Nico Mirolla


Genre-nerds rejoice! A new sub-sub-genre is born. The founders of Deathgaze, US-based KARDASHEV, released their "The Baring Of Shadows" EP last year to great acclaim, including a subsequent signing to Metal Blade Records. The range of emotions is intense, with everything from outright grief to deep contemplation and regret. Given the time it was released there's certainly much most of us can relate to! Given the unique opportunity to talk to these guys, Metal Temple writer Andrew Graham wanted to gain insight into their creative process and what has influenced their sound and style. Over the course of or conversation they talked lockdown boredom, the value of grief and sadness, and lofty artistic influences. All this gives the impression of a unique group of musicians with a distinct vision and sound all their own, working to remind us all that there is value and wisdom in sadness, and that we have common ground in our suffering and collective hardships."
By Andrew Graham
December 7, 2021
KARDASHEV'S Nico Mirolla: "I wanted to show that even though we may have different experiences of tragedy and hardship in life
Hi guys, delighted to be talking to you! Firstly, congratulations to you all, 'The Baring of Shadow' is an incredible achievement! It seems you have managed to at least keep yourselves busy over lockdown. What else have you been doing to stay sane and busy?

Hey Andrew and Metal Temple! Thanks so much for the love about our latest release with Metal Blade!  Lockdown has had challenges for everyone in their own ways, but with music and creative pursuits, we've made the best of it. As for each of us individually, we all have our own ways of spending our free time relaxing and focusing on individual hobbies and family time. I, Nico, spend my time playing video games, writing music and taking on music commissions along with Alex, while our singer, Mark, spends his time playing video games and enjoying his family. Our drummer, Sean, has three kids and so I imagine he's very busy teaching them to survive the harsh wilds of Canada. haha Thanks for asking!

I've noticed you're often on Twitch streaming video games and your music. How on earth do you find time for gaming and streaming whilst being fully committed musicians? Has lockdown given you more spare time in general to play with?

Yeah, I play video games on Twitch with our community and fans regularly! We ask which games we should try or we buy server time for games like Valheim/Minecraft to play with our Discord people! Regarding the lockdown and spare time, you know, there's a balance that we've found individually with playing video games or consuming art/media as a pass-time around our day jobs and other activities. I personally have found a way to make Kardashev my job and so by day I am a musician/entertainer and by night I play games and hang out with our community. This allows me to keep up with writing music continuously while also providing engagement and band updates to our Enlisted Travelers on our website. We gladly welcome you and your readers to join our public Discord!

This EP deals with some very mature emotional themes – notably grief and self-doubt among them. Does this come from a place of personal experience for you guys, and if so, was there a therapeutic aspect to making this music?

From Mark:

The lyrical content was actually written to be about instances that none of us have gone through, or experienced personally. I wanted to show that even though we may have different experiences of tragedy and hardship in life, the undercurrent of empathy and compassion is what connects us. We can feel pain and sadness for others, and in a weird way that's a very unifying concept - something that we all can come together on. We've had a lot of comments and messages from people saying that they have found themselves being grateful for the people and aspects of their life that they had previously taken for granted, and that was huge for us. In some way, we did what we set out to do - give people a sense of catharsis that leads to a sort of healing compassion. It sounds lofty, but it's something that's just ingrained in our DNA as humans, really.

I often hear people say that art is frequently influenced by the goings-on in its given time, that it betrays widespread social anxieties and so forth – a position that I have a lot of sympathy with. Given that your album deals with the topics of death and grief in such deeply contemplative ways, do you think that there's some aspect of the way people think (or not!) about death in our time that is given voice in your music?

This is a great question that we've really enjoyed discussing with fans and friends. Essentially, we wrote this album to help illustrate the challenges of understanding one another through the lens of pain. Nothing more. Just pain. No politics, no religion, no socio-economic conjecture. Just. Pain. There was a time between 2019 and 2020 that was rife with misunderstanding one another on political, social and just about every other social venue and it seems to continue well into today. Our singer, Mark, decided to write an album that was focused on what binds us together beyond being human, needing to breathe/eat/etc. and he chose the lens of pain. That grief and pain, and suffering seemed to be the best way to reach the largest audience with the purpose of reaching the souls of our listeners. I think the music video for Snow-Sleep did a great job conveying that too. We've had numerous people write to us explaining the feelings they felt while reading along and watching our drummer, Sean, abandon his daughter in the snowy wilderness. haha

And speaking of influences (sort of an inevitable question here) what bands and musicians would you say have had the biggest influence on what you guys do?

Musically, we like the sounds of different albums vs different artists, but to name a few:

Aegaeon, Fallujah, The Contortionist, Opeth, Lantlos, Alcest, Hans Zimmer, Max Richter, Steve Reich, but here's a Spotify playlist of some music that inspired this record specifically. Visually, the album took on a sort of Art Nouveau style thanks to the work that Karl E. put into the artwork and peony logo. Initially we weren't sure what we'd want since it was our first album without our bassist/artist, Chris, but he did  a wonderful job. Lyrically, we broke away from our mythos of sci-fi to write something a little more ubiquitous; a little more relatable. Mark goes on to explain that below.

