Werewolves are just cool, aren’t they? When the full moon strikes, the normally mild-mannered man or woman turns into a ravening beast, roaming the countryside looking for throats to tear out and entrails to feast on. What’s not to love about a giant beast stalking through the night with unrestrained fury and unsheathed claws? It’s no wonder that metal bands have taken to the creature with a fervor.
Lycanthro, which has been around in its current form since 2016, has been making catchy, riff-driven heavy metal up north in Canada for more than half a decade now. In 2021, the band followed up its 2018 EP Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with their debut LP, Mark of the Wolf. The album shows a marked growth in both songwriting and recording talents from what was a promising debut. Now, with shows back and plenty of material to record on the horizon, Lycanthro is ready to take the metal world by storm. I recently talked with guitarist/vocalist James Delbridge over Zoom about his band’s rise, what appeals to him about werewolves, and what the future holds for Lycanthro.
First off, I know you just got back from the Hyperspace Metal Festival. How did that go?
James: It was incredible, man. It was our very first festival which we ever did, which was sweet but we had to go all the way across the country to do it because here in Ottawa, or at least eastern Canada, there isn’t as much of a scene as there is in western Canada, at least from what I’ve seen. Once you get past Manitoba, because believe it or not there’s even a decent scene in Saskatchewan surprisingly, once you get past Manitoba it’s a completely different world. So many big tours go through there, there are lots of smaller metal festivals as well dotted around.
But yeah, Hyperspace was really great for us because it was all power metal bands, or at least melodic metal bands, pretty much anything that isn’t extreme metal. It was great, it was a really great experience. It was our very first show back, which is pretty hilarious because it was with our new lineup and we hadn’t actually played with our new lineup before. I would have thought we’d done one show on home turf before we’d go out there but the cards got stacked against us. We were supposed to play with Unleash the Archers back in December, but that didn’t happen because literally the day before was when the province went into lockdown again, which was depressing. It was incredible meeting everybody, these other bands and fans that we had only really talked to or seen online, and seeing some really memorable stuff. For example, the reunion, even though they already did one show or two I guess already…the Into Eternity reunion, which was just really surreal for all of us cause we’re all huge fans. Not only that but a little story that happened, which we weren’t expecting, was Into Eternity’s bass player came up to us after our set and he goes “Hey, uh, I saw you guys and (because they were streaming the whole festival on Twitch) we all watched you on Twitch and loved it” so he bought our shirt and then he proceeds to wear it onstage during their set and we were just all like “Ahhh!” It was an absolutely amazing time, I could go on forever about all the shit that happened but it was awesome.
How long had it been since you’d played then?
James: Two years-ish. Our most recent show before the pandemic was here in Ottawa. It was March 2020 and I always said that I wish we had a different show that was our last show because that show was tainted and I don’t mean by the pandemic, I mean that the show itself didn’t go very well, not just for us. The whole thing just didn’t go well so I was like “Aw, really? That’s the last show that we played for the past two years?” Yeah, it was (the first one back) and we were very happy that that was the one that we did.
How good did it feel to be back on a stage after so long away?
James: It was really great. It’s always weird when you’re playing in front of a crowd that you’ve never played in front of before and they were really great. One thing I’ll add about Hyperspace (is that) it was kinda bad luck but we soldiered through it and ended up having a decent show and a decent crowd, but the band that was supposed to play before us, on the whole day we were second, the band that was supposed to be first, they dropped off the bill the day of because a bunch of them tested for COVID so we were just like “Well…shit” but it still went great regardless. Not to get into this too much but it was one of those things where I remember talking to my bandmates (saying) “This is gonna be a regular thing now for awhile, isn’t it?” I’ve been seeing it for the past few months where bands will drop off either the day before or the day off and then the promoter gets a giant headache and it sucks but unfortunately I guess that’s going to be a regular occurrence for the next year or so at least.
Yeah I’ve noticed that too. It’s probably something we’ll all have to deal with for awhile.
James: Yeah but hey, in my mind, the fact that we’re back to some form of normalcy, the fact that there are tours and shows, to me, that’s a win. I don’t care about any of the politics or any of that stuff as long as we can do what we want to do and we can do it right, like what we’re doing now, then that’s amazing. As I was saying, bands will drop off the day before or the day of, that sucks but at least we’re actually doing stuff again. To me, that’s all that matters.
Just as a fan it’s nice to have shows on the calendar again to look forward to.
James: I actually have on my phone a giant list of all the shows that I’m going to this year and not even just ones we’re playing, just “Oh, so and so is going to be in Montreal, I’m going to that” so I’m very happy about that for sure.
