With the release of Iron Sun, this Montreal metalcore band is here to stay
“Growing up, I never knew how to sing,” said Cody Dodds, “But I definitely knew I wanted to sing.”
Janitor by day at the Notman House, a burgeoning startup hub, Dodds moonlights as the lead vocalist in Montreal-based metalcore outfit Red Skies. The band recently celebrated the release of their debut full-length with an album launch at Piranha Bar on Oct. 29. The album, entitled Iron Sun, was released independently through various streaming services and online platforms.
Like most, Dodds wasn’t initially into heavier music. “I didn’t know shit about music. I was just always listening to the radio because my mom always had the radio on,” he said lightheartedly. His introduction to heavy metal and punk came at the age of 12. “My brother was always really into punk rock music. He was always listening to a lot of music that was heavy on power chords, which really made me want to learn them. I eventually got a guitar but never really got good at it,” he said with a laugh.
Though he got his start trying his hand at the electric guitar, Dodds soon found an interest in vocals, specifically screaming. It all started with an interest in the screamo bands of the mid ‘00s, screaming along to From First to Last and Underoath songs in a basement in the company of friends, but Dodds would soon learn to hone his voice. “I never did any exercises until I met this jazz guitarist when I was 17,” Dodds said. “He taught me a lot about musicality and technique. I started comprehending vocals more as an instrument and learned how to do breathing exercises. With screaming, you run out of breath really quickly.”
Dodds quickly made the rounds across the Montreal metal scene, fronting numerous bands over the next few years including Four Feet & Fur, Veridian Cityscape and Kid Icarus, recording an EP with the latter. “We recorded with Kevin Jardine of Slaves on Dope,” said Dodds of his experience. “That was the first time I was ever in a real studio. It was really fancy and had its own little vocal booth.”
The bands didn’t work out unfortunately, splitting due to personal differences. “There were too many little differences between the members. We’re all still friends though.”
Having spent most of his teenage years in bands performing shows and playing music, Dodds suddenly found himself without a band, sending him into a more troubling place. “I’ve always been in bands. It’s very therapeutic,” he said. “I suddenly hadn’t been in a band for a long time and I found myself partying all the time, doing a lot of drugs and not really being in school. Just having a really bad direction in life.” That’s when his friend Justin Furtado, lead guitarist in Red Skies, reached out to him, effectively ending Dodds’ hiatus from the music scene. “Justin hit me up and asked me, ‘Do you wanna be in Red Skies?’ and I just said ‘Fuck yes. I need this right now.’”
Dodds has been with the band ever since, with every subsequent show topping the last both in terms of turnout and precision. “Ever since the En Route to Heavy MTL showcase we did in May 2014, we’ve had a lot more attention and exposure.” The band also recently released their debut full length record entitled Iron Sun, recorded, mixed and mastered by Antoine Lussier of mathcore band Ion Dissonance. In the two years he’s fronted the band, Dodds has noticed incredible progress, refueling his passion for music but also helping him feel validated in his pursuit of the musician’s dream. “I remember I was in Bangkok sitting on the roof of our hostel with [bassist] Tevan Crooks and we received the first post-prod track from our album,” Dodds said excitedly. “It was finally coming to life. All these lyrics I wrote back in university, not paying attention in class, finally became a thing. Ever since then, we all knew this is what we wanted to do!”
Of course, the musician’s life isn’t as easy as it may seem. Though each member of Red Skies is as wholly dedicated to the band as can be, there’s always gear and equipment to buy. “We’re all working jobs on the side of course,” Dodds said. “Most of our money goes to Red Skies though. I essentially pay a rent’s worth to the band almost every month.” Dodds and his bandmates are very aware of the differences between the idealistic and the realistic, always budgeting things accordingly to ensure no nasty surprises. “Everybody’s on the same page. Now, we’re looking into getting a van so yeah, it’s pretty obvious this is something we really believe in.”
While metalcore as a genre isn’t anything new, it’s become quite the crowded space in the last decade; numerous bands have come and gone riding on heavy breakdowns alone only to disappear into the sea. Though Red Skies exist under the metalcore umbrella, Dodds isn’t particularly concerned; “All the bands that we look up to essentially pioneered the genre. We know they’re metalcore but they each bring their own different flavour, which is what we tried to do with Iron Sun.” Dodds also carefully explained how making a solid, consistent record was more important to him and the band than trying to fit a certain label. “It’s more about getting a lot of people into the music and making them hear that ‘Hey! We’re musicians! We can make any kind of music we want.’ We mostly just want people to pick us up and hear us and be like ‘This. This is Red Skies.’”
Though the band isn’t currently signed, Red Skies have operated successfully on a purely independent model. “We’ve had a label come up to us and ask us if we wanted to be signed and have our album paid for,” Dodds said. “We were already almost done the album so we kindly refused. We just didn’t see a need for it.” Rather than jump at the bit at the chance of a record contract, Dodds and his band know full well the risks and rewards attached to being in this industry. In the end, the music is all that matters to Red Skies. “We’re not after the money at all. If we were in it for the money, we would’ve stopped doing this this three years ago.”
Catch Red Skies opening for The Acacia Strain and Counterparts on Dec. 9 at Foufounes Électriques. Tickets are $20.