I was able to catch up with September Mourning’s charismatic and engaging fountainhead, Emily Lazar, in the final days of rehearsal for their upcoming tour, beginning in St. Louis, Missouri.
September Mourning, the multi-dimensional, “transmedia” dark media phenomenon, and brainchild of singer, frontwoman, Emily Lazar, aka September Mourning, continues to break barriers and conquer new frontiers in music, comics, and soon, graphic novels. While theatrical rock and metal are nothing new, Lazar’s multi-media approach (comic books, live performances, music and more) and creative partnership with legendary comic book illustrator and publisher, Top Cow’s Productions Image Comics’ Marc Silvestri, has created a multi-dimensional media juggernaut and singular approach. In fact, the collective is only a few months away from the release of a new, graphic novel based on the September Mourning experience. This new graphic novel will be offered by one of America’s biggest retailers—Target.
Where are you today, September? Are you in sunny LA?
Nope, I’m in cold-ass Ohio.
The tour is kicking off in St. Louis. What have rehearsals been like for this tour?
We’re just rehearsing and getting ready. Everything’s great and we’re just dusting off the cobwebs.
How long since you rehearsed or played live?
It’s been a good two months.
I saw a description calling this project a transmedia dark culture project. Is that how you would describe it?
Yeah, that’s about right. Transmedia-for those that don’t know is basically a project that’s based around a storyline. It’s all the different forms of media that come off of that story idea.
We have this story of September and the Reapers. She’s the human/reaper hybrid that’s been transformed into this creature that can swap out souls and give people second chances at life. She can’t remember her past or who she was, so she’s searching for that identity. Fate is the antagonist in the comic books and Fate sends all these Reapers after September for swapping out these souls and to correct the universe. It’s this major war between the living and the dead. That’s essentially the storyline.
In the live performances, I play September on the stage, and the other guys (Rich Juzwick, Patrick Romanelli and Kyle Mayer) are the Reapers. We show some of the animated comic books (displayed during the live performance)—three of them out right now, the fourth one, and then a graphic novel that’s coming out in April. It (the novel) will be available in Target, Barnes & Noble, plus your local comic book stores.
We are very excited. It’s coming out through Image and Top Cow Comics. It’s this culmination of this transmedia project. We will also have videos coinciding with this project.
Did you have to tone down any of the content to be carried at major retailers?
No, not really. It’s kind of an R-rated comic book. It’s not gory, but it’s more of a coming-of-age story. It’s September and Claire, this teenager that’s blind, but she can see Reapers and dead things. She can see September and be her partner. It’s more of a supernatural tale.
There’s always been a thread of fantasy and comic book-type characters in metal? Why do you think that is?
We’re more of a hard rock band than a metal band. It’s anything that’s in the rock genre. There’s a lot of freedom in rock. Kurt Cobain had some quote that stated that punk rock equals freedom. I think it is more like rock equals freedom. Zero fucks given and you just go and do your thing. In the fantasy realm, anything goes. They kind of hold hands in the creative process.
You’re using social media quite effectively and encouraging fan participation. Who actually handles all the communications and interactions with the fans?
It’s me and my guitarist, Riven. We both interact with fans. We try to be personal with our fans and respond as much as possible.
Sometimes we get an influx of fans. We try to have that personal connection, and I think that’s really important.
Do you ever have a fan that goes a bit too far?
There’s always a couple. I think that happens just because of the rise and popularity of social media. Sometimes, some fans believe that you’re their best friend, even if they’ve never met you before. It’s kind of weird. My philosophy is I’m glad that you enjoy my work, but there’s a line that needs to be maintained.
Did you approach Marc Silvestri, or did he approach you? How did that collaboration come about?
I approached Marc Silvestri on social media. I told him that I had this really crazy idea and I wanted to share it with him. He answered back, and wrote ‘What’s your crazy idea?’ I was like, holy shit!
I basically pitched him a brief one-liner and he responded. We had a phone call, we made dinner plans, he came to New York and we talked. We had an eight-hour dinner and we discussed what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. We discussed how crazy it might be and how it would take a lot of time.
He told me that if I was willing to put in a ton of effort and hard work, he was willing to support me. I really couldn’t get anyone bigger in the comic book world than Marc Silvestri. He was the one I wanted. He creates strong, female, heroic, and fierce protagonists.
He’s proven to be amazingly supportive and to go at it without any doubts.
Were you based in New York at that time?
Yes, I was based there, but then I went to LA to do this project.
Did you come up with this concept? It seems like it’s centered around death or the struggle to live.
Yeah, September Mourning (a human/reaper character). I’m always been obsessed with death. Marc also had that thing. He wrote the “Darkness.” It’s a huge comic book and franchise. They have video games and they’re working on a movie and everything else. That’s who he is. He dabbles in that dark culture.
He helped me develop these characters in what they needed to be. We’re both into the same concepts and the afterlife. We made it into something cool and address the feelings behind death. Some people die too soon. That’s how we got her character. I named the project because one of my friends died in September. He died way too young—22. It wasn’t fair. I wanted in some way to create a world where death wasn’t the end.
