Behind the Story of "Ruthemal"

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Behind the Story of "Ruthemal"

It was years ago that Caleb, Jordan and myself (Ricky) all discovered the joy that is Dungeons & Dragons.

A mutual friend brought up her history of playing the game and, after seeing the twinkling in our eyes, offered to DM for us. We dove into the game with very little idea of what we were doing, but we quickly became hooked.

It was a simple setup — an adventuring party comprised of a warrior, a wizard, and a bard, ready to explore dangerous places and get their hands a little dirty in hopes of gold and treasure. We were heading to the city to find work, but the caravaners dared not take the road. Apparently, a nearby nest of Kruthix made it too dangerous. These scarab-like insects were nearly the size of a man, with hard exoskeletons and razor-like claws. Unless the nest was cleared, no one would be taking the passage to the city.

Sounded like our type of work.

Do not try to take the eyes
The crimson lights are full of lies

Do not fall to their deceit
But they are blind to the dangers beneath their feet

And you don’t know how far this tunnel goes
And you don’t know how long they’ll hear these ghosts
The kruthix claw and bite at your necks
But you won’t fall — you will defeat this nest

The chains will clack against the stone
The room is quiet except a moan

“Do not defile!” shouts Ruthemal
The zombies stir against the wall

Iron rings across the hall
You stand bravely with your back against the wall
Around your feet, your blood begins to fall
This will be your grave
In the tombs of Ruthemal

Go ahead and try to run
Think about the things you have you have done
The only one to get away
Livius, you make your escape

You remembers how your friends would laugh
How they started on this accursed path
You note how things will never be the same
The memory’s so real, it’s like you hear your name
You hear your name

But of course, no quest is ever quite as it seems. The insects had made their nest in an ancient and mysterious tomb. Traps were left behind to guard the tomb from looters — something we learned the hard way when we greedily pried the beautiful garnet gems out of a statue’s eye and nearly died from the triggered trap.

We fought through swarms and swarms of Kruthix, thinking the worst was behind us. But we were very wrong. This wasn’t just any tomb — it belonged to an ancient Drow known for wielding terrible dark powers: Ruthemal. And he was still here.

We had already wearied ourselves from the previous fights when the necromancer trapped us in his chambers. Zombies shambled at us from the crypt walls. We chopped down one after another, but they just kept coming. Ruthemal laughed as we began to fall. We were all going to die.

First fell the warrior, Olivander. On the brink of death, the zombies clawed at him and began to drag him towards the pile of defeated adventurers, where surely he would become one of them.

Isaac, the bard, soon followed. Unconscious and weak, it seemed like his time had come.

The only one who still stood was the wizard, Livius. He knew it was over, that they had lost, so he ran for his life. All he could hear was the cackling of the lich behind him as he sprinted out of the catacombs and returned to the surface.

Back on the surface, he fell to his knees. They had cleared the Kruthix nest, but at the cost of his friends. Resting against a tree, he thought it must be shock that he could still hear his friends’ voices. “Livius”, he heard them call, over and over. He thought he must be going mad. But… he did really hear it now. Rubbing his eyes he looked out over the horizon to see an impossible sight — his friends alive, limping but alive, and calling his name.

It was a particularly memorable story because of how narrowly we escaped death. Just as Isaac was on his last breath, he rolled a critical 20 which restored him to 1 health. As a bard he knew healing magic, and was able to quickly revive Olivander. The zombies, assuming they were dead, barely even noticed, and in one gasp they had both come to their senses and escaped the tomb.

Of course, Jordan is as much a bard as his character was. Inspired by our tale of narrowly-escaped doom, he wrote “Ruthemal” as an homage to one of first roleplaying experiences. It wasn’t until several years later that we revisited the song as a band and made it as big and as epic as we could.

I’m really happy to have such a fun song to give to our Kickstarter backers. Hopefully you enjoyed reading the behind-the-scenes as we had making it.

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Our Podcast, The Eighth Tower, Is Launched!

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Our Podcast, The Eighth Tower, Is Launched!

