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Progressive Rock Interviews

Edensong

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with James Byron Schoen of Edensong from 2009
MSJ: Can you give our readers a look at the history of your group and your involvement in music?
I've been writing and playing music almost my entire life.  Occasionally, I'll be going through my things and I'll come across a recording of a song I wrote and when I was 6 or 7.  There are some pretty embarrassing cassettes packed away around here. However, I would trace my first "serious" attempt at songwriting back to my days with my high school band Echoes of Eden.  As for Edensong, it's really difficult to pinpoint the precise formation of the group.  Some of the music on our current album The Fruit Fallen dates back to 2000, when I was still playing with Echoes of Eden, but I suppose you can say that Edensong truly began my sophomore year of college, a year or two after EoE disbanded, when I began to miss playing my music with a rock band.  At the time, I was showcasing my music in an acoustic singer/songwriter format, but it seemed time to put together a real band.  Since then, Edensong has gone through a bunch of lineup changes.  Aside from me, not a single band member remains from the "original" lineup.  The lineup of today is actually completely different from the lineup that appears on The Fruit Fallen.  In many ways, things seem to have come full circle:  2009 marked the fortuitous addition of two of my band mates from the Echoes of Eden days, brought about by our brief reunion at the 3 Rivers Progressive Rock Festival in August.  This has us looking backward and re-working some of the old music.  We're also looking forward, writing a follow up to The Fruit Fallen. In fact, we just finished up a writing session before this interview. The next album is gearing up to be a very collaborative project, and it marks the first time Edensong has written as a band.  It's a pretty exciting process, as it's been a long time since I've felt the necessary musical connection to write collaboratively.  This is definitely the most cohesive Edensong has ever been.
MSJ: Where does the name Edensong come from? Is there some significance to it?
I chose the name Edensong to reference my high school band Echoes of Eden.  We were still playing a lot of the EoE material at the time, but I didn't want to use the exact same name, as the band and its instrumentation were quite different.  That said, I don't really remember where the name Echoes of Eden came from, except that I recall we needed to change it to that from Ashes of Eden when we released our CD because there was already a band with that name.  I guess Ashes of Eden just sounded cool to us as 9th graders...who knows?  With the new lineup, however, I just felt that the name Edensong somehow better captured the sound of our music.  The only problem is that we're often mistaken for a Christian Rock band.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music, what do you think you'd be doing?
I'd like to think I would still be doing something creative.  I had a lot of passions as a child, one of which was music.  This, of course, is the one that I ended up pursuing, but I may have ended up a comic artist, film-maker, or video-game designer instead.  Who knows?
MSJ: How would you describe the sound of Edensong?
I generally describe it as "Orchestral Rock."  I think it's the best two word description of our music, as it touches on a few of the basic elements of the band:  The use of "classical" instrumentation, such as cello and flute; our orchestration approach toward writing for the other standard "rock" instruments - trying to evoke a variety of textures or colors as an orchestral composer might; and using longer compositional forms and thematic development that one might find in orchestral writing rather than standard song structures that one would hear in most rock/pop music.  If I'm asked what my band sounds like, I usually just try to describe it in terms of bands that most people are already familiar with.  I generally reference a lot of the classic prog bands from the '70s:  Jethro Tull, Yes, Genesis, Rush etc. and perhaps throw in a few more modern bands.  We do cover a pretty wide variety of music, so we're often sometimes bridging moments of acoustic folk and metal.  Within the progressive rock community, we've been placed in the sub-genre of "Eclectic Prog." To those not familiar with these intra-genre distinctions, I can usually just say that we're "progressive rock," as a lot of people seem to know what that is...unfortunately, "prog" is still a bad word to some people, so I've gotta be careful with that description; but then again, I suppose "orchestral rock" can sound equally pretentious, especially when I describe it in detail like I just did.
MSJ: What’s ahead for you?
I guess I already gave away the answer to this one.  We have quite a few plans in the works - we'll just need to see what we actually have time for.  Our main goal at the moment is writing some new material.  It's going to be really interesting to hear what this next album sounds like, as it's the first time we've been composing as a band.  It could very well be a departure from The Fruit Fallen.  We'll have to see what happens.  We probably won't start recording until the summer at the earliest.  I'm also in the process of recording a re-working of an older Echoes of Eden song, "Beneath the Tide".  We often play this song live to a great response, so we figured we'd record an updated 10 year anniversary edition.  I'm pretty excited about this one!  We also have a bunch of audio and video footage from our festival performances in 2009, so I would love to be able to compile and release these in some form.  So, those are our studio plans for the near future.  We would also like to continue playing live.  This is much more up in the air, as it depends greatly upon the opportunities that come up and band members' availability to travel.  We're trying to keep our options open, but we have no specific plans yet.
