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Interview: Skyharbor

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Every tour is a small miracle.

Skyharbor

Each time a band heads out on a nationwide (or even continent-wide) trek to deliver their music to the masses in-person, there are so many variables that could go horribly awry. Illnesses, passport troubles, gear being lost or stolen and, of course, vehicle breakdowns are all things that could halt a touring group dead in its track.

And the latter of these things is something that the progressive rock group Skyharbor became familiar with at the start of October.

The beginning of the month saw the multi-national five-piece embark on a headlining jaunt across the UK. However, the very first show on the very first day was unceremoniously cancelled when their tour bus suddenly decided to stop working in the middle of Germany.

“The bus got stuck in Cologne,” Skyharbor’s founder and guitarist Keshav Dhar recalls in Southampton a few days later.

“It was day one. We literally saw the bus for a few minutes and then it broke down. Next thing we knew, we had to get another bus. It gave us an extra day at [Germany’s] Euroblast [Festival], which was nice, but I just feel really bad for the people in Reading who missed out.”

Even though Skyharbor’s first headline tour of Blighty got off on rocky footing, it probably isn’t the most stressful time the band has had out on the road.

“In Canada, we had to cancel one because we almost died crossing the Rocky Mountains,” says Keshav.

“It was not even a bus, just a small, fifteen-seater Ford van. Those vehicles aren’t really designed for that kind of driving unless you have snow tyres or some kind of chains on your tyres, and we just didn’t because for some reason we just didn’t think that we’d need them. all of the bands really struggled; us and [supporting band] ERRA had to miss our sets, but [headliners] TesseracT and The Contortionist just about made it. But they had to miss, like, half their soundcheck.”

Regardless, Skyharbor are still alive (barely), headlining a bill that also contains Modern Day Babylon and the solo project of guitarist Sithu Aye as support. Although, even that wasn’t really planned that far in advance.

“This tour was put together fairly late in the day,” Dhar explains.

“We weren’t planning on doing a headliner originally, we were pitching to support other bands, which took a while; there were a few tours where we thought we were in, but at the last minute it didn’t work out, for whatever reason. We were left with the choice of either going out on our own and picking support bands, or just not doing anything.

“It’s been a while since we’ve played in Europe, so we figured we should do something; the last time we were here was March/April of last year. It’s been a while, especially since we’ve released three singles since then. It’s not like we have no material to tour off of.”

The three new singles – ‘Out of Time’, ‘Blind Side’ and ‘Chemical Hands’ – are all taken from the band’s upcoming third album, which is set to drop in spring 2017.

“We’re still wrapping it up with a few loose ends that need tying up but, after that, it’s literally a matter of putting it out for the press. We don’t have any label obligations this time around. That isn’t to say that we will definitely self-release it, we don’t know for sure. Once we have the album in the bag, then we’ll start thinking about what plans we can make, but as of right now, we’re just putting our energies into finishing it.”

Dhar describes the upcoming release as the most “bi-polar” thing Skyharbor has made, managing to be both progressive and heavy at the same time.

“The pretty stuff is really pretty and there’s stuff on there which is heavier than anything else that we have done,” the guitarist promises. “There’s some pretty intense screaming on there, and that’s stuff that we didn’t want to put out immediately because we’ve done it before; we wanted to put out stuff that would get people talking and asking ‘Where did this come from?’

“There are certain bands which find their formula and stick with it, but we’re not one of those bands, especially because all five of us are involved with the song-writing. I don’t think we can ever be like ‘This is what we sound like, let’s stick with this.’ We’d get bored really fast.”

Skyharbor are now firmly in the process of hyping up their fans for the next record, as they are using this headline tour to debut a new, never-before-heard song called ‘The Reckoning’.

“This is the first time we’re playing two new songs; we’re doing ‘Chemical Hands’, which is the video which we released a few weeks ago, and we’re playing this one, which is called ‘The Reckoning’. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. There’s a lot of electronic stuff in there, there’s some crazy sound designing… I mean it’s more like a sound design piece than it is a song.”

However, the band first began teasing material from the as-yet-untitled album fourteen months ago, when they released its first single, ‘Out of Time’. And thus, Skyharbor would commence an agonising, almost two-year-long build-up to their third record.

“We released it because we had just got [the band’s new singer] Eric [Emery] on-board. We didn’t really want to keep people waiting for a year or year-and-a-half until they heard any new material with him on. That is actually a song where he joined the band and had an immediate impact on the writing. We thought that was the best way to introduce people to what we sound like with a new voice.”

Keshav continues: “It was fairly polarising, I have to say. It was a lot more straight-forward than anything we had released previously. But we are the type of band where we like to mix it up every time; we don’t want to be predictable or obvious. Which isn’t to say that there [isn’t] proggy music on the new album; it’s hella proggy. People are complaining that there aren’t riffs; dude, there are riffs, it’s just that we want to show you the other stuff that we haven’t explored before. There’s a lot of metal in there.”

The new Skyharbor record will be the band’s first with Emery at the mic, who took the spot from Daniel Tompkins (best known as the singer for TesseracT) last year.

When asked why he chose Eric to be the new front-man, Keshav says that “If Eric couldn’t write his own lyrics, he wouldn’t be in the band. One of the first things that we needed was someone who could write amazing vocal melodies.

“We heard his audition and it blew us all away, but we were like: ‘OK, what can you write?’ So we sent him a few demos for the next album that we had lying around – unfinished stuff – and he recorded a verse on one, a chorus on the other and we said ‘You’re in.’”

The next album could truly see the five men in Skyharbor step into their own element. Even though, at the moment, all fans can go off of is a few singles and the group’s word, what will be delivered next year could be the quintessential Skyharbor release, set to mix the aggression of their debut, Blind White Noise (2012), with the ambient progressive tones of their sophomore album, Guiding Lights (2014).

Skyharbor’s yet-to-be-title third album is set to be released in spring 2017. Their latest record, Guiding Lights, is available physically and digitally now via Basick Records.

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