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Riddlebreak – Interview with Laura Atkinson and Roushan van Niekerk
Jad | February 28, 2021
Riddlebreak is a Progressive Metal band based in South Africa, who just released a new EP, entitled ‘Architeuthis’. The 6-piece band features the talents of Roushan van Niekerk on bass and Laura Atkinson on violin, which we had the chance to chat with about their band’s plans and their thoughts on many things.
Hello Roushan and Laura! How have you and the other members of Riddlebreak been recently?
Hello! Well it’s a pretty weird time that we’re living in but we’ve been alright, thanks. In terms of Riddlebreak, it’s been a bit of a limiting year. We set out with big plans going into 2020 and we had to adapt as the year unleashed its Covid craziness. But we still managed to develop and record some new material and I think we are all really grateful for that. As for 2021, so far it’s more or less been an extension of 2020 with the ongoing lockdown restrictions. Obviously that’s limiting to practices and performances. So we will just have to keep finding responsible ways to create and share our music.
You’ve just released a new EP, which we will talk about soon, but first how would you introduce Riddlebreak to our readers who are yet to listen to your music?
We’re a progressive metalcore band from South Africa. We’re inspired by many different styles which we try to incorporate into our music. We love super long songs with face slamming break downs threaded together by beautiful melodic bits into odd song structures. We love to write about many topics including space, games and pet hedgehogs (in a nutshell, we’re nerds).
Laura, you play the violin in the band, and that’s not very common for Metalcore bands. What progressive elements do you add to the usual Metalcore sound with your violin?
Well I think that the violin always brings in a classical element, just because of the nature and history of the instrument. But more than that, it occupies a much higher register than the other instruments in the band. I think because of that, the violin enhances the melody line of our music – whether it’s through harmonising the lead guitar line or creating a new melody. I think it also creates a massive contrast to the other very bassy elements in our music, and the two extremes play off each other and highlight each other.
Roushan, you recently released a new EP called ‘Architeuthis’. How are you feeling about the reception this EP got from your fans?
I’m feeling incredibly excited and humbled by the response we’ve received. There are so many amazing reviews that have come out, we’re getting some really good press and we’ve had a massive jump in listeners since it’s come out. We’ve been seeing new listeners in places that we never expected and that makes us extremely happy because we just want people to hear our music. And of course, our loyal fan base have been loving it, we’ve gotten so many messages from people showing their support and that’s all we could ever really ask for. We worked really hard on this and it makes it all worth it to see people respond this way.
To get our readers to know you better, how about we play a little imagination game? I will give you a scenario in an alternate universe and you’d have to react.
In a universe where the senses of taste and hearing are mixed up, what food would you imagine ‘Architeuthis’ would taste like?
A Kung Pow bao (delicious, warm, fluffy treat of stuffing wrapped inside a sweet, white dough with Kung Pao sauce which is sweet, sour, savoury and with a bit of heat from Sichuan pepper.). Despite its lack of actual squid, it’s the perfect analogy for what your earholes will experience.
What about you, Laura?
A calamari poke bowl
Interesting! In a universe where the currency used is the person’s sense of humour, how rich would you two be?
I’d probably be carrying a foreign currency – not sure everyone gets my sense of humour.
Hmm with my dark sense of humour I’d probably be rich, but it’d come from nefarious activities.
Laura, in a universe where you play the violin in a jazz band, what would the band’s name be?
Snoozy Blues (Can’t say why. It just feels right)
Roushan, in a universe where people worship bass players, what would the festival celebrating you be like?
You know, I’ve actually had a similar conversation with a fellow bass player once and we decided that we’d start a moon worshipping cult where we’d have festivals where we would gather our fellow bass players (and worshippers) and play naked in the forest to the full moon. There will be grapes and craft beer. It just seems appropriate.
Finally, in a universe where aliens from another planet sent a group of their scientists to study the phenomenon of music on Earth, and requested one song from your EP to listen to, which song would you give them, Laura?
What about you, Roushan?
I don’t know if it’s a good representation of music on Earth, but it’s a song I’d want aliens to hear (or do I?) – it’d be Eyes of the World Ender
Thank you for playing, ladies! Laura, Have you ever been treated in a sexist way? How would you face sexism and what advice would you give to young people who face any kind of discrimination?
Sadly, I think all women are faced with some level of sexism in everyday life. But I must say that within the metal scene I have been met with great support and encouragement, rather than discrimination. I am not sure whether that is because others, like Roushan paved the way before I joined or whether it’s just the genuine and kind people that we are so grateful to find ourselves surrounded by in the scene. But as a woman in Riddlebreak, I have only been treated with kindness and respect. That being said, that might not be everyone’s experience. And I feel that if anyone is feeling discriminated against in any way, they need to speak out about it. Easier said than done, for sure. But often in life, once you open up about something, you might find others have been going through similar and we can then work together to make a change. I think as a society, we need to listen with compassion and not belittle or downplay inequalities or discriminations. If it’s hurting someone, it’s not okay. And we need to stop pretending that it is okay. If it feels unjust, don’t stay quiet about it.
That’s great advice. What about you, Roushan?
Warning: rant ahead! I’ve never experienced it within my band (the guys are fantastic examples of their gender). I have faced it in the scene sadly. Some of it may be based off of ignorance and poor choice of words rather than malicious intended sexism, but even comments that seem harmless or come from a place of ignorance can have far reaching consequences in terms of people’s general attitudes. It’s mostly been small things like being asked in interviews whether I feel like I need to ‘keep up with the guys’ or being told that I’m ‘good, for a girl’ as though having a vagina is a physical handicap. I often get treated as a ‘plus one’ right off the bat even when carrying my instrument. Once we sent band photos through to a publication and they asked us to resend photos with only the band members and no groupies in the photo!
I’ve never been excluded from opportunities or anything like that but I have sometimes been treated like my presence on stage is just a gimmick and that I have no other value than being something ‘nice to look at’ on stage. This makes it tough in that I feel like I have to work 10 times harder to earn the same respect as my male counterparts. But I’m happy to say that as the years have gone by I’ve experienced less and less of it. I think female musicians in the metal industry are starting to realise that they have just as much of a right to be on stage as guys do and hopefully we can inspire females to pick up instruments and come to shows. To people experiencing discrimination, I’d say speak up when necessary but also take joy in proving people wrong. I love seeing the look on people’s faces when they think I’m a band girlfriend and then see their jaws drop when I get on stage.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with our readers! That can be very helpful for some people.
Laura and Roushan, thank you so much for the interview! Hope you had fun. Take care and good luck on your future projects.
Really enjoyed answering these! Thank you for asking such great questions! 🙂
Thanks so much for interviewing us! You asked some really fun questions 🙂