So what got you into metal in the first place?
James: I always credit it to my uncle. I’m the only Canadian in my family, both my folks are immigrants. My mom’s Cuban and my dad’s British and obviously the British side, that’s where heavy metal started. My uncle was big into metal in the ’70s. He saw all the classic bands in their heydays. He saw Judas Priest back then. He saw Black Sabbath with Ozzy. He saw Rainbow, which I’m very jealous of. He saw UFO. He was there when Thin Lizzy recorded Live and Dangerous. He introduced me to a lot of those bands. When I first decided I wanted to be a musician, the first two bands that made me want to be a musician were Queen and Roxette. Those are two very special bands to me to this day. I remember, my uncle showed me bands like Judas Priest and Rainbow and UFO and that’s kind of how it started for me, listening to these bands and seeing how they looked and dressed, especially Priest. I remember the first time I saw Rob Halford was (when) my dad had a DVD of the Live Aid concert from the ’80s and I remember looking through it because Zeppelin and Sabbath were on it and thinking that’s sick. When I saw Priest I was like, “Who are these guys coming out here with all this leather and crazy stuff? That’s how I wanna look!”
Do you have a favorite Priest album?
James: Yes, it’s hard but I always say it’s a tie between two and they’re for different reasons. I always say British Steel. It’s not the one I listen to the most but it’s the one that I always credit to how I started with them. The first Priest song I heard, I know it’s a bit cliche, is “Living After Midnight.” That whole album was really important. I always say that or Defenders of the Faith. Defenders is the one that I listen to the most. It is my personal favorite one to listen to so British Steel for sentimental purposes but in terms of me actually listening the most, it’s Defenders.
It’s wild how good they still are. I saw them twice on the 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour and they’re still totally killer.
James: On this tour that they’re on now with Queensrÿche, that was my third time seeing them and it was great. It was my first time on the floor actually. We got floor tickets and we actually bought them two years ago when the tour kept getting cancelled and postponed and stuff like that. It was amazing getting to see them and the thing I love about this tour specifically was that they were playing so many deep cuts. I think they’re at the point in their career now where they’re like, “The people coming to our shows are the hardcore fans so we’re gonna open with ‘One Shot at Glory.'” I always say the most magical concert experience was the first time I saw them. I was in high school actually, I think I was in the ninth or tenth grade, and I begged my dad to bring me to them in Montreal. It was the Epitaph Tour and the reason why it was so magical was that it was my first time seeing them and I was the little kid who knew every lyric to every song. Little did I know at the time that was the last tour that Glenn Tipton did before he got diagnosed with Parkinson’s. That was really special, he’s one of my favorite guitarists.
Oh yeah this last tour was great. You can’t complain about them going back and playing stuff off Rocka Rolla.
James: Yes! I unironically love Rocka Rolla so I was very happy when they did that.
How did you get into playing guitar?
James: That actually goes back a bit earlier, before I even got into metal. I got my first guitar when I was seven. It was a crappy Yamaha guitar my mom bought from Costco and it was great for learning, for sure. It was sort of the same thing I mentioned earlier where the first band that made me want to become a musician was Queen. The reason why I wanted to be a musician, I always say this story, was that one time when I was five or six my dad calls me downstairs and I was in my room, probably playing Pokémon or something, and he puts on Queen Live at Wembley Stadium and I watched the whole thing. I remember at the end I was like, “That’s what I want to do.” I loved Freddie Mercury and I loved Brian May. I wanted to be a singer and I wanted to be a guitar player but guitar was more feasible at the time so I did guitar first. My mom, for Christmas that year, got me my first guitar. Being a vocalist was a much later thing. I know some people start singing when they’re kids but I don’t think it’s the best idea ever, just because when you’re a kid there’s so many things you’re going to lose from your voice.
How did you get into doing vocals then? Was it out of necessity or did you just know that you wanted to be the singer for the band?
James: I always wanted to be a frontman but the thing with being a vocalist is that it was sort of both because my old band, Death Wish, was a high school band and we were just a bunch of kids wanting to play metal and stuff like that. I remember nobody was going to be the singer so I’m like, “Now’s my chance!” The first few shows were brutal, obviously, because I didn’t know. I discovered early on that I could sing high but I didn’t really know very much other than that. I was the singer for the first little while but after a while I decided to take proper lessons and learn how to sing and do these things that I wanted to achieve properly. One thing that happened a few years ago is that I actually did hurt myself. I got this thing (where) I couldn’t sing for six months or more. I developed this thing called a vocal edema. You know when someone hits you and you get a bruise on your arms? It’s like that but in your vocal cords. One thing a doctor said is that it’s not serious, it’s not nodules or anything where you have to get surgery, but it takes a fuckton of time to heal. For me it took, to fully heal, nine-ten months. I started feeling better around the sixth or seventh month but I wasn’t back to normal until ten months. That really sucks. After that I was like, “You know what, I need to get proper training.”