MSJ: Are there musicians you’d like to play with in the future?
Playing and writing with Edensong keeps me extremely busy, so I can't imagine any other serious collaborations at the moment.  However, I often meet musicians with whom I'd like to collaborate.  I run a recording business as a day job, so I come into contact with a lot of musicians in a broad variety of styles.  It's really helped me to gain an appreciation for all sorts of music outside of my usual "comfort zone" and gotten me to consider some cross-genre collaboration.  Additionally, I've met a bunch of amazingly talented and creative musicians through my work with Edensong:  both online through promoting our album and through various shows and festivals we've played.  One such musician who deserves specific mention is Phideaux Xavier.  We've been following each other's work for a few years now and have very casually discussed the prospect of working together on something someday.  I suppose we'll see what happens.   As I said, there's really no time in my current schedule for side projects, but I won't rule anything out for the future.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It’s been said by the major labels that it’s essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales – would you agree?
For independent artists like Edensong, I would say that music downloading has been a net gain.  However, for a huge band like Metallica, illegal downloading can certainly cut a huge gash into profits, so I can see why they would be p***ed off.  For us, it's meant being able to get our music out to a wider group of people.  Building a career in this business is certainly an uphill climb so we're not expecting to earn any substantial money at this point.  Our goal is to get our name out there and people interested in our music, so the internet has been helpful for that.  It was actually pretty cool to see The Fruit Fallen wind up on p2p sites.  Would I prefer people that people buy the CD?  Of course!  We have a lot of expenses to cover.
MSJ: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
I don't have too much experience with this one.  I suppose that I don't have a problem with it.  However, I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I would hate to have any sub-standard recordings or performances floating around.  You can't control everything though.  I've seen a few of our performances end up on Youtube.  This was actually pretty convenient for us, because it was an easy place for us to review the videos to see what we could improve upon for the next show.  It was easier than circulating cassettes or DVDs.  It's good to see these things from the audience perspective sometimes.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch-nemesis and why?
Luckily, I keep my arch-nemesis TD Towers (Edensong bass player) close at hand.  This way I can keep tabs on his evil plot to destroy the fabric of existence with his low B string.  Each rehearsal and recording session is an epic battle, usually ending with a threat on my life and my studio.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it?
To be honest, I've never really thought about this.  I'm not usually someone who lusts over things I don't have.  I simply try to do the best I can with what I have available.  I'm sure I could compile a long list of my favorite musicians, all of whom I would love to play with, but I honestly feel like the current lineup of Edensong is pretty "ultimate," and I can't really think of a group of guys I would rather be making music with.  Sorry if that's a cop-out answer.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view, who would be playing?
Wow, this is a tough question.  There is such a wide variety of music that I love, it would really be difficult to pinpoint specific bands for a festival.  I suppose a truly ultimate festival would need a Beatles reunion and a Michael Jackson performance - These were the two acts that are probably most responsible for my interest in music as a kid.  I guess I'll be waiting a long time for this one.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?
The last CDs I picked up were 3's Revisions and Transatlantic's The Whirlwind.  I haven't gotten a chance to listen to either in any detail.  I'm traveling this weekend, so I should have some time to listen in the car.  Before that, it was the latest Alice in Chains album - they were always a favorite of mine growing up so I'm glad that they're back making music, even without Layne.  I think I'm the only guy in Edensong who buys CDs.  Maybe I'm behind the times a bit.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Acoustic Ian Anderson!  My dad and I make a habit of going to see Ian or Jethro Tull on every tour.  They usually come through here once a year.  This time Ian varied up the set list quite a bit and even had some new songs, so it was a great show.  Before that, it was the FMPM Festival in Montreal, where I had tickets to see Magenta.  They put on a great show!
MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you’d like to get out there?
I just want to thank Music Street Journal and all of its readers for this interview opportunity.  We have a lot of plans in the works, so check out our myspace page www.myspace.com/edensong and website: www.edensongtheband.com frequently for the latest updates.  It's a really exciting time for the band.  I see a lot of potential in this next album and I can't wait to share some new music with you soon.  Thanks for the support!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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