It seems like recently there has been an upsurge of bands resurrecting the "screamo" genre that flourished in the late 1990s and early 2000s. One such band, which features members of Orchid and other contemporaries, is Ampere from the Boston area, who produce music that rises above the ordinary tropes of the genre (i.e. love gone wrong). Instead, the band, as with its past releases, delivers socially-conscious lyrics through intricate, yet chaotic passages with Like Shadows. Staff interviewer Andrew Clark spoke with guitarist Will Killingsworth and bassist Meghan Minior about the release and ongoing commitment to DIY.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, and congratulations on the releasing Like Shadows. How have people responded so far? Killingsworth: Having been a band for so long at this point, I wasn't sure if this release would perhaps be the one where we would inevitably disappoint everyone and they would angrily denounce our existence, but so far from what I can tell, people seem to dig the record. Maybe next time we can write a self-Indulgent rock opera or something to really piss people off.
Minior: So far it seems like the reaction has been pretty positive, it took a few years for us to put it all together and it is really exciting to finally have a tangible copy of the record out.
Admittedly, I am a recent fan of the band, but have all of your past releases and noticed Like Shadows incorporates some new production and musical elements not present previously. For example, I noticed a generally cleaner production sound and faster pace of the album than heard on the previous release, All Our Tomorrow's End Today. Were these conscious decisions on the band's part? Killingsworth: I'd say that these were a mixture of conscious and unconscious decisions on my, and everyoneâs behalf. I've recorded all of the bands releases, and part of the better production is just that I've improved at my craft. Since we play in a variety of time signatures, and fairly noisy stuff at times, I did try to make sure that we captured the right emphasis on some parts in an effort to make it translate more clearly. Whether or not that succeeded, I don't know, but it was an intent. Musically, I definitely wanted to come across as more aggressive than our prior releases, and while I don't think it was a huge shift, their are some aspects of more traditional hardcore incorporated, or at least in my mind. I guess I took it as a challenge to myself a bit, as one often finds bands slowing down and mellowing in their age. It would have been easier for us to write some sprawling epic parts and chill it out, but to try to find new ways to express aggression seemed to me to be the most interesting direction to push with the band.
Minior: I feel like on this record we were really trying to create something dynamic that retained the intensity of previous recordings but we wanted to also push it even further. To attempt to do something new, but also for it to also have similarities of what we have done before.
Have you experienced any backlash for being perceived as "too intellectual?" Minior: Chances are, whoever is backlash against anyone for being "too intellectual" could be lacking a brain themselves.
Killingsworth: I must say that I've yet to have anyone directly challenge my intellectuality, but perhaps it's something I can look forward to?
Related to the previous question, you have been in other notable "screamo" bands, including Orchid. Why have you continued to play this particular style of music? Is there something you feel is unique to the genre that is absent elsewhere in punk-affiliated music? Killingsworth: Honestly, neither band was started with the intention of being perceived as a "screamo" band, and as far as I know, that term didn't exist when Orchid started. Both bands just followed their own paths and ended up being what they are, however itâs classified. To me though, the term "screamo" started as a joke and still sounds like one to me. If I'm really being truthful, I probably don't have any interest in the vast majority of the music being made that would classify itself as that. There are a few bands that have been labeled as such that I do think are making interesting music, and perhaps there's a gray area that could Include other bands I enjoy I guess, but ultimately it's not a label that I associate with at all personally.
I think the goal of Ampere is to create aggressive and expressive hardcore, and to try to do so in an original way. If It gets labeled as "screamo" so be it, but itâs not by our choosing. As a funny aside, I remember before Orchid had our first practice I made a mix tape for Jay, the singer, of what I imagined the influences of the band to be, which prominently featured Destroy, Neurosis, Systral, with maybe the most emo thing being Antioch Arrow or some other Gravity band. That said, I think all of those bands did have some influence on our sound, so, perhaps that's more confusing than funny?
