Producer/guitarist Mike Orlando (Adrenaline Mob) and singer Ailyn (ex-Sirenia) have formed the band Her Chariot Awaits, who just released their self-titled debut. Orlando tells us about how the band formed, details about the album, some of the other projects he’s currently involved in and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: How did the lineup for Her Chariot Awaits come together?
Mike Orlando: It started with myself, Michael Caplan and Frontiers Records looking for the female vocalist. We spoke of and looked at a few different vocalists and then the label sent over Ailyn and we were all in agreement as she’s a wonderful vocalist. Jeff Thal our drummer I’ve known since I’m in high school and he’s a fantastic drummer so that was a no-brainer as we’d been speaking about doing something prior to this band.
What inspired the band name?
I was looking for something that really spoke towards the female fronted aspect of the band. Ailyn always wore very majestic style outfits on stage that I’ve seen which are beautiful. They gave me the vision of a beautiful majestic woman getting into a chariot to ride away into the sunset or something. (laughs) From there I turned it into Her Chariot Awaits.
Describe the songwriting process for your self-titled debut.
Usually for me when I start to write an album I start with the music: drums, bass, guitars. With Her Chariot Awaits I did the same but many song ideas came to me rather quickly in the form of vocal melodies as well. So the way the whole album went was I tracked all the songs musically and then sang a guide for Ailyn. Yes, singing so it sounds like a female was quite comical and sounded hysterical at times because I had to do falsetto to get the high singing across. (laughs) But mostly I used my normal voice and explained to her to go to the next octave. “Constant Craving” I had already done the remake in pre-production before HCA so I simply sent her the track. She did an amazing job on everything for sure!
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
It was all a fantastic time, to be honest. Ailyn flew here from Norway and stayed for about three weeks at my place for tracking and shooting videos. She was a real pleasure to work with and we had lots of laughs but also a lot of work for sure. Jeff Thal flew in and tracked the drums in two days, he was great! I’ve known Jeff since I’m a kid so it was lots of fun catching up and talking old times. He was an absolute pro and each track was one or two takes maximum. All in all a wonderful experience.
“Just Remember” was a tough track for me to hear Ailyn sing, though. She was in the vocal room tracking at this time. The song is hard for me because it’s about looking back at myself from that day of the fatal Adrenaline Mob accident which was pretty much hell on earth. It’s me talking to my friend Janet who lost her life there. The second verse in particular I wrote of a butterfly. Janet loved them and always saw them. While writing the lyrics for that song an actual butterfly landed on my windowsill. I lost it, to say the least. It went right into Verse 2, so when Ailyn sang it I had to stop recording for a bit as I was starting to cry here in the console room. She started to as well as she knew why, saying the song also reminds her of her mom she recently lost. A very powerful yet very sad moment.
How would you characterize its style/sound?
Her Chariot Awaits is definitely more geared towards the female fronted style of bands. I love Halestorm, Paramore, Flyleaf, In This Moment, etc. All great bands with powerful sounding songs but with tons of catchy vocal hooks and songs. It’s a real fun yet rockin’ album for sure.
What led you to cover the k.d. lang song “Constant Craving?”
I’ve always loved that track! I did the same thing in Adrenaline Mob on our debut album. I had a demo of a song I remade from Duran Duran called “Come Undone.” It’s one of my all time favorite songs. At first they thought I was nuts, but with one listen it was clearly our own version. (laughs) I made it real heavy and dark. We ended up putting it on our debut album Omerta as a duet with one of the greatest female rock vocalists of our time, Lzzy Hale! That was a huge honor having Lzzy on the track! I took the same approach with “Constant Craving” as I did with “Come Undone.” I geared it more towards a very dark and creepy yet haunted version of the song. I really love how it all came out.
Once concerts are allowed again, are there plans to play Her Chariot Awaits live shows, or will it be a studio project only?
I sure do hope so and so does everyone else in the band! I’ve never put out anything just as a studio album release so we all would love to get our there with Her Chariots Awaits and fully support it.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
I would love to launch the band and hit the stages with it of course and get out there and tour to fully support it. We all feel the same in the band. Unfortunately these are some insanely difficult times for the world and of course the music industry in general. Launching it in that way is literally impossible right now. So we look forward to the release on Frontiers Records worldwide and look forward to the day we can get out there and really launch Her Chariot Awaits properly.
