Nearly twenty years into their career, metalcore/hardcore diehards The Acacia Strain are changing things up. A few days ago, the Massachusetts band announced that they had new music coming soon; today, they released It Comes in Waves, the most interesting and varied record of The Acacia Strain’s nearly-twenty-year career, on Closed Casket Activities.
At seven songs and just over thirty minutes, It Comes in Waves focuses on the concept that deities and gods havre always manipulated humanity just to amuse themselves. The song titles spell out the sentence “Our Only Sin Was Giving Them Names,” an unsettling look into the themes of the record.
It’s not just conceptually that things are different. On It Comes in Waves, The Acacia Strain invoke a menacing and spacey atmosphere, drawing influence from doom, death and even post-metal. Decibel spoke with vocalist Vincent Bennett to learn more about It Comes in Waves, recording on the road and the other record The Acacia Strain have coming out.
It Comes in Waves is out now digitally and available for pre-order physically here.
I heard the new album and I’m impressed with it. It might be my favorite thing The Acacia Strain have ever done.
It’s one of those things that we just wanted to do for a very long time and hadn’t really had the means to do it. We’re usually putting out full-lengths and doing normal Acacia Strain things. A record every two years and there’s no room for anything that isn’t “typical” of us, so this is a fun extra thing we got to do because of my relationship with Justin from Closed Casket.
The lineup that we have now is so open-minded and diverse that we wanted to do something that was kind of off what we would usually do.
Is it an album or are you considering it an EP?
I think it’s just an EP. We’re considering it one song; I guess when it was written, it was split up. It was split up but it was always meant to be one song. We took the seven parts and we named them seven different things so it would make a sentence. It’s meant to be listened to all at once, not track by track.
Each song title spells out “Our Only Sin Was Giving Them Names” and you said that it’s meant to be heard in a single sitting, so is this a concept record?
Absolutely. The main concept is that humans have believed in deities and gods and angels and demons and all of these otherworldly, infallible beings since the beginning of humanity. They all, throughout cultures, throughout time, throughout everything, they all have commonalities, they all have this feeling of leadership, of manipulation, of humans always follow whatever these deities say and they’re known to be all-knowing, all-powerful and, like I said before, infallible. The concept of this album is although all of these cultures have different gods, what if it’s all the same “gods” that have been, throughout history, manipulating and shaping humanity?
I’m not saying they’re aliens, but I’m saying they’re inter-dimensional beings that have a personality and have kind of just been manipulating humanity since the beginning. They’ve been around forever. We haven’t and they saw us as an opportunity to have a little fun.
That’s basically what the album is about. It’s about this idea of gods actually being not only real but also physical beings that are just having their way with us at our expense, just so they can have something to do.
That is one intense theme for an album.
It’s been coming for a long time. I’ve been talking to Justin [Louden, Closed Casket owner] about this record—Justin and I have been friends for a very long time. We worked side by side for a while and the concept has always been in my head and I’ve always wanted to do something with Closed Casket and Justin has always wanted to do something with us. This is an idea that we’ve been talking about for over two years and it finally came together. I’m really happy it did. It gave us an opportunity to do something weird.
Acacia Strain records usually have a theme but they’re not usually this off base and this out of this world. I don’t smoke weed and I don’t do drugs but I do have that “What if?” curiosity and I like reading and I like sci-fi and I like coming up with really odd ideas. This is a culmination of all that for the past couple years.
If you’ve been talking to Justin about this record for two years, how long have you or the rest of the band been working on it?
The idea came about two years ago. We started writing it about a year ago and it got shelved for a while because we were really busy with touring and we were really busy with other things.
I finally said to Justin, “You need to give us a deadline. We work better if we know we have something due at a certain time.”
The record was basically written, we were on tour this past April with Knocked Loose and Harm’s Way and we just sat down any time we had spare time, any time we got to a venue early, any time we had a day off, we would just record the record. The drums were recorded a few months prior in my bass players’ studio but all the guitars were recorded on tour. Every piece of guitar was recorded on tour and after all of that was done, we got home from tour and I went and I recorded vocals in my friend’s attic. Everything was done by us. Every idea, there was no outside production, no outside engineering. It was all us.
I’d say it got finished in June and we’ve been sitting on the idea for two years. It’s really nice to have a light at the end of the tunnel.
