Monday, September 30, 2019


Alright, in the last bit regarding Ex-Breathers (see the 4-way split compilation 12” piece) I’d sort of got my foot in the door with working with the band.  They were coming off of the compilation LP that featured three new tracks from them.  Additionally, they had cut a 7” simply titled “EXBX”, which featured 12 very short songs in a significant departure from their self-released debut LP “Collision” that came out before all of this stuff.
I was left wondering what the band would go for next.  If “Collision” erred more on the band’s metallic/thrashy side, the 7” emphasized their adoration of groups like ALL and Minutemen, while the comp songs fell somewhere in the middle.
The band was headed out of their home of Florida for a U.S. tour and I offered them a show up in Syracuse, which fit their routing and proceeded to have them stay over after the show.  We talked quite a bit that night and discussed what would be happening with their next LP.  I was fully on board to release it if they wanted and they tentatively agreed.
Later on, as things got more firmed up, they asked to again do the record as a split release.  This time the far more indie-leaning Exploding In Sound Records (Pile, Kal Marks, Ovlov) would split the pressing and I thought that was a pretty good idea.  After all, I feel like Ex-Breathers was a combination of sounds that my label had been known for (generally on the heavier side of punk music), while Exploding In Sound released a lot of wonderfully interesting indie bands.  In my opinion, both labels release music that is not the standard of any particular genre and I thought it was a great plan. Plus, I was already an admirer of bands on Exploding In Sound.
This time around the band went around the route of recording themselves, or even remaining in their hometown of Tallahassee for that matter.  They ended up recording out in Massachusetts at Sonelab, where records by Dinosaur Jr had been cut.
The result was “Past Tense”- a record that quite perfectly captured that space that Ex-Breathers had sought out between their hardcore-punk tendencies, their contemplative and left-of-center melodies, and a growing sound as musicians and as a band.  Imagine if the early roster of the SST Records stable crossed paths with Fugazi and NoMeansNo as they were just gaining momentum, and then gene-spliced in a dose of modern punk.  It’s an easy record to grasp because it’s fucking good.  It gets more difficult as you take a deep dive into the songs, the influence behind them, and the band.  They were a trio that, for a short time, created an interesting sound that was hard to exactly pin down, but it rocked.
And so I caught up with them again to take a look back at “Past Tense”.  I interviewed the band before that record ever dropped so I had to come up with some questions that reflect more on the later era of the band.  Bassist/vocalist Jack Vermillion was down to talk shop and catch up after a long day learning about physics.

I had to re-read the interview I did a few years back and make sure I didn’t ask the same questions I did back then.

I honestly don’t remember anything about that interview.  Although I do remember we talked about ‘Forida man’!

But I remember I asked a bunch about the changing sound of Ex-Breathers.  So the band went through a few different sounds and I think a lot of that had more to do with how the records were recorded versus the ‘sound’ of the band.  Did you find that more to be getting better at recording, or a conscious decision to try different recording techniques?

I think it was definitely that latter because when Ex-Breathers started we did a demo and our buddy Paul recorded it.  I don’t think that David (Settle, guitarist/vocalist) had even started going down that path of learning how to record bands.  So we did our demo and everything we recorded after that, up until “Past Tense” David recorded.  So he basically started with not knowing anything, but he did live sound so he understood live mixing. 
I think there was a broad idea of what we wanted to sound like, or what sounds would serve our songs.  But there was definitely a lot of learning going on.  When I listen to “Collision” (Ex-Breathers first LP) now I realize we spent a lot of time trying to make it sound like we wanted it to, but it just sounds a little too blown out and bottom heavy.  But David learned a lot just by making that record.  Some of the stuff we did when making that record was kind of ridiculous and I’m surprised it sounds as good as it does.  I don’t think it’s anything amazing.  We were definitely doing some weird shit that no one would advise us to do now.

Like what?

We were taping the microphone and converting the XLR to a quarter inch and plugging the mic right in to guitar pedals, and those right into the board, and recording vocals like that.  We recorded the whole thing in our 10x10 storage unit.  It was basically a metal box so everything was just bouncing around like crazy.

But that’s how you figure it out, by just fucking around.

Yeah, yeah!  Exactly.

Talk a bit about the time leading up the recording of “Past Tense”.  It seems you were touring a bit more, the band seemed to be making some inroads in different places and with various bands and people.

Well, it’s hard for me to remember what was going on exactly right off the top of my head, but we did make some really good connections in different cities like New Orleans, Nashville, Richmond, and Birmingham.  And once we met Dan (Goldin, Exploding In Sound Records) in New York, and then you in upstate things came together more.  The more we were a band, and the more we became involved, and the more we toured it was just easier for us to book a tour.  We had been in touring bands for a few years before Ex-Breather started.  Plus, me and David had run a venue here in Tallahassee called The Farside for a few years.  So we just built up a pretty good catalog of people we knew that we helped out that we could cash in favors from.  But the longer we went, the more we played, it just became a little bit easier to tour.  The last tour we did before we recorded “Past Tense” we toured up to Western Mass to record it.  We were able to pay for the whole 5-day recording session with money we had made pretty much just from that tour.

Really?  Wow!

Yeah.  We had booked a recording fundraiser gig in Tallahassee with just local bands and it was like $5.  It was just to help us raise money to go record.  So we had a pretty good head start just to get going.  And then we also did a little loop around Florida because the drives are short, we knew people, and doing a little week around Florida can be pretty lucrative if you know you can get good shows.  So those two things combined with the few shows we played on the way up were able to cover the whole thing.

