Interview by Laura MedinaMindMaze is an American traditional, progressive, power metal band from Pennsylvania. They released their debut album,“Mask of Lies” that is out now and has received promising reviews to date. They are making a name for themselves by touring with acts like Saxon and providing fans with an experience that will keep fans coming back for more. I got the chance to chat with Sarah Teets, lead female vocalist of MindMaze about her first memory of performing, MindMaze’s debut album “Mask of Lies”, her musical influences, and more. Hi Sarah, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. I hope you are doing well today and thank you for allowing us to interview you today.
Hello!Sarah, you have been singing since your childhood. What was your very first memory of performing on-stage?
My first memory of performing onstage was probably in the 3rd grade. We all had to learn how to play the recorder and then did a concert at school.Sarah, you are a woman who has many other talents, what other instruments do you play aside from singing?
Well I play flute on a track on the album and that’s probably the most prominent “other” instrument I play. I’ve been playing for about 15 years at this point. I also played the oboe and various percussion instruments when I was in high school. I play a little piano and also know some guitar chords, but I wouldn’t at all suggest I’m that great at either of those. HAHAI am really hooked on your music; your album is really amazing and very well written! What can we expect to hear in your latest album “Mask of Lies” that is out now?
Well, you can really hear a bunch of different things. There was a lot of variation on this album stylistically. The whole thing goes from straightforward power and traditional metal with tracks such as “Never Look Back” and “Mask of Lies” to a lot more progressive in tracks such as “Cosmic Overture” and “Dark City”.What was the inspiration behind your latest album “Mask of Lies”?
The album isn’t a concept album or anything, so there really isn’t a much deeper inspiration other than we just really wanted to finally do a full on, professional album. We went by the name Necromance for quite a few years before the band had a sort of re-birth with the name MindMaze and we went out and did this album. Individual songs in there have specific inspirations, for example, “Dark City (Dreaming this Life)” was inspired by the 1998 movie Dark City. That track in particular really follows a story and has an atmosphere that feels like what it’s about. It’s definitely one of the tracks I’m most proud of.We hear lots of heavy, fast, dynamic power guitar riffs as well as catchy, melodic lyrics on your latest album. How would you describe MindMaze’s music, in terms of someone being introduced to your music for the first time?
This kind of depends on what type of person I’m describing us to. For people who aren’t truly “metalheads” I usually honestly describe us as more of a hard rock band, because we aren’t THAT aggressive and for unfamiliar people, the term metal often suggests something heavier than what we do. For the metal crowd, I often say we’re a mix of classic traditional metal (Iron Maiden, Dio, Savatage), with some modern power metal (Firewind, Gamma Ray, Edguy) and also some old school progressive metal/rock (Queensryche, Fates Warning, Rush). We definitely have a fairly broad sound at times, that’s hard to really narrow down in a description.“Mask of Lies” features four songs that were re-recorded from an EP album that was released under the band’s original name, Necromance. What made you decide to re-record the four songs for your debut album?
Well, the four songs we re-did were songs we still felt positively about even though they were around for awhile. The “Necromance” EP was something we did as a result of winning a contest and got to record for free. It came out OK, but it wasn’t really professional or that great of a product and we felt those few songs deserved to be recorded well.“This HolyWar” was one of my favorite songs from “Mask of Lies”; could you explain the meaning behind the song?
Well for this song, the title pretty much suggests the entire subject matter. The song is about religion’s role on war and how for so many years, every version of God has been debated through violence. There have been many metal songs that have this type of subject matter and I just wanted to give my personal take on things.
Aside from Iron Maiden, Tesla and Avantasia being some of your inspirations. What other musicians or bands have influenced your career as a singer?
Well, something interesting that a lot of people probably wouldn’t assume is that I actually wanted to be a country singer when I was younger. I definitely admired powerful female country vocalists such as Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood. As far as rock and metal vocalists go, I usually admire more “rock” and kind of blues inspired vocalists, such as David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes a little more than your traditional “metal” singers. Some of my more modern influences as far as writing melodies and what not go are Russell Allen of Symphony X, Jorn Lande, Urban Breed (Tad Morose, Bloodbound, Trail of Murder) and Jonny Lindqvist of Nocturnal Rites.
I have to admit when I heard the introduction to “Never Look Back”, I felt like I was listening to Iron Maiden for a second then I realized I was still listening to MindMaze. You had me fooled there for a second, if you had to choose one Iron Maiden song to sing, which song would you choose and why?
Ugh. This is such a hard one! Maiden has been such a big, early influence for all of us in the band. There are so many songs I love. We regularly cover “Children of the Damned”, which I really enjoy doing. The melodies are just so great and it’s so much fun to sing.What are your some of your favorite song(s) from “Mask of Lies”?