For over a year now, Ricky and Jordan have been toiling away at an idea for a Harper's Farce podcast. It has been quite a process, but through the help of some amazingly talented people (Jordan Barnett for music and our good friend John Sanders with his brilliant voice acting skills), countless hours of work, and unnumbered google searches, we have finally come to the end of this road. Well, or the start, really.

So it is with great excitement that we announce the first episode of our podcast, The Eighth Tower. This podcast is going to work like a companion tool to our album to help fully flesh out the city, characters, culture, and conflict within Calescai. There will be three five-episode arcs, each featuring someone very close to the three main characters of our upcoming album. 

We would like to introduce you to our first voice: Jeremy Ballard. He is husband to Etta Ballard, whose voice can be heard in the lyrics the two songs, Lips and Empyrean Awaits, from our E.P. (A Step to Calescai, available to stream for free at harpersfarce.com/music). He is a middle-class banker whose family is undergoing trials both fiscally and with their health. The first arc in this podcast explores the length someone will go to to try and save their family. 

The Eighth Tower can be found at harpersfarce.com/theeighthtower or on iTunes or your favorite podcast streaming platform. Expect to find new episodes every other Tuesday.

All of this wouldn't be possible without the support from fans like you who come at us with questions about the lore, engage in the story, and show up to our shows. So a big thank you is needed for everyone on this list for supporting us. 

Stay tuned as we release more episodes of this podcast, and remember if you listened to it and liked it, please rate it on iTunes, share it, or do anything to help us get the word out! We are presently making art on no budget, so any exposure is helpful. 

Cheers,
HF

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Inspiration: The Cosmic Sounds of Midday Veil

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Inspiration: The Cosmic Sounds of Midday Veil

“98.3 KEXP, you’re listening to Audio Oasis the NorthWest music show. This is Sharlese, and it's now time for a live performance from Midday Veil, here on KEXP Seattle.”

There are certain bands that you hear in your lifetime that completely sweep you away when you first hear them. It may be a different style of music, the performance, the tone, sounds, etc. Sometimes this comes later – a realization and appreciation for a band that you never heard before.

I was finding my way through a nice autumn day, blending picante hot cocoa, about 200 pounds of it. The demand was high, after all – winter was coming. My phone was running music on YouTube’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert and found its way to KEXP, based from Seattle. That's when my ear drums were graced with the a mystical, pagan-esque, cosmic, tribal, psych rock sound of Midday Veil.

I was hooked. Their sound so unique to my ears that I had to hear the rest. Their debut album dates back to 2009 with Subterranean Ritual lead by Emily Pothast on vocals. Their music has spanned across 6 Albums and today I'll be talking of their fifth, “The Current”.

This album really showcases an elevation to their overall sound giving very captivating melodies and a journey that is most enjoyable from the beginning to finish. Its filled with strong rhythmic and cosmic synth giving an imagination to the drifting beauty of space. All while presenting such a foundation rhythm and groove that you want to let your mind and body go as you take it in. The type of music you want to dance around the fire too while it's raining, 80 degrees outside, midnight…and, of course, it's a full moon.

One of the biggest contributions to the overall sound and fullness of this album is the addition of Jason Kochan on bass. This gave room for the other musicians to expand their own sound while Kochan gives a performance on the bass that drives their sound forward. While the synths and guitars of Pothast and Timm Mason could expand and give the dark atmosphere that files the progressive sound of The Current.

Side B of the album starts with “Without and Within”, a mystical walk through a dark hypnotic field. It's easy to get lost and captivated in the enchanting and ominous voice of Pothast, while the percussion and bass give the body moving beat, and the guitar and synth create the haunting space in between. Following it transitions into “Sun Stone” and then “Great Cold of the Night.” Sun Stone acts as a bridge between the songs keeping you wondering and anticipating where the luminous heavy synth organ will bring you. It ends bringing in a rhythmic synth and “Great Cold of the Night” kicks off with the perfect beat to get you dancing around the fire. As the final song on this album, it does bring a very tribal-esque sound while keeping their unique way of painting an expansive star filled landscape. The song naturally spans a good 11:15 and brings you through a musical journey that you want to stomp your feet to, raise your hands to the powers above and make some sort of sacrificial offering in the fire.