I had two really amazing teachers, one of which I got to meet for the first time at Hyperspace. The first one I had was Mary (Zimmer) from Helion Prime. She’s the one who runs the Voice Hacks channel on YouTube. She’s great. She’s the one who showed me all these vocal techniques that are meant to be therapeutic. The way that she kind of taught me was a pretty nontraditional way of teaching vocals. The traditional way that everybody knows is scales and piano. With her it was all anatomy based. She tells you “You’re going to do this weird thing with your body” and you’re sitting there like “Why do I have to do this?” What it does is it tells your mind to automatically engage your abdomen when you’re singing. That’s why she calls it voice hacks. I was taught all these different ways to trick your body into doing what you want it to do with the least amount of effort possible. My current teacher (is) David Åkesson from the band Qantice and he’s a literal genius. He’s trained some very big names. Everyone says he’s the Merlin of vocals. He really is. It was a hard, bumpy road but I’m a lot better than I was when we first started.
How rough were those ten months waiting to see if everything would go back to normal?
James: It was hell, man. The thing that made it worse was that I couldn’t see a doctor for a long time. In Canada, the thing that really sucked about it was the fact that I couldn’t see a doctor for the longest time because of the healthcare system here. It’s free but it takes forever for you to get what you want. I went to my family doctor and said I need referred to a specialist for ear, nose, and throat. She said yeah and I didn’t hear from him for, I kid you not, two-and-a-half years. By then it was healed. That whole time it sucked, it was really unfortunate but thankfully we are out of it now.
I always feel like people take their favorite singers for granted a little bit and don’t know just how easy it is to mess your voice up.
James: Guitars, if you break a string you can change it. With vocalists, it’s literally, a lot of it is down to luck. Hell, at Hyperspace, I woke up the next day with a shitty throat and I had to power through it for our set. This was kind of my own fault but I was very excited to meet everybody. The venue itself was, I think, pretty dry and I was talking to a lot of people throughout the night. We played on the second day but the first day we went to the show just to meet everybody and mingle and stuff like that. I was talking to everybody and meeting everybody for the first time, and the venue was a bit dry, so I woke up the next day like, “Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me.” It’s unfortunate but it’s the shit we have to go through. The thing that I notice a lot of singers do, which it really sucks and it’s the sort of mistake I made when I was younger, they’ll try to imitate Randy Blythe or whatever and by the end of the set they’re (wheezing). Singers out there, take lessons! There’s no shame in it at all.
So how did Lycanthro get started?
James: It started after the disillusionment of my old band, Death Wish. What happened is, we were a high school band and a bunch of kids. By the end, we freaking hated each other. It was the typical thing, the typical rite of passage. What happened was I formed a new lineup for the band and for the first few months, the first three or four months, we were still called Death Wish. What happened with Lycanthro was one day, while I was in college, I went to this record store near where I lived because when I was in college, I didn’t drive. I used to bus there. The main bus station near where I live is at this little mini-mall and if I had to wait a half hour, because the transit here sucks, I would go into the record store and just browse or whatever. One day I go in there and was looking through the metal section and I found this album called At the Edge of Damnation by this British band also called Deathwish. I remember buying it, actually, just to see what it was like and sending a photo to the guys at the time saying “Hey, I found this in an Ottawa record store, we need to change our name!” I’ve always loved wolves and I’ve always had a big affinity for wolves and loved werewolf films like The Howling and Ginger Snaps and stuff like that so I wanted to have a name that had to do with werewolves but also that no other band in the world has. That was difficult. We did extensive research and I had the name Lycanthrope and then you take the “pe” off the end and you have Lycanthro. There’s no other band in the world that’s called that. There’s a couple that are close and there’s also one band from Spain, I think, that are called Lycanthros or something like that but no one else has the name. That’s what sealed the deal for us.
What were those early days of transitioning out of being a high school band into a regular band like?
James: It was just a big learning experience. I’m someone that I’ve always wanted to, and still do, be able to go out and tour and play on festivals, what every band wants. One thing I’m always actively trying to do is use all the resources I have and the people that I know because I’ve been fortunate to befriend people who are in quote/unquote big bands through the podcast that I do and stuff like that. I always ask them as many questions as I can, not even just on the podcast. I’ll message them after out of the blue and stuff like that.
