An interview with Slade Templeton and Basil Oberlin of Crying Vessel
By Frank Bell
Crying Vessel, the Swiss-American darkwave duo consisting of Slade Templeton (vocals and production) and Basil Oberlin (drums) are back with a new single – the empowering anthem titled Blossom. The song speaks to our inherent, although not always readily apparent, freedom to choose who we want to be and how we want to live our lives. Driving from beginning to end (like a nail gun), with tight production across the board, the song introduces a touch of lightness to the band’s lexicon. Think of it as a candle at the end of a dark, long tunnel. The release is accompanied by a stunning video, where a young female protagonist is followed around by what seems like a disembodied spirit. Aren’t we all? With their full length on the horizon – set to drop in June on Cleopatra records – we sat down with Slade and Basil, to pick their brains about all things new wave, their forthcoming record and why they decided to release it with an accompanying tarot deck.
What is it about the 80s new wave / post-punk sound that makes it still feel fresh almost 40 years later?
I think it’s using every element that makes music exciting and infusing it into styles that transcend specific genres or eras. Big chorus’. Big synths. Modern techniques in processing using some known and ear-candy gear. It all ties together to be a sound that somehow still fits even for today’s standards. It’s always kind of been a slow burner style in the way it never popped off to be forgotten again. That’s the trick in music. That’s why artists maintain so many years later compared to many one-hit wonders from the 80s. They have a style that can transcend and grow on the listeners for years to come.
Is there such a thing as an actual new wave scene, though? It seems to me that kids nowadays don’t really define themselves using music subcultures in the same way they have in the past. Partially, I think, this is, because the idea of genre purity isn’t a thing anymore, and most kids consume a wide variety of music.
Absolutely true, you nailed it on the head. And, as I said previously; it’s about transcending styles. I think these times especially it’s about just doing what you love about those that inspire you without sounding exactly like those that inspire you. The styles and genre umbrellas and labels just aren’t nearly a thing anymore in these scenes. It’s completely opposite to that of, let’s say, electronic dance music, where the genre defines all and gives the listener or consumer an idea of what they are getting into. With this new ‘dark music post punk gothic new wave cold wave electronic ebm industrial dark wave synth wave synth pop’ scene… its about exactly that… seeing what it is that makes you inspired as an artist, wearing it on the sleeve just enough, and letting all these long lists of known-genre names to not define you or pigeonhole you. It’s a blurring the lines kind of thing.
Can you tell me a bit about the tarot deck that you’re planning to release with your LP?
We wanted to bring the world of what Crying Vessel is about and especially the new album even more into our multi-media and external (outside of music) artistic vision. We made the tarot not only apply to the new album but also much of the older songs from the past 2 albums (back to A Beautiful Curse released in 2017). It plays off the titles and the subject matter that is sung about but brought into alignment with what tarot is and does for someone. We believe in this kind of touch. Art, creation, energy, music, aligning with those that are listening. We would love to be even more part of that spiritual journey for someone. It’s not about merch. It’s not even about being a marketing thing. It just lets you dive further into our world and hopefully, we get to do the same for those with the album and the Tarot.
Do you guys use the tarot?
I have a funny story about this. When I was 15 my mother brought me to a chain-smoking trailer park living tarot reader in the middle of Kansas (where I grew up) to have my tarot read. At this time in my life, I wasn’t sure what to even think about this. The lady put some oil onto the cards and looked at me and first says “you are not from this planet”. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself but then she continued. “You will choose a career that has extreme ups and downs. You will choose to continue over a safe bet career and continue to do so. You will live in England and I see you with a house in Germany and you will settle there. Have a family there. You will grow as a creative and learn to live as one.”
Well, fast-forward 18 years and I lived in London back in 2006 (years after this reading), I made music my full-time job for the past 20 years, and with many up and downs as this world brings, and I now reside in Switzerland (Germanic part of Europe) with a German wife and family here. This changed my view forever and took many many years for this to become reality but all the bullet points she said, with great description, have come true. It’s kind of mind blowing to be honest. I can only hope this deck harnesses this kind of power for someone who knows how to use it.
Did you do a reading for this record and what the future holds for Crying Vessel?
Not directly although that is a great idea. A Crying Vessel Tarot deck reading about the new Crying Vessel album. This may implode and give us an Inception vibe, hah. Handle with care!
What could we expect from the record?
The album is compiled of all the styles Crying Vessel has been known for on previous albums and EP’s or features. It is heavy as we have ever been but also as light and floaty as we will ever be. It has a bit for everyone. We are most excited about this because of the energy it has. The flow and storytelling. It also, unlike the last album that was fully conceptual, is also made to be listened to as single or song-standalone, or, as an album, whichever the listener prefers. Our last album “Pleasures for the Wicked” was extremely artsy and we experimented and found ourselves. This album “Before Life was Death” is where that album lead us to. As a song. As an album. As a band.