Ah. The dreaded sophomore slump album. Every band comes to this point in their career at one point or another. In the case of Gemini Syndrome, however, this doesn't seem to be a bad thing. In fact, their upcoming sophomore record, Memento Mori, which hits stores tomorrow, appears to be their strongest effort yet. The band appear to be firing on all cylinders throughout the album, making for a great listen. We recently sat down to speak with drummer Brian Medina to talk about the process of bringing the album to life, some of the obstacles they faced along the way, and why fans should be psyched about Memento Mori.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of Memento Mori. I’m really looking forward to hearing the record when it comes out. In your opinion, how would you say the songwriting process differed for the band compared to the process of writing an album like Lux?
Well, it was two very different times. When we wrote Lux, we had just formed the band. So that was basically our first collaboration together. That was our, not only introduction to the world, but our introduction to ourselves and each other. That was our first attempt at working together and figuring out how we bounce off each other.
Me and Aaron met in 2009, and Lux didn’t even come out until 2013. We started writing this album in 2015. Then a couple things changed. We had both of our guitar players leave, so that was the first hurdle. It was like, “well, are we going to find new guys, or are we just going to do this ourselves?” That’s more of rhetorical question, because we literally just jumped into doing it ourselves. We weren’t trying to wait or anything. We’re one of those bands where everyone writes and everyone does everything, so we just dove right in. We had been on tour the whole time, and I had just moved in with my brother. I was toying around with the idea of building a studio, and this was the perfect opportunity and excuse for me to do that. We dove right in, and I turned my whole living room into a working studio.
Aaron came and lived with me for a couple months, and we just wrote the whole thing out. AP lived less than half a mile away from me. He’d come over and we’d write.
It came together so naturally. There was some stuff where AP did everything, or I did everything, but I think the real magic is when we all did everything together.
Do you think that maybe the hurdles and obstacles that were thrown at you over that period of time and had finally gotten into the studio made it come more naturally, since you had all of that built up for awhile and it was able to come pouring out of you guys?
Most definitely. That was definitely a big part of it. We had been dealing with so much crap that had nothing to with playing shows and writing music, which are the two main parts that we really enjoy. But having gone through those trials and tribulations really solidifed the “core three” and really made us stronger. When that manifested in the ease, the quickness, and the style that we went with it, that really just kind of amplified our intentions and productivity. We just threw down and went for it. And we’d also been playing the same songs for six years, so we had all this pent up creativity that was waiting to come out as well.
The term “Memento Mori” means “remember that you must die” in Latin. What does that represent for the tone of the album and the direction the band wanted to go with the material?
From the beginning, we had planned to have the first three albums be a trilogy. Lux was to represent birth. Memento Mori is to represent life. The third album will represent death. “Remember we die” is quite literally that. When you really come to accept your mortality, that can prove to be a huge motivator in pushing yourself to follow your dreams and do the things you want to do, live your life to the fullest, and cherish relationships you have in your life. We all have run across situations where you’ve taken something for granted, it’s gone, and then you kind of go, “oh well, I wish I coulda” while that thing was still there, whether it’s a job, relationship, whatever it may be. I think the biggest thing that we have, which we may take for granted whether consciously or subconsciously is our lives. We really wanted to, with the second album’s theme being life, bookended by birth and death, we wanted the message to be “this is life. This is something to be cherished.” It’s sacred and valuable, and don’t take one moment of it for granted. One day, it’s going to be gone, so you’ve just gotta live your life.
As a drummer, and considering that these songs are on the heavier side of things, what do you feel is most important for you to stand out on each track that helps showcase your identity as a drummer?
