Thursday, 1 November 2018

***MASSA NERA interview + ENVY tribute premiere/pre-orders***

BandMASSA NERA
GenresPunk / Hardcore / Post-Hardcore / Post-Metal / Emo / Screamo / Skramz / Experimental
Related artistsOur Wits That Make Us Men, MiriamGuillemet, Bordello and This Place Is Actually The Worst.
CountryLinden, New Jersey U.S.A.
Years Active2016-present
Song: "The Light of My Footprints"
Album: "Envy/Love"
Year: 2018
For fans ofOff Minor, Shizune, The Usual, Kidcrash, Montcalm, Funeral Diner, Eyelet, Our Wits That Make Us Men, Chalk Hands, Snag, ...Who Calls So Loud, Frail Body, Moss Rose, Lessener, Fake Off, State Faults, City Of CaterpillarGospel, Matsuri, Chalmers and Envy aka PROPER SCREAMO.
Label(s): Zegema Beach Records / Adorno Records / Middle Man Records / Parking Lot Records / Arkan Records / Coniine Records / Dingleberry Records / Ancient Injury Records / Le Blast Records / Dead Tank Records / Blessed Hands Records / Pundonor Records
This post's artist is from the October 2018 Mix. This is track #1.
You can download: the October 2018 Mix#10 right here or get the new November 2018 Mix#11 here.

Before we start, please note that further down in this post are the international pre-orders for the 'Envy/Love' 12" tribute compilation as well as an exclusive interview with all four band members.
My life story became intertwined with MASSA NERA during the tail-end of summer, 2016. I was on the second of the two tours we did in the U.S.A. with мятеж and our first show in New Jersey was incredibly stacked. Two shows got mashed together so we ended up playing with the phenomenal What Of Us, Van Hägar, Convulsant, Coma Regalia, and also a new band called MASSA NERA that I knew nothing about. Guess what band blew me away the most? Well...it was What Of Us, but regardless, the very young folk in MASSA NERA made my jaw drop too and I began following them online and grabbing their material. You can read my gushing and watch live videos from said show right here.

At this point in time (late 2016) the band had released two EPs, the debut being ''Will it be enough for you to keep going?". This three-song affair is an excellent debut and opener "Hatsukoi" immediately shows off the band's Off Minor influence, especially on the sensational "Hatsuyuki" which meshes wonderfully right from the song's onset. Flowing from melodic weaving to driving rhythms and screaming, the song cuts a riverbed both gorgeous in appearance and strong in current, not unlike the structure that Funeral Diner perfected in the early 2000s. Closer "Hikkomori" closes up shop in great fashion, further pushing the driving, late 90s screamy hardcore sound but with flourishes of their own personality and style.

A few months after that initial release, they dropped a second EP titled 'No estamos separados', also on tape. This thing is a tad weird in presentation, as the first track is actually two? Titled "1 - I'll be the next to go - 2 - Surely, we'll see each other soon (feat. Dean Scordilis)" and clocks in at a lengthy 7:51. It meanders along through a cloud ambient/noise fog for the first few minutes, eventually including spoken word and a much more solid, instrumental foundation. By 3:35 the song finally blows its doors off and inject much more of a spacey, post-hardcore vibe than their debut EP, falling somewhere within the Envy, Mogwai and Vi Som Älskade Varandra Så Mycket triangle. The second song (errrr third song?) is titled "The Search for Nothing" and is definitely the more screamo of the two. There's a sick, Shizune-esque section from 30 seconds to about 1:10 before shit gets really heavy, making this my favourite of their 2016 material.

In 2017 my relationship with the band got tighter as I ended up absorbing the legwork for the Jeromes Dream tribute compilation, on which most members of MASSA NERA showed up twice - once for their core band and again with their side-project Our Wits That Make Us Men. Both bands did excellent jobs, but as "The Monologue Of The Century" is one of my favourite Jeromes Dream jams I've got to admit that the MASSA NERA song is easily one of the best songs on the comp. Not only did they do a good job at representing Jeromes Dream and staying true to the original, they definitely took every opportunity to make it their own and it shows, as it sounds like a JD/MN mashup. Also, the drum fills in this cover are absolutely mindboggling.

