Q&A Interview with Heccra: Beginnings, Pizza Is Emo, and Beyond

When people think about the post-hardcore and emo music of today I think, almost universally, a few names come to mind. Specifically names affiliated with the previous decade, that of the saturated bubblegum-variety that is Silverstein, Attack! Attack!, and Asking Alexandria whose style of music botchedly embraced pop, EDM, and dance influences into a most distasteful amalgamation of cliches and then the post-hardcore of more recent times, the likes of which meld a sense of accessibility with a taste for both melody and aggression, bands of the more recent variety, those of which include, most popularly, Touche Amore, La-Dispute, and Title Fight.

Heccra, the enigmatic-one man experimental post-hardcore / emo project fits into neither of those categories, or really any past incarnation of punk music as a whole. Instead, since early 2o12, Heccra has been keeping busy, releasing a full length album and an EP last year as well as two EPs within the first half of 2013 which take from a number of genres, the likes of which are contextually dissected and reconstructed into a unique blend that is all his own.

Pizza Is Emo album artwork.

Pizza Is Emo album artwork.

(Tyler Thompson): Your debut album, ‘White Eagle’ kind of came out of nowhere and just blew up overnight on /mu/ (a music message board on 4chan). What led you to start writing and recording the album?

There was a May night when I was 18 years old, as I was leaving a bonfire with friends I got pulled out of my car at gunpoint by the police; some adolescent neighborhood kids had called the cops saying I was unloading stock piles of automatic weapons, but it was actually firewood for the bonfire. I laid on my stomach with my hands cuffed behind my back, my friend Justin was next to me in the same predicament. The cops searched my car, found no firearms and continued to harass me saying my firewood looked “suspicious.” I ended up getting a ticket anyway for disorderly conduct and had to make a court appearance.

This is what really ignited my rage. In high school I had been skating in the hallways and getting in a lot of trouble, wearing tight black jeans and shoplifting excessively. My friends and I started vandalizing our town late at night as a means to make the best of being high school graduates stuck home. All of my friends went off to college at the end of summer, I stayed behind and worked at a shitty seafood restaurant and went to a community college full of fuck-ups and losers. Loneliness tortured me. I was already in bad shape from 6 years of 4chan in my head. I would go on to have 10 more run ins with the cops that academic year, each one pissed me off more and more. I paid for the tickets with money I made from work.

At Work, there was a coverband that played at the bar every Friday and Saturday night. I heard the same set too many times, and I was frustrated and I said to myself “I’m never going to fucking repeat myself, ever.” I was recording some music under the name Spooky Kid’s Midnight Symphony, I made 5 songs, the later 3 were ‘Brain Damage is my Friend’, ‘Best Dreams Ever’, and ‘1997: There’s no Future!’ When I first said “Heccra” I was awe struck, and it looked good to me too when I wrote it out. I told one of my friends that God named me Heccra. I decided to create an identity that was truly I and my honest feelings, and I would keep my real name off the project entirely. It was great, I could say everything I wanted to and no one judged me. The winter trudged by and my friends came home for Break. They were adjusted to a life of college drinking and I wasn’t. There was still vandalism, pointed out in ‘VHS Porn’, and when they left I was sad again. I burned bridges with most of the people left in town. By April I had 10 songs or so, with nothing to do with them. One evening I posted it on 4chan.

On ‘White Eagle’ the chipmunk-esque pitch-shifted vocals (i.e. chipmunk-core) that appear throughout the album are a characteristic that seems to have become synonymous with your project. I think it’s a production choice that can effectively attract listeners just as quickly as it can detract them.  Was this an entirely conscious decision to include these pitch-shifted sections or was this something you did on a whim?

At the time, I was trying to make something very experimental that wasn’t just noises or in dissonant chords/scales. I had a few different kinds of high-end Waves pitch plugins which I had experimented with in the past. The real inspiration came from Ween’s Pure Guava album, where most of the vocals on the album were recorded tape shifted. Push th’ Little Daisies was the song that really pushed me over the edge to do this. I’ll admit I went overboard with ‘Best Dreams Ever’.

After ‘White Eagle’ you released two EPs, the first of which was ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ (TLWOS), an approach that focused more on the style of midwestern emo while the second EP, ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ retained traits heard on ‘The Last Weekend of Summer’ but also featured a bit more of an aggressive edge all around. I remember you mentioned that you had been listening to Algernon Cadwallader a lot and were influenced by them. What else influenced this change in direction?

