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Some bands find it difficult to write an entire album full of songs they want to release. They’ll manage to write seven or so standout tracks and record the rest on autopilot, much to the chagrin of their fan base. Periphery is not one of these bands.
From his home in Maryland USA, longtime guitarist Jake Bowen laughs when questioned about whether he thought the band wouldn’t have enough material to fill their upcoming double album, Juggernaut:Alpha and Juggernaut:Omega.
“There’s a whole album worth of unused material that we didn’t choose for this record,” he casually notes, “we always have to overcompensate because we’re so picky about what goes on our records”. In order to determine which songs would make the cut, there was a strict set of criteria that had to be met and agreed upon by the entire band, which turned out to be “one of the most difficult parts of putting the album together”. Bowen says it was critical that they “had to find the right part of the story it would go in, the music had to match what was going on in the story and it had to be songs that had certain types of impact.”
So what’s a band made up of perfectionists meant to do? If you’re a member of Periphery, it seems the only viable solution is to create a sweeping narrative of rise and fall across two records. When writing, the inspiration for each song “can come at any moment, and it doesn’t get any more complicated than that.” With seventeen songs across both albums, Bowen admits that it can be tiresome to listen to the entire saga in one session. But rather than taking the elitist route by creating a double album and forcing the listener to endure “too much after 40 minutes with another 40 minutes to go”, the guitarist recommends fans “digest the first if [they] want to”, or, if they feel up to it “skip to the second half” straight away.
“[C]ontemporary… [Coheed] have something that’s very mythical and ours is more of a real situation that could happen in our world. It’s based around a cult, what happens in cults and what it does to people… naming them Alpha and Omega is a way of distinguishing the beginning and the end of the story.”
Linking both albums is the title of Juggernaut, which was “a concept [the band had] been working on for a really long time” but there’s “not really” any chance the Alpha and Omega storyline will stretch into an ongoing piece à la Coheed and Cambria’s ‘The Amory Wars’. Bowen states that Periphery’s latest efforts are more “contemporary… [Coheed] have something that’s very mythical and ours is more of a real situation that could happen in our world. It’s based around a cult, what happens in cults and what it does to people… naming them Alpha and Omega is a way of distinguishing the beginning and the end of the story.”
With a concept of such sheer scope as a double album, the possibility of clashing personalities within the band seems all but guaranteed. Bowen chalks down co-operation as the key to Periphery’s lack of band drama and disagreements: “the entire band got together and scrutinized each section, arrangement, texture and vocals with a lot of meetings and back and forth over email making sure everyone is happy.”
Even though the recording process “was pretty difficult” and everyone had to learn that “things you love and things you get used to may not make it onto the album”, Bowen chuckles when asked if the band are sick of each other: “We’re all pretty good friends and we might get sick of each other on a long tour, but we’re a lot better than when we started.” On that note, Periphery have been going long before the release of their self-titled debut album in 2010; Bowen joined the group in 2007, but he’s reluctant to agree that the band are pioneers: “I personally can’t speak for my band and say that we’re pioneering anything, I just think we’re doing what we’re doing and if people think we’re pioneering that’s great; I’d love to be a part of something like that.”
On the live aspect of the band, the guitarists have been “casually getting together to figure out what we’re going to play for the next tour.” Is there a chance there will be special shows where Alpha will be played one night and Omega the next? “That’d be cool but I don’t know how that would work… we’ve talked about playing albums front to back even before Juggernaut but we don’t put songs in order of tuning and keys so between every song we’d be switching guitars, or tuning and it would mess with the flow of everything unfortunately.” Diehard fans will be relieved to hear that the band “will have to play older songs” on their tour, but Bowen excitedly says they’ll be playing roughly “six new songs with a good mix of old and new, but we’re really focusing on the new stuff right now.” When queried about how they have such a strong fanbase, the answer is simple, summing up why Periphery are so beloved: “we’re all really passionate music listeners… we’re all the same type of people and I think our fans share the same kind of passion.”
Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega is out now through Roadrunner Records.
LISTEN: Full album stream of “Juggernaut: Omega”