Interview: Felix Reyes of Pathos Trio Talks About ‘Polarity’ and Combining Classical with Hard Rock

Pathos Trio is the intersection where classical and rock music meet. The trio, which is made up of percussionists Marcelina Suchocka and Felix Reyes, and pianist/composer Will Healy, is based out of New York and are, ostensibly, a modern classical group, or more specifically a chamber contemporary new music group.

But what makes them stand out from their chamber contemporary peers is that Pathos Trio is working on incorporating non-classical musical elements including elements of electronic, synthwave, post-rock, alternative rock, and heavy metal. The result is a modern classical act with a tendency towards the dark and heavy.

The sophomore album from Pathos Trio, Polarity, came out in September and, on it, we see Pathos Trio performing pieces from six different composers. In addition to the music that combines the classical and the non-classical, music videos were shot for every song on the album, creating a unique and contemporary visual experience that makes them stand out in their field.

Pathos Trio’s Felix Reyes took some time out of the group’s busy schedule to sit down and talk to New Noise Magazine about their new album and bringing non-classical influences into classical.

On Polarity, you perform six different compositions from different composers. How did you get connected with the artists who compose each piece?

All the music that we perform we commission from composers, so it’s a little bit out of the norm I guess in terms of artists that you normally cover for New Noise Magazine. Our group’s a quasi—on paper—chamber contemporary new music group. And then, on the flip side, we’ve been going more in the direction of being a band as you will, where, through technique and aesthetics, we identify as a classical chamber new music group, but we’re also playing (music) that dives into various different genres such as electronic music, synthwave music, there’s elements of minimalism in the music that we play, obviously alternative rock, heavy metal, these are all genres and things that are pretty apparent in any album.

What’s the collaboration process? Right? Do these composers work with you on these pieces?

Exactly, yeah, and, and usually the way the process works is that, at the beginning, we as the group, we do our research ahead of time, and we usually try to look up competitors at least a year in advance so we can really be taking time to identify with composers and artists who whose music we resonate with a lot and who we feel then comfortable reaching out to and saying, Hey we really want to work with you, we’re really all digging the music that you make, would you be interested in collaborating with us in writing a piece or track for for the group? And that’s usually how that conversation starts. So we were always the ones that reach out to the composers that we work with. And then throughout the process, we collaborate with them and we go back and forth and to creating the final product which is the piece

And then why did you why did you want to bring in things like post rock and metal and alternative rock into your music? Why do you want to combine the non-classical and the classical elements?

Yeah, so I mean, that’s actually how the group formed originally. Everyone in the trio, myself, Marcelina, and Will—Will’s a newer member the group, the original pianist was a friend of ours called Alan Hankers—between myself Marcelina and Alan, when we formed the group, we’ve all studied and done graduate studies at very strong classical contemporary new music programs but, at the same time, outside of classical contemporary music, we all have very similar overlap in terms of interest in non-classical music.

Myself, Marcelina, and Alan, we had a very strong affinity and interest in listening to heavier music such as alternative rock, heavy metal, electronic music. So when we formed the group, we told ourselves essentially that, OK, there’s a million and one chamber new music groups out there, if we’re going to seriously be a group, what are we going to do as a group that’s (going to make us stand out differentiate us from from other groups that are doing similar things. But at the same time, it’s something that’s not gimmicky but it’s something that’s natural to us and our interest in those various genres. Our goal as a group is taking the heavier, darker aesthetics from those different genres of music and bringing them into the chamber new music world.

This album was the first time you had included electronic elements in your music. Why was that an important change you wanted to make, and how did that make this album different from your previous work?

Yeah, when it came to putting together the album this time around, we had to take a moment and really look back on the first album that we released, it was called When Dark Sounds Collide. And I think with that album it was a good starting off point for the group in terms of exploring what we want to do. And then this time around, with the batch of composers that we worked with, and compiled this album together with, after the experience of putting together our first album, we really knew what we wanted.

And I think the direction of the group; we’ve been steering more towards trying to be like this quasi-band, being more on the on the side of being a band. But again, on paper, you could technically consider the group to be a chamber, contemporary music trio. And so incorporating electronics was definitely a big shift and departure from our first album. But I think the more we’ve been going that direction, I think we’ve been finding our voice a lot more. I think this is going to be a road that we’re going to continue to go down in the future.

And you put together videos for every song on this album, although I think some of them are still being released. Why did you find it so important to have that visual component as well?

I think for us, especially as we all come from classical chamber music backgrounds, we have a lot of friends who are in various different chamber music ensembles. And the one thing that I feel that we understood from the get-go when we formed the group—and we did the same thing with the first album; we released music videos for all those tracks—but we realized from the beginning that that’s one of the areas where chamber new music groups struggle is that they focus so much on the aural aspect, the audio.

I think, in today’s world, people consume music so much digitally, especially in a place like New York City, which is where we’re based. People are always on their phones and on the go. So I think we knew from the beginning that being able to give folks not just audio recordings, but to really give a whole holistic experience, not just an aural experience, but a visual experience that people can digest. And honestly,  that’s been really helpful. And it’s been to our advantage because I think most people tend to digest our music through the music videos.

And where did the ideas come from for these videos? I know they’re made by Four/Ten Media, but do they collaborate with you on that? Or do they come to you with fully formed ideas?

We collaborate with Four/Ten, and we go back and forth. We’ve had a really personal strong relationship with Four/Ten before, each of us in the group individually before we even formed the group. So we already knew Evan Chapman and Kevin Eikenberg; they’re the duo that run Four/Ten. So we all knew their work before forming the group. And then when we did form Pathos, we knew if we’re going to be putting together music videos, we want to be working with them because, in terms of the video work that they do and where we’re based, they’re definitely one of the best at what they do. And they work with Grammy-nominated (and) Grammy Award-winning artists pretty regularly. And so we always reach out to them and we always go back and forth in terms of when we’re gonna work on a music video, what’s going to be the visual story for the particular thing that we’re recording.

Okay, so you’ve just put out the album; what’s the next thing that’s coming up for the Pathos Trio?

Right now, we’re in the middle of heavy Grammy campaigning. We have the album submitted in four different categories for the Grammys this year. So we’re heavily promoting the album from now until first ballot voting ends next Friday, October 20. This year also marks our fifth year anniversary as a group so, shortly after Grammy voting campaigning is done, we have our fifth year anniversary benefit on November 5, which is on a Sunday like two weeks after. So next month is super hectic. And then obviously, after our benefit, our whole spring is gonna be packed. We’re touring and doing university performances all over all over the Midwest and in the East and the West Coast. And we’re also forming to be a nonprofit. So there actually is quite a bit of stuff that’s in the works for the group.

Polarity is available for order now from Imaginary Animals. Follow Pathos Trio on Facebook and Instagram for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Devin Barnes

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