That’s awesome. At this point it seems as if you all had become pretty familiar with recording yourselves.  What led to the decision to go up to Massachusetts and record?

At that point we were not putting out our own records anymore, which we had done up until that 7” that came out right before “Past Tense”.  We recorded that 7” ourselves too, but that 7” was more like a concept.  We did that ourselves and when it came time to record “Past Tense” we thought to ourselves that we had always recorded ourselves, let’s try to get into a studio.  Our first choice was to go to Kurt Ballou at God City and record with him.  But we had some friends that we knew who recommended Sonelab, because we had never heard of it, and then we looked into that and talked to Justin, the owner.  We hit it off with him and he liked what we were doing.  Kurt did get back to us, but it was a bit after we had already been talking to Sonelab.  Plus Kurt was going to be a little more expensive, certainly not a lot, it was still a very reasonable rate. But hearing some of the stuff Justin had did, plus with it being a little cheaper, we decided to go to Sonelab.
I think we were just ready to take that step.  We wanted to just go somewhere and really have faith that it was going to come out in a way that we’re going to be really stoked on, and maybe a little different than what we could create on our own.

How did the relationship with Exploding In Sound come about?

We were just aware of Exploding In Sound because we liked a lot of the bands on that label.  I think we knew some people who knew him as well.  I think the Gnarwhal guys knew him.  But we didn’t really have too much of a connection with him at all.  So when we put out “Collision” we sat down and made a list of people we respected, whether it was people who did blogs, or people who ran labels, or just people who we just wanted to be aware of our existence.  So we put maybe 20 records together and just gift-wrapped them with a hand-written note like, ‘hey, we’re this band and here’s our story, here’s what we’re up to, here’s our record, we just wanted to put this in your ear.’  We just wanted to make more connections.  Up to that point the only connections we really had were just touring bands that were coming to Tallahassee.  That was our primary source of any connection to other people in the scene.  So this was our way of just branching out.  So we sent out all these records, one of which went to Exploding In Sound, and out of all these people Dan was the only person to write us back and say ‘thank you’.  We thought that was awesome.  And at that time Exploding In Sound was me and David’s favorite label.  They put out Pile, and Grass Is Green, and Ovlov, all these awesome, killer bands right around that time.
So that’s how we first came into contact with them.  He was super nice so we just kept in touch with him and we then did our next record, that 7”, with this label called Texas Is Funny.  That label ended up hiring Dan from Exploding In Sound to do publicity for the record.  So we started having a working relationship with him at that point.  So when it came time to start thinking about the next thing we began talking to Dan.  Before that, though, we did that 4-way split, which was a good step because it got us talking to you, so we got to work with you.  And Ovlov was on that split, they were on Exploding In Sound, so it all came together even more.  So he hit us up about putting out the full length.  We had sent him some demos and I think he booked us in New York, and he had chilled out with him when we played there.
So he offered to put out “Past Tense” but said he couldn’t afford to release it on his own and then you were literally the only other person we asked, and you agreed.  It was a perfect situation, everything fell into place, it was so cool!

I think it was really advantageous all the way around.  I think you guys hipped me to that label and I ended up liking them quite a bit.  And I could see that Dan had some connections that were outside my realm because he dealt with more of an indie crowd and my label has been known more, mostly, for heavier stuff.  So just having both labels to put the record out there to probably two different audiences was a good idea.

We got a good perspective of working with labels through doing that 7” with Texas Is Funny.  I think the guy who ran it went to school for music business.  Everything about what he wanted us to do, and how he operated was kind of foreign to us because we were pretty strictly DIY.  He wanted us to sign contracts and set up all these weird promotional accounts on these online services and play these conferences, like SXSW.  We ended up doing that and playing there and it was great.  But it was a different kind of world that he was operating in and what we were used to.  I appreciate it all the work he put into it, but that was one end of music that people are into and when we met you and Dan we thought, ‘this makes more sense!’
I don’t think Dan uses contracts at all, and I know you don’t.  It’s all very streamlined, like ‘this is the deal, let’s do it.’  You guys want to do it because you’re excited about music.
And as far as Exploding In Sound being an indie label, that’s one of the main reasons why we wanted to work with them because when we would tour and play local shows the hardcore scene did not care about us at all.  They knew us, and I’m friends with a lot of those guys, but they did not give a single shit about Ex-Breathers.  Or, really any band that you could describe as ‘punk’.  The hardcore kids like hardcore and don’t want to listen to anything else.
We would play to whoever, we didn’t give a fuck.  I know I’d rather play with indie rock bands instead of some macho mosh band or some shit.  So when we started a lot more indie kids liked us as opposed to hardcore kids.  So we thought going down that path made sense, even though we didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a band that plays to it’s genre.

Discuss the situation around having two drummers.

OK, so Adam (Berkowitz) was the drummer for the entire life of the band.  But me, David, and Adam had always played with different people during the course of Ex-Breathers as well.  Me and David had another band together.  I think me and David were in like four different bands together for about a decade straight.  But Adam joined this band The Mongoloids, from New Jersey-

(laughs) He was in The Mongoloids?!