In the early days we did, I don’t want to say wrong, but (things) that might not have been in our best interests like playing live locally way too much and stuff like that. The whole early days was just all of us slowly learning how to get to where we want to go from playing crappy little local shows to being able to open for some big bands, getting to know the relevant promoters, and eventually transitioning to getting to know the relevant promoters who aren’t from here, say Montreal, Toronto and, down the line, Quebec or what have you. The whole early days was very much a learning curve.
One thing that I see a lot now and I very much wish we had this, although we were all very young so we didn’t, is you see new bands come out and they get it right (on) the first album. The marketing is perfect and the mixing is perfect and the music is all well written. We didn’t have that because we were just kids. I technically still am one. We were just young and didn’t know how the industry works. Some people with new bands have done their research and they’ll instantly come in and know what to do marketing-wise and stuff like that but for us it was very much learning on the job. I like to think that we’re really good at it now but we weren’t always.
What’s the music writing process like for the band and has it changed at all as time has gone on
James: It’s gotten a lot more efficient because our new guitarist, Forest (Dussault), when he joined he introduced all of us to Guitar Pro, which none of us had used before. I was just like “Man, this is great! Why did I ever not use this? It’s so easy.” I find that (our songwriting) has changed a lot because I’ve been listening to a lot more music and a lot more diverse styles of music and just learning how to add different elements into the songs. Before it was just, you come up with a riff and go from there and write the typical guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. Now it’s changed a lot where we have a keyboard player now (John Pyres). When you listen to the really pro recorded stuff you’ll hear things in the background, little elements that they’ve added here and there to make it that much more memorable and that much more vibrant. I’ve been slowly learning that as well. I think that’s how the songwriting process has changed. The songwriting has gotten a lot more mature because a lot of the stuff that you hear on Mark of the Wolf was stuff we wrote years ago. A lot of the songs on there, I’m really proud of how they turned out, but whenever I hear it, I can’t wait for people to hear our new stuff because it’s a lot more mature, it’s a lot more well-balanced.
How about the lyric writing process? What’s that like and has it changed?
James: Same thing. What I usually do is, whenever there’s a band that I like, usually a newer band, I’ll look at their lyrics and ask what can I learn from this, what can I take from this? I look at a band now like our good friends Seven Spires who just finished their tour opening for DragonForce, which was nuts. Their vocalist Adrienne (Cowan), I’d argue is probably the best lyricist in metal currently. Whenever I look at their lyrics I’m just like, I need to do better (laughs). A lot of these bands with very poetic and elegant lyrics, I always try to now put that more into our stuff. When you first start, your lyrics are very Manowar and Judas Priest, very basic, not that there’s anything wrong with that. If that’s what your style demands, then that’s fine. For me, for the way I’m writing songs, I want to be able to have a lot more eloquent lyrics to paint a better picture. My main thing with us, in terms of songwriting both musically and lyrically, is is it memorable? Will people remember this riff or this vocal line or this melody? That’s the main thing that I strive for.
It’s definitely great to have those influences to look up to and to use to push yourself to get better and better.
James: Yeah. The other thing I’ll add to that, back to what I was saying earlier about Queen, I call it the Queen method. One thing that not enough bands, I find, do now, that I strive to do with us is, Queen, when you listen to them, they never wrote the same song twice but they always sounded like Queen. That’s what I always try to do. I never try to write the same song twice. One word that I find gets tossed around nowadays and used incorrectly is consistency. I’ll read an album review of a thrash metal album and they’ll say, as a positive, “This album is really consistent” and I’ll listen to the album and all the songs sound the same. I don’t want that for us, personally. I want to be very dynamic but still very true to ourselves because we are a power metal, melodic metal, old school metal (band), and not be restricted by that. For example, one of the new songs we are working on right now is literally a folk metal song, it has “hurdy gurdy” in it! That’s what I mean, I don’t want to be stuck in a box and say “Oh, we’re this genre, can’t do this.” Now you look at a lot of the bands in the melodic metal landscape and they’re doing all this weird stuff and it works. So I’m thinking, why not us throw our hat into that. You shouldn’t be restricted by what your genre entails. One of my favorite newer bands is Beast in Black and they’re literally disco metal. If they came out in the ’80s…that’s unheard of because back then all the metalheads were like “Fuck disco, fuck the Bee Gees.” Now they’re literally putting power metal with disco synths and it works. That’s awesome. I want to see more stuff like that.
