If the cosmic forces ever brought Tim Burton, Robert Smith and Katy Perry together to create a metal band in good old Malcolm McLaren fashion, it would probably look something like Requiem. Filled with poppy choruses, a light-hearted macabre aesthetic, the musical ambiance of The Cure, and the roaring attitude of the metal genre comes the debut album of this California quintet.
At this point in time, you might not have heard of Requiem. Sure, your super hip, in-the-know, music-blog obsessed friend may have caught wind of them on Twitter or even seen one of their SoCal shows, but that’s because Requiem have only just begun their ascent up the music chain.
Everything started when vocalist Steven Juliano saw the end of his Epitaph-signed goth-rock act I Am Ghost. Moving back to his hometown of Santa Cruz, California, Juliano would pick up both the mic and pen again when he formed the band, Requiem for the Dead. At first the group was solely created to jam around and get Juliano his musical fix, but as time went on jam sessions became more serious leading Juliano to pick up his buddy Finn Strobbe on bass before hunkering down to round out the rest of the band. After a shaky run through several line ups, Juliano and Strobbe would drop “for the Dead” and find themselves working with guitarist/vocalist Jacklyn Paulette, guitarist Ryan Heggum, and drummer Rick Grind.
Whether it was snagging up 23-year-old Heggum or finding a drummer Strobbe refers to as “his own entity on stage,” the Santa Cruz scene was ready to embrace a band like Requiem. “When we lost our old vocalist, the first person who I thought of was Jacklyn,” explains Juliano. “She was a staple in Santa Cruz with her solo project and she was in another band that we play periodically with. So I actually called her and honestly believed that there was no chance, I thought she was way too busy, that she would not be interested, but then she immediately was like ‘Heck, yeah! I wanna do it!’ And so the rest is history.” Thus Requiem was born.
When it came to building up Requiem’s sonic aesthetic the sound came together like a classic patchwork quilt. “The funny thing about Requiem is that every single person in this band listens to completely different things,” says Juliano. “I come from a more punk rock background and Jacklyn is more of the newer school metal band, like Avenged Sevenfold and Motionless in White.” “Yeah,” adds Strobbe, “I’m continuously playing funky stuff and I have an upright [bass] which I play a lot. There’s definitely a lot of diversity musically within the players in Requiem and I think it shows on the album.”
Initially feeling pressure to get music out as soon as possible, Requiem blasted through the recording of their first EP, Memoires, before taking a step back to fine-tune things for their debut full-length, The Unexplainable Truth. “We completely revitalized our image and revitalized the sound,” says Juliano. “We decided let’s do things seriously this time. Let’s stop just recording in our living room and bedroom, let’s really step it up and do a professional recording and really think about this for the first time in our lives. Before we got signed to Cleopatra, we were going to just do it ourselves.” And in fact, they did. Requiem had their entire album fully recorded twice before it was handed to their label, Cleopatra Records.
Not only does Requiem’s diversity show up within the sounds of the album, but also in many of the visual themes presented with it. The Unexplainable Truth’s first video and single, “Sticks and Stones and Her Lovely Bones” is an upbeat alt-goth pop jam played over footage reminiscent of classic early ‘90s rock videos. With a nice little lemon twist on the salted rim, the video details the death of a small skeleton child who spends his after life searching for his long lost love. “The story is about never giving up,” explains Juliano. “There’s always somebody in everybody’s life, that person that got away. That one person either in your childhood or growing up that you always think about what would have happened. I thought for us, as fans of Tim Burton and his movies, let’s be a little macabre about it. What about a little dead boy searching for his true love?” Requiem took to the streets of their hometown in order to shoot the footage and reshape their beloved Santa Cruz in a creepy new way to expand upon their theory. “You want to feel sorry for this kid, even though he’s obviously a dead little boy,” continues Juliano. “We wanted it to be campy, like obviously in the real world people would be running for their lives if this happened, but in our world no one cares.”
When it comes to defining their own world, the tales of their journey can be read in the members of Requiem through their extensive ink. “You’ve got to be honest about when you’re growing up as a kid,” says Juliano about the cultural realm that influenced his tattoo decisions. “You’re looking on stage and you see your favorite musician and he has this full, awesome, colorful sleeve or his neck tattooed. And for me, that’s how it started. I got tattoos because when I was touring a lot, all my friends had tattoos. I’m not trying to say I was trying to be cool, more so I just liked art, and music just went hand in hand. I think it’s just really punk rock to have tattoos. When you think of punk rock you think of tattoos and mohawks, I guess.”
“I have a mohawk and tattoos,” laughs Strobbe. “I’ve had a Mohawk for like 11 or 12 years. It’s just part of the culture at this point. Honestly, I’ve always thought my mohawk was a society filter. The people that I like that I wanted to talk to me would talk to me, and the people I didn’t like, like all the conservative people, etc., would avoid me like the plague. So tattoos are just like another extension of that. It’s almost like how we see our own people in the crowd, and in life.”
Strobbe’s tattoos not only filter the people he sees in society, but also elaborate more on who he is. “I just finished a pretty complex sleeve,” notes Strobbe of his latest piece, an Army of Darkness-inspired image of Strobbe battling zombified bass players in a graveyard inked by Santa Cruz based tattooist Edu Cerro. “It’s my three main bass inspirations: Bootsy Collins, Les [Claypool], and Flea as zombies. I have my bass over my head instead of a shotgun and I’m getting ready to do battle with the undead influences of my playing.”
“My tattoos on my arm are the complete opposite of Finn’s,” laughs Juliano. “They are a clusterfuck of literally over ten different tattoo artists. I tour a lot, so I’d have a day off and I’d just go to the nearest tattoo parlor and get a tattoo for the day. You can tell by looking at the tattoos that each tattoo is completely different looking and for me personally it’s a good and bad thing. Good that it’s a bunch of memories, but in retrospect I almost feel like it could’ve been done a little better thought wise.”
However, as Requiem continues to gain popularity, their show circuit expands past their hometown, giving Juliano many more opportunities to travel for more day trip tattoos. “We just played a show [in Monterey, California],” says Juliano. “We didn’t think the show was going to be much of a show but we got there and the crowd was absolutely crazy for us. We had a couple hundred people just going ape shit for us, excuse my language, but it’s true. It’s probably the first show as a whole where we’ve had people finally hearing our album for the first time and coming together.”
“I think also, we are coming together,” concludes Strobbe. “This new line up has fully sunken in at this point and we’re really starting to fire on all cylinders as far as playing live and practicing and just everything about it. It’s definitely the best it’s ever been and that Monterey show was really good just because we’re getting really tight. So come to our shows and we will kick ass for you!”
For more from Requiem, take a look at their video for "Sticks and Stones and Her Lovely Bones" right here.