Due to our increased contact and my affinity for the band's music, I asked if they wanted to make the trek up to Toronto to play Zegema Beach Fest 2017, to which they agreed. At that point they had never played outside of New Jersey, let alone the country. Not only did they show up gushing appreciation, but they fucking stole Toronto's heart the night they played. The following evening (the last night of the fest) Tom Schlatter was saying a few words before the What Of Us set and mentioned how surreal it was to also come from New Jersey see a sea of people at the show wearing MASSA NERA shirts. It should also be noted that this set was performed two or three days after the vocalist quit the band, thus burdening the instrumentalists with vocal patterns to cover that didn't line up with their music contributions' timing. Not that it mattered, cuz they fucking slayed.

Their wicked set at ZBR Fest forced me to ask if I could help release whatever they had coming up next, which happened to be the 'Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida' cassette/12"LP. It was also during this stay at my house that I inquired if the band would be interested in participating in the 'Envy/Love' tribute compilation, and we sat in my family room checking out songs that they should cover.

Back to the LP though. Their debut full length is really, really good. In fact, some of the songs are downright phenomenal. Part of me wishes I never saw their ZBR performance, though, as at that point I became accustomed to (aka obsessed with) their triple-vocal approach. Their 12" is primarily the vocalist who left the band, and although I enjoyed his delivery it seems kind of monotone compared to three different individuals trading screams back and forth. Hold up, I'm painting an overly negative picture here, as the vocals are still excellent and jive perfectly with the music on the record. The band's love of ambient noise and field recordings is more obvious than ever on this collection of songs and opens the LP with "I Waltz! (La Guerra)", building an intense, cerebral pulsing that culminates in a millisecond of silence before the songs kicks around 1:50. The recording sounds very full, and even though the opening guitars are relatively clean and light, they still have a weight to them. By 2:40 the songs shifts into 2000s Level Plane screamo (see Welcome The Plague Year and Neil Perry) which they shape, destroy and reshape for the remaining four minutes. That's a heck of a start, but jesus fuck christ "Badminton With a Neo-Nazi" puts on the dog teeth and goes right for the jugular. The eerie, damp and uncomfortable instrumental section from 30 seconds to 1:18 is sensational and transitions perfectly to the hard part, only to soon stitch the two together to create a mesmerizing patchwork of post-hardcore/screamo. "One. Two. Zero." is next and holy shit, the hits just keep on comin'. After a 40-second atmospheric intro the song comes in at full speed and drops breakdowns early on an unassuming listener, while the other end shifts from a dreamy interlude to a prodigious, swelling outro that begins to crash down at the three-minute mark. Best MASSA NERA ending, good lord. Things continue at a rapid pace with the unrelenting first half of "A History in Rust", followed by a super chill second half. "An Interview With Lester Young" is the shortest track here, setting up a frightful aura around a discussion with one would presume to be Lester Young.  "Provisional Euphoria" doubles that length, clocking in at over five minutes of well-constructed and smoothly moving, screamy hardcore, but nothing comes close to the epic conclusion that is "Carrying a Coffin". I became absolutely smitten with this song after seeing it played live at ZBR Fest (watch it here). It's a behemoth of a song, sprawling across more than 8 minutes and a myriad of styles, with the bulk of the traditional MASSA NERA song coming from one to five minutes. There's a slowdown at 2:16 that builds to epic proportions by utilizing a wonderful heavy/soft dynamic with a lone guitar accompanied by the entire band smashing their instruments every few notes. By 3:10 the songs hits its climax and Allen's gutteral growls join the mix as the song catapults itself into City Of Caterpillar territory with such a rousing, moving creation.

Strangely enough, the 2018 '4-Way split' songs were recorded prior to their LP, despite being released more than a year later. The band pretty much took care of this release by themselves with help from Shaun who runs Adorno Records, but I was lucky enough to tag along. The entire split is a fantastic array of modern screamy hardcore, beginning with the two MASSA NERA songs. First up is "Un Mal Cola De Hadas", a jazzy adventure with enough screaming and European-sounding instrumentals that a Euro-Off Minor comparison is quite apt. There's a lot of multiple vocals on this song, which give it a feel that is more akin to their newer material and is easily one of my favourite songs by the band. The second song features some additional vocals by their friend Steve Roche, who not only happened to record them but also drummed/screamed in Off Minor, making that band connection even stronger. "Doing Nothing for Others is the Undoing of Ourselves" is much poppier, beginning with some modern, twinkly emo vibes that drive the first two-thirds of the song that are shed come 2:12 by Mark's lightning-quick drumming.

