Exclusive Interview: Solarhead talk “Orbital Decay”!

Duo Jason Emry (vocals) and Bob Hamilton (guitars) are seasoned musicians who have been writing together for many years. Previously released an album under the moniker Abominaut in 2018 with Michael O’Brien on bass and Ben Resler on drums, they’ve invested their time in something new in 2020 and the results of that writing axis has become Solarhead. Their debut release is an EP entitled “Orbital Decay” which dropped in July but that is just the tip of the iceberg as the pair who hail from Indianapolis and Franklin, Indiana have used their home studios to record a follow up…

We found “Orbital Decay” to be a really nice varied listen taking influences from Nu-Metal, Groove Metal and Grunge; what were your influences on the record? The answer to that question involves a little time travel. Bob is an old-school chugger with influences from 80s, 90s, 00s era thrash, sludge, stoner rock and old school death metal. Bands like the Sepultura, Melvins, Helmet, Corrosion of Conformity, Sleep, Kyuss, Obituary, Grave – Heavy, powerful, unpretentious, metal riffage. Combine that with the nu-metal-middle-school screeches, screams, gutterals, and cleans that Jason draws from modern acts like Lamb of God, Dog Fashion Disco, and The Ocean and you get a nice balance of catchy choruses, crunchy-ass verses, and timeless broken down changeups. 

There is a finely balanced amount of clean vocals against the unclean parts on the record; how did you go about choosing which vocal moments would suit which vocal parts? Finely? Well sh** our shingles that’s swell of y’all to say. Over the course of this collaboration we’ve gotten pretty good at fitting vocals to instrumentals. We’re on the same page about having a good balance of gutterals and cleans. Since there are usually multiple vocals written for each section, most of the time it boils down to shuffling things around until they sound rad. Above all else, nothing is sacred until the paint dries.

Orbital Decay” was recorded in home studios; do you have any gear you’d recommend? How did you find the process worked for you compared to a conventional studio recording?

Jason: I don’t know if they make them anymore but I love the Electro Voice Cardinal mic that I use for all my studio vocals. Had it for more than a decade. It’s a fuggin tank shaped like a thing that analogs your voice real good. And also… it is that. Home studios allow for way more experimentation and collaboration. Technically “Orbital Decay” was written in-studio so without the freedom to explore organically those ideas, they never would have come to fruition. I’ve dealt with big-time and small-time professional studios before and was always frustrated trying to describe my multi-layered vocals to half-assing engineers. Definitely prefer the control of the at-home experience.

Bob: I have a relatively minimal set-up.  I’m running a pc with a mid-level recording interface and decent studio monitors.  I use Reaper as my DAW and a handful of key plug-ins.  I record the guitar and bass direct in using amp sim plug-ins for tone. Our writing workflow has been evolving over the last few years and since we’re working remotely, we need to be able to easily communicate ideas, discuss mixes, pass files back and forth, etc.  So, one of the most important tools we utilize is a team collaboration app which helps us stay organized and allows us to work much more efficiently.  It’s also an excellent way to archive our riff library and potential songs ideas. And, like Jason said… Working from home, there’s no pressure to nail down a part in some time-frame or worry that we didn’t spend enough time exploring ideas.  We can write and record on our own schedule.

Science Fiction themes run throughout the record, with the creepy soundscape that is “Devolver” being particularly good. What are your favourite science fiction films, books or series?

Jason: As far as spooky space themes go, I’d say I’m more inspired by science fact, y’know… vis-à-vis the waking terror that is modern existentialism. This half-cooked greenhouse-gaseous zeitgeist is littered with so many twinkles of facticious intrigue that give our solarheads more far-fetched ideas than we could ever hope to see come from a writers room. In other words I believe that, in addition to being all around us, truth is stranger than fiction.

Bob: 100% agree with Jason. Films that interest me usually have science fiction dystopia themes like Children of Men, 12 Monkeys, Blade Runner, Planet of the Apes, Terminator, The Matrix, Soylent Green, A Clockwork Orange…. You get the idea.

You released an album under the moniker Abominaut with Michael O’Brien on bass and Ben Resler on drums before becoming Solarhead; when it comes to playing live, will any of the Abominaut songs make the setlist? Not likely. We’re not currently rehearsing or planning to play any Abominaut songs live; mainly for the simple fact that there’s so much unreleased Solarhead material to work on. However, O’Brien and Resler will most likely be involved with the live version of Solarhead, so you can rest assured that the same haphazard energy featured on “Illuminaut” will be present at our next live performance.

You mentioned working on a follow up record entitled “Repulsar“; can you give us anything on what we can expect from that? But of course! Artwork is nearly finalized and will be revealed shortly. “Repulsar” follows along closely the template established on “Orbital Decay” – five tracks in length including one instrumental interlude, all of which faithfully extend the mythos of their progenitor. We’re shooting for a release around the end of November, beginning of December.

Orbital Decay” by Solarhead is out now and available over at bandcamp

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