Songs that influenced Ranges during the writing of Babel

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Montana post-rockers Ranges have really come to prominence since the release of their last album, The Ascensionist, which saw them touring across The USA and Europe, playing some of the biggest festivals within the scene, and selling out of multiple pressings of the record. Their success has also led to the growth of A Thousand Arms, a screen-printing business which evolved into a distro-come-record-label owned and run by Ranges guitarist CJ Blessum and art director Wilson Raska.

I was privileged enough to be a part of many of the aforementioned adventures, joining the band as they toured across their homeland and Europe (which you can read about in the tour diaries I wrote here on Will Not Fade). Both tours were incredible periods of my life that I’ll be forever thankful for. I kept in touch with the band as they recorded their ninth studio offering Babel in El Paso, Texas, excited to see what the next stage of their career had in store.

Here is an interview with each member of the band discussing some of the songs that influenced them when writing Babel, as well as their reflections on the past few years, and hopes for the future.

You can listen to all of the influential songs on this Spotify playlist, or alternatively I’ve embedded video clips of each song further down, with comments from the respective musician on why they picked those songs.

 


CJ playing guitar for Ranges in Lyon

CJ playing guitar for Ranges in Lyon. Image: Will Not Fade

CJ Blessum – guitarist

Will Not Fade: CJ, Ranges was your project for the longest time, and I feel that it only became realised as true band in recent years. How has songwriting changed over the past few releases? Do you still write most of it, or has it become a more collaborative process?

CJ: It definitely feels like we came into our own in the past couple of years. I would say The Ascensionist was in a lot of ways our debut album, partly because it was the first album with the current lineup, but mostly because I think we started to finally find our sound and weren’t really searching for it as we had on previous releases. A lot of this was do to Joey taking a much larger role in writing songs which alleviated a lot of that from me. With Babel, Joey took over a massive amount of the initial songwriting which really allowed me to add more texture and melody to songs as opposed to sticking to the rhythm chord progression our songs typically start out as. If you watch through the behind the scenes footage of the Babel writing process you will see everyone contributing their ideas which really shows how collaborative it was.

I know that the concept of Babel was planned long before The Ascensionist was even released, as evidenced by the Babel t-shirts you sold on that tour. When did you begin writing the music?

We had started trying to write for Babel right when we got back from our 2017 Fall tour out to dunk!USA. Nothing we came up with then stuck and it wasn’t until we returned from Europe in May 2018 that we started to realize how Babel was going to come together. “Revelation”, the last song on Babel, is actually the first song we started to write when we got home and were riding the high from playing dunk!festival. We all experienced the same phenomenon on the dunk!stage and were so stoked to try to capture that in song form. We only ended up using the tail end of that idea which actually ended up being the entirety of Revelation and then we fell into this funk where everything we wrote just wasn’t fitting the overall vibe we wanted Babel to have. I think we scrapped close to six songs over the next few months before things started to click.

Does it make it easier or harder writing instrumental music to fit a concept?

Way harder in my opinion, but starting with the concept is how we’ve always done it and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. We really discovered with Babel that each of us had our own idea of what this concept sounded like and the result of this was a lot of heated arguments and frustrations about scrapping certain songs or ideas. For me this made the whole process that much more important because we were experiencing our own confusion of tongues in trying to articulate how we wanted to construct the record. But in the end I think we are all really happy with how the record turned out and the journey of the writing process is one I’m really proud of.

I notice that a few artists you’ve mentioned as influences played dunk!USA. Did these artists come more to the forefront of what you were listening to as a result of seeing play the fest?

I think there’s definitely some truth to that. However, dunk!USA was such a whirlwind for me. We played Brooklyn the night before and then drove all the way up to Burlington through the night since I needed to be there early to help with the festival organization. It was really my first time working on a festival/show of that magnitude and I felt a lot of responsibility and pressure to try to make it successful which I think sort of clouded my ability to appreciate it the way I really wanted to. That said, Junius and Emma Ruth both killed it and they both moved into my listening rotation a lot more because of it.

You actually wrote about Pianos Become The Teeth years ago during your stint as a WNF contributor. Were you trying to come up with some throwback vibes?

I’m a creature of habit when it comes to listening to music. I listen to ‘Keep You’ by PBTT and ‘Full Collapse’ by Thursday regularly. Those are just two albums that I connected with at a really deep level and I’m just unable to replace them with anything more current. If an entire album front to back doesn’t resonate with me, I tend not to return to it.

You used to work building guitars for Gibson before founding A Thousand Arms. Do you feel this helped you gain insight into aspects of guitar tone?

Man, it’d be pretty great if I could say yes but unfortunately, no. The only thing I gained insight into by working for Gibson is that not working for Gibson and running my own business is way cooler.

Some of my favourite Ranges tracks make great use of spoken word samples. This was used very effectively as an intro to your live set throughout your past few tours, and having heard it, I feel the album is missing something because the sample isn’t there. Do you have additional layers that you’ll add the Babel material in a live setting?

I’m a sucker for the spoken word stuff but it has to work just right. With The Ascensionist we found the perfect sample of a poem about climbing a mountain and it just fit the vibe we were looking for. Babel seems to be a bit heavier of a concept that I’m not sure we’d be able to find the right sample to work.

Speaking of which, do you want to share what the sample is at the start of this new record?

You already know the answer. It’s up to the listener to decide. The only clue is that it’s spoken in Old Dutch.


CJ’s influential songs

Emma Ruth Rundle – Protection

The rolling baritone guitar sound on this song was the reason I wanted to invest in a baritone guitar and try to work it into the album. I ended up playing a decent amount of baritone on the album but it’s tucked in nicely with the bass where you can’t really tell it’s a baritone. There is one song where the obvious rolling baritone sound is prominent and I’m really happy with how that particular song turned out.

Junius – The Queen’s Constellation

I love the haunting dark vibe this whole record has. Plus, the lyrical content of this record is just so intriguing and gives a whole new dimension to the band. I also love all the synths and pads they used to layer the song up. We used a lot of layers and synths on Babel and I’m really happy with how it added a lot of depth to the songs.

You mention the lyrics of the Junius track being an influence, despite Ranges being an instrumental band. Do you ever see Ranges adding vocals to their music?

It’s always an option. I heard a couple of spots on Babel that some vocals could have worked but I was never confident enough in the idea to actually propose it. Honestly, what Caspian did on Dust and Disquiet was perfection when it comes to a mostly instrumental band adding vocals. But they did it, and I feel like trying to mimic that would be too obvious. Thankfully, the way Joey plays guitar really fills in any spot where vocals could work. His style is pretty unique in my opinion so it’ll probably be awhile before vocals find their way in.

Junius at dunk!USA


Junius at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

I remember during the tour leading up to dunk!USA you had your own lighting rig that really helped set you apart from other bands you played alongside. At the fest there was a tension between using your own unique lighting set up, or taking advantage of the incredible lighting that the festival had on offer. Junius played the same stage later on, using only sparse Edison lightbulbs and it was super effective and gloomy. Did you take anything away from this when approaching your live visuals?

Our own lights have been a really important part of our set in my mind and I’m continually thinking and over-thinking the right way to put it all together to add another level of intrigue to our live show. We’ve always played live to a click which opened up the opportunity to dial in an automated light show that accents the live show perfectly. At dunk!USA we opted to use the house lights which put a lot of trust in the lighting technician to execute an effective show to music he/she had never heard. Unfortunately, the result, in my mind, didn’t seem as effective as it may have been with our own light show. All in all it was a learning experience and now going forward I’ve tried to design our light shows in a way that can work with the house lights so that both can accentuate the other and hopefully result in a really dynamic show.

O’Brother – Slow Sin

One of my favorite opening tracks. I love how it sets the tone for the album right out of the gate. I’ve always thought that setting the tone out of the gate is vital to an album. We reworked and reworked the opening song of Babel but the main concept and vibe stuck through all the revisions and hopefully it is worthy of being the introduction to the concept of the album as well as the music.

Pianos Become The Teeth – 895

The middle section of this song where the guitars are tremolo strumming the clean rhythm chords along with the snare roll is so awesome. With Babel I tried to mimic the idea of tremolo picking full chord formations as opposed to single notes to add more fullness on the rhythm side. I’ve always appreciated how Pianos Become The Teeth use the tremolo picking on more open chords instead of sticking to the standard strumming patterns.

Thursday – Paris In Flames

Thursday was one of the biggest influences when I first picked up a guitar and started to write my own music. Babel is the first time Ranges has written songs in a similar key to those Thursday wrote for Full Collapse. It was a lot of fun to be able to revisit a lot of old chord formations that Thursday uses but apply them in a manner that still sounds like Ranges.

Does this mean that we may see some older material emerge for the upcoming tour? I like the spoken word section too. Is that where your interest in spoken word samples emerged from?

Not necessarily. I think we are all too excited about playing the new material that substituting in older songs doesn’t seem interesting or beneficial at this time.


Joey playing guitar for Ranges in Ypsilanti

Joey playing guitar for Ranges in Ypsilanti. Image: Will Not Fade

Joey Caldwell – Guitar

Will Not Fade: I attribute lots of the great melodies from The Ascensionist to you. Touring across the USA and Europe gave us exposure to so many other amazing bands that you’ve shared the bill with. Many of the standout bands had memorable melodies and great energy. I remember us discussing how great instrumental music needs at least one of those elements, or else it’s pretty forgettable.