You didn’t know that?!  Yeah, they were not good.  But Adam sort of came from that hardcore scene.  So The Mongoloids just cycled through members like crazy.  I think the singer was the only consistent member.  So Adam was playing in this hardcore band from here and met The Mongoloid guys through that when they played here.  And they were going on tour all the time.  They were going to Europe and going everywhere.  Ex-Breathers was active too, just not as active as that.  We would do two or three tours a year for a few weeks.
But there were a couple things that led to us having two drummers.  The first was that Adam was touring with Mongoloids and it was sort of holding us back a bit from touring and playing.  So we thought we would just play with our friend Ronnie and he could fill in.  But the way that Ronnie ended up playing on one of our records was that we had gotten the songs together for that 4-way split, and I remember they were the first songs that we had solidified after “Collision” had come out.  And Adam wasn’t really all that into them, he was just sort of down on them.  Plus he was on tour all the time.  We didn’t want to stop playing with him so we were thinking of how we could make this work.  So we started playing with Ronnie a little bit, just to record demos of these tracks so we could get them down.  So Ronnie played on some demos and then we started touring with him.
To be honest I can’t recall how we decided to officially record those songs with him, but we ended up touring with him, plus he is one of me and David’s closest friends.  And I don’t think Adam has any hard feelings about it or anything like theat.  He was super busy touring.

And then Adam came back.

Right!  And Adam would play with us while he was in Mongoloids too, like when he wasn’t on tour with them.  I remember there was one tour we did with this band Direct Effect from Orlando.  We started the tour with Adam and then dropped him off in New Jersey, and finished the tour without him.  We didn’t have Ronnie either!  We had the drummer from Direct Effect play drums with us who was a pretty good drummer, but Ex-Breathers songs aren’t exactly the most straightforward things in the world.  So we finished the tour with this other guy playing drums, which was maybe three shows or whatever.  But we only practiced one time.  It was the day after we dropped Adam off.  We practiced for a couple hours in a basement in Philly.  It was pretty shaky playing those songs, not because the other drummer wasn’t good, but because there was so little time to get it figured out.
That whole tour was sort of doomed though.  There was a lot more going on than just that.  The day before we were supposed to leave Direct Effect came up and we were hanging out at our house.  David comes home from work- he worked at some blueprint-printing shop- and he’s got his hand all bandaged up!  He said, ‘man, I sliced off my fingertips at work today.’  The day before we leave for tour!
We still went though and at the first show I think I played guitar and David just sang.  It was a disaster!  That tour was scraped from the get-go!
 Ex-Breathers playing Gainesville Fest with Ronnie on drums

Around the time the record was released you all did a U.S. tour to support it.  How did that go and was there anything particularly interesting about it?

We went out West with Gnarwhal and I can’t remember if we did another one after that.  We did the West Coast and some of the Midwest, it wasn’t a full U.S. tour.  But that was definitely the last tour that Ex-Breathers did.  We did do some final shows as well.  We did a hometown show and we played Gainesville Fest, and then that was about it.

Not too long after that tour the band decided to part ways.  What were the reasons behind that?

By the end of the band I had been working at this vegan restaurant for around five years.  I was pushing 30 and the owner was in the process of moving and offered me a stake in ownership of the business.  So I decided to buy in and I told David and Adam that I was going to do this so I wouldn’t really be able to tour.  I was still down to do the band, it would just be part-time.  But David and Adam both also really wanted to get out of Tallahassee, and if they couldn’t do Ex-Breathers in a full-time capacity then they didn’t really want to stay in town.  Adam ended up moving out to the Boston area and going to school for music.  David moved to Philadelphia.  Both those guys wanted to pursue music full-time.  It seemed for a bit that Ex-Breathers would do that- be a full time band. I was having a great time with the band, but me deciding to take on owning a restaurant didn’t really fit in with being in a full-time touring band.

I’ve always been curious about the cover of the record.  I had assumed it was just a silhouette of the band, but there’s only three of you in the band and there are four people on the cover.

The cover is a picture from when we went to Massachusetts to record the album.  We stayed with our friend Adam Reed, who lived in the Northampton, or Western Mass, area.  We were crashing with him the whole time we recorded.  The day before we went to record he took us up to a park on a small mountain and it had this elevated platform.  The sun was behind us and our shadows were on the ground below.  David took a picture and put it on his Instagram.  When I ended up seeing the picture I said we ought to use it for the record cover because it’s a nod to Ronnie because he was like our forth member.  But he’s not in the picture.  It’s me, David, Adam, and our friend Adam we stayed with.

So even though it’s not Ronnie it’s an ode to the four people who were a part of the band, even though you were a trio.

Yeah.  I mean, you can’t tell it’s not him because it’s just our shadows on the gravel.

Video from Gainesville Fest 2013

So what was the best and the worst part of being in Ex-Breathers?

The best part of the band was towards the end and being able to put that record out.  I mean, music-wise I love all of our stuff, but looking back I think the “EXBX” 7” was my favorite.  But getting to work with you and Dan was great.  We toured with Pile for like a week out to Texas, which was awesome.  We had known them a bit, and we had put on shows for them in the past.  And then we just reached out to them randomly and asked if they would ever want to play together and they replied and just said, ‘you know, we’re actually headed down that way pretty soon, why don’t we do some shows together’.  It was awesome.  The story of our band just seems to be, ‘hey, let’s Hail Mary this idea’ and then it just ends up working!  The last tour we did with Gnarwhal was fantastic.  It was just the five of us- because they were a duo- hanging out every night.
The worst thing was probably that we played some really bad shows.  There were a few bad shows on that last tour, the kind where the promoter doesn’t care, or doesn’t pay you, or has nowhere for you to stay for the night.  That tour we did with Direct Effect was just doomed from the beginning.  We played in Champaign and no one came.  The opening band left before we played.  I think it was just a guy and his girlfriend there.  I almost died before we even played because I got electrocuted from the mic.  We toured in cars so I couldn’t bring my regular bass cab, and I had to use this smaller thing and I think something was wrong with the electrical.  So when I went to check the mic I feel like I had gotten punched in the face.  I blacked out completely and when I came to I was just leaning on my amp!  I was out for a few seconds there.  So I ended up putting a coozie over the mic or something and still played to no one.  Afterwards the promoter had no money for us and nowhere to stay.  But that tour was just doomed with obstacles.
But overall, the band was fun to do and we’re all still friends.