Almost two months ago I released the OMSB Mp3 Blog Mix #10 which was reviewed this month, and I think only one person downloaded it and realized..."Hey, this opening song is an Envy cover by MASSA NERA!" and they only found out about it because I gave them a hint. So...for future reference, some blog mixes give you a sneak peek at a previously unreleased track 1-2 months in advance. 😁

So technically this is the exclusive premiere of MASSA NERA's superb Envy cover with your first chance to hear the band using three of their current four members as vocalists in additional to their regular duties (Mark now drums and screams, while Chris and Allen play the guitars and scream) and it is astounding. They cover "The Light of My Footprints" and it is glorious. Besides the fact that the song was initially fantastic, MASSA NERA puts their own spin on it while still employing Japanese lyrics. All three vocalists kill it, with Chris' screaming from 41 seconds and the spoken word at 1:35 both shaking my soul. There's also Allen's devilish screaming during the verses and Mark's low-end screaming amidst that entrancing swing at 3:01. Seriously, this song, along with every other track on this tribute compilation, are fantastic.

I do believe it's about time that I mention that the 'Envy/Love' 12" tribute compilation out of 500 is now available to pre-order from Zegema Beach Records. All pre-orders come with an exclusive Zampler #12 cd compilation, which is the only way to get one of these rare ZBR trademarks. The compilation will be streaming in full during the month of December and shipping in January 2019.



One last thing to note is a ZBR exclusive MASSA NERA mega pack! What is that!? Good question. This thing is a must for any fan looking to obtain a bunch of MN stuff for a low price, with some items being long out of print. What do we got? All this...

contains:
1x Envy/Love tribute 12" compilation
1x 4-way split 12"
2x Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida 12"LP on both black AND purple
1x Jeromes Dream tribute cassette
1x no estamos separados cassette
1x will it be enough for you to keep going? cassette
1x The Unexpected Specter t-shirt (M or L available)
2x Massa Nera patch

Don't forget that there's an in-depth, lengthy and very interesting exclusive interview located under the links below :)
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DISCOGRAPHY

2016 - will it be enough for you to keep going? cassetteEP (stream/donate/download here)
2016 - no estamos separados cassetteEP (stream/donate/download here)

2017 - It's More Like An Homage To You / Jeromes Dream tribute cassetteLP compilation (contributed "The Monologue of the Century") (stream/donate/download here) [order from ZBR]
2017 - Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida cassette/12"LP (stream/donate/download here) [order from ZBR]

2018 - 4-Way split (w/Thisismenotthinkingofyou, Yo Sbraito and Ef'il) 12"LP (stream/donate/download here) [order from ZBR]
2018 - Envy/Love / Envy tribute 12"LP compilation (contributed "The Light of My Footprints") [order from ZBR Canada or USA]

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(2018) MASSA NERA - "The Light of My Footprints" (from 'Envy/Love' compilation)

(2018) MASSA NERA - "Un Mal Cola De Hadas" (from '4-Way' split)

(2017) MASSA NERA - "One. Two. Zero." (from 'Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida')

(2017) MASSA NERA - "Carrying a Coffin" (from 'Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida')

(2017) MASSA NERA - "Badminton With a Neo-Nazi" (from 'Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida')

(2017) MASSA NERA - "The Monologue Of The Century" (from 'It's More Like An Homage To You' compilation)

(2016) MASSA NERA - "The Search for Nothing" (from 'no estamos separados')

(2016) MASSA NERA - "Hatsuyuki" (from 'will it be enough for you to keep going?')

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MASSA NERA additional links
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MASSA NERA exclusive interview


What is MASSA NERA and how did the band come to be?