Joey: Thanks! For me personally, I think a memorable melody is what sticks out to me in most songs. I am definitely influenced by a lot of the bands we’ve played with and I think that most of them have very melodic attributes.

You work as a marketing promoter at The Rialto. What are some things you’ve learned from working the other side of the business – booking bands rather than playing yourself.

Yes, I currently do show marketing at the Rialto in Bozeman. I’ve learned that the side of the business that isn’t playing music is too much business for me. It’s definitely interesting seeing things from that perspective and working with huge bands. I’ve learned a lot about booking, show marketing, and venue operation. It’s also been cool meeting a variety of different performers and the people working with them.

I remember you sharing that you think of your daughter as you play. Did you find other muses to think of when writing the new material.

I find inspiration in all sorts of things. While writing new songs it was all about blending some hopefulness with some melancholy. I started demoing songs for Babel around the time we got back from our second to last US tour. I would say this record was actually one of the most difficult in terms of finding the sound and the direction that we wanted to go. There is a hard drive full of demos that all had a ton of potential, some of which made it on the record. However, I think writing this record was more of a natural process for me as I was coming up with song ideas. There wasn’t anything in specific that was motivating me to write a certain way.

It was super cool to see your wife and daughter again in Europe when they came to Belgium to watch you play dunk!festival. Is is hard to juggle commitments between being in the band and being a family man?

No. Thankfully my wife and daughter understand that I need to be creating and performing. We’re also not on the road very often, so it’s never been difficult. I do miss them while we are gone, but they are very supportive. I’d say it’s more difficult having a full time job and trying to make that work while being gone.

Joey's family at dunk!fest in Belgium


Joey’s family watching him play during Ranges’ set at dunk!fest in Belgium 2018. Image: Will Not Fade

Do you think that the tones you produce in the studio, you should be able to replicate faithfully in a live setting?

Most definitely. Everything we used to record the new album with is what we use in our live setups, minus a few things here and there. Chris Common was great to work with because he is pretty meticulous about getting a great foundation of different tones and building off of them. For the most part everything you hear on the record is what we’re using live.


Joey’s influencial songs

Holy Fawn – Seer

This song is super haunting and dreamy sounding. It builds perfectly and the ending is massive. Their album Death Spells is one of my favorite records that has come out recently. The whole album from front to back is absolutely incredible.

Caspian – Castles High, Marble Bright

In my opinion this is one of the best “post-rock” songs ever written. It is full of beautiful melody and is incredibly uplifting. It makes me feel like everything might be okay, when in actuality everything is falling apart. We need songs like this.

Torche – Solitary Traveler

I love how you can feel this song in your guts. The drums are gigantic and the simplicity of the structure is awesome.

Jesu – Losing Streak

This song is the perfect blend of gloom and hope combined. The vocal melody is crushing and gives me chills every time I listen.

Slowdive – Slomo

This song is the perfect start to their newest record. I first heard it while driving through the desert and I loved how it complimented that landscape and that moment in time.


Jared playing bass for Ranges at dunk!USA

Jared playing bass for Ranges at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

Jared Gabriel – Bass

Will Not Fade: Jared, you’ve more than proven yourself by this point. Thinking back to when you first joined Ranges, did you feel pressure to play like the previous bass players had, or did you have free reign to inject your own style.

Jared: They made it clear they wanted something fresh and new. I was able to inject what i do and how i think about music pretty seamlessly. We have been making music together off and on for a long time so the transition felt natural and was very exciting.

This list of influences you’ve listed is exactly what I expected from you. I think it is more than evident when you play live that you believe in putting plenty of energy into your playing

Yeah thank you. To me it is all about texture and intensity. That Nine Inch Nails track for example is dense. When i first heard it i was blown the fuck away. The songs had gravity and anger i had never heard before. it still gives me goosebumps. “Wish” kind of represented what was possible to do with music and sound and while the lyrics were important to that song, what i wanted to take from it was the textures and the density of the sounds.

A few of these bands you’ve listed have unclean vocals that add a layer of intensity to the sound. How do you try and replicate that feel without a singer?

That is a tough question. I try and compartmentalize things as much as i can but there is always some bleed no matter how i try and separate them. I try and perform our songs as earnest as i can. Keep things natural and honest. It is tough for me however to not think of the literal act of performing while on stage and connecting that to our subject matter. I grew up on hardcore, which was stripped down bare earnest, but i was also a fan of Bowie who had a more performative aspect to his stage show. Both were sincere and i guess i want us to be somewhere in the middle.

I know that you’ve experimented with creating records using ceramics. In your opinion, is there an ideal way to consume music? Live, vinyl, streaming etc…

Hahaha. Yeah i made that piece. That was more of a tongue in cheek exploration of why our generation has a new founded obsession in that particular analogue medium. For me none is better or worse than the other. They all have their place of convenience. I collect records for a lot of reasons but nostalgia plays a huge role in my dedication to vinyl.

[Here’s a link to a video with Jared’s ceramic record experiment (watch from 1.35mins). Jared also has his own website showcasing his ceramic work at http://www.jaredgabriel.com]


Jared’s influences

Reasoning: These songs (representing the albums they are on) are turning points for all these bands in my opinion. There is a visceral energy and texture to the recordings that influenced how I wanted Babel to feel.

Cave In – Screaming In Your Sleep

Deftones – Knife Prty

Russian Circles – Geneva

Nine Inch Nails – Wish

Converge – Plagues


Mark playing drums for Ranges in Lyon

Mark playing drums for Ranges in Lyon 2018. Image: Will Not Fade

Mark Levy – Drums

Will Not Fade: Mark, you have a background in the NYHC/punk scene, playing in bands like Skarhead, Leftöver Crack and Stanley. The thrashier section from Babylon on the last record had you written all over it. Do you feel you still draw from your roots when you’re writing your parts?

Mark: Yes.

I saw David Byrne from Talking Heads play in Wellington last year and the show was among the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve also caught Living Colour twice in recent years and again, very impressive. Did you ever feel that you were at the epicentre of something important, coming up in the CBGB’s scene? Or was it just run-of-the-mill local music?

Talking Heads were gone from CB’s before I ever went there. That would have been great to see them there. Being from NY, I always felt energy like I’m in the center of the world.

I know you have been getting into a lot of Joey’s music recently, stuff like Slowdive, Turnstile and Drab Majesty – bands that make an obvious nod back to styles from decades ago. I’m surprised that those bands didn’t get a mention in your list of influeces for this record.

Joey has been getting into a lot of my music lately. I’ve been a fan of Slowdive since 91. Found Drab Majesty on Cult Nation in 2016. I forget where I found Turnstile but they are awesome regardless. My picks were all based on drumming styles and approach to song structure. If I were contributing more melodic ideas, those bands mentioned would be an influence.

I remember being surprised about the triggered drumtrack from the Roland when I first heard The Ascensionist. How have you continued to explore and utilise the possibilities afforded from the Roland trigger pad on this record? It sounds like the track “Idolator” has a programmed drum track along the lines of “Called not to religion…”

No Roland this time. I threw some ideas at Joey and he programmed them on Abelton. “Idolator” was all him.

You build your own snare drums, but I know you tried a variety in the recording studio in El Paso. Is it a case of trying to match the drum tone to the feel of each song, or do you just try and capture something that records well?

I’ll work closely with any engineer to get the best sound first. They know the room and what mics are best. Tweaks for specific tracks come later if necessary.

You decided to play more creatively after one critic called your drumming “too safe” on Gods of the Copybook Headings. What do you feel is more important: showing off your ability and coming across as innovative, or playing beats that are simple and do the song justice.

That critic was right. I played too safe and I knew it. I think that looking good naked is the most important thing.

You’ve been keen to play in Japan for a long time, having heard from friends in other bands who have done so. Do you think this album will take you touring new places you haven’t visited before?

Many of my friends have toured Japan. They all love it. I do think this record will get us to new places. Maybe even Wellington.

I know that you’ve been burned before when one of your bands signed to a record label and it backfired. Obviously it’s a bit different when members of your band own A Thousand Arms, but how do you feel about signing to four different labels worldwide for this album?

Things are different now. Back in the day, a bad contract would end a band. These deals are a little bit looser. It’s more about distribution.

You’ve done some cool collaborations with your wife and her dance company over the past few years, with Ranges performing while ballerinas dance to your music. I remember you were gearing up for it when I last saw you in Montana. I’m glad that I got to see footage on the DVD. How did it feel, letting a marriage of artistic talents come forth within your actual marriage?

It felt great.


Mark’s influences

Mark: I wasn’t contibuting to the melody when writing Babel, so I’ve listed songs purely for their drumming. I picked songs that were tasty… you know? Drumming with spice, that makes the music tasty!

Gojira – Liquid Fire

Gojira are great! Give them a listen. The drummer is interesting, does things you don’t expect.

Mammal Hands – Boreal Forest

Will Not Fade: I gotta say, I’m surprised by this jazzy song. The sax is awesome, and it builds in intensity nicely, but still not something I expected.

