RAPMM: Thank you Meka Nism for taking some time out to speak with us at Rock All Photography. Are all of you from the Orlando area? if not where is your hometown?
Bobby Keller: Thank you so much for having us, as we are very excited to be a part of this! We all live in Orlando, but Meka and Jay are the only ones that were born here in Florida. Jarret our bassist and Chris our drummer are both from Chicago, which is also one of our favorite places to play. I was born in Denver, Colorado, and lived up in the northeast before moving to Florida in 1996.
RAPMM: There has been a mix of sounds come from your area. What have been some of the most well-known bands?
Bobby Keller: Orlando is like the closet Seattle from back in the day, and what I mean by that, is that there is a lot of talent here. All of the genres are covered here for sure. The most well-known metal band from Orlando has to be Trivium, and they have been doing a tremendous job with their latest release “The Sin and the Sentence”. So, its nice to see some hometown love when they are out and about in the world. Tampa, which is about 2 hours from Orlando, is the home to all of the death metal bands, like Death, Morbid Angel, and Cannibal Corpse. They take their metal over there pretty seriously, and we have a lot of love for Tampa and the scene there.
RAPMM: Our lives seem to match at times our music. Do you each recall the very first album you purchased and why did you choose it in particular?
Bobby Keller: I totally agree with that statement, and can remember the first album that I purchased with my own money was the black album by Metallica. I remember when it came out the amount of popularity it had, and how it just stormed the airwaves. I bought the cassette tape and pretty much wore it out in my portable tape player, haha remember tape players?
Meka: I used to go to the used CD shops and look for everything PJ Harvey, Marilyn Manson and Jack off Jill, etc. I think my first self bought album was “Rid of Me” by PJ Harvey, her style is super raw, expressive rock but she is never limited to one genre or instrument. Got to see her in London in 2004, it was awesome!
RAPMM: How did you all come to your own sound, is it is unique? Meka’s voice is distinctive so you know immediately it is her.
Bobby Keller: Yes, Meka’s voice is definitely distinct. I think since our first EP, The Dance at the End of the World, we’ve been trying to explore and find our sound. It’s been a little bit since then, but with the new EP, The War Inside, I think we’ve found our sound. Crushing guitars, drums, and bass with Meka’s powerful vocals backed with the soundscapes of keys. Everything just fits so nicely together now and we aren’t afraid of putting out the message “we are here to kick your ass, but promoting it with positivity and power”.
RAPMM: A few questions for Meka if we can?
Meka is it true you are fluent in Japanese- writing as well as speaking?
Where did the interest come from?
There are shaman elements in your mix as well isn’t there? Can you talk more about this and how it all fits with who you are?
Meka: Japanese is a beautiful language. I do speak a little Japanese, but the super-informal street slang style called Kansai dialect. So, I can make a lot of jokes, sounds like an anime character but not negotiate a business contract or anything formal. Lol. I lived in the Kyoto/Osaka area for 3 years, playing over 150 shows around the country as a solo artist and with my band Origami Girls. My reading and writing level is like a toddler with finger paints, lol, but it does delight me to be able to understand as much as do. I taught at a Buddhist kindergarten and at our music studio in Osaka. It was a very special place for me, that I am still deeply connected to. My friends there continuously support Meka Nism and have been asking us to tour there for a while. Very much looking forward to introducing my band to my fam in Japan.
The themes of Shamanism in the band happened very organically. I have always been interested in mystical, spiritual topics and started reading tarot cards at a young age. Living in Japan fueled some deep spiritual learning from meditation, and even the abstract performance art form called Butoh dance. When I returned to Florida, I decided to study different forms of spiritual healing from around the world. I am Reiki II certified and have recently become a full mesa carrier, which means that I completed my medicine bag in the Peruvian Shaman tradition and will continue to learn some lessons of the Siberian healers. Rock concerts can be sacred space for spiritual connection because our community/tribe comes together to have a high energy/
ecstatic experience. Our live shows are extremely charged with this power and intention which is available to anyone who wants to connect to it, and well, makes for one hell of a performance.
