The Canadian mastermind continues on a limitless path of self-reflection.
Words by Luis (@luis.hoa):
If we've taken anything from the variety of one-member bands that have risen in recent years, it's that sometimes a sole being is essential to breeding a kaleidoscope of sound that bars any limits to genre confines. Multiple inputs can sometimes create friction, a friction not known when you take the helm for all aspects of the composition and arrangement of a release. In the case of Unreqvited, this kind of creative liberty has allowed for the project to evolve in more ways than one, blurring the lines of black metal as each release tends to lean towards distinct avenues.
On August 13th, 2021, Prophecy Productions gave way to Beautiful Ghosts, the latest chapter of Unreqvited wonder. The record, which comes gracefully adorned by the graphic design of Delta Options, is the happiest from the band's discography, a reflection of the multi-instrumentalist's state of mind. Aggression is absent here, substituted for pure cinematic elegance achieved through ambient passages and strings that soar to an awe-inspiring effect. Heart takes the forefront and the accompanying melodies and atmospheres reflect feelings of love, passion, and devotion, all throughout a varied song structure and format that make Beautiful Ghosts a showcase of immaculate craft.
We welcome 鬼 (demon) of Unreqvited to a discussion on the expansive trajectory since the 2016 Disquiet debut, compositional purpose, emotional investment, and more as we near the two week mark since the arrival of Beautiful Ghosts:
Release day is now past us and fans have expressed their deep admiration for ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ throughout these past days, a testament to the relatability and power of it all. What does it mean to you as a musician and sole entity to connect with audiences in this way?
鬼: I always write primarily for myself, so it’s always a massive confidence booster when others resonate with the music as well. I never thought I’d amass any kind of audience at all with Unreqvited, but I’ve fostered a wonderful community over the past few years that is incredibly kind and supportive despite how frequently I change up my sound.
You've built a dedicated support group. With so much heart invested in the release, is it cathartic in any way to see it in heavy circulation across the world?
鬼: I never expect to feel any kind of catharsis with the actual album releases, I’m generally quite fearful of letting go of these albums that I tend to put an entire year’s worth of myself into. Once I start to see everyone sharing the album and expressing how meaningful the songs are to them, the catharsis starts to settle in.
Is there an intended effect with ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ as if encouraging listeners to look beyond the surface level and really feel something? Or are you more insular as a musician, writing and composing for yourself rather than for a particular audience?
鬼: Composing is my one and only creative/emotional outlet, so the music will always be primarily for my own self-expression. With that said, there are always going to be tons of layers to my music that encourage the listener to really dive in and pull their own meanings from the albums. Perhaps ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ will change one person’s perspective on life entirely, and will simply be 40 minutes of escapism to someone else. These are both equally valid outcomes to me.
Definitely, and you of course describe your music as both depressive and uplifting, two very distinct emotions. However, you establish a balance between them in your music, as if guiding listeners from one end of the spectrum to another. Is there a message to be found here?
鬼: I always try to exude a hopeful aura online to my listeners, but the music itself will always embody whatever I’m feeling at the moment of writing it. 'Mosaic II' (2020) for example, is one of the least hopeful sounding records I’ve written because of the difficult things I was going through mentally at the time. As I touched on in the previous answer, there isn’t a definite message to my music. It is all self-expression, and the listener is free to interpret it as they wish to.
That's the beauty of art and music really. They're an open canvas, interpreted in different ways by different people. The record is another step towards your continued musical evolution and though it could be loosely categorized as blackgaze, it would be doing a disservice to the varied sound palette present within. Do you feel as though it’s important to stray from the confines of genre categorization to achieve your full creative ambitions?
鬼: I’m a dynamic music listener, so naturally, all kinds of different influences make their way into my compositions. I never set out to create something that would fit within the confines of any genre, and I take pride in being difficult to categorize. I never want to make the same record twice, so Unreqvited’s sound will likely remain ever-changing for as long as I decide to keep it going.
It happens subconsciously I'm sure. ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ is a very emotional outing, though on a much more loving and affectionate level rather than a depressive one. Seeing as this is reflective of where the music finds you personally, does that just subconsciously make its way onto the creative process or was it more so intentional?
鬼: It was a little bit of both this time around. Since the biggest difference with this record is that it’s written for and about someone other than myself, I already knew going into it what kind of things I wanted to say and what feelings I wanted the music to embody. On the more subconscious side, I still allowed less hopeful moments onto the record, as they still came to me naturally over the course of the album’s writing process.
Sonically, that's quite evident with melodies really heightening that particular, heartfelt side of the composition. Prior to engagement, the viewer is of course met by an alluring floral display by Delta Options, who so gracefully capture the feel of the record. Visually, where did you find common ground with the multimedia collective when interpreting the record?
鬼: I’ve been following Anthony (of Delta Options) for quite some time, and I actually came across this piece that he made while I was scrolling through social media. I was halfway though writing the album at the time, and the artwork struck a chord instantly when I saw it. I felt it was the perfect visual accompaniment for the music I had been creating.
It definitely is. Beyond ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ though, essentially all of your covers come adorned by wondrously atmospheric works. You had Saprophial for ‘Stars Wept To The Sea’ (2018) and Mark Erskine for ‘Empathica’ (2020), which actually made our Top Album Covers of 2020 list last year. What role would you say the arts play in your musical expression?
鬼: I think artwork is nearly as important as the music itself. I used to be the kid that would go to record stores and buy albums solely off the cover art. When I’m writing an album, I’m trying to create an immersive world for the listener to escape into. The album art helps give them some guidance, almost like a map to navigate that world.
Beautifully said! Merch wise, you’ve been creating a wide assortment of tie dye tees that have been flying off the digital shelves. This is the epitome of DIY and really creates a sense of identity for what Unreqvited is as an entity. Given the contemporary stage of the music industry and dominance of streaming, how significant do you feel it is for bands to build a communal experience with their audience?
鬼: It’s extremely difficult to make any kind of name for yourself in the music industry right now. I think taking on as many roles as we can bear is our only chance. I wear a lot of hats because I want to keep as many things within my control as I can, and I want to save on expenses as much as possible. As much as I pride myself in working hard for the things that I want to accomplish with my music, I owe most of Unreqvited’s success to the small but dedicated fanbase that I’ve fostered over the years. Having a tight-knit community that supports everything I do is truly what keeps me going. I could never express with words how much they mean to me.
I'm more than certain that the dedicated support will follow you along the way. In closing, it's been five years since 2016’s ‘Disquiet’ debut and you’ve been fairly busy in terms of output. It can be said that ‘Beautiful Ghosts’ is truly a culmination of the investment you place in your craft. Where would you assess yourself now as a musician compared to when you were finding your footing with Unreqvited?
鬼: I’m pretty hard on myself with my art, but looking back I think I’ve made quite a lot of progress over the years. I’m proud of the records I’ve made and the broad territory of genres that I’ve covered with all of my projects. I’m busier than ever, but I think I’m the happiest I’ve been in years. Right now I have a completely blank slate in front of me for the next album, which is both exciting and terrifying. I feel confident that I’ll be able to continue to push Unreqvited’s sound and bring something
Beautiful Ghosts is available now via Prophecy Productions. Order your copy HERE.