For a band with an unforgettable sound, I am highly grateful that I have discovered and stumbled upon this dark and mystical psych band, Midday Veil. So thank you, KEXP, and thank you, Midday Veil.

Be sure to check out more from Midday Veil.

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Artist's Corner: From Brass to Strings

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Artist's Corner: From Brass to Strings

I like to think of inspiration as anything or anyone who has left a lasting influence on my drive towards creativity or aspects of my development as a human being. This is constantly susceptible to change, of course: hearing a paper cup being crushed, causing it to make a particular sound; the kindness and unshaken strength of my mother. But, this is about music, I suppose.

I'd like to go through a couple of the artists that have inspired me in some way artistically.

Before learning guitar, I began my musical journey with brass -- french horn, to be exact. I know that doesn't sound like it has any real connection, but I will sew this all together.

Whilst playing the french horn, I developed an ear for tone and key. As time went by, and no longer being in school with rental french horns, I found myself unable to play (due to the price of french horns being well past the pay of a Starbucks employee).

So here I am, with no instrument, an ear, and nothing else but a passion. So, I did what everyone does when they have a little existential crisis, and bought a guitar. My first guitar was an Epiphone beginner guitar, that looked something like a Les Paul junior with a sunburn finish.

The first year all I did was goof around with it for about an hour a day. I began taking lessons under the wing of Kyle Herrington, whom I still see to this day as the best teacher in all forms of the term.

H.I.M.

When I first began taking lessons, all I was obsessed with was this band. The dark yet romantic voice of Ville Valo, and the metaled-up guitar, blowing away anything in front of it. The dissonant chords and retro synths in the back keeping you on your toes. It was all I ever wanted as a rebellious and confused teen. As time went by and I learned the basics of chord progression and the other fun stuff, my teacher insisted I broadened my genres of music. And so I did.

Reggae

This is something that is a little odd and not very noticeable in the way I play today.

I had the chord progressions, I had the ear, the only thing I saw left was rhythm. If there was one thing I would encourage anyone thinking about picking up guitar to do, it would have to be taking a look at this genre. Absolutely confusing tempos and kinky off-beat strumming, it makes normal rhythms a breeze. Once I had delved far enough into off-beat tempos, I felt more than comfortable with the rest.

And so began the weird ball of sounds and artists that are morphing my sound constantly.

Sigur rós

This delightful band was introduced to me by our keyboardist, Jordan. The first song I was exposed to was Brennisteinn. The moment I saw Jónsi with a gorgeous custom Dan Johnson guitar using a cello bow, my idea of music was entirely flipped.

The sound that it made has resonated with me for more years than anything else during my musical stride, and to this day, in the majority of the music we make I am using a cello bow.

Thom Yorke

His minimalistic beats and warble effect on everything was absolutely intoxicating.

He and Jónsi where the first to introduce me to falsetto as well, which is the range I like to use of when backing Ricky´s vocals.

 
 

David Gilmour

Now, it is pretty common that people have a favorite big band rock guitarist as their inspiration, and I am no different. Solos frankensteined from multiple takes being turned into this monstrous and gripping scream resonates within my own work. Not being afraid of veering out of the basic pentatonic scale and having to learn the fretboard was one of the best things I ever did.

Deerhunter

This strange independent band stands out like a sore thumb due to their clean and reverberated surfy sounds. It also introduced me to the world of pedals and Fender brand guitars, as well.

There are many many more topics that I could go over, and more influences that will pass by me in the future, but that will all be for another time.

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Inspiration: Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

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Inspiration: Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

The medium of the novel is a particularly lucky form of storytelling: it has the ability to, without limit, give information to the consumer directly. In contrast, alternative mediums of storytelling such as music and art have a serious challenge presented when trying to tell a cohesive story that is packed with lore. As we were approaching this daunting task, we started thinking of ways that people have told stories without words. One of the things that we landed on was the video game Shadow of the Colossus.

