Rising from the crusty, blackened depths of Chicago, Immortal Bird are ready to unleash Thrive on Neglect, their second full-length album and the follow up to 2015’s Empress/Abscess. Thrive on Neglect is a take-no-prisoners-and-add-no-filler kind of record; each song is loaded with a sense of urgency and notes don’t feel wasted or unnecessary.
Vocalist Rae Amitay is on fire on Thrive on Neglect, delivering each line with a throat-shredding tone that matches her bandmates’ furious playing. There’s something for everyone here: blackened, blasting insanity, crushing down-tuned parts and even a few opportunities for quiet introspection.
Immortal Bird will release Thrive on Neglect on July 5 through 20 Buck Spin but you can stream it below alongside a special interview between 20 Buck Spin owner Dave Adelson (in bold) and Amitay.
This may be too broad but what’s your aim with Immortal Bird? And more narrowly with Thrive On Neglect? Just to rage hard? Or something more? Why start the band and is there anything different in its purpose now as when you formed it?
There’s no specific aim, it’s just a desire to create a certain type of music. I want to write and perform material that challenges and conveys our musicianship…And sometimes that’s through raging hard. I started the band because I wanted an outlet for my developing songwriting ideas. Immortal Bird was a massive emotional investment. Prior to starting the band, I was a drummer-for-hire (which I still love to do), but I felt like I needed to discover and nourish a more personal side of playing heavy music. As for Thrive On Neglect, the music is the culmination of years of effort and collaboration between myself and my bandmates. The lyrics were more of an exercise in attempting to be honest and vulnerable without completely destroying myself. The purpose is still the same; to continue growing as a musician while trying not to let genre or scene expectations dictate any of our choices.
Outside obvious surface level differences like the lineup and production, do you think Thrive On Neglect is a more fully-realized vision of what you want to do with Immortal Bird? Where does it go from here? Can you make a better album than this?
I absolutely think that this album is the most fully realized version of Immortal Bird so far, but inertia terrifies me. This is not our final form, but this is the best version of the band that has existed to date. I don’t feel an urge to keep “pushing the envelope” in terms of speed or brutality, but I want each release to be more deliberate, poignant and intriguing than the last. Is this the best material we’ve written so far? Yes. Can we make a better album than this? I have to believe that’s possible. “Better” is such a subjective concept that only the people writing the music can really determine whether or not an album has leveled up from their previous material. And what’s the point of making lateral moves? I want to keep improving. Putting out a “better” album after this doesn’t negate the quality of the current material, and I’d never shy away from the idea of becoming a better version of the band we are right now.
What are the lyrics on Thrive On Neglect about? Are your lyrics open to interpretation? What I mean is, we’ve talked before about people misreading the intent of the band. If someone is taking what you perceive as an incorrect meaning from your words or presentation, does it bother you? Should it? Isn’t art once it’s out in the world up to the viewer/listener to decide it’s meaning? Or should the artist retain the authority to say Yes or No to its interpretation? You might own it as ‘intellectual property’ but should you own the thought process of the end user too?
The lyrics are certainly open to interpretation, although since they come from an exceptionally personal place, it’s highly unlikely (bordering on impossible) that anyone would be able to ascertain the specific meaning behind them. I think people will ascribe their own explanations to what they read or hear from us, and it doesn’t bother me when people use their own personal context to assign meaning to what I’ve written. I think if confronted directly with a blatantly incorrect explanation for a song, I have the right to offer my own insight. For example, a publication referred to us as a political band who put out a “highly-political” album, and that was something I couldn’t abide. We all have personal views and occasionally I’ll get into it a bit on Twitter, but this album is not about politics. Assigning that kind of description to a band without them having acknowledged any such depiction is presumptuous bordering on dangerous. Projecting to the point of assuming the full meaning behind something totally saturated with metaphor is just irresponsible as a journalist, but I have way less of an issue with listeners determining their own sense of what’s significant about the music. The lyrics are about figuring out what to do when your conception of love is twisted into something unrecognizable and hideously painful. They are about misery. They are about coping with vicious, uncomfortable levels of anger. They are about reclaiming integrity after feeling completely devastated and corrupted by loss. They are about acknowledging and confronting sources of torment in order to avoid being utterly consumed.