Minior: When Ampere first became a band the Idea was not to just start a "screamo" band. For the four of us, we just all really wanted to play music together and start a band. With the exception of me, everyone else had been in bands prior to this that played a sort of similar style of music, so I guess it is inevitable that Ampere would have similarities to these bands but our goal was definitely not to try and start a Orchid part two or The Last Forty Seconds part two. I personally cannot stand the term "screamo" it sounds awful and the usage of it is lazy. I feel like the term gets used when people just really do not know how to describe what they are hearing. Its the same thing when people make quick comparisons with bands to Black Flag. There are a million bands who get compared to Black Flag who sound nothing like Black Flag at all, or a similar thing would be describing every band that has a woman screaming in it as being influenced by or sounding like a riot grrrl band. Everyone is always so quick to categorize.
I would also like to ask about the band's commitment to DIY culture. I know members, including yourself, have a lengthy history of involvement in the community through various avenues, such as running record labels and having multiple bands. What draws you to DIY culture so much? Killingsworth: Punk and DIY Is one of the few spaces where I ever felt that I fit in to an extent, or had a real connection with. There have been times when music seems to be the only thing that makes sense to me, or that speaks to me. I think I've always felt that it has given so much to me, through this connection, that it only seems fair to try to make it a two way street, and put as much into it as I feel I get out of it. DIY to me is a clear rejection of society, and social norms.
It's a rejection of the need of traditional avenues, or corporate involvement in music distribution or performance, and a stance that you can operate without them. Minior: I have always had a connection to DIY because I feel really strongly about doing things myself and also the idea of not waiting for someone or something to entertain you. If you want a band to come play in your town, you can set up a show. If you learn how to cut and paste and screenprint etc, you can make fliers and the packaging for your own records. You can put out records, book tours, and really do anything yourself. I think this is also really important with the growing digital age. It is still really necessary to make tangible objects that people can hold. I feel like the more we head down the digital road, the more people can become and allow themselves to be detached from everything.
The personal element of any interaction is slowly getting blurred and erased and the need for everything to happen instantly is growing. By still remaining true to DIY ethics I feel like you are deciding that you want to still put a personal stamp on what you create whether it be art, music,or anything else really. And now more then ever, I feel like this is really important.
As a follow-up, what sustains your commitment in the face of competing obligations that come with adulthood? Killingsworth: I guess I relate to the notions and ideals mentioned above more than I relate to the idea of "adulthood." As such, I seem to have shunned most of the normal adult responsibilities, and just try to maintain being as active creatively as possible, for better or worse. Sometimes it seems unclear if I'm somehow ruining my life, or conversely, living it to the utmost of my ability. Frankly, it's pretty hard to tell, but I'm fairly confident that creating less, and focusing on "settling down" more, would make me feel much less satisfied. Obviously I wouldn't suggest that that's the right choice for everyone though, it's just what feels right to me.
Minior: I think there are a lot of us involved with punk and DIY currently who are in our 30's or who are quickly approaching 30 and we are In a similar boat. How do we still stay active and involved in bands and punk at this age with the added responsibilities that tend to come with aging? For a lot of people, at this age you start a family or get really involved in your career, or maybe you start making the plans to do so. For me I feel like it is all about finding the right balance. For many years I have chosen to not have a "career" so that I could travel and play in a lot of bands and tour pretty frequently, which has been really amazing, but also really hard at times.
Itâs difficult because while I don't want what I love doing to be my "job", I also do not want to have a job that I really dislike doing, and I need some sort of income in order to pay my bills. I donât know if I will ever figure it out, but I think ultimately the most important thing is to keep doing what you love doing. So many people get locked into their lives or jobs, or their environment and they feel stuck, like there is no escape. I think a really important part of adulthood is to try and not get trapped.
Onto somethings less heady. What, if any, plans are in the making for touring in support of the record? Killingsworth: Our plans are pretty limited due to all of our conflicting schedules, and some slight distance between us. We have talked about trying to hit the west coast some time in the next six months or so, and we've been writing new material, which I believe will be coming out as a split with our friends Raein. We should probably start planning some sort of ten year anniversary show too, as that's unbelievably coming up In May of 2012. We'll see what happens…we've pretty much settled into working at whatever pace works for us and makes sense at the time. Currently that means more practicing than playing shows, but I guess you never know what the future might bring.
Last not but not least, it's my tradition to allow the band the last word. Use it wisely. Killingsworth: Stay punk.