And there you have it.  So these days you can catch Jack studying physics and still booking some shows in Tallahassee, or take a listen to David's podcast Under the First Floor, while Adam resides in Western Mass and plays with bands here and there.  But if you want some Ex-Breathers in your life I still have copies of the LP and you can get it for 5 measly bux.  That's it.  Get it HERE cheapo.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


For fans of black record covers with minimal art I give you a bunch of stuff that coincidentally looks very bleak.  I mean, just look at that mashed-up cover selection!  We got a mixed bag here.  Generally, I enjoy extolling the virtues of stuff that I like.  But sometimes stuff comes my way and I'm just not feeling it.  I try to be positive, but, well, I'm an honest person.  So here's a bunch of stuff that is both good and not-as-good.

CASUAL BURN, “Mean Thing” LP
Casual Burn kind of sound like what would happen if acid casualty hippies into Black Sabbath caught wind of punk ten years before it actually became a thing and tried their hand at it.  The first half of this record is lo-fi garage punk with sung vocals that have a bratty edge to them and a scrappy recording.  The B-side opens up with a lost Pentagram riff buried under piles of used heroin baggies, and honestly, it’s really the only part of this record I’m feeling (not because I’m into heroin or Pentagram, it’s just a solid riff).  The B-side kind of continues in that vein, so it really sounds more like two EPs of different styles thrown onto one record.  I get why band purposefully roll with semi-shitty recordings in order to create a certain vibe (because in 2019 there’s no reason why a band can’t get a decent recording with just a smidgen of effort), but in this case I feel it kind of hinders the band.  I can’t say I’m really into this overall, but if this description gets yr gusher flowing who am I to stop you from checking it out?  (Handstand Records

What a fantastic pairing.  A couple of heavy music’s most interesting weirdo rockers team up with a song each in a package that really goes all out with fancy printing, detail, and originality.  Speaking of originality, Brain Tentacles is a band comprised of uber-drummer Dave Witte, Keelhaul bassist Aaron Dallison, and avant-garde saxophonist Bruce Lamont making some wild noise.  On their track “Yes” Lamont lays down an incredibly hummable (and effects-ladden) lead and some reverb-y vocals while Witte supplies a super trippy off-time beat and Dallison keeps the whole thing moving along with a great pace.  It’s weird, and you gotta expand your palette a bit, but it sounds fucking awesome.  Brain Tentacles rule.  Now on to un-originality.  Child Bite is on the other side and I only say their track is unoriginal because they didn’t write it.  However, their choice to cover “Nerve Quake” by Lubricated Goat is musically in line with Child Bite’s already proto-punk/rock n’ roll/noise rock/ slightly metal rollercoaster.  Accentuated by spazzmodic vocalist Shawn Knight’s quivering howl it’s really the only major deviation from the original.  Child Bite’s been a on a roll lately with new offerings, which is always great.  Brain Tentacles needs to get back in action and wreck minds.  (LearningCurve Records)

EYE FLYS, “Context” EP
If Wrong is a perfect rip of peak-era Helmet, and Eye Flys sound a lot like first-EP era Wrong, what does that make Eye Flys?  I don’t want to reduce this new band to anything minor because their sound is like instant gratification of heavy noise rock goodness.  But this project of members of Backslider, Triac, and Full Of Hell seemed to set out with the intention of having fun playing riffs completely based off the Melvins, Helmet, and Killdozer back catalog.  And there’s nothing wrong with that!  That’s what side bands are sort of for- scratching that itch of other interests their primary bands don’t quite get to.  However, Eye Flys got a little more attention than they probably bargained for and here we are with their debut EP “Context”.  And, yeah, I get quite a bit of instant gratification listening to this because it’s what I like.  But I’d also love to see this band branch out just a bit and develop their own identity.  (Thrill Jockey)

MONOLORD, “No Comfort”
Relapse already has Windhand doing great things for them, so maybe they thought they’d roll with a second-string European version of that just in case something happens to the Americans?  I mean, this is a sort of more folksy version of Windhand, but with more boring vocals.  In fact, most everything about Monolord is pretty boring.  I have a pretty limited tolerance for sludge-y doom metal, with only a few bands really doing it for me, and a vast ocean of others doing absolutely nothing.  Monolord are one of the ones that do nothing.  (Relapse)

SECT, “Blood Of the Beasts”
Multinational hardcore conglomerate Sect went and surprise dropped their third LP on us out of nowhere and to be completely honest it sounds exactly like their last two records.  They really are running with a theme here- short, fast songs balancing hardcore, grind, metal, and riffs revolving around the misery of human existence, animal liberation, and that ‘ol punk chestnut of sticking it to those in power.  If you dig that HM-2 riff accelerator as perfected by the likes of Entombed, Trap Them, and All Pigs Must Die this is in that exact same ballpark.  Musically it does kind of run together for me, and that might be because I have heard a number of bands follow this play book.  Sect remains interesting in part because I always appreciate the design aesthetic of their records, as well as Chris Colohan’s eloquently penned missives that can tie together vegan straightedge, how it relates to power structures, human and animal issues of subjugation while still remaining clever and insightful.  No sing-alongs here, just a lot of misery that makes you think.  Live it sounds like a sledgehammer to your face.  (Southern Lord)

