Featuring members of AS WE DRAW and BIRDS IN ROW, CALVAIIRE bring in dark clouds and intense, violent, yet refreshing rain of sludgy hardcore. The band has recently released their debut LP called “Forceps”, which executed an amazing, merciless follow-up to their debut EP “Rigorisme”. CALVAIIRE managed to create one of the finest pieces of chaotic, metallic hardcore work to date and it’s not an exaggeration! I caught up with the band’s vocalist and Throatruiner Records owner Matthias Jungbluth to mainly discuss CALVAIIRE’s debut album and try to understand more about their journey through devastating mental chaos that comes along with their work. But hey, that’s not it! There’s a lot more in the interview below – see for yourself!
Hey Matt! Thanks a lot for reaching out! After having spread the word about CALVAIIRE several times this year, we can finally discuss all of it! I’m stoked :) How is winter going for you guys so far?
First, thanks for your interest! Since september we have finished writing our debut LP “Forceps”, we recorded it just after, and it has been released a couple of months ago on various formats. Then we left for a release tour with our friends from DIREWOLVES and despite our tight schedules we’re working on a few other tours for 2014.
Awesome! But let’s start with a few questions about the band, in order to introduce you to the readers, alright? Please tell us your background? When did you get involved with hardcore punk?
Some of us have an history of making noise together since their childhood, and we are all used to be involved in everything that surrounds music in various forms – whether it is playing in other outfits, doing sound or lights for bands, putting up shows, running record labels… As most of our peers, I guess that we all share a more metallic background, then slowly came to hardcore/punk while looking for less stricts codes and more “pure” ways of expression.
What kind of music was around in your home when you were young? Does the passion for music run in the family? :)
I recently discovered that my father was into some raw black metal stuff, and I still don’t understand how he discovered it by himself as I never annoyed him with my music; then as far as I remember my parents have always listened to a wide spectrum of music, but nothing way more deeper than what you’ll find on tv and radio.
Do you remember your first exposure to punk?
Probably NIRVANA, even if it took me some time to realize what it was all about. Discovering them via every awful high-school cover band was a big turn-off at this time.
What other older bands do you guys get your inspiration from?
As we all knew each other before forming CALVAIIRE, we didn’t really talked about influences, we just wanted to play some violent, urgent stuff. Then we’re all sharing a common love for early 00′ metalcore mixed with more recent, darker stuff, and basically everything that sounds uncompromising and heavy.
Alright Matt. Moving on to the creation process of your newest work, it was really cool of you to track it in a live setting. Can you tell us some “behind the scenes” tidbits during the recording of these massive songs?
Doing it live was a rough but rewarding exercise. We are more aiming for some kind of “purity of intention” rather than perfection, so we choose to record altogether rather than instrument by instrument. It was also better for me as I’m unable to record my vocals alone behind a mic stand. Not that much tidbits besides some failed screams we found funny to keep, or some parts that have been recorded without headphones to hear what we were doing as we were moving too much.
The instrumental side of the record is literally a slap in the face. Are the lyrics more or less the same hammer? You stated that you’re addressing “seclusion, anxiety and forging ahead despite prevailing vacuity”. Can you please expound on that?
I don’t know; it’s mainly about trying to live a fulfilling life while feeling more and more disconnected from everything that surrounds you. I’m not very social nor talkative, so there are things I need to write about if I want them expressed. I don’t play angry music for the sake of being angry; it’s just the only way I’ve found to channel negativity into something constructive and positive for people I care about and myself.
Lyrics are a slow and laborious process as I’m hard to satisfy; french is a passionate language but you can easily sound cheesy. Plus even if it seems to be a long shot, I try to write lyrics I’ll still be able to connect with if I have to sing them in ten years; most of the shit you encounter in your life just doesn’t deserve to be expressed artistically. I’ve always considered aggressive music as a way to become a better, more balanced person, even if it may not seem obvious viewed from the outside.
Reviewers can’t stop pointing out that your vocals are reminiscent of Jake Bannon’s scream. Do you feel offended by being called his “replica”?
I won’t say “offending” as this is a band that has always counted a lot for all of us; more like “reductive” and resulting from a superficial listen. Plus I think that this type of vocals is too primal and physically painful to be something that you can deliberately emulate. If it sounds like X or Y, well, whatever, trying to sound differently would be unnatural.
By the way, why French? Any chance to hear you singing in English some day? :)
At first it was some kind of challenge because even if vocals can seem indecipherable, rhythmically speaking french scansion is a pain. Then I found that I was way more at ease with expressing ideas, playing on words and double-entendres… Plus I don’t need to worry about my horrible accent. I’m not closed to use English one of these days, maybe for other projects that will require “cleaner” vocals, but for CALVAIIRE, it works well as it is. Then we worked on an english translation that’s included with the record, in order to provide a less hermetic album.
Ok, and how about the cover art for the album. Can you enlighten us on this stunning art?
The artwork was a major brain-ache; somebody around us was supposed to do it, we gave him a good, open brief and his first attempts were great…then he stopped giving us news. As we had some deadlines to respect, we dropped him and I took a few days to work on some stuff in the same vein. There was already this idea of design scheme ala Sacred Bones to provide all informations front. Thematically speaking we wanted to take a departure from biblical stuff we’re already using in some visuals and lyrics, but still with this faith-related idea. We’re all atheists but I have this respect for people who use their beliefs – whether it is in religions or in more concrete things – in order to elevate themselves, as long as their choices don’t have any negative impact on others. Whatever floats your boat… The widow on the front cover has an interesting ambivalence for us; whether you link it to the title or to some of the lyrics, you can find various interpretations.
Alright Matt. Let’s discuss touring. You mentioned your recent January tour. When was the last time you played outside the country? What’s the plan to hit foreign roads again?