Chris: I actually came up with the name a couple years back after Allen, my brother and I had this other project dissolve. At that point we were leaning towards writing heavier, quicker music while still trying to be melodic. I’ve been influenced by a lot of Italian punk and screamo so at the time I thought of Massa Nera as a badass name. Ran it by our band members at the time (John, Allen, Mark, and Anthony) and they dug it. I’ve always had an appreciation for language and world music so I guess it’s my way of contributing to that.

How did each of you discover punk and screamo?

Aaron: Honestly I got into punk through bands like Sum41, Atreyu, and Marilyn Manson (which was my first concert lol) and eventually moved onto bands like Thursday, Silverstein, Aiden, and Senses Fail. I definitely had a scene kid phase too because I was 15 in 2005 haha. As for screamo...in undergrad I met Lucio Oquendo and after a brief talk about The Number 12 and Horse the Band he showed me Capsule, Orchid, Pg. 99, and two key blogs: Chug Life and Sophie’s Floorboard which are where I found A LOT of sick stuff and just dorked out on those websites whenever I could. This was happening around the same time that I started going to a lot of DIY shows in Chicago and seeing insane bands like Paper Mice, Gay Beast, and Heart Shaped Hate. Eventually Lucio and me started a screamo band with our buds called Guillemet that was short lived but I’m happy that we got to play a few rad shows with our friends in Lord Snow and Itto...and the rest is history I guess haha.

Mark: I'll try to keep this relatively brief. My fondness for extreme, underground forms of punk (as in, punk rock as it has existed beyond the various hardcore scenes of the 80's) really exploded when I discovered The Dillinger Escape Plan at the age of 13. For context, 13-year old me thought stuff like Dimmu Borgir was extreme. Dillinger (particularly songs like Sugar Coated Sour and The Mullet Burden) quickly showed me how naive I was. From there, my music taste exploded, particularly my taste for extreme music. I found grindcore (Discordance Axis, Human Remains, Pig Destroyer), powerviolence (Dropdead, Man Is the Bastard), stranger, more technical metal (I cannot emphasize how much I loved metal), and even the jazzgrind stylings of Naked City. I also got into stuff like jazz fusion and ambient music haha.

Around this time, I also starting listening to My Chemical Romance (this being 2007; MCR was everywhere, especially if you lived in NJ). Being the nerd that I am, I read about them and saw that their early material was frequently compared to some band called Thursday. Fast forward one year. Someone I had a huge crush on told me to check out Senses Fail. I did, and despite the fact that I was by then a snobby 14 year old elitist (I would condescendingly tell my friends to check out shit like Drowningman and Knut whenever they mentioned pop punk), I found myself enjoying them! I saw that they were labeled post-hardcore, remembered that Thursday was also labeled post-hardcore, rented A City by the Light Divided from my library, and literally had my life completely changed. Before that point, I had honestly never occurred to me that music could elicit complex feelings such as confusion, regret, sorrow etc. I realized that I wanted to make similarly vulnerable, sincere, emotional music. Bands like At the Drive-in, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Jimmy Eat World further solidified this for me.

Thursday, of course, were often erroneously called a screamo band. Since I was and always will be a nerd, I read a ton of Thursday interviews. There were a few in which Geoff Rickly (himself adamant that Thursday WEREN'T screamo) would namedrop screamo bands galore. I decided to check out some of the bands he mentioned, went on YouTube, and fell down a rabbit hole that led me to Saetia, Off Minor, Daitro, City of Caterpillar, and all the other stuff that people now call "entry-level" (plus some less well-known stuff like A Day in Black and White). Sputnikmusic was a particularly invaluable source for me around this time; screamo bands like Mesa Verde, Gospel, and Ampere were given a lot of hype on that site circa 2010-2012 or so. It quickly became obvious that screamo was that missing link for me. It combined the heaviness and rawness of extreme metal with the vulnerability and emotionality of the softer post-hardcore and "indie emo" stuff that I enjoyed. And now here we are! That wasn't brief at all but I honestly did try haha.

