On May 24, 2012 we conducted an interview with Leo Atreides from Southern California hardcore / powerviolence band PLAGUES, spreading their message through Irish Voodoo Records. We talked about lots of interesting stuff. Press play and scroll down to see yourself.
Hello hello, my Irish Voodoo friends [laughs]. How are you, guys?
Hey! We’re doing great, keeping ourselves busy with shows, writing and partying, as well as the occasional interview with an awesome zine or two [laughs].
Please give us a quick introduction of your musical connection, past projects and everything regarding your basic activity called “being in a band”.
Before PLAGUES, the majority of us were in a punk band together called TEREZODU, which the core of that band (Alex, Matt and myself) had been in since we were kids. We all had other side projects which delved into different genres like indie, rock and folk-punk, and that really benefited us in the long run when we started PLAGUES, since it allowed us to think outside the confines of a typical Hardcore band and let us put a very unique spin on song-writing that allowed us to accurately convey certain moods and emotions in each song without it sounding contrived.
After TEREZODU I met Brian from NEVERENDER, who moved down here from Minnesota, and everything just clicked between him and the rest of us. So I called him up and told him I wanted him to join us, and he agreed to do so only on the condition that he “gets to play super loud and run into a bunch of people” [laughs].
Ok, so you are hailing from the Orange County area, which obviously has an amazing scene. What local bands are you tight with?
The OC and its surrounding areas have an abundance of flat out awesome bands in the underground music scene, and most of them we’re great friends with. Some of our close friends that helped us out in the beginning have managed to get picked up on the IVR roster, like SLAVE, THE COLD FRONT, COLOMBIAN NECKTIE and THEY AS IN THEM. Our other friends around here have the means of releasing vinyl and touring on their own budget, like MEDIA BLITZ, ACxDC, STRESSCASE and SEIZURES. Everyone in between are either up and coming (i.e. BRIDGE and HOODED JUSTICE) or doing something as equally awesome that exists outside the IVR family. I don’t think there is one band in the OC area that has made a negative mark on the underground scene in any way. It’s great to see that everyone around here has their PMA peaked at all times, and it shows whenever there’s a show or a zine or something in the works. Once word of it gets around, we all get behind it and support it the best that we can and it eventually succeeds.
You have released your debut EP for free. Why’s that? What’s your idea for distributing music these days? What’s the place of Irish Voodoo Records in this story?
I always joke about this idea that music is like a drug, and like any drug dealer will tell you, “The first taste is always free” [laughs].
Seriously, though, these 7 songs were written, recorded and released months before we had played our first show. The thought of having people pay money for this EP never crossed our minds. I always asked myself, “Why would anyone want to pay for music from a band they’ve never seen or even heard of before? Who’s going to scream along to a band that puts out music for money when they haven’t even played a show?”
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would rather have a room full of kids screaming along to our song Five Shapes than waiting around for someone to give me a dollar to hear that song on our EP. I want our music to reach someone before they come and see us live, so that they can fully enjoy the songs we’re playing. In doing the first EP for free, we got a lot of recognition in an extremely short amount of time. I mean, we’ve only been a band for about a year and we’ve already put out 2 EPs, a split, and toured Arizona and most of California, which we would’ve never been able to acquire fan support and backing from people like Danny and Joey at Irish Voodoo or Wayne over at ToxicBreed had it not been for the rep we got from our self titled.
You’ve just released a split with THE COLD FRONT (who we recently interviewed). Tell us about your friendship and how did you approach to this recording.
We’ve had several encounters with THE COLD FRONT before we were approached by Irish Voodoo. After a few shows together, Conor, the singer, called me up and asked if we wanted to do some mini-tours around the south-west US. That’s when Danny and Joey at IVR started scouting us out and talking to us about doing a release. As both our bands were ready to head up to San Francisco in October, Danny said he wanted us to put out a split on IVR, which was great, since we had recorded 4 songs for a single that would go great on a split as well. We asked them if COLD FRONT could get on the B-Side since they had recorded 3 songs for a single as well, but they told us that the other band was going to be one of their choosing, not ours, and they wouldn’t tell us who, so we got a little sketched out about it. I remember us sitting in the van on the way up to San Francisco with THE COLD FRONT talking about it and telling Conor “Who the fuck are they going to put on the split with us? I wish you guys were on IVR so that we can do it together.”
It wasn’t until we got home from tour that Brian called me up and said “So yeah, that band Irish Voodoo’s putting on the other side of the split? It’s the Cold Front!” [laughs].So yeah, in the long run, everything just happened to work perfectly, we all got what we wanted and it turned out to be an awesome split that we’ve gotten nothing but good reviews about.
How crazy was the party during the “Nineteen” video shoot? [laughs] Any other videos coming up?
Holy shit, that shoot was insane! We had posted something online saying we were going to have a pizza party and a shooting in our drummer, Alex’s, bedroom and all these kids just showed up and got down. I honestly didn’t think that it was going to get as gnarly as it did, but when it got to around 30 heads, and people kept showing up, I started getting a little concerned about something breaking in Alex’s room, or one of our amps getting trampled in the process. When we started shooting, people went ape shit, and luckily nothing was broken in the end. Everyone started making suggestions like “Hey, why don’t we shove this guy through the window!?” or “Let’s run this kid over with your car!”
