rather interactive game of sorts in anticipation for the band’s third album, Velothi. Curious as I was, Levi was kind enough to let me pick his brain about the new record, the campaign, and a few other things. Have a look!
Dave Jurenovich: What’s your musical background and how you were brought up artistically?
Levi Dale: I started playing guitar when I was 11, so 14 years ago now – mostly self-taught, and it just took over my life for a very long time. My mum has a pretty good taste in music so I was exposed to a lot of it growing up, lots of rock and metal with bands like Guns N’ Roses and Metallica. As tastes got heavier I was introduced to technical death metal and it completely flipped my perception of what you could do with music and guitar.
I pretty much knew then and there that was what I wanted to be doing, no questions asked.
DJ: What inspired you to begin The Ritual Aura?
LD: TRA started as a creative outlet for the music I was writing in 2012/13 – my first serious attempt at writing a record – which eventually became our first album; Laniakea.
I met some great musicians in the process and it all just went from there. We shared similar goals and got along really well, all just wanting to create interesting music and push what we can do.
Vick Sacha: Out of the vast array of music you could be playing, why death metal?
LD: The immense creative freedom and diversity within the genre is something that really stands out to me, yes there are stylistic conventions we tend to gravitate towards, but people are constantly finding new and unique ways to push the boundaries; through various sub-genres and styles there’s always a god-tier gem of an album to discover right around the corner, and the quality is only getting better each year.
I also just really enjoy writing and playing interesting material, so it was either this or… I don’t even know what I’d be doing, probably classical music.
VS: You’ve concocted a rather interesting and elaborate PR campaign for your newest release, Velothi. What inspired you to send your fans on a crypto-historical scavenger hunt?
LD: A big inspiration for it was Cicada 3301 and their yearly puzzles, alongside some other ARGs I had come across through the magic of Youtubeland.
The whole idea of an alternate reality game is really interesting to me, so I just started planning puzzles, not really expecting much. I ended up spending days on it, and eventually was confident enough to put it out there.
It also gave us another means of interaction with the community, which is always welcome.
VS: Your campaign has been up for a little over a week. So far, has the response been what you were expecting? What do you predict for the future outcome?
LD: Seeing everyone work together to solve the clues has been both humbling and amusing – you guys are awesome.
The feedback so far has been great, people have solved each tier in 24 hours or less, so I may have to kick things up a notch for the final stretch..
VS: What correlation does said scavenger hunt have to do with the album’s content?
LD: While it’s not massively intertwined with the record itself, certain puzzles serve as a way to introduce people to album-relevant lore and point them in the right direction for reading material, should they want to learn more.
I’ve scattered a few things in there that’ll make a LOT more sense when the album drops. Little hints and previews are everywhere!
DJ: What can you say about your upcoming album and what sets it apart from the rest of your library?
LD: Velothi is easily the most experimental and ambitious record we’ve done so far, from the change in approach to writing, to the sheer amount of guests and styles woven into things, everything has been scaled up since Tæther.
VS: The date of your upcoming release’s date is still ambiguous, and 2019 is far from over. When do you think you’ll announce a release date? Or does the answer to that lie within your PR campaign?
LD: People have been really patient regarding a release date, and I should finally be able to shed light on that in the coming month or so. The goal is early to mid-year, and with recent developments on vocals and mixing of the record I’m pretty confident we’ll be finished sooner than that.
VS: Do you want to talk about any session musicians you’ve recruited on this record?
LD: Currently there are 11 session musicians spread across Velothi – by far our largest guest-list yet.
This album introduces several new instruments and styles into the TRA palette, from violin/viola (Ryan Cho) and operatic vocals (Adrianna Tentori), to nylon (Nick Padovani) and fretless guitar (Fountainhead).. just to name a few.
Everyone has done an incredible job with their parts and I couldn’t be happier with the result.
VS: I can’t imagine that you’ve stopped writing, so how far into your next release are you?
LD: Nothing is really concrete yet, I’m still looking at candidates for lore/concepts beyond Velothi, but have a couple of ideas.
Prior to writing our last album I immersed myself in Japan’s folklore for a few months and the stories that really stuck became ideas for songs, which lead to inspiration for the music itself.
I generally prefer to start with the story and themes before writing any music.
Velothi was pretty much the same story, so there’ll probably come a day soon where I sit down and work out where to take things next.
If you break each album down so far, we’ve covered sci-fi, horror, and fantasy – so i’d like to continue the trend and mix things up again next time.
VS: You announced late last year that Velothi would be released on your own label, Ire Harvest. What were the deciding factors that led you to start your own label?
LD: I started Ire Harvest following TRA’s departure from our previous label, to serve as a dedicated platform for the projects I’ve been working on/plan to release in the future, and eventually help other bands with a bit more experience under my belt.
In the time TRA has been active I’ve handled a lot of the background work, and figured if I’m already doing it I may as well be building something that has the potential to grow into its own entity and maybe help other people out one day.
VS: Can you briefly talk about why you took on Lūmenwood as the second band on your roster?
LD: Lūmenwood is a side-project I’ve had in the works since late last year, alongside Brandon J. Iacovella – the other guitarist in TRA and riff-vanguard in Proliferation. We’ve since completed the line-up for a debut, featuring some excellent musicians, and the material we’ve put together so far is sounding great.
Hearkening back to the previous question – giving Lūmenwood a platform from the very beginning also helps with insight from a label perspective, regarding the problems I might encounter that TRA is perhaps beyond running into.
Murphy’s law in full effect and all.
DJ: Do you think you’ll ever play any shows in the future?
LD: We have in the past for special occasions (like the launch of Tæther), so I wouldn’t rule it out moving forward.
Currently we’re spread across 4 different continents though, so albums are and will likely always be the main focus, but if the stars aligns we’ll be there!
VS: The lot of you are still fairly young, as is The Ritual Aura itself, what does the future hold for you?
LD: I feel like we have a LOT of ground left to cover as far as writing music goes.
Velothi continues the tradition of a paradigm shift between records, one we’ve strived for with each album so far, and will continue to aim for in the future – this really helps keep things fresh and interesting as time goes on. Maybe next album will be about cake! Who knows? and that’s exciting!
VS: Any last comments, questions or concerns?
LD: Thank you for the great questions!
I hope you and your readers enjoy Velothi when it finally drops, it’s been a blast putting it together these past 2 years, and I can’t wait for you all to hear it.
New single coming very soon! Solve the puzzles to hear it early.. much love <3
And I cannot thank Levi enough for taking the time to answer. You know the drill, guys. You can find all of The Ritual Aura’s music on bandcamp and a bunch of other music platforms. Any additional details will be posted when we know them. And most definitely keep your eyes peeled, your quest is not yet over.