Oakland-based sludge crushers Brainoil released Singularity to Extinction, their first full-length album in nearly a decade, last week. Though we streamed the album ahead of its release date, we weren’t able to fit in our Q&A with the band because they were on a flight to Japan, where they played nine shows. In between gigs with the likes of Coffins, Endon and Retortion Terror, Greg Wilkinson (bass/vocals), Nate Smith (guitar/vocals) and Ira Harris (drums) found time to chat with Decibel about how uncertain times influenced the writing process for Singularity to Extinction, plus sci-fi, Tankcrimes and Brainoil’s lyrical influences. You can read that conversation below.
Singularity to Extinction is out now on all formats via Tankcrimes.
Brainoil released the album Death of this Dry Season in 2011, then slowed down with output, only releasing a rarities comp and a split with Dropdead until 2018, when you’ll release Singularity to Extinction. Why the large gap?
Greg: We go at our own pace. It took some time to reign in what musical shape the album should take. We made a specific effort to incorporate the styles of the previous albums while adding new dimension in order to not provide more of the same.
Ira: These things take time.
Nate: We followed many songwriting paths for this LP, but we saved only the best, just for you.
Greg, you formed Brainoil under a slightly different name with a drum machine and an intent to play noisy sludge rock. Obviously that has changed from your original intention—what led to those changes?
Nate: Only Greg can really answer this question but I will say this: After Brainoil quickly became a full band, Greg’s solo act continued to evolve and change and it still does, under Chronicles of Lemur Mutation later and most recently as Leather Glove. Both are well worth your time, check them out.
Greg: I always intended to make this a full band. With that comes input from members and music styles which in essence creates a specific thumbprint.
What would you cite your main influences as on Singularity to Extinction?
Greg: For me, it would be surviving the torrent of uncertain and ugly times. The cold and hostile environment was the seeds we built the albums theme sonically & musically.
Ira: Punk, death metal and the situation in the US and the world right now.
Nate: Punk and metal.
Singularity is your first album on Tankcrimes, who are also Oakland-based. How did you link up with them? Have you known them for a while?
Greg: We’ve known Scotty since early 2000’s while he was in Deadfall. Burnt Ramen days. I’ve done a handful of records with him in past with some of my other old bands and my other current band Deathgrave. Brainoil has had the S/T reissued and DOTDS via CD and cassette on Tankcrimes as well. He did a great job and we are stoked to actually do an album on Tankcrimes not as a reissue.
Ira: We’ve known Scotty for a while and he is a great guy who cares about putting out great music.
Nate: Scotty did a great job re-releasing our earlier material before this LP. We are pleased to continue with Tankcrimes on a new release. Tankcrimes is a good fit for us; in many ways, Scotty’s approach matches what we need from a label right now.
What themes or ideas were you looking at in the lyrics? Singularity to Extinction leads me to believe the members of Brainoil aren’t exactly optimistic about the world or life right now.
Greg: Very sci-fi. Our existence is very sci-fi, so the lyrics are a reaction to the world we live in. Black Mirror, JG Ballard, George Orwell, HP Lovecraft and more authors along those lines really help set the mood.
Nate: Ideas filtered through what I read reflected by the demands of the place where we live. I won’t be too prescriptive about the meaning, anyone who looks or listens that closely will draw their own conclusions. Any frustration and anger in the lyrics is not a binary question of one person on the outside, looking in upon others. Our collective inextricable fate is intertwined and it is not simply fatalistic fear.
There are a ton of doom and sludge bands active right now. How, if at all, does Brainoil attempt to cut through the noise and be heard?
Nate: We follow our own introspective path without worrying how the trend defines it. Time will tell is that’s enough to differentiate. Whether or not that even matters is its own version of looking in the mirror.
Greg: Doom and sludge are just default descriptions for our sound. We have always straddled many lines, in layman’s terms, between punk, metal, rock and, more specifically, doom, sludge, crust, hardcore and more. I think upon listening to Singularity To Extinction up against, let’s say, Iron Monkey or EHG (sludge side) or Asunder, Grief or Corrupted (doom side), you would find we wouldn’t really fit the bill entirely, but close enough. That being said, we dove further into the crust and punk/hardcore elements on this album while not abandoning the sound we are known for.
Ira: We just do what we do to the best of our ability and we are glad that people respond to it favorably.