Expect the unexpected.

The Cure – Shiver And Shake

The Cure has often had very mechanical sounding drummers. I wouldn’t call your drumming rigid. What strikes you as inspirational about this track?

Boris Williams is butter. Listen again. Also, dat bass. And guitar. The Cure rule.

Butter?

Butter is good. Butter is smooth. Butter is tasty.

My own band has been covering “The Forest” by The Cure recently.

That’s great! I wanna hear it! I feel that song “Shiver and Shake” has a special sonic quality I was going for.

The drumming has sort of extended fills. I love The Cure and wanted Joey to write melodies along those lines.

 

I guess they were pretty groundbreaking with a lot of tones, guitar pedals, studio production techniques and so on…

That’s right!

 

Yellowjackets – Madrugada

Another jazz number?

Will Kennedy is butter.

Peter Gabriel – That Voice Again

Yes! I love Peter Gabriel! Such a weird, yet amazing musician. I’ve got a few of his records, and So gets spun quite frequently at my place. I love how for all his quirkiness, he’s accepted as a mainstream pop singer, but he started out in a prog band.

Yes! I’m so glad you get it! Peter is cool and all but why aren’t we talking about Manu Katche? His drumming makes the track. That prog band is Genesis and they are awesome.


Ranges


Ranges. Image: L U X I N V I C T U S

Talking to Ranges about recording Babel and plans for the future

Will Not Fade: Everyone, what is the biggest thing that you’ve learned when touring The Ascensionist that you decided to apply when writing this album?

CJ: Playing songs that have energy are way more fun to play live. I think that was something we all considered when writing and the set list for our Fall tour out to Post. Festival definitely shows that.

Jared: I really wanted to be bigger. Bigger in our song writing decisions and our sound and presence live.

Joey: For me it was finding a way for all of us to be at least 95% happy with every song on the record. I think a live show struggles if there are tunes that everyone isn’t completely into.

Mark: Bigger, better and stronger.

In the past CJ has been in charge of most of the recording and mastering in his studio. What prompted the decision to record in Texas?

CJ: I was tired of having the pressure of worrying about every little nuance of the recording. It’s a ton of work to write a record and then to track it and mix it you’re just piling so much more on top. The plus side is that recording was free but I think we realized as a band that we were ready to financially invest in the next record and, for me, exchanging that investment for the ability to just be a guitar player and not the engineer was life changing and I can’t imagine recording a Ranges full length myself ever again.

Jared: I think we all wanted to take the pressure off CJ and allow him to really have fun in the studio. It was also that we wanted to push our sound and comfort zone and working somewhere else with someone else was a perfect way to achieve that.

Joey: It was important for me that CJ was able to get away from focusing so much on engineering. I can’t speak for CJ, but I think him being able to focus solely on playing guitar was really helpful. It’s pretty challenging going from writing to recording as just a guitar player, so I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to have to engineer and mix an album as well. Also, having the perspective and input from a third party was awesome. Chris has engineered and mixed some really incredible albums and we just hit it off immediately. We had a few other studios and engineers that we were talking to, but at the end of the day Chris was the best fit. It was great to escape the real world for two weeks and only focus on the album. El Paso is an amazing city and it was a great setting for us to be in while recording.

Mark: Let CJ concentrate on playing on the record, Chris Common and tacos.

I know that you all feel that recording in El Paso was a great success.

CJ: El Paso was great. It was the first time we had the opportunity to take two straight weeks to focus solely on recording. No interruptions with work or normal life just pure focus for 8+ hours a day. That said, the process was very taxing but the ability to completely pour ourselves into the record was well worth it.

I guess you’ve had a sample of writing and recording away from home, when you did the And The People Cried Out For A King 7”.

CJ: Yeah, sort of. We did the 7” in a cabin just outside of Bozeman but dragged all our own recording gear up there to accomplish it and I still engineered and mixed the whole thing. The process was all the same as we were used to, we were just in a slightly different environment. It seems like ages ago that we were working on that 7” and while I still feel like those songs are relevant I feel like a lot about our band dynamic has changed since then.

The Ascensionist sold out on vinyl almost instantly when it first dropped, and your set from dunk! festival in Belgium was chosen and pressed.

CJ: Honestly, the success of The Ascensionist was pretty shocking to me. I’ve always said my barometer for success was to put out a record on vinyl and have it sell out quickly and while the vinyl runs were small for The Ascensionist I sort of achieved that goal. The fun part is now I feel the pressure of trying to put out a new album that supersedes the previous release.
Another shocker was when dunk!festival approached us to release our live set from dunk!festival 2018 on vinyl. I was actually surprised they wanted Ranges to play in the first place but I think that gave us that feeling of responsibility to get up on the dunk!stage and deliver a memorable set. You never know when it’s going to be your last chance to make an impression so I know each of us left it all out on the stage that night. I guess we must have done alright since they asked if we’d be into getting our performance pressed to vinyl.

Where to from here?

CJ: Just keep grinding and working on building this into whatever it needs to be built into. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my time.

Jared: lol who knows? Wherever the journey takes us i suppose.

Joey: Just hoping to reach as many people as possible with the new album. I’m very excited to see what happens.

Mark: Hollywood.

Many of your past works were self-released. Does it change things having dunk!records backing you?

CJ: dunk!records is seriously the best. Wout [Lievens, from dunk!records] and I are similar on so many levels and any idea or request I throw his way is met with optimism and excitement about the possibilities. We are really trying to go all out with the physical package of Babel and Wout has been into the idea of all of it. I appreciate his willingness to trust what we are doing and, because of that, I feel a responsibility to make sure everything we put out is as perfect as it can be.

Jared: I don’t think anything changed we are more than capable of putting the pressure on ourselves.

And in the same sense, is anything different now that A Thousand Arms is a record label?

CJ: Not really, only that I feel like I can actually say A Thousand Arms is legitimately a record label. We’ve always released our own albums under the A Thousand Arms name but really only in the past couple of years have we started releasing records for other bands both domestic and international. Seems like that’s what an actual record label should do. We take a lot of influence from Converge and what they did and are still doing with Deathwish Inc. and hope to find a way to achieve similar success to what those two entities have done. DIY is one thing, but actually doing it yourself and building something that matters to a whole lot of people is another thing. At the core of it all, we just love to create stuff and to help other people create their stuff. Seeing others succeed and grow is seriously the best. High tide raises all ships and the post-rock scene is full of awesome tide and great ships.

I’m pretty excited to see that Bird’s Robe and Le Rock Psicophonique are also coming onboard. The most frustrating thing about wanting to order records and merch from bands around the world is the postage always costs considerably more than the actual product. Signing to international labels will help to alleviate this. Do you think it may also help with setting things up to tour new places?

CJ: That is definitely the goal. Getting involved with dunk!records right after we released The Gods of the Copybook Headings was vital in paving the way for a successful European tour two years later. It takes a lot of time investment to cultivate the proper relationships and earn the trust of labels and distros from other parts of the world but its all necessary. You can’t expect to go to a new part of the world and expect immediate success without laying the necessary foundation. I’ve been in communication with Bird’s Robe and LeRock for awhile now trying to figure out the best way to work together in a fashion that is mutually beneficial. Running our own record label has given us a lot of insight into the financial investments and time investments that are required to find success with a release. Understanding that has made it a bit easier to reach out to other labels and build agreements that have an acceptable amount of risk and reward for everyone involved. At the end of the day, every release carries a bit of risk and I am eternally grateful to Bird’s Robe and LeRock for jumping on this release and giving us a chance in their territories.

You have an upcoming tour that coincides with playing post.festival.

CJ: We do and we are excited to be a part of Post. Festival. They are doing a great job filling in the void when it comes to post-rock festivals in America. A Thousand Arms has partnered up with them to provide artwork and merchandise production but they’ve totally handled the booking and organizing aspects of the festival and have been knocking it out of the park. Last year’s lineup was really solid and this year’s is incredible. We are honored to be playing it and look forward to having a couple of days to hang out with a ton of great people.

It sounds like your lead single “Avarice” has piano in it.

CJ: Indeed. Really a lot of our releases since the beginning have had piano. This was always an instrument I enjoyed adding to the mix but since Joey joined the band he has sort of taken over that responsibility. He puts a ton of work into adding piano melodies that work with his guitar melodies as well as adding layers of textures and pads. Some of these ended up getting mixed out but a lot remain and give the music a lot of depth and girth.

The Ascensionist features “Babylon”, and Babel features “Babylon Part III”. When I first noticed this I was confused. But then I noticed that Part II was available through secret means (I hope I’m not giving too much away). During the writing process, how did you factor in writing for the cryptic other material, and Easter eggs etc…?

CJ: I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any of this. As for the cryptic material, I can assure you that we spend more than enough time discussing endless possibilities and ways to connect this thing to that thing. That said, every single thing matters.

You’ve formed close knit friendships with other bands you’ve toured with, including Man Mountain, Tides of Man and Astodan. Would you want to tour with the same bands again, or with new acts so you can reach new fans? (I’m totally calling a team up with Pillars!)