How did that first EP, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, come about?
James: It was our old guitar player’s idea to have the themed EP where it’s four songs and each one represents one of the four horsemen and that one was, again, pretty ambitious for a band as young as us because we had a 14-minute song on it and stuff like that. That one was really cool because that’s an EP that I’m proud that we did it but I can’t listen to it because I’m like “Oh, we could have done so much better.” Again, we were just really young. It was a really cool experience to do that one and the last track, “Pale Rider” was one that I was most proud of writing because I was surprised with myself because at 18 or 19 years old that I was able to write a song that was 14-minutes. I remember when I first showed it to everybody, one of the guys timed it and said “How long do you think that song was?” I said, “I don’t know, seven, eight minutes?” He said “No, 14” and I was like “What?” That whole EP was a big learning curve but we are happy with how it turned out.
What lessons did you take from it for future recordings?
James: A lot is from the recording side of things. At the time, I was in school for recording and learning how DAS works. We figured out how to demo all your songs before you go to the studio and add all the elements that you want. It turned out pretty good for what it was but there’s lots of things that we wanted to add but we didn’t know how to. That whole thing was a lot of learning how the recording side of things work.
You briefly mentioned lineup changes earlier. What do you guys look for in a prospective new member and has that criteria changed over the years?
James: The thing with the internet age now is more and more of these internet bands pop up where they have one member from Canada, one member from Sweden, one from Australia and I find that’s way more efficient because trying to find musicians in your own city who you get along with and want to play the same genres as you and are committed is very hard. Any musician will tell you that. Our old members, and it’s not even a knock on them, they just had other priorities. Some of them had their jobs or their whatever. I’ve heard this story with a lot of bands where when they get a good opportunity to tour or travel, people chicken out. The thing here is, I find, a lot of people treat it like a hobby, which is fine, but people over here aren’t as committed, especially here because it’s a government town. Everyone has a big cushy job and stuff like that. That’s not anybody’s fault, that’s just how it is. Finding a member for us, my main thing is, can they play good? Can we get along outside of the band as friends? Are they committed? When you are a band, when you get an opportunity for a show, you’ll know a long time in advance, months in advance. That’s one of those things where I’m thinking, we got this opportunity a year out, or eight months or six months, that’s more than enough time to sort things out. If someone can’t handle that, then it might not be for them.
What was the process like for recording Mark of the Wolf? Was that at all an easier process?
James: A lot more smoother but then posed more issues as well. We recorded both that and Four Horsemen at this place called Wolf Lake Studios, which is literally a recording studio in the middle of a log cabin in the woods. It’s awesome, in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere Quebec. For this one, we were a lot more prepared with a lot better understanding of the songs. The thing with this album is that we got plagued with a lot of bad luck. We wanted to release it a lot sooner than we did because, first of all, we had to stop recording for a little while because our engineer had a kid, so he had other priorities, obviously. Then the pandemic hit and I remember when I recorded the vocals I still had the inklings of that throat problem so when I heard them for the first time, I was like, “I don’t like this at all.” Then the pandemic came out and I had to record all the vocals on the album from home, which also sucked because when there’s no one there to tell you if a take sucked or not you drive yourself mad. The way it turned out was definitely worth all the blood, sweat, and tears because the production was a lot better than before. I was able to, with my greater understanding of how recording works, I was able to have more vocal layering and do cool things with my voice and a lot more effects and stuff like that. The recording, again, posed its own set of challenges but it was still very much a lot smoother and better. We know that the next few releases are going to be even better and even more painless than that, hopefully.
I love that opening song, “The Crucible.” What can you tell me about the inspiration and making of that one?
James: “The Crucible” is a pretty funny one actually because that’s one of the songs that I wrote years ago. I was still in high school and the lyrics for (it) I wrote when I was in the twelfth-grade. The whole inspiration behind it was when I was in school, one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my entire life was my old English teacher, and he was someone I used to talk music with because he was in a band back in the day, and they had a music video on YouTube and it was cool. I remember we were reading the (play) The Crucible and I wrote the lyrics in class, actually. I remember thinking witch burning, that’s pretty metal. I wrote the song based on that. In terms of the musicality, I wanted it to sound like a Death song with clean vocals instead of growls, which is why there’s some of the scaly runs in there like Chuck Schuldiner used to do. I remember years later, we had a show where we were opening for Flotsam and Jetsam actually and it was in an area near where my old English teacher lived, and I remember he came to the show and I pointed him out and I said “I’ve always wanted to say this. I wrote this song in that man’s English class.”
