When it comes to hardcore they don’t come much bigger than Converge. Having just released brilliant eighth studio album ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’, the band are continuing to redefine the genre. KYS recently caught up with frontman Jacob Bannon to discuss music, a near death experience…and the strong possibility of an upcoming Australian tour.
Hey Jacob, how’s it going?
It’s going good, how are you?
Yeah, not too bad thanks.
And you guys are in Portland at the moment?
Yeah [we are].
How’s it like getting back on the road again, playing shows after being in the studio for so long?
Well we were on tour all throughout that as well. We went on tour in April and stuff while we were recording the record. It’s been a whirlwind of activity this year. It’s been a really busy year for us. I don’t know how it feels to be honest. You almost don’t get time to process it. If you’re in the throws of recording and creating a record and creating artwork for it, and doing all the legwork associated with it that’s non musical. Then you’re preparing for tour, getting a vehicle ready for tour, [and] then getting a trailer ready for tour. Then you’re on tour. And now we’re here. You don’t really get time to hang back and just enjoy things I guess. It takes a little time. Even today we were starting to feel pretty good, but we’re still a little run down and sick and whatnot. It’s the just the way it is.
I was going to say, I saw on your Facebook page the other day that you had a scary situation while you were driving to a show. Is everything all good there?
Yeah, I mean we almost died. It’s not the first time we’ve almost died on a tour. But, it was pretty nerve racking. There’s nothing like driving down a serious mountain grade at a few thousand feet elevation and then feel your brakes and there’s nothing there. And there’s a pile of 18-wheelers jack knifed in front of you. And the only thing we could do is basically intentionally crash our van. It was either that or going through a truck and cutting our van in half and probably killing us all.
So we did it and we survived and we were lucky. And we spent a few hours facing the wrong direction on the road. The only thing we really did to our van was we caved in our bumper, so our front tyres couldn’t move. But we managed to spend a few hours prying it off our tyres and a tow guy came, showed up and we used his chains to chain it up and pull it off the tyres so we could drive and then we were good to go.
It’s good that everything worked out in the end.
Yeah (laughs). It’s a little scary. Your life definitely flashes before your eyes. And you’re always worried about that sort of stuff. There are always a lot of risks on the road when you’re travelling.
Yeah I can imagine.
And I read a previous interview you did a while back and you were talking hardcore music. And what makes hardcore, hardcore is that it’s free from rules and what not. How does that opinion translate when Converge writes an album?
We’re super introverted. So we don’t really look to the outside world when we are writing music. We have things that we like and bands we appreciate and stuff like that. But our influences don’t really come into play anymore. When you’ve been a band for a while, all of that kind of goes away. You just end up becoming this weird animal that is so introverted that you’re sort of influencing yourself in a way.
I’ve been listening to the album on repeat for a few weeks now. I’ve noticed there are some real diverse elements to the recent album. What were some of the main goals you wanted to achieve when recording?
Sorry, hold on one second. Sorry (laughs) I’m walking with some of the guys from the tour.
Oh ok, no worries, you’re fine (laughs).
We just wanted to make something that is exciting to play every night, that is exciting to hear back, [and] gets us amped to be a band. So we have really high standards when it comes to that sort of thing, so there’s always going to be a dynamic to what we do. There’s always going to be an ebb and flow, a different kind of sounding thing going on with our band. That is something we always take pride in.
And the album title itself it’s quite emotive. Were there any particular themes or inspirations behind it when you were writing the lyrics?
The title is a metaphor about life and about having to make sacrifices and I think we can all relate to that in some way. The song specifically, I wrote when I started going through some pretty heavy things at home. I had a dog die on me. A dog I cared about a lot. And I was holding my dog as she died and it affected me a lot. And I started to think about all the time I lost when I didn’t have her in my life. When I was travelling, when she was in the care of other people and I really regretted that time.
You’ve been around for quite a while now. What keeps Converge motivated after all these years?
The only motivation is the complex world we live in. The way I see it, if we can do something positive, and find a calling in life, something you are good at…something that can be a positive and you go for it. For me it’s music and art, for other people it could be being a mechanic, you know what I mean. But I think it’s all noble. I think if you’re doing something positive and you’re fucking making people smile or you’re doing just some fucking good in this world then it’s a noble thing that’s worth doing.
