Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Ripple Conversation with Supervoid

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

John: Growing up in the burbs as a kid I listened to a lot of horrible music and never had a cool uncle to make me listen to cool music from the 70s or even get me into Metallica. I started to branch out in college and when Mastodon released Blood Mountain, I was just absolutely blown away. As a bassist it's honestly one of the most enjoyable albums for me to play along to. It was such an epic culmination of groove, melody, and HEAVY. And man, those harmonies. I could probably sing you the bass lines of each song front to back from memory. I had previously really been into a lot of death metal, but that album really helped bridge me into the groovier side of things.

Brian: It was Local H - Pack Up The Cats for me, I never heard an album that completely flowed from beginning to end seamlessly and so well. At The Drive-In/Mars Volta...The Who's - Tommy...Mastodon - Blood Mountain was huge for me too. I'm a huge fan of concept albums.

Joe: There were a couple for me. When I was around 12 years old, Metallica's black album came out, and that's what made me want to play guitar. Metallica, Megadeth, and Pantera were the entire world to me as a little shithead teenager. For a while in college I got much more into punk and alternative music, but later when I got AtG's Slaughter of the Soul and In Flames' Jester Race, those and their other albums brought me back into heavy music again.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

John: Sometimes we build off a riff, sometimes we build off an idea. Sometimes the best ideas come from just joking around and having a good time. It definitely varies. Joe is the main creative drive behind the song writing process. It's ridiculous how many new riffs he shows up to practice with week in and week out. He definitely makes the writing process an easy one for the rest of us. He'll usually come into practice with the skeleton of a song and through jamming it out as a full band, we build the muscle and tissue piece by piece.

Brian: The guys usually will come up with a good structure/starting point for a song, and I go from there phonetically how I want to sing.  After that, I come up with an idea that the song reminds me of and just build on it.  It helps me to envision the song as a soundtrack to a made up short film/movie in my head and that will usually get me going lyrically.

Joe: The experience so far seems to have been mostly me coming up with riffs/song ideas and rough arrangements and bringing it to rehearsal where everyone works on it and helps shape it. There have been some decent spontaneous ideas at rehearsal as well that have turned into some good riffs. Brian writes all the lyrics and themes, and I think he does an awesome job with it despite us trying to sabotage them with poop and dick jokes.

Who has influenced you the most?

John: I could name a hundred bands that have probably influenced me, but greater than any music I've ever listened to is the musicians I've played with along the years. I've gotten to play with some really great people and I feel that has helped mold and shape me as a musician more than anything, including my bandmates in Supervoid.

Brian: That's the funny thing because a lot of different bands have inspired me to go in different directions in writing music.  Everything from Mastodon, ASG, Maiden, Isis, Sabbath, Fear Factory, Rush, Opeth, the list goes on and on and on.  I like taking pieces of my favorite stuff and putting it into a big mixing bowl of tasty jams.

Joe: As a guitar player, like I said above, it was Hetfield and Dimebag (though I can't play like him) that made me want to play as a kid. I'd say they had the biggest impact, although I don't get to spin those records much these days.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

John: Most of our songs are very narrative. I think we draw inspiration from the world around us. Sometimes I'll stumble across an obscure yet extremely interesting subject via the almighty internet and suggest it to Brian as a lyrical theme. Be it a song about slave elephants rebelling against their masters that may or may not draw parallels to human society (War Elephant), or just a bear eating some guy's family (The Bear), I think any story can make a great song if told the right way, and Brian does a great job of that.

Brian: Honestly, it's just getting together with my friends and writing stuff that I find interesting keeps it going.  Whether it's things I find funny, inspiring or awesome sounding, that formula seems to have worked so far.

Joe: The bands that inspire me most tend to be the ones that are very clearly doing their own thing, or following their own path with little regard to what their peers are doing. Anyone who is sincerely striving for originality in any form makes me happy. I think Josh Homme and QotSA are a great example of this; they don't have two records that really sound the same, and he doesn't seem to give a fuck if that bugs his fans or not, because all those records are great in their own way. Personally, I don't find myself listening to a lot of new heavy music these days, not because I don't like it, but because I tend to imitate things I really enjoy. I don't want a bunch of subliminal Earthless or Sandrider riffs in our new songs just because I can't get those songs out of my head, yknow? So I've ended up listening to a lot of classic rock recently; The Faces, the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin. Stuff I can put on and play along to.

We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?

John: Pittsburgh has a pretty large and diverse, yet rather small world feeling music scene. We've got great record stores, DIY spaces and promoters, small venues that do their best to help bands put on a good show... there is definitely a small town feel here. I think that results in us integrating a lot of different sounds into our music. For example, Ladders has a driving rock verse, a bluesy swing section, and then closes with a brutal death metal segment.

Brian: Well, I grew up here in Pittsburgh and I've been to different shows in the music scene for a long time.  I was actually in an RPG Metal band called Dethlehem before this singing songs about Goblins, Skeletons and things like that, but had to leave for personal reasons (no drama) That wasn't easy to give up haha  I think there was only one song Ladders that I took from a personal experience, the rest is my imagination running wild.