You pushed the release date back from April to May. Were there thoughts of delaying it even longer because of the coronavirus pandemic?
That was delayed by the record label for the obvious reasons of the pandemic crisis and I fully agreed with them, to be honest. As much as I’m looking forward to the official album release I understand. I might say push it back longer but it’s honestly not my call. And at this point I think it’s great to give people new music being that live shows and touring is shut down most likely until 2021 at some point.
How has the pandemic affected you personally?
I was on tour in Europe when it hit. My band Noturnall was on a one month run with Sons Of Apollo across Europe then we had a second leg over in South America and a run of headlining shows and appearances after the first leg. It was extremely scary times to be out there hearing about how fast it was spreading everywhere, especially Europe and all of the cities we were scheduled to tour. Milan, Paris, Spain, England, etc., all which were growing so rapidly with infected cases. We did two shows and Mike Portnoy and the guys made the right call in postponing the entire run for everyone’s safety and health.
It’s been such a scary time in New York City where I’m from and our family has people with it still and we lost someone as well. I had a tough time breathing for two weeks after coming home from the EU tour so that was real scary but it thankfully went away. Such a horrific time. I never thought I’d ever see anything like this in my lifetime. Prayers to all the families dealing with this and I hope we get this under control very soon before we loose more lives!
Is there a release date yet for your album with Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover?
I’m so beyond excited about that album/band! Corey Glover is one of the most amazingly gifted vocalists our of time and I’m totally stoked to be doing this album with him! We’re eight songs in at the moment and we’ll start working on the last batch to complete the album. It’s honestly some of the best work I’ve ever been a part of! It’s bluesy, funky, heavy and groovin and nothing like I’ve ever done before. After we finish tracking the album we’ll find the right label and home for it. It will be fully supported as a touring act as well!
What’s the status of the next Noturnall album?
We are currently working on completing the new album in this downtime as we had a lot of touring plans this year which are obviously pushed to 2021. We put one new track out that we did with my dear friend and Adrenaline Mob brother Mike Portnoy. It’s a song called “Scream” and MP as always absolutely destroyed it! We are also releasing a new DVD shot in Russia on tour with Disturbed on their Evolution World Tour. In was a great honor to do the Russian tour with them. The audience was amazingly receptive which made the shows off the charts! As soon as the album is released we will do some major touring with it, of course 2021 unfortunately due to the pandemic.
Do you have any other projects currently in the works?
Yes I do! I’m working on a new album and band which will come out on Frontiers Records. Very heavy, symphonic metal style sound with huge melodic vocals that I’m extremely excited about and some incredible players as well in the lineup! Not sure I can announce it yet, but I’m wrapping up the final mixes/masters next month! Stay tuned, it’s called Blacken The Sky.
What are some of your non-musical interests/hobbies?
I always used to drag race. I still own a stunningly beautiful 1991 700 horsepower Corvette that I used to take to all the raceways on the East Coast. That and dirt bikes were my other loves. I was clearly the adrenaline junkie of the pack always! That’s where the Adrenaline of Adrenaline Mob came from. (laughs) Portnoy added the “Mob.”
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
To be honest when I’m doing albums I try not to listen to much music. And being in multiple bands now and all of them working on new albums it’s tough. Though I love different kinds of music then what I write and perform. Halsey is absolutely amazing, Billie Eilish, Adele, stuff like that is a nice diversion sometimes from rock. The latest Slipknot album, it’s just crushing! Megadeth’s Dystopia hasn’t left my player yet. Muse, Metallica, Korn and on and on. I listen to all styles so I simply turn on the radio mostly and enjoy!
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I just released a new Sonic Stomp Instrumental DVD that I shot in Brazil on tour a few years back. Always passionate about Sonic Stomp as I’ve been doing it since way back and love instrumental music as well. It’s on King Records in Japan as a double CD/DVD, BlackRock in South America and here. Just visit www.shredneck.com and you can order it worldwide. Thanks so much!
(interview published May 22, 2020)