Yeah, for sure.
I think there’s too many selfish people involved in music and other aspects of life, you know?!
And when you talk about and are alluding to selfish people and music and stuff at the moment. In terms of the genre, is there anything good or bad that you see about it currently?
There’s just a tonne of stuff that is just corrupt. There’s a tonne of bands that just want to be popular, ‘ya know. But they don’t want to be good. They don’t want to be a positive. There have been a lot of musicians, there are a lot of artists, [and] a lot of people that want to feed their egos rather than their feed their soul. It’s a different animal. And I see that, when I see other bands that they’re transparent. Where I look at them and they’re not the same animal. And, that’s not a quality that is punk rock or hardcore. For me, it should be something that you love and something…I don’t know…it’s not about physical gain…I don’t know? [Or] about economic gain or inflaming an ego, it’s just about doing something right. You know that feeling you get in your chest when you doing something that…something that is selfless. That’s the feeling that I think that community should give you when you’re participating in it.
Because I’ve noticed, and I’m not sure if you’re up to date with it, but I know this week, there’s been a bit of back and forth between the members of Terror and The Ghost Inside and they’ve been debating what hardcore represents.
I don’t know anything about that because I don’t really pay attention to that sort of thing.
That’s fair enough.
…[But] the Terror guys they’ve always been good to me.
In terms of being a band today, do you think it’s easier for a band to start off today as opposed to when you started off?
It’s way easier for a band to start now. For number one you’ve got a social network and you have this ability to have this web of information out there and be able to go out and be seen and heard very quickly. Very, very quickly. Instantaneously really. If you have bandwidth and access to media and hosting, then you can get a record out there in two seconds and have people hear you. Which is a beautiful thing.
I think one of the main issues with that though, is that you have all of these people becoming artists that aren’t really taking the time to cultivate their art and develop their art and music. They’re looking for instant gratification. They aren’t put in the hard work. And it makes a different kind of animal. The thing is, when we travel, and we joke about it a lot, like I’m walking with the guys from Torche right now, and we are just like a bunch of dudes that have been travelling for a long time and touring, and playing in bands for a very long time. With that said, the way you look at other people, when we meet and see them, we meet people from all walks of life. And we know we’re completely different. We’re no longer doing it anymore; you know what I mean (laughs). Because we’ve been doing it for so long. For example, if I explained to people what I did in the last 72 hours to a normal individual, that has a very comfortable, every day life, it would probably be completely fucking crazy to them. After the van almost flipped over on the highway and we narrowly missed being destroyed by a bunch of 18 wheelers and then we are laying underneath the van, ripping the bumper of the chains at 4am on a sheet of ice (laughs). And you’re doing all this and you’ve played a show the night before, a fantastic show and then like three hours later we get the van up and running and then we drive to a motel, get a motel room, and go to bed for three hours (laughs) and then wake up and finish the drive and play a show (laughs). We’re not right. We’re not normal people and I don’t know if that is good or bad, but that is the kind of thing.
There’s definitely bands that will come around now, newer bands, that if they fucking leave a guitar somewhere, they’ll start a fucking PayPal donation account. You work your ass off, you work hard, that’s what life is. Life is not meant to be handed to you. And I don’t really know anything about this Terror thing that is going on, but I know Scott and I’ve known the guys for a long time and they come from the same mentality as we do. You put your head down, you work hard and you make things happen, ‘ya know. You run your own shit. And I think there are a lot of artists that don’t do that anymore.
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more with you on those points. And speaking of peers and fellow bands, I was interviewing Tomas from At The Gates about a week or so ago. And we were talking about your album and he had some really positive things to say. How does that sort of make you feel, when you hear fellow bands talk about your band so well?