For me, I try to really, really create an audio and vibe for every single song. I want to give everyone a nice, solid backdrop for them to do whatever they do. I’ve never had such a great rhythm section in a band as I have with AP; he’s a monster of a bass player. We try to do these things where sometimes we play off of each other, and sometimes we do something together at the same time. It’s kind of like a dance; within just the rhythm section we ebb and flow. That gives the guitar players the opportunity to really paint their layer on the canvas. By the time we get to Aaron, I make sure that I just give him all the space he needs to do what he needs to do. There are sometimes where, if he hits a real stacatto rhythm, I’ll hit it with him. I’ll hit some snare or china cymbal when he sings these really stacatto notes. If there’s a moment where he’s saying something that I think is really cool or interesting, I’ll stop playing such an intricate beat, wait for him to say the lyric, and then add a fill, so that way you know it was something you had to pay attention to lyrically.
You’re worked with Kevin Churko and Kane on this record, a staple in the hard rock scene as of the past several years. What did he bring to the table as a producer?
Well we’re incredibly lucky to have worked with them on our first album. I have lots of friends in bands, and I get to see how they work with their producers. We are truly, truly blessed to have these guys. We became family with these guys. We developed such a relationship with them, just on the first album. Right when we were on the end of the touring cycle with Lux, we wanted to go in and test out a song. We went in there with Kane, and it was our first time working with Kane at that point, without Kevin. We did “Eternity” with Kane, and that went really, really well. We went, “wow, this is cool.”
When we were planning the next album, and planning all of the logistics and scheduling, Kevin was mostly booked up. He had a lot on his plate at the time. We loved Kane’s work as it is, and the added bonus is that we were there with Kane and Kevin the whole time.
There were two occasions where we were like, “okay, the ball is rolling.” Kane was mixing and getting things done. We changed our mind about some things and then we wanted to add a couple more songs. We did “Remember We Die” and “Sorry Not Sorry” with Kevin, because he had an opening. It just worked out really nicely, and we were able to work with both of them on the album. Everything flowed really nicely.
Last question: what does music mean to you?
Oh wow, man. I was writing about stuff when I was a teenager. Music to me is communication. Imagine a hypothetical situation where we discover another civilization, like an alien world, you know? Think about how cool it would be to see and listen to what their music is like. It wouldn’t matter the words are. It wouldn’t matter what genre or what time it was created in, whether it was 500,000 years old, or 5,000 years in the future. Just imagine learn from listening to someone else’s music in a different culture.
Look at how much you can learn from listening to different times in music on Earth, just in this short history. Look at how different music is from India vs. from China vs. from Russia vs. from Europe vs. from Africa. You have all of these different styles of music over the past thousands of years, and it separates us from the animal. We get to create this thing where we create harmony and melody, and put it in a structure. It’s a poem for your ears. To me, that has always tripped me out. It’s like, “wow, we can do that.”
The icing on the cake is that I’m able to say something that I want to say, something that’s valuable. Sometimes, there are people out there that want to sing about strippers and partying, and that’s cool too! That’s fine with us, and there’s a place for that. But then there’s a place for people that want to do something with their music that’s powerful, like what Rage Against The Machine does, and what Tool does. I mean, look at what The Beatles did in the 60s. They completely revolutionized the way we communicate.
Just to be a small, tiny piece of that is an honor and a privilege. It’s something that we really try to do the best of our ability, and honor it with what we value. Everyone in the band is super passionate about what they do, individually. And then you combine us, and we’re passionate about what we do collectively. We want to put something out there that really is a thumbprint, an identifier of what we stand for and what we think is important. We’re super lucky that people are feeling it and people get it, you know? Because there’s the possiblity that we could do exactly what we want to do, and people could go “that sucks” (laughs). Let’s go listen to Deftones instead (laughs).
Luckily, people hear it. We see people singing the lyrics, or we hear people saying, “oh my god, I proposed to my wife with your song!” or “I used this song at my wedding!” We see the tattoos they put on their body [with our lyrics]. It’s incredible to be a part of that. I felt that music saved my life as a teenager and helped me deal with a lot of the things a teenager goes through. So now, to meet people and see that, to them, what we do is what Pink Floyd and Tool was for me as a teenager. None of us take it lightly, so we try really hard to honor that and give that its respect.
Memento Mori hits stores tomorrow, August 19, 2016 via Another Century.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.