INTERVIEW: Talking Metalcore and Mountains with Vesuvius’ Ben Cooligan [2016]

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One of Tragic Hero’s latest signings, Vesuvius, have an incredible new album coming out in one week. While you wait for our review of My Place of Solace and Rest, we thought you might want to give a gander to some questions we got to ask songwriter and vocalist Ben Cooligan!


Connor Welsh (NT): First things first, I want to thank you for sitting down and taking the time to let me pick your brain about the band and your upcoming release, My Place of Solace and Rest. Can you do our readers a favor and introduce yourself/selves?

Ben (Vesuvius): Hi! My name’s Ben and I sing, write lyrics, and co-compose music in Vesuvius. Always a pleasure to discuss the record! The anticipation has been daunting and we are ecstatic to finally be in the home stretch of its release.


CW: Before diving into some questions about the record, I want to ask—your band name is fairly unique and enigmatic. Why did you choose it and what sort of message do you think it relays? How does it tie into your music?

B: To be quite honest, we weren’t trying to convey a clear message when we decided to go with the name. Upon the unanimous decision that we wanted to rebrand and undergo lineup changes from our previous metal act, I had been noodling around with a couple big atmospheric riffs under the title Vesuvius; I figured the imagery coincided well with the ambiance of what I was writing. Once we accumulated a full band and headed off into the studio, we decided to stick with the original name and work from there. I’m personally happy with the name because its ambiguity allows us to identify with more than one style of music; the name Vesuvius could be suitable for a metal band, it could also work for a rock or shoegaze band, or even a visual art project, all of which we strive to have implemented into what we do. The name exemplifies our vast expanse of influences that tie into the art we create.


You’ve got a new full length album coming out in a matter of days—can you tell us a little bit about the writing and recording process? How long did it take and what was your methodology for creating it?

The writing process ties way back into the riff I was initially putting down when I had pitched the name. Once Billy (Melsness, vocalist and co-composer) had thrown the idea back and forth, it evolved into the first two tracks on the record which includes the first single “This House is Not a Home”. We entered the studio in March of 2015 with vague geography of an album that we wanted to stem from that session. By early summer, we were back for a recording session for the next two tracks on the record. Frank Shooflar (Bird Wazo Studio) did all the work on these two sessions, but after falling into familial discrepancies, we decided to have Doug Meadows engineer the remainder of the record. The overall product encompasses the work we did throughout the year perfectly and we cannot wait to broadcast that to anybody willing to listen.


The lyrical content on My Place of Solace and Rest deals a lot with God and spirituality but also has some strong imagery involving nature. What made you think to combine the two?

God and spirituality are topics that I tend to exploit through my writing despite identifying as atheist. Art is the greater divine power that influences everything I do inside and outside of music. I think allowing to channel that through Vesuvius is what makes this band my strongest asset and influences me to become a better musician and artist day by day. The elemental inclusion of nature coincides with the idea that nature transcends and epitomizes humanity. The record is composed of reflective anecdotal pieces that define my human experience growing up, and elements of nature such as forest and sea imagery were components I used to tie each piece together allegorically.


Do any of the lyrics draw from personal experience?

All the lyrics on this first record are reflective pieces that I can pinpoint to exact experiences. For example, “Nurture” stems from when I came across the ashes of a very important parental figure to me. “Dear Death,” was written underneath a bridge upon which I had underwent suicidal contemplation a few days earlier. I harboured a lot of these experiences and memories for a long time, and being able to translate them through Vesuvius is something I’m truly grateful for.


How do you feel the lyricism and vocal dynamic plays into the music of the album? The two seem to go hand in hand—was that intentional or did it just…happen?

When we began writing the album, we definitely wanted to shift gears from our previous individual work and allow the vocals to embellish the spotlight. However, we always start with the music and allow the vocals to build on top of that. The melodic intertwine of the two is our tool to write interesting instrumentals to accompany the message each song intends to convey. Because both segments were written separately and then placed matrimonially, I suppose the marriage of the two turning out the way it did sort of just happened.


What is your favorite track on the album?

I personally attribute different thoughts and opinions to each song. If I did have to choose one, I would probably go with “Dear Death,”. It was a song that I started in the darkest period of my life and finished halfway, and then completed in the final recording session of the album. The way both parts come together cohesively was a shot in the dark and a risk for myself as an artist and I could not be more happy with how it turned out.


If you had to pick one song on the album to sort of “encompass” the whole experience, which track would you pick? Why?

Because each song is such an individual entity, there isn’t really one track that encompasses the whole thing. Although each song is singularly playable, the overall piece is conceptually bound.

Not only do you have a stunning new album coming out soon, but you have a tour with Curses and Defiled Management family (and personal hometown boys) Change Is coming up! Is this your first time in the states? Anything you want to share about the tour in particular?

It will be our first time in the states as performers! If there’s anything I would like to mention, it’s that if you are in a Canadian band and want to tour in the states, you need to have your shit 100% in order. Being able to align work visas to perform in the states has been quite a gruelling experience in terms of regulatory expenses. That being said, once we have all the variables worked out, this should be one of the most memorable experiences of our entire lives. We all could not wait to be on the road, it’s a journey that we’ve been anticipating for the past 18 months.


What is it like working with Chris at Defiled Management? Furthermore, you’re a recent signee to Tragic Hero Records! How did that go down and what’s it like working with them?

Chris is the most hardworking guy we know. He’s worked his ass off to solidify this American run and our gateway to an American following which is crucial for a band of our status. Tragic Hero has also lent a huge hand in organizing our schedule and making everything we want to do run smoothly. Kudos to both of them for having faith in our art.


Even though your next couple tours are pretty stacked, if you could pick three bands (past or present) to tour with, who would they be and where would you want to play?

Damn. That’s a hard one. If I could throw together a dream tour, Freddie Mercury would come alive from the dead and Queen would have a reunion tour featuring us, The Used, and My Chemical Romance. In terms of location, this reunion tour would feature three huge festival dates – two in England and one in Germany, and take place entirely overseas. I would also make guest appearances in Killer Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody and would consume way too much Bombay Sapphire.


Last but not least, a fun question:

You can either pick between being barefoot for the rest of your life, or wear sandals that are two sizes too small with socks that are always wet. Which do you pick?

I can’t tell if this question is easier or harder than the last – I’d probably go barefoot because I’m barefoot 60% of the time anyways. May as well solidify the other 40%!


Thanks so much guys! I’m very excited to see what the future holds for you!


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