Back in the day there were shiny things called songs. Albums were filled with good songs rather than two or three wankfests. Now, in the hands of the right band long songs can be potent (see: Sleep and YOB). But heavy songs that are infectious with less real estate are also a very good thing.
One band doing songs right is The Proselyte from Cambridge, who mix pop with Decibel approved influences like Floor, My Bloody Valentine and Converge. We liked their recent album Our Vessel’s In Need so much we tracked down guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Wolf for an afternoon conversation. We’re also streaming the full record below. If you need even more proof you can see them this month when they tour with The Atlas Moth.
How would you describe your music to someone who isn’t familiar with it?
We’re black sheep in everything we do. We’ve toured with crust bands and bands that do classic 70s riffs. We want to write dirgy music that’s difficult to digest but put so much pop sensibility on it that you have to like it. We want to make it indigestible but with a sweet aftertaste.
My understanding is that these songs were written in a blizzard?
Our drummer Alec (Rodriguez) works at New Alliance Studio in Cambridge. It’s been a staple in the Boston music community for a long time. Nick (Zampiello) did all the Isis and Pelican stuff and has been a go-to guy in heavy music. When we book we do it on a friend schedule – we just have to make sure they don’t lose money. We booked time way ahead and then the giant blizzard happened. We had a discussion whether or not we do this because the governor (Deval Patrick) was thinking about declaring a state of emergency and telling everyone to stay put. We just decided to say fuck it. We had a film crew there and they suddenly thought it would be more interesting. There were three of them stuck with us in a windowless building.
That environment can’t help but bleed into your music.
The ideas were already together and we knew what we were going for. But the circumstances surrounding the recording can definitely be heard. Not everyone goes to make a record and ends up sleeping on the control room floor because it’s illegal to drive. We tried to open the door at one point and the drifts broke the top door hinge off. We screwed the hinge back in and cabin fever set in. You can hear it on the record.
Floor was a big influence, correct?
No one is going to deny that Floor is heavy as fuck. But it’s essentially just detuned pop music. You can throw it on when it’s nice out and in the winter it also shines. I’m not going to say we’ve reached that but it’s definitely what we aspire to do. I like to make music that makes sense to the listener. Alec and I have been harmonizing for so long that it comes easy. We come with some notes on our iPhones and put together lyrics that work and turn them into melodies. So we’re definitely melody based.
Brad (Macomber, bass) and I grew up surrounded by talented people. When I got to the age I’d go to local shows. I’d see bands like Converge and Cave In at VFWs and gyms in the suburbs. The bar was set very high very young. Cave In was only about five year older. I was taught that if you want to go for it you need to practice, keep doing it, get better.
You must have seen Converge in their formative years?
I saw them several times pre Jane Doe when it was an entirely different style. That record changed the game not just for them but for everyone. To get to see a band like that in their younger years taught me if you aren’t bleeding, somehow injured, out of breath or dehydrated at the end of a set you don’t deserve fans (laughs).
How do you feel about the comparisons that you are heavier version of 90s music? Do you have things in common with Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden?
There’s a stigma to that music so when the comparisons do come they can be a deterrent. But I’m 31 and grew up with that stuff and you can’t take away what you listened to. I learned to play guitar from Superunknown and it does affect how I write a guitar lead. I only worry that there is a stigma in that I don’t want people to think it sucks (laughs).
The same people would make that criticism probably haven’t sat down with Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop. That’s a really good record.
Well, we don’t have a sound we’re going for. We’re a sonic based band. There’s a lot of diversity and tone on the record. If I want to have an inaudible squall I have a box for it. So I can listen to stuff that I liked growing up and add those effects to my arsenal.
How do you think people will perceive the band?
I think we translate well in a recording. I think seeing us live will put it in perspective. We are an aggressive band but the recordings have sheen to them. We won’t make vocals sound like crap. Some people really like it and some people really hate it. No one thinks it’s o.k. It’s always a yes or no and never a maybe.
An intense like or hatred is better than middle of the road.
I thrive on knowing you either really like it or don’t care for it at all.
The cover of the record reminded me of Edward Gorey.
The artist (Bill Crisafi) gets that comparison all the time. He’s very interested in all things Gorey and New England. It came from this house that was recurring in a dream I had for the better part of my life. It was new England colonial house. I feel like I’m going to drive past it in Salem or somewhere else in Massachusetts. I described it to him and the shifty idea of what it looked like. Without any edits it was perfect.
Why the single light in the window?
It’s an SOS. You need to let anyone viewing it know what it might be in shambles but someone is living there. There’s still light but it’s struggling.
What’s the song “An Irish Goodbye” about?
In Boston, an Irish goodbye is when you get so drunk you just disappear without saying goodbye to anyone (laughs). The next morning you are like “did I just disappear?” I seem to notice more people pulling the Irish goodbye more than in the past. I’ve definitely pulled my share in the past but now I write songs about it.
We put Floor in our Hall Of Fame and got some grief from purists about it. Was it the right call?
Absolutely. They’re an integral part of extreme music.
See The Proselyte:
10/04 Columbus, OH (no Atlas Moth)
10/06 Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews
10/08 Denver, CO – Moon Room
10/09 Salt Lake City, UT – Shred Shed
10/10 Boise, ID – The Shredder
10/11 Spokane, WA – The Hop
10/12 Seattle, WA – The Highline
10/14 San Francisco, The Hemlock
10/15 Los Angeles, CA – The Complex
10/19 El Paso, TX – The Sandbox
10/20 Austin, TX – Mohawk
10/21 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
10/22 Oklahoma City, OK – The Conservatory
10/23 Kansas City, MO – Czar Bar
10/24 Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen