Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Houston’s The Xebellian Triangle. Together we discussed the location of the Xebellian Triangle, their creative process, their recent release “At The Banks of Rubicon”, and so much more! Check it out below!
1. Hello! Mustard is grateful to have The Xebellian Triangle join them! How is everyone?
We are all doing very well! All very busy, but very well. Haley (lead vocal) has been very busy with projects and assignments at her workplace at NASA (within the last year been certified as a Flight Controller!), as well as developing a portfolio of covers to show off her vocal ranges both clean and harsh. Aron has been really hard at work taking on a couple new tour gigs, like playing drums for tech-death band Aethereus on an upcoming headline tour, as well as our pals in Austin, deathcore band Snake Father (with whom Haley previously has done a vocal feature for). Hakeem has been working his butt off at Guitar Center slinging gear, and doing various audio and video projects on our end of things lately. Ivy is hopefully about to start work at a venue here as a stagehand and audio engineer trainee (she has a ton of recording experience and build our rigs, but, live sound is not her main domain of expertise quite yet), as well as having done some mix work for Haley’s covers, Aron’s drum playthroughs, and a melodic deathcore band local to us, A Winter’s Remorse, with their new EP with some of that disgusting, grimey, overblown-master mid-2000s deathcore goodness.
2. Mustard thinks The Xebellian Triangle is one of the most badass band names this condiment has had the pleasure of hearing. Is the Xebellian Triangle an actual location humans can travel too? How did you come up with the name?
Humans? Perhaps. Atlanteans, Eldritch horrors, crab-people, and other ocean-dwelling denizens? Certainly. Ivy is a huge DC nerd (Ivy Lance, like, Poison Ivy and Dinah Lance [Black Canary]), and one of her favorite characters is Mera, who is usually seen as the woman counterpart to Aquaman, as a bold, powerful, independent woman (and specifically not “Aquawoman”). She comes from the Atlantean kingdom of Xebel, which has had some varying canon in the DC lore as to exactly where, or what (or even WHO, as it started out as a character’s name) it is. What does seem to be common is that it can be found inside The Bermuda Triangle, and in one such canon it is a pocket dimension of its own, and thus explains why so many aircraft and ships are lost there; they wind up in Xebel’s dimension by accident. As one might guess in metal, brutal, cool, or obscure band names that aren’t already used are in very short supply with the internet nowadays, and with the timing that the Aquaman film had been running in theaters at some point and perhaps the name “Xebel” might possibly enter the knowledge of more casual DC fans through the film, it seemed like good timing. Ivy ran it by Aron, they did some precursory designs, and it turned out “The Xebellian Triangle” would have some very cool emblem symmetry, as well as interesting logo design, and while people always mess up the pronunciation or spelling, people certainly remember the X and the triangle branding choices.
So for the record: Xebellian, spelled X-E-B-E-L-L-I-A-N, sounds like “Rebellion”, but with a Z, like “Zebellion”, but the Z is an X, and the O is an A. Not exa-bellyon. Not eggs-a-billion, or eggs-benedict, though I’m certain that might be delicious to some, and probably an all-over we’ll do at some point of just a billion eggs. Add mustard to taste?
