At first glance, September Mourning instantly draws comparisons to legendary theatrical rock acts such as KISS, Alice Cooper, Angel, or Marilyn Manson. However, this larger-than-life entity has quickly proven to be far more dimensional than it’s predecessors. In fact, it’s one of the most captivating creative endeavors ever unleashed on the pop culture landscape. A transmedia project spawned by musician/singer Emily Lazar and legendary Top Cow founder/artist Marc Silvestri, September Mourning inhabits multiple worlds and media lanes in the form of a theatrical rock band, social media presence, and masterfully constructed comic book series.
Top Cow Productions’ gorgeously illustrated graphic novel provides the base on which the world of September Mourning is built. The story begins simply enough — September Mourning has no past that she can remember, only a strange and shadowy present filled with the voices of the dead. Turned into a unique hybrid by the former Reaper of the lonely, injured, and abused, she is the only human/reaper to exist. Tasked with reaping the souls of the worthless by her mysterious tattoo, September hides and protects them until she can help them realize the last thing they’ve left undone in life. Whether it’s aiding souls to expose abusers, finding lost loves or settling old debts, in each case September is guided by voice of the Skullfly, which only she can hear. September’s adventures are also chronicled through the band’s 2016 Sumerian Records debut, ‘Volume II.’ This is where the cinematic Los Angeles heavy alternative quintet, comprised of September [vocals], Riven [guitar], Wraith [guitar], Shadou [bass], and Stitch [drums], provide an epic soundtrack to the story. Cutting it’s razor-sharp teeth while touring alongside the likes of Marilyn Manson, Otep, Avatar and more, it wasn’t long before they had earned the reputation as one of the can’t miss acts in all of rock ’n’ roll. Quite simply, September Mourning has already shattered the mold of the conventional rock band archetype by providing die-hard fans around the globe with a one-of-a-kind multi-media experience. Best of all, it’s just getting started!
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with September Mourning (Emily Lazar) to discuss the origin of the groundbreaking transmedia project, the challenges she has faced along the way, and what fans can expect in the near future!
How did you get involved in the arts early on?
It started with me being a ballerina from the time I was 4 years old. When I was around 12 years old, I went to a performing arts school when I was really young and I started doing theater, dance, movement and art, so I had a background in all those areas from a very young age. For my entire life, I have always been on stage and created things!
Who impacted you at an early age?
Musically, my parents listened to stuff like David Bowie, KISS, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Annie Lennox, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and a lot of stuff based in strong writing and who were artists that included a lot of theater in their art performance. I think that rubbed off on me at a very young age. When I got older and wanted to do a project, I wanted do something that had a lot of theater within it all.
When did music take hold of you and start to be a medium you focused on?
Being part of a performing arts school, I was always studying it but I didn’t decide to take it on as a career until I was about 20 years old. I had to stop being a ballerina because of a really bad accident. When that career shutdown, I moved on to a new career path in music.
September Mourning is a very unique and ambitious project. What sparked the initial idea?
September Mourning was born out of a couple of things. Knowing how the internet was taking hold in the world of music and creating an interesting place to put out a project that was more geared toward multi-media was intriguing to me. I thought it would be really cool to try to do something in that space. It also came from my love for comic books, my obsession with death, the afterlife and things like that, added to my theatrical background and love for music, drove it, as well. All of that came together and culminated into the project you see now.
What was it about September Mourning that made you want to tell her story and build a world around her?
I was obsessed with death from a very young age. I think September Mourning has become a way for me to face a lot of demons and fears. It allows me a way to explain some of the things that may happen after you die. It’s my interpretation of what I would love to have happen after you die! I would love for this world to be created. It’s my world and the world I would want to put out there, so that is where it came from.
In the very early stages of building this project, did you have goals or aspirations you were eager to achieve?
It has always been a transmedia project. Telling the story across different platforms has always been the goal. It took awhile to flesh it out and get it to the point where it needed to be but I’m pretty secure in the fact of where it is now. The storyline is very well developed, along with all the other elements on this project.
Marc Silvestri is a legend in the world of comics. How did the two of you cross paths?
The comic book industry is a very special industry to me. Working with Mark is a dream for me because I have always loved his work. We actually met online which sounds really weird! [laughs] We met through social media and I pitched him the idea of the transmedia project. He said, “This sounds really weird and awesome. I definitely want to talk about it more!” We ended up talking about it for a while and ultimately met up and talked about it some more. He said, “Let’s do it! Let’s try to make this work!” That’s how it came to pass. When things are right they just kind of have fallen into place and that’s how the collaboration happened with him. I have learned so much from the comic book industry. Top Cow and Marc Silvestri are amazing people who really know their business, so it is a pleasure to be working with them.
What were the biggest challenges along the way?
Keeping track of all the moving parts! [laughs] It’s a crazy amalgamation of all these different media outlets and we continue to add more and more to the soup. Being able to have the time to make sure everything is running properly is a challenge. I am very blessed to have a good group of people around me that really hold things together. When I can’t do things, they can do things and vice versa. I think it’s very important to have a good team behind you!
You developed a passionate fan base with September Mourning. What resonates with them so powerfully?
