Olathia are a modern melodic thrash group hailing from the rock ‘n roll capital of the world, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. We had the chance to shoot a few questions to frontwoman Chris E. to learn more about Olathia, where they came from, and where they’re headed next.
What can you tell me about the origins of Olathia?
Olathia came together after I departed a band called Cellbound. We had wrapped up an eight-year run and had a good time with it, but the band just finished; our drummer retired and we wanted to call it a day. I knew I wanted to do a new project and Jeff, our drummer, reached out to me and said “Hey, I’d be interested in doing something with you,” and I said “Hey, I’d be interested in doing something with you, too.” So he [Jeff] and I got together and searched for a guitar player, put a quick ad out on Facebook and Jake responded, and I knew from Cellbound- we had played many shows together and I was always a fan of his style. In our first jam the three of us clicked immediately, and we knew we all wanted to write the same thing which was just kick-ass, dynamic metal. We wanted shredding solos, we wanted to get a lot of highs and lows in the music, soft parts, heavy parts, good vocals, hard vocals. We just wanted it to be metal and have really good songs. The three of us started writing and shortly after we came across Steve through a Craigsliist ad. I actually knew Steve from the metal scene as well. He’s originally from Columbus [Ohio, USA] and we had crossed paths with him many times in Cellbound and played shows with him. Once he came in he and Jake connected right off the bat. They were music brothers from another mother, you know? We got a bass player in and started writing. At the end of 2014 we did a small little demo so people would get idea of what we were about. In May of 2015 we released our album and now we’re working on the next one.
How does it differ from projects you’ve been involved with in the past?
For me, Olathia is the project where I get to do all of the writing and all of the singing. In Cellbound I shared vocals with Tom, which I fucking loved, but I would write some parts for him, he’d write some for me, you know and I could see a lot of times the whole song and with this band I get to do the whole song, so I really dig that. It’s more of a challenge but I love it. I love it. So for me that’s it, I’m right in the helm
What does this project mean to you? Does it bear any personal significance?
That’s a really good question. Yeah, this project means everything to me. I mean, I feel really fortunate that I get to do something in life that I love 100 percent, get to do it 100 percent the way I want to do it, and I’m able to make time to do it. Not everybody gets that chance, you know? Some people are committed to kids, jobs, school, whatever it is and they don’t always have time to do what they want, or they don’t make the time, whatever it may be. This is just what I’ve always done and what I need to do. It is personal significance, because the whole process of creating something out of nothing and connecting with people from all walks of life is just a pretty amazing phenomenon to me. And to get something out of your head and people get it, it’s like “whoa,” you know, “that’s cool! Let’s go for this ride together.”
What feelings are you trying to invoke in your listeners? What should they think, or how should they feel when they hear Olathia for the first time?
Honestly? I want to punch you in the gut, then I’m gonna give you a big fucking hug and be like, “Yeah! Let’s go drink a beer!” [laughs] I want you to feel, like, intense, man. I want you to feel happy and, like, energetic and just, like crazy, too. That’s how music should make you feel—all sorts of emotions. From just wanting to punch something to just chugging beers with your friends. So that’s really what I want, for people to just fucking jam it and have a good time with it.
What is it like trying to make a start in a city like Cleveland, Ohio, USA?
We are pretty fucking lucky to be in Cleveland. We have the support of our college radio that is phenomenal and world-known, and they’re very strong supporters of the metal scene, so they make it easy and good for us. We also have a lot of clubs that are super friendly for bands as far as putting on your own show or becoming an opening act for a national act coming through. And then there’s a lot of people like yourself [Erin Beese, Metal on Loud] who are doing their own magazine, or podcasts and stuff like that who really are into the live music, you know? We’re kind of like the Nashville of heavy metal. I really do think that. And I think our talent pool is getting stronger all the time, and our recording studios and things that we have accessible to complete a project from start to finish, so I think we’re pretty damn lucky to be in Cleveland.
What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland metal scene? Least favorite?
My favorite thing is just really all the diverse music, and that’s really kind of just the whole music scene, not just the metal scene. There’s a lot of different types of music, different types of bands and it’s supported throughout. And I really feel that there’s a good comradery. As far as the least favorite, you know, there’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” with any show because you’re always the first one there and the last one there, so sometimes I wish I had a little more time on the front end. But you know, you gotta do what you gotta do.
What is it like to be the frontwoman of a female-fronted metal band? Do you feel any pressure to look or act a certain way?
Honestly for me, no. I’ve just always done it. I’ve always sang, I’ve always been in hard rock and heavy metal, so I don’t feel any pressure to look or act a certain way. I get that there are pressures out there, but I don’t look for it so I don’t feel like it gets in my head. I just do my thing and have a good time, and if I’m a chick and you see that I’m a chick, cool, you know? If you see that I’m a musician up there, cool. I’m okay with it and I really don’t feel any pressure, you know. And sometimes I look like Hell, too, because I’m all sweaty and all that, but I’m just up there giving it my all.
You have a very unique identity as a performer. Was it difficult to establish that? Do you feel you faced more or less adversity as a female while developing that identity?