CJ: We’ve discussed this rather indepthly and we all agree that the bonds created while on the road are really one of the main reasons we like to tour. There’s just something about driving an insane amount of miles to each day to meet up with the same band from the night before to do the same thing all over again and then go eat together someplace different after the show. All the bands we’ve toured with share the same passion for the process of being in a band and it just makes it that much more enjoyable. And yes, we would absolutely tour with Man Mountain, Tides of Man, and Astodan again. Those guys are all amazing people and we shared a lot of good memories together. Wilson and I hung out with the Pillars guys in Belgium at dunk!festival this year and they are equally great people who share a common mindset with us. So, a Pillars/Ranges tour is definitely not out of the question.

I’m pretty hyped to see what you have planned for your physical release. The Ocean have been putting out insanely cool packages for their records. Who do you look at for inspiration with physical media?

CJ: The Ocean has definitely set a bar that we keep regular tabs on and look to for inspiration. Their latest album is insane too. Converge and Deathwish Inc. are also a band/label tandem who has inspired us a lot. In a lot of ways we take our previous releases as inspiration to see how far we can push the boundaries with the next release. We’ve had some really crazy ideas that never came to fruition but are also knee deep in plenty of other ridiculous concepts.


Ranges links:

Website: https://www.rangesmusic.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rangesmusic/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rangesmusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rangesmusic/

Bandcamp: https://ranges.bandcamp.com/

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1iqjhf6W2YXUWwa2iKMybf

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBJg41ELchEChCEtIRKz4NA

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ranges

Pre-order Babel:

(US) A Thousand Arms: https://athousandarms.store/collections/ranges
(EU) Dunk!records: https://dunkrecords.com/
(AU) The Bird’s Robe Collective: https://birdsrobe.bandcamp.com/
(SA) LeRockPsicophonique: https://lerock.cl/
Pre-save on Spotify: https://show.co/DyKTvnS
Pre-order on Bandcamp: https://ranges.bandcamp.com/album/babel

Real Fake News – An Interview With Hard Times Co-Founder Bill Conway

Hard Times by Senny Mau
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I still remember when I discovered The Hard Times. It was a satire site, like The Onion, or New Zealand’s own The Civilian, but aimed at punk/hardcore culture. It was both incredibly funny and familiar. (This article hits so close to home, after I stopped working so I could join my friends Ranges on tour). As with any satire site, the humour lays in the premise being rediculous, but almost plausible enough to be true. And when you have material like ska music and straight edge to work with, the stories virtually write themselves. The Hard Times really nailed their niche, and as testament to this, virtually every article they post gets shared by my musician friends accross social media, even musos who aren’t directly part of the punk scene.

The Hard Times has blown up considerably since they began four years ago, earning millions of hits online, expanding into gaming culture, and branching into booking shows, publishing a book, a TV show, and now podcasts. I jumped at the chance to interview Bill Conway, who had co-founded the site with Matt Saincome.


Will Not Fade: Hi, how are you? I love your work and find The Hard Times hilarious and relatable. My friends and I are always sharing your articles, even the musicians in non-punk-affiliated music scenes. I’ve just listened to the first few episodes of your podcast and quite enjoyed them too.

First of all, congrats on your success to date. 2.3 million views in the space of a month is a lot of traffic. And the podcasts are great. What have been some of your highlights of the past four years?

Bill Conway, The Hard Times: One highlight was getting to go to beautiful Columbus, Ohio for the AP Awards. We were asked to write a lot of the copy for the presenters of the awards so it was a real joy to see the rhythm guitarist of some band I never heard of butcher a joke we wrote.

And at what point did you start considering yourselves sell-outs?

Once we got verified on social media, total sell out move.

But in all seriousness, I think that it’s cool, not only that you’ve got this far, bu also that you pay your contributors. [I’m not even in the position that I can pay myself!] Matt, is there a tension between freelancing for other sites, and hiring freelancers for your own site?

I’ll take this one Matt. Basically through The Hard Times, Matt developed a platform called Outvoice to make paying freelancers easier. No longer will freelancers have to beg to be paid, instead the publisher pays them as soon as an article goes live. Matt forced me to be a cheerleader for him.

You’ve had podcasts and zines and a writing career as precursors to The Hard Times. Why did you decide to take a less serious route?

You can either keep working for other people or try to carve out your own space. We didn’t start The Hard Times and expect to be “a thing” but we have been pleasantly surprised by the response and are very grateful people still pay attention to what we do.

The climate for dedicated satire sites wasn’t as prevalent back when you started. The Onion is perhaps the most well-known, but is usually fairly lame. Wunderground tackles music, but focuses on EDM. You mentioned Above Average and College Humour in a recent podcast. Were you trying to emulate any other sites when you started The Hard Times?

My teenage years were spent obsessing over The Onion. This was still when they had hard copies in newsstands and if I had a friend visiting New York I would make them bring me back a copy. I had every book they ever released and couldn’t get enough of them. That dry satire sense of humor was sort of embedded in me because of that and I think it helped us shape our own voice. I can say with absolute confidence that no other satire or general comedy sites had any influence on us. We figured out what worked as we went along.

I once wrote an article inspired by The Hard Times which involved calling my friends sellouts for writing songs that lasted longer than 3 minutes. Do you think I have potential?

As long as you don’t mention anything about “vegan pit beef,” “Keith Morris getting Locks of Love shutdown after donating hair,” or how many members a ska band has then you will be fine.

Tell me about your punk background. Who were the bands of note for you in you local scene? Who ran the shows? What were the venues like? 

I grew up outside of Boston. Matt and I have talked about the different scenes that shaped us. Boston was basically built around fighting. Dumbass rival crews and a bunch of nonsense. Every VFW hall was a venue on the right day.

How was that scene unique, compared to DC, or New York, for example?

I will just go ahead and answer on behalf of Massachusetts. I started really going to shows around 2001 and it was a great time and a horrible time for Massachusetts hardcore. You had legendary bands like American Nightmare and Have Heart, and then garbage “mosh core” bands like On Broken Wings and Black My Heart. There was a lot going on. Filling this out reminded me to go back and listen to The Red Chord, who a lot of people consider like grindcore, but man they ripped. Great live show.

I’m really interested in this because the population and geography of New Zealand means we can’t sustain strong scenes the same in the way America can. I remember reading about places like CBGBs as a teen, and was super stoked that I managed to get to a show at Triple Rock in Minneapolis a few years ago. Americans are great at doing the DIY thing, and geographically, there are so many more cities you can visit if you want to tour. By comparison, here in New Zealand, a “nationwide” tour involves a shows on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a drive home Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, we have great bands and venues, but it just feels so limited by comparison.

Yeah man, we take everything for granted here.

Do straight-edge kids get much flack where you grew up? Here in New Zealand we tend to give them a light-hearted ribbing and repeat the same lame jokes at their expense all the time.

I am straight edge, I will always be straight edge. Nobody ever really gave me too much shit. Boston is a drinking town, normally if you tell someone you don’t drink they assume you are a recovering alcoholic and leave you be.

On a side note – I went to America for a holiday when I was 20. I went to a gig – Mark Lanegan I think – and they X’d my hands because I was underage. I thought that was so cool that there was provision for underage kids to be able to access live music even at places where alcohol was served. Here in NZ you basically just miss out until you’re 18 (legal drinking age here) because most bands play bars and pubs and there aren’t many all age venues/shows.

When I was under 21 a venue X’d my hands and on the drive home we got pulled over and the cop saw the X’s on my hands and was like “Are you straight edge?” and I said “yeah but I didn’t draw these weak X’s.” I am not sure why he asked, but at that time straight edge was considered a gang by law enforcement.

What’s your best tour story?

I personally don’t have any. I was never in bands and I like being in bed early.

Full disclosure: I’m far more involved in the post-rock community than punk. The hard style pose for group photos has really taken off in that community in recent years (probably encouraged by The End Of The Ocean). Do you see this as cultural appropriation?

Yes, I will send you my Venmo to make up for this.

Punks love DIY. From zines, to making clothing, to home job tattoos and piercings, to booking tours and printing merch. Is there anything that you think we should leave to the pros, instead of trying out for ourselves?

Dentistry, and surgery are the only two things. Everything else is far game.

I presume that you’re familiar with Penelope Spheeris’ The Decline of Western Civilization. The first and third documentaries by in that series were centred around punk music (the second focuses on heavy metal). What genre do you think Spheeris would look at if she were to make a fourth entry these days?

Probably Juggalo shit, and after being immersed in that group for more than a few weeks she would probably scrap the whole project and live out the rest of her years in solitude on a farm trying to forget the atrocities she witnessed.

I’m really intrigued by the images you use to accompany your articles. Some are clearly photoshopped. Are the rest bought stock photos? Do you photograph yourselves, or your friends? And do you ever use friends names in place of fictitious names?

A little of everything. We have a stock photo account and a photo editor that can edit things together. We also have lots of friends pose things, and recently we started a Patreon and one of the perks is at a $10 a month level you can be featured as the photo of a Hard Times article and we will tag you on Instagram and all that good stuff.

President Trump brought the concept of “fake news” to the masses, in a time when so few are critical of the content presented to them. Did you face any backlash when the concept of “fake news” came to light?

For the most part we haven’t had any backlash. The whole “fake news” thing has been weird on a social media algorithm level, because Facebook is always tweaking what people see, and satire is supposed to be “protected” content, but it doesn’t always end up working that way.

