The latest entry into the world of scathing, screamy, melodic hardcore is Chicago-centric Multiple Truths. For the most part, the quintet, formed by guitarist Justin Wettstein, did and do things the old-school way: rehearsing regularly together, hanging out like a small gang of record collecting nerds and taking the time to find and refine their musical voice before foisting their songs onto the public’s saturated ears. Their debut, No One Wins is out now on Halo of Flies – a label that’s been knocking it out of the fucking park lately – and I not-so-recently caught up with Justin just before a little mini-tour to celebrate the album’s release.
So, I notice that, in addition to Multiple Truths, you’re all in other bands. Or is that list all bands you’ve been in previously?
Actually, pretty much most of them are currently running bands. I have been in Herds for 5+ years and it’s kind of a long distance thing, so we haven’t done much, but we’re not broken up. Miriam [Bastani], our singer, lives in San Francisco and she is doing a band out there called Permanent Ruins. When she used to live in Chicago, she was in Condenada and they actually never broke up. Our bass player [Tim Murphy] plays in another band, our guitar player [Lucas Sikorski] plays in another band and our drummer [Shane Hochstetler] plays in two other bands.
Why add another band to the list of stuff to juggle and what does this band do that the others don’t?
I moved to Chicago from Milwaukee like two-and-a-half years ago. I grew up in Wisconsin and spent my entire life there up until the end of 2010. I was playing in Herds and that band was so different than any other band I’d been in, in terms of what was going to happen to it, because a month into us starting the band, our guitar player was like, “Hey, my wife is pregnant” and our singer was in school for his masters in library science. Basically, it wasn’t going to be like all my other bands where we were just going on the road for weeks at a time and put out records and all that. This was going to be a band where we practiced once a week and maybe put out a record here and there and not really do much anything else. It really changed how things were going to go for me as far as being in a band went. We stopped practicing after our singer moved to Toledo because once he was done with school, his wife was like, “OK, now it’s my turn to go to school” and that’s where she ended up. After all that, I was like, “I’m not staying in Milwaukee anymore if our band isn’t going to be doing anything.” I’d been saving up songs and Multiple Truths was the band I was waiting to start since Herds starting being inactive. I had the songs, I just needed the friends and when you get to a city like Chicago, everyone’s in multiple bands. I was prepared to do No One Wins by myself, but I really enjoy the experience of being in a band and seeing what other people have to contribute to the songs and stuff like that. It all happened innocently enough and it didn’t seem like everyone was too busy to do it. I wanted to record the record and start booking shows only after we had the physical LPs in our hands.
Musically, what sort of direction were you going with Multiple Truths that you weren’t exploring with others?
I definitely wanted to hit a more melodic hardcore side. Herds was very fast, heavy and with shorter songs and that’s it. As I was writing songs for Herds, I would write songs that felt were different, bring them to practice and they’d be, “Ahh, we don’t like that one.” I sectioned all those off to the side and by the time I was living here, I had almost an album’s worth of songs. A lot of them are longer, they have different tempo changes and aren’t as straight forward. And when we got Miriam, it was awesome because she was into it, she has a super-powerful voice, but she can also sing.
So, where does everyone live now?
Miriam is in San Francisco. She’s the coordinator for Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine; that’s what she moved out there for. Eventually, she’ll be moving back to Chicago. Myself, Tim and Lucas – our bass player and other guitar player – are in Chicago and our new drummer Shane lives in Milwaukee.
You moved from a band that wasn’t able to do much of anything to a band where everyone is sort of spread out. What’s the goal or intent of this band?
When we put this band together, we had an actual meeting where we went out, grabbed some beers and talked about stuff because everyone has so much going on. We went around and said what we each wanted to do with this band. I wanted to tour at least a couple times a year. Miriam comes home enough that we can do shows when that happens and I still wanted to be a band that practices every week, even if there were no shows upcoming. Our original scope envisioned up playing 20 shows a year, practicing and recording and hanging out together; I think we’re still on the same page with that. We’ll do some touring after the record is out, but I think we’re still in the incubation stage of people hearing our name and knowing who we are at all.
You mentioned you were on the verge of recording No One Wins yourself. How was it recorded?
Before I moved to Chicago, the idea was to do it myself, but when I moved here I felt I wanted to be in a band. We practiced every week to get the songs down; I wanted it to be a band where everyone played on the record. By the time we got to it, we were going for six months, but we were having problems with drummers. I had spent a lot of time behind drum kits, so after we had gone through four drummers, I decided to play drums and record my guitar parts after. It worked because we recorded with this guy Shane, who I’ve recorded with a lot over the course of five years. It’s comfortable and he’s honest about takes and that sort of thing.
How much of the album lyrically and thematically was you and how much was Miriam?
That was 100% Miriam. That was another reason I decided I didn’t want to do it myself. She has been a singer for years and years, that’s how I met her. We agree on a lot of intellectual and philosophical points and I was just curious to see what someone else would do with these songs. What we would do is practice, send her a shitty sounding demo via email and we kept doing that for 6-7 months. When she came home, we practiced with her and she had all these songs and we worked it out to where we had an image of what the record was shaping up to be.
What’s the meaning behind the title No One Wins?
There’s a song on the record called “Someone Has Won” and it’s about not believing in karma or divine fate and having to pay for everything you’ve done in your life at the end. And the title is basically is a contradiction where everyone else loses because you’re not paying for being as ruthless and doing whatever it takes to stay on top when you’re here, but paying for it at the end. But I don’t know what a ton of the songs are about because we haven’t sat around and talked exactly about what the songs mean, but I did the artwork and the layout and I had to read those lyrics a million times, so I made my own judgements.
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