Thank you for that, for saying that I have a unique identity. I do appreciate that. I don’t know how you’d establish that, honestly. I think you’re always trying to be the best “you” and always trying to learn something, or reach more musically. I know for my musical background there’s a big blues and R&B tone to what I do, and that goes back to just digging a lot of Led Zeppelin, you know, some of the Black Sabbath stuff that’s really chunky and it’s got a blues to it, and what I always try to do as a performer and developing my style was people I liked, I just always tried to sing with them. My main influences are Dio, Doro, Dickinson and Dolly, as in Dolly Parton. I think they’re all amazing songwriters and very pure songwriters, and I love the harmonies that Dolly does and she writes some sad-ass shit, man, that makes you cry, too. I like the emotion that she brings out. I just felt I always wanted to make sure I didn’t hide anything. I think that’s the most important thing to me for my identity. I always wanted to give it my all and not be worried. Because you’re putting yourself in the public eye, you’re putting yourself out there, and if you’re going to do that and you’re really going to be honest with it, and to really write things that mean something you can’t have any thin veil over you. So that’s what I really try to do.
What drives you as an artist? As a performer?
For me, it’s simply to love of making something out of nothing that does connect with people. It’s so humbling, it’s so interesting how I do have some young girls who are writing me, and coming to shows and stuff, and saying that it’s given them some strength to do whatever they need to do, or to find their identity at a young age, and that’s cool. So it drives me to be positive with people, you know, and just to make them feel like they can come to a show and forget about any problems and just have a good time and just enjoy one another. Not just us, but like the whole atmosphere of everybody there. And also it drives me because I have this stuff, this stuff in my head, that when I hear the song and we’re writing, like it’ll just pop in there and the story will build, so I really have to get it out. [laughs] I need to get it out of my head so I don’t go crazy.
What is your fondest memory with Olathia thus far?
[laughs] You know, the dudes just make me fucking laugh. There’s a lot of silliness that goes on, and… As far as something… [laughs] We did a show recently out of state, and it was cool. People are really nice when you’re touring and stuff, and you’re hitting the road and, you know, they want to help you out. Give you some food, “Here’s a place to crash,” you know, “Can I buy you a couple drinks?” Whatever it is. So, this dude wanted us to, well offered us, to stay at his condo with him and his wife, they’re about ten minutes away from this venue and we had a four-hour drive home. And he’s like “Yeah, you guys can crash, no problem,” and they were gonna give us breakfast in the morning and all that stuff, and it was just so hilarious because he had promised his sister she was going to get laid that night and she had her eyes on Jeff, the drummer. So that was like a really funny night, and I was hoping he was gonna do it, you know? Take one for the team so we can get some breakfast. But it didn’t roll out that way. So really just a lot of laughs and the people that we meet, those are always big memories and important memories in my mind.
Olathia recently filmed footage for a music video. What can you tell me about this project?
Oh man, that was way fun, way fun. We decided that we wanted to get something out there that was a professional looking video. It’s so great with all the phone and the YouTube ones that people do, but we wanted to do something that showed us on stage, showing the guys shredding, and really wanted it to be like not a crazy storyline or anything, but about going to the show and having fun and the people there. So we did a poll to find out what song people wanted and “Hellhound” ran away with it, so we did the video for that [track]. It will be done in a couple weeks. We really just wanted to do something else- another layer of exposure and something else for people to know about the band.
What do you look forward to most when you get ready to take the stage?
What I look forward to most is looking out at the people in the crowd, and then looking back and you have this tractor beam connection. There’s a lot of familiar faces that we’re seeing at each show, and they’re coming to each show, and man when I see those and we’re both excited to see each other, that’s pretty awesome. And then I’ll see a new face and we’re excited to see each other, too. So I look forward to the crowd, and the energy and the love that they share with us.
Do you have a personal mantra you look to when the going gets tough?
That is an awesome question. I do have a personal mantra. It’s really kind of my life’s motto, and it’s really simple: Don’t be an asshole, and don’t deal with assholes. [laughs] I mean, there’s all sorts of people in this world and I just try to be positive and I don’t want to walk over anybody, but sometimes you gotta walk around them. And I just always forge ahead, keep the focus on what you gotta do or what you want to achieve, and don’t worry about anybody else. I never feel like it’s a competition with anybody else. It’s just about pushing yourself in what you want to do, and if I follow my rule of “don’t be an asshole and don’t deal with assholes,” my life’s pretty peaceful and happy that way.
What are your next steps? Albums, tours?
We’re definitely writing right now, we’ve got four songs completed, two musically and a bunch more in the works. We’re going to have eight of nine tracks on the next album. We’ll probably be recording that in the fall. We’re definitely hitting some shows out of town and doing a lot of “weekend warrior” runs, and a lot of things in the works. We do want to play as much as possible and in different places, and just keep meeting people and having fun.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add for our readers?
Hell yeah! Play the music loud, share it with everybody—not just us, but any kind of metal that you’re into. And go to shows, because that is the pure fucking moment. When you go to a show and you’re in that atmosphere there is nothing, nothing else like that in the world. You could be tired, you could be broke, you could be hungry, whatever. But you just get there and your whole day will change, and it will be for the better. And then the next day you’re like, “Fuck, I’m so glad I went to that! I’m tired, but I’m glad I went to that.”