Allen: It really started from listening to bands like System of a Down, Rage Against the machine, Slipknot and Korn when I was in middle school. I had a ska phase while I was in high school but closer to the end of senior year is when I really started discovering heavier and more underground music like Bone Dance, Touché Amore and Nails. There was a day Chris and I went to a record store and I found an Orchid record there, never listened to it but I took a picture cus I thought it looked interesting. So I basically found out about screamo randomly lol. I didn’t really learn about the extent of it tho until we had already put out our first EP and played some shows.

Do you find your taste in screamo as well as music has changed drastically from your introduction to now? What kinds of stuff have you been listening to lately? And do many things you listen to end up influencing Massa Nera?

Mark: Hmm, my taste in screamo  is pretty wide-ranging. There really isn't much screamo that I don't like! My favorite bands in the genre have always mostly been more technical, or at the least very clean (Off Minor, Kidcrash, Gospel, Sed Non Satiata, Who Calls So Loud...), and typically derive influence from other genres like jazz or prog. There are exceptions to this, of course haha. I also really, really love post-screamo, albeit mostly the more eerie, drawn out type that takes influence from emocore (City of Caterpiller, Maximilian Colby, Indian Summer).

My music taste is constantly expanding! The biggest change, I suppose, is that I'm much more open to mainstream music than I used to be. The older I get, the less I care about how popular something is. Also, most of the stuff I jam isn't heavy at all. I mean, my favorite record is Bark Psychosis - Hex, which in many ways is the furthest thing from screamo.

I always listen to a lot of folk (recently I've been jamming Julie Doiron), chamber music (Rachel's ftw; Mark Hollis' s/t record also kind of fits the bill, though it's much more baroque), jazz (John Coltrane's album with Johnny Hartman is probably my all-time favorite), ambient music/drone/minimalism/etc. (shout out to Liam Timmons for showing me Signit; also, anyone interested should check out the label Touch33), and indie (Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight has been on repeat as of late). Recently, I've also been digging a LOT of Carly Rae Jepsen, Miguel, Erykah Badu, Cannibal Ox...you get the idea. Honestly, there really isn't any type of music that I outright dislike. Hell, I even have a lot of country on my iTunes (though it's mostly "alt-country" like Woven Hand, or folksy stuff like Songs: Ohia or Bonnie 'Prince' Billy). This weekend I jammed everything from Have a Nice Life to CRJ to Tommy Wright III to The Chameleons to Nujabes to Steve Reich without feeling any sort of tonal whiplash.

As far as heavier stuff is concerned, beyond screamo my taste mostly lies in various forms of metal. As a general rule, I prefer shit that horrifies or confuses me, regardless of subgenre. Rorcal - Heliogabalus might be my all time favorite in that regard, as well as stuff like Gorguts and Impetuous Ritual. I was absolutely floored when I first heard Endon. I also really enjoy darker ambient stuff like Lustmord and The Haxan Cloak.

Almost everything I jam influences Massa Nera in some way. As a drummer, my aim is to take elements of a variety of different sounds and combine them into something that I can call my own. I don't know how successful I am in that regard, but that's what I try to do at least! I think we try to do that as a band as well. At a broader level, I am constantly pushing for us to experiment and push the boundaries of our sound (although that phrasing makes it sound like I'm the only one itching to do this, when really all four of us are eager to get weird and wild). I don't really care if everything we make can be classified as screamo. As a matter of fact, I actively want to ensure that this isn't the case. I don't want us to be limited to one style. I want us to be free to do what ever we want, or at least free to really fuck around with our sound, assuming we even have an identifiable "Massa Nera sound" (and honestly, I think that we do). If we sat down and made something completely removed from screamo, I'd honestly be fine with it, so long as it felt like an honest expression of where we were both as individuals and as a collective.

With all that being said, I do listen to a ton of screamo haha, although nowadays it's mostly current stuff, since a) there are a ton of people in the scene making really interesting music, and b) I'm lucky to call most of the people in those bands my friends.

Aaron: My taste in screamo and music in general has certainly changed. I got into screamo ten years ago and A LOT has changed between being 18 vs 28. Music for me will always be changing as I learn more and grow older. A big part how I listen to music has come from studying it too. I got my masters in composition and theory and basically compose chamber screamo music...so I’m kind of a huge dork haha. I love finding new sounds, analyzing song structures, and just being generally open minded. That being said, I tend to gravitate towards things that push the boundaries of their genre and that aren’t afraid to experiment.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Infant Island, Respire, Crowning, Ghost Spirit, the new Michael Gordon record (The Unchanging Sea), Tierra Whack, Princess Nokia and Love Spread.

