For the past decade, Defeater have merged an uncompromising brand of hardcore with a fictional yet immensely powerful story of a family torn apart following World War II. This potent combination of hard-hitting music and themes has resulted in the band being one of the more unique hardcore acts. Big words, but when you consider the band’s lyrics and the sheer emotional weight and impact of the songs, one can easily see why they’ve been around for so long, and why they will continue on for many years to come. We recently spoke with vocalist Derek Archambault about the band’s brilliant new album, ‘Abandoned’.
After hearing ‘Abandoned’, and seeing that it’s about the hardship someone experiences when they lose their faith, I’m curious as to whether this album revolves around or linked to in anyway the characters and stories of the past three records?
Yeah, it does. This character, the priest, he was introduced back on our first album Travels, in the song Cowardice. It’s all interwoven, and it’s all meant to show how these people unknowingly unravel the other characters. Because he seemed like a minor character in Travels, but now you see how integral he is to the whole fictional family structure. It kind of puts its nose on its tail on what people think may have been going on.
Does the character’s dealings with faith in any way reflect your own experiences with faith or with religion?
It’s definitely not meant to be a true reflection of my own feeling’s and beliefs. But I do think that all fiction does come from a place of non-fiction. At least for me, no matter what I write for this band, there are always pieces of me scattered throughout.
As for me, there is a little bit of how I feel about a belief in a God, but it’s written so that people can maybe think upon the subject matter. To maybe show them how addiction and faith in a God, or lack of can really shape and change someone and why someone may lose faith in themselves or in a deity.
Our music is meant to be relatable to anyone, from the way we write and how I deliver the vocals. Obviously we’re a hardcore band, but in my head, I want anyone to be able to pick up an album and feel something from it. Rather than just have their immediate thought be, ‘Oh, this guy is just yelling some bullshit into a microphone. It probably doesn’t matter’.
Well said, man. As you said, that kind of connection between the music and listener is integral and almost universal throughout Defeater’s discography.
Yeah, that’s my intent. I really want things to be picked apart, and I want them to dissect everything that I write as there is a lot of double meaning in what I write. There’s so much self-referencing in the lyrics in order to show people that two different sides are of the same tale. There’s a lot in the records, that on their 30th listen to uncover something new, which to me will be obvious, but to someone who’s’ not living and breathing these characters realise a pivotal part of the story.
I’ve always appreciated that about your albums that I could find something new in the lyrics even after listening through them multiple times. I’ve always wondered, was there always a plan for the themes and the story of the four albums to last this long?
We always wanted it to continue. When we wrote Travels, we knew that we had sealed our own fate in what the band was going to be; writing based off this one concept. In my head there’s a loose plan and a loose storyline, but as for the true execution, it’s definitely going to be more on a whim. I want to make everything as current and the song-writing process to be as primal as possible, because otherwise I’ll plan too far ahead and then scrap it. So I’d rather write the songs in their final form and just leave them be.
But honestly, I’m just so stoked that five albums deep and still be a band, and still go overseas, the new album, and just everything that’s been going on lately.
Defeater music’s I have always found to be quite bleak, not in a negative way, but do you ever find the music adversely affecting your mood or your own world outlook?
I don’t want to say that I’m a miserable person, but my outlook on the world, on humanity, and on our history, isn’t all that positive. So I guess it is easier for me to go down that path, and write these pretty bleak stories, but the music itself is intentional. The rest of the band are very cool with me to assemble the record, I pretty much take the finished songs and arrange them in the order that will be suit the story and build the arc. Even to how much feedback is on this record was a calculated move so far as how we want it to sound versus to the subject matter of the lyrics. One is supposed to reflect against the other.
With having Bane support your Australian tour, how did it feel to have one of hardcore’s most veteran and respected bands supporting you?
It was incredibly surreal. It was just an honour, and those guys have become really good friends of ours. We did a tour with them back in 2011 and we were in awe that we were doing this, as we grew up in the late 90’s going to Bane shows and watching them become one of the biggest hardcore bands.
By the last date of that tour, I feel like we bonded so much over the fact that we do have such mutual respect for each other, but just being a part of their final run, there was so much camaraderie that I just don’t feel like [with] other bands. I hold my friends very close and that tour felt so special because of how excited they were to share it with us. It’s pretty amazing to watch someone you respect so much and look up to talk about how nice it is to that we got to tour together. It was pretty special.
‘Abandoned’ is out August 28th via Epitaph.