While you could just take September Mourning at face value as an exceptionally cool hard rock band, you’d be missing out on an entire world vocalist Emily Lazar has created by tying together music, a theatrical live show and a comic book series. September Mourning, the human-reaper hybrid character Lazar plays, crosses between the human world and Mortem (the land of reapers and a purgatory, of sorts) taking and saving souls. Have we lost you? No worries. There are two full comic collections you can read to get all the more complex details: A Murder Of Reapers and The Hand Of Fate. We spoke to Lazar to fill you in on the basics for the premiere of the band’s new video for “20 Below,” off their first full-length, Volume II.
Much like the band, there’s so much more than meets the eye here: Top secret details we can’t even fully divulge just yet. “I like putting little Easter eggs into videos so people who really know what’s going on, or who have an inkling of what’s going on, can kind of be like, ‘Ohh!’”
What is September Mourning’s backstory?
September is a human-reaper hybrid. She was once a human being, a normal girl, and then Fate—who is personified in our comic series—decided to send a reaper out to take her soul. When he did that, he sent Riven, who fell in love with her, and he didn’t want to take her soul, so instead of taking it, he actually split his soul in half and gave her part of his powers to become a hybrid. So, she has part humanity in her and part this whole immortality of the reapers. So she wakes from the coma and fog of becoming what she is and she doesn’t really remember the past. All she knows is she’s there to take souls and do Fate’s bidding. But the human side of her keeps pulling at her and forcing her to ask question like, “Why are we taking these souls” and “What did these people do?” Because she absorbs souls, she gets their whole backstory and everything they’ve ever done in their whole life in three seconds, so she starts feeling these feelings with her humanity and becomes this rogue reaper. She starts going around and taking souls and swapping them into other people’s bodies and giving them second chances at life. And that really pisses off Fate, and she ends up creating this whole war between the living and the dead—the reapers and the living. And she’s there to protect the living and the other reapers are after her.
The humanity vs. reaper mentality is really interesting. There’s a part in the comics where September just wants to reunite a woman with her dog—
There’s a lot of different stories. After the end of that book, she meets this girl who has been brutally murdered, and there’s this whole storyline around her and finding what happened to her and how she can rectify that situation for that girl. There’s light stories and moments with the dog, and really heavy stories that are more about heavier topics that come into play. But it all plays into the fact that she has her humanity and the other reapers don’t. So, she’s kind of playing God in a way. Morally, you side with her because you want her to do the right thing, but also part of you, when you think about it, is like, “Is she really doing the right thing?” Because who’s to play God? So, it’s this back-and-forth play on what’s right and what’s wrong, because you never really know.
What is the story happening in the new video?
In the comic books, the reapers can put a homing beacon on her when she’s been in the real world for too long, as if she sends off signals. They go after her and try to attack her. So, when she’s done that in the real world, this is her coming back into Mortem—to her hotel sanctuary. She’s trying to repair herself because she was in a fight with these reapers, but they follow her back to Mortem and somehow find her at this hotel, so it’s them invading her space and her trying to find a way out of it. That’s the overarching storyline and within that story is her having these flashbacks of saving this girl from another reaper and from having her soul taken. It’s kind of two storylines running at the same time.
How long have you been working on the concept for September Mourning, and from where did it come?
I started working on the concept in 2009. I started writing, really researching and coming up with the characters. We did some demo music. But we didn’t really have anything fully formed and put together for the last two years. It took a while to really put the characters and the concepts and the backstory. Knowing all this stuff that I know about September, I have to know it in order to write something like that, because you have to have the answers to the questions. So, it’s not just like doing a band and some music. No, you have to know every single thing about these characters. You have to create this super-crazy world where you’re dictating the rules. Like [one of the yet-to-be-revealed powers September uses in the video]: That’s my rule, and I had to make it up. You have to know everything about her. All of her plusses, all of her weaknesses… So, it took a while to do that, and then we really launched the project when we put the EP out for Volume I a couple years ago. That’s when we really launched the first comic book and put everything in motion and started touring regularly. I really had a handle on the costuming and the look and exactly what I wanted. It took a while to do that. It’s a moving project.
So, this is one giant mixed-media concept?
I was like, “Go big or go home!” When I came to talking to Marc Silvestri, the founder of Top Cow comics and my business partner on the comics side of things. I told him, “I have this incredibly strange concept I want to throw at you.” He’s kind of known for doing things that are way ahead of their time—like Witchblade, a TV show back on TNT in the ’90s before any comic books were TV shows at the time. He started doing that back in the day, and now you see a ton of comic shows, but back in the day, there was really no one on TV that was doing really big comic book characters. He was one of the first to do that. So, when I brought him this thing, and I was like, “Hey, I want to do this crazy transmedia music, hard rock comic book project,” he was like, “That sounds absolutely ridiculously cool! How do we do this?” It took us a while to figure it out, but we finally figured a way to do it where everything kind of tied in and made this world. I’ve been signed before, and I’ve done other projects here and there, but I didn’t want to go out and just do a band, because I felt with the musical climate and the internet, it gives you this awesome base to tell stories on different levels, and I think that having a really solid foundation and characters and a storyline is something people can relate to, and being able to tell it through all these mediums would be the coolest thing on the planet. So, that’s what I wanted to do from the get-go.
How do you bring this concept to life in your live show?
Everybody in the band plays a character. I play September, then there are Riven, Wraith, Shadou, Stitch and sometimes Rasper makes an appearance onstage. But everybody plays a reaper onstage, and we have these giant thorns that represent the thorns that come through the earth from Mortem, our backdrop and fog and lights and different musical cues. We have different pieces of comic book spoken-word throughout the set that help tie the songs into the storyline so you get a whole feeling of the journey. I basically tell a story of these souls that I’ve taken and the reapers onstage kind of toy with me and play with me because they’re not really on my side. And I talk to the audience in different ways and tell stories in different ways. It’s very immersive.
Is there a story behind the song “20 Below?”
It’s a cool song because it’s basically about overcoming all the negativity that someone has placed on top of you. It’s about pulling yourself up and rising above that. It’s kind of a “no fucks given” about what people think about you sort of thing. Especially someone close to you who has put you down. I think we’ve all had those relationships where someone has gotten close to us, then abuses us, in a way, and knocks us down really hard. It’s about rising above that and being strong within your own self. That’s kind of the concept between the Children Of Fate, which is what we call our fans. It’s like, there are no saviors or Messiah coming to save us. They’re on the strength in our hearts and our souls, which is greater than we can even conceive. It’s great enough to be the catalyst to save our own selves if we find a way to tap into that part of ourselves. We want to thank all the Children Of Fate and everyone who has given us a chance to do what we do and have been there beside us and supported us. We really couldn’t do it without them. ALT