James Arsenian of Endast

Endurance; “Out of that scene we came up in, there aren’t many bands that are still together. Endast stuck it out, and my life is better because of it.”

Eight years in and on the verge of releasing their fourth album, Montreal’s Endast have persevered as they’ve witnessed others rise and fall. In a sense, they’ve lived up to the band’s namesake; an Icelandic translation of the word ‘enduring’. As the follow-up to 2011’s “Black Cloud” comes to fruition, Endast are poised to, in their words, “make metal history” by funding the project through crowd funding.

“We just wrapped up the tracking process, and we are currently reviewing mixes being sent to us by Jon Howard. Working with Jon and Bjorn Strid, we were really pushed hard to give the best performance possible. Being fans of their bands and having their input on this record, you can definitely hear elements of both Threat Signal and Soilwork on this record. Don’t get me wrong, it is very much an Endast record…but their fingerprint is definitely there as well.

“As independent musicians we don’t have the financial backing of a label to get in the studio. We’ve got a variety of avenues for raising funds at our disposal as an indie band, and we explored many of them before this one. We played shows billed specifically as fundraisers and we hit the road as much as we could, we do our best to sell merchandise along the way. We’ve applied for grants and we hustled at our day jobs and gathered as much as we could out of pocket. Working with a crowd funding program, like pledge music, was our last option. We ran out of time, and hit the studio and had to resort to a fundraising method that didn’t involve us being on the road, since we’d be in the studio.”

The reaction, however, to the idea of asking funds from fans has left some with a bitter taste in their mouths and has been a source of slight conflict. “I think people in general don’t fully understand crowd funding yet. These websites essentially set up an elaborate pre-order system for your album. Anyone who pledges gets the new album before anyone else. The site also allows for people to pledge larger amounts in exchange for increasingly elaborate and cool product packages and experiences with the band. Most people don’t see the behind the scenes aspect of this type of campaign. Everything needs to be approved by the site, and the promotion of the campaign is strictly monitored.  The fact of the matter is that the album will be done way before we see that money, so we are still paying out of pocket. These sites simply add an element of interaction with the bands that isn’t there in a traditional pre-order campaign. Most people seem to think this is bands looking for a handout, when in fact we’ve worked really hard to make sure that people get a lot of value for any amount of money they want to pledge. They are buying a product and experience, not handing over money and hoping the band doesn’t spend it on booze and hookers.”

Any hostility the band may have faced on that front is not the de facto response they are slowly getting used to. They shared stages with some legends of the genre at Canada’s two biggest open air festivals, HeavyMTL and HeavyTO. “Pulling up our van next to a dozen tour buses was really humbling.  Everything was a new experience. Being relatively unknown, we had no idea how it was going to go over, but for whatever reason, people seemed to really like us. It never ceases to amaze me when someone wants a picture or autograph… and to be considered good enough to play on the same stage as so many of the bands that I grew up listening to, was a landmark experience for me. I Never thought I’d see the day where other people thought I was good enough to play on the same stage as Anthrax….  pretty rad!“

The whole thing was captured on camera, too, and will be part of a DVD the band is gearing up to release. “We worked with director Adam Reider, who followed us around last summer for a few dates and filmed some shows and behind the scenes stuff. The result is a nearly 2 hour, brutally honest documentary called ‘Where I Belong” that gives fans a lot of insight into what it takes to be in a shitty underground metal band. It is slated for release in July. We’re currently gathering all the bonus materials for the DVD itself, and we’re going to set up a downloadable digital version of the documentary as well for real cheap, so stay tuned to our website for that stuff.”

With well over eleven-hundred shows played to date, you’d be hard put to find a harder working Indie band. You would also be a fool not to think Endast didn’t already have another cross-country tour plotted out. “We live on the road for the most part. We’re talking about a coast to coast Canadian tour in fall of this year to promote the new record and the DVD. There are rumblings of bigger tours in the works as well that will see us play in some places we’ve never been”. As a testament to the time spent roaming highways, cooped up in a miniscule van with four other over-tired, over-worked fellas, well, our man in question here penned himself a book on the topic! “What a nightmare…. the book is written. I’ll spare you the tragic details, but due to an absolutely unbelievable series of technological failures, I lost all my work.  The idea now is to possibly put together a DVD since the ‘band tips’ episodes on my Youtube channel seem to be quite popular. We’ll see what happens. But yes, I’ve learned by making mistakes that were completely avoidable over the past seven years. I’d love to help younger bands avoid the same mistakes.”

His band tips are not the only video of his currently tearing up Youtube these days, either. Arsenian has been hard at work putting together a morning show all of his own, Regis, eat your heart out! “The idea stemmed from my daily morning posts on Twitter and Facebook and people’s positive response to them. It was suggested to me that it might be entertaining to have a morning show. Since nobody is going to hire my ugly ass to be on TV, and I wouldn’t have time for it anyway, so I decided to do put together the Youtube channel. The concept is just like any morning show, in that there are guests, musical performances, cooking segments etc., but I can also use it as a platform to remind people that life is good and that there’s a lot of fun to be had. It’s all about positivity and goodness. The response has been great; people from all over seem to dig it. My mom and brother have been on the show and they are getting recognized in public for it, so that must mean we’re doing something right.” Believe it or not, the visual onslaught doesn’t end there. “. I got a rad camera to do the morning show with, and in the process of learning how to use it, I figured I’d try my hand at making music videos for bands. We all know bands don’t have a ton of money to throw around, so doing this helps the bands I work with and it helps me to learn a bit more, so why not?” (I’m the one asking the questions ‘round here! – Ed)

How is it that the band has found sponsorship from Jagermeister and Godin Guitars yet remains unsigned in terms of a record deal? “Well, to be honest, we’ve always tried to carry ourselves and present ourselves as a professional act. In doing so, we learned that there’s not much a label can do for us that we can’t already do for ourselves. With that knowledge, we were never eager to sign the first contract put in front of us, like so many other bands we know. So over the years as offers have come in, we’ve politely declined and counter-offered, but have yet to come to agreement with a label. We love being independent, and the control it allows us, but we also realize that we are reaching a level where having a label on our side might benefit us. So we are definitely exploring the option for this new record.”

Younger brother, Chris Arsenian, is in Endast with Big James and the oldest, Sean Arsenian, is doing well with The Great Sabatini – it’s a family affair with these lads. “We come from a pretty musical family. Our father plays guitar, so do many of our uncles and cousins and so forth. Honestly it just sort of came naturally. I’ve never had the discipline to be able to learn an instrument, but I wanted to be involved, so I started screaming into a microphone. It worked out pretty well for me. We’ve been very fortunate to have parents who fostered this desire to play music and tour and all that, so I guess you could say it’s in our blood and it has been fostered in our upbringing.”

“Inveigh was my first band, and I did my first cross Canada tour with that band. When we got back home, things sort of fell apart. I had already been filling in with Endast towards the end of Inveigh because Paul, who is now in Blackguard, left Endast to pursue other ventures. Since I was already in there, and my main band had fallen apart, I just sort of stayed in the band. It was never supposed to be permanent, but I’m so glad it was. Out of that scene we came up in, there aren’t many bands that are still together. Endast stuck it out, and my life is better because of it.”

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