BIRTH – An interview with Conor Riley

Birth is a progressive band from San Diego, who’s debut album is receiving fantastic reviews, and praise amongst new fans and press (the band recently featured in the latest issue of Prog Magazine). The band released a 3 track demo last summer, digitally, and this July their full length album came out on multiple formats, notably a number of colored vinyl variants featuring the awesome artwork by David V. D’Andrea! The album’s 6 songs hark back to that early 70s progressive and psychedelic sound; one of the best albums of 2022. Conor Riley answers my questions below on the band, making the album, and influences.

Can you guys tell me a bit about how the band came together and had there been any pre-Birth bands that sort of had that retro sound? 

We accumulated a lot of material after going through a long hiatus with some of the other bands that we had been in. We got together to jam without any real vision or intention and eventually we developed our sound and started Birth! Astra was another band that Brian and I were in that had a retro 70s progressive style. Also, Brian, Trevor and Paul were all in a band called Psicomagica which has a 70s progressive/jazz fusion sound.

How did the band’s classic progressive sound develop? Was it an intentional move to have that early 70s progressive sound / feel from the start? 

We listen to a lot of 70s music so it was natural for us to write and record with that sound. It was somewhat intentional but it was never something that was discussed or planned in any way. It was just the music we have been comfortable playing and listening to for the last decade or so.

When and how were the songs written for the Born album? Did any exist previously (other projects)? 

We began writing the songs in 2016. Since we didn’t have a vision for Birth when we started writing these songs, anything could have been possible for them, but they didn’t exist for something that was intended for another project

Were the songs written in whole or more so developed in rehearsal to where they became those longer pieces with extended instrumentals?  

Most of the time one of us comes to practice with an idea. We typically jam on them, sometimes ideas come up on the spot. Other times, we record it and listen to it at home and come up with parts independently to bring to the next practice. It’s usually a fairly long process of refinement to get something that we think is complete.

Can you talk a bit about how the songs were recorded and produced — type of recording gear (analog or digital), keyboards & equipment (older gear for that 70s vibe or newer), everyone in the studio together… [?] 

The drums and a few other tracks were recorded live with everyone together. There were a lot of over dubs on this album. Everything was recorded digitally with all analog instruments. Different tracks were recorded at different places. Just about all of it was recorded at Brian’s studio with the exception of some of the keyboards, acoustic guitars and vocals that were recorded at my home.

The album has some great reviews and some major press. Are you guys surprised? And do you see a big following for retro sounding bands? 

Yes, it’s really nice to read the positive reviews and press! There aren’t too many 70s progressive bands right now but I hear a lot of new music that has a retro sound so I think people are very receptive to it.

(Following on from last question) – Is there any other bands out there that sort of have that retro 70s progressive or hard rock approach that you guys like or recommend? 

Yes, in San Diego there’s a good amount of heavy psych/progressive bands like Earthless, Sacri Monti, Zach Oakley… Also some modern Scandinavian Bands like Wobbler, Hallas and Needlepoint.

Can you tell me a bit about your own influences – favorites players, songwriters, bands?

There’s too many to list! Some of my favorite and most influential bands are Magma, Aphrodite’s Child, John Coltrane, King Crimson, Osanna, PFM, Area and Camel

The album comes in an awesome looking package. Curious how important the album’s artwork and packaging was and do any of you guys have big vinyl collections (from the days where album art and packaging really stood out)? 

Yes! We’re very happy with how it turned out. I’m a big vinyl collector. My favorite part of releasing an album is opening the record and listening to it while looking at the artwork. I’ve always been a big fan of David D’Andrea’s work so it was important for us to have him as the artist for the cover.

The band has done some live shows. Is there any plans or prospects of getting on a tour throughout the US and Canada, or any European festivals? 

Nothing has been booked as of yet but we really hope to be able to come to Europe in the spring! I’m also trying to book a west coast US tour this fall.

I know it’s early, but has there been any plans or writing for a follow up album? 

We have some material written for the next album but no idea when we’ll be ready to start recording again.


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