INTERVIEW – North Carolina’s MAKE

When a few talented dudes out of the American South filter recent faves ASVA, Death Grips,  Arbouretum, Demdike Stare, and Wolves in the Throne Room through their long-burning love of Godflesh, Spacemen 3, Lungfish, Darkthrone, Talk Talk, Neu!, and Carcass, said dudes are destined to MAKE something noteworthy.  In this case, they actually called their band MAKE, and the sound they developed sidles up pretty close to the gaping chasms of hopefulness espoused by fellow mountain-climbers Red Sparowes and Isis.  And as far as scene-MAKErs Matt, Scott, and Spencer are concerned, their heady concoction wound up in just the right ears – the band will spend the coming week sharing the stage with UK grotesqueries Dragged Into Sunlight for a northern mini-tour.  Dates ov destruction (starting tomorrow) are:

Sat    6/9    Chicago IL – Ultra Lounge
Sun   6/10   Indianapolis, IN – Melody Inn
Mon   6/11  Pittsburgh, PA – 31st Street Pub
Tue    6/12  Rochester, NY – The Bug Jar
Wed  6/13  Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
Thur  6/14   Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus

For those of you too far flung from the tour’s path (or locals too busy groping your own asses to get to a show), here are a couple jams from the band’s album Trephine that’ll MAKE you sit up and take notice as you MAKE your way through the guys’ answers to a few probing questions.  Think I should quit all the stupid band name word play?  MAKE me.

(For a full stream of MAKE’s Trephine, head over to their Bandcamp page:

When the band started, was the original idea driven more by a desire to play live or to write/record new music?

Matt Stevenson (drums): The formation of the band was very spontaneous. Essentially, Scott, Spencer, and (ex-guitarist) Daniel decided that they wanted to form a somewhat doom-oriented band, and I was asked to play drums. The main desire behind the creation of MAKE was to explore writing within a realm of music that we had all held an interest in for some time). Of course, we all wanted to play live and hopefully record, but I think the main drive was simply to explore something new musically.

How was Trephine written?

Matt: Trephine as a whole was more assembled than written. A little less than half of the album is songs written when the band was still a four piece, and the rest was written bit by bit over the course of a year following the departure of Daniel. As with almost every song we write, the tracks were formed by the band as a whole. After we had accumulated about an album’s worth of material we began to map out the album’s track listing while Scott and Spencer collaborated on lyrics and themes.

Scott Endres (guitar, vocals): Classic snowball effect. One thing led to another. A song title evokes a theme; the theme evokes an image, a title, etc. We didn’t really know what we were doing until it was too late to change course!

What were your goals with the Trephine songs?  What concepts/feelings/etc. were important to you in the formation of those songs?

Matt:  When writing new material, we tend to either build upon a raw idea that someone brings to practice or mine songs from extended jams. Once we have carved out a rough idea of how a song might look, we then focus on particular aspects of the song that we find interesting and begin to fine tune each part. I would say that in all of our songs we do (at times unconsciously) try to maintain a strong feeling of weight in terms of sound and groove, with perhaps a sense of darkness sans hopelessness.

Scott: Collectively, at the time, I don’t think we had specific goals for specific songs. To be honest we were in a bit of a blind flux without Daniel. Most of the material we wrote as a three-piece back then was just throwing ideas at a wall and hoping something stuck. We were unsure if we could still pull off “MAKE” as a three-piece and the only real goal, if you want to call it that, was that at the end of the day the new material sounded (at least to us) like us. I personally feel like we got lucky in that this limitation has subsequently helped further solidify our personality as a band instead of having hindered us.

Spencer Lee (bass, vocals): My personal goal with all these songs was catharsis; releasing some really horrible anxieties that have built in my head about the world and a lot of the people on it.  Everything that I’ve brought into our collective writing process, both materially and conceptually, has been an attempt to convey those feelings.  I’m not exactly sure how to explain them.  I guess it’s a weird, conflicted clash of humanism and misanthropy.

What art or experiences informed and inspired Trephine?

Matt: Speaking for myself, the motivation for Trephine’s creation was a very common one, and that is just to have created something expressive. The album’s title is appropriate for the conceptual theme of the album, but it is also fitting simply as a metaphor for what the process of writing provides for us as individuals. Every day we are immersed in music and art created by others, and with each new interaction we take something away for ourselves. Being able to release our reflections of this constant input is vital to our well being, and any period of artistic inactivity has been marked with general dissatisfaction. And of course, there is the conceptual inspiration for the album which came largely from Scott, which was brought about by a death in our local music community.

