The merging of music and comic books isn’t a new concept. The likes of KISS, Insane Clown Posse and Alice Cooper, to name just a few, have developed a larger-than-life stage image/show, and later allowed that to be translated to the graphic novel medium. The results have been mixed, but it’s been fun watching people try.
September Mourning is slightly different. This high-concept project was intended to cross the media lines from the very beginning. The brainchild of frontwoman Emily Lazar, a former professional ballerina, September Mourning is the name of the band, the name of Lazar’s onstage persona and, in sync, the name of the main character in the accompanying comic book.
“Everything is surrounded and wrapped around this one character and this storyline,” Lazar says. “It flows into all types of media. That’s how it was birthed. I came up with the concept of this whole thing, and I pitched it to Marc Silvestri, over at Top Cow Comics, and he was like, ‘That’s a crazy idea, to do something that grandiose, but let’s fucking do it.’ Marc became my business partner on the comic book side — we developed the storyline, came up with the characters together, and released the first three issues through Top Cow starting about two and a half years ago. The graphic novel with all four trades comes out in January of 2019. That’s going to be published through Image Comics, which is the parent company of Top Cow.”
The plot that both the music and the comic book follows is slightly convoluted, so bear with us. The character of September Mourning was a human who was chosen by a Fate character to have her soul taken. However, the reaper that Fate sends falls in love with our heroine, and he instead gives her some of his powers, including immortality. This really irritates Fate, so he sends a bunch of other reapers after her. While September is busy dodging said reapers, she also gives good souls a second chance at life, while removing bad souls from Earth. Again, this pisses Fate right off.
“She basically starts a war between the living and the dead,” Lazar says. “Between Fate, and the world of the living. Basically Fate’s end goal is to take all of the good souls out of the world, and leave all the bad souls, and let the world self-destruct so Fate can start over, because Fate is not happy with how the world is going right now. That’s the gist of it — this epic power battle between the living and the dead.”
So the storyline is a little bit Supernatural, a bit Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with elements of Spawn, Constantine and Ghost Rider. The book was drawn by artists as prestigious as Sumeyye Kesgin and co-creator Silvestri. Writers have included David Hine, Mariah McCourt and Lazar. The first two issues were funded via a Kickstarter campaign and, while it’s a notoriously tough industry to break into due to the sheer volume of books published every month, they’re managing to get by and keep the product coming.
It’s a different world for Lazar to learn about, having been involved in the performing arts since the age of 4. Before a bad fall ended her ballet career, she was dancing in major productions.
“I had to go into something else, so I went into music,” Lazar says. “I was discovered and given a pop deal on the spot. So I did pop music before I even did rock. I wanted to write my own songs and control my own image, so I went into rock. I like the heavier stuff — I was getting into Glassjaw and Dillinger Escape Plan. September Mourning’s music really spawned from my love of harder rock like that. When we ended up really writing for September Mourning, I drew on a lot of different genres.”
Ultimately, a blend of mainstream music with heavier rock is what Lazar is aiming for — a blend of her many influences wrapped in this interdimensional package.
“We’re trying to bring the more modern sounds of pop and hip-hop into hard rock and do it our way,” she says. “That’s where we’re going with it. I think it’s an interesting sound. We still have heaviness in it. A little bit of that heavy Deftones feel to it. It’s almost soundtrack-y sounding. But it’s all very much September Mourning.”
Meanwhile, as one would expect, the live experience is a very theatrical one. There are animated segments on big screens, voiced by the band members. These help tell the story alongside the music. Lazar stops short of calling it a “musical” but compares it to The Who’s Tommy and an Alice Cooper show.
“We play the characters onstage,” she says. “I play September, there’s the reapers, and we do it all against the comic book frame. It’s all combined. It’s a really interesting show, and it definitely gets the world across. We have these giant thorns that come out of the ground, a lot of smoke and costuming. It’s cool.”
We can expect all of that when September Mourning performs at the Whisky this week. It is, Lazar says, going to be loud and in your face.
“The comic book side is really cool, and I hope that we present a world,” she says. “When you walk into a room and start watching us, you’re brought into this world. Like a weird spiritual experience. Welcome to our world, come stay for a minute and see what we’re up to, and then go home. Immersive rock and theater are things that I’ve always loved, coming from a performing arts background. I think this is an immersive project.”
September Mourning plays with Kaleido and Charcoal Tongue at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16, at the Whisky A Go-Go.