Who said that instrumental prog/djent had to be metal influenced? American guitar up-starts Polyphia have been making it their full mission for the past few years to change the ‘heavy’ instrumental cliche, doing away with shred influences and instead adopting sounds more commonly found in the untapped hip-hop world. Ahead of their debut Australian appearance, co-headlining with Intervals on an East Coast run this September, we caught up with bassist Clay Gober to chat Sandwiches, genre debates and why you should always read urban dictionary ahead of a tour.
Hi there Clay! Where am I catching you?
I just ate a sandwich and about to smoke a post-sandwich cigarette. I couldn’t ask for more, to be honest. I only eat sandwiches when I’m home which is awesome. I love having that freedom of choice when I’m in my own domain. I can be who I am and try different recipes; it’s paradise!
Do you request certain sandwiches when putting your rider together?
No, we always have the same shit. We always get a bottle of Vodka, and a bottle of cranberry juice, as well as tortilla chips, salsa and bananas, and that’s it!
Simple enough! This is your first ever Aussie run coming up which is very exciting. Does the band adjust the way they approach the show when playing somewhere the first time?
It depends on where you are. An international show is so different. The first time we ever played Japan a few years ago, we had an idea of what they would all be like because we heard that the crowds are really quiet. They’re not aggressive or over-the-top. They’re very well mannered, not yelling things during the song’s, and after each song, they’d clap for five seconds and then complete silence. That was our first real experience where we knew we had to grapple with a different culture. It was weird because I’m a very non-talkative person onstage.
But when we were in Germany once I told the crowd that they were ‘fucking sick’, meaning they were great. But after the show, I had some people come up to me at the merch desk thinking I said they were sick and twisted. All these people apparently came to our merch guy and were like ‘What do you mean? We’re not sick!’ This one guy would not let it go, and was like ‘Why do you hate us? What’s wrong with us?’ Our drummer tried to tell him that it was a good thing, but this guy kept talking about Trump and saying that we were sick because of that. With Australia, I’ve heard the crowds are dope-in a good way! There’s no language barrier as far as I’m aware. I’ll just approach it like every single other show on this last tour.
Over here the C-bomb is always used as a term of endearment, but I know Pond got booed once for dropping that in the States!
You must read up on urban dictionary, for sure. I’m looking up Aussie slang. Steve Irwin man, he’s fucking crazy! I’m gonna be saying ‘crikey’ all the time. It’s gonna be so cool. This is my third interview and your voice is cool as fuck!
Oh, thanks! So, Polyphia has been so upfront that you don’t want to play shred-metal, but Drake, for example, is a huge influence, and the new EP is heavily inspired by hip-hop and trap. Why do you think that there is still a tinge of heaviness to the sound still, in light of this?
I’d say that rap still has that intensity. Natural sound is not trying to do something, but it’s being. We all have such a reverence for styles that are fun and go hard. Stuff that punches you in the nuts when it comes out of the stereo. You here a drop and think ‘fuck, that’s perfect.’ Rap has good flow and lots of phrasing that is unreal. In ‘Crush’ we wanted the bass solo to have a healthy hybrid of hip-hop flow and eclectic ‘shred’, but it came out sick. Rock is dead!
I feel like nu-metal is having a huge revival, so the hip-hop and rock fusion is going well these days.
I liked Rammstein as a kid, but that’s as far as my knowledge on that metal goes. I loved Korn though! There are some sweet bands at the moment bringing it back though, that’s true. The stylistic approach of the newer stuff is cool.
Well, does it ever frustrate you that Polyphia still gets billed as a metal band then, including playing heaps of metal tours?
I’d always rather be playing Coachella, man! Personally, and the band would agree, we don’t really wanna fuck with genres and labels. It is so draining in an existential sense when you get bombarded with the ‘what style are you?’ question. Satriani Drake-core! [Laughs]. No offence to anyone who is into the core stuff, but I feel the genre stuff is so draining. We don’t care what people call us. I guess -‘music’? What we do doesn’t sound like many other bands, but I guess we are rock & roll which should be a general term. But, like, you shouldn’t have to try and be like anyone else.
True! To wrap up, Clay, you’re coming out with Intervals (Aaron Marshall) which is great. What history do you guys in Polyphia have with Aaron?
Our second tour ever was with Intervals and this other band called The Contortionist. Those guys [The Contortionist] had a crazy live show. When I saw them, it was the most mind-boggling, psychedelic shit that hit me. Intervals have an amazing show as well. We went out with them [him] last year in Europe too, which was great. We’ve had a lot of great drunk and sober times. His bass player is amazing – that kid is going good man!
Catch Polyphia performing with Intervals in Australia later this year on the following dates:
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