Interview with Wyatt Mehmeti (Involute)

Involute is a progressive metal band that recently released their debut album, Hindsight. Featuring Carina Kohn on lead vocals, Julian Chipkin on bass/vocals, Tom McCausland on guitar, and brothers Eli and Wyatt Mehmeti on drums and guitar (respectively), Involute takes the template of other modern progressive metal bands such as Haken and Dream Theater and builds upon it, writing complex, intricate, and conceptually deep music that is worth your attention. I had the pleasure to speak with Involute’s guitarist Wyatt Mehmeti about their debut album, Hindsight, as well as his own personal history with progressive music. Check out Involute’s latest album, Hindsight, on Bandcamp.

What’s your personal history with progressive music?

We all have different stories about being introduced to progressive music. Mine started with Rush at the age of 11 or 12, quickly diving into Dream Theater, and then falling in love with many other prog bands when I was in high school. Eli has a similar timeline; being my older brother, he was the one who got into Rush, Dream Theater, and even Seventh Wonder early on, eventually turning me on to all of them. Julian had known about Karnivool throughout high school, and that helped him transition from a pure rock/funk background into something heavier and more progressive. I think the three of us were wowed in 2013 when Haken released The Mountain, and that’s been the band that’s bound us together. Tom had dabbled in progressive rock and metal over the years, though he’s primarily a melodic metal player. Carina is rather new to the genre, but a bunch of artists she listens to and draws influence from have quite progressive and beautiful arrangements.

Involute practically started on the VIP line for a Haken show. Eli and I were there with our good friends Doug (whom we had played in a prog band with during our high school years) and Andrew, and Julian just kind of came and introduced himself. It was a nice coincidence that we were all at this Haken concert together in New York City, considering we all attended the same college upstate. After months of staying in contact and attending more shows together, Eli and I began jamming with Julian in the summer of 2018, and eventually began writing some music.

 

Why the name Involute? Is the name a statement in itself, or just a “it sounds cool” kinda
thing?

As with most bands (I think), we had a few names that we toyed around with. Involute was introduced by Julian maybe midway through our writing sessions, and we all liked what it meant. Julian, a mechanical engineer, highlighted its link to gear systems; the rest of us liked its connection to the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio; it was a name that perfectly encapsulated who we were as people and what we were trying to achieve with the music. Also, it does sound pretty cool!

Who are some of your primary influences as a band?

I certainly come from the classic prog-rock/metal perspective; I love long songs with gaudy riffs and wacky time signatures. My favorite bands are Haken and Between the Buried and Me, but I also love my old-school prog, like Genesis, Jethro Tull, and obviously Rush. Eli is into the huge sounds; he loves what bands like Leprous, Periphery, and TesseracT have to offer, but he’s also very into orchestral arrangements and soundtracks. Julian, like the bass player he is, loves his funk and jazz, which I think you can definitely hear in his playing. He was the one who got Eli and I into bands like Karnivool and Twelve Foot Ninja, but he’s still a proud lover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snarky Puppy, Steely Dan and whatnot. The three of us do have a lot of favorite bands/artists in common, though. Tom and Carina have sort of different influences, I would say. Tom comes from the land of melodic death metal and solo guitarists, like Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates, Buckethead, and Angel Vivaldi; the guy is such a melodic player. Carina has more of an indie-pop and theater background. Regina Spektor’s piano-based compositions and overall playfulness is a big influence of hers. She also loves artists such as Dodie, Young the Giant, and Panic! At The Disco. I suppose all of this melded together, you get Involute [laughs].

Tell me about your bandmates! What do each of them bring to the table?

Well, most of us have backgrounds in STEM (myself being a high school physics teacher, Eli and Julian being engineers), and Carina is a writer. I brought in the concept and lyrics of Hindsight, along with some riffs and melodies on the guitar. Eli composed most of the album, writing for every instrument at times, and Julian arranged and composed a lot as well. Before Tom or Carina entered the picture, the album was close to being finished, instrumentally. Tom’s guitar-playing made, and still makes, our jaws drop–he nailed every single riff, lick, and solo we threw at him for the album, and he has been nailing them live as well. And we were so excited when we heard Carina’s voice complement our sound so swimmingly; I personally put her up there with all the fantastic frontwomen of the progressive metal scene.

