Ancestors: “Neptune With Fire”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Ancestors-Neptune-With-Fire.mp3|titles=Ancestors: “Neptune With Fire”]
Sometimes things just seem too obvious. When Los Angeles five-piece Ancestors formed in 2006, its members were surprised that they couldn’t pinpoint a band that already had melded ’70s progressive rock with the stoner/doom metal that erupted out of California during the 1990s. Regarding that, guitarist and lead singer Justin Maranga says, “They seem to go hand in hand, to the point where we were kind of shocked no one had combined them before, and we were wondering when someone was going to beat us to it.” But the band wasn’t devised with the intent to pioneer any particular new sound. Maranga puts it simply: “The important thing is to play the kind of music you’d want to hear.”
Along with Maranga, Ancestors includes bassist Nick Long, drummer Brandon Pierce, organist J. Christopher Watkins, and chief lyricist and ambient-noise expert Chico Foley, a London-by-way-of-Berlin transplant. Their two-song, nearly forty-minute debut, Neptune With Fire, is filled with dramatic twists and turns, sprawling guitar solos, and on the title track, a four-part narrative depicting a mythological King Neptune wrestling with the burden that comes with having unlimited power.
Maranga maintains that the band is suited by the style, which is partially inspired by Foley’s early observations upon relocating to Los Angeles. “We’re all fans of nerdy storytelling music,” Maranga says. “The traditional epic — Rush’s Hemispheres, King Crimson — I think that the music was begging for that kind of lyric.” Foley adds, “A whimsical style wouldn’t really go with our sound.”
“We’re all fans of nerdy storytelling music. The traditional epic — Rush’s Hemispheres, King Crimson — I think that the music was begging for that kind of lyric.”
Ancestors’ members long have been familiar faces at all-ages, vegan-friendly arts space The Smell, which is quickly building a national reputation, if not international, as a hub for up-and-coming, unique artists. “It’s one of the best DIY venues in the world,” Foley says. “In comparison with London, there is no way you can find a place to put on a DIY show. The police here really don’t give a shit about what goes on downtown.”
“That kind of ethic really appeals to people,” Maranga says. “It’s why venues like [legendary San Francisco Bay-area punk club] Gillman Street has held up over the years. People like the way it can be self-run, the way bands are picked, and the fact that bands can just go and play. People don’t like rules and being told what to do.” An added bonus is that bands are able to introduce their music to audiences that may not typically seek out metal or prog-rock groups on their own. “We’ve played shows with bands that we don’t fit so well with musically,” Maranga says, “but we’re all being influenced by the same stuff in different ways, and that somehow appeals to the same crowd.”
A distribution SNAFU delayed the release of Neptune with Fire in the United States until Fall 2008, but the album had been available for purchase in Europe for several months prior. In the meantime, Ancestors has been hard at work developing new material. “There is going to be less mythological premise, and a more humanized context of you and me as opposed to story,” Foley says. “The last album was us becoming us, and now we are beginning to fulfill our potential.”