You must get a load of hilarious comments from people who think that your articles are legitimate. Can you provide some examples of your favourite responses from people who clearly didn’t understand?

For my own mental sanity I stopped reading comments. The most common thing we see is people being like “this is unbelievable” then someone pointing out the fact we are a satire site, which always prompts the original person to say “well satire is supposed to be funny.” Like we are going to get insulted by that. But I try to avoid comments sections like the plague because that is where the worst aspects of humanity goes to jerk itself off.

Are there specific bands you’ve managed to offend when running parody articles on them?

We do an article “Iron Chic Shouts Drive Thru Order in Unison” and the bass player apparently didn’t like it too much. We did a few Dropkick Murphys headlines this past week and the singer of the band tweeted at us saying he liked them, so for the most part we get positive feedback, but people are sensitive sometimes and I get that.

What have been your more controversial articles to date?

Warped Tour Stage Moved Back 100 Feet to Comply With Sex Offender Laws” created some rumblings and we had heard the Warped Tour people weren’t too happy with us. Any headline that has to do with guns or cops usually get people fired up. Americans love their guns man.

You’ve also had some overwhelming positive responses, as indicated by the mad traffic coming to your site. Brian Baker ordered a t-shirt. Do you know of many other celebrity endorsements?

At one point Chris Rock followed us on Instagram, but he unfollowed us and I really wonder what article is the one that made him do that.

Are there any topics that are untouchable? Bands too sacred to cover? A bad taste line that can’t be crossed?

I don’t think there are any truly untouchable topics, but we want to make sure we are always on the right side of history. There are definitely no band’s too sacred, everyone is fair game. But as far as bad taste, it really just comes back to not punching down.

Skinhead punks have been associated with Nazis at times, and you’ve posted plenty of articles ridiculing Nazis on your site. Do you consider this a social obligation, or just do it because it’s funny and topical?

I would say a little bit of both. Anyone that takes themselves too seriously needs to be taken down a peg. Matt and I are both straight edge and we make fun of straight edge all the time.

You branched from hardcore/punk to gaming. Can you see yourself spreading into new territory again? I don’t think the quirky stay-at-home-mum-posting-recipes blog had become too saturated yet.

We are always looking at ways to expand. Part of it is noticing gaps in the content market, and part of it is having the right team of people to fill those gaps. Thankfully with Hard Drive we had some home grown talent that was able to use our established system and make a great product.

Why the shift to podcasts?

Pretty simple answer, Matt and I wanted to talk with cool people we like. We figured now is a good time to kind of come out from behind the curtain and let the world know who we are.

Is it a hassle pressing all the podcasts to vinyl for the purist fans? 7 inch records can’t even fit that much on them!

It can be a pain in the ass, normally an episode is about an 75 minutes long so that equates to about 8 records per podcast, it can get expensive but it is worth it.

And now a book and a TV show? At what point does your empire cease to grow?

Matt and I won’t stop until every second of every day is filled with some sort of work, because we are stupid broken people.

So when are you going to form a new political party? Will Jello Biafra be an member?

We will need more grassroots funding so we can make a run for mayor in a small market. I do not think Jello will be on board, I have heard he is not that much of a fan.

How does the booking shows fit into The Hard Times brand? I was looking through some of the gig posters and you’ve had some seriously sweet lineups.

We actually have a live events coordinator named Nick Dill, he goes by Nick Bane. He is a Bay Area show promoter and has been doing it for years. He is an old pal of Matt’s and a huge fan of the site and he puts together some great shows.

Hard Times

Photo: Senny Mau


And for some silly fun at the end:

Please list your top 5 albums that you think my readers need to know about.

In no particular order:

Minor Threat – Complete Discography

The Gaslight Anthem – 59 Sound

Cave In – Beyond Hypothermia

At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul

Saves the Day – Through Being Cool

Do you think that any of those albums would survive if we added a brass section to each?

I think Cave In has the most potential and it would sound very evil.

Do you have go-to throwdown/mosh moves? Favourite stage dive techniques?

I will be turning 35 in a few months so I have been in mosh and stage dive retirement for years, which is a good thing.

What is the best thing to use to spike your hair up?

2 part epoxy with with a bond strength of at least 3,300 PSI.

How hard are you?

Without question as hard as that one unpopped kernel in a giant mouthful of popcorn.

Would you rather fight a Danzig sized toddler, or 5 toddler sized Danzigs?

I was under the impression Danzig is already toddler sized just a bit more spooky, so I will go with the Danzig sized toddler.


Hard Times

The Hard Times links:

Website: https://thehardtimes.net/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thehardtimesnews

Instagram: Thehardtimesnews

Twitter: RealPunkNews

Podcast: https://thehardtimespodcast.libsyn.com/

Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/thehardtimes

Joseph James

“The Punk Rock Kids Of Post-Rock”- An Interview With The End Of The Ocean

The End Of The Ocean dunk
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I befriended some of the members of The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA  when I was touring with the band Ranges last year. Their set was standout for a variety of reasons, but I’ll share a story of my personal connection.

I was at the front of the stage in the photo pit, taking pictures. Trish and Tara were both head banging as they played and I was trying to capture some shots of their hair flicking about. Tara got a bit too into it, and somehow lost balance, knocked her keyboard over, and fell over herself. I jumped up to help her reset her instrument, at the same time worried that I’d get in trouble for going onstage.

Tara was super grateful, and bought me a lot of drinks when we came through her home town of Columbus a few nights later. In all honesty, I can’t remember the all of exact details from Columbus, but I think I became a bit of a handful after too many beersies. I’m told that I got kicked out of a pizzeria, with someone from one of the bands carrying me away over their shoulder, quoting Lord Off The Rings while doing so.

So anyway, I think that The End Of The Ocean are pretty cool. Their music is great, and they’re fun to hang out with. After a long break, they’re back with two new singles, an upcoming album put out through the label Equal Vision, and an upcoming tour with my friends Tides Of Man.

What follows is an interview that probably contains too many stupid in-jokes, but I hope it illuminates who The End Of The Ocean are, and gives you insight into a great band with a great sense of fun.

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA

The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

Joseph (Will Not Fade): What inspired the video clip for “bravado”? Slipknot’s “Before I Forget“?

The End Of The Ocean: We compiled a list of wacky ideas and randomly selected three elements that we liked. Our original idea for the video was to have a food fight in our animal masks whilst blowing firecrackers at each other (firecrackers are a normal staple in our van when we’re on tour.) Kris Herrmann, the videographer and director for the “bravado” music video, had a less messy vision in his head with a lot of fantastic suggestions, including a stylistic nod towards Slipknot’s “Before I Forget” video. We are very pleased with how the music video ultimately turned out.

Does your music have a message?

Of course. And it’s up to each individual to decide what that message might be.

What sets this new music apart from your previous output?

During the writing process we accepted that we could not bear the burden of fans’ nostalgia from our previous releases, which left us unafraid to probe our inner space and musical capabilities more freely. Individually, we were all dealing with a series of blows that life threw our way. The emotions and growth we all experienced forged a different fury and wonderment that we hadn’t tried to express musically before. Our new album is a bit more straightforward in some parts, angry, hopeful, even a little playful, and peppered with enough blast beats throughout for every man, woman, and child.

Tell me about working with Mike Watts. How did this partnership come about?

Mike is the man. His previous work speaks volumes on it’s own (producer for The Dillinger Escape Plan, Glassjaw, As Cities Burn, Hopesfall, etc.) and we were lucky enough that Equal Vision could hook us up with him. Mike was super intuitive to how we wanted this new album to sound, and he hit it out of the park.

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA2017

The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

I’m intrigued by the album name -aire, could you explain the meaning of it?

The concept of our album stemmed from examining and discussing our humanity, what a strange trip it is to be alive, and the intense elements of our experiences that make us who we are. -aire is a suffix that forms nouns denoting a person characterized by or occupied with that named by the stem. We thought this suffix communicated all of these questions we were asking ourselves beautifully and abstractly.

Also, one of our bandmates is obsessed with the John Wick series and got part of the inspiration for the album name from one of those movies.

How have fans reacted to the two singles (“Bravado” and “Desire”) so far?

Our fans have always been ridiculously generous and supportive of our music. The response so far has been super. (Thanks, dudes!)

How has your approach to writing music changed since you started The End Of The Ocean?

This is the longest held lineup we’ve ever had in this band. So, basically, we argue less during practice and writing?

Generally speaking, we write most of our music together and historically that’s how our band has always done it. Not much has deviated from that.

I think that it is so awesome that you have two women in the band. What message have you got for any girls wanting to get into music?

Trish: Go for it. Just do it.

Tara: There’s nobody holding you back but you.

Do not enter this musical world with a victim complex. It’s boring and will only make you a sorry sack of excuses for not putting in the work.

If you’re a woman, you already know how many opinions and stereotypes with which you have to contend on a daily basis. Transcendence is harder than resigning yourself to other people’s’ opinions, but it makes you mighty. No wilting. No whimpering. Jump in head first and get ready to laugh at yourself often!

From Tara and Trish: If you’re a woman at one of our shows, please feel free to approach us if you’d like. We’re constantly in the midst of a sausage party when we’re doing band stuff, and it’s nice getting small breaks from all that. Sisterhood, unite!

