A Death/Groove trio hailing from North Carolina, Sagen have recently released their debut album “Mammoth”, an energentic collection of songs to stomp your feet to. The guys and I talked about their music, the band’s history and the current state of music in the streaming era.
Hi, this is Rick! Who am I talking to? What do you play in the band?
Stephen: Hey Rick, I’m Stephen. I play guitar.
Derek: I’m Derek, I play the drums.
Jordan: I’m Jordan, I play guitar.
A bit on your origins: while Mammoth is Sagen’s debut album, it is born from the ashes of Ryparian, whose only album Tide Of Succession was published in 2016. Why this “rebrand”, why did you decide to go back to the start?
Stephen: Ryparian was just a solo project I came up with for a different outlet musically than the band I was in at the time. After releasing Tides of Succession, I wanted to go the full band route and see where it went. Luckily, I was able to find some killer musicians in Jordan and Derek, and a rebrand felt right.
Derek: Yeah what Stephen said.
Jordan: Yes as Stephen said Tides… was done exclusively by him.
Now to the album itself: the pounding, grooving music is accompanied by lyrics telling a story of blood, of hunting and of tribal feuds, in a stone age setting.
I’d love to know what prompted you to choose this specific setting and how you crafted this specific story – they are not the usual subjects you find in metal lyrics, and it’s a great breath of fresh air.
Stephen: Thanks! We do feel like the stories are something fresh and fun for the metal world. Mammoth’s storyline stems from a riff I wrote in the very beginning of the writing process for the album. It just sounded like a mammoth walking around. It’s funny, because that riff didn’t make it on the album.
Derek: When I was first auditioning I actually thought that the name of the band was Mammoth. Seemed to fit the sound perfectly. I wasn’t there when it was chosen but I think Mammoth is the perfect name to capture the sound on the album.
Jordan: It’s definitely something different for sure.
So Mammoth is a concept album. Was it hard to write all the lyrics in a way that they could all be coherent with each other and with the story, or did this “guiding line” make it somewhat easier?
Stephen: Adam didn’t seem to have much trouble coming up with lyrics to the story. He wrote some killer material.
Derek: I had no involvement with this part so, hard pass for me.
As a young band, what is the key to finding your sound? Did you already plan what you wanted to play and how to connect it with the story, or did you adapt one element to the other?
I have to say there was something very primal about the music which perfectly fit with the lyrics.
Stephen: For Tides…, the story and lyrics came after the music. With Mammoth, we wanted to do the opposite. So what’s happening in the story is showcased through the different riffs and musical sections. It made it easier to write that way.
Derek: The thing about “finding your sound” is that it’s a constant journey of exploration. Sure, it is important to nail some key elements down but if we’ve finished evolving then there is nothing left for our fans, or ourselves, to look forward to.
Tell me a bit about the album artwork. Why this tree? On the front of a work of art in which everything is connected, where and how does the art fit in with the rest?
Stephen: Originally, we were going to use a rock, but Jordan and I decided to go with a tree. It was one at my old house. Jordan put his ‘bloody’ handprint on it and I took the picture. After going through the different pictures, we realized that the tree actually sort of resembles a mammoth from that angle.
Derek: It’s a cool pic but I wasn’t there when it happened.
Jordan: Yes, we came up with the idea to use a bloody handprint some time ago and originally thought it would look cool on stone, but if I remember correctly we were just hanging out one day and saw a tree in his backyard and thought “hey what if we used a tree instead?”
And it’s funny too because I actually volunteered to use my own actual blood. We were totally going to buy a syringe too, but apparently you can’t just buy them anywhere like I thought, so we had to use fake blood hahaha!
Probably a good thing too cause neither of us are phlebotomists and we wouldn’t have known what the hell we were doing! Would’ve been a good story though.
In the age of streaming, downloading and generally of quick consumption of music, how much value do you think has artwork, and the lyrics? They can be easily overlooked in the constant flux on new media that’s out today.
Stephen: I think the picture is pretty striking. Hopefully it draws some attention. Adam’s lyrics are really well-written, so I encourage anyone that listens to the album to read along either with the CD booklet or the lyrics on Bandcamp.
Derek: I think that artwork is actually more important than ever. In the attention economy, artwork catches faster than music and getting clicks is super important these days. Lyrics are more valuable for those who stick around and want to delve deeper into our music.
Jordan: Times have changed for sure but I don’t think artwork will ever not be important. It’s just as valuable as the music itself. Same with the lyrics.
You’ve passed what we could call the first trial for a new band, the debut album. Do you think the hardest part of getting started is now behind you, or is the real challenge just beginning?
Stephen: Yeah, I think at this point we’re kind of on autopilot in terms of the writing process and playing shows. The hardest part for us has really just been finding the right musicians to fill out the lineup.
Derek: My perspective is that having a great album and wanting to become a full time band is like having a great recipe book and wanting to open a restaurant. It’s a great starting point, but all of the work is still ahead.
Jordan: Yeah, finding the right musicians has really been the hardest part in all honesty. A pain in the ass for sure. We actually still don’t have a full lineup.
As of right now the only official members are Stephen, Derek, and myself but we will be trying out two guys for the two open positions in a couple weeks who are absolutely killer musicians.
So cross your fingers!
And continuing from the latter question, what are Sagen’s plans for the future? I read you are already planning your next albums…
Stephen: If our auditions go well, we plan on gigging early next year to get Mammoth out there to more people. The next album has a lot of material already written. We hope to get it out by the end of 2022.
Derek: Priority number 1 is filling out the line-up so we can start playing gigs again. We are also working on material for the next album.
Jordan: Definitely doing some gigs! That’s one thing I can’t wait to start doing again. Thanks!
Many thanks and good luck to Stephen, Jordan and Derek from Sagen! “Mammoth” was released on October 29th and you can stream it on Bandcamp. You can follow Sagen on Facebook and Instagram as well.
Rick is a physics student from Italy, who besides loving metal music, also digs books, movies and science. He plays the drums, guitar, and kazoo.