There are certain aspects of theater that are hard to obtain through any media other than the stage; the physical emotiveness of the actors, the suspension of reality that only a narrative playing out before your eyes can deliver. Many musicians strive to create this kind of presence, but Atlanta-born hard rock band The Funeral Portrait goes a step beyond.
They not only manage to draw their audience into the dark fiction that unfolds around their most recent EP, For the Dearly Departed, at live shows; their recorded work successfully transports the listener into a relatable story of sorrow. The band met with the Technique to discuss how their sound evolved into what it is today and how they plan to continue to exceed expectations.
Technique: You were formerly known as Cosmoscope. Why the change in name/genre? Any info behind your new name?
The Funeral Portrait: The Funeral Portrait is the name of a song by the band Opeth. We wanted to change our band name because we didn’t like Cosmoscope and The Funeral Portrait fit our aesthetic. It isn’t one of their most known tracks, it’s kind of like a b-side on an album. We actually changed the sound before we changed the name and Cosmoscope just didn’t fit the new sound.
Technique: For the Dearly Departed was publicized as concerning the stages of the grieving process. Any words on the creative inspiration behind the EP?
The Funeral Portrait: The EP revolves around the five stages of grief, being denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s a six song EP, and the first song is the event that triggers the five stages- be it the actual death of a loved one or someone close to you or, if you take it in a metaphorical sense, you can even apply it to breakups and things like that. We tried to shape the songs around each stage of grief as well, trying to fit the emotions. Listen to “The Optimist,” the song about depression- it’s a slow, brooding song. “Acceptance” leaves you wanting, the album kind of crashes around that [final] song. That’s a brief explanation without going into lyrics and stuff like that.
Technique: Is there more in the works now?
The Funeral Portrait: Yes. Right now we’re in the stages of writing and demo-ing stuff for our LP and our full-length but first we’re touring the this EP, because we’ve only done one tour with it. The plan is to do a single so that people can have new music; we’re a band that likes putting music out fast. We want there to be a wealth of material for people to invest in. We’ll probably end up doing 11 tracks and two bonus tracks, or somewhere between. We’re going to try to expand on the ideas already established by this EP.
Technique: It’s hard to stay fresh within a genre. What do you guys do to produce new sound?
The Funeral Portrait: When we first started working, we weren’t even going for this sound. Actually, we wrote “Casanova” (“C’est La Vie”) before we even changed up the member situation, because Juergie used to play drums, and Stephen used to play guitar. Then Juergie came to us and asked, “Well, what if we added some screaming?” And we did it, and we were like, “This is awesome.” We’re such huge fans of the dual vocalist mechanic, the Jekyll and Hyde thing. We don’t want to be pigeonholed into a genre, because that’s boring for us. We write what we feel. We all listen to vastly different music, and we try to throw respective parts of that in, combining influences. We don’t want it to be contrived. The listener is a lot smarter than you think. We want it to almost put the audience into a story. We’re not interesting guys, so why write things just about us?
Many bands are asked the question of what genre they’re in and the common response is that they’re trying to transcend the genre. It truly is a matter of writing based on your influences. As long as you write from your heart, your influences will come out. Not trying is the new trying. The general attitude is, “Oh, they’re signed to Rise Records, they’re going to be a metalcore band.” But that’s not what we want to be. What we want to be is what some call us, “theater rock.” We’ve kind of taken that as our “thing.” When you come see us, it’s a show. It’s like going to the Fox Theater. It’s like watching a Broadway play. We want the imagery to enhance the music. It goes hand in hand, great songs and great performances. Nobody wants to watch five dudes just playing. Within this genre, there’s sometimes a feeling that there’s a separation between seeing the song live and hearing it on the record.
Technique: How does it feel to be newly signed onto a label?
The Funeral Portrait: It was a new beginning. We realized we had to work harder. It’s awesome and exciting and fun, but it’s a lot harder when you have so much riding on you, someone invested in you. You have to make each show count. If you mess up, you don’t meet expectations. It’s still infinitely more exciting once you’re signed to as fun of a label as Revival is, but it is not as glamorous as local bands make it out to be. When you’re a local band, you think that getting signed is the end. Everything is roses and rainbows. But it’s a different type of work that you’re doing now. You aren’t working to get signed; you’re working to fulfill your own expectations.