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Sugar Skulls & Marigolds Drops Metal Album About a Schizophrenic in Crisis

Sugar Skulls & Marigolds uses instrumental metal to tell stories.
Sugar Skulls & Marigolds uses instrumental metal to tell stories.
Justin Sanderson

Two-piece instrumental band Sugar Skulls & Marigolds is ever-evolving. Brothers Danny and Andrew Aranow are set to release their latest project, ’Til Death Do Us Part, on April 21 at the hi-dive. Sonically, the album borrows from “instru-metal” powerhouses like Russian Circles and Red Sparowes; it’s also conceptually consistent from track to track, demonstrating the Aranows’ thoughtfulness when it comes to songwriting.
The brothers have long taken inspiration from other bands in Denver and have embedded themselves firmly in the city’s music scene.

We spoke with Danny and Andrew (who is helping to coordinate this year’s Westword Music Showcase) about the Denver metal scene and making story-driven instrumental music.

Westword: Your new record,’Til Death Do Us Part, is sonically much different from your last release, 2016’s Blood Moon. Do you agree?

Danny Aranow: Definitely. We took it so much further with sounds and soundscapes than we did on the last one. [Those] songs were three-minute-long, really fast, catchy riff rock. As we kept experimenting with soundscapes, those three-minute-long songs have now turned into ten- or eleven-minute songs. I think we just kind of came to the conclusion that we wanted to pool our musical styles and influences and be in a band that has no boundaries. We’ve got to compensate for not having a singer, and really have to keep people engaged and keep it interesting.

Did anything in particular influence this shift?

Danny: [In March 2017] we played a show with Dreadnought. I had no idea who they were at the time, but they combined blast beats and metal with things like flutes and saxophone and keys. After that show, it dawned on me that we can do whatever we want musically. They didn’t seem to have any boundaries and had so many colors in a song. That was kind of a turning point for me. After that, I started adding lots of pedals and added a third guitar amp, another twin reverb.

Andrew Aranow: Bands like Explosions in the Sky and Russian Circles really inspired me. They’re heavy and have these really epic songs that go down these real long valleys but always seem to end up back on the initial riff they started with. We’ve been trying to structure our music like that, as well.

Despite this album’s being instrumental, there is a unifying theme. How do you get that across with no vocals?

Andrew: I usually come up with song titles for the band, and for this release, I wanted to come up with a cohesive title for the record. Once the songs are written, things naturally pop into my head based on what the song says to me, and I would hope that maybe that comes across to the audience. ’Til Death Do Us Part is the soundtrack to a story about a character that has schizophrenia, and he’s having these mental battles with his evil twin — which are basically his delusions — and they’re battling to the death.

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Danny: Each song is a step along his journey and tie into where he is — “The Harbor,” “The Desert” — and progresses from there until the conclusion of his journey. Musically, I think we are just trying to take the listener somewhere else, but it’s not a requirement that people need to understand the story to appreciate the music.

Denver’s metal community appears to be very inclusive and inviting. For someone who has played in a number of different scenes, how have you been received?

Danny: The support was something we realized early on. We’ve done other bands, like Saturn Cowboys and Monroe Monroe, but when we started playing shows with this band, it was like you could immediately feel the camaraderie. At any given show, there are probably more bandmembers from other bands than anybody else. I think that’s what’s so great — that everybody supports each other — and I’ve never gotten the vibe that it’s competitive. When a band like Khemmis takes off, everybody celebrates that.

Sugar Skulls & Marigolds album release, with Muscle Beach, Cult of the Lost Cause, Saturday, April 21, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $10, 303-733-0230.

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