The characters are so different. Claire has a different story arc than September. Everybody has a weird story arc. Each character is coming into themselves and recognizing their strengths and weaknesses—both come from dark places. They harness those dark parts of their lives and make them into something beautiful.
How much of the September Mourning character is you?
If you took September’s character, put it under a magnifying glass, and added a fantasy element, that would be September Mourning. In trying to do the right thing, sometimes I do the wrong thing. Sometimes I play God (laughs). By becoming God, it can become a negative thing and you’re not doing the right thing by bringing people back (from the dead).
For instance, something can be legal, but not be moral or correct. That’s especially true these days.
How did your deal with Sumerian Records (indie label based in LA) come about? Was it made before the comic book was produced, or after?
No, we started September Mourning and got a deal with Virgin Records first. We were signed for like a minute. Unfortunately, the person that signed us was the president of the label and he got let go. That was Ron Fair (music industry veteran). He’s a good dude and he loved the project. He got us and understood that no one else was really doing our thing. He believed it could go mainstream and it had to be done the right way. We just couldn’t make it happen due to the changes at the label.
It’s the same old story that a lot of bands have gone through. Katy Perry went through something like four labels before she really made it big. It definitely sucked, but we’re still going strong, we have a good following, and we have Sumerian (Records).
They’re a strong team of people over there. Ash (Avildsen) (Sumerian Records founder, CEO) believes things can work and that we can overcome the system. It’s about finding your lane and being the biggest in your lane. It’s not about copying a copy of a copy. They’re supportive of our music and vision.
Who inspired you to become a singer and performer? Do you remember when you decided to become a performer?
I started on stage at four years old as a ballerina. I became a professional dancer at 16. In the ballet world, you start really young and you make it while you’re young. I had a bad accident at 19 and realized I couldn’t do it anymore. Then, I fell into music. I attended a performing arts school, so it was a natural path. I think September Mourning came from all the theater I had done.
Was there a rock or metal band that made you really take the plunge?
I really can’t name a band that was doing exactly what we’re doing. I think we’re kind of the first to do it this way. Alice Cooper is probably the closet. He’s not based on novels or comic books, but he definitely plays a character. He tells these stories through his music. My parents love Alice Cooper, Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure and all these dark, theatrical type bands. Even Kiss.
KISS wasn’t originally based on a comic book or graphic novel. They dressed up in crazy costumes and makeup, but the marketing and things like the comic book came later. They were offshoots. They didn’t base the band on that concept, they kind of reversed-engineered it all.
Your vocal style is really tough and guttural. How did you develop your delivery and own thing?
It just comes from my feelings and thoughts. Most of the lyrics are sad, heart-wrenching, but also uplifting. That lift, however, comes from a place of pain and struggle. It’s not Lana Delray songs. It comes from the dirt. My vocals just come from that feeling.
Can signing like that be painful or difficult?
Are you talking about the screaming?
SONIC NATION: Yes.
No, not at all. I was trained by Melissa Cross (prominent vocal coach) who teaches the art of screaming. She teaches screamers how to scream without doing it very loud. If you do it correctly, you’re letting the microphone do the work and you’re positioning your larynx. It’s a technique and it’s easy to do…as long as you haven’t lost your breath.
Are you working on new material?
Yes, we’ve pretty much completed a lot of song but we have a couple more that are works-in-progress. We’ll be putting out a full-length album. We released two singles. The one single, “Glass Animals,” is available on Spotify right now. We’re trying to do this interesting amalgamation of hip hop, rock, and new textures.
Are you friends with other bands and are you planning on any collaborations?
There’s not a lot of collaboration going on right now, but I do like Bring Me The Horizon and how they’re integrating pop in their sound. We’ve been doing that kind of thing for a while, but now more so. It’s really the wave of the future.
People with Spotify are making all these bands into one big playlist. A 19-year-old’s playlist now includes Drake, Lady GaGa, and some metal.
Bands that can morph, ebb and flow, and maintain their main sound while changing it, are going to make it. Muse has this core sound, but they can take it in a lot of different directions. Like that song “Madness.” It’s Prince meets Queen, but it’s still Muse. It’s the same band and that band is popular because they have the ability to change.
Can you make it without airplay?
Yes, I know you can. The biggest example of that is all these underground rappers. Hopsin is blowing up and has a buzz. Lamb of God is a good example too.
Have you played St. Louis before?
Yes, but it’s such a blur (laughs). We definitely have some fans there, so we’ll see you Thursday.
SEPTEMBER MOURNING ON TOUR:
TONIGHT: Thursday 28 February 2019
Fubar, St Louis, MO, US
Friday 01 March 2019
Atkins, AR, US
Saturday 02 March 2019
Rockhouse Live, Memphis, TN, US
Sunday 03 March 2019
with Smile Empty Soul
The Concourse, Knoxville, TN, US
Tuesday 05 March 2019
Voltage Lounge, Philadelphia, PA, US
Wednesday 06 March 2019
Stage West, Scranton, PA, US
Thursday 07 March 2019
with Smile Empty Soul
Dingbatz, Clifton, NJ, US
Friday 08 March 2019
Wally’s Pub, Hampton, NH, US
Saturday 09 March 2019
Webster Underground, Hartford, CT, US