I remember hearing that you’ve signed to Equal Vision when I was in Columbus last year. Has it been hard keeping this a secret?

We pretty much told all of our friends immediately. The only thing we didn’t do was post about it online until the label gave us the green light for the official announcement. Heh.

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA

The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

In the past you’ve done DIY packaging for making your CD’s. Do you think this has helped you forge a closer connection with your fanbase? Do Tara and Trish really kiss the tshirts and CD’s?

It was a cool feature, but we aren’t aware of it making a deeper connection to our fans. Ultimately, the DIY packaging set the stage for us to develop minor carpal tunnels syndrome, watch cool movies together while folding and stamping the sleeves, and for Tara to make fun of Kevin for how much Type O Negative he listens to on a regular basis.

Tara and Trish do not kiss any merch. Sorry, guys and ghouls. They have, however, accidentally sneezed on or briefly worn some of the merch. Who doesn’t like laughing hysterically at a child-sized woman trying on a XXXL shirt? (Obviously referring to Trish. Tara is sizeably more like an average-sized man.)

Are we ever going to hear a split release with The Ocean Collective? Or We Lost The Sea?

Who?

Kidding. We’d bet $5 they’d probably respond the same way about us.

How about a HIM or CKY split, yeah?

I remember during your soundcheck at dunk!USA you promised Nickelback covers. Have you ever followed through on such threats?

Don’t be afraid. Keep coming to our shows to find out. Maybe we’ll throw in some Creed too.

It was a fantastic set that really stood out. I loved the extra touches, like throwing beach balls into the audience and the Walking Dead sample. At a post-rock festival like dunk!, many of the bands sound similar, and struggle to appear unique. How do you come up with ideas for making your shows interesting?

Thank you for the generous compliment. We just like to have fun as a band and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Most of our ideas come from us joking around in the van because we’re bored. The props for dunk!USA were a fun idea until the smokers in the band realized the joke was on them and they had to blow up all the beach balls by themselves. Yadda, yadda, straightedge revenge or something? Thanks a lot, Wes and Kevin.

Shown above is one of the beach balls from the dunk!USA set. The guys from Man Mountain added some creative touches and gifted it to their tour buddies Ranges.

 

Tell me your coolest nautical related story.

That ferry we took to get to dunk!USA in Vermont was pretty siq.

Wes, what is the secret to keeping your flesh beautiful?

Pringles. Red Bull. And the most diverse array of gas station delectables you could possibly imagine.

(Joseph, it’s hilarious you remembered us mentioning this while we were all hanging out at dunk!USA. Side story to fill everyone else in: When we were on tour a number of years ago, our drummer Wes was sitting outside the venue we were playing in Tempe, Arizona. We didn’t realize the adult bookstore next door was also a known glory-hole hot spot. So, as our sweet little Wesley was killing time by himself before our set, a suspect man approached him from the aforementioned adult bookstore and said with a thousand yard stare, “You have beautiful flesh.” The man, while creepy, isn’t wrong. Wink wink)

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA2017

The End Of The Ocean at dunk!USA 2017. Image: Will Not Fade

I remember hanging out with Tara and Bryan in Junius’ hotel room after dunk!USA. A few of the guys from Caspian were there too. That was a big moment for me, realising that my small music blog had been a catalyst for travelling around the world and hanging out with some musicians I held great admiration for. Do you ever have moments where you have to step back and take stock of how far you’ve come?

That was a fun night! And yes, we have those big picture moments all of the time. Band life is absurd, so when you approach this lifestyle with a spirit of humility and gratitude, it isn’t difficult to get smacked squarely in the face with awe when stuff gets really meta.

You frequently do the “hardstyle” pose in your photos, and this has begun to spread within the post-rock community. I’ve been in a bunch of said photos with the likes of Ranges, Man Mountain and Cloud Shelter . Do you know where the hardstyle pose originated, or how it became popularised?

Prison. Hardstyle posing was also known as a “prison pose”. The tough guy hardcore scene is a sub-group that adopted this photo pose. And we took it from the hardcore scene and brought it to post-rock.

Our very own Kevin Shannon is also the originator of the #dailyhardstyle hashtag on Instagram. Bless.

What rules do you have in place for staying sane/healthy on tour?

Headphones. Sleep whenever it’s possible. Drink lots of water and juices. Bring a good book and keep feeding that noodle so it doesn’t turn to mush.

What is the best pizza flavour?

Trish – Pineapple

Kevin and Wes – All pizza is good pizza. No slice left behind. (Only it it’s vegan.)

Tara – Your dad’s b-hole

Crazy riders belong in the pantheon of rock mythology, with hilarious stories from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Van Halen. That said the greatest rider I’ve ever seen was yours from dunk!USA. Where did you find such inspiration?

One of us was bored one night and just started compiling the list. We wanted David Zeidler [the dunk!USA organiser] to know what he was “in for” when we rolled through town for dunk!USA. If you aren’t laughing, you ain’t living, my friend.

David Zeidler called you the “punk rock kids of post-rock”. Do you think you deserve this title?

We love it. We’ll take it.

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA hospitality rider

The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA hospitality rider

What have been your career highlights to date?

Definitely playing the main stage at dunk!fest in Belgium. We still talk about it almost every single time we’re all together jamming or hanging out. It’s one of the best festivals out there to date.

And how about the worst moments?

Not having AC in our van for a six and a half week tour in the summer of 2012. Vinyl seats are no bueno in that type of scenario.

As you know, I talk funny because I’m a New Zealander, and Jakob are one of the best bands from my country. Did you befriend them when you both played dunk!festival 2015 in Belgium?

Unfortunately, we never had the pleasure of meeting them. Jakob is great, though!

Which bands are your faves for playing/touring with?

In most cases we’d say the heavier, the better. Our live performance is a bit of a tempest, and we just love performing with other bands with similar energy.

Some fantasy tours: Kevin – Bruce Spingsteen, Type O Negative, Bush Wes – Behemoth, NIN, Sigur Ros Trish – Thursday, Thrice, The Story So Far Tara – Bjork, Die Antwoord, The Misfits

Usually a new single signals an upcoming album, and then a supporting tour. What plans do you have in the works?

Our new album “-aire” is coming out January 18, 2019 through Equal Vision Records! We are also hitting the road for a headlining tour with Tides of Man in tow. Check the dates below and we look forward to seeing you guys soon!

The End Of The Ocean

Image: Bee Gats

THE END OF THE OCEAN -AIRE TOUR

WITH SPECIAL GUESTS TIDES OF MAN

JAN 18 COLUMBUS, OH AT ACE OF CUPS

JAN 19 CHICAGO, IL AT BEAT KITCHEN

JAN 20 DETROIT, MI AT EL CLUB

JAN 22 TORONTO, ON AT LEE’S PALACE

JAN 23 MONTREAL, QC AT CASA DEL POPOLO

JAN 24 NEW YORK, NY AT SAINT VITUS

JAN 25 ALLSTON, MA AT GREAT SCOTT

JAN 26 PHILADELPHIA, PA AT MILKBOY

JAN 27 BALTIMORE, MD AT OTTOBAR

The End Of The Ocean Tides Of Man Tour Poster


The End Of The Ocean links:

Pre-order link to the album: https://theendoftheocean.merchnow.com

Website: http://theendoftheocean.com/

Bandcamp: https://theendoftheocean.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theendoftheoceanband/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/endoftheocean

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theendoftheocean/

Spotify: http://open.spotify.com/artist/4AXRViJcT2cJ0x1CxSSldW

 

Joseph James

 

Stayin’ Gold: An Interview With Lookin Up’s Luke Cooper

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New York hardcore legends Gorilla Biscuits came to New Zealand back in 2015. A group of us from Wellington all pitched in to rent a van and drove up for the gig. It was a great trip, with positive vibes and fun times all round. The show was a total blast. It was also where I first saw Lookin Up play, who had a supporting slot.

Lookin Up also played at Declaration AD’s final show, which was also an amazing night. It was bittersweet, because Declaration AD had been a huge part of my life for the past five years, and this show signaled the end of an era. But it was also the best night, with so many people coming together to celebrate their legacy.

And I’m sure I’ve seen Lookin Up a few other times – sometimes with a line-up of smaller NZ hardcore bands, and sometimes opening for bigger names like Turnstile. But those shows I just mentioned are the two that stand out for me. Every time I saw them, I remember being impressed by the intensity, positivity, and the sheer fun nature of their sets.

Lookin Up are releasing their second album, Gold, on Friday 5th October, so I had a chat with Luke Cooper to hear about recent changes the band have gone through, the new album, and touring around the world.

Will Not Fade: Lookin Up have dropped off the radar for a while. Now you’re back, with a new album and a different lineup. Talk me through what you’ve been up to.

Luke Cooper: Oh man, we have been up to so much. A few days after the Rise Against show in December 2015, Rowan and Levi told us they were leaving, so we knew the Turnstile tour in January 2016 will be our last shows with that line up. Jamie and I were thinking about whether or not we wanted to carry on and decided to take the rest of 2016 off to reset. I continued to write and by the end of 2016 we were ready to go again. We spent most of 2017 building the band up again in the rehearsal room  and at the start of this year we had over 20 songs that we were proud of. We were ready to get back to playing shows again, so we booked the NZ tour and then headed off to Europe to record the new songs and play a bunch of shows.

