By Ansharah Shakil, June 8 2023—
On June 9, Canadian band Mares of Thrace will return to Calgary to play at The Palomino Smokehouse. Formed in 2009, the band recently released their album The Exile in March of 2022. The Exile saw the return of founding member Thérèse Lanz on vocals and guitar, and new member Casey Rogers on drums in place of Stef MacKichan. Mares of Thrace have been referred to as noise rock, hardcore and doom metal. Whatever you call their sound, The Exile and their current tour mark the introduction of a new and improved sound for the band.
In an interview with the Gauntlet Lanz, whose vocals are as sharp and bold as ever on the band’s latest tracks, noted that the time that has passed since the band’s 2012 album and their 2022 album has helped their new music rather than hindered it.
“Heavy music and a lot of art, in general, tend to be a little ageist and youth-focused and tend to impart a fear of getting older into the people involved in them, and I guess I just wanna tell everybody, don’t be afraid of getting older,” Lanz said. “If you play your cards right, you just end up getting better at what you do, [become] a better person, and despite not having the perky glow of youth [I had] back in the day, I definitely think that I’ve put all those improvements into our new work.”
The obvious change since 2012 is that Mares of Thrace have swapped one drummer for another, but they remain strong as a two-piece, with Rogers even playing bass through some creative technological set-ups during shows.
Though a small band, the noise and spirit heard in The Exile are strong enough for a crowd of thousands — loud and passionate yet precise vocals snarl against the vibrant guitar and the steady, fiery drumline. Live performances of songs on The Exile no doubt exude even more confidence and energy. For Lanz, the best part about performing is the connection between her as she plays and the audience as they listen.
“Nothing really compares to it being loud and vital and sweaty, and when I make a scary ‘urgh’ face and make [eye] contact with like one person in the crowd, and there’s just a profound moment of connection and they ‘urgh’ back at me and it’s beautiful,” Lanz said. “There’s nothing quite like it in life, in my opinion.”
She called Black Sabbath the biggest and oldest influence on Mares of Thrace’s sound but admitted she is rooted more in noise rock and hardcore than metal, naming The Jesus Lizard as an example.
“And if Casey were here, he would say Meshuggah,” she added with a laugh. “So I feel like I should say it on his behalf.”
Lanz is enthusiastic about playing in Calgary once again, saying her time away from the city has helped her not take it for granted.
“I love Calgary,” she said. “I love the people, I love the venues. The scene here for our subgenre has gotten really awesome since I left.”
Lanz’s experience with Calgary is partly what inspired the fascinating cover art of The Exile, and is partly the reason why the album’s CD and LP have a short graphic novel inside, though the main reason for the latter is Lanz’s desire to add another component to the CD and LP.
“In this era of streaming, I wanted to make the physical artifact something worth owning,” Lanz explained.
Lanz illustrated the graphic novel, and her friend Jana Sloan van Geest, a well-known video game writer who has worked on Assassin’s Creed: Origins, wrote the story.
“It is a spooky, doomed, tragic interracial gay romance about being cursed to wander eternally, which is why it’s called The Exile,” Lanz said.
The artwork ties into this theme as well.
“In retrospective it’s very melodramatic, but leaving Calgary and feeling like I could never come back, and then moving to Chicago and leaving Chicago and feeling like I could never go back, that’s what I felt like — doomed to roam the earth eternally,” she continued. “That’s basically what the record is about, and so that sad wet person in the tiny boat in the giant waves, that was my headspace at the time.”
The unique detail of the artwork and the surprise graphic novel is an example of what sets Mares of Thrace apart and hones their band into something captivating and compelling. There is a distinct sense of wild desire to their recent record, but a fair amount of edge, too.
“There’s a certain amount of nihilism and negativity that is necessarily assumed with heavy music, with extreme music, but I’m honestly trying to bring the opposite of that,” Lanz said. “I’m trying to bring a message of sticking to your guns and being yourself and persistent. I kind of think that cynicism and negativity and helplessness is lazy. I think it’s much more difficult to be recklessly optimistic and vulnerable and hopeful. That’s what I strive for, and no matter how evil the chords I’m playing are, that’s what I hope I’m putting out into the world and that’s what I hope people are taking away from our output.”
Listen to The Exile now on Bandcamp, Spotify and Apple Music, and view Mares of Thrace’s upcoming tour dates and merch here.