I tend to think of ‘White Eagle’ as my best album, but that was written and recorded when I was very outwardly angry with society, and still fresh with rage. Even though it’s been a short while, I’ve matured greatly, and during this, the other two EPs were recorded. ‘TLWOS’ is all about the girl I was dating at the time. The name itself is a reference to the last two days of summer before I left for college this year. The theme of the music shifted from anger to hopefulness, that I would have the patience and strength to stay with this girl, even though I was far way.

While I was at college, my recording equipment was inaccessible so I had to learn to adapt to not being able to record everything I came up with. I started by getting a notepad and wrote down every little bit of lyrical inspiration that came to me. When I got back for Christmas break, I tried to balance family, friends, a girlfriend, and an album all at the same time. My girlfriend and I decided to break up 2 weeks into my 4 week break, and shockingly, I didn’t find it very inspirational musically. I had always figured I would have an entire emo album just from that alone, but it didn’t cut me the way I had expected. All of this went into ‘Heccra-Kazooie’, which was by far the most awkward for me to record. I had intended to go back to my aggressive ‘White Eagle’ roots.

When you released ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ it was also accompanied with a statement in which you mentioned your disappointment with the album. What exactly was it that you were disappointed with?

It has basically nothing to do with Banjo Kazooie whatsoever, that’s a big one. But even bigger is how shitty I mixed it. It’s exhausting to listen to, it’s over focused. My good friend Bye./Aches was telling me how the lack of clarity of my first two albums (compared to ‘Heccra-Kazooie’) made it better, the obscuration adds depth and dimension. ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ is two dimensional all the way.

That being said, I really like ‘Banjo Kazooie’, ‘Homemade Halloween Costume’, ‘Pissed Off Kid’s in the 90’s’, and ‘I Wanna Go On a Ski Trip with The Beach Boys’, they’re just really bright and it hurts my ears to listen to them. Also, ‘Heccra-Kazooie’ flopped and got almost no attention from the internet.

Are there any plans for a follow up to ‘Heccra-Kazooie’?

I’ve thought about a ‘Heccra-Tooie’, to redeem myself. But if I do, it has to be a “Quick! Get on the toad there’s no time to explain” kind of album, and I want it to grab you by the hand and rip you though a life or death adventure with Heccra though a Nintendo64 Banjo Kazooie world.

In terms of production, the albums you’ve recorded sound pretty professional.  When I first heard ‘White Eagle’ I thought it was the work of an entire band so, needless to say, I was a bit surprised to learn that the project is solely that of one person. Getting down to the bare skeleton of Heccra, what kind of gear do you use when recording?

I’m a bedroom artist. I only own one microphone, and it’s a Shure sm57. That runs into a MOTU 8pre firewire interface, and then into an unreliable joke of a workstation, 5 year old HP Pavilion laptop that shits out on me and blue screens at least twice per session. I honestly spend close to 6 hours per cumulative sum of album recording time troubleshooting my computer.

My guitar amp is a Marshall MG HDFX100, I also have a boss C1S1 compressor sustainer pedal that I use to get more punch out of the amp, because by itself the distortion sounds really cheesy. I use a big mountain of pillows as isolation.

I have two main guitars, one is a blue quilted maple BC Rich Bich, which alludes to my adolescent obsession with 80’s hair metal, and the other guitar is a stock black Greg Bennett Interceptor. They were both stock pickups, until Heccra-Kazooie, I bought EMG active pickups. I also own a BC Rich Bass guitar, an Oscar Schmidt ukulele, and a 5 dollar vuvuzela that appears in ‘A.M’. and ‘I Only Wanted To Heelflip’.

Could you briefly run me through the writing and recording process?

Briefly is not easy, since this process is dear to me. I generally go on long bike rides or walks by the river, through local forests, urban decay and whatnot. I pick up a sense of adventure and a sense of loneliness, as well as some imagined sense of fraternity with my foliaged surroundings for being the only kid ballsy enough to folly around in it. Together it’s like a deep yearning, a desperation for a life of more adventure; ‘White Eagle’. I get very bittersweet things, taking in the “what once was,” and imagine the history of the place or thing. I’d like to believe this bittersweetness carries over into my music.

