Recent Epitaph signing Retox are about to put out their sophomore record, the blistering, energetic ‘YPLL’. Featuring The Locust frontman Justin Pearson and a host of gifted musicians, the band craft jagged, go-for-the-throat hardcore with an art-rock edge. Ahead of the album’s release, we chat to guitarist Michael Crain.
Hey there Michael, how are you?
I’m good thanks, how are you?
Great, thanks. So you guys just wrapped up a tour supporting Tomahawk, obviously Mike Patton’s other band outside of Faith No More, how was that?
Oh, it was awesome. Getting to watch Mike Patton everyday was pretty incredible, he’s definitely the boss.
Did you find you were playing to a different kind of audience than usual?
Big time, yeah. First and foremost, they were definitely there for Mike Patton. Tomahawk hadn’t played out in a really long time so most of the shows were sold out, and people were really excited, but it was definitely an older, more eclectic crowd.
For sure. Did you find the reaction was still good?
Yeah, they were really receptive actually. A few of the shows were really good, everyone was having a great fucking time. I mean, we definitely got a lot of jaws dropped when we started playing. We’re pretty fast, especially live, you can’t help but play faster. Definitely some people were pretty shocked, I’m sure some people were a little annoyed, but overall it was a pretty rad experience.
Awesome. So you guys are about to put out your second album, ‘YPLL’. Your first album ‘Ugly Animals’ was very caustic, very abrasive, very energetic. Was there a bigger shift on this record in terms of focusing on the songwriting and structures as opposed to just being, you know, loud and fast and heavy?
Yeah, definitely. We had a lot more time to write this record. ‘Ugly Animals’ was written so quickly, and recorded so quickly. This album, we had a lot of time, and we definitely kind of worked on a different avenue of sound, just cause it was more fun and felt radder. But there’s definitely more structure, and the songs aren’t as all over the place as on ‘Ugly Animals’. There’s a little more direction on it, I suppose.
You recorded the album with Chris Rakestraw, who has worked with his fair share of metal and heavier sort of bands – Danzig, Skeletonwitch to name a few. Do you feel like any of those sort of traits kind of bled through in the recording?
He definitely has his way of recording, but he was really good about it. He’s kind of hip to our sound, our genre, the weirder sort of post-punky fast stuff. He listened to all our demo recordings, all the old records, everything we did. He event went back and listened to our old bands. So he really did his homework. In the recording process, I could tell some of his methods I’m sure are pretty common with bands he worked with in the past but all in all he was great. He really had his standards he wanted us to sort of live up to.
Feel like they were lived up to?
I think so! I hope so. I can’t tell.
What about in terms of your own standards, as a band?
Oh, yeah. The weird thing about writing a record and recording it is it’s a process that would never end if you were able to not let it end. There’s always something I want to fix, there’s always something I want to re-do, there’s always a different sound I’d want to capture. At some point you’ve just got to stop, and be like “You know what? It sounds good”. It’s just like this neverending art process.
So, a cool little thing about the album, Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played on one of the tracks, how did that come about? Have you guys always known each other or… ?
Yeah, I didn’t really know him all that well, but there’s a connection with Justin [Pearson, vocalist].
Nick played with Justin in Head Wound City, right?
That’s right. When they started Retox, they wanted to have Nick Zinner play guitar, and have me play guitar as well. Nick Zinner couldn’t do it just because, you know, he’s a busy guy and he lives on another coast. But we saw him on tour in New York last Summer and Justin was like “Dude, we started tracking the new album, you should play on one of the songs” and Nick was like “fuck yeah” so we just sent Nick all the songs and told him to pick whatever he wanted to do. So he picked that song, “Congratulations, You Are Good Enough” and just did some awesome shit on it.
Right on. So there’s a fair bit of discussion about Retox’s specific category or genre – it’s hardcore, it’s powerviolence, it’s punk rock, it’s mathcore – if you had to pin down a concise description and pick a genre if someone were to ask, how d’you think you’d respond?
If I had to pick a genre? Sci-fi surf punk. That’s what we sound like these days. Like science fiction surf punk. Like, if Boba Fett or Darth Vader were learning how to surf, in Venice Beach in the 80’s, and were like super fucking tough.
And you guys are the soundtrack.
We’re the soundtrack.
So, you’re about to put out the album. Any plans to tour Australia anytime soon, maybe off the back of it?
Yeah, I think we’re meant to be out there soon. I’m not too sure exactly when or anything, but we’ll definitely be getting over there.
Great to hear. Thanks a lot for your time.
Thanks, you too.