September 2021, during a brief refrain of lockdown, Toronto venues were allowed to re-open and host shows at reduced capacity, and Jaodae were booked to play Hard Luck Bar. I bought tickets right away. I had discovered Jaodae and their 2019 release Cast In Ash in early 2021 and was very interested to experience a live performance of the filthy, calculated, lurking, swamp-thing-esque sounds of the album. Coming out of that - no shows, no bars, no outings, sheltered life - I was not prepared. Jaodae hit my post-lockdown face like a sledge, and it felt deliberate. The COVID rules stated that attendees had to be seated for the show, so imagine that movie theatre scene from A Clockwork Orange, except it’s your ears being pried open and invaded by heavy instrumental metal. I actually recorded a bootleg audio file on my phone because of how heavy and precise their set was. Luckily I know Nick Brown, their bassist for live performances, and was able to sit with the guys after their set and talk. Although probably cliche to say, talking with these monoliths was surprisingly easy as they are the nicest, most humble guys. A few months later I reached out for an opportunity to interview them and, now back in lockdown, they agreed to a video chat.
Jaodae is an instrumental metal band from Toronto, Ontario comprised of Roberto Ercoli who frets left-handed guitars and Spencer Robson who mercilessly beats drums. In 2019 they released a 10-track beast of an album Cast In Ash showcasing their progressive writing style and dynamic range. They are now working on recording their second album.
Smol: Where are you guys from? What Canadian music scenes had an effect on you?
SR: I live in The Annex in Toronto now, but I grew up in Brampton so I went to a lot of shows in Brampton, a lot of shows in Burlington at The Formac, shows in Milton, and a lot of Masonic Lodge shows in Mississauga. Plenty of Southern Ontario stuff. A lot of hardcore/metalcore stuff because that was really popular when I was in highschool. But then I went to University in Windsor, went to a lot of shows, and then came to Toronto, and I wasn’t really going to shows at all. It’s been very recent, I feel like there's a huge gap in the Toronto area that I’ve missed. I still feel like I’m kind of catching up and social media is helping me, but I’m still kind of just seeing what bands are out there.
RE: I’m a North York guy now, but I grew up in Vaughan. Similarly, I didn’t really start going to shows frequently until I was going to University of Windsor. That's where we met, and I started getting into metal and live music way more. We’ve gigged a couple times in Windsor and there is a good scene there. Everyone is always just so happy and supportive of whoever comes through. I really like the Windsor scene a lot.
SR: Yeah, me too. It’s always fun to go down there. People come out, and they’ll come early. And shows we’ve played have started late, like one of our first shows we were opening and played at 10:30, and I was like oh my god this is really late for an opening band. But, that just means that people can, like, get off work and walk their dogs and have dinner and stuff before going and seeing a full show.
RE: Love Windsor.
SR: Yeah, shout out to Windsor.
Smol: How would you describe the music scene in Toronto?
RE: How would I describe it?... I think it’s like a very vast buffet. There are a lot of good options for music here.
SR: Yeah, there are a lot of options, but I find if you’re not part of the hardcore punk scene it’s kind of hard to find the community. Also it’s kind of tough because we’re still new to it, like, even though we’ve been playing music together for a long time, we only started gigging a few months before the pandemic hit. Yeah, Rob is right though, there are a lot of options and the bills we’ve played have had a lot of variety, and people still come out to see variety, which is nice.
But honestly, just from a community standpoint, I think it would be a lot easier and more fun to be part of a hardcore band becauce there is more of a culture of going to shows more frequently. And I know Toronto has a good scene for that, and also Hamilton, and it looks like there are shows in Barrie all the time.
RE: Those are my favourite kinds of gigs, when the bands are not necessarily the same exact genre. I like when it’s more of a grab bag.
Smol: What does Jaodae mean?
RE: We’re big David Lynch fans, and in Twin Peaks, without spoiling anything major, there’s this unseen entity that is sort of the root of all evil in the show, that is mostly referred to as Judy. But there is a one-off scene where David Lynch’s character calls it by it’s ancient name, “Jaodae”, and you never hear that name again [laughs]. But yeah, our spelling of Jaodae is kind of our own interpretation of the spelling, because it’s never spelled out for you. Yeah, we’re just a couple of Lynch-heads that wanted to put a Lynch reference somewhere.
Smol: You said you met in school. How was the band formed?
SR: Before we did Jaodae - Nick, bassist in Jaodae, we were roommates. We had been friends for a long time, and we lived together and were playing music all the time. We found out that Rob was into metal, and there weren’t a lot of people in our programs who were into metal, so we were like “Do you play an instrument? Do you play bass?”, and Rob was like “Yeah!”. So we all started playing together and hanging out. We played house parties and stuff like that. Then when we had left school, in 2015, we started playing again. It was pretty casual.
RE: It took a long time. It took us four years to write our first LP. But yeah, initially, we were just jamming and seeing what stuck. We weren’t actively writing.