A lot of people, let’s call them men, seem stunned that you (and other women) take issue with the “female-fronted” tag. Why does it bother you? Isn’t it just a harmless way to help a band in a sea of faceless all male bands stand out on paper? Hopefully for the final time, explain what the problem is from your perspective.
It’s lazy. It’s regressive. It’s simplistic. It is far from harmless. It places women in a separate category and encourages people to cull those bands from the rest of the genre of which they’re a part. If a band does not choose to identify themselves that way, it’s ridiculously unnecessary for others to do so. Also, I take issue with the use of the word “female”—there is just no fucking reason to assume and assign gender to a person, let alone use it as a description for what they’re doing musically. On a personal level, I am not just “fronting” this band. It diminishes the years of work I’ve put into learning drums, piano, bass, voice and guitar. It says nothing about the kind of band we are. Just because women being involved in this genre is a little less common does not mean it need to be magnified, compartmentalized and fetishized.
You went on tour recently. What was good about it? What wasn’t? Is touring something you love to do, or is it more a chore that comes with making and recording music?
Our tourmates were incredible. Gadget and Cloud Rat are heavy, complex and thoroughly rad bands that inspired us every night. There were some snags and a couple of rough shows, as there often are with tours of a modest scale in a niche genre. Professionalism seemed to be relative and wildly inconsistent in certain regards. But I love touring. I love playing live music. It is not a chore, though it’s extremely difficult sometimes. I don’t feel obligated to do it, and if it stops being something that feels good with Immortal Bird, I’ll stop booking shows and tour with another project. I will always be a career musician. Right now, I like touring with Immortal Bird more than any other project I’ve been involved in. If that changes, so will the trajectory of the band. If it becomes a recording project, as it was originally intended back in 2013, I am okay with that. But right now, I want to play this album for people in as many places as possible.
You’re a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist and you work with kids teaching them and helping them become better musicians. Is that a proper characterization of what you do? Is it rewarding? Doesn’t working a job in music, and playing in a band start to bring on a level of exhaustion with playing music?
Being a music teacher is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Being a part of these kids’ lives has given me a sense of purpose and fulfillment that I didn’t conceive was possible. I am so far from exhausted with music, I’m more inspired than I have ever been. Seeing their level of sheer enthusiasm and love for learning has reinvigorated my desire to never stop improving. I cannot express enough how much I love what I do and how grateful I am to have this position. It has changed me as a person, and I am humbled and honored every day.
We’ve heard a bunch of people say they didn’t check out Immortal Bird because they thought it was a doom band. In reality, you might slow down occasionally but there is basically nothing band about your music. Why, do you think, would someone think that? What does it say about them or about judging books by their cover and all that shit?
I have no idea why someone would think that, other than the fact that we aren’t super fast every second of every song. It’s fine. Of course I think it’s fucking stupid when people judge us by our name or our aesthetic and assume we’re doom without listening to us. It’s MUSIC. That’s literally all that really matters and someone is going to assume what something sounds like based on what they perceive in a name or an album cover? Seems like a pretty ineffective and limiting way to go about life, if you ask me. Which you did!
You mentioned 20 Buck Spin was your first choice of label to release Thrive On Neglect. A lot of what we do is “meat and potatoes”-style death metal the last several years with some doomy stuff thrown in. Why the hell did you want to be on such an unimaginative label?
It’s not just about my personal taste. Also, I love some classic, nasty, death metal. I wanted to be on 20 Buck Spin because it’s a label with integrity (not Integrity, I think they’re on Relapse…) and a catalogue that speaks for itself, in my opinion. You have a vision, you treat bands with respect and a great deal of understanding and you answer my fucking texts. We’re unbelievably stoked to be a part of the roster, and I see it as a huge accomplishment.