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It’s a fairly well known fact that Progressive Rock has had a hand in influencing Heavy Metal. Bands like Dream Theater and Fates Warning would not exist without earlier bands like Yes and Rush. Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris, I am told, virtually worships Jethro Tull (to the point that Maiden’s recent work is showing traces of Prog Rock). There is even a crop of bands that still carry on a tradition of Progressive Rock. Now, I’m aware that “tradition” and “progressive” seem to contradict one another, but the latter generation of Prog Rock bands take what came before them and build upon it so that “progressive”, much like “alternative”, carries two meanings, the literal and the figurative. Into this current crop of Prog Rock bands steps Edensong. Relying heavily on 70s styled composition ala the Gabriel-led Genesis, Kansas, Tull & Yes, while not forsaking the literal meaning of their genre’s tag, Edensong brings musicianship & vibe together as one and into the here and now. Here’s my conversation with main-man James Schoen.

 – Give me a history of the band. How did Edensong come to be?

The original lineup of Edensong was formed when I was at college in Connecticut.  Having played in an original Progressive Metal band all throughout high school and after transforming my music to the much more portable singer/songwriter folk style upon arriving at college, I really started to miss the “rock” in my life.  Then one fateful night, while in New York City at a Dream Theater concert, I was approached by drummer Matt Cozin, who recognized me from music theory class.  After discussing our similar taste in rock music, we decided to start playing together.  We shuffled quickly through multiple lineups (a trend for Edensong to this day), playing with many musicians on campus (one of our former bassists from that period actually went on to form the popular indie rock band MGMT).  During the fall semester of my sophomore year, I devised a crazy idea for a rock show: an over-the-top surreal pseudo rock opera, utilizing elements of theater, film and interpretive dance and assembling troupes of musicians (African drummers, choirs) from the school’s diverse music department.  Of course, this was all a bit of a ploy to get my music heard, and by billing the show as a “rock opera,” I was able to get funding from the school’s student theater organization.  The show was hosted in the historic “Eclectic” fraternity, upon which the 1994 David Spade comedy “PCU” was based.  We covered the building in Astroturf, a move which was of course essential to the “concept” of the show but managed to piss off the school’s facilities department.  All in all, the show was a glorious mess; it was a sloppy beginning to the Edensong live show, but to this day I’m pretty impressed that we managed to pull the whole thing off.  After the “rock opera,” we shifted lineups again and started to play some more traditional concerts around campus.  By my senior year, I had started recording “The Fruit Fallen,” and I suppose that’s where the important part begins.  After graduation, Matt went off to pursue a career in dentistry and I carried Edensong into the “real world”.  For the next few years, I continued to work on “The Fruit Fallen,” while trying to figure out the other aspects of my life, as most recent college graduates need to do.  We played frequent shows around New York, but I got a bit frustrated with the other members’ inability or unwillingness to tour and really take the live show to the next level.  Now that “The Fruit Fallen” has been released and is receiving such a great response in the Progressive Rock world, I’ve been able to put together an amazing new lineup for the band to start playing live again, in the New York area and beyond, and to start work on some new material for Edensong album number two. 

– Tell me about the recording process for “The Fruit Fallen“. I see there were a lot of guest players.

There were indeed.  I started work on the album’s production in the summer of 2004, though many of the songs are from far earlier (“Reflection,” the oldest on the album, dates back to 2001, the time of my high school graduation), and the album was mastered by Bob Katz in October 2007.  So, through some advanced mathematics, I’ll deduce that “The Fruit Fallen” was over three years in the making.  Most of the album’s basic tracks were recorded during my senior year of college and the preceding summer.  By that time, I had assembled a pretty legitimate collection of recording equipment, which I travelled with and used to track the album.   I spent the year driving between Long Island (where I grew up), recording drum, bass, and electric guitars, and Connecticut (where I went to school), recording pretty much everything else.  Recording up at school gave me the added bonus of incorporating all manner of eclectic instrumentation:  We took over the chapel one morning and enlisted my professor to record live church organ for “The Baptism”.  I remember commandeering my girlfriend’s giant bedroom to record African drums for the same song.  Many of my fellow students were very generous with their time and really added an extra dimension to the album.  Four songs were completed by the time of my graduation and actually submitted as part of my senior thesis.  I wrapped up work on the rest of the material over the course of the next two years.  By this point, I had set up a more permanent studio in Westchester, NY, where I finished recording and mixing, but still continued to travel to record various overdubs (most notably Providence, RI to record some string parts for a few of the remaining songs).  

