interview by Antonio Silvestri

"The Lamb As Effigy" is one of the surprises of this year. Because of its sheer intensity and its uniqueness, it seems to appeal to those who search for an intense listening experience. It's not your first album, though: "As Lost Through Collision" was released in 2020 and was something quite different. What are, from your point of view, the elements of continuity between the two albums and, also, the main differences?

Thank you for the kind words. I feel like Lamb is the continuation and expansion of the foundation we laid with Collision, while also discovering new avenues and sounds along the way. I believe it to be much more unique, and a huge stepping stone for us in the discovery of "our own sound". It still has the same style of interwoven dual guitar lines, minimal progressions, and patience testing song structures, but hyperbolized and expanded upon. Lamb was recorded with an entirely different drummer, Clint Dodson, who added a ton of potential to what we could do rhythmically and percussively. Songs like Margin for Error and God, or Whatever You Call It would have not been possible without his creative contributions. We also added a lot more instrumental variety, including keyboards, organs, bells, vibraphone, singing saw, hammered dulcimer, and much more. I challenged myself to expand my vocal repertoire for this record, whereas I felt I had played it very safe on prior releases. Overall, The Lamb As Effigy is everything the first record should have been, but could not be at that time.

"The Lamb As Effigy" is a long and complex listen. The lyrics seem inscrutable sometimes. Which are the main themes of the lyrics? You wrote them all by yourself or the other band members are involved in the process?

I would say that the primary themes of the lyrics are shame, sexuality, and spirituality/religion. There's a thousand themes that branch off of those primary three that I explore in the record, but those are the main ones. I am the only member of the band who writes the lyrics, although sometimes I steal little ideas from the other members when they are just talking amongst themselves...

In one of the posts on your Facebook page it is stressed that the record is "honest". Why is it so important?

I felt like I needed to stress that because of how diligently we worked on this record. We put an immense amount of time, energy, and money into it, and I never wanted the length or density of the record to come off as a "grand statement" or some other bullshit like that. The record just ended up that way because it ended up that way, for the love of creating music, no other impetus. We created something we felt was true to our hearts, and there was no other motivation for it. Unfortunately, I kind of regret that statement because it now reads like over-compensation or insecurity, and perhaps it was at the time. Maybe it has had the unintended effect... oh well! You live and you learn.

The album has another title, "Three Hundred And Fifty XOXOXOS For A Spark Union With My Darling Divine". While "The Lamb As Effigy" sounds thoughtful and dramatic and esoteric, "Three Hundred And Fifty XOXOXOS For A Spark Union With My Darling Divine" seems sarcastic. Is it a sort of an ironic contrast?

There is a certain humor to our band that I feel goes underappreciated, but we are certainly not ironic. Sarcastic for sure, but never ironic, never disposed. I always appreciated artists who were able to be vulnerable and seem uncool more than the ones who had an air of "cool" or ironic disposition to them. Of course I am overgeneralizing here, but bear with me. I feel that irony, especially in this age, is almost used as a crutch or a shield against criticism, especially online where there is no real consequence for being an ashhole. Everyone who is vulnerable with their music gets ridiculed for it, again especially online, but you can kind of circumvent that criticism entirely if you don't really mean anything you're communicating, if everything is ironic. I talk about this pretty often with my friend Kyle Bates (Drowse), whose music is almost painfully vulnerable, and he is able to put this particular zeitgeist more eloquently than I. Overall, I feel personally we are very vulnerable and naked, even uncomfortably so, and are never ironically disposed, though not entirely humorless. The alternative title to our record has a particular meaning, but I don't like revealing the meaning to my work. I'd rather have people interpret it however they please.

Reviewers like myself often try to suggest similar artists to readers, in order to let them imagine the sound of a song or an entire album. For "The Lamb As Effigy" there are a few names that come to mind, but I would like to understand which are those names from your point of view.

It is not really any of my business who we get compared to or whatever artist people think we sound like. There's lots of names that get thrown around, most of which I've either never listened to or am not inspired by whatsoever. I'd say one of the accurate ones is Swans, who we all really love and consider to be a big inspiration, but I also think we are a very, very different band from them. Same with This Heat, Xiu Xiu, Gastr Del Sol, Unwound, etc. Sprain would not be Sprain without these bands, but we're doing our own thing too. It is impolite to name drop other bands that we are not inspired by in an interview, so I'll refrain from doing that, but sometimes people will say that we sound like A,B, or C band and I have not even listened to them! I guess that's just the way things work. Respect to those artists, they are doing their thing and we are doing ours. We just aren't inspired by them.

The cover suggests a contemporary art fascination. Beside other musicians, which are other art forms that inspire your music?

I would say the big one for me is film. I really can't get enough of movies, some of my favorite directors being Bela Tarr, Tsai Ming Liang, David Cronenburg, David Lynch, Larisa Shepitko... the list goes on and on. I find it very comforting to be inspired by an art form that I know nothing about really, and I love to just enjoy a film without considering how it was made. I am able to be completely absorbed in it, in ways that I am sometimes unable to be with music. Other than that, we all really love visual art, video games, and literature, although I am no real expert on any art form.

I read from your Facebook page that sometimes the writing process for a song took a few years. Considering the almost-100-minutes length, have you ever considered splitting the album in two, delaying those songs that are harder to finish?

Absolutely not! I felt like the project was connected thematically, all the songs have to do with one another in some form. Perhaps it is not a record that is immediately hooky or catchy, and maybe some would see the length as a turn off, but its not like you have to enjoy it right away. It will be there waiting for you never you are ready. I don't like the idea of splitting it up at all, even if it would speed up our process. I'd rather wait a while and get it done the right way than rush anything... There was also an immense amount of "life obstacles" that occurred during the process of this record. Those obstacles delayed us so many times, the length between releases was artificially extended. We were constantly working on it, there wasn't and never is a single day off!

It's not that easy to imagine these songs played on stage. Are you considering playing "The Lamb As Effigy" extensively in concert or just a few songs? And which kind of venue is more suitable for your music?

We are not picky and are a very small, niche band. We are just as happy to play in a DIY basement as we are a big theatre with a great sound system. The two are very different experiences, but in our eyes, are equally valuable. Being able to play live is a privilege, and we are happy to play anywhere that is willing to put up with us! We have rearranged songs for the live setting pretty intensely, sometimes they sound very little like their recorded versions. This is the nature of playing the songs live, as they would be nearly impossible to perform with a band of our budget and limitation, but I enjoy the challenge of reworking the songs for live versions. It keeps them fresh for me. We have live versions of every song on the record, but sometimes the venue/sound system will change which songs we think we can pull off. It changes every night.

Is there any chance to see you live in Europe or even in Italy in the next months?

I cannot make any promises, but I'd say the odds are more than likely!

The second album is quite different from the first one. Do you think the third one will be more alike?

The third record ideally will be very differently from all our other music! I'd say that, from what we have now, it sounds closer to Lamb than Collison, but doesn't really sound that similar to either.

 As Lost Through Collision (The Flenser, 2020) 
The Lamb As Effigy (The Flenser, 2023) 
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