INTERVIEW: Shane Handal (SET AND SETTING)
SET AND SETTING
Often thought of as too condescending in its intellectualism and not nearly heavy enough to be called “metal”, progressive metal is possibly one of the most dividing subgenres in the metal world. Floridian quintet Set and Setting are on a quest to create hypnotic, heavy trips of psychedelic metal fusion with their latest release “A Vivid Memory.” I spoke to founding member and guitarist Shane about misconceptions of the band’s music, of progressive music in general, and of why being a “black sheep” at music festivals doesn’t deter him in the slightest.
Progressive/experimental metal is still an underdog in the metal genre as a whole. What misconceptions do metalheads have about the nature and purpose of progressive metal?
Unfortunately, I think Metal as a whole can be closed minded by nature, but that isn’t always the case. I think a misconception for some metal heads could be if it isn’t instantly fast and brutal, it’s worthless. I think that if some of these people spent some time with progressive metal they could find something interesting or appealing in it. Who knows though? Some people aren’t interested in anything other than fast and heavy, and I respect that. I’ve never considered us a metal band until recently, and I still don’t think we really are.
Who is that person laying in the middle of the Vivid Memory album cover, and what does she represent?
The girl on the album cover is not a specific person, but a character in the concept of the album. For no conscious reason that I know, when the album was being conceptualized I imagined a woman to be the main character living through a vivid memory as her younger self with long blonde hair laying in a beautiful meadow. This was to represent the final moments of her death, or laying on her “death bed”, reliving a moment in time that was calming and peaceful to her. After some research, I found that this reliving of a memory has been reported as the final moment before death, rather than the common misconception of “seeing the light”.
Why did the band decide to be fully instrumental? Ever had any thoughts about perhaps inviting a guest vocalist to collaborate with?
In the beginning stages of the band, we did not set out to be all instrumental. After years of struggling to find a singer that fit the music we were writing, we decided to let the music speak for itself and began writing music where it was more driven by the story or melody of the song, rather than a strong hook or chorus riff. I have never been totally against having a singer, and definitely have had thoughts about having a vocalist, or guest vocalist. I feel that a guest vocalist on a future album for a song or two is totally feasible.
Many of the Vivid Memory tracks feel like they could have come out of Opeth’s Deliverance and Damnation albums. Are they a huge influence in your songwriting? Who are some other influences you incorporated in the making of this album?
Honestly, I have always liked Opeth, and got into really into them for a very short period of time, but I don’t think they have much influence on us as a band. I’ve always really enjoyed their songwriting and the moods they create but have never studied too far into it. There are a ton of influences always, but with this album we put a conscious effort into just being us. The post-rock/metal giants always play a big part in what we strive to be, but we are trying to move past those comparisons.
Who are some of your favorite outright psychedelic bands (eg The Doors, Pink Floyd, Iron Butterfly)?
Pink Floyd is my favorite band of all time, and are the number one reason why Set and Setting exists. Their use of imagery, conceptualization, and just overall musicianship is incredible. I have been a Beatles fan since birth, but their psychedelic era was something I didn’t catch onto until I grew up, and is definitely some of my favorite psych stuff too.
Set and setting just wrapped up a show at the “Don’t Stop St. Petersburg Festival.” How was your experience at a variety music show different than the experience of a heavy metal show would be?
I feel like we never really fit the bill for any shows that we play [laughs], so every show is kind of a similar experience. We’re either not metal enough for some people at metal shows, or sometimes we’re too metal for some people playing something like Don’t Stop St. Pete Festival. We just do our thing and if someone doesn’t like it, whatever. For the most part though, we can sort of transcend into both a heavy metal show, or an indie rock show or whatever, and most people seem to enjoy it. It is always more surprising to me though when I see a tough guy in a Slayer shirt buying our record. It’s kind of a personal win for us.
What is the local scene like in Florida? Any new bands you are digging?
The Florida scene is pretty decent! I feel like it’s always growing and developing but the heavy music scene isn’t too substantial. A few of my favorites are Holly Hunt, Shroud Eater, and Wrong from Miami, Landbridge and Recreant from Tampa/St. Pete, Gaul from Gainesville.
Have you ever had the desire to look into filming a music video for the band?
Yes we would love to do that, but it seems there’s something always keeping us from making one. The biggest obstacle in this I feel is creating a worthwhile concept for a music video that will is interesting enough for our long songs. Our shortest song that isn’t an interlude is probably 7 minutes long. Not only does a bigger concept and vision need to be established beforehand for this kind of project, but a larger budget for more time to create basically a short-film needs to be there. I want to get to that soon, so I wouldn’t count that out!
Find more information on Set and Setting @ facebook.com/setandsetting