Do you think having done so much of the recording on the road and working on this record as an extra thing in addition to what you would normally do with your album cycles, that it brought the band closer together or affected the band dynamic?
It definitely brought us closer together at the end but during the recording process—being on tour is already stressful enough. We don’t get hotels or anything so we sleep in our van all the time. We only sleep in our van; we’ll get an AirBnB on a day off and that’s when we have our comfort, but it was already stressful being on tour and now we had this deadline that I forced upon my band. My guitar player Tom was especially stressed out and everyone was kind of just on edge, walking on eggshells around each other. We just wanted to get it done.
Tom recorded most of the guitars himself, Griffin recorded all of the bass himself. They had no spare time whatsoever. They saw us. Me and my sound guy were going to see movies and playing frisbee and all this stuff and they’re just sitting in a dark room, playing guitar into headphones. They’re not jealous but like, “What the fuck? Learn how to play guitar so I don’t have to do all this.”
It didn’t fracture us, it didn’t separate us, but it did stress us out a little bit more than a normal tour would have. I’d say any band, if you ask them “How’d the writing process go? I heard you did it on tour,” they’ll just tell you that it was a very, very stressful experience. But like I said, it brought us very close together at the end of it.
When it was all together we sat down for the first time to listen to the master and we were very proud of what all of us had accomplished. I still listen to it in my car and I can’t believe that this is the outcome of that. It was very disjointed, it was very unlike us to have a record just made piecemeal on tour as opposed to in a studio.
You guys have been touring a lot on Gravebloom and you’re going to be on the road even more with Rotting Out and Fuming Mouth. Do you think that doing all of this touring, is it making it easier to write new, different ideas?
Acacia Strain has a certain sound, I guess. We often get lumped in with deathcore bands. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. WE’ve toured with a lot of very different bands and we’ve toured with bands that are somewhat similar to what people think that we are. When we do a headlining tour, we try and take bands that people will be surprised are on tour with us.
Last year, we brought Judiciary on tour and we brought Chamber on tour and we bring all these bands that people normally wouldn’t associate with Acacia Strain. What happens is we learn a lot from touring with bands that are not only younger than us, but bands that sound different than we do. We introduce those bands to bands that they normally wouldn’t have heard and vice versa.
It helps our creative process just by touring with bands and with people who quote-unquote regular media outlets wouldn’t expect us to. My philosophy always is a mixed bill. There’s no point in touring with seven bands that sound exactly the same. People are going to get bored after the second band.
Now that your new song or album, however you choose to label it, is out now, you’re going to do this tour in support of it. Will you continue to tour in support of it or will you start work on a new album that might be more in line with your traditional schedule?
We wrote and recorded two albums last year. We recorded this one…. we’re still on Rise Records. We recorded this album first, from April to June, then we went on tour, we got home, we went to Iowa and we recorded another record for Rise Records. It was a very stressful year when it came to music and I don’t think anybody in my band wants to write a record for another ten years because we just did two pretty much back to back.
We will be supporting this record but our next record is going to get announced I think very soon and the first part of it is going to be support on this Rotting Out tour. It’s a lot for people to take in but I think nowadays you need to keep people interested and you need to keep music going. You need to make people understand that you’re not done. You’re not going away. You need to keep it creative so with this record, It Comes in Waves, we did our very off brand—I don’t even want to say off brand because I don’t think we have a brand. We try to do something different every record while still keeping it comfortable.
This was our outside-the-box record and our next one is less experimental I want to say. I don’t think people are going to expect for us, one, to come up with two records so close together but for us to come out with a record that sounds like this one does. At the same time, after hearing It Comes in Waves, I think people are going to be like “OK, this band can do different things.”
In 2020, we’ll be a band for 19 years. To keep it going without putting the same record out over and over again, we’ll have to do something like It Comes in Waves and after that, see where it goes. Because we wrote these records so close together, it kind of bleeds over and it bleeds over in a way that you’ll be able to tell they were written around the same time. But at the same time, you’ll say “OK, this is progression, I get it and I’m really happy to hear this band doing something different.” I hope it comes across as different. I don’t read reviews, but I hope when the reviews come in, it’s not just “Oh, well it’s another Acacia Strain record. This is what we expected!”
We want people to go, “They did an OK job at moving forward.”