Are you still playing Reborn material, or did that era of the band finish when Rowan and Levi left?

Yeah definitely, we still really like that album and all of those songs are fun to play, so I don’t think we will ever stop playing at least a few of them. We wrote the new songs to intentionally integrate the 2 albums into our set and all the new songs are a natural progression from what were we doing in Reborn.

You’ve been through a number of lineup changes over the past few years. What were the key things you were looking for when trying to find new members to join the band?

Yeah, we had a really good dynamic and understanding with Rowan and Levi. When we first started the band, we set some goals and achieved every single one of them. This got us to a point where we either had to start investing a lot more time and finances into international touring or to just call it a day. Rowan had already been there with a bunch of other bands and he and Levi both didn’t want to commit in the way that they knew they needed too. Jamie and I still believed in what we were doing and saw potential in it, so they encouraged us to keep going.

Since we had already done over 4 years of ground work, we needed to find people who were ready to take the next steps with us. This has taken a few different combinations of people to really work out, but with Chow on board we are good to go.

Dylan’s nickname is Chow Ming. I remember this being super confusing when I first met him. Have you got any funny stories about this?

Haha yes it was very confusing. I remember when Chow changed his name on Facebook and lost hundreds of friends because no one knew who Dylan Stubbins was. Back when he was in Blameless and they toured with my old band Punisher, we played in Christchurch and took the ferry down. On the ferry ticket I listed his name as Chow Ming, because I was so used to calling him that, and he had to get a note from his mum saying that he although his ID says Dylan Stubbins, he is Chow Ming also hahaha

Do you ever dress the same to be cool onstage? Just wondering if a Brave Sons influence rubbed off.

Oh yeah man, Brave Sons are the reason we started playing music. 

You recorded Gold in Norway. Why Norway?

Once we had an albums worth of new songs, we started looking at recording options. I have a studio at home and it would have been really easy to just record it there and do what we have always done. But we wanted to try something new, so I typed into google “Cool recording studios” and a picture of Ocean Sound Recordings popped up. It was one of the most insane things I had ever seen. I contacted the studio manager, it turned out to be affordable and we started to plan our year around that. Since we were already in Europe, we decided to play some shows so I reached out to a bunch of promoters and booking agents and made it happen. 

How long are your sets? I have 23 minutes of Lookin Up music on my computer. How much music do you need (duration-wise) to warrant touring?

Haha with Rowan and Levi our sets were about 15 mins of pure carnage but that was enough for those sorts of shows. With the new album we have built more of a sustainable set and can play up to around 45 mins if we need too. I think that if you are supporting a show and can cram 9 insane songs into a 15 min set, it helps people remember your band without burning everyone out before the headliners come on.

What happened to the 2017 demos? (“Break” and “Proud”).

Oh yes, we got restless for a month or so and with the line up we had at the time, we recorded those 2 songs and booked a few shows. That line up didn’t last very long so we took them down and re-worked them. A new version of “Proud” is on Gold 

I’ve tagged along with bands on tour around NZ, America and Europe. All offered vastly different experiences. Can you tell me about your favourite places to play, and why?

My favourite place to play was Aarhus in Denmark. The venue was a youth building, a lot like Zeal and we had driven 6 hours from Netherlands to be there. We weren’t expecting much but it was one of the best responses we have seen as a band. We ended up getting about 100 Euro for the show and didn’t have to eat stale bread and apples for dinner again hahaha 

I’m sure that you have played a wild range of venues. Are there any unusual ones that stand out?

We played a café in Prague where the show was free and the café was open to members of the public. People brought their dogs and children in to get dinner and had to deal with some of the loudest most aggressive music you can imagine. The toilet was right next to the stage and I remember young kids and old people walking right past me terrified and blocking their ears all night. No one spoke English either so it was really interesting working out what to do in between songs.

A world tour of 100 shows is a big commitment. What strategies do you have in place to stay sane on the road?

There will be a whole lot of kick boxing sparring, a whole lot of jiu jitsu a whole lot of bombs [I assume Luke means jumping into water here] and a whole lot of Astrid S and Sigrid in the van. If everyone in the van gets in a routine and eats well, its pretty easy to stay sane on the road.

Lookin Up

Image: Dylan Gerschwitz

Luke, are you and Jamie brothers? How does this affect the band dynamic?

Oh yes we are, its one of the worst things you can ever imagine. I definitely would not recommend it.

 Is music a viable career in 2018? Can you break even – or better yet – make a living as a musician? I know that you are an engineer, and do recording and mixing for a living, Luke. What about the other guys?

I think a career in music is more viable now than ever. Bands definitely aren’t selling as many albums as they used too but they are all making way more money touring than ever before. Like every industry in the world, you have to work hard and make wise choices. At the moment we all have other jobs that enable us to pay our bills, fund the band and generally be functioning members of society. But we wont need to do that for much longer and we have every intention of making this as financially viable as possible.

What has been your highlight to date? And what are you most looking forward to?

That trip to Europe on the whole was an incredible experience. We learned a lot about our selves and what is actually possible as a band and we came back from it with a defined sense of direction. Writing and recording an album is a massive strain on time and energy so we are really looking forward to playing as many shows as possible in as many places as we can.

 Tell me about Gold

Gold is 11 bangas that we have been working on for the last year. There are some songs that will confuse people and some songs that are reminiscent of the Reborn era. We got our friend Greg Haver to help produce the songs, his engineer Brendan Davies came with us to Norway and was an absolute wizard. Tom Lord Alge mixed the 3 singles and helped me out with the remaining songs and Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound mastered the album. Everything sounds exactly as we intended and we couldn’t be happier. We can’t wait for people to hear it.

 I really dig the two singles I’ve heard so far. “Don’t” has a mean groovy riff. And I love how the vocals on “Enough” alternate between sounding strong and distant. It’s quite moody but at the same time direct. Neither song is as heavy as your early material, but I am thoroughly enjoying them.

Thanks man, we spent a lot of time working on structured song writing and arrangement of those songs and wanted to record them as well as possible. Recorded, they aren’t as trashy as Reborn but live they are some of the heaviest songs we have ever written.

 What is the key message that you hope people hear as they listen to your music?

We just want people to leave our shows feeling better about their lives in general. We focus on positive messages with our lyrics but everything is open to interpretation.   

Do you ever get the urge to have Joel Little produce you so you can become the next Lorde? [Rowan who used to sing for Lookin Up was in the band Goodnight Nurse with Little]

Hahaha absolutely, watch this space…

Can you please list your favourite dog breeds?

Bonobo Chimpanzee


Lookin Up are releasing Gold on Friday October 5th, with a NZ tour taking place in October and November, and international tour to follow.

Lookin Up Gold Tour Poster

Lookin Up are:

Jamie Cooper – Lead Vocals / Bass
Luke Cooper – Guitar / Backing Vocals
Dylan Stubbins – Drums

Lookin Up links:

www.facebook.com/lookinuplookinup
www.instagram.com/lookinupnz
www.youtube.com/channel/UCcr6h3zhC8ojBAfLZET5z6Q/videos
www.lookinup.bandcamp.com
https://open.spotify.com/artist/54bc4MYPlOY1WdwmiAbfGS?si=r4kRMnh_QIqixWO-e8e1DA
https://itunes.apple.com/nz/artist/lookin-up/1406543174

 

Interview by Joseph James

Photos by Dylan Gerschwitz

Infinite Ceiling: An interview with Tides of Man

Tides of Man soundcheck dunk!festival 2018
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I befriended Florida-based Tides of Man last year when they played a handful of shows with the band Ranges, who I was on tour with. We fast became friends, and hearing them play unreleased songs every night raised my expectations of upcoming album, Every Nothing.

They called me by my nickname of Baggins – a New Zealand/ Lord of the Rings reference that Ranges started – and we shared some great times on the road. It was a ridiculously fun week involving lots of beer, Taco Bell, sleeping in tour vans and listening to great music. I was fortunate enough to see them again half a year later, when they played dunk!festival in Belgium this May.

Their last album, Young and Courageous, stands as one of my favourites. And Every Nothing follows suit as a well-crafted, emotionally charged masterpiece.

I interviewed guitarist Spencer Gill to find out what Tides of Man have been up to in recent years, and to learn a bit more about the new record coming out.

Spencer Tides of Man dunk!festival 2018

Spencer at dunk!festival 2018

Joseph James (Baggins) – Will Not Fade: First up, congrats on the new album. I know you’ve put a lot of time into Every Nothing, so it must feel good to see all that effort coming to fruition.

Let’s go back a bit to start with. Tides of Man started off as an entirely different sounding project. To me, your earlier albums sound like Coheed & Cambria. Then Tilian (vocals) left, and after failing to choose on a new singer, you decided to continue without one. How did your old fans react to Young and Courageous being an instrumental album?

Spencer Gill – Tides of Man: Our old fans were very open to our new sound. We had overwhelming support on our crowdfunding campaign from our existing fanbase and a lot of people were very happy with the transition. Of course there were people who didn’t appreciate the transition, but that’s completely natural in any big change I think.