3. How did The Xebellian Triangle first meet? When did you decide you wanted to form a band?
Oh boy, the extended history lesson. Aron and Ivy met in highschool, and played in a melodic death metal band that tried to sound like The Black Dahlia Murder but mostly sounded like bands like Conducting From The Grave. That band broke up towards the end of the school year right before Ivy, and other members of that band Caz (the primary creative) and Jay, graduated. Right after graduation, those 3, Ivy, Caz, Jay, would go on to form another band of similar style, but hitting the mark a bit closer just by course of writing new songs (or were songs in the works for the 1st band, that never got recorded or completed). Caz would leave that band in 2015, making Ivy the new main creative force in the band, who wanted to pursue a symphonic direction fully realized. That band too broke up, during the recording process of the 1st album to follow up a debut EP, in 2016. Ivy would attempt to finish the album over a course of a few years, but never really had the spark. Meanwhile, Aron had been at university studying Aerospace Engineering, and had done 1 gig with that 2nd band as a fill-in. He wanted to jam the old tracks again close to his graduation, around the tail-end of 2018, as a means to get his metal chops back up to speed since he had only done fill-in gigs and country gigs while at school for the most part. Eventually, Ivy and Aron met up to talk about how it would be cool to finish the songs and put them out, and play them live, and thus, discussions were had, and it was decided TXT would be a band. For almost 2 years, it would just be Aron and Ivy, including into the pandemic, slowly working on putting the album together, booking shows, having the pandemic cancel shows, and so on. Aron would meet Haley at his old job as he worked at the space center contracted under another company, and both Aron and Ivy were absolutely impressed with her vocal capabilities. As well, in Aron introducing Ivy and Haley, he had shown her the things Ivy had been working on, and she really enjoyed the material. She was asked to join in spring 2021, and that was really when the momentum of the band started by having a third piece. They would complete the album as a trio in fall/winter of 2021, play a few shows, and as 2022 rolled around, we brought Hakeem on board as a bassist.
As a fun fact, there is one song on our album, “The Living Autopsy”, which was written in the 1st band, released in the 2nd band, and has now been revamped and re-released on our debut album here in TXT, the 3rd band. Some 10 years or so in the making, that song realized its fuller potential it always had.
4. Mustard digs how you infuse melodic death metal with orchestral and electric arrangements. What is The Xebellian Triangle’s creative process?
These first songs are all pretty old. A lot of them started as just the core band, and then the orchestra was added far later. Songs like “Spawn Of Ungoliant”, “This Cursed Lineage”, “Confirmed”, and “Felo De Se” all had symphonics at least in some sort of demo capacity from about 2015-ish. With other songs, Ivy had heard in her head other layers that could’ve been added, but just never came to be at that time. So, for this round of songs, it was mostly just taking the demo ideas, and fully fleshing them out. Then, each song got a pass of general textures and layers and lines that could be added by other instrumentation. The next layer was re-envisioning some of the guitar parts or bass parts, or even drum parts modelled and emulated in other percussion in differing parts of songs, to sort of tie everything together. Some songs have orchestral easter eggs back to older songs from the previous 2 iterations that are purely just for us. As far as moving forward, Ivy has a ton of back-logged ideas, some of which are just riffs, some of which are just orchestra, some a little bit of both. Really, it comes down to just writing an idea down, no matter what texture or timbre it requires, and moving forward from there to develop an idea. There really isn’t a set way to do things, since so many sounds get incorporated, so the sky truly is the limit.
To be safe though, let’s say the live member parts typically are considered the skeleton of a song. There is usually some sort of baseline “intent” that is conceived, whether that be an emotion, a feeling, a vibe, a setting, a character, a plot point, and the instrumental part is developed to help subjectively reflect that mood to the person writing (usually Ivy). At any point, a different idea for the song could appear and entirely change the meaning, or theme, or what the lyrics will be about, but, there /must/ be some sort of starting point with deliberate intent, otherwise, it ends up going straight in the recycle bin, as “cool riffs” alone don’t have strong enough legs to stand; they may be interesting or difficult to play, they could be even unique sounding, but if there’s no attachment to the part, it’s almost always discarded rather than shelved for backlog.
5. Additionally, who (or what) influences The Xebellian Triangle?
We’re all kind of nerds in TXT, each in our own varying preferences, but nerds. Some people prefer books, some movies and shows, some games, some anime, or any combination, and this influences the overall dark fantasy type vibe we have. Aron is an aerospace engineer, Haley is an electrical engineer, Hakeem and Ivy are audio engineers, so we’re all nerds even in our workplaces and passions, haha. So we’re influenced by quite a few things. Sciences, fantasy, and history all alike. We all enjoy some different flavors and areas of music more than one another. Aron has always been big on country, while Haley is big on R&B. Ivy, on the other hand, while she enjoys most music passively (including whatever the aforementioned two play on the road, in their homes, where), has very niche and narrow interests she searches out. However, we are all influenced of course by the world around us, its goings-on in the political and social spheres, how the technological world can and does influence these things as well. We want to speak on things that are important to us, like feminism, the fight for racial equality, gay rights, trans rights, supporting methods that build a greener, cleaner, safer, fairer world. For the sake of listing some musical influences, you could generally say TXT is influenced by the big name melodic death metal bands (your Amon Amarths and The Black Dahlia Murders and so on), other symphonic metal (Epica, Dimmu Borgir, Fleshgod Apocalypse), while some of the future stuff may inject more of both Haley’s consumption and vocal training with R&B as we gradually add more clean singing spots where they fit, as well as how those things cross over to and from progressive metal scenes (Periphery, more recent Veil Of Maya), and since Ivy will be getting to flex more writing muscles again, some of the atmospheric and avant garde black metal influence she likes to a much lesser extent but enough to feel natural (Eldamar, Mesarthim, Imperial Triumphant).