SPRAY PAINT, “Into the Country”
After a years of quiet as the members spread out across the globe to do whatever it is they’re doing Spray Paint have reconvened again to offer “Into the Country”.  I used to be able to count on getting one or two full lengths from this Austin-raised trio each year.  So when this finally dropped I was pretty excited to see what they had been up to.  Well, if their goal was to be unsettling, disorienting, and discomforting Spray Paint still have it. But the sound on this is quite a bit different than all their other material, often using drum machines and synths, along with their well-worn ultra-reverb’ed out guitars (no bassist) to get the music across.  I’m definitely far more partial to their weird attack of dual guitars, dual Texas-drawl vocals, and simple beats, which they only offer up on a couple of the later tracks on the record.  But I can understand that having done that for 6 other LPs they might be interested in trying something else.  I get it.  I’m just not as into it.  (12XU)

TEETH TO YOUR THROAT, “A Life Without Pain”
Some noisey boys from Vancouver, British Columbia return in a new form after previously operating under the moniker Black Pills (who put out a hell of a demo a couple years back with a different singer).  A couple of these cats also play in about-town stalwarts Taxa, as well as the exceptional Silver Chains.  They’re just veritable renaissance men of punk, all playing together in a variety of bands with different sounds and really nice gear.  Teeth To Your Throat may be the most directly hardcore-leaning band of the bunch (that I am familiar with anyway), even though it does venture into the noisey and chaotic side of things, maybe even slightly ‘metal’ at times.   Shades of Rorschach, Deadguy, and even a few riffs that could have found a home on early Rollins Band records show up here with hoarse, shouted vocals leaning heavy on the socio-political end of things.  In a unique twist, there are 5 songs here, but 10 tracks because the same songs are present- once in English and again in Spanish.  So, you know, international punks can scream along too.  (self-released

TRVSS, “Absence”
I didn’t know what to expect here because the artwork doesn’t tell you much and neither does the band’s page, plus I have no idea what their name is supposed to mean, or how it’s pronounced.  But I gotta say, nice work TRVSS.  You get yourself 10 tracks of kinda noisey, kinda spazzy durable rock from Pittsburgh with just a little bit of sass (mostly in the vocals, I’ll allow it).  There’s a quality to the guitar sound that is very reminiscent of Midwest rockers Call Me Lightning, whom I’m sure no one remembers or cares about, but believe me, that’s A-OK.  At their most out-of-control they could have even had a record out on GSL in the late 90’s.  And at their most direct it’s chugging along with a good post-hardcore vibe like on “Late Night Monologue”, which shows up later on during the record.  Whatever the case, TRVSS get a nod for surprising me with a great sound far off the mark of anything I thought it might be.  (self-released)

Monday, September 23, 2019


The idea had been growing in my brain for some time- true force.  Or, rather, to do a split with Bleak because they were the only band in town I could think of that could do justice to the best Unsane song there is.  And I wanted to do vocals over it.

So the idea was hatched- Dialysis would do a split 7” with Bleak where each band would choose a cover for the other band to play and the vocalist from the other band sang on it.  So I chose for Bleak to cover “Sick” by Unsane and I sang it.  Bleak chose for Dialysis to cover “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” by Tom Waits, except we did it more in Dialysis fashion and it ended up more like the Ramones version of the Tom Waits song.  There was only one problem.
“Yeah, we didn’t have a vocalist.”  Bleak bassist Matt Jaime states regarding the time their portion of the 7” was recorded.  Their previous vocalist, Scott Thayer, who sang on the “We Deserve Our Failures” LP, had moved out of the country and the band was in need of a singer. 
It’s kind of weird.  
 The collective Bleak/Dialysis crew

“You came up with the idea- each band does a cover and an original.  And we had always wanted to do a Tom Waits cover.  But you chose our cover and did the vocals, but we decided to also do another cover, which was the Tom Waits song.”
So Bleak actually recorded the Unsane cover, as well as a Tom Waits song of their own- “God’s Away On Business”.
Who sang the Tom Waits cover?
“That was this dude Randall, one of TJ’s (guitarist for Bleak) friends”, another fill-in for a band in transition.
And Matt from Bleak ended up doing the vocals for the Dialysis Tom Waits cover.
“Yeah, that’s a great song.  I was stoked to do that.  But when you all play it live I like it a lot better when you sing it.  I like that version.  You ought to re-record that with you singing.”  
 One of many shows the bands played together, this one in Buffalo

That period was a bit strange for Bleak because they still had shows booked.  They relied on some fill-in’s to keep things moving along.  Since Dialysis and Bleak often were playing shows together there was a particular weekend where the band took John (guitar) from Dialysis to Cincinnati with them and he sang their set.  The next day the rest of Dialysis met up with them in Buffalo and both myself and John split vocals for their set, after Dialysis had already played a set.  Finally, the last show of the weekend was in Syracuse, where I did the entire Bleak set with them.
“We talked about it for a super long time, and when we finally did it it was really quick and we just spat it out”, recalls Matt Calabrese (drums) of Dialysis, in regards to our end of the recording.
“We’ve done a lot of recordings but these ones passed so quickly.  I think we worked on that recording for one day.  I played drums for a day and my work there was done.  We recorded with Jay Bailey (Architect, Ebony Sorrow) in his basement.  We did “Things I Hate…”, the cover, and “Cat Magnet” that we wrote on the spot.  I think Jay had been having band practice earlier that day too.  He switched from band mode right into recording mode.  He’s a fucking animal.”
 The ongoing theme of ridiculous test press covers continues

