The autumn equinox: When night and day, delicately balanced in duration, trade shifts so that Day abdicates its summer reign to withdraw in favour of Night’s dominion over the province of winter. Although the onset of cold weather and lingering darkness naturally provokes thoughts of our own mortality waiting for us in the desolate frozen nights, Autumn also promises new beginnings, as we retreat from the encroaching darkness to take refuge indoors, where we can peer beyond our safe circle of light and warmth to perceive that which lurks in the shadows, both within and without.
The music of Los Angeles trio Ides of Gemini similarly casts a glowing circle in the darkness, conjuring a form of mystical dark rock that eschews screams, growls, blistering speed or crushing doom in favour of the supernatural voice and oracular presence of Sera Timms (vocals/bass), accompanied by meticulous riffage courtesy of guitarist J. Bennett and dutifully punctuated by drummer Kelly Johnston.
As explained by Timms in a rare but comprehensive track-by-track breakdown for Revolver Magazine, latest album Old World New Wave, (released on Neurot Recordings, label home to Neurosis, Ufomammut, and Yob, among others) is the psychological analysis and story of a character, “The Emperor” who, over the course of the album’s 10 songs, experiences a significant personal and spiritual transformation demarcated within an alchemical/Jungian paradigm (which may seem excessively esoteric on the surface, but Timms is a professional Tarot reader well-versed in archetypal symbolism.)
Onstage, the band requests stage lights be dimmed in favour of their own backlighting floor units, which eclipse the performers in silhouette, reducing the two frontmost figures themselves to archetypal opposites: male and female, guitarist and bassist, principal songwriter and main vocalist (arguably, none of these concepts is mutually exclusive, but their situation in relative context draws out the obvious distinctions.)
To understand all the nuances of a band so familiar with both its complexities and its various enigmas, a straightforward interview seems insufficient: so, with respect to the the band’s more arcane aspects and in observance of the autumn equinox, Factory Worker Media invited Canadian tarot reader and author Liz Worth (her novel PostApoc is a surreal post-apocalyptic tale of survivalism with occult elements) to reexamine the content of our interview with Ides of Gemini guitarist J. Bennett and explore the band dynamics through the framework of tarot.
Below are several quotes excerpted from an interview FWM conducted with Bennett during the band’s summer 2015 tour with Clay Rendering), followed by Worth’s reading and interpretation:
On the division between Timms’ lyrics and Bennett’s songwriting:
My part of the process, writing the basic structures of the songs, and the basic music – I’m not writing drum parts or anything – it takes a long time but it happens in short bursts, something will happen, I’ll write a part and then the next connecting part might not happen until a few months later.
With Sera, she’s in the position – it’s a little unfair, because she doesn’t get to do her part until I’m done and by then we’re on a timeline with the record – she has to, it’s like a focused thing but she’s good at that, she excels at that and doing things like that, she’s very thorough… There’s way more to the songs than I could tell you about, absolutely. She tells me about all these things and I know generally, about a lot of the songs, but any sort of in-depth explanation would have to come from her.
We are very fortunate to have an excellent singer with significant range, so I try, to the extent that I can, try to do things that I think showcases that. She doesn’t like me to say this but she’s the star of the show, as far as I’m concerned. I have no illusions that these people are here to see me. Which is fine, I don’t really have any interest in being the focus.
We very quickly got to a point, when we first started writing songs together, we had the initial period where I would write some things she would say I like this, I don’t like that, and that was quick; once I knew what she liked it went much quicker because I knew what to do. Also, part of that is, I also knew what I could kind of push her to do, and we still do this now, where I’ll come up with something and she’ll be like, I don’t know, but I’ll say, Do me a favour, just try it. And then she’ll try it and what she’ll come up with we’ll both agree will be really good. I think a lot of that comes from, she does not listen to a lot of rock music, music that would fall into the rock category, it’s not really something that interests her generally, whereas that’s probably the most of what I listen to. Anything that we play that has – and I don’t think we play rock music – but anything that is a little rockier, what you’re hearing is the push and pull of how we work together.
