Sūrya. Mysterious. Heavy. Doom. There’s lots of ways one could describe the sound of the british band but doom and sludge with a post metal basis seems to be the one that makes more sense. What is more important is the sheer power that they leave upon the listener and that is something we cherish the most. And, of course, the lyrical content, which is also very important for us all. So, obviously, we’ve got a little chat with the guys and this was the result. – By Matias Melim
Hi guys, thank you for making yourselves available for this interview that is being made on the occasion of the launch of your most recent album – Solastalgia. So it’s a good opportunity to introduce you guys to those that don’t know you among the Portuguese crowd as well as to discuss some details about your most recent effort – this album. First of all, let’s start with the basics: Sûrya. What’s the meaning of your band’s name?
Sûrya is a Sanskrit word that means the Sun. It also connoted with the solar deity in Hinduism. To us symbolises life’s source, nature’s purest form of energy, the dispeller of darkness, as well as knowledge, wisdom and hope.
When were you formed? Was/is there any idea behind the formation of the band or was it “just” a bunch of friends that decided to join forces and produce good music?
The band started as a duet around 2015 but shortly after fate brought us all together and that’s how Sûrya was born. When we started working on our songs we didn’t have any specific expectations regarding musical style, it all just came naturally, without trying to sound like this or that. We all were looking for some kind of depth, a meaning in art in general, we had some concepts in our heads. At that time Bartek was inspired by audio samples as a form of expression, so we decided to use samples and visuals (in our live performances) to add the message into the music. Shortly after we recorded our first album “Apocalypse A.D.” Rafal left the band and Greg joined us on guitar.
As your Bandcamp page states, you guys are environmentalists. Despite the absence of lyrics in your music, the themes seem to be always linked with environmental destruction (both in sound as in track names). Is your music fused permanently with these subjects? In the future, do you expect to keep to these subjects or, like some, will explore other situations of injustice (social for example)?
We are definitely not ‘only’ concerned with ecology, but it does seem that this is the most pressing issue facing us at the moment. People have been warning since the nineteenth century that greenhouse gas emissions would change the climate. Now that in many ways it is too late to save the planet we once knew, people are finally understanding the gravity of the crisis. We are literally facing another extinction but this time one caused entirely by human activity. As a band, we are of course also concerned with social justice, with stopping the continuing colonialism and murder of indigenous peoples, the commodification of vital natural resources like water, the privatisation and enclosure of land that belongs to all people and creatures. These themes are in the album too. Whether it is the exploitation of workers, the barbaric treatment of animals as mere commodities to be slaughtered for profit, whether it is the rise of the far-right in an era of capitalist crisis – this is all connected. It is really all the result of an economic system based on greed and profit. Capitalism is a system based on perpetual growth. How can we sustain infinite growth in a finite world? Nothing will change without overthrowing this system of production and building a better system that works in harmony with nature for the good of all humanity. We should also say that we have been very happy to see other metal bands come out and state clearly that they are anti-fascists. So we should also state here that we are also anti-fascists. This is especially true when eco-fascist ideas are also becoming prevalent, we want no part in that. Fuck fascism before it fucks you!
Have you been involved in other projects? Musical or of any association (for example of environment defense)?
We have all been involved in various forms of activism, from animal liberation, to Kurdish solidarity, to anti-fascism as well as the squatting movement and in building autonomous social centres in London. For some of us, our main side project really is working with our friends in the South London Scum gig collective. We put on a variety of gigs across the punk and metal spectrum. We try to make those gigs benefits for positive causes wherever possible.
As Sûrya, before this album, you launched one album by the name of “Apocalypse A.D.”. Do you feel with was a good start of this career? Was it well received?
We are really happy with how “Apocalypse A.D.” came out, we managed to put together a strong message and spread it around as we were invited to play in many different Cities/Countries these last couple of years, Traveling together and playing gigs made us grow as a band too.
About Solastalgia, since the word seems to have some different meanings online, what is for you the best definition of the word? Making things more interesting, how would you define both this album and the word?
The term “solastalgia” itself refers to the psychic pain of environmental destruction, of feeling displaced from our home whilst still living in it. You could say that the album is a kind of lament. We are all suffering watching the images of the Amazon burning; the continued ecocide and murder of indigenous people at the behest of the fascist Bolsonaro. We are all in pain when we know the oceans are overfished, and full of plastics with their ecosystems dying. We are all heartbroken watching the accelerating death of our only home. All because of the profit driven system we live under. Solastalgia just seemed like a really helpful term, that expressed how we feel. It’s helpful along with the concept of the Anthropocene, the era in which human beings have been the dominant influence on climate and environment. This terrifying era in which human beings and industrial capitalism have negatively and irreparably altered our planet forever. We hope that the record encourages the listener to reflect on our current state of so-called civilisation, and our alienation from the natural world. Despite it’s depressive and often bleak sound, the record still remains equally as hopeful and we encourage people to take action.
Of all the tracks, two of them left me wondering: “Fenland” and “Black Snake Prophecy”. Taking into account that the prophecy one can be researched online, what can you tell me about “Fenland” track? What’s it about?
Really we wanted to use a sample from this 1974 British television play called Penda’s Fen. It’s a great film directed by Alan Clark, but it had this short section where this writer speaks to the young protagonist whilst doing a spot of gardening (hence the chirping birds). He talks about the hope for mankind after the globe being choked by a great concrete megacity. He says the hope is that in some small crack of that world a seed will be embedded to grow a new one, that our future lies in a disobedience and chaos which will give birth to a new experiment in human living.
It reminded us of the famous statement by Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti. “We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.” Also, the track name isn’t really so important, we needed a title for the track so we called it ‘Fenland’ after the film. The Fenlands are a low-lying marshy wetlands area in eastern England, so I suppose it made us think of being stuck in a kind of bog.
Is there any narrative line that binds Solastagia together or is it more of an anthology of disconnected subthemes?
It’s definitely not a ‘concept’ album. And actually the songs were written quite a long time apart from each other. We were playing a lot of gigs while we were trying to write songs and we didn’t find much time to actually jam and write songs but somehow they do fit together.
It’s with a voiceless doom sound that you choose to present your art. Do you find it easy to pass your green message without lyrics?
Our first album “Apocalypse A.D.” didn’t have any vocals/lyrics but we use samples to add the message in the songs. With Solastalgia we introduced some vocals and spoken word, we also keep using samples into the songs. We don’t think is easier necessarily. The use of samples just developed naturally for us. Who knows, we might not use samples or lyrics in the future. It just depends on how we’re feeling. The addition of our own voice on songs like Anthropocene in place of samples was the right one.
Solastalgia was released almost a month ago and there haven’t been any shows since. When can the fans expect to hear this awesome piece of music live?
Our next gig will be on the 21st September at Epicfest in London where we will play Solastalgia in its entirety. In October we are going to travel to Europe to play some gigs in the Netherlands.
Can we expect Sûrya in Portugal in the near future?
We would love to play in Portugal. We are planning to travel some more next year so Portuguese promoters, please get in touch and let’s make it happen!