On the first song of 2010's Rohnert Park vocalist Ross Farrar, lead singer of the Bay Area's Ceremony, lists the things that are making him sick: the sun, the earth, fun, sobriety, new starts, living, death, capitalism, effort, tv, the phone, homophobia, condominiums, the GOP, liberals, the president, head injury, the USA, hysteria, realism, Buddism, skateboarding, hardcore, Catholics, theists, cops, yuppies, rent, lies, mankind… and oh yeah… Black Flag and Cro-Mags! While Farrar and the rest of the group might be suffering from ailments, it seems that their collective fever might be clouding their judgments in all the right ways. Although Ceremony released two successful records that blended hardcore and powerviolence, on Rohnert Park, they take the edge from classic hardcore and inject weird elements, such as sampled soliloquies, morphine-interfused instrumental interludes, and Robert Frost quotes. The albums daring mix of the avant-garde and ageless caused the album to show up on a couple of punknews' staffs "best of year" lists. Punknews staff interviewer John Gentile was so distraught that anyone would even think of dismissing the mighty Black Flag or Cro-Mags, that he put on an old-timey doctor's "head mirror," wrote out a litany of prescriptions despite his utter lack of medical training, and caught up with Farrar to see if the symptoms could be remedied.
Are you really sick of Black Flag and the Cro-Mags?
No, not at all. Itâs just kind of part of the song. The song is about not really being inspired by anything at the moment. Throwing in Black Flag and the Cro-Mags was ironic, everyone loves those guysâ¦ it's kind of a kick in the face.
Why the title Rohnert Park?
It's where all of us are from except Ryan Mattis. Most of us spent our childhood there. It's one of those things where your childhood has a strong grip on you- you get a lot of weird subconscious stuff coming out of you. If I would go back to the San Francisco Area or Oakland, I would still have a pull back to Rohnert. I think a lot of good things that have happened to me are based in Rohnert Parkâ¦ but I also sort of hate Rohnert Park.
Rohnert Park goes beyond the typical hardcore template. Was this purposeful, or did the music evolve on its own?
When we first started writing Rohnert Park we wanted to do something different. Our previous album, Still Nothing Moves You was a little more thrash or powerviolence, and this is more of a punk record. We also wanted to experiment a little more, and thats how "The Doldrums" came about.
On Rohnert Park, there's an audio clip of an audibly shaken man who recounts an event in which he was unable to save the life of an elderly neighbor following an accident. What's the origin of that clip?
Some of my friends and I were doing a project in San Francisco in 2004. I wanted to do a zine or booklet based on the stories of people in the city. I was interviewing people and when we were in Union Square, the speaker [being interviewed] gave us that one story. I never saw him or met him ever again, but the way he described the story was beautiful or eloquent. I had to include that on our release just because of the way he told that story.
On the song "Back in '84" you have the lyrics, "Back in '84 I nearly choked on the U-cord till my dad came and cut me lose. He said 'The pain you feel today, it will never go away, the best way out is always through.â" What's the meaning behind that?
When I was born, I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, so I was blue and dying when I came out of the womb and my dad snipped it. The other stuff, like the quotes, those are a combination of Robert Frost, and things that my dad would always tell me. So, the umbilical chord thing actually happened.
You've stated your fondness for poetry and about how important your lyrics are to you. But, do you ever feel that your explosive delivery might detract from the accessibility of what your saying?
I think that in the hardcore scene, especially the scene that we are involved in, the kids like to read the lyrics. I think anyone who buys the records get a little piece of that. Ceremony has always been a lyrical band as much as a music band. I think if someone is going to listen to the record without buying it, they might dismiss the lyrics, but people that are buying records will support the band.
Rohnert Park is, dare I say, radically different from your previous LP. Do you ever feel that your older fans are resistant to your change?
That's kind of an interesting question. Punk and hardcore bands are pretty well known for just doing a few records and then they stop doing their music. Then people get into different things. It was kind of natural for us to different things. We didn't want to quit Ceremony. Weâd rather just try different things. Weâre all into weird things. Going into different genres of music is natural. A lot of people think that our mindset sucks or that we should just do one thing. But, that's not what we want to do.
What's on the horizon for the band?
Weâre writing a new record right now. It's gonna be weirder than the one before it. Writing and recording is a hard process. Everyone is working or going to school. Weâre all kind of doing our own thing. We are in the studio, but we don't really know when it will come out. I just hope that people can look past us trying to do different things. I don't think people really want to hear the same thing. For those that doâ¦ wellâ¦ it's gonna get stranger as the days go on.