6. The storytelling on your debut album “At The Banks of Rubicon” is incredible. What went into crafting this album? How did you come up with the story and concept?
The story itself is very vague and more just the underlying theme. This is a collection of old songs, reworked, a lot of which never saw completion or release beforehand. A lot of the lyrics deal with change, or standing before or going through a “point of no return”, whether that be pursuing revenge one cannot return from, death itself, giving into morbid and depraved desires, taking a stand against systemic wrongdoings, or indoctrination. “Crossing The Rubicon” refers to such a thing of being beyond the point of no return in reference to Julius Caesar and his army on their march back to Rome, thereby, standing “At the banks of The Rubicon” means to stand at the precipice of irreversible change, or burning bridges, or the plunge into the abyss itself. This was a thing that could be construed through the lyrics of all the songs, regardless of when they were written, or who wrote them, why they wrote them, whether the song itself has anything beyond surface level intent or not. There is a somewhat cyclical idea to the ordering of the songs; the first 3 songs are all of our really dark fantasy type lyrics, the middle 3 songs are more of our socially/politically oriented songs, and the final 3 are kind of modern setting but also fantastical, or at least mostly fictional. “Felo De Se” kind of loops back into that dark fantasy category with some of the imagery of a tortured afterlife, though with its rather serious and personal subject matter, we wouldn’t necessarily construe it as such. As for the album art, there’s a representation of each song in there. As well, you have the 3 members who made the album, Aron, Haley, and Ivy, across the front (and we of course would have included Hakeem if he were in the band when the artwork was commissioned, but such was not the case). Storytelling and concepts are something we have in mind for at least 2 other releases in planning.
7. Someone brings their human friend along to an The Xebellian Triangle show. What kind of show are they going to get?
A TXT show is one with a lot of energy. Haley loves running and jumping around, engaging with the crowd when possible. We’re a band that likes to employ aesthetics, and while it’s kind of loose for this first album cycle, we want to give people as much as they can to remember us by. Haley and Ivy both have stage clothes they wear to keep a recurring image. They, as well as Hakeem apply some scaley makeup to kind of hint towards that initial Atlantean or fish-people reference for the band name. Aron slathers himself in body paints of green, blue, and purple. As time, resources, and logistics allows, we plan to expand further in this and always want to bring new and exciting things to the live show.
8. Do you have any upcoming shows?
Currently, we have some shows slated for the end of July here, just playing 2 towns we haven’t played before. As mentioned before, Aron has some tour gigs coming up, Haley will be doing some personal travelling, so we at present only have those shows lined up and we are done for now. It’s been a 3 years long process for Ivy to complete the album from reviving the old songs with Aron to the point of release, constantly tracking instruments, scoring and arranging tracks, finishing lyrics with Haley, and so on. With 2 members doing travel independently in the same window, that gives Ivy some much needed time to decompress. We plan to start fresh on entirely new material, to test out our collaborative chemistry, and perhaps put out a few singles in time, before going back and tackling the next cycle with either more new stuff, or pulling from the backlog, or any combination.
9. Where can readers listen to your music?
We can be found on all streaming platforms! Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, you name it. You can also find our CD available for purchase on our Square site and our Bandcamp, which has exclusive symphonic-only versions of 2/3rds of the songs. Look up our LinkTree, and you’ll be able to find everything! https://linktr.ee/TheXebellianTriangle