You mentioned that your latest album, Hindsight, is a concept album. Tell us about the
album’s story.

Sure, so a few years ago, I started diving further into my favorite concept albums. I loved the idea of writing a story and having music accompany it; it’s quite an emotional journey, as any lover of conceptual albums would tell you. Eli and I were always fans of a grand reprise or call- back in an album, so we did our best to place them in this one; but we hated redundancy, so he would attempt to execute these call backs with slight differences. So, wanting a concept album was first on my list, but now we needed a story. I had a couple of them that swam around in my noggin for some years, none of which were really developed. I began to revisit one idea about people unknowingly hallucinating and being able to snap pictures on hand-held devices (like cell phones) of those hallucinations, despite them having unique visual experiences to everyone else. I soon became enthralled with the idea because of its relevance to today’s world, with people being completely convinced with whatever they hear or see on the internet or through other media.

But the main problem I had in the beginning was the lack of a plot, or narrative structure in general. Taking a bunch of the instrumental ideas that we had, I threw this story together, using the music as a sort of guideline for what would be the more intense moments, solemn moments, etc. I developed this character, eventually named Jasper, whose mother died mysteriously when he was a boy. He did not question much of it, until years later someone approached him claiming that they had seen his mother and they had photographic evidence.

With more people providing photos of his mother in real time, Jasper wonders how could his mother be alive, and if so, why has he not come into contact with her yet? The yearning for an answer leads him to seek out psychological help from a family member (the enigmatic Warden), only to find out the true answer through a series of events laid out in the second half of the album.

How were these songs written? Describe your band’s compositional process.

Definitely not the way we anticipated doing it [laughs]. Most of “Stand Still” had been brought in by Julian during the early days of jamming; it was the first original we worked on for the album. We had jammed to it and expanded upon it before even knowing what the band would turn into. After several weeks of jamming to that song and trying our pass at some covers, Eli started sending the two of us almost-full song ideas via Guitar Pro at a rapid pace. Songs like “Jasper,” “Spliced Skies,” and “Tilt” were conceived through Guitar Pro early on. Eli would even take single-instrument ideas we had on guitar–like the intros to both “The Warden” or “Oculus” for example–and just fill out the idea with a dozen different instruments in what seemed like mere hours; he had an insane burst of inspiration that he tapped into, and it really inspired the rest of us. Julian added to what Eli dished out and refined a ton of wonderfully articulated part arrangements, including his bass parts, which all complemented the overall picture of the music. The closer we got to finishing the writing sessions, the more excited about the music we were getting. So, to answer the question, probably 90% of the album was written remotely, exchanging the music notation on Guitar Pro and just listening to the ideas on the Guitar Pro instruments. And having a prog drummer write a lot of the guitar parts meant that Tom and I really had a lot of crazy stuff to learn [laughs].

Once COVID hit in the spring of 2020, a lot of the music had thankfully been written already, so we spent about a year-and-a-half meticulously rearranging parts. During that time, we all took stabs at writing vocal melodies to the lyrics, while simultaneously trying to fit it all together with the compositions. By the fall of 2021, we had tracked everything and had our good friend Garrett Rose of the band Standby mix the album, which we could not be happier with the result. And we also have to give a huge thanks to Mike Watts of VuDu Studios for mastering the album in such a timely manner.

I’ve noticed you’ve had some live shows as a band. How has it felt to bring these songs to
life as a live group?

Yes, it’s been exciting! Personally, I had no idea how this would all turn out; our first in-person full-band rehearsal happened a couple of weeks before Hindsight was released, so we had essentially written, recorded, mixed, and mastered all of the music before ever playing together as a band [laughs]. We haven’t been playing every track from the album, but we’ve been doing some of the ones listeners may expect. We don’t hold back either–the arrangements on the album all come to life on the stage. The response has been truly gratifying as well.

It might be too soon to say, but what’s next for Involute?

Right now, live shows have been our focus. We have a string of live shows coming up throughout the spring and summer in Connecticut and New York, most of which are with our buddies from Shagohod. We’re taking it all one step at a time, soaking in the fun.

Thanks, Wyatt!

Make sure to check out Involute’s latest album, Hindsight. Find them on Facebook and stay tuned!

 

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