A chat with Simon (Onyria)

by Rizzo

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SL: Hi there Simon and welcome on TSL. Would you like to introduce your project Onyria to our readers?

SG: Hello Andrea! Onyria is a long-planned project that started its own life after the several delusional ventures we tried in collaboration with various italian producers.
Genre-wise, we consider ourselves a modern rock act with a metal twist, and definitely a symphonic infusion. Definitely angrier and heavier than your usual symphonic band.

Back at the beginnings, we started a project in which we were writing italian rock-driven songs that were supposed to be the basis of an album.
We were backed up by a really big italian producer (I can’t really mention him or his label due to a still lasting agreement) who is well-renowned in Europe as well.
We were granted immediate benefits, and more to come, and everything went ahead in such an optimistic way where we got to the point that we decided to pack our things up and move to Milano.
But what sounded like a deal, turned out to be a nightmare. We weren’t allowed to choose our OWN musicians. We weren’t allowed to produce things outside the studio, it was forbidden to upload stuff on YouTube without the approval of the so-called “artistic director”.
Our songs underwent a process of de-arrangement until they remained barebones chord progressions with a vocal line on top of them. From there, the producer decided everything, the way we had to play them, the sound we had to use and an overall sense of “constant supervision” was the main feeling we had during these months.

We were faced with the concrete opportunity to hit big time by standing these conditions, and it was really down to a simple decision: take it or leave it.We decided to leave. It was a really painful decision, as music has always been our life and it was the chance to keep doing that for a living. But the lack of freedom and the idea of playing someone else’s music was terrible. We basically dumped everyone, paid our debts and reset everything to zero.

Italy wasn’t ready for us. We just figured out to change our name, to bring more heaviness to our style and approach the whole world. I still have that Italian demo-tape where most of the songs we latter released on “Break the Silence” were at an early, softer form.. and sung in Italian language!

Nobody wants to listen to a “nobody”, so we developed our cover strategy by recording popular songs in our personal style in order to appeal to a broader audience and gather fans.
And we managed to achieve that goal with “My Heart Will Go On” which is still going strong to this day, after about two and a half year from his release.
Fast forward to present day, here we are with our debut album “Break The Silence”, released February the 19th.

SL: Thanks for the introduction and sorry to hear about those issues with the italian producer.
This is another anectode proving that entering the music industry is not “a glorious dream” at all for the artist.
Hope you really get out there with your new formula.
Now that you’re back on track, which are your projects for the near future?

SG: Definitely. The whole “high profile label” stuff is pretty shady. We experienced it with different producers.

Our new approach is to go completely DIY: in fact we do everything by ourselves. We have a trusted photographer, we shoot our video by ourselves, I do all the video production, photo editing, sound engineering, composition, mixing, mastering, even promoting/social sharing stuff, royalties collection, the whole agreements-with-reseller stuff, basically everything, website coding as well!
We think that it’s the only way to survive while the demand doesn’t reach higher levels, in order to get a decent income and put money towards new gear and promotion, after trying to cover costs and break even.

That’s why our album has been released as a playlist on YouTube for a free, limitless streaming, in order to let people decide if it’s worth to buy it, according to their individual taste. “Break The Silence” is on sale through all available digital stores, directly on our website and through BandCamp.

I have tons of projects in mind. First of all, we made a deal to shoot a video for our song “Lagrimas De Cinixiu” (Tears of Ashes in Sardinian language – it’s a song sung in italian which features the guest vocalist, DJ and rap producer Quilo from Sa Razza/Malos Cantores – pretty well known in the Sardinian area – which deals with the problem of fires that every summer are destroying tons of trees and woods in Sardinia – that’s the only song we kept in Italian/Sardinian on our cd) which will feature local residents from various Sardinian cities. The shooting will take place during summer and is set to be released during fall.

On top of that I’m doing everything I can possibly think of to promote our stuff.  We’ve been asked TONS of times to play live from everywhere in Italy, Germany, Austria and UK. Finally, we will continue to produce covers for our YouTube channel, we have a pretty huge list in mind.  A pretty busy year for sure!

SL: I think DIY production can be a risky choice since all listeners are pretty much filtering for “optimally produced stuff” only nowadays, almost disregarding what doesn’t sound “professional” at the cost of ignoring the actual musical content beforehand, and well that’s not a good habit to me.
I also think, however, that a DIY-production approach could bring awesome results at relatively small expense compared to an actual “third party” professional production, if handled with patience and perseverance. Well, we have many proofs of that in a number of web-based upcoming artists.
Generally speaking now, I always appreciate and support DIY ethics because, as you just proved by your anecdote, they are maybe the only way to gain actual artistic freedom over shady coercion in one’s work.
Your choice of full streaming and digital distribution is smart as well, and probably is in my opinion, again, the only way to get heard and survive in today’s saturated emerging music scene. I wouldn’t hesitate a second to label platforms such as BandCamp as “a godsend” for any modern day music fan.