SR: We weren’t even trying to play shows or anything. It was just something to do, writing. Then we put the songs together, decided to record them, and we were like, “I guess we should have a band name,” we went back and forth and came up with something. It was slow, then shows were fun and we got a good response, and that's kind of where it is right now, which is great. I think our accidental flow helps, being really casual, taking our time, it lets riffs and ideas really stew and I think that has been a blessing in disguise.
Smol: How would you describe your music, or your sound?
RE: It’s a weird one to pinpoint because we’re playing instrumental metal which is under the umbrella of progressive metal but it's not like… wibbly wobbly noodley progressive, you know, Dream Theater’s level of stuff. It’s a lot more stripped down and raw and groove-centric I would say.
SR: We wanted a different angle to instrumental music. And look, what Rob and I really want to write, we can’t play that stuff anyway [laughs]. Like we would never do an Animals As Leaders cover. I would get five seconds in and, I mean, I need another ten more years of practice before I can approach this. So that’s not really how we play, but also we just have different influences and it was kind of random that we ended up being instrumental. Just one of those things that worked out that way, we didn't decide to do it, we were just like “Well, we’ve written all these songs and I can’t really see vocals on top of them,” so we decided to stay instrumental.
RE: One thing I’ll add is, every time we gig there is always someone who comes up to us after and says “You remind me of this band.” And it’s always a completely different band, and we don’t really know what to do with that, but it’s cool because I think it means that we’re not ripping off anyone too hard. If everyone was coming up to us like, “You guys sound like Mastodon,” we would probably be like, “We need to not sound like that then.”
SR: Yeah, it is nice to get that feedback.
Smol: Do people ever tell you to get a vocalist?
SR: Yeah, my dad. [laughs]
RE: Sometimes vocalists from other bands will ask, “Where is your vocalist? I’ll do your vocals.”
Smol: How long have you each been playing for? How did you learn your instruments?
SR: I started playing drums I think in my second year of University. I didn’t get a kit until I moved out of the school residence and moved into a house, and I got this old banged up kit from a friend of mine and put it together. I was so desperate to do it, and so I kind of learned from YouTube. I was a YouTube drummer. I just practised rudiments from videos and was lucky to be able to play with a guitar player I lived with, and just practised.
RE: I started playing guitar around age 12. My dad taught me all the fundamentals, he’s a guitarist as well. And after that, I kind of went off on my own and absorbed online materials just to keep self-teaching, and yeah, kept with it since.
Smol: Do you still play with him sometimes?
RE: Oh yeah, we still jam here and there! But I have since sort of surpassed him. [we all laugh] But the difference is he plays on weekends and plays the same, like, five cover songs. Whereas I teach now so I’m learning new songs every day for my students.
SR: Plug your business, Rob.
RE: Yeah, Roberto Ercoli Music Lessons. Lessons for 7 and up in the GTA. I’ll come to you, I do online. Any skill level. I teach right in this room. [The room does look nice, and filled with guitars. See link below for more info.]
Smol: When did Nick join in?
SR: That was in 2019.
RE: He did the last three or four gigs before everything shut down in 2020. And then also the one gig we did last September. Prior to that Spencer and I did a couple gigs just the two of us, and I ran my rig through an octaver pedal just to add the bass octave. But obviously it's not the same as having a live bassist who can add harmony and counterpoint. It makes a world of difference.
SR: Yeah and it was so easy because we had known him forever and played with him so many times so it just made sense. And yeah, it makes a huge difference live.
Smol: What are some of your influences? Where do your ideas for riffs, drum patterns, and songs come from?
RE: I have a ton of influences, metal and otherwise. If we’re talking metal, some of the bands I really look up to are Gojira, Enslaved, Intronaut, Meshuggah, The Contortionist, and Animals As Leaders. But before I was into metal I was a big prog-head. My dad showed me all of his, like, you know, Pink Floyd and Genesis and stuff. Then I got into Mars Volta and Radiohead. That's kind of where I come from, like, heavy on the 21st century metal, but also old proggy stuff too.
SR: Yeah, I guess at first it was like a lot of dad rock, rock and roll stuff. But again, local scenes in Brampton and stuff, you get into hardcore, and metalcore was popular so that was my gateway into extreme metal, and it kind of just went from there. And when I’m writing, in terms of riffs, I try to think of all the bands that have left some sort of mark on me, if they’re really heavy, or emotive, or anything that strikes me in some way… I like High On Fire, Ulcerate, Cult of Luna. I like Ihsahn, he’s the guy from Emperor with a solo project. I find I have riffs from those bands in my head all the time, and I think it blends together and forms a style I like and riffs come out of that. If I get a riff in my head and if it’s worth writing down, Rob taught me how to use Guitar Pro, bless him, so I’m able to actually put ideas down. And we just share ideas back and forth. And in terms of drum patterns, I just try to make it heavy. I know that sounds like a dumb answer, but I like my metal to be very, very, hard hitting so I try to write my drums that way.
