Theatricality long has been a part of rock music, from KISS and Alice Cooper to Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson to newer acts such as In This Moment. September Mourning takes it a step further, with a stage show that is literally a comic book brought to life. The band has made some major strides recently, with performances at Rock on the Range in May and the Download Festival in June, and there’s much more in store in the coming months. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with September’s more human side to discuss this multimedia project.
LIVE METAL: You and the band just got back from a tour of the U.K., which included the Download Festival. How did that go?
SEPTEMBER MOURNING: It was great. It’s such a cool festival, because it’s very much a culture over there for Download. Everybody comes on Wednesday, and they hang out and put up tents and picnic and stuff, and they go through the whole weekend. It’s like a camaraderie. It’s very cool.
(In May), I first became familiar with your band at Rock on the Range. I really enjoyed your show. How was your experience there?
I loved it. I loved Rock on the Range. It was a lot of fun. It was kind of rainy that day, if you remember. It started to rain during our set, which was kind of interesting. It was actually pretty cool, because the whole thing is against this comic book and these comic book characters, and they’re reapers and it’s very dark. So we try to bring something very dark to the stage, and the weather helped culminate that into something very cool.
Yeah, it definitely worked. So when you were younger, what did you get into first? The comics side or the music, or was it kind of all together?
Kind of all together. I was always into comic books and stories and books, fantasy novels and things like that—“Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit,” things like that. That was always around. And then music, of course, was always a big part of my life. My parents listened to everything from Bowie to Siouxsie and the Banshees to KISS—all these great bands. And my uncle was into death metal. So I had all these different, weird pieces of music always coming at me, and my dad listened to jazz. So it was really cool. I had a lot of different influences growing up.
There have been at least a few times in the past where bands have done concept albums and put out comic books along with them, but this is the first time I’ve heard of a band that did it the opposite way—sort of growing out of the comic. How did that all come about?
Well, basically, I started this project as an art project. I wanted to bring all the different aspects of my artistic vision as an artist to life. I went to school for different things, like musicals and theater and arts and ballet and voice and sculpture, painting. So I had a lot of different artistic visions growing up. So I wanted to make a project that was basically an amalgamation of all of that.
September Mourning started with a story, and I started the concept with Marc Silvestri of Top Cow and Image comics, and we grew it into something very full fledged—the whole story, the concept and the characters, their journeys, their arcs and stuff like that. Then after that, I started working on the music. I wanted to set it to music and bring the band as a character—everybody in the band being a character in the story.
So it’s basically theatricality with a purpose. It’s not like we’re just wearing costumes and doing makeup because it’s something to sell records. We’re doing all of that because it’s part of the theatrical experience and the story, and if we didn’t do it, we couldn’t do this band. So there’s no reverse engineering going on.
For people who aren’t familiar with it, what is the basic story behind it?
Basically, September Mourning is a human/reaper hybrid. She was human, and a reaper was sent by Fate to take her soul. But instead of taking it, he fell in love with her and sacrificed himself and his powers for her to live on in eternity. So she becomes this reaper. She has this feeling in her mind that she has to take souls, collect souls, but she realizes, because of the humanity side of her, that she wants humans to control their own fate and their own destiny.
So she starts trying to stave off the taking of the souls and giving these people second chances at life in other people’s bodies or something like that. Fate doesn’t think that’s a great idea and really is pissed off at September for trying to do this. So Fate sends all these other reapers after her to stop her. So it becomes this epic battle between Fate and the other side, which we call Mortem, which is where the souls go to, and the world of the living and humanity.
Obviously, you’re portraying a character and you’re on stage in costume and makeup, but it’s still you up there. How much of yourself goes into the character?
She has aspects of me. She’s definitely not me. I’m definitely not that character, but she does have specific aspects of me. She’s kind of like another personality of myself. I think she’s a lot more forceful in her opinions and physically braver, just because of who she is. But there’s a lot of that sort of feeling inside of me, a lot of don’t take anything from anybody sort of feeling inside of me. And there’s a lot of drive and determination, and I think that comes out through the character through the performance.
As you’re portraying the character, how does that affect how you relate to and connect with the audience?
I think the audience loves it. You saw at Rock on the Range—they really get into it. They’re kind of like, “Oh, cool. There’s this weird character onstage.” I mean, performers are always kind of characters, in a way, but this one’s truly otherworldly. And I think they relate to it because from what she says, from the stories that she’s telling onstage, there’s a lot of stuff in the stories that people can relate to. We have a song called “Skin and Bones,” which is about being comfortable enough in your skin and your own bones that you know yourself so well that you can’t be bullied and you can’t take anything anybody says against the way you look or dress or have tattoos or whatever is the thing that somebody makes fun of you, and you don’t take that to heart; you’re protective and you protect yourself. It’s a very strong anthem about that. I think it’s a lot of stories like that that she tells onstage that people can definitely relate to.
The band is signed to Virgin Records?
Yes. We did a deal with Virgin about a year and a half ago. We’re not quite working with them immediately at the moment. We’re kind of doing some different things, but they’ve been definitely an influence on what’s gone on in the band’s projection.
The song “Children of Fate” is available on iTunes now. When can we expect a new album?
This fall. We’re working on finishing up the EP that we want to put out and the comic book and getting that all rolling. We’re doing an announcement at San Diego Comic Con about the comic book. People will be able to kind of contribute to the comic book and really help develop this project from the ground up, and I think it’s really exciting, and that’s gonna happen in the fall.
What touring plans do you have coming up?
We have a tour at the end of September through all of October that we will be touring on the EP and the comic book and really getting the story out there and showing the world what September Mourning really is and how it’s portrayed onstage.
Will that be supporting another band?
Yes, we will be supporting another band. We’ll do a couple of headline shows leading up to it and then jump on support with another band, which I will be announcing soon.
Looking ahead into the future with this band, what kind of long-term goals do you have?
I want to make a graphic novel—six to eight comic books put together into a novel. I’d love to have multiple graphic novels and multiple stage shows, and just make this into my own world—actually not my own but my fans’ and my own world—create this universe for them to go into to just escape—escapism, basically. I think the more we can do that around the globe, the better it’ll be.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Just thank you to all of our fans that have stuck with us. It’s been a slow development with the story and everything like that, but we’re getting there—we’re getting closer and closer to a release—and we’re really excited to bring this to life for people to see it around the globe.