I’m only now getting involved in the writing process but I think we’re about to try a whole lot of new stuff that we haven’t done before. My bandmates are rad and are letting me write and notate parts for added instruments. I really want to push how screamo musicians think about utilizing additional instruments. I don’t want those instruments to get stuck doing melody lines all the time, I want them to make noise walls and gnarly sounds to match the chaos that is this band and screamo in general.

Allen: I’m really not into screamo honestly, there’s still a few bands that I really love but I usually don’t find my self listening to it. I listen to a lot of rap, heavier music and Spanish music. I honestly just put my music on shuffle and listen to whatever plays most of the time tho lol.

Chris: Allen will say they aren’t into screamo for three months then will say screamo is the best. And honestly, I feel that.

Aaron: I feel that. When Princess Nokia dropped 1992 I basically only listened to that for an entire month, and same for that new snail mail lol...I forgot this was the interview lol

Mark: I feel that as well.

This interview is a conversation haha

My last.fm doesn't update anymore, but last I checked my most listened to artist was Miguel. I still need to jam Princess Nokia. Right now my life is dominated by old post-punk

If you had to condense Massa Nera's sound into a description for someone, what would you say to:
A) a person not versed in anything past mainstream
b) a person acquainted with heavy music

Aaron: I would just say screamo for both answers (and I have). Usually for person A it requires answering some follow up questions but I rather answer those and have a conversation than oversimplify something to “punk.” I used to do that but I realized that I was assuming things about people’s listening interests and giving a shitty answer.

For person B I just show them the egg chain virgin horny spectrum meme and say Massa Nera is true neutral screamo lol

Mark: Hmm, beyond simply saying "screamo," I guess I'd describe our music as heavy yet melodic, eclectic but hopefully not to the point of incoherence, with fairly prevalent jazz and Latin influences. Although Archie (from The Ultimate Screamo Band) recently told me that we make "prog-screamo," so maybe I'll start using that from now on haha

Was it strange releasing the 4-way split songs after the LP? They were recorded in reverse order, correct?

Mark: The songs on the split were indeed written and recorded before we had even begun working on the Los Pensamientos (with the exception of "Badminton with a Neo-Nazi," which we had actually begun writing around the same time). It was...frustrating to see them go unreleased for so long, at least for me. I guess I just don't like waiting for things haha. I want to stay in constant motion. So the two-year gap between the recording of those songs and their release did grate on me a bit, especially since the lineup that recorded those songs hasn't existed in over a year and a half. Ultimately though, I'm just happy that those songs are out now. I actually think that in a lot of ways they provide a better indication of where we're going than Los Pensamientos does, so maybe things worked out for the best.

What are y'all up to next with Massa Nera?

Aaron: There’s a couple more splits coming out and we’re just starting to talk about plans for LP2. Plus we have a rad international tour in the spring that we’re not announcing officially yet but it’s gonna rule.

Mark: Aaron pretty much covered everything that we have planned. I think we're going to try to make a couple new shirts as well. We're running low on supplies and are eager to have some new designs. I'd like to do some more weekenders as well. I'm most excited for the next song that we'll be hashing out. It'll be the moment at which people start saying that we've completely lost the plot lol

How would you describe your newer material versus the old? Is there a specific direction and/or lyrical theme for the record?

Mark: Ooh, I don't know how I would describe our newer material in relation to the older stuff. Hmm. I think it's a pretty natural progression.

What I will say is that we want to challenge ourselves as musicians and as songwriters. We want to explore different chords, use different rhythms, and integrate different stylistic and structural choices into the framework that we've developed. We don't want to repeat ourselves.

We recently recorded a new song (for one of those aforementioned splits), and a few people told me that it sounds like us, but in a way that's, well, different. I think that's a good summary of our current approach (and most of those people told us that it was their favorite song of ours, so hopefully this means that we're onto something haha!).

