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Tulip: On A Journey To High Strangeness

Tulip: On A Journey To High Strangeness

Tulip: On A Journey To High Strangeness

Tulip presents their own emotional brand of symphony metal, and the results are nothing short of staggering.  High Strangeness is the name of their debut magnum opus – an epic of a recording featuring impassioned female vocals and a dynamic brigade of musicians unleashing the soundscapes of a lifetime.  Tulip has toured with the likes of Evergrey and Shattered Sun and are slated to hit the road with Tarja Turunen on a European trek in early 2021.  Highwire Daze recently interviewed Tulip vocalist Ashleigh Semkiw to find out more their journey to High Strangeness and beyond…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Tulip, and how long the band has been together.
Hi Ken! This is Ashleigh, and I am the lead vocalist for Tulip. We released our first EP in September of 2018 so we’re about a year and a half old as a band.

Where is the band based out of and what is the local metal scene like there?
Colin and I are transplants to Texas. So although we certainly feel like Texas is home, we haven’t had a ton of experience with the local scene. That said, everyone we’ve met in DFW over the last two years have been incredible – lots of bands more towards the hardcore, deathcore, doom metal end of the spectrum. We’ve made friends with a few other local acts in the progressive space and have to say that our show at Gas Monkey in Dallas last summer was the best of the tour. Because you know, everything is bigger in Texas.

Is there any overall story or concept behind the album title High Strangeness?
High Strangeness is a concept album divided into three parts which are introduced by the three instrumental interludes: Above, Below and Within. The story woven through the album deals with the interconnectedness of the cosmos, the supernatural and metaphysical and their superposition on the human experience.

Select two songs from your High Strangeness album and what inspired the lyrics.
This is a great question – the first track and the last tie together to make the album a complete thought so let’s tackle those.

Midnight in the Desert was the first song we wrote for this record and it set the mood for the way the rest of the content was going to unfold. For those who are in the know about the late great Art Bell, he had a long standing paranormal and “unexplained phenomenon” radio show called by the same name. We wanted to give a nod to him. Lyrically for MITD I dove into a lot of old Edgar Allan Poe writings. “Raylessness of night” is a line I took from his story The Premature Burial. I’ve been a longtime reader of his since I was a child, and it sets the stage for where we are in the story – lost, alone, being pursued by what? Someone or something malevolent – or is it to be trusted? The song is about lost bearings and I think the video reflects that as well.

Throughout the course of the album, we reach different levels – almost like a video game. We defeat demons both within and beyond, we go into battle in hell against kin, we feel intimacy and oneness for the first time with someone unfamiliar, and we forge our own path without a roadmap.

Finally in Transfiguration the wandering has ended, and we welcome the darkness, the “raylessness of night…and gleam”, because I am safe, I know who I am and where I am, and am not afraid of the future. Transfiguration is certainly the most personal song lyrically for me. It was painful to write and is still tough to sing without becoming very emotional.

Who produced High Strangeness and what was it like working with them?
Colin was responsible for all of the production, recording, mixing and mastering on High Strangeness. Which is to say he is incredibly burned out and doesn’t want to make anymore music for a long time. Just kidding – we’ve already got the next EP mostly written.

Working together is both incredibly easy and incredibly tedious. It’s easy in the sense that there are no barriers between us and we both speak our minds freely while recording. It’s also tedious because there are no barriers between us and we both speak our minds freely while recording.

What has it been like to release your album right in the middle of a pandemic? These are crazy times but music definitely helps to make it better.
I agree. Writing and listening to other new releases has kept us sane. Obviously the crisis has had a drastic effect on the music business just as many other industries. In particular, it’s made it impossible to tour behind the release. We had planned to be in Europe supporting Tarja Turunen for much of April but everything has been postponed. Unfortunately, we had a good deal of upfront costs that we had to absorb but we plan to be back to Europe with Tarja in 2021 so not all is lost.

The album release itself hasn’t been impacted as much since so much of the work that needs to be done for a release happens online. Social media, Spotify, YouTube have kept us busy and so far it seems the album has been received very enthusiastically.

What could one expect from a live Tulip show?
I think the most important thing about our music is the way it scales. We have so much production layered in our mixes that it’s hard to discern all of it on a pair of AirPods. With a full speaker array in a concert hall or auditorium, the power of the orchestration really makes your hair stand up. Plus, we’re all very seasoned performers so we play the material with the same precision as the record, but with that added intangibility of emotion and energy that only a live performance can convey.

How did your tour with Evergrey go and what were some of the highlights? We interviewed you last on Day 1 of that tour…
Yes! It was so good to meet you. It was a great way to kick things off in LA. The tour was awesome – the guys in Evergrey and Shattered Sun have become friends for life and we feel honored to have shared the stage with all of them on our first North American tour.

The highlight would probably be getting to hear Tom Englund sing Black Undertow every night. He is such an artist and his voice has a beautiful quality to it that comes across live that will melt your heart and tear your head off at the same time.

What are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming tour dates with the legendary Tarja? 
Right, as mentioned it’s been pushed out to March 2021 but we are thrilled to be supporting the Queen of Metal across much of Europe. Colin was an enormous Nightwish fan throughout the Tarja era and as with most contemporary symphonic metal acts, we are always borrowing from Nightwish at some level in the way we orchestrate our music.

If Tulip could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Hmm – this is always a tough one – so many great artists out there that we love and would love to get to know. For me personally it would probably be Kate Bush or Tom Waits, but with Tulip I’d say we’d fit perfectly with Lzzy Hale or Lacuna Coil. We love them.

What’s up next for Tulip?
We’ve been able to get a head start on our next EP idea as a product of being cooped up inside for the last month. Then there’s another full-length in the pipeline that we’ve been chipping away at as well. Because it takes so long to adequately produce and record our material, we’re always one or two projects ahead of what we’re releasing. We’re also trying to get something lined up tour-wise for the fall in the US. Stay tuned.

Any final words of wisdom?
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

Band Members
Ashleigh Semkiw
Colin Parrish
Brandon White
Ryan Claxton

(Interview by Ken Morton – Live Photo by Jack Lue)

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