Some of the video we had directed the cameramen where to shoot, but the rest of it was all just happenstance: Our friend knocking down Matt, which led to dogpiling ,or a bunch of kids thrashing around the room and crowd surfing in a room that has about 8 ft of height to the ceiling.
The day before the shoot, our friend, Brandon, who is actually a professional stuntman, hit us up about wanting us to film him lighting himself on fire and jumping off Alex’s roof. I mean, how do you say no to that [laughs]?! That dude’s a trooper, too. He had to put on these dripping wet clothes and cover it with some fire-resistant cocktail that he made himself and jump into a freezing swimming pool on a cold day in December, and he braved through the entire thing like it was nothing.
When we make another video, we’re going to have to top Nineteen’s video somehow. I’m not sure how, exactly, but it has to be done. We’re planning on shooting more, too. A couple people have hit us up asking us to produce our next video, and I may take them up on their offer once we finish writing some more songs and coming up with some ideas for them.
I actually designed those myself, except for the brown shirt, which is an etching by American Realist Edward Hopper called Evening Wind.
The EP cover I got the idea when we first decided on the name PLAGUES. With a name like ours, it’s not hard to create artwork around that theme. I had played on this idea I have of the human race being seen as a sort of virus. Like any virus, it infiltrates an area, populates it to the point of overcrowding and uses up all its resources until that place is no longer livable, so it will move onto the next habitable spot and repeat the process. It’s almost disgusting, looking at people that way, but from a completely objective viewpoint, you can’t help but compare people’s lives as a collective to that of a cancer or some kind of epidemic.
Powerviolence is a term that often appears while reading about you. What’s your opinion on that? Are you a powerviolence band? Isn’t powerviolence a mixture of screamo and chaotic hardcore? Do you care about all the labeling? [smiles]
Yeah, we’ve received a lot of positive reviews on our releases promoting us as a Powerviolence-centered band. We originally went into this band with intentions of incorporating Powerviolence with hardcore, sludge and punk rock, but lately we’ve been adding some melodic guitar parts, gang vocals and darker riffs to really shape what we want our sound to become. We’ve been receiving generally positive feedback for everything we’ve done, but along the way we’ve been hit up by some elitist Powerviolence fans who have expressed their distaste in our claim of the genre and some have even left some hilarious voicemails on our phones, one of which was a kid in Arizona who claimed he was Joe Denunzio of Infest saying that him and Matt Domino listened to our EP and that we were “False-Powerviolence” and then proceeded to call us “rat-faced bastards” [laughs].
We don’t feel like we should be confined to genres. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the uniqueness in it, too? I’d like to be remembered as a band that pioneered a diverse amalgamation of styles rather than a cookie-cutter hardcore group that does a typical hardcore song with riffs that everyone has heard before and mediocre lyrics that are catchy at best, which will inevitably fade away in the scene after a year or two. Screw that. I like having substance in my songs and I’d like for them to leave a lasting mark in underground music. I honestly don’t mind the labeling as a means of explaining to someone exactly how we sound without playing them our music, but I certainly hope people don’t think that, just because we call ourselves powerviolence to describe some of our songs, they can lump us into some niche and then turn on us when we decide to take another direction with our music.
So what’s your live shows schedule for the next months?
At the moment, we have a few shows set up in the Southern California area. May 31st we’re playing in Highland Park with HOLLOW EARTH from Detroit, SEIZURES, COLOMBIAN NECKTIE and a couple others. In June, we’ve got a couple shows that are definitely worth going to: June 3rd we’re support for HEARTLESS and DEAD IN THE DIRT, both of which are incredibly intense bands that I personally look forward to playing with. June 11th is a kicker, and even though it’s 21 and over, it’s free and it’s with SHAI HULUD and SOUL SEARCH, and I know some radness is going to go down that night! Other than that, there are a few shows that I’m working out the details with in the up and coming months, plus we’re going to work on a west coast tour for the late summer/early fall.
Ok, let’s go back to your releases for a while. You leave us wanting more after listening to your music. When can we expect the full length? Have you started writing yet?
We’re taking our releases slow and really focusing on writing and structuring some amazing things in the following months. We’ve been talking about doing a 7” later this year, and afterwards we’ll get to work on a full length. On top of that, we’ve still got the rest of the Age EPs to write. We’ve already released the first one, Age of Viral Origin, but it’s a project all on its own, set apart as a solely digital series of releases. Trust me; you’re not going to be disappointed with what we’ve got cooking right now, and I can guarantee you that you’re not going to have to hold your breath for too long, either.
What’s cool to do in your neighborhood besides being in a band?
Most kids around here don’t think there’s anything to do, but that’s because they don’t set out to find it. Some kids like to hit up the skate parks and thrash and others will go hiking and find old world war II bunkers and abandoned houses that they’ll either tag up or throw a generator show in. Plus, there are record stores scattered throughout the county like TKO, Radiation, Vinyl Solution and Resurrection that you can kill some time at. Either way, there’s always some kind of social gathering or a show happening every week. If that doesn’t suit you, I mean, look around you. You’re in southern California. There’s got to be a pool party or a barbecue happening somewhere in your neighborhood. Go crash it! [laughs]
Nice [smiles]. Thank you so much. Please, add anything you like.
Thanks so much for having me! I feel like I’ve pretty much told you everything that needs to be said! [laughs]