We're aware that people might now have expectations for how a typical Massa Nera song should unfold. We certainly have certain expectations concerning that. So going forward, we want to do what we can to subvert those expectations in a way that is challenging and surprising.

Also, beyond all that pretentious fluff, 1) having Aaron in the band adds, so, so much to our sound and to our writing process, to the point that I could write multiple paragraphs on that alone, and 2) having four vocalists as opposed to one (as was the case when we recorded all of our older material) has obviously changed the way that we approach vocal arrangement, in a way that I think makes our music much more dynamic and interesting.

John wrote most of the lyrics for our older songs. I wrote a couple songs, and Chris contributed a I each contributed a lot of lyrics and suggestions to others, but by-and-large that was John's domain. Now all four of us will be writing! So I'm not sure how that'll develop. Most of our new material is still in progress, so lyrics are a bit of a ways off.

Idk. Everything I write about is pretentious and convoluted, and also extremely personal, so I find myself a bit reluctant to talk about potential lyrical themes. Lots of faux-poetic lines about death, the fundamental incoherence of identity despite our ability to relate to ourselves as discrete entities, the desire to move beyond the physical and frustration at the impossibility of this, the unreliability of memory, and how all of this makes it impossible to truly know others. I'm sure that stuff will come up in some of our future songs.

Aaron: Mark I don’t think those themes are pretentious, nor is this band in any way  pretentious...there’s nothing pretentious about trying to challenge ourselves as musicians to write the best music that we can.

Mark: That's true. I guess I feel pretentious when I talk about them because I never feel like I actually know what I'm talking about haha

Aaron: I’ll agree that your writing is sometimes convoluted but to me as a listener before your bandmate, I feel that it’s the kind of stream of conscious writing that stems out of the anxiety and heavy topics that you’re writing about.

Also, to answer your question David, as far as overall sound I think reformatting the vocals to all four of us has added another layer of depth to the songwriting process. We all have our own unique vocal strengths so the orchestration of how we scream a verse becomes far more intentional in terms of how we want it to sound than having one main vocalist do it all.

I think our next record, (whenever we start writing that) will have a better focus on more specific thematic elements not only lyrically but also musically. We’re not looking to make a concept album or anything like that but I think there will be some more things that will tie in the record as a whole. At least, that’s something we’ve talked about doing...sorry this is vague haha. We only have a few things started with that and according to Chris we have like maybe 5 riffs for that haha

Chris: The way I’m approaching my riffs now are on the heavier side, as opposed to the first ep I am paying more attention to rhythm (thanks to Mark) haha. I really love locking in with them. That being said I’m definitely not ignoring melody. When it comes to that, compared to our old material I feel that I’ve improved quite a bit and have more of a sound that I think is my own.

Our lyrics feel more personal to us (at least I think) and we have the freedom to explore rhythm in our lyricism which I think is one of the real exciting things for me.

Mark: Oh 100%. One of the best things about the writing the new song was being able to really focus on vocal rhythms. It was so fun!!

Allen: With our newer material my playing style has changed completely on guitar. I kinda always found myself playing only chords and arpeggios and never feeling like I could dance around with lead parts. I really forced myself out of my comfort zone and started writing for my other band Miriam, playing grind and such just really help me improve on my technique and made me so much more creative because I can add those elements to Massa Nera so much better. I feel as though I’ve matured my sound and just became a much better musician finally being comfortable with my instrument. I’ve also just been really into Spanish music and the guitar style in Merengue and Bachata. So I’ve been really trying to hit my cultural roots so much more in my music. So I’m much more into the newer stuff we’re writing haha

Tell us about what you remember from ZBR Fest. I don't what it was like for you, but after that show it was like you blew Toronto the fuck up and then I've heard your name everyday since then.
Mark: ZBR Fest was arguably the best experience of my life. I remember feeling overwhelming joy and excitement. Being in a new country for the first time, meeting so many amazing people (many of whom are now our close friends), watching amazing band after amazing band, and then getting to perform in front of people who genuinely responded to what we do...I still smile and blush thinking about it. That fest changed our lives, full stop. Beyond what it did for us as a band (and it did a lot!!), it connected us to this unbelievable community that now serves a central role in our lives. I don't know what I would do without the people that I met over those two days. Toronto feels a bit like our second hometown. And with New Friends killing it as far as screamo shows are concerned, I imagine this will be the case for a long time to come.

