San Francisco progressive metal outfit Cyborg Octopus’ sophomore effort, Between The Light And Air, is scheduled to arrive on August 26th via Silent Pendulum Records (pre-order here). We caught up with Patrick Corona (keys, saxophone, vocals) to discuss the new record.
What was the process like recording Between The Light And Air?
Smoother in some ways, but much longer due to the pandemic. We learned a lot through our previous experiences recording, and wanted to make our time in the studio as efficient as possible. Our writing process was a lot more collaborative this time, and that extended into the recording process as well. We made a bit more time for some experimentation on the instrumentals, and spent much more time on the synths and after-effects this time around. We certainly had time to goof off and have some fun, but always kept an eye on the clock while in the studio.
How would you compare the new album to your 2016 debut, Learning To Breathe?
Fuck, thats a hard one. I’d say the spirit of Cyborg is very consistent between the two, but the execution is different. We had a new writing process for this album, so there are some things we’ve never done before. But it still all comes from the same place, and we’re hoping people can see that too. I always felt this album was going to be a big transition for us, and while there’s still a ton of experimentation going on, we still bring out the elements we enjoy from our older material.
How has the pandemic influenced the writing for the new record?
Honestly, the pandemic didn’t really affect the writing process at all. We went into an unofficial “writing hiatus” in mid 2018 with the plans to finish writing by 2020, and we met that goal! However, the recording process took so much longer in the midst of the pandemic. We went into the studio in late spring of 2020, and didn’t have finished mixes till summer 2021. We faced a lot of issues with scheduling during the lockdowns, and there were tons of personal challenges that uprooted our lives during the pandemic too. We still tried to be efficient with our time though, and we filmed a couple of our music videos early 2021. Since the recording process was so behind though, we were actually performing in those videos to bounces with midi guitars! Even after the album was done though, the pandemic’s supply chain issues delayed things further on the label side. Before we knew it, our 2 year hiatus turned into a 4 year one. Oof.
What songs were more challenging to write?
Seizure of Character was a really hard one for sure. The first iteration of that song was written even before “Learning to Breathe,” so I had to comb through several different versions of the song in outdated software just to get started. Once I figured out what to keep and what to drop, I had to manually input the old midi files into Guitar Pro, which took forever. It really did feel like I frankensteined a song together, but with a bit of structuring and arranging, I was able to smooth it out into a functional song. But of course, once that was done, the lyrics were no easier. I was very meticulous with the lyrics, and it took many nights of edits before I was happy with them.
Can you talk more about the songs “The Projector” and “Trash Island?”
“Trash Island” was an interesting one, as it was the most complete song that our previous writer handed over to us. Many of the surf parts were kept as is, but we felt that there wasn’t a whole lot of balance between the metal and surf elements. It just sounded like a surf song on metal instruments, and we wanted the song to feature the best of both genres. So we restructured the song, added some heavier parts, and beefed up the drum arrangement. Lyrically though, we initially had no idea what to do with this one. At the time I had a coworker who had given me tons of interesting (and horrifying) factoids about ocean pollution over the years. I mentioned it to Ian, and we thought it would be the perfect concept for a surf/metal song. We decided to go with a cheeky lyrical direction, caricaturing people’s apathy for ocean pollution, while simultaneously referencing very specific information about the topic. We wanted to make a satirical reflection on humanity’s collective apathy towards the matter, recognizing that we are both the problem and the solution, and playing into that absurdity.
On the complete other end of that one, we have “The Projector.” Our previous songwriter had written the intro and that was about it. The intro was really strong though, and it outlined a grand theatrical theme I wanted to play into. I had an idea of what I wanted the song to be, and the lyrical concept hit me while I was ruminating about a previous abusive relationship. I was coming to terms with what happened, and recognizing how much suffering my ex caused me by projecting their insecurities onto me. The elements just came together: Emotional projection? Manipulation & acting out? Theatrical themes? It seemed too perfect, but I didn’t want the song to be exclusively about my experience. I wanted to broaden the focus on the common cyclical behaviors of abusive people, regardless of the role they play in people’s lives. Overall, I want folks to be able to recognize these early and subtle cycles of abusive behavior before they end up trapped. This focus also ended up influencing the instrumentals too, as I adopted a more cyclical and repetitive song structure to compliment the topic. It’s also the first song we’ve done to prominently feature clean vocals, something you can always expect out of musical theater. It’s one of our darkest and most serious songs for sure, and I really hope it gets the message across.
What was your experience creating the video for “Seizure Of Character?”
It was an amazing experience! Ian had commissioned this incredible artist Daniel Bogni to create the art for the album, and we were blown away by what he created. We felt it was way too pretty to just exist inside the physicals, and we wanted to feature it more somehow. “Seizure of Character” was one of the first songs finished, and I had already decided I wanted it to be a lyric video. Ian then had this idea to use the album art as a moving backdrop for the lyrics, and so we handed it over to Michael Alvarez, and he just killed it. He really brought the pieces to life in a new way, and I feel the art Daniel made for us really breathes and moves along with the story of the song. The lyric video truly feels like a separate experience to me, unique from the song and art itself while still combining both together.
Do you have any plans for this year you can share with us?
Hell yeah! Right now we’ve got a weekend warrior lined up with our good friends in Flub in early August, and then a one-off in Reno supporting Within Destruction later that month. And nothings’ confirmed just yet, but we are already planning some fun stuff later this year and even next year. There will be lots of Cyborg on the horizon!
Is there anything else you want to say or add about the new album?
Yes, I’d like to shout out our incredibly patient fans for sticking with us. We had never planned to wait six years to release new music, and BTLAA is something we are all very proud of. It honestly may never have happened without the people who support us. Thanks to everyone for listening!