Interview: Body Void on Writing New Album, “I Live Inside a Burning House”

San Francisco’s Body Void unleashed Ruins, a visceral, crushing slab of droning, crusty sludge/doom in 2016. On their follow-up, I Live Inside a Burning House, Body Void unleash familiar tortured sounds and feelings, but they do it bigger.

Zeroing in on topics like gender dysphoria, mental illness and trauma, I Live Inside a Burning House is an unsettling and harrowing listen that address day-to-day survival while living with these conditions. Decibel spoke with guitarist/vocalist Will Ryan and bassist Parker Ryan about Body Void’s influences and lyrics, as well as stretching the expected doom/sludge sound.

Ruins came out in 2016. What has changed with Body Void since then?
Parker: I think we’ve progressed a lot since then. Two years feels like a while and the band has been going nonstop since the 2016 release. Although we’re still using a lot of the ideas and techniques that appear on Ruins, we’ve been able to progress on them and make them more our own. It’s been a fun and inspiring couple years.

Will: We’ve grown a lot as songwriters, I think. We learned a ton from recording Ruins, both with what we wanted to accomplish musically as well as on the production side of things. We were happy with what we achieved with the first album, but we knew there was still some ground we needed to cover before really accomplishing our vision sonically. So the last two years has just been about growth really.

What themes or ideas did you explore when writing I Live Inside a Burning House? How did that affect the overall sound of the record?
Will: Lyrically the album is about living day-to-day with mental illness, trauma and gender dysphoria. Just being inside your body with those thoughts and feelings. I think that’s central to the band as a whole–the bodily feeling of living with anxiety, depression, dysphoria, etc. In a sense we try to give those feelings a form and physicality so that definitely influences the overall ‘tone’ and direction of the music. In a lot of ways, ILIABH is a response to Ruins’ fatalism. That record was much more about death and feeling hopeless while ILIABH is more interested in what it means to live with those aforementioned struggles. To not be undone by them.

I Live Inside a Burning House was recorded/mixed with Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, just like Ruins. What was different about the recording and mastering process, if anything, this time around? What did you learn from the experience on Ruins that affected your process on ILIABH?
Parker: Recording Ruins was definitely a learning experience. It was our first time recording professionally as a band and so there were a lot of unknowns going into it. When we went back into the studio for ILIABH, having Ruins under our belt made a big difference since it basically provided a reference and something to build off for ILIABH. We knew what we had done to produce the sound on Ruins and so we used that earlier experience to create something heavier and more brutal with ILIABH.

Will: Recording ILIABH took a lot longer than Ruins. Ruins was recorded and mixed in two months while ILIABH took about six. A lot of that is just the length of the record. ILIABH is almost 30 minutes longer than Ruins. But we also just wanted to take our time recording the new material as well. We spent a lot more time on the details with the new record, filling out the atmosphere as well as just working to make the whole record heavier and thicker sounding. I think Greg also had a better idea of what we were going for this time around after working with us on Ruins and he was a huge ally in getting the sound dialed in to where we wanted it. After the first record, we also learned what really worked for us from a songwriting perspective, particularly the journey-like quality of the longer songs on Ruins, so with ILIABH we sought to expand on and develop those ideas further.

Body Void has a full US tour planned for June and July. How does your set work in a live setting, since the new songs are so long?
Parker: We usually play two songs for our set, sometimes three if we add one of our shorter songs into the mix. We haven’t really had any issues with the lengths for playing live. It’s not like we’ve ever had to cut parts of a song to make it work for a live setting. For the ILIABH tour, since it’s a longer one, we’re planning on preparing two sets to switch back and forth between so we’re not playing the same songs every night.

What influences are at play on ILIABH? Though it’s obviously a sludge/drone record, it’s diverse and different throughout.
Parker: We definitely incorporate a number of elements but I think (I hope) in a way that’s fitting rather than just for the sake of doing so. It’s something that’s done more in the moment rather than thinking about it beforehand. We’ll put a punk riff after a doom riff because it sounds cool and the contrast works without really thinking about crossing over or blending genres. It’s a bit of a different approach but I think our music is about highlighting and utilizing contradictions and contrasts rather than just staying within a single field.

Will: We try to really just use every tool at our disposal while still maintaining a sludge/doom sound. We want to give the songs a diverse, emotional throughline more than anything and let that guide us and see what works for any given moment whether it’s drone or d-beat or blast beats. An influence I think is maybe subtle but undeniable for us is Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the way they construct their songs to offer an almost cinematic experience. I think that’s just where our instincts lie as songwriters. But we also like Khanate and Dystopia a lot.

Body Void’s I Live Inside a Burning House is a joint release through Crown and Throne, Dry Cough and Seeing Red. It will see release on May 11.