RE: I guess for me when I’m writing riffs, it’s trying to strike a balance between heavy and hooky but also like a little headier and less predictable. That’s what I gravitate towards. Like if I’m listening to a song and in the first four measures if I can predict the structure of it or the pattern I’m going to hear, I’m tuned out. But if it’s keeping me guessing, doing something unexpected, that’s what I’m leaning towards. So I’m always trying to find a way to marry the two. Finding a way to keep it in your head.
[We continue talking about grooves and riffs used by notable metal bands. At one point Rob is talking about Meshuggah falling into grooves mid-song and is making hand gestures like a sine wave.]
Smol: Tell us about the new music that you’re working on. Want to give us some hints of what’s coming?
RE: Absolutely. It’s called Nest Of Veins. We don’t have a release date yet but we’re hoping late spring, early summer. Sometime soon. We just wrapped up tracking all the drums, we did that with Jesse Turnbull at Taurus Recording, he was fantastic, and now currently in this room [again, the room looks great] we are tracking everything else. Adding all the guitars and bass, adding all the effects. But the last album we did, our first one, Cast In Ash, it was totally DIY. It was my first time ever mixing and mastering an entire album and I had no idea what I was doing. I had to watch several YouTube tutorials to figure it out, going back and forth with multiple mixes and sending it to Spencer, sending it to friends, like “Does this sound good?” It was definitely a huge learning curve and there are things I would go back and tweak, but now, having that under our belt, I feel really confident with making this second one really huge sounding. But yeah, the sound of the album itself, I would say it is sort of the logical next step compared to the first one. It’s heavier, but also I’m throwing in all this nerdy shit I like – polyrhythms, polymeters, really extended chord voicings, Shoenbergian twelve-tone serialism, one of our songs is a reinterpretation of a mediaeval cantiga – so it’s all this nerdy stuff but then it’s also this real raw, caveman stuff too. It’s a good mix I think.
SR: I’d say even though we were pretty cohesive with songwriting on the first record, that was our first take trying to figure out what the sound of the band was. Playing those songs and hearing them back, feeling your way through them in a live setting, you kind of start to learn what you like to play, and what kind of flow you want while you’re playing. I think all of these next songs are like a perfect blend of our musical preferences. Rob and I have different musical preferences and I think we’ve found a way to combine those things in a way that communicates who we are, without sounding cheesy, better than the previous record. I still like those songs, but this is the real solid version.
RE: I don’t think we have a single song that doesn’t change time signature… although… wait, is there one in 4/4 all the way?
SR: “Bog Body”?
[They begin trading acapella riffs of their upcoming material trying to determine the time signature. I make a reference to the show Metalocalypse when Dethklok is doing the same thing. I also admit that I didn’t understand Rob’s description of the nerdy qualities of their new music.]
SR: I didn’t really understand any of that either, but the music is meant to be listened to by anyone and if those theories can create something that everyone can bob their head to, then that's great. That’s what I like about Rob’s writing. That’s what Rob does.
RE: This is prog/math metal 101 here: everything can be broken down into tacos and burritos. So if you have an even time signature you’re thinking “taco, taco, taco” but any time it becomes odd you have to throw a burrito in there. So, say you have a grouping of seven, you have to think “taco, taco, burrito.” [laughs]
SR: You’re a monster.
Smol: Do you enjoy being an independent band and doing most of the recording/mixing yourself?
RE: Yeah, I think I’m a little bit of a control freak with the music. It’s not that I don’t want help from anybody for the mixing and mastering, but I know how I want it layered and because it’s all here and in my computer I can be doing that in real time rather than having to communicate it to someone else, and I’m very happy to helm that. Even though I wasn’t totally experienced with it, I have since gained more experience. But, there is always more to learn and I’m open to sending tracks to people and getting their insight on how to mix something better.
Smol: If your new music was an animal, which animal would it be?
RE: I think it would be something like that three-headed dog thing from Harry Potter.
SR: I think it would be one of those creatures that has been around for thousands and thousands of years, that we haven’t discovered yet, like coming out of the water.
RE: A really disgusting deep sea fish.
SR: Yeah, like it’s so disgusting but you can’t stop looking at it.
Smol: What underrated Canadian bands should people check out?
SR: Ok, there’s this band called Deviant Process, and everyone knows Tech Death is such a big deal in Quebec, but I feel like they are being completely ignored. They’re so good because they are super technical, but like, also really emotional and their production is very clean and the riffs are so fucking hard. Everyone has to check that band out. And Hammerhands is great but I think a lot of people know about them. They’re phenomenal.
RE: I’ll shout out some of the cool bands we’ve played with such as Hounskull, Telomere, Trenchlung. Check out those bands, they’re killer.
Listen to Jaodae on Bandcamp and Spotify and keep an eye out for Nest Of Veins !