Roundabout 2014, Preservation Pub employees Jake Lonas, Kurt Bell, and Nick Leichtweis got together in a heavily sound-proofed practice room and founded a three-piece metal outfit they dubbed Realm, a doomy little trio with a penchant for beer-drinking, big riffs and sci-fi musings.
They aspired to little more than having a good time. “It was very humble beginnings, very organic, ‘Dude, do you want to get together and jam?'” explains drummer Leichtweis. “An unlikely gathering of the kitchen guy, the sound guy, and the bartender.
“We’d all seen each other play with other projects, and we all wanted to do something different. So we started bullshitting about starting a rock band.”
Over time, Realm gathered steam. They released a four-song demo forthwith, designed a handful of T-shirts, which were readily purchased by eager Pub patrons. And in early 2016, they released their self-titled full-length debut on Bandcamp, nine insistent, Sabbath-inspired metal tracks notable for the band members’ musical sympatico, their collective obsession with literate science fiction, and for Lonas’ stentorian baritone.
Now the band is standing on the cusp of recording another five-song release — “It’s an EP, but the songs are long enough to call it an LP,” Leichtweis says — and embarking on their first mini-tour, a 12-day jaunt in support of popular Knoxville metal act 10 Years in the latter part of January.
“It’s our first real tour, and we’ve been wringing ourselves out to get money together for gas, and to stock up on merchandise,” Leichtweis says. “We’re mainly doing it for the exposure, but maybe we’ll luck out and see just a little in the way of merch sales. Who knows, if three people like us enough to buy T-shirts, maybe we’ll be able to eat.”
Though Realm songs are certainly all of a piece in certain key respects — bracing, generally heavy and guitar-centric, anchored by Lonas’ distinctive howl — Leichtweis says there’s still an appealing elasticity in the band’s approach to songwriting. “In previous bands, I’ve played metalcore, hardcore — you know, basically your regular brand of unentertaining metal,” the drummer says wryly. “And I’d been stuck in that loop for about 10 years.
“In this band, I don’t feel like we’ve been stuck to one sound or one direction. And I love that about what we do. Every song has a little different feel. All we set out to do is to make music that we like. And sticking to just one thing stifles your creativity.”
Of the new album Realm is set to record, Leichtweis says, “We want an EP that will be like a journey, where you won’t see the next song coming. We have a blues-driven number, a song with a swing-y feel, a straight-forward heavy song, and a couple of in-between songs. It’s not that we’re scatterbrained; it’s just that there’s so much we want to do.”
While previous Realm songs — “Sleeper,” “Fatman” and “Desert King” being prime examples — were inspired by Frank Herbert’s space-opera classic “Dune,” Leichtweis says the most recent material stakes out new conceptual territory, while still cleaving to sci-fi themes. He gives a lot of the credit for that to singer-guitarist Lonas, who took on a heavier burden of the songwriting chores for the upcoming EP.
“Jake came to us and said, ‘hey, I’ve got these three songs written; let’s explore them,'” Leichtweis tells. “He really took the lead on this record in coming forth with the skeletons of the songs.
“I think we’re starting down the path of creating our own sort of sci-fi universe, the kind of direction that a band like Coheed and Cambria has taken. We’re creating our own worlds, taking it in a more original and creative direction.”
Realm will play Preservation Pub Friday, Jan. 13 at 10 p.m. with special guests Indighost.