I did warn you there'd be some genre-nerding so here it is! Many are crediting you with inventing 'deathgaze'. As a big blackgaze fan this intrigued me immensely and I love it! Was this an intentional creation, or did your music evolve naturally and the deathgaze thing happened 'accidentally'?

Hey, this is a fun question that I love answering and I too find myself a low context communicator on the subject. 'Deathgaze' came from a few different angles, but the driving force was a few removed posts from various subreddits. When we released 'Between Sea and Sky' from our album 'The Almanac', we tried posting it in r/deathcore, r/progmetal, r/deathmetal, and r/metalcore. Although it was received pretty well, there were comments about it not fitting the genres exactly, or not prog enough or some such. I thought to myself, well, I'm not an elitist, but I too respect the subgenre-ization of modern music. It's a fantastic tool that helps people of refined taste find what they desire. So, I said to the guys, what genres do you think we blend the most and we agreed that some combination of Death Metal, Metalcore, and Shoegaze sort of took the cake. Most combinations from that list were clunky to say until we found Deathgaze and it just sort of stuck. haha

There seems to be a lot of controversy around these '-gaze' microgenres. Some people just seem really divided about it, why do you think that is? Can the genre-nerding be taken too far?

Nah, I think a good example is that there are sommeliers and there are alcoholics. Some people want to describe flavour while others want the effect. I can't knock either side of the discussion because I respect a difference of opinion, even if they're wrong. This also depends on a respect for specificity. Some discussions warrant it and others don't. Anyone can split hairs over it with enough care.

Without wishing to seem like an art snob (which I definitely am not!), I think one could reasonably call your music metal for the thinking fan. The very best music (indeed, art more generally) teaches us things about the world, ourselves and others. Do you view your music as part of this tradition of, if you like, 'art as philosophy'?

I appreciate the compliment, but we're just dudes that like the music we like. I can't say we put more or less effort into the philosophy of the music than other bands, but it's really fun to learn about why artists create anything. Take Archspire for example, or Mechina; they put a lot of effort into the characters, institutions, fiction, growth and world they're talking about in their music. It's hard to look that deeply into the music because it's not common to have a deep discussion about what is beyond the music. I've never considered us making 'art as philosophy', but when you find a band/artist/genre that does go that deep, it's a real treat.

Back in January, as we all know by now, you guys announced you'd joined forces with Metal Blade Records. No small cause for celebration there! Given you were offered signings from a number of different labels, was there a sense in the band of having 'made it'?

Hey thanks! Yes, 100% felt like we finally 'made it', but the wild thing is, not a whole lot changes for us. The reason we 'made it' from my perspective is because we have a functioning business with a developed following and awesome community. To me, it was more of an attrition variable. Like, "when/if a label actually looks past the music and realizes that we try our best at being a business, they'll likely say, 'sure, why not'." So, in a way, at least to me, it was a matter of time and business acumen.

Like most bands and musicians, I imagine you guys have been seriously missing being able to play live (thanks COVID!) Hopefully things are looking up, however, so how are you all feeling about potentially being able to get out there and perform again? And with new material to play!

Yeah, the pandemic and the lack of cooperation by the populace has really brought lots of industry to a halt, but in this very small circumstance, I think that is partly what led Metal Blade to us in a way. You see, we don't play shows and we haven't played them since 2016. We make records and foster community directly through social media and live streaming. So, in a way, we were "making it work" in an era of time when touring and live performance success wasn't possible. You'd be surprised how many musicians/creators haven't adopted live streams as an alternative, even just temporarily, to tours and festivals. It honestly blows my mind, but we're just on the opposite side of that spectrum, so, who knows. We might play a festival here and there, but we don't have the means or ability to jam since Sean lives in Canada and we're in Arizona. Fortunately, our bassist gets to play live regularly through his other project, Holy Fawn, but you never know, we might play as Kardashev one day too!

Here are some words from Alex:

As time passes and new rules are put in place to keep everyone safe, I feel the possibility of playing shows and touring again is very real and I couldn't be more excited about it! Half of the joy in being an artist, at least for me, is being able to connect your art with the people who enjoy it. There is no greater feeling than performing and feeling that energy, and it's an energy I have missed for a long time now! Hopefully someday soon we'll be able to bring these new songs to life and perform them live for everyone.

If you wanted to briefly summarise your album to someone who had never heard your music before, how would you describe it?

From Mark:

I would say that The Baring of Shadows is an album focused almost entirely on mood, atmosphere, and emotion, with the goal of using tragedy to instill connection to yourself and others when listening to it. Really, it's an emotional purge / detox that ideally sets you on the other side feeling relieved, thankful, and connected to the others around you.

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