I write down every little bit of lyrical inspiration I get in a journal. It comes to me sentence by sentence, and eventually I string them all together. If any has noticed the stich marks in my music, it’s because it’s sewn together, take shitty water for example. I play guitar in the hours east of midnight, and experiment with different tunings and time signatures. I often find riffs and chords during this time that my lyrics fit over. Most of the time, they’re I-IV riffs.

My music is guitar driven, that is the instrument I have the most prowess in (eventually I’ll upload a shred video to YouTube) I set my microphone position up and do a few tests, and then bury it in pillows and blankets so I can record it loud. I usually lay down some drums, really basic kick snare stuff with a metronome, and then record guitars for the entire song. I remind myself while recording to really play it, not just play it, but to have my emotions in it and my entire soul behind it. Even so, there are lots of songs I wish I recorded faster than I did. When I play live, it’s going to be a blisteringly fast. I go back after the guitars are all finalized and match the drum tracks to the rhythm and swing of the guitar. After that I usually do all the screaming vocal takes, and next the singing. I often lose my voice after the backing vocals are done. I record bass strangely last, and then mix.

Although accessible, Heccra is a project that is at once overtly experimental, uniting a wide variety of outside styles from a multitude of genres, seamlessly weaving hazy of shoegaze, EDM, pop, ambient guitar interludes, triggered drums, colorful glitched out electronics, and even dabs of 80’s new-wave-esque synthesizers within the contexts of post-hardcore music. Are there any particular influences beyond the umbrella of hardcore music that you take inspiration from?

Well just barely outside that umbrella, crust punk and grindcore are two things I really enjoy and value. I love the snarl and scoop of the guitar, firecracker snare, and the vocal texture. The overall sonic texture is delicious. Together it’s an energy that’s amazing. I have particularly taken influences from Wormrot, Dropdead, and Insect Warfare. I enjoy sludge metal, but I’m a real pleb there, I never ventured much further than Electric Wizard, Sleep, and SunnO))). I’m a big fan of Ween’s music, particularly the ‘Mollusks’, ‘Quebec’ and ‘Pure Guava’. Wavves is obviously an influence of mine, Life Sux! Best Coast is also worth mentioning. The Beach Boys are too legendary of a group to put in the same sentence as Best Coast, but they are an eternal influence on me. I spent the first 4 years of my recording career chasing the 80’s. I love the Shooga Dooga toms, the snare, the gated reverb, shiny spandex and unaccompanied dragged on guitar solos. I can’t forget emo, god do I love me some twinkle daddy. Of emo, Algernon Cadwallader, Cap’n Jazz, American Football, and Bye./Aches are my biggest influences.

Is the inclusion of all of these different styles intentional or is it more the work of your subconscious acting?

I do try to consciously incorporate them into my music, but whether I like it or not some of it gets incorporated into the song writing, that’s when I notice the Beach Boys the most. I never try to make a certain kind of music. I try to convert visual images and feelings in my head into sounds. I think I can only make one kind of music, and these influences just twist and pull it all in different ways.

The infamous album artwork for 'White Eagle"

The infamous album artwork for ‘White Eagle”

There seems to be a lot of focus, from fans and admittedly myself, on the artwork used as the album cover for ‘White Eagle’, the iconic and surreal image of a nude woman holding a rabbit, centered in front of a grassy background. Care to comment on the nature of this photo?

I was mesmerized by it. I posted my soundcloud on /mu/ exactly a year ago asking for criticism and used that as the picture just to get attention. It got a pretty good reception and posters were asking for a mediafire link, so on a whim I put that picture as the album artwork, because I couldn’t send White Eagle out without something as its artwork.

I get a decent amount of crap for having stolen the photograph and using it without permission, but maybe one day I’ll apologize to the photographer and get to meet the model. I know that without the cover, White Eagle wouldn’t have gotten noticed anywhere as near as much as it did.

Some of the track titles, lyrics, artwork and the overall image that you present with Heccra have these occasional moments of subtle humor. Would you say that, when writing, this humor is intentional or am I just an asshole?