This game decided that instead of telling a story through copious amounts of text, instead to tell it through experience and art. The gameplay is challenging and the aesthetics are exceptional, to be fair, but the most engrossing aspect of it is the unspoken lore. It brings the player to a point of engagement that is deeper than spelling it out with words simply by presenting the deeply engrossing environment. The creators were masters of communicating through the unspoken as they painted the picture of a lost hero and his horse, in a vast landscape devoid of others save for monolithic monsters, attempting to complete a mysterious task to resurrect a woman whose name you (as the player) don’t even know. As a player, I was personally invested in the unnamed hero and his horse.

All this to say: We are trying to borrow a few notes from the creators of Shadow of the Colossus in regards to storytelling. Our characters are complex and the world that they are influencing (and that is influencing them) is huge, but our stories are told somewhere in the space between the lyrics, somewhere in the quiet time between colossi.

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Artist's Corner: In the Year 2000

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Artist's Corner: In the Year 2000

“What drummers have inspired you?”

I pondered over this question as I was recently asked and began to reflect upon the evolution of my drumming in my lifetime. There have been numerous musical influences throughout my life; however, there are only a handful of these musicians and artist stuck with me.

I began playing drums when I was around 14, after a young childhood of piano lessons from the sweet old lady from church (she played the organ during Sunday congregation). Then later, in junior high, I played stand-up bass (I could play Lowrider, that was the only talent I had), then I fell into percussion. The typical stand-up snare and stand-up bass drum in the back of the orchestra room. Then Christmas 2000 was upon us and the snow was filling the streets. The magical world of winter wonderland was finally here, and Santa was sure to deliver. I wrote him a letter, left out milk and cookies and everything. But to no end... he never showed. Truth be told, I did not believe in Santa at the age of 14, but thankfully my parents were wonderful and got me a kit. Soon enough, I was taking lessons in town and on my way to 14-year-old stardom. So what do you do with your friends after school and you all play instruments, you find a cheap beat, 3 chords, and play that over and over again. The typical middle and high school music, bad grindy punk music, screaming metal, and then to chill out, sublime covers and Ben Harper covers. So where did I fall into once I got a drum kit for myself? Bad grindy punk music. We called ourselves Tripped Out Space Monkeys.

As much as I would like to go into details of my complete evolution as a drummer, today I am focusing on the question at hand. So out of inspirational drummers, I have always found to be a highly interesting and talented drummer would be Brian Viglione.

Being the yang to the yin of Amanda Palmer, The Dresden Dolls duet have a beautiful cohesion, bringing together drums, keyboard, and vocals into very powerful and sometimes heart-wrenching emotional sounds. Spanning from their beginnings with their playing in mall pubs in Boston, A is for Accident (Live), to their final album No, Virginia, this duo from has always delivered. It wasn't until I found their live shows that I really saw the destructive and powerful nature of Brian's drumming. Following the strong vocals, he bellows up a storm to drive Amanda Palmer through a musical journey. You have drummers and percussionists. This man falls into the realms of the latter.

Around two years ago we had our very first show at Taproot, we did in fact cover the Dresden Dolls’ song, Sex Changes. Keep in mind this was the first time I was on a drum kit in about two years, so I had a lot of work cut out for me. Viglione’s drumming is highly expressive and has a dancing dynamic with Palmer, and when one has to bring that to the table... well, it's no easy feat. But I will say, I think we rocked that song and that show was hot!

It's hard to choose one inspiration to talk of, and out of the handful of bands I have fallen for throughout the years, Brian Viglione’s talent has taught me to utilize my character and channel the expressive power one can use with an instrument.

If I have one suggestion for musicians, artists, and other imaginative minds, it is to embrace it and see where it takes you. Art is an expression of our inner minds and our thoughts, but that can take us in directions we never imagined.

Thanks for reading my thoughts,
Caleb

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Collaborative Storytelling: Where Music and Role-playing Align

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Collaborative Storytelling: Where Music and Role-playing Align

So, a few months ago when we were recording our EP we were asked by MJ Riemann (wife of Kurt Riemann, owner of Surreal Studios) who writes our music. When we responded that we all chip in and that it was a collaborative effort, her response seemed a little surprised and she made some comment about how most bands couldn’t pull that off.

That got me thinking:

is our style of music writing unique and if so, why do we do it this way?

First, let me briefly explain how we have written the songs for our first album.

