Interview: Jarhead Fertilizer Drummer Dave Bland Discusses New Record, Carceral Warfare

Jarhead Fertilizer slid in under the radar with one of the best death metal/grindcore albums of 2023, releasing second LP Carceral Warfare on December 8. If you’ve heard it already, you know what’s up. If you haven’t, this is what you should be listening to for the next 29 minutes. A thematically gritty and violent record with performances to match it, Decibel got into the nitty gritty of the album with drummer/vocalist Dave Bland for an upcoming issue of the print mag but the conversation was too long to run in its entirety.

What follows is the content that couldn’t fit in that interview; subscribe to Decibel to read excluded answers about recording at Developing Nations, more Full of Hell comparisons and Jarhead Fertilizer’s future plans.

In the time from Product of My Environment to the new one, it seems like Jarhead has become a lot more popular. Does it feel different being in the band now, or is there more pressure or eyes on you?
I don’t think there’s more pressure but I’m really happy that Jarhead has been able to do more. Full of Hell has been a band for a while and touring so much with that and my personal life as well kind of hindered the ability to tour with Jarhead. We had Product of My Environment written for at least three years before we recorded. That kind of slowed this band down a little bit.

Things are finally moving at a real speed for you.

Things got moving after that and we wrote another LP directly after that just because [Product of my Environment] was written for so long. It really pushed things forward after that.

You just touched on how busy Full of Hell is and Jarhead is half of Full of Hell. As you move in a more death metal-oriented direction with Jarhead, do you ever feel like you have to differentiate the band from Full of Hell?
A little bit, but I think that the direction of Full of Hell has ended up… there was a time when there was some more of that death metal feel, deathgrind feel with Full of Hell so there’s definitely a conscious effort on my part to not make the two bands similar. Spencer [Hazard]  being the main writer in Full of Hell and me being the main writer in Jarhead helps differentiate that as well. I think ever since Trumpeting Ecstasy, it’s veered in two separate directions and the new Full of Hell LP is, to me, very different than anything that Jarhead sounds like. It just so happens that the band has unconsciously went in two different directions.

But yes, we definitely make the effort to make the two bands similar.

Yeah, you don’t want to retread the same ground you already have with Full of Hell or vice versa.
Jarhead has been a band almost as long as Full of Hell at this point, I think about 12 years now, but some of the other members were like 14 when this band started and I was 17, so it’s been there for a minute and I think that the sound of Jarhead has changed a lot over that time. We’ve all kind of grown up in this band.

In reference to both bands, you guys are still pretty young adults and coming into your own.
Absolutely, yep.

You said that Product of My Environment had been written for a while and you sat on it for a bit before recording and releasing it. What did the writing process for Carceral Warfare look like by comparison?
I am the main writer in Jarhead. Everyone adds to it when we get to the studio but I’m demoing stuff usually and sending it to the rest of the guys until we agree on things. The writing process for this one was pretty nutty for me. I pretty much had nothing written for the LP except one song two-and-a-half months prior to recording. I was basically locked in my house just finishing this LP for two and a half months while psychotic events were happening around me. Lots of my family life is pretty crazy, other things felt like they were almost preventing me from finishing this LP but it ended up adding to it, I think. It was a stressful one but me under stress like that actually makes it better, in a way. It was two months of all of us biting our nails, like “Is all of this gonna be ready? Are we going to be able to do this on time?” but we all busted it out fast and I think it came out perfect that way.

You briefly mentioned the samples. On Carceral and Product, you have a lot of samples that stand out. How do you go about choosing those? Do you hear them in media and like them, or do you have an idea and find samples that fit?
We all added samples to this one, especially. I think they all fit really well. We all really love movies but this one, I think all the samples were fitting for the feel of the record, the disgusting samples and stuff like that. I’m a huge Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader fan, so I think a lot of their movies really tie into the theme of this band, which is really like a true crime theme, almost. Different atrocities in the world. Even on the last record, there’s Martin Scorsese samples and there’s Paul Schrader samples on this one.

I just think that we almost look at this band of describing this band [with] a dystopian view and he really understands that. There’s definitely lots of crime samples and stuff like that in there and I think that’s a crucial element to the band as well.

It seems like the grittiness and real-world nature of the samples and lyrics carried over from the first album to this one.
The lyrics are a lot of true life things in my life. I grew up seeing a lot of crazy events, a lot of prison stuff and gang stuff. My family is pretty crazy, so a lot of these lyrics are really tying into things I’ve seen growing up.