How does writing instrumental music compare to writing music that features lyrics?

It’s definitely different. You can’t rely on a Verse/Chorus structure, and you have a lot more space to fill than if there were vocals there. I think each part has to be chosen carefully and you have to keep the melody interesting. The feel of a build, or the tone of an individual instrument suddenly becomes very important when it’s not sitting back in the mix underneath vocals. 

Does your music have a message? What inspires the songwriting process?

We like to be subtle with our message. We feel that music (especially instrumental) has a lot to do with the listener’s personal connection to it. We definitely have a certain theme in mind for each album, but we like to leave a little interpretation there for the listener.

Inspiration for us comes from so many different things. Dan could be listening to a new record and really like the tone of some guitar and then we kind of pull from that and write a whole new song. We could be jamming in the practice space, and all of the sudden Alan and Josh just lock into some cool groove out of nowhere. A lot of our songs start off like this, then we quickly record them and rework them until we are completely happy.

I know that a lot of people I’ve talked to discovered Tides of Man through Audiotree. Tell me about the experience of recording an Audiotree session.

That was full-on nerve racking. But the guys at Audiotree made it so smooth, and were very nice to us. They guided us through the whole thing. 

We thought it turned out great, and the recording quality was unreal! We are super thankful to Audiotree for having us on there, and we have definitely noticed that as one of the top ways that people have discovered our new music.

It has been four years since you released your last record. Talk me through what you’ve been doing since then.

Writing, jamming, re-writing, scratching everything all together, fully second guessing all of our ability to write anything again, then re-writing again. In the end, we are finally happy with our new record and proud to put it out. We have put a lot of late nights into this album and we made it a point to never compromise if we didn’t like something. We kept working at it until we were happy.

Dan Tides of Man dunk!festival 2018

Dan at dunk!festival 2018

This is your fourth studio album. How have things changed since you released your first EP ten years ago?

Ha! We are better musicians for sure. We know our way around a studio now, and can really focus on getting great tones and making the studio make the song even better. Before, we were scared of the metronome, and had no idea what we were doing as far as amp selection, drum selection, production, etc. But I think every band goes through that transition of getting familiar with the studio and then using it to their advantage.

Are emo fringes ever going to come back in fashion?

Did they ever go out of fashion? Is this because we used to rock that haircut? 

Haha maybe…

You used crowd funding when recording Young and Courageous. Why didn’t you opt to do that again for Every Nothing?

The last crowd funding campaign was awesome, but we always intended to make the band support itself as a business. Putting out Young and Courageous on our own without a label allowed us to make that a reality. We wanted to make the band do Every Nothing on it’s own dime. It forced us to make decisions with our money and be responsible not only as musicians, but as a business.

Alan Tides of Man dunk!festival 2018

Alan at dunk!festival 2018

On a related note, how does recording and releasing an album independently compare to when you were signed to Rise Records?

There’s a lot more work involved to be short. When you are on a label, you get booked in a studio and show up to record your album. They take care of marketing, packaging, design, distribution, etc. That’s all on us as an independent band. 

We are involved in every aspect of the release of the record, right down to arguing about what exactly should be on the center label of the vinyl.

A Thousand Arms are awesome, and I love those guys so much, but is there an easier option for ordering the record for those of us who don’t live in America?

We are in the works of setting up European distribution of vinyl.

Every Nothing sounds a lot heavier than Young and Courageous. Was this a conscious decision you made when songwriting?

I think it was a natural progression that just sort of happened. The quiet parts are quieter, and the loud parts are louder. That’s how we felt at the time of writing these particular songs.

Tides Of Man setlist from their US tour last year

Tides Of Man setlist from their US tour last year

I notice that the song names written on your setlist from tour last year differ from the new album track names. Have you renamed them, or are there some b-sides in the works?

We have horrible working titles for our tracks, and we have them for so long that we tend to remember them as that title rather than the actual title on the record. A B-Side or two may be in the works, but no promises.

Joel Frieders discovered that on your last album, the track “Hold Still” starts like the Yo Gabba Gabba song by the same name. Have you hidden any Easter eggs like that on the new record?

Ha! That was an absolute coincidence. Someone told me the other day that it apparently has a train noise in a section of it too. 

As far as we know, there are no similarities to any children’s tv shows in our music, but we would be happy to find out after the fact that we accidentally ripped off Barney.

Many of you work as studio musicians. Which has more pressure: playing for other musicians, or working on your own project?

Playing for other musicians is definitely a job in and of itself, and we always want to deliver exactly what each client wants, so there is pressure for sure.

But writing your own music has so much more. It’s hard to explain why, but it feels like you are laying your identity on the line with each note, and if you mess it up you’re done for.

I know that the artwork was one of last things that you sorted out for this album. Would you care to talk about the album cover and general art direction? I know that Dan does design, and Alan is a photographer, so the visuals must be important to you.

Design is definitely important to us. As an instrumental band, all we have to communicate the feel of the record is the design and song titles, so we spend a lot of time throwing ideas back and forth on the direction and how it fits the album. On this one we wanted something that showed mundane everyday existence against pure nothingness. The album is really about the interplay between our fixation on mundane, meaningless things and the bigger picture that we forget to look at.

I should also add that the video for “Static Hymn” is great.

Thanks! Stephen Mlinarcik brought that idea to life! He was awesome to work with.

Tides of Man is based in Tampa, Florida, but Josh lives in London, and last I heard, Alan lives in LA. How do you make it work with such big distances between you all?

Luckily we all enjoy traveling. We always have a home base in Tampa, and Josh and Alan never hesitate to fly in and stay for a while. We’ve never had a problem with the distance.

I’ve seen you play at dunk!festival in both the US and Belgium and you have Arctangent coming up. Does your approach change between playing festivals and standard shows?

We try to simply play our music well and feel it with the crowd. I don’t think that should be any different between festivals and standard shows. 

You’ve played with some great bands during your career. I can imagine that the Karnivool tour would have been incredible. And you were all buzzing when I last saw you in Europe after playing with EF and aswekeepsearching. Which bands have you most enjoy playing with, and who do you still to aspire to share a stage with?

Karnivool was definitely a treat to watch every night. We also really enjoyed playing with Rare Futures (formerly Happy Body, Slow Brain). Of course, touring with Covet and Vasudeva was awesome! Those guys are super talented. Ranges was also awesome to tour with. There’s too many good times to pick and choose which tour we were most grateful for. We have made amazing friends from all over the world because we are able to go out and tour. It’s just been amazing from the get go.

In the future we’d love to tour with This Will Destroy You, Russian Circles, Mogwai, Circa Survive, Thrice, and many more.

Vinny with Tides of Man dunk!festival 2018

Vinny Capitani playing with Tides of Man at dunk!USA festival 2017

We’ve all spent our fair share of time sleeping in vans. Do your wives/girlfriends get jealous that you sleep beside Vinny Capitani on tour?

They were absolutely jealous until he removed his beautiful locks. Now, not so much.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learnt about touring as a band?

If you don’t constantly try to improve as a band, and tackle something bigger you end up nagging at each other over stupid shit. We’ve learned this from personal experience. You always have to be pushing yourselves towards being better as a band, and you can never get stuck on the losses.

You’ve all eaten a lot of taco bell in your time, having been sponsored by Taco Bell through the Feed The Beat program. What are your top tips for making the most of the Taco Bell menu? I’m happy to hear vegan options too, seeing as a few of you are vegan.

  1. Order anything grilled “extra crispy”
  2. Add a lot of Fire Sauce
  3. Get that creamy jalapeño sauce too
  4. If you’re vegan, get on that Fresco menu. It’s great.

My favourite memory of the times spent with Tides of Man was when we went on an adventure in New Jersey, exploring the “Gates of Hell” during the time between load in and sound check. What are some other memorable adventures that you’ve been on as a band?

So many amazing memories as a band! Driving all night to see Moab, Utah at sunrise. A day off at Cedar Point Park back in 2010 when we rode coasters all day with the entire tour party. Sky Diving at sunset on the coast of California. No A/C in the van for 5 days in Texas. Holding up signs at shows to find a place to stay for the night. Seeing Europe and the UK for the first time. Taking shots of “Red Death” in Tours, France. These are just a few.

Every Nothing is due out in August. What upcoming plans do you have for the band?

We are playing Fete De Lion festival August 3rd, and then ArcTanGent festival August 18th, and we plan to do a Europe/UK run in-between the two. Later in the fall we will be doing a US run.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I’m enjoying the new record and I’m sure that you are excited to share it with the rest of the world shortly. Is there anything else that you would like to mention?

Yes, thank you Baggins. Only other thing to mention is that you can pre-order our album now over at A Thousand Arms website. Check it out.

Tides of Man pre-order options at A Thousand Arms: https://athousandarms.store/collections/tidesofman

Josh Tides of Man dunk!festival 2018

Josh at dunk!festival 2018

Tides of Man links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tidesofman/
Bandcamp: https://tidesofman.bandcamp.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tidesofman
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tidesofman/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGu5lp7dVJNbsYCEjN2Mk_A

All photos by Joseph James (aka Baggins) except a few embedded from Dan’s instagram.