Tomas is a good friend and I respect Tomas as an artist a lot. So it means a lot to me. I’ve travelled with Tomas, I’ve known Tomas for a long, long time and he is one of those musicians that I hold really dear to my heart. So it means a lot. There’s certain people like that, that mean a lot to me. I mean the Neurosis guys. The other day when we had the little incident (van accident) and Scott Kelly from Neurosis, reached out and texted me and said “hey, are you guys all right?” He lives in Oregon. He reached out and right away reached out to me, talked to me about it and made sure it was ok and opened up his house to us if we needed it. That stuff means a lot to me. Because that’s the sense of community of artists that we consider peers, that mean a lot to all of us. And we’ll never take their friendship and existence for granted. All those bands that we care about that have good things to say or constructive things to say and reach out when we need it the most and vice versa. Those are the people we will always really treasure.
Yeah, I can agree on all those points.
You’ve got quite an extensive album list now. If there’s a new kid that is just getting into hardcore and getting into Converge. Would you recommend them to start listening to your newer stuff or start at the beginning and go through your whole catalogue?
If I was a newer music listener. I would start at the newest and work backwards. Because if I was new listener I wouldn’t know much about heavy music yet and it would all be new to me and I would want to get into it and work backwards to understand the lineage and that sort of direction and the history. I think it would be really tough for somebody that is like 13 years old getting into our band and listening to us as 13 year olds. You know what I mean?
Yeah, I can understand that.
I know it’s a question every Australian journalist is going to ask you today, but are there any plans to come back to Australian anytime soon?
Yeah, we’re planning on it. I think they’re going to be able to announce something in the next week or two. So we’ve been working on it. We’ve had a limited amount of time to tour, so it just takes us a little while to get some stuff together. But it is coming together for sure.
Excellent. Well, I’m definitely looking forward to that.
And you’re going to be in San Francisco shortly on your tour. I was just watching the World Series before the interview. Are you into baseball or much sports like that?
No, I’m just a combat sports guy. I’m a Muay Tai guy, a boxing guy, that’s been my world for a really long time. So, that’s the only stuff I really care about – the one on one sports for the most part. I respect athleticism, but I don’t really know a lot about it when it comes to team sports.
That’s fair enough. I understand.
And, I’ve just got some pretty easy ones to finish off with. Are there been any particular albums that have been your standouts in 2012?
The new Neurosis record is brilliant. The new Baroness record is brilliant. It has just been a really awesome time for heavy music. There’s a lot of exciting things.
Are there any hardcore bands or heavy bands in general that you have really taken notice of in the last year or so?
(pause) …Sorry about that, I just had to order my pizza. (laughs).
That’s all right, you’re all good. Did you want me to repeat the last question?
Yeah repeat that one. I kind of retained it, but I kind of didn’t, so I want to make sure I got it right.
That’s all good. I was just talking about how I saw Trash Talk at Soundwave a few years back and thought they epitomised hardcore and what heavy music and what it should be today. I was just wondering if there’s any bands that you think are up and coming that you have taken notice of lately?
It depends. It just subjective you know what you mean. It really depends on what you perceive to be hardcore or punk rock. For some people, something that is really downtrodden and heavy and slow can be really intense and hard. Or sometimes a band that plays a million miles an hour can be the next thing. But I think really what you are seeing are a lot of bands playing dress up. You see a lot of bands that are doing stylistic things that have already been done before and saying, “hey we’re the new Black Flag” or “hey, we’re the new black Sabbath influenced band.” (Laughs). That’s all well and good, I respect it if it’s all done well, there’s not that much that is original anymore that’s left.
But, I like to see a band come out that just doesn’t give a shit. That just does what they want, they’re not concerned with looking cool or playing the part. One of those bands I like a lot is the Code Orange Kids. They’re a band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and they just do their own thing. They’re brilliant musicians, they are anywhere between 18-20 years old and they just play from the heart and they don’t sound like anything else. They are frantic, they’re kind of wild, they kind of remind of the mentality we had when started the band when you were not trying to be anything but yourselves. And, it’s a hard road going that direction because you’re not trying to get popular immediately, you’re not trying to do anything, you’re just trying to be yourself and forge your own path. And that’s a hard thing to do and a brave thing for a band to do. And I feel all bands should do that but oddly enough it’s a rarity. You don’t really see it as much as you should.
Excellent. Well, I’ll let you get back to the interview rounds. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today and hopefully we see you back in Australia sooner rather than later.
All right man, thank you. Appreciate it.
No worries, thanks a lot Jacob.
You can read Killyourstereo’s review of ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ here.