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Interview With Alt-Rock Band Survivors Of The Kraken

Allan Furtado, Brian Decoteaux, and Justin Marra, better known as the alternative rock power trio Survivors Of The Kraken from Providence, Rhode Island. They have been making music together in one form or another for two decades. They joined us to discuss their dynamic and their debut record, Amid Life Crises, which came out on March 22, 2024.


Press shot for the alt-rock trio Survivors Of The Kraken.

How would you describe your music to people who may have never heard it before?


Allan: Familiar without being derivative. We don't fit nicely into any one genre, which isn't great for marketing or algorithms. There is something reminiscent of the late '90s in our sound.


Justin: We’re always creating songs we want to hear versus what’s vogue. I remember our producer [Andy Davis] was reaching out to mastering engineers describing the record as “an Alt Rock/Grunge record” and thinking to myself, “Did we make a grunge record!? Cool!"


Brian: It wasn’t something we ever talked about or planned. It just so happens we made a record that sounds like it could have come out in the waning days of grunge.


Survivors of The Kraken is a great name. Is there any significance to it?


Justin: Brian is the official name-er of things in our group. He named the band, and the record.


Allan: It was an inside joke that evolved to somehow strangely define us. We started making music together twenty years ago in high school and there were four of us then; two guitars, bass and drums. That fourth member’s nickname was squid.  


Justin: Guitarists have a difficult time playing well with others to begin with, teenage guitarists even more so, but he and I were at odds from day one. He seemed to revel in and invite chaos, and I’m an agent of order. That can be a great catalyst for creating music, but it makes for a difficult dynamic between people and ultimately impossible for us to be a band. It took a long time for us to figure that out, but when we did everything just sorted itself out. The last time we saw each other was amicable, we played music, it was a healing moment. I wish him well, we all wish him well.


Who are some of your musical influences and how have they shaped your sound and style?


Justin: When it comes to guitar my earliest memories are listening to Motown [Joe Messina/Eddie Willis] and Stax/Volt [Steve Cropper/Matt Murphy] sounds. I think that rhythm is stuck in my right hand. As a teenager, I found James Gang [Joe Walsh], Zeppelin [Jimmy Paige], Aerosmith [Joe Perry], and GNR [Slash]. Whatever I’m doing you can be sure I’m going to try and put huge guitars on it. I’m not a Red Hot Chili Peppers super-fan, but I think Anthony Kiedis' style of disconnected poetry shaped a lot of the lyrical work I’m doing right now.


Allan: James Jamerson is a great player who just put down what the song needed - never too much never too little. He’s always in the back of my mind if not the front. Justin Chancellor [Tool] and Stephan Lessard [DMB]were influences when I started playing back in high school.


Brian: Darren Jessee. My favourite band is Ben Folds Five, and listening to them in my formative years of playing definitely shaped my style. Those were the songs I attempted to play along with so the DNA of my beats and fills are connected to his.


Allan: The three of us playing together, we’re playing off each other and playing to the song more than anything else. What we play as a band is vastly different from what we listen to or you would hear if any of us were playing in a different group or solo, it’s wild and magical.


Justin: I’ll "yes and" that. The music that we make is part of the way that we communicate with each other. I made music by myself for years. When I’m playing with Alland and Brian I’m more excited about making music. The music just flows and makes me believe in magic.


What are some of your inspirations to keep making music?


Allan: I have a teenage daughter who is drawn to music; not the music we make. I see the way that she experiences it. It’s both a cause for a reaction to the way she’s feeling. It can put her in a happy energetic mood, or if she’s feeling sad-it can be an outlet to help her express those feelings. Making music is something I can do and I want to put that out into the world and maybe our music does that for someone.


[Justin] I have a brain that has its own running soundtrack; they’re not songs I know, or songs I’ve heard before, or songs that I can always communicate effectively. Making and sharing music helps to quiet that and makes the rest of my life easier.


If given the chance, what musician(s) would you like to collaborate with? Rather this is to either write a song or be featured on a track.


Brian: Hi Taylor, this band is ready to back you.


Justin: Rick Astley is a guy who can do anything. He’s so immensely talented, that he can cover the Smiths or the Foo Fighters and completely make them his own. That would be really fun. I’d also really like to BBQ with Dave Grohl.


Allan: If there is an artist out there that thinks “We need Allan Furtado on bass for this song,” I would certainly entertain the idea of doing it. That is my dream collaboration. Your latest album, Amid Life Crises, was released on March 22, 2024. What can you tell us about the record?