I think the redemption part of the story really resonates with everyone. I think we all want a second chance, at some point, when it comes to different aspects of our lives. We’ve all done something where we wish we had made a different choice. This whole story is created around that kind of feeling. When it comes to the music, I think people enjoy it and the life stage show as well.
Let’s focus on the music for a moment. What can you tell us about your songwriting process for the project?
The music is all based around the comic book story. Everything feeds into that. The songwriting process stems from those emotions and places that the characters are in. I try to write the songs so that they’re not super specific toward the comic book, so it’s not as if every word is in the comic book itself. It’s not like Coheed and Cambria who are very specific about their songs and story. I try to make it a little more general. I take the emotion of the characters and write the songs depicting that emotion. If you really like the story, you can just enjoy the story. However, if you like the music as well it all ties in together. I wanted to make each part able to stand on its own but also feed together as a cohesive storyline.
When it comes to songwriting, the general rule is some songs come easy and some are harder to nail down. Did you experience that with any of these records?
A lot of the songs on “Vol. II” were written very fast because, I find, if it’s a good song it comes easier. If I have to labor on it, it never really turns out. On “Vol. II,” there is a song called “Skin and Bones” that was written with a certain tonal flavor musically and we had to re-write it about six or seven times to get it into a different place for the record. That wasn’t really rewriting the melodies or lyrics but the actual music itself. It came down to figuring out what we wanted to do with that lane of music. That was a little bit on the frustrating side! [laughs] However, I think we got to a really good place with that and I’m really happy with the way it turned out!
How has the stage show for September Mourning evolved?
It’s definitely more visual, in regard to telling the story, than it has ever been. That is going to continue to develop. We are unveiling a new show for these headline tours, so I’m really excited to keep building it and making it something that is really awesome!
What are your biggest creative milestones for this project?
Yeah! We’ve accomplished a lot through the years. We have toured a lot and brought the comic book to stores! In June, it’s hitting the shelves of your local comic book stores, so please go there and order it there or online at www.topcow.com. We would love everyone to support the book and it really helps! It’s really exciting to see it in stores. As I said, we have toured extensively with this project, so each time we go out there and perform it gets even better. We have a lot of media that will be coming up soon, along with new videos. It feels like every time we do something it becomes a milestone, so it’s hard to pinpoint one that’s really special. They are all really special!
Fair enough! The comic book is headed our way in June. Where do you see September Mourning headed in the near future?
There will be more media and telling of the story across different media lanes. I’m really excited to be getting it out there, getting it in front of people and showing the world the project like this can exist on different planes. We are also working on “Vol. III.” We are currently writing songs and I’m creating another issue of the comic book. We are in the beginning stages of it but it’s moving along quite well! As far as the music goes, our music keeps on changing and developing. I think it’s that way for a lot of musicians; your sound keeps developing over time. We are very excited to explore our music and the elements that we bring into it to bring it to life. I think that’s a very important part of being a current artist. You have to keep changing and evolving.
Is the full story of September Mourning fleshed out in your mind?
Parts of it are. We have a four issue arc, with the first two issues being out, that we are working on now. Those will culminate in the graphic novel. Beyond that, I’m working on something that I can’t reveal quite yet that has another story arc. There’s so many story arcs with this character because it’s not just about September Mourning the character but all of these souls that she is swapping in and out of people. All of those people’s stories are wrapped up into her story, which is an overall story arc into what is going on. There’s so much to do and he could go on and on and on. I don’t see a very distinct ending to the story. I think that’s another thing that makes it exciting on my behalf. It could go forever if it wanted to.
When you look back on all you have done and created, how have you evolved as an artist?
I do look back on the songwriting a lot. I look at some of the older songs that I’ve written and compared to what I’m doing now and it’s like night and day. It’s crazy how you evolve as a songwriter. That is the bones of the project — the songs that tell the story. I think it’s very interesting to take a look at.
September Mourning is primary focus at the moment. Are you interested in creating music outside that world at some point?
There’s always a chance. I’d like to do some other things musically. I have been messing around with some ideas and I hope that I get to do that at some point. However, September Mourning takes so much of my time and attention and there are so many moving parts on this project that it’s really hard to start something else on the side. With that said, I don’t like giving anything less than 100% and I like to stay focused on what I do.
Anyone can look to you as an inspiration with all you accomplished. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
Art is ever-changing. It’s always moving. It’s like a river and it’s constantly moving. As an artist, you are constantly changing. I think it’s important to be open to those changes, inspiration and growth. The minute you say no to something is the minute you shut down as an artist. It’s important to keep your mind open and let that inspiration in. You also hear about the 10-year overnight success! [laughs] It’s never the overnight success you see. A lot of hard work gets put into a project. If you look at any successful project, dig down into it and find someone successful, chances are they have been doing it a very long time. If you’re just starting out as an artist, know that there is no quick road to the top. No matter what the top may be for you, it’s always a long and winding road. You have to be in it for the journey and that takes a lot of dedication!
Thank you for your time today and for the blood, sweat and tears you have put into the project. We will continue to spread the word!
Thank you so much, Jason! I really appreciate it.
Follow the continuing adventures of September Mourning through social media via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Visit the official website of September Mourning at www.septembermourning.com.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.