Not taking yourself seriously is one of the best things you can do as an emo band. I can understand it being seen as subtle humor, but I never tried to be funny. It’s more of nostalgia for me, back to my childhood, and back to the melodrama of highschool, and familiarity and comfort of sadness and teenage heartbreak/hopelessness. I felt trapped in my town growing up, and if you couldn’t laugh at yourself then you’d best be fucked because there was nowhere else to go.

What do you do in your free time, when you aren’t writing music as Heccra?

I’m a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate in college, which takes up most of my free time. I shred on the guitar daily. Heccra skates, skates skateboards that is. I am a bodybuilder, living for squats and oats and spending all my college tuition money on food and eating everything in sight. I have a kind of Flylo knock off side project that I don’t take very seriously, gives me something to do when I’m feeling musical. About once a month I get a weekend open enough that I go out to house parties and dance my ass off in the basement to Top 40 crap. It’s important to smile the whole time.

The one-year birthday of Heccra is coming up and you’ve got a new EP coming out entitled ‘Pizza Is Emo’, what can listeners expect to hear?

There are only two tracks on it, but that’s amazing for spring break. Listeners can expect to hear Heccra-in-a-box. It’s got flanged synths, overdriven chords, group vocals, screams, a breakdown, experimental guitar tones, REAL DRUMS, bubbles, Sweeps, a vuvuzela cameo, 7/4th timing, spooky tritones, ominous breathing, distorted sludge bass, ukulele, surfer blood ripoff song, pitch shifted vocals, lush harmonies, tempo changes, Emo sing alongs, Rick Astley’s Shooga-Dooga Toms, and a bunch of wrists getting cut around a pizza.

What do plans look like for the future, specifically for 2013?

This summer I’m going to New Jersey to record with Aches, we will be making an Emo EP or something like it, and I think that’s going to be one of the most fun times of my life. Once School is out, I’ll be able to focus more on promoting myself and interacting on /mu/ and soundcloud, to connect with other musicians and establish my identity as a helpful musician and not just a samefagger.  Ideally, a bunch of fantastic musicians could come my way and we would all get dressed up in Halloween costumes and play a few shows.

I had plans to record another album this summer, whether it be Heccra-tooie or just something else, I’m not sure. I’m going to keep experimenting with music, I don’t really see any other option. I either keep experimenting, or grow stagnant and die.

Listen to the new EP, Pizza Is Emo

You can download Heccra’s current discography on bandcamp

All inquiries can be email here: Heccra@gmail.com

Stream content from Heccra via Soundcloud

Follow Heccra on Twitter

-Tyler Thompson

Studying – Sophomoronic

On Sophmoronic the now seven piece band continues to explore the post-rock influenced sound that was first heard on their 2011 EP ‘Songs About Leaving Home’ and most obviously so on their more recent split release with local friends, Carved Our In Snow. ‘Sophomoronic’ is the bands first full length and also their final release which features some guest appearances including the addition of trumpet and cello.

Although identifying mostly with mid-western emo, within the past few years the genre has developed and maintain strong ties to bordering genres such as math rock and in Studying’s case, post-rock. On the song “The Passing of 34 Days” from their split release with Carved Our Names In Snow the band showcased their most obvious transition toward a post-rock sound. The bands taste for anthemic songwriting laden with the twinkly tremolos and the lush crescendos found in post-rock combined with the vocal aspects of mid-western emo make for a combination that couldn’t be more fitting. The album starts off with an apparent post-rock influence featuring reverb heavy guitars that chime along with rolling drums leading to a chorus featuring an ocean of smooth rising tremolos and horns which carries over to other songs on the album in various forms.

The whole album brings a refreshingly new youthful and energetic take to the genre, a presence that Studying did well on their debut EP, a sound that has developed and translated quite well throughout their short time as a band. It hasn’t been until now that this sound has been able to see a fully realized form and thankfully it has worked out quite well in the case of ‘Sophomoronic’. The album maintains a certain consistency; each song flowing together while still carrying enough variation to set themselves apart from one another. There are more straightforward moments on the album such as the song “Where Bluestone Meets Carrier” which is something of a ballad. The title track and ‘Goodbye, I Guess’ shows the band expressing a more agressive side featuring a transition to shouted / half screamed vocals. All in all each song continues the breathy sound that runs throughout entire album while offering something different calling for repeated listens.