– Did you record the whole thing yourself?

Yes.  I’ve been around recording studios from the time I was about fourteen.  My high school actually had a good studio program, a rarity at the time, so I got some basic training early on.  I also learned by watching other engineers who worked on various projects of mine throughout the years.  By the second half of high school, I was engineering my own demos, but these were comparatively primitive.  I put together my own studio during my junior year in college in preparation to start work on “The Fruit Fallen,” which was my first real experience at the production helm.  My standards for this album were a lot higher than they had been for previous recordings, so there was a pretty steep learning curve involved, a lot of trial and error.  In the end, I wound up learning a ton about the whole process, and I’m sure, now that I actually know what I’m doing, that the next album won’t take quite as long.  It was a true honor to have Bob Katz (famed mastering engineer), a man whose work I have respected for years, actually compliment my mixes for the album.   As much as I resented the tedious, often slow-going process, I can’t deny that it was an immensely valuable experience for me and has since enabled me to build a career recording music. 

– Your music has a lot of layers in the instrumentation. Is this something you “hear” when you’re writing, or does it come to you as you go?

That’s a really interesting question.  I suppose that it depends on the part.  Many of the songs on this album started out, at least in part, as acoustic guitar and vocal “sketches.”  Essentially, I would write the basic song outline, chords, vocals, lyrics etc. and then go back in and fill it out, starting with instruments like drums and bass and then adding orchestral details (flute, violin, cello etc.).  I would often sit down with the intention of adding extra layers to the music, and the orchestration just seemed to emerge in my mind from listening to the basic tracks.  Other times, I wrote all the parts at once, just transcribing ideas that I heard in my head. 

– Why choose to release the album as an independent as opposed to going with a Prog-oriented label like Magna Carta or Inside Out?

Well, I don’t want to sound cliché here, but the music industry is changing.  Many of the services that were historically provided by labels are now accessible to the independent artist.  Through the wonders of the internet, an artist has the power to completely self-release and self-promote, gaining access to many of the same resources used by the labels.  As a result of a decline in record sales and the indie do-it-yourself mentality, labels often aren’t able to provide full services to the artist anymore, so they may end up being more of a drain than a boon.  This is certainly not to say that I would rule out the option of signing with a label down the road, but the DIY thing seemed to make the most sense at the time.  I didn’t want to wait for a deal in order to release the album, and I didn’t want it to get lost in a label’s stack of other higher priority “big name” releases.  I felt that nobody would work harder to promote Edensong than I would, so self-releasing seemed like a logical choice.  Additionally, labels can’t really afford to be out there offering record deals to unknown bands.  Since this was our first time releasing our music to the world, it seemed a bit premature to go looking to get signed.  Maybe now that we’re out there promoting and selling records ourselves, we might be in a better place to negotiate a favorable label deal for the future. 

– The packaging and press kit, I think, is very professional. The digipack, the booklet, the parchment like bio sheet…all very well put together. Was this all you as well?

Thank you.  Visual professionalism is extremely important to me, and because of this, I thought I should leave this part of the project to the professionals.  I made most of the decisions regarding the overall design and concept for the materials but steered clear of the implementation.  Artist Alex Muller, a good friend of mine from college, helped me to develop the packaging concept.  He drew the quirky sketches that you’ll find throughout the booklet, as well as the emblem on the front.  The whole thing was assembled by my web-designer Scott, who also designed the Edensong logo. 

– What are the benefits of doing it yourself? From the writing, to the recording, to the packaging?