On instinct and portents:
Things happen for a reason – not always, but sometimes – and when something like that happens, that maybe the average person would not think is significant but for you, for some reason, it has a lingering sense of significance, I think you’re foolish to ignore that. To say, that event on it’s surface, is meaningless therefore it is meaningless – I don’t think that’s true. I think if you have that twinge, that that meant something, it probably does.
On the band as a trio and the number three:
The number is very significant for us, threes and triangles, we try to embrace that. Our next record will actually kind of explore that more.
On repression and personal growth through creativity:
Since the beginning of this band, I feel like I’m learning more and more about myself and the way I view the world. It’s helped me a lot, in a lot of ways – again, to go back to [Bennett’s Catholic education], that was very much a process of shutting myself off from something that I felt was bad for me and I think a mistake that I made as I got older was that I started to shut myself off from more things…That’s actually what the people in the church do, so I kind of, through pushing myself away from them, I kind of became one of them, in my own way. I had my own set of rules, they weren’t their rules but I kind of did the same – so this has been a great process of opening.
On the added dynamic that women bring to “dark” music:
I think that is what appeals to me about this band. It appealed to me initially when we started and it continues to appeal to me; I love heavy music in all its forms, but it is still largely a male-dominated – not only the people on the stage, but the people in the audience, it’s all – it becomes a sort of like a testosterone cycle, or it can – you know, mosh pits and things. The older I get, the less that interests me. I still listen to that kind of music, but I want something more dynamic…with [Sera’s] vocals, I think we’re dark AND feminine, I think her vocals enhance the darkness. You know, the left hand path is the feminine path, the feminine side, though you know the lunar – the moon, all that stuff is all feminine.
Ides of Gemini tarot reading, by Liz Worth:
The first word that comes up in this reading is “visions.” Ides of Gemini’s songwriting is created at a visionary level, as though this writing happens as a channeled experience. There is a sense here of being able to see several steps ahead in the creative process, and while there is much wisdom, spirituality, and enlightenment taking place within this process, it never rests solely on one individual. There is a very firm foundation here, one set upon personal accomplishments and respect for collaboration. With much admiration for shared energy, Ides of Gemini’s music comes from a balance that is intrinsic to the three individuals involved.
There is a high level of respect among band members, and it looks like these relationships are deeper than simply working relationships. There is a strong sense of friendship and camaraderie taking place, which allows them to move past creative blocks and tap into each other’s dreams and creative realms. There is a magic in this chemistry that allows the members of Ides of Gemini to access a creative core that does not open up for just anyone.
An underlying message of the music of Ides of Gemini is to empower yourself. If you feel stuck, or unable to move forward, know that you have a choice in moving forward, but you have to be the one to make the choice. It may feel as though external circumstances have taken away your power, but you have more control than you realize.
What can Ides of Gemini inspire in others that they might not even be aware of? That there is more to the world than we are told to believe. Scarcity tactics wear us down, and we start to believe that the future is bleak. But there is something about Ides of Gemini that, again, reinforces personal power, reminding listeners to believe in themselves. Yes, it sounds cliché, but this is music that inspires fans to examine their own fears and move beyond them, realizing that those who change their perceptions of the world are the ones who can transform their realities.
The band’s magic in is self-exploration. For some, this music is meditation, even though it may not seem as such on the surface. Ides of Gemini’s songs bring clarity and confidence to listeners, and fans retreat into this band not as an escape but as a salve.
Worth adds, “This is the Ides of Gemini spread, adapted for anyone who wants to do a DIY reading. I adapted it to fit anyone who is doing anything creative, not just music, as that way it can open things up to different possibilities, as well as to people who do solo work like writing or photography or something.”
Card 1: What do I need to know about where my creative work comes from?
Card 2: How can my relationships with others inspire my creative work?
Card 3: What is an underlying message to my work that I can bring forward?
Card 4: What can I inspire in others?
Card 5: What is the magic of my work?
Special thanks to Liz Worth for her assistance with this piece and to J. Bennett for an insightful interview.