Yeah before the DIREWOLVES tour it was nearly two years ago, an eternity in punk years! We didn’t allow us to tour before having a brand new set, but the writing of the LP took more time than expected. Then we have mostly French shows in the works, but we’ll surely hit European roads later this year.
You better let me know about your plans, man :)
04/04 | ANGERS – Café Latin w/Mon Autre Groupe
05/04 | TOULOUSE – Ô Bohem w/Mon Autre Groupe
06/04 | CLERMONT FERRAND – Sprint Bar w/Mon Autre Groupe
17/04 | LE MANS – Le Lézard w/Birds In Row
18/04 | BREST – La Poudrière w/Birds In Row & Direwolves
19/04 | LORIENT – Le Manège w/Birds In Row & Direwolves
26/04 | RENNES – MKS Fest w/Birds In Row, Throw Me Off The Bridge…
How about a US tour? There are tons of kids hungry for tunes in the vein of CALVAIIRE..
Yeah I hope we’ll be able to get there someday, we’ll wait for the good timing.
What’s your impression of the American punk rock / hardcore scene at the moment? Do you have special thoughts about it versus European punks? Perhaps you have some friends overseas that help you make an opinion on it?
No special thoughts – just impressed by how young some people in great US bands are. Not saying that age matters, but at 25 some of them have accomplished ten times more things than most bands here, as bands as well as musically. Then these days I don’t think there’s that much to envy here in Europe; great bands will always cross borders, no matter where they are coming from.
What do you think are some of the reasons for young Americans to become so professional with their instruments?
Maybe an easier and earlier access to alternative cultures, being in competition with more bands, a bigger network, harder touring conditions, etc…or maybe it’s just an illusion. Then I know that I come from a small city in Western France and it took me nearly 20 years to meet somebody who was in a band. France has never been a fertile land for “rock” culture, which isn’t very helpful to arouse vocations.
After seeing a lot of amazing new bands over the last couple of years, I’m curious how you feel the state of hardcore punk is in France nowadays? How has the community changed or expanded?
I don’t believe in the idea of a community, especially in a country such as France where you’ll find the same amount of self-absorption, bad-mouthing, pushiness and condescending cynicism in the so-called “DIY scene” than in larger circles, then I guess that at some point we’re all guilty. Fortunately there’s still some bands, promoters, records labels and other dedicated people that are doing things right, but it comes from individual initiatives rather than anything close to a scene.
On a more positive note, over the past few years there has been an ingrowing interest towards french bands over our boundaries. Bands aren’t scared to tour even if they are still in their early steps, they have no more excuses to put out a release that doesn’t sounds/looks great, and are more able to develop a distinct sound rather than simply aping whatever works overseas. Of course it doesn’t concern every band; but for the hardworking and dedicated ones, results are here.
Any names of decent hard-working groups, labels and organizers you’d like to shout out for?
It’s a tricky question as you always forgot to mention somebody! I guess that every people we have interacted with and who have been good to us can include themselves in.
Considering other countries, do you know some other music-related communities with qualities and activities that can be enviable?
Not that much, then it isn’t as if being part of a scene or a community was vital for us to accomplish things.
Both bands are working on some new material and will record their new LPs this summer.
Alright, and how about Throatruiner Records? How is the label doin’ these days?
Things are going great right now, I feel granted to be able to work with such talented bands, and the more time passes the more I can be useful for them. On a personal level I enjoy the fact of being constantly learning new things, taking lessons from mistakes, and not owing anything to anyone, which easily compensate every other daily struggle.
You’ve been around for some time now. Tell me about the origins of Throatruiner. How did you get started running an independent record label?
Looking back in late 2009, I guess that I’ve just done some kind of mid-life crisis in my early twenties. Before Throatruiner, I wanted to embrace a safe, “normal” path of life, you know, doing studies, having a 9-5 job, etc… But I was just not made for it; it took some time but I realized that I was too pessimist to do things that have zero meaning to me. I gave up studies that wouldn’t have led me anywhere and tried to do something I really wanted, even if I knew nothing : pushing bands that play the music I want to hear, as it was a period where nobody was helping them.
What’s the biggest challenge facing you today as an independent label?
Catching and keeping people’s attention. There’s too many bands popping up from everywhere, with more or less justified hypes, and it’s hard to be noticed without having the feel of selling a vulgar product.
It seems that the sound of the bands you sign keeps evolving. What do you look for in your bands?
Mainly for some kind of intensity; most of the bands I’m working with have developped a very harsh or more emotional sound, some of them play really fast, some other really slow, but there’s always this dark, visceral feel behind. I’m only releasing stuff I feel strongly connected with because it requires way more dedication than just dropping money on the table. I also tend to prefer bands that got their shit together and that have not waited for a label to do things; it always says a lot about their motivation.
What were the records that you kept on repeat last year?
What are your hopes for 2014? How do you want to grow in both running a label and as a band member?
I’m trying to keep the label growing in a sane way. By “sane” I mean having as much control as possible on everything, and not doing things I don’t feel comfortable with “because that’s how things works”. And I don’t feel comfortable with a lot of things haha… I always thought that the day I’ll become jaded by all of this it will be the good timing to give up, so I’m doing my best to keep it entertaining to run.
With CALVAIIRE I hope we’ll be able to start writing new material later this year. It’s always a slow process but I already have some ideas of where I want to go lyrically and visually. I’m aiming to do something I’m 100% satisfied with vocally speaking, as there’s a lot of paths I would like to explore but which sound way, way better in my head than in reality.
How about you personally? What are your individual goals?
Just to keep walking my own path, and more than all, replying faster to interviews.
Haha! Good luck interviewers! I’ve got mine struggling, haha ;) Thanks Matt, best wishes!