RAPMM: Do you find that your sound is settling into just one genre in particular or do you find with each song you write that another influence of some kind is making its way in?
Bobby Keller: Our sound is a collection of influences across all types of genres. It has always been difficult for us to nail down a specific genre for our music. I think that is also what makes us special and unique, too. Whenever we write a song or come up with something riff wise, we can always tell where the influence comes from because someone usually points it out haha. Sometimes it’s not even music that influences us. We pick stuff up from past experiences, emotions, or maybe something we saw on TV. So it’s always an adventure for us, haha.
RAPMM: Your single cover art for ‘War Inside’ who created it? What does it signify and how does everything tie into all of the music coming from your yet to be released album?
Bobby Keller: The single and cover art were all done by me. It’s a side thing that I like to do and I said hey why not try and do the art for this EP myself. So me and Meka sat down and tried to come up with some ideas and actually the final art was the result of a couple happy accidents, as I like to call them. It represents the duality of life, people’s emotions/thoughts, and the everyday battles that we all deal with.
RAPMM: It is always fascinating to hear about artists/bands process they go through to create a Single/EP/Album. Can you describe the process of how this comes together, and what it has meant to all of you?
Bobby Keller: The process for this EP started back in 2016 when we began writing some new music and gathering up all the arrangement ideas, riffs, lyrics, and everything we all do on a daily basis. We took off most of the year in 2017 to really concentrate on writing the songs and making them the best we possibly could. The goal for us was to make something very special, but at the same time, top everything that we’ve done in the past. We wanted to show our growth and I think we did. Then we decided that we were going to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and record it in Germany with Lasse Lammert. It turns out we had a festival there as well, so it all worked out. Being in Germany was just amazing and really forced us to focus on the job at hand, which is why this EP sounds the way it does. The inspiration there took everything to a whole other level, and we are forever grateful to Lasse for the opportunity to work with him over there.
RAPMM: Looking back over the single release/video project, how satisfied are you all with the final product? Any notes of things you might change or try differently next time?
Bobby Keller: Everything has been amazing. Since the release the video climbs daily with views from all over the world. The response to the new music has been insane, and I think I lot bigger than we originally thought. As of yet, there isn’t anything we want to change or try differently, we are just super excited to release the EP to the masses and hope it spreads like wild fire.
RAPMM: Spotify and YouTube seem to be the two most important places for musicians to be seen and heard nowadays. What elements did you put together as you were storyboarding for your first music video “War Inside?”
Bobby Keller: Totally agreed. The opportunities now a days from places like Youtube are tremendous. You can literally send something to the other side of the world with one click of a button, not like you could back in the day. So with our video, we wanted to make sure it was cinematic and as high of quality as possible. The storyboarding was the result of me and Meka coming up with imagery to match her vision for the song, and it came out awesomely. A huge thank you to Jim Dougherty, Dawn Lemay, and all of the people who were involved because without them, it wouldn’t have happened.
RAPMM: Certainly most bands are already planning a year or more ahead. What are some things you as a band would like to develop? Songwriting-wise? Instrumentally wise?
Bobby Keller: I think this EP is definitely the corner stone of our sound, so we definitely want to continue to develop our sound and write songs that continue to also show growth. We don’t ever want to plateau, and we aren’t afraid of taking chances either.
RAPMM: Out of this process what so far have you all found to be the most valuable lesson that you have learned?
Bobby Keller: I’d say that right now, especially with all of the bands trying to do it, stay original and true to yourselves. Just because one person might not like or understand what you are doing, doesn’t mean 1000 agree with them. People want to connect with originality and honesty. If you appear to be fake or not really backing up what you’re saying, then why bother.
RAPMM: Best quote or advice you can think of to give up and coming bands?
Bobby Keller: Work hard, Dedicate yourself. If you can see it, it can happen, and everyone’s road is different. Learn from the best and other’s mistakes so you don’t do what they did. Dreams come true, but to those who work at it!
Meka: Believe in your dreams unconditionally. Ride on top the wave that life throws at you instead of drowning in the ocean of worry about things. It’s the same path, just a different perspective. So, stay optimistic, be your own hero, be good to others, and never give up.