Seattle-based metal band, Opponent, delivered their knockout sophomore album, “Sentinel,” on July 8th through Solid State Records. Brutal Planet Magazine listened to the album and wanted to get some of the inside scoops on the band and their music. We had the chance to interview Opponent’s frontman, Andy Maier via email about this incredible release:
BRUTAL PLANET: “First of all, this is a great record. I’m really glad I get to ask you some questions. I think a lot of our readers are really going to dig Sentinel. Let’s start out with some of the common questions newer artists often get asked…
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
ANDY MAIER: I grew up in Renton, Washington. My family was pretty musical. My sisters both sang, my Dad played guitar in church, and my Mom played piano… My childhood was non-conventional, I was homeschooled, did a lot of acting in musical theater, commercials, and my whole family was involved in the church worship team from time to time. Other than that it was skateboarding, and learning how to build PCs.
What bands first got you interested in music and what was the moment you knew you were going to do it yourself?
In middle school, my friend Jonathan showed me an AC/DC live DVD one night I stayed over. Next thing you know we were asking his mom for Tupperware and wooden spoons trying to make drum beats. We were super inspired. He got a Gibson SG and a little marshall, I got a pawn shop drum set, and we worked our way up to playing seek n destroy by ear in his parent’s garage. We would work on either of our parent’s houses for gear cash, and both of our parents supported it full steam.
I noticed you guys are from Seattle. That city has been a hotbed for great bands for decades now. What is the story for you guys getting noticed and eventually signing with a label when there are a million bands trying to do the same?
Truth be told my career is that of a videographer, so I was the editor for Tooth & Nail’s “No New Kinda Story” Documentary. But even before that I was involved in various Demon Hunter music videos; roles ranging from Pyrotechnician to VFX compositing to driving a Genie lift around Ryan’s property crushing Blackberry bushes to make space for speaker cabs in the woods around his house. Also using the lift as a makeshift boom for huge-looking shots… So I’ve known the Demon Hunter guys a long time and folks at the label for years. I think that when I went to do music they knew I was going to do that at the highest level of passion if not skill, so they heard about what I was doing through the grapevine.
I’m absolutely in love with the cover art for Sentinel. It’s dark but has some real beauty. If you were selling prints I would likely buy one to hang in my office. Who designed it and what’s the story behind it?
Thanks, I made that art at 5 am one morning on a whim using a piece of my wife’s charcoal, an iPhone, and photoshop to invert the middle of three layers. I still have those sheets of paper but I was taking to clay sculpting at the time, and I think the proportions of the face were informed by the month or two I had devoted to learning how to sculpt a human head in clay. The goal of that piece was to somehow realize on paper the reflection I see in the mirror when I’m doubting myself. It’s a being who only knows vague, empty threats, so I wanted someone without eyes, and who embodies pessimism staring back at you. I think it worked.
I noticed every one of your songs has a one-word title. Is that intentional or a coincidence?
That was intentional, yes. The goal with that was to narrow down which word embodies the feeling of that stage or chapter of the journey in the album. I wanted words that could function as mile-markers in the journey from self-doubt to triumph over self.
The official music video for “Fading” was released a little over a month ago. Tell us about the video’s concept, where you filmed it, and what it was like shooting.
Well, in the first video we made for “Betrayed” we spared no expense, and we went as huge as possible on that, so the follow-up, fading, we thought would make for a cool contrast to be intimate and have a mini-narrative woven into it. The story is of a young man who runs from his problems only to encounter who he’s been running from, himself, in the mirror. The song is about that struggle: “See my own reflection – In my cage – Now lie in the waiting – My light is fading out”
We shot that with a kid named Elliot from my church and also filmed all the instrumental parts in our studio. We wanted that lo-fi intimate-no-bs up-close look with all of us knowing that the next video we make will most likely be WAY higher production value so we wanted to do a lo-fi one while we still could.
I love to hear the stories behind songs and love to ask artists about a few of my favorites. Could you tell us about “Reflection?” It’s such a solid song.
Thanks, “Reflection” is a song that musically has two songs, or mirror images in one. It’s early in the album, and hence early in the journey from self-doubt to overcoming that. It’s the moment where you catch a glimpse of this nameless enemy you’ve been fighting your whole life and it’s your own reflection. Similar to the moment Luke Skywalker enters the cave in Empire Strikes Back, slices open Vader’s helmet only to see himself… Opponent is all about that core message, “You are your own worst enemy” So reflection is just an expression of that theme. It’s a moment in time. But then the bridge is the fallout of that glimpse, “I see my own dark shadow, and go before his throne, Is this my fate, to not еscape? I cannot fall prey to his kind.” The song then falls back into its old ways as we all do. Just because we see something we can’t deny, doesn’t mean we automatically change, so the song stubbornly returns to its opening riff.
If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought “Shadows” was a Gojira song. It’s probably my favorite song on the album. What can you tell us about this track, both musically and lyrically?
We are definitely inspired by Gojira. Hammer-ons and Pull-offs are one of our favorite vehicles outside tough-guy-only-downstroke-picking. This track was a result of something I wrote almost 3 years prior to writing the album. It’s a question song. Sometimes the best thing in life is to ask the right questions. “Am I afraid of my own shadow?” or “Are we afraid of our own shadows?” The song yearns for a different reality where everyone lives without fear or hesitation and is their full selves. When we live under our own oppression we are “not alive” and we’d “rather die.”
As long as they’re done well and not too often, I love songs with long intros. Minus one scream, “Rival” plays for over a minute and a half before the vocals come in. It’s great. I’d love to hear about this one as well.
“Rival” is the moment in the album where the “shadow self” is met face to face. The “rival,” actually just grants safe passage once he’s found out because he knows he will lose if fought. He maintains his composure and gives you permission to exit your current reality because he is you. I know all of that sounds woo woo, but it’s the transformative truth I credit for being here, doing this interview. I was living within my own limits, I learned that I defined those limits, and when my “rival” my “shadow self” was confronted about it he just said, “Now you see, we are the shadows, a voice to be overcome, now pass through me.”
I saw the announcement on Instagram that you guys will be touring with Demon Hunter. That’s got to be pretty exciting to hang out with some legendary musicians and get some great exposure. Are you psyched?
Absolutely, that’s an opportunity of a lifetime, and we don’t take it lightly. We wouldn’t be here without them and “psyched” doesn’t even begin to describe what we feel.
I noticed the tour is skipping Minnesota. I live in the Twin Cities. What the deal man?
How does next year sound?
Sentinel is a great album for any metal/metalcore fan. I’ll definitely be recommending it. Is there any else you would like to share with our readers?
We are normal dudes. Not musical geniuses. We are fans of bands. It took getting a little older to realize that the only ones standing in our way were ourselves. That’s Opponent in a nutshell. Whatever it is you want to do, if you feel unworthy, just know the one standing in your way is most likely yourself.
Thanks so much for the interview!