How about “Fallen Angels Prayer?” That’s another really cool song with an interesting theme.
James: I’m not one of those people who’s a huge Disney fan but it was inspired by the Disney movie (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) because it’s my favorite Disney movie. I didn’t even watch it as a kid, I watched it as a teenager. It wasn’t one I grew up with but I remember when I watched it, I was blown away because I’m thinking “This is a Disney movie?” It’s very dark and there were some things in that film that I was (thinking) how’d they get away with that? There’s literally a scene where the main villain is borderline sexually assaulting Esmerelda and I’m thinking “What the hell!” The music I love. I’d argue it has the best soundtrack of any Disney movie. It has the best songs, in my opinion too. When I wrote that one I wanted to have some of those elements there. We have a good friend of mine here in Ottawa named Amy. She is a metalhead but she runs the Ottawa Capital Chamber Choir and I asked her “Hey, how would you guys like to be on a metal album?” and she (said) yes. The whole choir wasn’t there but she brought in a good number, maybe a quarter, I think. That was the last song written for the album so I was able to have a better understanding (or production) so I was able to add in stuff that I liked. For example, I’m a gigantic X Japan fan. I like what they did where they used to have little piano breaks in their songs so that’s why I have the one toward the end.
I’ve always thought that movie was kind of underrated in the Disney canon. I think you could stack “Hellfire” up against any Disney song.
James: Oh yeah, any of the songs. The choirs in the opening song, “The Bells of Notre Dame,” are so amazing. Or, for example, the ballad, “God Help the Outcasts,” I’m like, “This is so much better than the more poppy, whimsical stuff.” These songs literally punch you in the gut, they hit you right in the feels and I think that’s what it should do. Obviously a lot of people like “Let It Go” or whatever because it’s very big and whimsical or a lot of the “Be Our Guest” or “Under the Sea” but I’m like, “No, I want some dark Disney songs. I want a song about a guy literally lusting over the main character.” You don’t expect that from a Disney movie. I want a song where the main female lead is singing about the persecution of her people while the guards are outside trying to kill her. I want that, it’s just great. That’s why it had such an impact on me.
How about “In Metal We Trust?” To me, that feels like you attempting a Judas Priest style anthem.
James: Oh yeah, absolutely. Even the riff was very Priest. That was definitely the most Priest-ish song that we have. That’s one of the few that we still play live often. We played it at Hyperspace. Everybody tells me that song is one of their favorites and they love the interaction and call-and-response in it. “In Metal We Trust” is definitely our attempt at writing an old-school Priest song and having it be very audience-heavy. That’s one of the songs we still play to this day and people, when we play it, seem to like it. I remember at Hyperspace one of the people from one of the other bands came up to me and said, “Oh, you’re in Lycanthro. I love ‘In Metal We Trust.'” It was very flattering. That song I’m very proud of because that’s a song a lot of our listeners seem to like.
Who did the cover for the album? It really reminds me of the Stephen King book Cycle of the Werewolf and the illustrations in that, if you’ve ever read that one.
James: I’ve been meaning to, it’s on the list but I love the movie. Silver Bullet is one of my top five werewolf films. I know that movie was based off Cycle of the Werewolf but I haven’t read the book yet. That movie is awesome and I love how that film, even though it came out in the ’80s, it really established a lot of the cliches that a lot of old ones like The Wofman in the ’40s did. (Silver Bullet) is one of the werewolf films that I’ve seen parodied the most. I remember when I first watched it, there’s the one scene where they find out who the werewolf is and the guy who’s a werewolf starts coming towards them, and you see the closeup shots with his hands doing this and then his hands doing that and I said “I’ve seen this before! That’s been parodied.” I can definitely see that the album cover is like that for sure.
How did you guys decide on the cover?
James: I’m really not much of an artist but I always have an idea of what I want for our album covers so what I’ll do is draw, as best as I can, a really rough sketch and I’ll find an artist, get it to him and say make this better (laughs). For Mark of the Wolf, one of my favorite artists in metal is a guy named Velio Josto. He did art for some pretty big bands like RIOT, he did some of the newer RIOT artwork. I love his style and the thing that I found funny about the album artwork is, and I won’t mention any names, it originally wasn’t him that we got to do it, it was someone else. We got this one dude who had done art for some pretty big bands, paid him a lot of money, bought the album art, and it honestly wasn’t good. I decided, screw this. Originally I was gonna have Velio do something else for us but I thought, screw it, I’m gonna go with him and he did a way better job. The only two things I wanted was a werewolf and I wanted him to have his hand like this (moves hand like album cover) and I want the mark of the wolf burned into his skin. That’s all I gave him and he added all this other cool stuff that I never even could have imagined. He put the werewolf on a mountain pass, on one side of him is a trail and on the other side is a waterfall and you see the Mark of the Wolf in the sky next to him and that’s something that I really loved, that he added all these things that I wouldn’t have thought of myself. The other artwork, which we’ll probably use for something else at some point, probably not an album cover but maybe a piece of merch or whatever, was one by the quote unquote bigger name artist, it looked really unfinished. For some reason he made the background snot green, which didn’t work, (it was) very swampy.
