Navene Koperweis

Navene Koperweis

by Ben Meyer

After taking time away from doing the band thing to focus on his solo electronic project, Navene K, the multi-instrumentalist is relishing the struggle of leading a group again.

 

Navene Koperweis is used to getting a lot done in relatively little time. The multi-instrumentalist has been a respected member of the progressive metal community since he was in his teens, most notably as the drummer with acts like the Faceless, Animosity, and Animals as Leaders. Recently he’s been making waves with the quartet Entheos.

Soon after being founded in late 2014, Entheos released the Primal EP, landed a deal with Artery Recordings, and toured North America with Veil of Maya, Oceano, Monuments, the Contortionist, and sleepmakeswaves. This past April the band released its debut album, The Infinite Nothing, which it supported this past summer on a domestic tour with Intronaut and Moon Tooth.

After focusing on his demanding electroacoustic one-man-band project, Navene K, which produced two EPs and several singles and toured Europe opening for Tesseract and Animals as Leaders, Koperweis was ready to get back to playing some good ol’ metal in a band situation. “I’m always going to be striving for some sort of goal,” says the thirty-one-year-old West Coast native, whose far-reaching talents behind the board could conceivably enable him to make his mark in the production world. “If there’s no struggle, I don’t think I’ll play drums. I thought that I wanted to [follow a production career path], but the same amount of passion is not there. It took everything I’ve made and everywhere I went to realize that the thing I’m best at is operating in a band as the drummer. Whether I like it or not, it is what it is!”

Entheos’s rise to self-sustainability has been meteoric, progressing from just an idea among friends to a full-blown band with its own van, trailer, merch, record deal, and packed touring schedule. “It has happened remarkably fast,” Koperweis agrees. “We’ve only been a band since December of 2014. The Primal EP came out in March of 2015, and then The Infinite Nothing came out this past April 1. So the band formed, there was an EP two months later, and then an album a year later. The whole thing has been moving really quickly. It’s territory that we’re all familiar with, so it’s easy to do what we want to do.”
In addition to composing much of Entheos’s material, Koperweis produced and mixed the band’s releases—surprisingly, with the exception of the drum tracking. “The sessions for both records were done at the same place,” Navene explains. “I don’t like to be the engineer on the drum side, so I go to a guy named Zack Ohren, who produces projects at Sharkbite Studios in Oakland, California. It’s a beautiful studio.

“For Entheos, I take learning the material very seriously—I learn all of it before I track it. I think a lot of modern recordings are done in a way [where the music is] hodgepodged together. The technology is so advanced that you don’t really need to know how to play your songs. You can kind of play with it and program. Our songs are all written and arranged piece by piece through email. But when it comes time to record the drums, I want to make it a realistic representation of what I actually play, not do it all through programming and then try to learn it later.”

Koperweis, who’s known for being efficient and highly driven in the studio, ripped through his parts for both of Entheos’s releases in record time. “For the drum tracking for Primal,” he says, “I just booked one day in the studio. For The Infinite Nothing I booked three days but did it all in two. I just think where my head is going now, with modern metal being so sterile—with everything being quantized and sound-replaced and all that—I just want to get back to live performance more and more. That’s pretty much what I dedicate all my practicing to. I brought my practice-pad kit on tour, and I practice all the time. My main goal is to get back to live takes, or as close to them as we can do. All of the drum tones on the Primal EP are acoustic except for the kick drum, which is a blend of acoustic and trigger. Then it’s edited to be exactly on time. I’m personally getting tired of the ‘perfect’ sound. It’s almost come full circle.”

Carrying over from his time working on Navene K, Koperweis has laced both of Entheos’s releases with rich, highly detailed electronic elements that help to create something different from other technical and progressive metal acts. Featured both in song intros and within the dense textures of the material on The Infinite Nothing, Koperweis’s electronic ideas go well beyond offering mere bleeps and blips with a beat behind them. “There are fewer electronic beats on The Infinite Nothing,” Navene says. “I was trying to use more noise and create scarier interludes. I did a few electronic intro things that were more similar to what’s on Primal, but I’m leery of repeating myself, so I always try to think of new things to do. There are two intros on The Infinite Nothing that I spent more time on, and there’s more synth work within the songs than there was on Primal.”

When MD spoke with Koperweis, who was touring with a stripped-down four-piece kit, only a few cymbals, and a modest track-playback rig, he said that his attitude regarding triggering his kick live was on the verge of change. “I’m tired of dealing with it,” he explains. “I think I like playing without it more. It’s more fun—but you have to write material that accommodates playing without it. I can’t say, ‘I’m not going to use triggers anymore,’ and then try to do 16th notes at 220. You have to write different parts.”

Koperweis employs a 2box DrumIt Five sound module triggered from his 18″ acoustic bass drum, and uses a sample from Superior Drummer (Toontrack) for his live kick sound. “It’s multi-sampled,” he says, “which is cool. The 2box allows you to put as many samples as you want in there, and it cycles through them all. It’s a cool feature. It sounds great. When I watch videos of us live, the kick is just ripping. If I’m going to ditch it, I need to really think it through and get something really good going.”

Driven through the mundane realities of touring North America in a van by the ecstatic response Entheos has received both online and at shows over the past year and a half, Koperweis says, “It’s that sort of thing that really keeps me going personally, as cheesy as it sounds. People like the band, and it’s encouraging to me to keep going. The reaction that we’re getting off our first album is really great. People come to the show and they tell me how long they’ve been listening to my drumming, and it makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing with my life.

“I don’t think I’ve put this much work into anything else I’ve done in my whole life,” Koperweis adds. “I feel responsible for the band. I write a lot on guitar, so it’s cool to have an outlet for that stuff again. We’re playing the long game. We know our day is coming—but it’s not right now. Right now, it’s just put your head down and do the work.”