That recording session yielded the aforementioned “Things I Hate About This Place”, the companion song to “Things I Like About This Place” from the “Abastab” 7”, which started with an identical riff, but a different lyrical theme.  It finally found a home on this split, as we had been sitting on the song for about a year.  Additionally, “Cat Magnet” is, to date, the only song Dialysis has never released.  The music was kept, but the lyrics changed, and became the song “Laugh Track Factory” on the Dialysis full length the next year.
 Another show played together, this time in Ithaca

Calabrese continues, “One thing I remember at that time is that Dialysis and Bleak were playing a lot of shows together, and seeing each other a lot, and having a lot of fun together.  That period of about a year or so was a really fun time.”
It was those numerous interactions, as well as sharing a band room, some members working at the same places, and just having known each other for a long time that really led to this split being a natural extension of all those collected experiences together.  It was a fun record to do because the idea was kind of ludicrous.  I Don’t Want To Grow Up” became a staple in the Dialysis set for awhile and occasionally Matt from Bleak would sing it with us.  I believe Bleak played out “Sick” (their Unsane cover) once in the live setting.
 Matt from Bleak singing with Dialysis doing the "I Don't Wat To Grow Up" cover

This record also gave me a chance to do something I had wanted to do for a long time with a record and that was to do a letterpressed cover.  I had always been fascinated with letterpressing and literally a few blocks down the street from our practice spot was Boxcar Press, one of the largest and most well-known letterpress companies in the country.  Located on Syracuse’s West Side, Boxcar Press has been in operation for nearly 100 years and has one of the biggest set up’s for letterpress anywhere.  So I created a design for the record which I felt would work well as a letterpress, which was almost entirely heavy text in weird shapes so it required a polymer to be made, as opposed to the traditional form of letterpress where you literally have to select each letter made out of metal to line up as a line of text and then frame it, center it, and manually print it with a roller.  This required one giant piece with the design (polymer) of the image (in this case, weird blocky text) printing onto thick, black paper.  It was an unusual process for a company that was used to frequently making wedding invitations for extremely wealthy families.  But I knew there were some punks working there and they would appreciate the opportunity to work on something different and less formal.  Forgive me for nerding out about this process, I just got really into the design part of this record.
 Nerd shit with the letterpress cover both inside and out, as well as the insert

So, all in all, it was a record that I had no delusions that it would sell through the roof or anything close to that.  It was a wild idea that brought some friends together to make some really cool music, scratched an itch I had for a certain kind of packaging I had wanted to do for a long time, and I got to lay down vocals for one of my favorite songs ever.  And the rest of it came out a lot better than I had thought it would as well.  So it was a labor of love, fun, jokes, and camaraderie.  And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
And with that I offer you all a deal.  You may take advantage of it for the next week.  Get yourself that split 7", which will include bonus goodies, for a mere $4.  Or purchase the digital version for only $2.  It's all available HERE.  You can't beat that, can you?

Monday, September 9, 2019


so pretty it needed two different colored covers

If creating a second Dialysis 7” proved anything it was that we didn’t really know when to stop.  But it was also a jaw-dropping surprise that we even made it this far.  Something worked and it seemed fun enough to continue to pursue.  So we really let all the weird and crazy ideas we had just shake out and not intentionally try to write just fast, short punk songs (although that certainly did occur).  There were a few points where there was some uncertainty if we would keep going, but ultimately playing shows was fun, traveling around was a good time, hanging out with each other produced a lot of stupid jokes, and sometimes those interactions would lead to song ideas.  And for whatever reason, we couldn’t just leave them alone.  We had to follow up with those ideas.
Things kind of took off from a very Anthrax-inspired riff that John had been playing for months and at the same time I was writing some very Syracuse-centric lyrics with the idea that there ought to be a song about things I really enjoyed about town and a bunch of things I hated about living there.  I also thought it would be funny to have two songs start out with the same riff, but be about different things.  Thus, was born “Things I Like About This Place” (which ended up on the record) and “Things I Hate About This Place” (which ended up on the split with Bleak, which came later).  I took the idea from the band The National Acrobat, who started two songs on different records with the same riff (one of which was released on Hex).
But once that idea was solidified we really got cracking on a bunch of other stuff that seemed to just steamroll together.  Long van rides late at night were punctuated with listening to early 80’s Genesis records because they’re really good and we thought it would be funny to use their songs as our intro music because why would grind-freaks and punk kids have any interest in hearing that?  And from that came the title of the record, a play on “Abacab”, but, ya know, more violent.  Hence, “Abastab”.  It’s a stupid title, which should make no sense to anyone.  But for whatever reason, we thought it was hilarious.
And I finally was able to get a favorite comics artist of mine, Liz Suburbia, to do the cover art.  I had asked her about doing art for another release but she was busy finishing her book “Sacred Heart” (which was released through Fantagraphics and ended up winning some big comics awards).  But for this record she was free and I sent her a big list of things I wanted on the cover and she completed it perfectly.  And to make things even wackier I decided to try my hand at making comics again (I had illustrated some zines, as well as making a handful of goofy tour posters for us) and both John and Matt encouraged me to give it a go.  So I cobbled together some weird story based around the song titles and lyrics on the record, laid out a basic plan, and got to it.  It also doesn’t make much sense, but it sort of does.
The whole notion around “Abastab” was really just throwing it all out there- doing whatever crazy ideas we felt we needed to get out of our system.  It’s a crazy record.  And I think who better to assess the overall course of this record than Dialysis’ far out drummer.  Matt is the one who takes the riffs and makes them sound like a whirlwind of insanity.  He takes an idea that I might think is so-so and lays a beat over it that makes me a full believer of what a song can be.  It’s a rush hearing the intensity of what our songs turn into when he gets behind the kit.  Matt is also the guy snoozing in the back of the van when we’re out driving to who knows where and out of nowhere will chime in with an idea, or joke, that elicits so much laughter that it keeps us coasting the rest of the weekend.  He will throw out random ideas for song titles and it’s just so good I’ll feel compelled to make something up for it to ensure it becomes a song.  He doesn’t like social media because it probably cannot handle what goes on in his brain, so I got him on tape.  It’s high time I spoke with the one and only Matt Calabrese about the second Dialysis record, “Abastab”.
 The one and only