Good luck for all of your projects! They seem definitely interesting, especially that song in Sardinian language. We’ll keep eyes peeled.
By the way, given that we’re already speaking of the music itself: lyrically-wise, which are the main themes we’ll hear you sing about?

And let’s stop again for a second: you said to be doing all the video producing, sound engineering, mixing, mastering etc. on your own.
Apart from this explicit statement, the fact you have an home studio gets pretty obvious by watching your self-made video clips.
Would you mind bringing us an insight of all your gear and recording process, for the pleasure of our geekiest readers?

SG: That’s the main problem for sure. Musical nowadays tends to sound almost too perfect, too produced. We tried to keep a rock approach to the record, not to overpraoduce things and not to have a single use of corrective pitch shifting on any instrument (today’s trend).

The lyrics are always written by our singer Helena, and they are mainly dealing with love/hate/introspective states, there’s a lot of anger, a desire to get revenge. Actually, our leading single “Revenge” talks about the producer we were discussing earlier. (“…that your business, is to sell a dream and fake realities – stripping out the dignity,  I don’t care about your will”). There are songs like “Don’t forget me” which are dealing with deadly diseases and the feelings and situations that people suffering these kind of sickness are going through. It’s directly related to a personal experience, it was hard to record it.

Our band name comes from a variation of the greek word “Onirico” that means dream-like (our logo sports a dreamcatcher stylized O) and is related to everything that belongs to the “dreams” world and self consciousness/unconsciousness.

Gear wise I don’t have that much on my hands, I’m more inclined to be the “one good product instead of three average ones” type of consumer. I have a very recent iMac, but some of our stuff were done on a simple laptop. I’m very fond on Apple products as they are very reliable for every kind of application, Logic has a very intuitive and worry-less workflow and I’m just used to it. Talking about VSTs, I use different libraries from East West, Native Instrument and Toontrack. For the more cinematic/symphonic stuff I rely on a M-Audio Keystation, a cheap midi controller that’s perfect for these demands.

Guitar wise I play Les Paul models equipped with EMG pickups, I have a preference for the 57\66 combo. Pretty heavy on string gauges, no pedals, just guitar and cable. The most valuable piece of gear I have is certainly the Kemper Power Rack. Is THE definitive solution to recording artists. I just can’t believe the tones this thing is capable of, and every time I boot it up it feels fresh like day one.

For vocals we use a SE Electronics 2200A tube amp. I used to have external preamps and compressors for the vocal tracks, but  ditched everything in favor of digital plugins. More reliable and the results are quite amazing in my opinion.

I mix and master everything on my own with a pair of KRK Rokit  and some Beyerdynamics DT880 pro cans, they just translate everything so evenly and precisely that I’m mostly finding myself adjusting stuff from time to time that I couldn’t hear with regular monitors. Lately I’ve been toying with a new TC Electronic finalizer.

Our recording process is quite simple: we write the song, rehearse it and modify to the point where it just flows. Then, I start programming more “elaborate” drums on it, the bass lines, the piano stuff. I do record the single stuff on Logic and choose the right sounds for every application.
We then record vocal tracks (vocal lines are always improvised on the early stage of the song and then translated to the studio) and finally we get to the post production, strings choirs and stuff.

The mix is pretty straightforward. I prefer to find a guitar tone (or whatever else’s instrument tone I’m working on) that’s suited to the song instead of recording even tracks and then EQ the hell out of them. My go-to amp is a Diezel Herbert with a 5150 cab and a parametric EQ after the cabinet to shape the sound I’m looking for. No overdrive, no boost, just the amp.

SL: Nice insight on the lyrics, instrospective themes are always fascinating if you ask me.
Thanks for your gear insight too, we’re indeed seeing the rise of promising recent companies such as Kemper, hope they can keep up to the market.
Back to your project for the moment: which are the influences that mostly impacted on Onyria’s sound?
And speaking of your personal self, what do you enjoy listening to the most? Some recent albums or artists that you would highlight, something to suggest to our readers maybe?

SG: My influences are vary, Mark Tremonti has always been a big influence on my playing and writing style, but lately I’ve started to include cinematic, symphonic and orchestral stuff into the band’s sound.
Truth is, I always try to write something new and fresh. My formula is simple: the core of the song HAS to be a strong melody, maybe a recurring one, it has to be catchy. I’m mostly a chord/simple riff type of player, I play serving the song’s general orchestration, to add layers and “heaviness” instead of playing very busy stuff, while the accents, the progression and the climax is always made by the orchestral stuff.
We have been compared several times to Evanescence, Nightwish, Within Temptation (due to the female singer, symphonic and somewhat gothic elements and not-over-the-top-metal riffing), but in my opinion we are quite different.
My classic rock influences are shown as well, you can clearly hear them during our ballads/slow songs.

