Introducing: Becoming the Lion

Born in a midwestern basement in 2009, Becoming the Lion has evolved from an instrumental solo project to a post-metal four-piece that channels Russian Circles, Deftones, and more. With founding member Ross Blomgren on guitar, and vocals, Dan Mazur on guitar and vocals, Grant Chapman on bass and Dennis Paterkiewicz on drums, Becoming the Lion released the Ghosts of a Fallen Soldier EP in 2018 and unleashed the follow-up EP Unearthly Creature in late-2020. Ross talks us through how Becoming the Lion came to be…

DGM: What are the origins of Becoming the Lion? The band started out as an instrumental solo project?

BTL: Yeah. This project started as a solo endeavour, as a way to progress my musical journey while the High School to College transition created a gap in what I was able to create with my bands at the time. Having a solo project and dabbling in home recording and mixing, I was able to explore and experiment in ways I never would if I had waited for the gang to reunite.

DGM: Becoming The Lion is such an evocative name for a band; so many different meanings spring to mind. What meaning does it hold for you?

BTL: The name was more a call for me to take control of a piece of my life when so much seemed out of my hands. It became the place I could always return to and get a firm grasp on what was important and overcome the obstacles that we all face.

DGM: How did you feel performing your first gig as a band? And how was it?

BTL: This band has had a few ‘first’ gigs as there have been so many transitions from members and phases. The first gig with the current line-up, and with the addition of vocals, was one of the most surreal experiences. Besides the jump from a completely instrumental band to one that is fully realised with vocals, this was the first attempt by myself to sing publicly. It was one of those times where so much just faded away and all that was there was the music and the vibes.

DGM: What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe Becoming The Lion?

BTL: This has been my biggest challenge to date with this project! Truth is, I still have trouble describing what people can expect from it. I like to think it is a blend of bands like Thrice, Deftones, and Hopesfall as some of the bigger influences, but that doesn’t quite set the stage completely. I think someone said it best: “experimental yet familiar”.

DGM: The new six-track EP ‘Unearthly Creature’ has just been released. What was the gestation period of the EP? And what are the lyrical themes running through the tracks?

BTL: This was the second reissued EP where we added vocals to one of my original instrumental EPs. We took a more raw approach to this one, trying something different to some of the past releases. The theme is the inner struggle of one’s self against the creature inside that keeps you down. It’s more hopeful as the triumph closes the EP. There is always some loss that accompanies the battle, but that can’t hold you back from healing and moving forward.

DGM: ‘Unearthly Creature’ is a body of work that takes time to savour; the more time that the listener puts in, the more they get out of it. Is it important to you that the listener tackles it from start to finish in one visit, rather than dipping in and out of it? Or do you feel that it works just as well either way?

BTL: Thanks! I have always been an album guy. I don’t shuffle songs or playlists much, so those ideals follow me to the music I write. I try to write and arrange in such a way that the full effect of the piece is realised in full runs of the EP. I feel like this approach, for me at least, is the best way to create a connection with a listener than singles that come and go just as quick as the next one. That is not to discount anyone’s conflicting experience, it’s just how I have always approached music.

DGM: What goes through your head in the run-up to releasing new music? Are you excited? Nervous? Both?

BTL: It is the worst! I quickly get so overwhelmed by social media and the advertising side of things that I just want to get it out there and move on. It’s unfortunate that this mentality usually sets in before the masters are finished, but such is life I suppose. We all have our quirks!

DGM: In terms of a similar audience, who would be the ideal act for Becoming The Lion to support?

BTL: I think bands like Thrice, Deftones, and Hopesfall. Not only for influences and similar sounds (at times), but for the fact that these bands have such a wide variety of albums, their fan bases appreciate the unexpected. They look for the risks that bands need to take sometimes to move forward, even if it falls short, these oddities can become the hidden gems.

DGM: The new music scene is bursting at the seams with fresh talent. In what ways do you feel a band has to stand out from the others trying to build a name?

BTL: I have never been one to ‘stand out’ intentionally. My goal is to write music I would like to listen to, and do it to the best of my ability as well as push my own limits. I feel as long as a band is not trying to carbon copy someone, there is plenty of room to carve out a space to exist.

DGM: What are your first musical memories? And what was the light bulb moment that made you go “I want to do that!”

BTL: I think for me it was a gradual thing. I was always surrounded by some aspect of music, so playing guitar or plunking a piano is something I’ve been doing in some capacity for as long as I can remember. When I found out how approachable home studio recordings had become, that was the point when I figured I had no excuse not to make this thing a part of my life in some capacity. Even if it’s not a profession.

DGM: Personally, who has been the biggest influence on you becoming a musician?

BTL: Cloudkicker is a one-man band that gave me that kick in the butt to start the whole recording thing. This was also my introduction to the ‘Post’ genres which to this day influence the way I approach songwriting in general. This undoubtedly makes writing vocals more difficult when the songs have loose structures with a forward moving progression, instead of your verse/chorus schemes.

DGM: What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?

BTL: August Burns Red’s 10 Years of Constellations Tour. I caught this at Summerfest. This album was one of those releases during that High School to College transition that just hit me the right way.

DGM: What current social issue are you particularly passionate about?

BTL: I typically stay out of social/political issues. I do what I can to put kindness into this world. I have learned that it is not healthy to concentrate on the things that are out of your control. It only leads you down a path that is hard to come back from.

DGM: What is the album that you have in your collection or Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?

BTL: Goo Goo Dolls. What can I say, Iris is one hell of a song.

DGM: Although 2020 was a year to forget, there was some great music released; what would be your album of 2020?

BTL: I’m usually late to the party for new releases so I don’t have a 2020 AOTY. However, I recently discovered a band called ‘Earthside’ that has been on repeat for most of this year for me. Kind of a ‘Post Progressive’ metal band with an album full of guest vocals. It really has been hitting the spot for me the last bit of the year.

DGM: What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?

BTL: We are pushing forward with the next EP. The hope is to have something ready to go again this year, but only time will tell at this point.

DGM: How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?

BTL: I’m terrible at the social media thing, but Facebook is probably the best place to find everything one needs.

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