I like that this record is a mish-mash of all sorts of weird shit we were thinking about at the time and our attempt at trying to cram in every idea, dumb joke, and random influence that we had up to that point into 11 tracks, one comic, and seven inches of vinyl.

I haven’t listened to “Abastab” in awhile, but the last time I re-visited it I was really pleased with what I heard.  I thought, ‘wow, this is a really aggressive recording.’  It’s really aggressive.  I think there’s a lot of bands that have a second record and they get a bit more raw.  Like, for example, “In Utero” is super raw compared to “Nevermind”, even though it’s their third.  But theres other bands that make a second record that is really raw and that’s what I think about when I think of “Abastab”.
I don’t remember a lot of the material on it because there’s so many songs and it was so long ago to me.  We don’t really play a lot from that one.

There’s a couple we do.  But sometimes I think about it and think, we should play a couple more of these!’

We could definitely do that.  But that’s kind of the way it is with all of our records.  There’s songs I forget about and would have to relearn.  There’s a couple songs I’ve only played once or twice!

I kind of feel like we tested the waters with the first seven inch, and then decided to try mixing things up a bit with “Abastab” and do some weirder shit.  Do you agree?

The first one is a bit uptight!  And I like that recording a lot too.  After it came out I listened to it a lot.  It came out good.  But one of the things that makes “Abastab” special as well is the artwork and the thought that went into that.  It’s really a special package.  The cover of the album really shows what we do.  It’s kind of what it’s like at our shows.

I think it’s representative of what I would ideally want one of our shows to look like.
 The cover rough sketch, into realized final image, courtesy of Liz Suburbia

And I think some of that cool packaging goes back to conversations we have all had within the band about albums from bands we admire where you interacted with the artwork and packaging, and there was a lot to look at and have fun with.  Our stuff is very colorful and it’s very busy.  I think we’ve done a good job getting the artwork to reflect that and the busy-ness of it all. 

And I don’t think you guys have ever given me shit about wanting the artwork a certain way.

No, no!  That’s one of the things that works.  People in the band are allowed to play and just have fun, and do what they like doing.  It’s not an uptight situation where you’re in a band and one person controls everything.  Plus, it’s only three people!  That’s why it works so well.  It’s just me, you, and John.

Economy is really understated in the dynamics of a functioning band.

The band was born out of forced minimalism.  And it wasn’t just us at the time.  There were a lot of other bands like Twin Lords in Ithaca who were a two piece, or Empty Vessels, who were a duo.

I think when we first started I was a little hesitant because it was just guitar and drums. But then I thought about a bunch of bands that I like that have the same set-up and figured ‘this is OK’.  Plus, not having five people in a band is fucking awesome.  It makes things so easy.

So easy dude.  That’s why it works.  It’s not a cluttered situation.  John and I drive the music, you put in your input, you sing about what you want and do it the way you want.  The more people you have in a band the more messy it can get.  We’ve both been in bands with five or six people.  And god bless Ebony Sorrow, it’s worked  like that for a long time.  But there’s been a lot of situations that I’ve been in where it did not work with five or six people.  It’s pretty rare.
 Original pages/layout for the comic portion of the record

But this band is the only group you have really done much in the way of touring with, right?

Well, yeah.  There have been some firsts for me in Dialysis.  There have been some long stretches of shows with my old band Excoriation.  But the touring aspect of being in a van, that’s just with Dialysis.  Aside from that I’ve just played a lot of shows.  But being in the van, and having gone across the country, Dialysis is the only band I’ve done any of that with.  Or went out for like five days in a row. 
But that’s what I wanted to do, and Dialysis has made it possible for me to achieve small goals like that.  One of them was definitely going to play on the other coast.  That was one goal we were able to achieve.  Another goal was to put out a full length.  I’m grateful to still be doing the band with you and John.
 One of many dumb show posters I made for yucks

I’m surprised at our own accomplishments.  I never thought it would go this far.

Yeah!  I see them as accomplishments.  They may seem very small, but in my life they’re pretty significant.  We still have fun doing it and I want to continue to do it.  I’ll do it until the wheels fall off.  I’m always going to want to play music.  Always.  And I’m always going to want to play aggressive music as well.  It’s one thing I have to do.

Did you end up trying out for Suffocation at one point?