What are some of your favorite werewolf stories?
James: My favorite werewolf film is The Howling, easily. The Howling is fantastic, even though the whole movie is great, the first 15 minutes of The Howling are amazing because you have this guy who is a serial killer and the police, it actually starts out like a crime drama, and then you find out he’s actually a werewolf. Ginger Snaps, I like a lot. Obviously An American Werewolf in London. Silver Bullet, obviously. The other one that I saw recently that I quite liked, because it was different, there’s a werewolf film and it’s very small, it’s from Denmark I think, it was a very small independent film called When Animals Dream. That one was really cool because it really made the whole werewolf thing…it was a very artsy fartsy art film but it was an arthouse take on a werewolf film. That one is definitely another really cool one. Those are my main ones. Obviously, I’m a huge fan of Skyrim, that’s one of my favorite games and in that game you can become a werewolf. Speaking of that, the title track of Mark of the Wolf is actually about The Companions in Skyrim.
Is that a creature that’s always appealed to you, the werewolf?
James: Yeah, the thing is I’ve always liked it because, one of the things you always see now, is the whole vampire craze. Don’t get me wrong, I like vampires a lot. One of my favorite films is Let the Right One In but I saw that everybody was doing it. So many bands were doing the whole vampire imagery. Vampires are having this huge cultural renaissance, unfortunately after Twilight, but I thought everybody is doing this, why not do the opposite? Why not do the werewolf thing? I thought it was a good way to have that horror, fantasy aesthetic while still being a bit more unique than just another band that has the Victorian vampire aesthetic. Almost any, and I’m not bashing it, symphonic metal band now has that look. I like the look, it’s not that I don’t, I think it’s great. I just didn’t think it was for us. The kind of aesthetic I try to go for with Lycanthro is sort of that first fifteen minutes of The Howling where it’s werewolves but it’s also modern, grounded, not like your typical werewolf out in the woods. I wanted to have the aesthetic of werewolf but sort of in an urban fantasy type of setting, sort of like an Operation Mindcrime or Streets: A Rock Opera from Savatage but with werewolves. That’s the whole aesthetic I wanted to go for with us.
Have you always been a big horror guy?
James: Oh yeah, ever since I was in early high school. My best friend, to this day, introduced me to all these horror films and I watched Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street and all that. Ever since then I’ve always been a pretty big horror guy and I love horror films. There’s a lot of films that I still have that I really dig. Sleepaway Camp is one of my favorites, personally, because of that twist at the end.
God, that twist. Did you know it going in?
James: No, actually I didn’t!
That’s the best way to watch it!
James: I knew there was a twist but everybody was like, don’t you dare spoil it. I remember when I first saw it, I was like, “What the hell?” Then when they go back and explain it, I’m like, “Oh, that actually makes sense.”
You guys shot some really cool videos for Mark of the Wolf, how did those come about
James: “The Crucible” video was sort of a victim of the pandemic. “The Crucible” video went through a lot of changes because we wanted, originally, to do it outdoors and it was going to be a lot bigger of a production. We were going to have it outdoors, we were going to have fire, we were going to have an angry mob. The idea was that we were going to have a music video with a witch burning but then have the witch come alive, killing everybody afterwards. It was sort of the victim of the pandemic but also sort of a victim of the city of Ottawa as well. Victim of the pandemic because of the ever changing COVID restrictions at the time. They had specific rules for filming, like, you can only have X amount of people outside at a time for filming and literally on an almost weekly basis that was changing. At first (it was) 50 people, then 30, then 20, then 15, then blah, blah, blah. (It was) a victim of the city of Ottawa because originally a lot of the places we wanted to film were on city property and I remember filling out the permit forms and stuff like that and saying on the forms that we plan on using fire but not a lot. I remember having a call with the fire marshal and explaining what we were planning on doing. I said “Hey, we’re not going to use a lot. We’re just using a few torches here and there because it’s an angry mob.” Ottawa being Ottawa…I always joke that over here you can’t wipe your nose without filling out ten forms. This guy pretty much, in his own way, pretty much told me to fuck off. I don’t know what this dude’s deal was but he was making it extremely difficult just to do this. Eventually we had to compromise and the place we ended up doing it was this soundstage that the guy who shot our video recommended. We ended up just working with what we had. We pretty much did what we could do and what we wanted just with the circumstances handed to us.