Allen: ZBR fest was such an amazing experience! I don’t even really know how to describe how beautiful it was to play that show in Toronto. We met a lot of really good friends and I’m so grateful to have had experienced it.

What are your top albums of the year so far, regardless of genre?

Aaron:
Infant Island - s/t
Ghost Spirit/Frail Hands - split
Respire - Denouement
Tierra Whack - Whack World
Snail Mail - Lush
Love Spread - Host in the Hell
Saba - Care For Me
Ostraca - Enemy
Michael Gordon - Clouded Yellow
Fire-Toolz - Skinless X-1
(which my bud just showed me today and it blew my mind)

Allen: I honestly haven’t really listened to any new releases this year or can remember which ones really stuck with me, but:
Soul Glo - Tour EP & Case Closed By Migos
Infant Island - S/T
Ostraca - Enemy
Euth - S/T
Listless - S/T
Replicant - Negative Life
Zeta - Magia Infinita
Dianacrawls - EP
That Zeta record hasn’t come out yet but I already know it’s gonna be my favorite release of the year lol

Chris: favorite releases of 2018 (no particular order)
Bloom EP - by Zoology
Dénouement - by Respire
Enemy - by Ostraca
TA13OO - by Denzel Curry
Big Juice Tha Sip - by Shakewell

Mark:
-Soul Glo: Tour EP 2K18 + Case Closed by Migos
-Respire: Denouement
-Infant Island: S/T
-Dianacrawls: Sporadic Defenestration
-Balun: Prisma Tropical
-JPEGMAFIA: Veteran
-Closer: All This Will Be
-Supine: Dissonant
-This Place Is Actually the Worst: S/T
-Infernal Coil: Within a World Forgotten
-Nickelus F: Stuck
-Pictureplane: Degenerate
-Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog
-Cassus: Separation Anxiety
-Hundreds of AU: Communication Links Re-Established
-Tengil: shouldhavebeens
-Komuso: Luck Will Be on Your Side This Week
-Tim Hecker: Konoyo

Give your thoughts about what needs to be done in the U.S. and globally to NOT DIE AS AN ENTIRE SPECIES.

Aaron: For the last question - I think everyone needs to do their best to resist however they can as an individual. Small acts of resistance add up. Not everyone is equipped mentally or physically to punch a Nazi and that’s ok but just do something for someone other than yourself. We can only get through this bullshit together.

Allen: I think we as a species are complacent to our environment and that will be the end of us. People have a mentality that since it’s not personally affecting them yet that there’s no real issue or that it will be fixed by someone else.

The only way we can fight against corporations and governments is for the people to band together and fight as a unit. Even liberalism is divided, people act so fucking elitist and won’t take a second to educate those around them. Not everyone is going to be super informed about every single topic, that's why we need to work together or nothing will get done. People are easy to control if their misinformed, we need to educate each other.

Mark: In regards to your last question...truthfully, I think it's too late for us. We're probably doomed. But of course, just throwing one's arms up and saying "fuck it, there's no hope" doesn't help anyone.

I don't think any substantial changes can be made without dismantling capitalism. Of course, I don't know how it will be feasible to do that without engendering seismic shifts in the ways we think and operate (i.e.: bringing an end to the nation-state paradigm which helps maintain capitalism, conceiving value/worth as something distinct from labor, so on and so forth). On individual and local levels, we can stop eating meat, orient ourselves towards communal activities, fight for improved, accessible mass transit, find ways to reduce sprawl and reuse spaces that have been abandoned, fight for measures like tenant-controlled property, rent control, and other things that will hopefully slow down or halt gentrification, etc. Hell, it might be best for all of us to go a step further and abandon physical media in general, whether that means books, vinyl, or what have you, or at least find ways to emphasize the least wasteful, most efficient ways of producing those things. And of course, collective action is key. Individual voices are easy to drown out. What's needed is a mass of people who are militantly committed to these ideals and unwavering in their desire to make them a reality.

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