Complete control…muahaha!  But really, there are benefits and drawbacks at each step.  Since I wrote the music almost entirely on my own, there were obviously no squabbles over creative differences, which would arise when writing with others.  On the flipside, there’s no system of creative checks and balances or melding of multiple musical approaches, both of which can be very positive creative forces.  I recorded the album on my own out of necessity.  I needed to have a creative studio process, to be able to bring in songs that weren’t fully formed and continue to develop them in the studio.  For such an ambitious project, renting studio time would not have been remotely feasible.  By recording it myself, I was able to indulge my perfectionist tendencies and make sure that the album was done the way that I wanted it to be done.  Beyond that, the process itself proved to be invaluably educational.  The only downside was the vast amount of time I needed to pour into the editing/mixing process.  As for packaging/promoting the album myself, I addressed that a bit in a previous question.  I’d like to add though, that by promoting “The Fruit Fallen” on my own, I’ve had the opportunity to make a ton of contacts – both fans of Edensong and individuals in the industry with whom I wouldn’t have had the chance to interact directly had I not self-promoted.  The whole process has provided me with a background in many facets of the music industry.

 – Is Edensong a live entity, or is it simply sort of a vanity project for yourself to see your own vision fulfilled?

Well, I certainly like seeing my own vision fulfilled, but Edensong is indeed a real “live” band.  We’ve played shows in the past and plan to play shows again.  The previous lineups of Edensong had been a bit resistant to serious touring, but I see that changing now that there is a new roster in place  We currently have a slot at this year’s 3RP festival in Pittsburgh (August 8-9), which we’re all extremely excited about.  We’ll definitely be playing shows before then, mostly locally I presume, and then start playing some more out-of-town shows toward the end of ’09 into 2010.  We’ll see. 

– What are your goals with Edensong?

The previous question addressed a major goal of the band: to start playing live more frequently and plan a tour.  I’d like to play some more festivals as well.  We’ve started to discuss some ideas for a new album, which will likely be more collaboratively written.  Additionally, we still have a long way to go to promote “The Fruit Fallen,” so I imagine you’ll hear a lot from us in 2009. 

– Edensong, from the band name to the album title to some of the lyrical themes seem to have a sort of spiritual/religious air about them. Was this intentional? Are you trying to get any sort of idea or vibe across?

I often like to use religious metaphors to describe other aspects of life.  Such is the case with a number of songs on “The Fruit Fallen.”  “The Baptism,” for example, has a religious title but nothing to do with religion; instead, it is a song about a failed relationship.  The only song on the album that really deals directly with the idea of religion is “The Sixth Day,” which takes a critical look at the role of organized religion in society, the reasons people look toward God, and the holy wars that are caused by religious extremism.  While I am not at all religious, I am very interested by religion, especially Christianity, much for its epic mythology and all the incredible art and music it has inspired over the centuries.  I guess that this interest is always present in the music of Edensong.  As for the band name:  the name Edensong is a nod to my high school progressive metal band Echoes of Eden, but adapted slightly to better fit our music.  So, I guess my interest in religion goes back quite a long time. 

– What is coming down the pipeline in terms of the band?

As I mentioned before, we’re performing at the Three Rivers Progressive Rock Festival in August (  I hope to begin some serious work on a new album by late this year and get the opportunity to squeeze in a tour or more as well.  Additionally, I’ve toyed with the idea of revisiting some earlier music of mine that has never gotten to see the light of day; a lot of it is music that I wrote back in high school that I’m actually quite fond of.  I may try and team up with some former band mates and rework the old songs.  Whether this is official Edensong business or not, I couldn’t say at this point.   No matter what, it’s all certain to keep us quite busy for the foreseeable future.

– Anything else you’d like the readers to know?

Certainly not!  I think this was a pretty thorough interview.  I’m a bit longwinded, so if your readers have made it this far then chances are that they’ve learned more about Edensong than they had really cared to know.  However, I would like to thank you for setting this whole thing up and to thank your readers for supporting Edensong.  I hope to see you on the road one of these days!


  1. Commented by: ceno

    Interesting interview that reminded me to finally check out this band. Sounds right up my alley.

  2. Commented by: Xenogears

    This band is amazing. I can’t believe this is a debut album. Sounds like they have been honing their craft for years. Absolutely brilliant music.

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