Calling your band power metal seems to be very unpopular in the 2010s. Few new bands play this style of music and even fewer use the title to describe their music. Tanagra from Portland, Oregon, do so with such conviction that makes it sound completely natural and right. With their debut album None Of This Is Real released in early February 2015, ZT hunted down the band, asking for explanations.
So how did they begin? It turns out that, in June of 2010, Tom (Socia, Tanagra’s singer) posted an internet classified ad looking for musicians to start a new band. “I ended up connecting with Steven (Soderberg, guitarist) whom I had already met through mutual friends once or twice and we hit it off right away. We worked on some musical ideas for a while before circulating a new ad in September of that year, which resulted in our first drummer Scott joining. Erich (Ulmer, bassist) was introduced to us in late 2010 by Josh (Kay, guitarist), who would later complete the lineup himself in early 2011. We had auditioned a few guitar players but we really wanted him all along anyway.”
This led to the recording of the 2012 demo. Following that, the band stayed active but not without drawbacks.
“We kept writing songs and playing shows pretty consistently throughout 2012, introducing new songs as they were completed. At the end of the year, our first drummer Scott decided to leave the band. We began the search for a replacement and Chris joined the band in March of 2013. We went into the studio in August for basic tracking. Due to difficulties with scheduling and finances, our overdub and mixing sessions were somewhat scattered over the following year. We finally got everything done and mastered the album around the fall of 2014.”
The long time intervals is not the only weird thing about Tanagra. One look at the titles and eyebrows are raised: 10:04PM… Antietam… Eliana… I beg your pardon? What are the lyrics all about?
“Our lyrical topics are diverse, but there are some recurring themes. The most prominent are probably those related to the concept of Time. Our songs on this album are quite thematic; there is a strong storytelling aspect. This is especially evident in songs like Antietam (about the eponymous battle in the American civil war), Bitter Earth (inspired by observations of cyclical shifts of power throughout history), and especially The Path to Talmor (touching on events within a larger saga of my own creation). The songs The Undying Light and Tyranny of Time (and to a much lesser degree, 10:04 PM) are linked together in relation to an ever-evolving “Tanagra mythos” which, again, revolves around a theme of vast, interweaving timelines. The stories we are creating will continue to come into focus in the years to come…” Tom explains.
The starry nature of their music is suitably reflected in Tanagra’s somewhat exotic-sounding name. Where does this name come from, though?
“The name came from one of our early songs, At Tanagra. This song, written by Steven before the band formed, was largely inspired by an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Tanagra is the name of an island on an alien world. Naming the band Tanagra was Scott’s idea. I didn’t like it at first because I was concerned about the band getting pigeonholed as a “nerd band” novelty act, but I still had nothing better that everyone liked, so it finally just stuck. Tanagra is also the name of a famous ancient city in Greece” …where two battles took place in 457 and 426 B.C.
Throughout the 3-year process of creating None Of This Is Real, Tanagra never stopped writing new songs! New material for the band is therefore already pilling up, where the power metallers explore new musical directions.
“I would certainly classify our first album None Of This Is Real as a power metal record. However, we have been writing new songs continuously and our sound has kept evolving. Our influences are quite varied. From prog to classical to metal in its myriad forms, we have musical inspirations coming from nearly every direction. The next record will surely offer something different.”
…And, when is this record to be expected? What else is there on the horizon for Tanagra?
“We will definitely be entering the studio to record another album at some point. It’s too early to say when, but we hope it won’t be too long since we already have a lot of new material. Apart from that, we will continue to play shows and introduce new merchandise, etc. We are always writing new songs and there is a lot of great music to come!”