Salt Cathedral - Interview

mesmerizing sonic architects

By: Emilio Herce

November 08, 2014

" We are where we come from and what we have lived, and all those experiences amount to how we sound. "

Salt Cathedral’s latest EP, "Oom Velt," is a richly textured, futuristic affair. Made up of swirly, intertwined parts, close inspection reveals an openness to symmetry too. At its heart, each song is centered around the breathless vocals of Juliana Ronderos, who shape-shifts as she mesmerizes. We chatted up drummer Tommy Hartman recently, who brought us up to speed on how the band got their sound.

Salt Cathedral rose from what your former band il abanico was. The difference, however, seems not to be just the name, but something genetic.

Tommy Hartman: You're right, it definitely holds something genetic. We are where we come from, and all those experiences amount to how we sound. Il abanico, in a way, nurtured what Salt Cathedral and Oom Velt became. Maybe il abanico's end was inevitable so that we could morph into Salt Cathedral.

How have your travels, as a band and individually, affected your perspective? I know you toured Japan recently.soul

TH: Bogota, [unlike] other cities in Colombia that are not permeated with their own strong culture, has given us this attitude of exploration and need. We grew up wearing American clothes and listening to local music like vallenatos, but also a lot of American music too. There was even an underground metal scene influenced by Swedish metal bands. I think the moment we leave the country, and start to discover a world so full of diversity, we kind of feel the right to take on what we like and make it part of who we are.

Does religion or its imagery have an influence on the music?Yes, Catholicism is very important in Colombia and even thos

TH: Yes, Catholicism is very important in Colombia, and I would say I live a life based on Catholic values, because it's so much a part of our culture. We see images constantly, and most towns in Colombia are set up like old Spanish towns, centered around a square that holds the church and the city government. Spirituality and music are deeply connected -- from African tribes, to Indian ragas, to European Gregorian chants.

Your sound has evolved considerably, and now incorporates a lot more electronic instruments and samplers. How has this changed your stage setup? What are the biggest challenges of translating your sound to the stage?

TH: Our setup changed from a five-piece band (two guitars, bass drums and vocals) to a three-piece with the addition of electronic instruments. The biggest challenge has been finding the balance between what is recorded and what sounds live. Our recordings have a lot of details that may be lost in a live setting, so we have to approach them as different animals and understand that live music is about the energy and the actual music and the vibe and sometimes not the little click clacks that can be heard in the headphones.

Imagine a scenario where you can, from now on, only put out recorded music or play live shows. Which would you choose, and what is the importance of each medium to your band? 

TH: I think we would choose putting out recorded music over playing live shows because even though it's a much harder process - to imagine, write and record music, it's so rewarding when you can get to something you are happy with. I mean, it's self-indulgent of course but creating something from nothing is pretty magical.

Both mediums are super important to us. For our live show we just did a light set up where we have some panels that look like giant moons and they have lights projecting through them. These lights are programmed to the music and the intention is to create an involving experience for the audience. When people listen to your recorded music, you have no control over the experience - some listen on headphones and others on laptop speakers, some play it as background music and others blast it. But the magic of a live show is that we get the opportunity to create an experience - we choose the lighting and the dynamics and the set list. It sometimes feels like an entirely different 'craft' and we really want to embrace that.