Where'd the band name come from? 

John: We're all nerds and not ashamed to admit it. In astronomy, voids are large areas of empty space that exist because of baryon acoustic oscillations that occurred during the Big Bang. Supervoids are the large voids that exist between galaxy clusters. I should probably stop there... we thought it sounded cool and we like space!

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?

John: Well, we did have the pleasure of writing a song to be specifically used in a locally filmed and produced zombie movie The Other Side! I'd say the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie because, well, that just makes sense.

Brian: YES, this is a sweet question. Um....Evil Dead 4!  (Or Army Of Darkness 2 if you want to call it that)

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?

John: The Beatles - I Want You (She's So Heavy) would be my pick. I don't even really like The Beatles, but that song is one of the earliest songs where you can say man, that's HEAVY. It's rather genre defining for its time, has some great instrumentation, and just has this downright nasty attitude to it.

Brian: My first instinct would be Rush - 2112, but honestly I think it would be Local H - All The Kids Are Right because it was the song that made me go to the store, buy the cd, put it in my computer, and truly want to be involved in music after finishing the album. Only took me 10 years to get off my ass and do it!

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

John: Tension and resolve. I want people to feel the dynamic and atmospheric landscape we're trying to paint.

Brian: I like telling stories or reflections on a subject in the songs.  Every song (for the most part) has a running theme.  Sometimes I'm very straightforward with what I'm trying to visualize, at other times I like to leave it up to interpretation. I want people to get a big atmospheric energetic feeling out of it... if that makes any sense.

Joe: I feel like this question could easily get people to make fools of themselves by rambling on and on, but I think it's a good one. I don't think the answer for us is anything like "ROCK THE FUCK OUT AND PARTY" or "HEAVY FUCKIGN METTALLLLL" or anything like that. We are part of a small scene that is very, very crowded with a TON of awesome bands. The intention of any creative endeavor, whether you're a musician, writer, or artist of any kind is to get people to respond to your creation. After that, it's pretty much out of your hands. I/we feel compelled to write and perform this music for some reason, so at the very least, we want people to hear it. What I think we're TRYING to express, are simply interesting musical moments, ideally put together in a creative way, that will make the listener feel something awesome for that moment. I don't believe that anything we're doing is breaking totally new ground; any music store nerd could probably pick apart all of our songs and say which riff is derivative of what. I think of it like a hamburger analogy. There are tons of restaurants making burgers out there, and there will never be a "best" burger, and just because there are tons of people making them, doesn't mean that others will say they're not going to try. There will be better ones, and there will be different ones, but I want to make a REALLY FUCKING GOOD hamburger that is unique and you can't get anywhere else, and you tell your friends to get ours.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

John: Personally opening for Orange Goblin has to be at the top of my list. Those guys released their first album when I was eleven. I've been a fan of theirs for awhile and getting to meet them and play with them was awesome. Ben Ward is one of the best front men in the business and was really friendly, and Martyn and I talked bass gear for awhile. No crazy rock and roll story here, just an awesome moment for me, and OG are great guys.

Brian: Well I guess I have to share my toilet story.  I was playing a show in Wheeling, WV and this bar happened to be two floors.  Well, prior to driving to the gig, I decided to partake in some baked Mac n Cheese dish at the practice space.  After it worked its way through my system, I needed to take action.  The downstairs bathroom's "toilet" was a bucket in the corner.  The upstairs bathroom (which was the women's room I went into mistakenly) had a toilet... with no seat... and no toilet paper.  Well, time waits for no man and I proceeded to unleash my fury onto this poorly crafted throne. The results were… not pretty. My drummer at the time ran to get me Wet Naps in the van and proceeded to show the other bands my handy work. I think I still have the reactions on video if you need proof hahaha

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?

John: LOUD. We're repeatedly told we're the loudest band in Pittsburgh and I don't think people are joking. We want people to FEEL as well as hear. Immerse yourself in the music.

Brian: I love playing live shows. It's a bit different for me because different genres elicit different reactions from people, so I never know how to judge how people are enjoying the show. I know that when they clap at the end, we must be doing something right.

Joe: I think our live show needs a little bit of work, to be honest. For starters, we're not a sweaty/drunk/pit type band; no one is ever going to completely lose their shit while watching us play, that's just not the type of music we write. I think we play our songs pretty competently; there's not a lot of punch ins in our records or anything like that. Eventually I'd like to again add a second guitar player, because I think it adds depth to the music and the live show. I still get nervous playing live.

What makes a great song?

John: As a musician, I think a song is great when you rehearse it in practice all the way through for the first time, and when you finish your heart is racing, everyone is smiling, and there's just a general feeling of man, that was awesome.

Brian: All depends on the vibe and what you're trying to convey.  I like music to have a good variety to it, even if that means within one song itself. Peaks and valleys. Not that straightforward songs aren't great, as long as you're doing it right.

