I must confess that whenever I’m not listening to one of the numerous and wonderful submissions that the site receives, I’m often busy exploring the world of prog rock and prog metal. With the incomparable complexity of the music and the grandiose concepts, there is simply nothing else to rival it in terms of ambition and technical skill. Chronologist, a new band on the scene from Austin, Texas, are proving to be a promising up-and-coming addition to the genre. I spoke with their drummer Zach Sacco about their debut album Cartographer:
Thanks for your time! I know you must have had a busy schedule just lately, given that you’ve recently played at SXSW. It’s such an important and unique event on the music calendar, what was it like being a part of it?
Hey thanks for having me on the site! SXSW was an awesome time for us for sure. Being that we just moved down here to Austin this past year from Boston I was looking forward to just attending the festival let alone being asked to be a part of it. To be honest we weren’t really sure what to expect and how the reaction would be for us, but we had a blast and everyone was really welcoming. I’d highly recommend attending the festival if you ever can because it’s a lot of fun.
How did you guys meet and what made you decide to form Chronologist? Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
It’s actually a bit of a funny story. We formed the band while all of us were attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. I lived in the 98 Hemmenway dorms while I was at school and while I was living there I met our original guitarist Cameron Stucky who lived a couple of doors down the hall from me. He invited me to jam with this other guitarist who he had been jamming with for a while and that other guitarist ended up being our now main songwriter and guitarist Julian Gargiulo. From there one thing led to another and we decided that we wanted to launch a serious project from those jams. We then started our search for a bassist and after a troll post I made in a Berklee bass department facebook page, we found our now bassist Nigel Li. Ever since then we’ve just been building and building on the project and even though Cameron now plays for Letters From the Fire (who you should check out if you haven’t) everything we’ve done has stemmed from that same energy we started back then at school. All of us in the band have a variety of different influences and different musical backgrounds but for me personally my biggest influences are my teachers from both Berklee and from my studies before Berklee as an orchestral percussion student at Schenectady County Community College back in my home of upstate NY. Though I listen to a lot of different music that changes day to day, most of my approach as a player tends to come from my teachings from the amazing instructors I was fortune enough to study with.
There seems to be a recent trend in progressive metal in recent years in that more bands are going down the instrumental route, you have Animals as Leaders, Plini, Scale the Summit, etc. and now you guys! Why do you think there are more and more instrumental bands on the scene?
Ha well I think we have a long way to go before we can be considered on the same level as those guys, but there definitely is a huge wave of bands playing in the instrumental vein for sure. I think there are a lot of reasons for that and that each band that chooses to play without a vocalist has their own artistic vision for what that means for them, but the success of the bands that you listed as well as guys like Russian Circles makes up the biggest reason I think. We decided to take the instrumental route after we just couldn’t find a vocalist that we felt fit the project correctly and matched what we thought we needed and after seeing the success of those guys we thought we should give being an instrumental band a shot. Luckily we had an audience that appreciated that and has continued to support us since day one as an instrumental group.
Prog is naturally such a complex and intricate genre, which I’m sure must occasionally pose a problem when it comes to songwriting. When you were working on your debut album Cartographer were there any particular tracks that you struggled with?
Well Cartographer was written almost exclusively by our guitarist Julian. When we started the project back at Berklee he came to us with songs like ‘San Juan’ and ‘Bazooka’ already written from before we met him. From there we started collaborating a little bit more on songs like ‘Cake Batter’ and ‘Cartographer’, but mainly the riffs all came from Juli. Though I can’t speak to his approach entirely I can say that Juli has an incredible talent for songwriting and is a constant source of riff ideas and interesting song structures. I’m pretty sure he has multiple hard drives worth of material written and whenever we jam he always plays something that challenges me musically. I’m really happy to be in a band with such a talented dude and I’m also really excited to have our new guitarist Nick Broomhall as a writing voice on future material who is another incredible songwriter and amazing riff machine in his own right. As far as songs that I particularly struggled with, ‘Guacaracha’ was by far the biggest hurdle that I had to overcome to record the drums for. It has a bit of an odd song structure and the rhythmic figures in the song are pretty tricky to play on double bass. Whenever we play that song live I still have to take a deep breath and focus to stay on track throughout the tune.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I often find myself drawn to interesting album artwork. Your logo in particular piqued my interest, where did that design come from?
That’s another funny story. We were having a hard time finding an artist that could make artwork for us and after a long time of searching a friend of mine suggested Brian Morgante of Flesh and Bone Designs. We had been having horrible luck with the people we hired to make the logo, one person ever spelled our name incorrectly multiple times, but Brian understood our vision perfectly and presented us with what became our logo within a couple of hours of hiring him.
I know the genre has a very tight-knit community. What other bands would you most like to tour with?
There are a lot of bands we’d love to tour with. Within our “Instrumental Prog” vein touring with any of the bands you mentioned earlier would amazing but so would touring with guys like Intervals, Chon, Polyphia, Strawberry Girls, or our good buds in Save Us from the Archon. There are also a bunch of bands that aren’t in our vein that I’d personally love/dream to tour with like Gatecreeper, Car Bomb, Toothgrinder, Tesseract, and a whole bunch more that I won’t list out for brevity’s sake hahaha.
What’s next for you? What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
2017 is looking like a pretty busy year for Chron! We have a bunch of cool stuff planned that I can’t necessarily talk about yet, but mainly we’re focusing on pushing our new record Cartographer as much as possible and we’ll be doing a lot of stuff that we haven’t done yet as a band so stay tuned!
Massive thanks to Zach and the band! Chronologist’s debut album Cartographer is out now.