Justin: It’s ten songs written over the course of about a year and a half. It is the sound of human beings, playing real instruments, and making music together. It became this running joke every year around New Year’s I’d reach out and say “Kraken record in ___ insert the year” because it went on like that for five or six years with zero traction. In the uncertainty of those early days of the pandemic, it felt like it was now or maybe never. We were lucky to make this record the way records used to be made. Our friend and producer Andy Davis has this amazing 24-track analog studio [subModern Audio Providence, Rhode Island] ripped out of time and plunked down in the present. We truly wrote the record together in the studio, which is something you read about as a kid in Guitar World, but maybe will never experience. It is as magical as it sounds–big old console, outboard racks, we recorded to 2" tape and mixed down to 1/4" without the use of computers, we didn’t record to the grid, we may speed up here or miss part of a note there. It’s perfectly imperfect. When you can’t go into the computer and stretch and tweak and fix something, when you’re limited in the number of tracks, it forces you to play a certain way and to make very strategic, but also creative choices you may not otherwise have made…It was invaluable in shaping this record. What’s the new album about?


Allan: Growth–there are songs on this record that have had a long life and been completely rewritten to better suit the band we are today and there are songs the band we were could never have written all those years ago. We started this project properly 10 feet apart in masks during the lockdown and now we are on the other side of that, 40 years old; travelled. The crises continue but we are persevering.


Justin: When you’re starting out in life you’ve got all this undeserved confidence, you feel invincible because you’ve got no context. Amid Life Crises explores the dichotomy between the fantasies you dream of in your adolescence with the realities you manifest through the actions you take as you move through life. Did you live out your dreams? Did you dream of new ones? Did you achieve your goals? Did you do all the things? Are you happy? Who’s still there to share the experience? It’s an attempt to reconcile all that against the infinite number of things ultimately out of your control.


What’s something you hope people take away from the new songs?


Justin: I hope people listen to it and enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it. The beautiful thing about music is that two people can listen to the same song and get two completely different experiences.


Which songs on the album were the most fun to write and which were the most challenging to write?


Justin: The most challenging song by far for me was “Still Searching” -It’s got a really unique rhythm and there’s modulation and delay and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it for the longest time. Right up until we finally got it I was campaigning to drop it from the record and move on. Brian, Allan, and Andy were really excited by it and kept pushing it forward. In the end, I was totally wrong and I'm really happy with how it came out.


Allan: "Tattered Baggage" was not easy. It kind of took years for us to complete. We had a really difficult re-entry into playing and writing music after not being active for a few years, and right as we got going there was lockdown, and then you [Justin] critically injured your hand.


Justin: I severed the nerves and tendons in the index finger of my fretting [left] hand. Six or seven months in total before I could play again; surgery, then lots of healing and lots of rehab. But other than that it wasn’t so hard. It wrote itself. Writing the record was fun. If you walked into the studio you'd be more likely to catch us laughing than in the middle of a song.


Allan: "Second Time Around" was easy and tracked really quickly. There’s this absolutely wild synth keyboard part on it that Andy Davis played. We’re looking at each other while he’s doing it just absolutely dragging it, “No, nope this is not the sound of the song.” Then we’re looking at each other realizing that this is the hook the song has always been missing. Do you have any favourite songs from the new album?


Justin: They take turns being my favourites. I’m really into "All’s Not Meant For You" right now. Brian really kept coming back to this song we wrote twenty years ago that lyrically was embarrassing to me as a forty-year-old man. So we tore it down and took the best parts and completely rebuilt it from the ground up. I’m really proud of the solo on that one. It’s a different way than I would typically approach a lead part.


Allan: My personal favourite is "Still Searching," Justin was so reluctant to record it.  It's difficult to play, but it’s a great song and he was so against it, and he was so wrong. We did the thing and it sounds great. Glad we stuck it out.


Brian: "Second Time Around" was the first song we wrote together in this version of the band. It holds a special place.


Do you have any favourite songs to perform live? It could be your own music or even a cover. Any reason why?


Allan: I love our cover choices! They really don't fit our set or band in the best possible way. "Burning Down The House" by The Talking Heads has been a mainstay, and lately "Blinding Lights" by The Weeknd has been in our set - it’s fun for the room and for us.


Justin: "Dying on the Vine" is a song that can change its mood and temperament depending on how we’re feeling at each show. It’s not a complex song, but it’s also deceptive in its simplicity.


If you could perform a show this very second anywhere in the world, where would it be? Is there any particular venue(s) or city/cities that comes to mind?


Justin: The Troubadour in West Hollywood. It’s one of the few venues left from the 60s-70s era of the working band. So many legendary acts got their start there. That would be really special. Massey Hall in Toronto would be another dream gig. The stories those walls could tell!


Allan: There is nothing better than a crowd that is having a good time regardless of size or location. Give me a room where folks are there to get into it. It doesn't matter where. What do you currently have planned for the remainder of the year?


Allan: Release this record and keep gaining ground. If we’re able to play more regularly than we have the past few years that would feel like a big success.


Justin: You can keep up with all things SOTK on our website: www.sruvivorsofthekraken.com

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