Scott: Trepanning was something of a personal metaphor for me (i.e. letting the demons out from within) after dealing with some pretty heavy anxiety, but as Matt just illustrated it’s a pretty universal concept that every living human can relate to. I’ve always felt the existentialists had the most attractive philosophy for a nihilistic atheist such as me. I don’t feel like a negative reaction to a negative situation is ever going to lead to positive results, so the challenge is to search for the paths which will. As Camus pointed out, one should embrace the absurdity of life and move forward passionately, not despair running away from it or fighting against it.

Spencer: Weird psychology, antitheism, and a list of bands and artists that is way too long to even start.

How long did it take to record the album?

Matt: We spent five or six days at Track & Field Studios here in Carrboro, NC, and it was a very enjoyable experience. We managed to lay down the basic tracks with a day or so to spare, which afforded us the opportunity to go over and add more layers to the songs as well as record some improv which was to provide the material for the interludes (e.g. “After The Dust Settles”).

As for the working atmosphere of recording, there was very little tension in the studio, which was a pleasant surprise. We all get along great as a band, but one always expects some issues to arise in recording situations. I think the key was that we tried to maintain a continual and honest dialogue concerning how we each felt during the recording process. While we’re glad that we were able to take five days off from work and produce an album, we very much would like to take our time with the next one. I think we are all very proud of Trephine given what we were able to put into it, but we have learned so much in terms of song writing and planning since then, and we are excited to explore the new avenues we have been working in on record. In particular, we have tentative plans for an EP which would be a single, loosely structured piece focusing on slow development. Beyond that, we are working on a new album which we are taking our time with to create a more fully realized and cohesive work.

Relating to our recent efforts, the environment in which we’ve been working in lately has been very loose and open, and consequently largely fruitful. We are basically operating by “anything goes” just to see what can happen. While all of us in the band have a great deal of shared tastes, we also each reside in very different spheres of musical interest at any given time, and we’ve realized how interesting and satisfying it can be to draw from those disparate interests in the creation of new music rather than attempting to find our way to a middle ground. Of course, in doing so there is at times the fear of losing touch with what could be called our sound, but I think we are finding that regardless of what we do, it will inevitably sound like MAKE.

Scott: I’d just like to add that the relative ease was due to the professionalism and talents of Nick Petersen who engineered and co-produced the record. He is a very creative, patient, calm, understanding and open-minded musician’s musician and producer.

How often to you play live shows?  Excited about the Dragged into Sunlight dates?

Matt: We’ve been playing on average every other month or so. We try to keep the number of local dates low simply because of the time constraints they place on us. When we were a new band around town, we tried to play as often as possible, but after doing that for a couple of years we found that we had to do more rehearsing than writing, and as such we were rushing out new songs and not really taking the time to let the material mature. However, the shows we do play are enjoyable, and we can always count on the local metal scene to be out in force. We are very excited to be joining Dragged Into Sunlight for the second half of their tour. MAKE had been planning on touring the Northeast for some time, and this was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Scott: We’ve all had Hatred For Mankind on heavy rotation for a long time now so this was an incredibly satisfying bit of luck to come our way. It’s funny too…because their music, artwork and overall image is so daunting we didn’t know what to expect from the guys themselves but we just opened the Raleigh show for them last night and they’re the nicest, sweetest dudes in the world! Fuck. Don’t tell them I said that though…ha!

Spencer: Couldn’t agree more about the tour with Dragged Into Sunlight.  Personally, I think Hatred For Mankind is a landmark achievement in metal, and their live set is absolutely astounding as well.  It’s a real honor to be kicking out the jams with those guys for a bit.

What other interesting things are MAKE members up to?

Matt: I’ve been working as a booking agent lately, which has been an interesting and eye-opening experience. Beyond that, I dabble in school from time to time while cobbling together a living.

Scott: I’ve got an ambient/noise/drone side project called The Pod which is my home-recording outlet for things which just aren’t appropriate for a band environment. That said, Matt and I have been discussing doing a more organic and psychedelic electronica-inspired project if we ever get the time. Finding time for MAKE is hard enough right now.

Spencer:  I play in a band called Systems that has been around in our current incarnation for about four years.  We’re working on our second album right now.