Although consistent there are times where the songs do mesh together. The extensive use of reverb and cresendo-based song structure, as crucial as it was to the bands transition to a more post-rock sound, a sound that has set them apart from the bands they share the genre with is at the same time the culprit for the repetitiousness of the sounds here. While at times I do feel like this genre has been plundered of diversity I still feel like Studying has managed to not simply find a “niche” for themselves within it but has instead carved a name for themselves.

From the opening tracks glisteningly wintery guitar work to the albums dirgy wholly instrumental end this final album is a solid last release from a group of friends who know how to write something that is both catchy and relatable in such a way that it doesn’t sacrifice any of it’s artistic merits in the process. Although I’m sad to see this group split up I do think they are leaving on a good note with this release.

Overall Rating: 8.1

Recommended: Associated acts: Caust, Solomon Solomon, Carved Our Names In Snow.

Favorite Track: ‘Because What Has Hardened Will Never Win’, ‘Nothing But Figures’, ‘Goodbye I Guess’,

Released: 17 August 2012

Links:

Listen to the band’s final release here.

Tyler Thompson

Mark Przybylowski – Lonely House

Recorded in Philadelphia, PA, Lonely House is the latest tape from multi-instrumentalist Mark Przybylowski, released on Galtta Media.

At the foundation of Lonely House are a collection of seven quiet and simplistic instrumental pieces that rely on it’s ambience, not in a textural sense but more so this overall stripped down nature of the music allowing the listener to focus in on one or two prominent instruments at a time putting Przybylowski’s tender and moody playing style at the forefront of Lonely House. There is never really a whole lot going on and all of the songs stay at a similar pace, each track taking it’s time, which isn’t a bad thing at all, it actually adds a good deal of consistency to the album which is necessary for something as skeletal as this is.

The songs here are primarily made up of cold acoustic guitar, serene cello, and the warm hum of the double bass. There are also a few occasions where vocals are used, albeit, they are used sparingly and expressively in the sense of another instrument as opposed to their traditional use in singing lyrics, which being an instrumental release their are none of.

Everything sounds very nice, each instrument is played delicately, never breaking free from the somber steady pacing. The sound quality has a very upfront home recorded sound about it; the shrill screeching of fingers sliding up the neck of an acoustic guitar, the natural room reverb, minimalist song structure; it all carries a sincere message, something that says: “Hey, this is some sad sounding instrumental stuff and this is what you’re going to get, I hope you like it but if you don’t that’s ok too.” In general I feel like this album would be suitable for a nice autumn night’s listen or a winter’s evening by the fire place. The tranquil gloom that is presented here evokes memories of watching the trees lose their leaves, oranges and reds raining down, painting the earth as it prepares to renew itself, to briefly die for the winter. Its a very emotive piece of music, something like a poetry of the senses, an album that doesn’t try to sound sad but just is and even so, this sadness isn’t necessarily overt; like a long sigh, the music just breathily moves, carrying itself from one note to the next, passively moving along until the album’s end.

Although I enjoy the low-key feeling of Lonely House its biggest flaw is exactly what it succeeds in doing. For some, the lines between consistency and repetitiveness will be marred; the seemingly purposeful restrained nature of every track can feel monotonous. It isn’t a huge problem seeing as this is kind of the appeal of the album but it does hold it back from what I think could have the potential to be even more emotive and touching than it already is. Lonely house is definitely a moody set of tracks, it’s all kind of cold sounding, like the first chilly winds of fall, or the cold bite of winter but at the same time, it’s just as warm, touching on the senses with every slow moving stroke of the bow or pluck of the strings and better yet, it’s just in time for the summer’s end.

Rating: 7.2

Favorite Tracks: ‘Slow Winter’, ‘Sunday’

Recommended: Prime Winter / Fall listening.

Released: 15 July 2012

Links:

Lonely House via Bandcamp

Visit Galtta Media

New Orleans Swim Team – To be Something, to be Anything

Do you ever find yourself listening to a band or musician that comes along with something so original that you find yourself asking, “how are these guys not famous yet”? Well, New Orleans Swim Team happens to be exactly that. New Orleans Swim Team is the solo recording project of Alberta based musician and multi-instrumentalist, Jacob Ulickij and this release is the second under this project.

