Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Josh Moran/Alex Smith Of Vacant Eyes

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Artwork for ‘A Somber Preclusion Of Being.’ Courtesy of Vacant Eyes.

On Sep. 4, 2020, progressive death/doom metal act Vacant Eyes will release their debut full-length album ‘A Somber Preclusion Of Being,’ best described by main songwriter/lyricist Josh Moran as a “collection of thoughts and perspective for those who share the dream of an alternate ending to existence.”

The six-track album, which follows up 2014’s ‘The Dim Light Of Introversion’ EP, was mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Katatonia, Dark Tranquility) at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden and was recorded/mixed by Brian Westbrook at Sonic Titan Studios in Massachusetts in the United States.

Vacant Eyes is guitarist/vocalist Moran, guitarist/backing vocalist Alex Smith, bassist Grim Riley, drummer Chris Kudukey and keyboardist Mark Richardson.

The Music Bugle had the chance to chat with Moran/Smith about the upcoming release and more.

Music Bugle – How did you guys get your name?

Josh Moran – We felt it was a good representation of the inspiration for starting the band. It represents being preoccupied with thought, introspection, and pain, to the point where it looks as if there’s nothing behind your stare.


Music Bugle – What were some challenges you faced while making your debut full-length?

Josh Moran – We had many challenges. Mostly having to do with recording/producing. We went through a few different members, so I had to record the third guitar parts myself, which I didn’t mind, but we learned that trying to coordinate and record a six-member band with 15-minute songs, three guitarists, keyboards, etc., was a very daunting and expensive task. I also learned how important tuning and string tension is, when you have 3 guitars harmonizing at very low BPMs. We experimented with several different string gauges for the lower strings because of “twang” and the chord settling as it rings out, that was causing tuning issues. It was definitely a learning experience.


Music Bugle – How do you think people will react to your upcoming music, compared to your older stuff?

Josh Moran – I think they will find it to have much more substance. As we matured as a band and found our sound, things just started getting much more involved. Longer songs, more intricate harmonies and solos. It takes on a much more death/doom sound rather than funeral doom as it did before and hopefully will catch the attention of those who love that genre, still with a fair amount of funeral doom on the side.


Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your particular genre?

Josh Moran – This genre has the most real music I’ve ever heard. It represents emotion that most are afraid to talk about, but personally, I, as I’m sure others do, find a beauty in the darker thoughts and feelings, as taxing as it can be. Between smooth harmonies and ambiance to hard-hitting, desperate-sounding riffs and melodies, I can’t get enough of it.

Alex Smith – Doom metal is steeped in honesty, emotion and melancholy, all of which speak to me. Furthermore, there is a special kind of heaviness to certain songs when they move slowly.


Music Bugle – What was the hardest song for you guys to write, generally speaking?

Josh Moran – I would have to say this debut song, “A Colorless Eternity.” Alex and I spent quite a bit of time putting the harmonies and solos together and making sure parts melded well. The EBow parts and the “call and answer” parts that precede it took some practice and refining. In general, guitarists have had trouble learning that song.

Alex Smith – I’d also say “A Colorless Eternity” was our most difficult song to write. It’s the longest song on the album, has the most sections and is the most complex, musically. For a long time, despite quite a lot of music having been written for the song, we still knew there were places where we would need to add more before it would feel finished, like Mark’s piano solo, which was one of the last additions. I still remember listening to that missing piece finally being in place and feeling both the grip of the sadness in that passage as well as the satisfaction of the song reaching a place of completeness.


Music Bugle – If you had the chance to chat one-on-one with one of your musical influences, who would you choose?

Alex Smith – While I’m fortunate to have met many of my influences, I wish I could have met the late Juhani Palomäki from the Finnish bands Yearning and Colosseum, whose music we have covered. The sense of grandness in his songwriting, amazing use of melody, integration of classical influence with metal and crushing lyrics are very striking to me and I’d love to know more about how he arrived at that style and to thank him. Chuck Schuldiner of Death, whose awesome music, incredible influence and positive attitude are known to many, would also have been awesome to meet.

Josh Moran – Oh God, that’s a tough one. From a writing standpoint, I would probably have to say Juhani Palomäki too. His work absolutely blows my mind. He had mastered the art of tearing a listener back and forth between feeling hopeful and then completely flooring them into a thoughtful void that will keep you up at night. I love every second of it and would be honored to hear his thoughts on it.


Music Bugle – What made you guys want to release “A Colorless Entity” as the first single from the album?

Josh Moran – We chose “A Colorless Eternity” because it was a pretty solid representation of the album. It is a good showcase of how the band has changed a bit, as I mentioned earlier. Structure-wise, it has many changes and rarely revisits any earlier part of the song. Many of our new songs have a similar format. We were proud of this song and couldn’t wait to show people.


Music Bugle – How would you say the band has progressed over the years?

Josh Moran – We started out as more of a straight funeral doom band, and that’s what I intended when I wrote our first song, “The Cortex.” After a while, you kind of find your niche and let it do its thing, so we have progressed more into death/doom with some more progressive parts, as far as doom goes.


Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days?

Josh Moran – I think social media makes it easier to stand out. Social media algorithms have a tendency to show content to other like-minded people and even shove it down their throat in some cases, so honestly, I haven’t really noticed bands getting overshadowed, but then again, I’m really only a Facebook user.

Alex Smith – To me, social media makes it both easier and harder for bands to stand out. It offers countless opportunities for communication, promotion and exposure, but with so much content out there, it takes more to stand out. Considering it at least gives a chance to way more people to get their music out and into the world in some capacity, though, perhaps it’s easier overall.


Music Bugle – How have you guys been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Josh Moran – We have been affected by the pandemic in a sense that we haven’t been able to rehearse in person at all since it all happened. Luckily, though, we have been mostly focused on getting this album all set, so we didn’t have any shows scheduled that ended up being cancelled or anything like that. The majority of our writing is done at home, so that hasn’t really been affected.

Alex Smith – We have to consider live streaming instead of having a proper release show, at least until later on when circumstances change. As Josh said, we haven’t been meeting as a band, but are starting to work on making music remotely.

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