Joe: Well, for me personally, I think if it sticks in your head, it's halfway there. Having some element of a hook, or catchy part I think makes a big impression, especially in heavy music, because it can be hard to pull off. I like songs that are well-arranged, and I think we try to put a lot of effort into making sure parts go together well. After a transition into the next riff, you should be saying in your head "of COURSE that's where it goes next!" Having themes in songs is cool to me too, like a single riff or idea that keeps coming around in a song, or resolves in a way that you knew it would all along. I'm not saying our band does all of these things haha, but these are just the things that come to me as a guitar player.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

John: I think the first Supervoid song was called Knife Fight, which never got a release. That was very early in the writing process and we were still trying to figure out our sound. It's not a bad song, just not our best work. There is a cool Graveyard-like part towards the end that I always enjoyed playing. Maybe one day we'll revisit it. For me personally, the first full song I ever wrote was for a project in college. It was about flesh eating walruses that come into your house at night and eat your children. I cannot validate my sobriety during this period.

Brian: First song I ever wrote... god I think that was "No Reward Among Legends".  It was about a bunch of ridiculous D&D type banter, but it was in a real over-the-top metal theme (as it usually goes).  But thematically it was basically saying "Don't look for a short term reward if you're in it for the long haul"... like an inspirational cat poster.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

John: Well as a whole, I'm extremely proud of Filaments. Being our first full length release, I thought we did a really good job taking a lot of diverse style songs and building them into this one overall representation. But my favorite song has to be Ride the Snake. I'll never get tired of playing that one, and I blast it in my car all the time. I just love the energy we managed to capture when we recorded that one.

Brian: I'm really happy with how our full length "Filaments" turned out, but the song on there was "Arcane Groves". I remember the guys playing me that jam when I first joined the band, and they were discussing about making it shorter.  I said "DON'T YOU TOUCH THAT SONG" because I knew it was exactly the way it needed to be (with a few tweaks).  Lyrically I always thought it was cool too, one of the first more "abstract" songs I ever wrote.

Joe: "The Bear" off the LP we did. I like atmospheric, creepy music, and like I said above, this one is simple, has a hook, and a theme that it keeps coming back to. There are cool layered guitar parts, and it's repetitive in a neat way. Awesome lyrics and idea by Brian too. I wish we could do more stuff like that.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

John: One of my favorite bands right now is Monobrow. They seem to get better with every release, and the creativity behind their music is awesome. Three guys who are all monster players on their instruments just churning out these really original killer songs.

Brian: My favorites lately?  Mastodon, Steak Number Eight, Volbeat, Kvelertak, Beastmilk just to name a few. I really like hearing stuff from all over.

Joe: Josh Homme is my favorite songwriter, like I alluded to above...he can write any kind of song he wants, and it will fit on the record he's making. Pelican just kicks my ass. I love slow, heavy, melodic riffing, and they really know how to do that well. And Helmet.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

John: Well digital for the convenience. File sharing, cloud storage, online streaming, bluetooth... I can throw a ridiculous amount of songs on my phone and have them with me at all times. I'm also a big vinyl guy, but only as of a few years ago. I like how it makes listening to music more of an active experience rather than a passive one, and I'm a sucker for awesome album art.

Brian: Digital because I'm a huge nerd. I do collect stuff from time to time but mostly I'm on my phone/computer.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice

John: Oh that's easy, whiskey all day. I have some weird medical thing where I can't drink beer and don't even mind. With PA's liquor stores being state run our good whiskey choices are rather limited, but we've got an awesome distillery located right in Pittsburgh called Wigle Whiskey. They make an amazing product and really support the local community. They are just now obtaining permits to distribute in other states, so everyone so go buy some!

Brian: Beer, Magic Hat 9 or Delirium if we're talking beer. But Liquor? THE KRAKEN RUM. It's my favorite.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

John: Just up the street from my house is a world-famous place called Jerry's records. It's ridiculous how many records are in that place, and most bands make an effort to stop there when they're in town. I personally listen to more modern releases than older stuff, so I'd have to recommend Sound Cat Records. They always have a real solid stoner/doom selection. Pittsburgh is definitely not lacking record stores!

Brian: Go to Eides music near Downtown/The Strip.

What's next for the band?

John: We've got a bunch of new tracks written, and are continuing to write without borders, experimenting with our sound and trying new things. It seems the response from fans every time we release new music is "I want more" which really makes us feel good. I hope we can keep delivering what they like.

Brian: Just keep writing… writing writing writing writing. We've played our debut album a lot and we want to give people more music

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

John: If you made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read! If you like what you hear on our bandcamp now, please stay tuned for our next release. I think it's shaping up to be an awesome one.

Brian: If you took the time to read our ranting and check out our music… thank you. I really can't stress that enough because this is something I really enjoy doing and if you get any enjoyment out of it, that makes me truly happy. Oh and Starburst Jellybeans are awesome.

Joe: I just want to keep writing music, and keep trying to make it interesting.

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