I think my favorite song in particular is “This Holy War”, but I really enjoy how “Dark City (Dreaming This Life)” came out on the album. I feel like it really sounds like the movie (“Dark City”, 1998) that it was written about. I also enjoy “Cosmic Overture”, which is funny because it’s the instrumental, but I really like how everything sounds in that song. I think it was one of the songs that benefited most from being recorded and having the keyboards added and what not.You have open for British heavy metal band, Saxon on September 17th. What other bands would you love to open up for in concert?
There are so many I would love to open for! I think if we’re talking about bands on the same kind of level as Saxon, on that club circuit, I’d really like to open for Primal Fear, Gamma Ray and Firewind. I think we’d do pretty well opening for those types of bands and I’ve seen them all live a few times and they were all great!If you could tour anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
If I could go anywhere in the world as far as metal is concerned, I would definitely go to Germany. We seem to be having real success selling “Mask of Lies” to Germany and I think if we had the opportunity to perform there, it would be a great experience!Jens Johansson from Stratovarius will be contributing a guest solo on a track for your second album; I bet you are really excited about this! How did you approach Jens about being a guest keyboardist on your second album?
I’ve met Jens before, but we pretty much just became familiar with each other via Facebook. Every so often he will comment on something of mine or what not, so when we got to thinking about guests, he instantly came to mind. He was also an easy choice because we don’t have a keyboard player, and while Jeff can play keyboard proficiently enough to add strings or piano tracks to songs, he can’t do a full on keyboard solo, which would be great to have. Jeff just emailed Jens and asked him and he said yes. It was pretty cool that he was so quick to say yes.What can we expect from your second album and are there any other special guest musicians that will also guest star on your second album that you could tell us?
We’ve officially announced 2 more guests on the album. We’d ideally like to have around 5 or so on the album, so there are still a few in the works. At this point we have 2 guitarists, Matt Johnsen from the US Power Metal band Pharaoh and Jeff Pouring from the US Metal Band Maverick Hunter, one of Florida’s upcoming bands. We also have one singer confirmed, Chad Barnes, also of a US based Power Metal band, the band Draekon. We’re looking for probably one more guitar player and one more singer to add for guests, but we’ll see how everything works out.Supporting female fronted metal bands is something that I love and thank you guys for making incredible music that brings fans from all over the world together. What advice would you give someone who is pursuing a career in the music industry?
Well, it’s hard for me to really give advice on that subject. We aren’t signed and haven’t exactly “made it” just yet, so I wouldn’t really consider myself an expert on how to really be super successful. I can say that the success we have had has come from pure hard work. We really do spend as much time, particularly time on promoting and doing what we can for the band. Yes, a lot of things about this type of career require a certain amount of money, such as recording, but none of us are in a position financially that we can really “blow” money without worrying about it. We all have to work really hard to get money together to do the things we do, so we just try to be honest with people and do things genuinely. So far, people have seemed to respond pretty well to this approach.MindMaze has 3 upcoming shows within the next few months in the Pennsylvania area, what other type of shows do you have planned for the rest of the year?
We currently have one more show booked that’s out of PA, and it will be returning to Baltimore, Maryland. We played back there in August and things went really well, had quite a few fans there singing along, so when we had the opportunity to return, we said yes of course.What are some of your favorite things you like to do during your free-time away from the studio and performing on-stage?
To be honest, I don’t really have much free time, HAHA. I work full time at a bakery, and now I’m back in school as well. I’m going to school for graphic designs. I also really enjoy photography, particularly concert photography when I get a chance to do it.MindMaze has started a Kickstarter project fund online to help fund the recording costs for your sophomore album that is due out in fall of 2014. Congratulations to you and the rest of the guys on exceeding $1, 000 of your $1,800 goal since the start of the project in September. What types of perks are you offering to fans that are pledging money to help you exceed your goal?
Well, the Kickstarter project offered (it ends in a day) a bunch of differed things for fans that contributed. We obviously offered physical and digital copies of both “Mask of Lies” and the upcoming album. In 2 days we will release the 2nd album title. We promised fans that we would do so if we reached $3200 by the end of the project and we’re currently sitting at close to $3400. We also offered an exclusive t-shirt, special thanks in the booklet, signed drum heads, commemorative plaques, an exclusive bonus track, exclusive updates and an opportunity to participate in the recording of gang vocals on the album. We tried to give a lot of things that would get people excited and tried to offer realistic packages as well. We tried to make it easy for our international fans to participate just as easily as the ones located here in the US.Anything else you’d like to say to our fellow Femme Metal Webzine readers and to your supportive fans?
I just want to say thanks for everyone’s support! I apologize for taking so long to complete this interview and get this out there for all the fans. I just have been very busy and wanted to make sure I took the time needed to really go into detail when answering all these questions. Thank you so much!