Do you have much of a start on what’s coming after Mark of the Wolf?
James: Yeah, (during) the pandemic we wrote a lot. In the pandemic we had a lot of time on our hands because a lot of us also weren’t working because of the restrictions. I wasn’t at my job because it was “non-essential” so we had a lot of time to write. We’re going to be going into the studio for something new in the summer, probably. The plan is we’re going to do an EP, then we have a single, a standalone single, that’s maybe or maybe not going to have a big guest star on it, and then we are about half done with the second album. We had a lot of time to write so we’re going to be trying to put out as much music as we can, as much content as we can, because we all have little ideas of what we want to do on social media (and) YouTube here and there. That’s what we’re gonna be working on for the next little while. The only thing that’s kind of stopping us is our drummer isn’t even in the country now, unfortunately. He’s been in Europe for the whole pandemic because he hasn’t been able to come back. Other than that, we’re getting started on working on all the new stuff that we’ve been writing. We’re really excited for people to hear it because it sounds different from Mark of the Wolf but it still sounds like us though.
How exciting is it to be moving out of the pandemic lockdowns with new material to work on
James: It’s great just because a lot of the new stuff we’re really excited for people to hear just because it’s so different. A lot of these songs, I find, are a lot more maturely written, a lot more dynamic, and a lot more diverse. I’m very excited for people to hear that we’re not just doing the Judas Priest thing, we’re actually trying to branch out.
What goals do you have for the band at this point?
James: The main goals for the band are, obviously, (to) be able to put out the music we want to put out, go on tour. One of the main goals for me is that we want to get on a major tour package and play more festivals…be able to go play the European festival circuit and, in the short term, play more of the festivals like Hyperspace out west, the smaller ones. (We want to) have our music heard by as many people as we can. We want to be able to put out stuff that people will enjoy and, as I said, that will be memorable.
What’s the best way for fans to support Lycanthro?
James: I’d say listen to us on Spotify. If you like what you hear, we have a merch site. Just listen to us on Spotify, check out the videos on YouTube (and) subscribe. We are starting to put out a lot more stuff soon. Follow us on social media, especially Instagram because that’s where we’re most active, that’s where we have the most stuff.
I’m always curious, do you have any hobbies or interests away from music that you do to unwind
James: I don’t really have much. I’m someone that’s constantly thinking about music and what to do with it but, in terms of hobbies and interests outside of music, I’m going to sound like such a big nerd when I say this, I’m a huge anime fan. I love anime so I always watch anime. As much as metalheads are video game nerds, I’m not much of a video game nerd, although I am playing Final Fantasy VII now, which is awesome. People might not know this because we don’t talk about it much but I’m big into wrestling as well, watching that. I was a big fan since I was a kid so (I like) doing that and going out to shows. I’m a very extroverted person so the pandemic was hell so I’m taking every opportunity that I can to go out to shows and see everybody and do what we were able to do in the before time.
There’s a pretty big crossover between wrestling fans and metal fans.
James: Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. I find that for some reason, a lot of metalheads are big into wrestling for whatever reason. I have been since I was a kid. I kinda had a bit of a dead period when I was a teenager but now I’ve gotten back into it just because I watch AEW, that’s probably my favorite. I don’t watch WWE anymore, I don’t think it’s that great anymore.
AEW has been killing it since they came on the scene. Who are your guys?
James: Kenny Omega, obviously. Kenny Omega is literally the greatest wrestler on the planet right now. MJF, I love MJF. Even though he’s the bad guy, I like him so much that I actually want him to win all the matches just so he can just become this bigger ego. Kenny Omega and MJF are my two favorites. Hangman (Adam Page) is great. Pretty much anybody who is in The Elite…Adam Cole, obviously. Penta, Penta’s great. One person who I really like and I wish they’d do more with him because he’s just kind of a jobber at the moment is Brian Pillman Jr. You’re the son of Brian Pillman! (They) should be putting him in a much better position than he’s in. He’s very talented too. It’s not like he’s the son of somebody but he’s not good. He’s really good and they should be doing more with him than they are. Obviously the most metal stable of all, the House of Black, they literally come out to a song by Amenra.