It all began in the winter of 2015/2016 when we decided it was time to write our own stuff instead of just covering other’s music. Only, there was a slight problem: all of our lives were pretty boring and we didn’t want to sing songs about the hardships of being white, middle-class men in America. I remember, I had this cool dream about a dude in a weird desolate landscape, climbing to the top of this city to lay to rest his dead child in the ocean in the sky, and I was like “Ahha! That’s kinda neat!” So I called a round table discussion. We all gathered around a (not exactly round) table covered in paper with a bottle of scotch, a fire, and lots of pens, and started trying to tell the story.

Coming up with the world of Calescai came easy for us, and it was due to one large fact: for the past three years, Ricky, Caleb, and I have all been a part of an intense, once a week role-playing group. For us, writing this album was no different than creating a moving and meaningful campaign - it’s all collaborative storytelling. To participate in a good campaign you have to be able to be patient, respectful, and sometimes you have to be able to argue your heart out because, yes, you do want to sneak up on the scruffy inn-keeper and pick his pocket and no, you know it isn’t a good idea cause he will probably kick us out, but you still want to do it!... and at the end of the day, you have to be able to still want the thrill of creating something that is exciting, that awakens your imagination, and that lets you experience something you couldn’t otherwise.

To us, this album is the same thing.

All this to say, if you have a group of friends and want to create something cool and fun together, try role-playing games. It’s like premarital counseling for creative groups. It teaches you the skills to put your ego aside sometimes for the greater creative good.

We are getting so excited to show you all our weird little story sometime soon!
 

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Tiny Desk Concert Contest 2017

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Tiny Desk Concert Contest 2017

After several days of hard work, it's done. We finished our entry for the Tiny Desk Concert Contest!

This is our first recording of "Coda", a 9-minute epic from our forthcoming album, and we're really excited to share it with everyone.

The song follows one of our three protagonists, Rina, as she is imprisoned for her choices to pursue potentially heretical knowledge. She laments her choices in the first half of the song, questioning her faith, only to encounter the strange and cryptic humanoid, "Coda". He charges her with the task to seek truth outside the city of Calescai before breaking her out of prison.

LYRICS: 

Where did it all go wrong?
The moment I heard his song

I was consumed with the thought
that maybe, just maybe, he sought not destruction, but freedom.

But it was I who condemned him. 
Who really had sinned
against Empyrean’s will?
In silence, the bars fill the air with their answer. 

I pray that from down here
The water can’t hear what I now confess:
I no longer have faith, or believe.

Afiria, Mystery,
If you can hear, answer me...
Have I been deceived?

History remembers and forgets
The stars continue their duet
Your kind can testament only to what you have seen
Yes, Rina. By yourselves, you have been deceived.


Kishu did not die in vain
Seek Solitude, find
Afiria’s true name
To go forward you must descend
Bring the key, child, begin the end

But the time for questions has ended
Run now, or be apprehended
Calescai will soon be attacked
And whatever you do,
Don’t look back.

 

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Inspiration: Disasterpeace's "Vignette: Panacea"

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Inspiration: Disasterpeace's "Vignette: Panacea"

Though we started writing Volume I before the game was even released, Richard Vreeland's (aka Disasterpeace) work from Hyper Light Drifter resonates with me because it has one foot in the classical past and another in the messy, electronic future.

It begins with a soft, emotive piano that's clearly inspired by Debussy's Clair de Lune. It's airy and lo-fi at first, only hinting at the crunchy synth swells that come in to accompany the piano until it finally ends in a noisy static. When writing the 8th track, Solitude, we came to a lot of the same conclusions, or at least drew from similar muses. Chopin's nocturnes have always been really affecting to me. They are classically structured, but in a really deeply felt way. They may be light, deft, and graceful, but never sterile or pre-packaged — and always tinged with bittersweet. This is exactly the emotion wrapped up in our song, and why we drew so heavily from Chopin's style.

But the electronic component is important, as well. The world that Calescai occupies is foreign and often dangerous. Solitude itself is a place only as mysterious as it is feared. The classical component of the song carries the emotion and human aspect of it; the synth grounds that experience in a sci-fi environment that is unfamiliar and uncaring.

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