I’m a very lazy listener, I tend to listen to the same stuff for months! I really listen to everything , with no genre-related limitations. I love bands with outstanding singers, such as Shinedown, Alter Bridge.
Early Linkin Park have always been some of my favorite music ever. Chester’s voice was edgy, angry, he just screamed his ass off, despite the somewhat “lackluster” and poor music behind him. I really love 30 Seconds To Mars’ work since their electronic/dance switch.
Imagine Dragons (indie rock or something like that) released a quite enjoyable record (except for the most commercial ones).
As you can see, quite a broad palette of genres! On the more heavy side, I really like instrumental stuff such as Scale The Summit. The last Monuments one is really groovy as well, can’t stand the vocal though.
Tool and Porcupine Tree are always on my playlist. Queen are still one of my favorite bands ever. Finally, tons of soundtrack,cinematic,orchestral stuff: E.S. Posthumus, Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman of course. 

SL: Nice perspective.
For sure “serving” the song (and then providing an effective songwriting that will hit the listener) always works better than trying too hard to put out show-offy, or too much out “out-there” stuff that is sometimes unnecessary for the song itself to “work”, or better be catchy, and above all is often misunderstood and then underappreciated by the average listener. And that’s always a pity.
But still, it’s a matter of choices. Not everybody’s willing to feel poppy just to “play safe”, sort to speak.

Well I don’t think being a “lazy” listener could be considered as a sort of bad thing.
You need some time to fully appreciate the songs and let them sink in, you know.
For instance, l’ve lately found myself to be always in a hurry to keep up with the latest musical trends and releases, also because of this blog, but at the end of the day the time to really let the music “decant” is not enough and I can’t really say I remember what I’ve listened to or that I’m able to actually explain myself the actual reason why I liked or disliked something. So i’m back to the start.

That’s why I’ve come back to appreciate a “normal” and laid-back listening habit.
I’d always lose some records along the way nonetheless, for matters of information or time.
We don’t have the time to listen to any single record ever in the world actually, we have to accept that. But it would be nice wouldn’t it haha!
Back on track, I also think being as open-minded as possible is a really precious quality for any musician, even if it costs some little effort sometimes, maybe to reach a kind of soundscape we were never used to at all.
A nice palette of artists in your library, hope our readers can find some new picks!

Another question on your personal self, and extended to the rest of your band too. In everyday life, what do you do for a living?
Have you got any other hobbies except for music?

 

SG: Ydou know, I’ve been asking myself this question for a long time: “am I truly and completely satisfied and happy with what I’ve done?”
If the answer is yes, you don’t have to fear to feel “poppy” or “sellout” because if you’re genuinely enjoying the music you’re about to play, then it’s a win-win. If people may like it… even better.

In many situations we find ourselves criticizing something for being too commercial, too easy to listen, so little “progressive” (I mean, in every way), for the lack of high-skilled parts, double bass drumming and stuff. I find this to be a shelter to avoid the risk of exposing ourselves to stuff that is socially recognized as “not true/too mainstream” and maybe find out that we actually like that.
When you’ll find yourself with a particular label or group of friends who are heavily oriented towards something specific, admitting that you actually enjoy different stuff is quite risky – and people are social animals, they can’t live without praise and support from their closest friends.

As long as there’s genuine music (meaning music actively created by the artist or person that’s performing it) and the will to communicate something through it, there’s nothing bad to say about it.
Everything else is just jumping on the bandwagon, hate-trends and maybe extreme dissatisfaction with life.
It’s a common error among musicians (beginners or non-professional/hobbyist among the others) that I’m personally trying to avoid, because if not taken, this path can lead to a better understanding of the music as a universe where everything is different and suited to the most various tastes, and there’s no written law where everything has to follow a common set of rules. And it would improve the social communication and interaction between bands as well !

I’d love to have some spare time for listening to music in a perfect environment, without hassles and being always on call!

In this moment I’m employed by a reputable company which leads the ecologic/biological products market since 1974. I’m responsible for export agreements, brand and social management and product design. I’ll do a little bit of web-designing from time to time. But I’m always on the run for better! Never cease to look for life improvements.  I’m an avid reader (Stephen King is my favourite author) and I like traveling and visiting foreign countries. Our singer is doing a masterclass in the fashion industry.

SL: I agree with your point, we often happen to overthink it as both artists and listeners.
At the end of the day it’s just music and creativity, just “do what thou wilt” and don’t generalize your vision.
Everything that doesn’t carry sincere passion (in any form) is quite fake, whereas on the other hand most elitists happen to label as “fake” what just happens to be outside their self-established dogmas, and ironically it’s usually what DOES happen to be actually something fresh.

Good luck for your present and future jobs!
We’ve come to the end of our chat. We thank you and everyone in Onyria for your helpfulness, and hope to be hosting you again in future times.
If you want to say something to our readers, this is your moment.
Goodbye from TSL!
Could you remember our readers where to find about you and your music?

SG: That was great Rizzo!

I wanted to thank every single fan around the globe that supported us by sharing our stuff, buying our covers (we decided since mid 2014 to give them out for free, you can download them from our SoundCloud or ReverbNation accounts) and being so kind and nice with their comments on our videos (we read every single one of them!). To all of the others: check out our project and if you like it, spread the word!
And the most important thing: never lose your passion for music!

Thank you TSL!

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