When it comes to self recorded music, typically, punk rock is a signifier of the success one is able to achieve without a record label and for that matter a professional recording studio. Bands recorded and distributed their own demos, EPs, and full lengths, made their own t-shirts, posters, and created their own press though the distribution of zines and word of mouth. It was a genre of music that showcased the hard work and dedication that a generation of young creative people were capable of producing independently. With the rise of the internet, artists have taken advantage of file sharing sites, utilizing mediafire and megaupload to share their music. Now, with the success of Bandcamp and Soundcloud it has made it even easier for artists to independently put out their own releases and allow their music to be heard. It speaks volumes with just how much a band or even one person alone is capable of without the outside help that, labels, expensive recording studios, and “producers” claim to be capable of and Jacob has articulated this fact with the release of ‘To be Something to be Anything’.

It is clear that Jacob has a lot to say; ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ is 21 tracks of short songs, filled with delicately executed spoken word poetry and tender singing. This music is honest as hell and lately, with everything that is happening in the world I feel like a little bit of honesty is exactly we all need. It reads like a novel written in a stream of consciousness and I swear words have never been more perfectly spoken. ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ has an overarching folkish sound, albeit, there is much more to be heard than just one style of music here and instead of making the mistake of pigeonholing the music into a set style, Jacob strove to create a sound of his own.

With the opening track, ‘Overture (Dreamer)’ I was immediately under the assumption that the guys in Sigur Ros had begun a side project. The track plays out like an opener, it is short but it sounds as though the same care that is displayed throughout the rest of the album was applied just as evenly here if not more so. It is as if entire orchestra is warming up; cymbals build and crash while the drums roll on and the winding strings play randomly giving one a sense of fidelity, building anticipation for the next track. Its not just this portion, the entire album is full of a variety of lush instrumentation and sound, spanning from guitar, piano, violin, drums, bass, flute, and horns. What makes it even more impressive is Jacob, as a multi-instrumentalist and his collaborator’s ability to compose and play these instruments proficiently. The dedication and minuet attention to detail is what makes all of this work out so well.

The vocals are distinct and and are generally the focal piece of the music. For some, the vocals may be a turn off considering  how raw they can be, perhaps even in a juvenile sense; although, for me this is not so much of a negative thing as it is an important aspect that effects the music positively. As I said before, there is a lot to take in, especially lyrically. Jacob speaks in a manner of rhythmically constrained poetry similar to a stream of consciousness, as though making up the words on the spot which is where the vocals perfectly communicate his words even if I am unable to catch what he is saying all at once. Because the vocals are raw in this juvenile sense it is very easy to identify what emotion is being conveyed, whether it be angry, compassionate, or caring; it is universal in that way. At times his voice quivers indicating something like a nervousness or perhaps a loss of breath in the wake of all the words that are spoken but as soon as the singing comes in he is as confident as ever, not to say the spoken word sections that make up most of the album aren’t just as rewarding. The singing can be heard at the most emotive right from the start of the song, ‘Degrees’ which quickly leads into more of the spoken word vocals just as the track wraps up with a burst of strumming and passionate singing. Sometimes Jacob comes off as sincere as the poetry he speaks while at other times his words communicate a menacing message. ‘Prairie Winter’ is a statement of biting cynicism, one that is dark and heavy without being loud; a sharply executed track. On ‘Wanderlust’ Jacob showcases his ability to access a more aggressive sound in terms of vocal dynamics, one that exhibits his capabilities of screaming, which is achieved surprisingly well considering the primarily reserved nature that is practiced in his craft. The final and longest track, ‘Whatever You Want to Be’ is an epic full of cymbal crashes and builds. All of the Instrumentation eventually cuts out and the listener is left only with Jacob’s articulate and masterful poetry before the instrumentation eventually makes its appearance again as the track finishes up. It could not be a more perfect finish to this album.

Although ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ was recorded in the back of a house it does not show any signs of a loss in sound quality. Everything comes through in so crisply, it is obvious from the masterful recording and mixing and the attention to the clarity of all the instruments coming through that nothing was sacrificed at the expense of a lo-fi set-up. At times the lo-fi nature of the album is apparent but otherwise, if I were unaware of the background regarding this release I would have been under the assumption that the album was recorded professionally. That said, if one person is capable of composing, recording, and producing all of this it leaves me to question the legitimacy of what is considered “professional” recording. Whether it was intentional or not this piece of music speaks beyond the limitations of sound, working as a statement; one that indicates a distinct work ethic within the individual.