No.  What happened was I was in a death metal band and I was very young.  I was in a band called Excoriation and we went to New England Metal Fest in 2003. Suffocation played it.  I was about 17, but there were two guys in Excoriation who were quite a bit older, like in their 30s.  And they made friends with Suffocation while we were there.  And then we ended up going to record a demo at their studio, which was in Long Island.  It was really cool, and really surreal.  We went to Mike Smith’s house and watched them practice.
So that’s the story.  But I’m sure that story got to you, or handed down to you, from a few other people or something.  I didn’t try out for them, but I definitely hung out with them when I was very young.  And they showed me a lot of things.  They really did.  Not all of them, but a couple guys from the band who were partying hardcore.  These guys were up for a few days at a time. 
So we recorded there and eventually all the guys came through at one time or another.  A couple of the guys from Obituary were there as well in town doing something.
But I was 17 years old at the time and that was really exciting for me because I loved all those bands at the time.
Another interesting thing I remember from doing that is that when we went to Mike Smith’s house to watch them practice there was a Word Is the Virus (Syracuse band featuring members of Architect, Dialysis, etc) CD on Mike Smith’s table.  I thought, ‘this is bizarre’.

I’m curious as to your dad’s involvement with this music.  By all accounts no parents should really enjoy our music at all.  But he seems to really like it.  He’s even joined us a couple times to do a song.

Well there’s an interesting story about my dad and why he’s into our music.  When I was growing up I was always playing drums.  My dad gave me my first drum set, but before that I would play on like one of those Igloo coolers in my garage with a piece of wood.  The first real band I ever played in was Ebony Sorrow, and then, from there, Excoriation.  But all the people I played with were always much older than me.  So because these people were much older than me my dad would literally come down to the band room with me.  He would bring me there, and then hang out and drink beers with the other guys in the band!  We would have band practice.  He would do this a lot!  I mean, the first time one of these guys picked me up my parents grilled him!  They were just being protective parents.  But over time people like John became friends of the family and my parents have come out to shows.  My mom has come out to see me play before.  So I’m very lucky and grateful for that, and they still support me with that to this day.  They always have.
 The 'Sonic Euthanasia' t-shirt that has nothing to do with grind-y music at all

You got involved with playing with John when you were really young and you guys have been kind of constants in terms of musical writing partners since then.  How have you maintained that partnership over almost 20 years?

I think that the reason is that a lot of bands and people over-think things a lot and they get paralyzed when it comes time to make a decision when they should just be punk rocking shit.  And I found that the method that John uses is very punk rock.  I wouldn’t say he’s the leader of Ebony Sorrow, but he’s definitely the captain.  He steers that ship.  He’s very punk rock about how he makes decisions and I’ve learned that from John over the years and I think that’s why I think he and I have been able to play together for so long.
Also, I have an allegiance to John because he’s really the person who gave me a shot when I was a kid.  I read what he had said about my tryout for Ebony Sorrow and it was exactly what he said it was-  he came in the room and said, ‘hey Matt, let me hear your blast beat’.  I laid a blast beat on him and he said, ‘you’re in the band’, and I’ve been in the band ever since! (laughs)
I love John and he is my best friend, but he’s also like everybody’s best friend.  He really is.  He is everybody’s best friend.  So we not only play together, but it’s been a friendship over a long time as well.  And when you play in a band with your friends it tends to last longer.  I’ve played in both- bands with your life long friends and bands that are just people who are other musicians.  But the stuff that lasts the longest is the stuff you do with your friends more than likely.
                                             Blast eternal

What’s been the best part of Dialysis and the worst part?

The best part of the band is just being able to do something I like with my friends and having other people in the band who are ambitious, and have allowed me the opportunity to have some small goals in my life to come to fruition.  That’s the best.
The worst part of it was that one weekend in Jersey and Long Island.  Those were rough gigs.  That was the actual worst time the band ever had.

The hang out part was fun.

The hanging out was fun.  And that’s basically what you do when on the road.  You wake up thinking you’re ready to rock and then it’s like, ‘OK, it’s a four-hour car ride’.  And then you get there and you’re like, ‘I’m ready to rock!’ and you hear it’s four or five other bands, so it will be awhile before you play.  You kind of have to look at it as travelling, not playing!
We’ve been through a lot together as a band.  We’ve had some good shows and very few bad ones.  I can think of only two or three shows where we didn’t play well.  One of which was that D.R.I. show.  We showed up and some guy bought like one of everything we had before we even played.  We get up onstage and put up a poster of a cowboy in his underwear and we played and we were just terrible.

We got through like three songs and had to call it.

We just bombed! (laughs)

It was a weird venue.  It looked like a supper club.

You know what the problem was at that show?  I used someone else’s drums I think.  And at that show the drums I used were not that great.  I was under-equipped to play.  And then Jon kept breaking strings.
He broke so many strings that he just ran out.  He started running down songs he could play with just two or three strings, and I was like, ‘nah, let’s just wrap it up.  Just say ‘we’re sorry’, get a Snickers bar, and go home.’
 The original postcard used for part of the layout of the 7" with the "Things I Like.." lyrics on it

Pretty much.  That was rough.

I feel bad for the guy who bought all our records!  We just happened to have a bad night.  Hopefully he went home and listened to the records.  If he’s reading this, I hope you got your money’s worth from our records at least!

Speaking of getting your money's worth, now's a good time to grab a copy of "Abastab" because I'm selling it on the cheap this week.  $4 gets you the 7".  It comes with a damn comic book!  It's 11 tracks!  And there's two different colors for the cover!  It's quite the package if I do say so myself.  If you don't care about that stuff and just want straight rippers get the digital version for only $3 via the bandcamp.  You can get it HERE.