There is a lot of experimentation that shows through in this release but even so I would not go as far as to call this an experimental record at all seeing as the experimental elements work out in a very unified way being that there is a sense of direction here and to label it experimental would be doing it a disservice. ‘To be Something, to be Anything’ is a tale depicted in the most sensual way with a certain familiarity and yet, at times so distant that just as soon as you think you have tackled it you find yourself swallowing your words and throwing out all of those Listener comparisons, searching for something other than “beautiful” to describe it by. This is inspirational; an enjoyable and refreshing listen, one that I cannot recommend enough. Thank you.

Visit the Bandcamp page

Overall Rating: 9.3

Favorite Track: Degrees, Wanderlust, Prairie Winter, Whatever You Want To Be

Recommended: Fans of Listener; something to accompany you during the fall season. A piece of music to watch the leaves fall to.

-Redntoothnclaw

Deer Leap + The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die – Are Here to Help You

The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

Deer Leap

The ending summer, regretful past decisions, long overdue goodbyes; it is strange that bands like these don’t stay around for as long as one might expect, especially when the topics they sing about tend to be the eventual fate of the bands themselves. Release a shitty demo, a couple of EPs, and a full length, and it is over. At least that was the case with My Heart To Joy and Snowing, two of the bigger players in a small scene, who both called it quits this year. It makes me wonder, what will become of the other bands that pursue a similar style? The ones who write the same emotional songs, confessional lyrics, and deliver the same high energy performances. Not to worry though, Deer Leap and The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die “Are Here to Help You” with this split album. Deer Leap plays a style of dramatic post-rock sounding music full of reverb-heavy guitar and soft-spoken vocals, and, on the latter half of the record, The World Is a Beautiful Place plays a youthful, high-energy style of punk blended with volume swells and atmospheric ambience.

Deer Leap starts off the split with “Learned in People,” a short intro that seamlessly leads into the next track, “We Are Not Who We Are,” a song which shows their post-rock influenced sound from the beginning. The guitars create complex and dramatic melodies, accompanied briefly by vocals before returning to a wholly instrumental post-rock style jam. One thing that makes these guys stand out in a sea of similarity are the apathetically sung vocals; they’re delivered like a faint last breath of air leaving a dying body, and that’s something I enjoy in a vocalist. I know many people may feel the exact opposite, but apathy in music doesn’t really bother me. For me it only adds more to the emotional aspects of a song, and what is apathy but a byproduct of emotion? Although I really enjoyed the style of vocals, it definitely would have been nice to hear the vocalist cut loose, even briefly, and really take advantage of all of the intensity in the music. All-in-all, Deer Leap does a good job taking the post-rock sound and condensing it into 4-minute long songs without loosing any complexity, all while adding their own elements into the mix.

The World is a Beautiful Place has only released one demo and two EPs worth of short songs. Prior to this release their entire discography was only 37 minutes long, yet they managed to keep me listening to the same material for some time. Their half of the split starts off at a steady pace; twinkly ambience and volume swells take up the beginning half of the song before erupting into a high-energy burst of tremolo picked guitars followed by “bloops” of analog synth and emotion fueled vocals. The clean vocals on this release come through as confident as ever and contrast nicely with the frantic screaming. The energy they possess and their ability to focus evenly on every element of their song writing, especially the lyrics, makes this band special for me. The lyrics in “Bread For Brett” paint a perfect picture of an autumn night in the suburbs. They’re vague, but perhaps that is what makes them seem so familiar and relatable. I feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when I listen to them. The World is a Beautiful Place make it apparent that they have a lot of heart and have proved to be a consistently refreshing, uplifting, and engaging band with each release. They put all of their energy into every song without forfeiting the sound quality of the music to sloppy musicianship. Anticipating a full-length release from these guys in the future.

Both bands do a great job and although I checked this split out because of a band I was already into I ended up discovering another great band in the process. Give both bands a look at the links below.

Bandcamp: Deer Leap + The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die

Overall Rating: 8.8

Favorite Tracks: Bread For Brett, Coffee And Keys

Recommended: Those looking for an uplifting and youthful listening experience.

– Redntoothnclaw