Earlier this week, Savannah-based chaotic post-hardcore band The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir kicked off their summer tour with the release of their surprise new EP heartland attack. The band showcases their harsher, heavier side as they confront hate, deal with mental health, and push for change over the course of three incredibly intense tracks. heartland attack is out now digitally and is also available on CD and cassette via Big Money Cybergrind. The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir are currently touring the US and they will be playing a handful of US shows with Chat Pile and Nerver in September as well as playing Fest in Gainesville this October.
Punknews editor Em Moore caught up with the band on the road through the power of the internet to talk about the new EP, dealing with bigots, the importance of telling your friends you love them, touring, and so much more. Read the interview below!
You released your new EP Heartland Attack earlier this week and it marks your heaviest, most confrontational output to date. What influenced this direction?
We didn’t really think through much of the direction change, honestly. We just had so many heavy conversations about the way things are going when it comes to the rights of LGBTQ+ people, the struggle against police brutality, and the disastrous state of the economy and the environment overall. So our output just naturally became that heavy. It felt as though we were exorcising some of that negativity by channeling it into these songs in this way.
Why did you decide to surprise-release your new EP?
Honestly, we just thought it would be fun. We hadn’t really surprise-released anything before and thought it would be good to consummate a tour with it. Also, incredibly, unfortunately, in the climate for creative people now there is an intense pressure to maintain an output of content. This isn’t us trying to play into that at all, however, it is us trying to drum up a little bit more engagement with the tour dates.
We are a good band on record but a much more entertaining and strong band in a live setting. People are more inclined to share music around and also love instant gratification, so pushing a new release to align with a tour helps when people like it and see we’re in their area so they’re more likely to go out for it.
We want to talk to people and share these events with them in meatspace, and the best way to do that is to hit them with a one-two punch of music that resonates and have nearby shows that cement us in their minds. We’re still an up-and-coming band cutting our teeth in a lot of new scenes and states and pushing music that spreads further helps us connect with people in those regions. I don’t know if we’ll ever do it again but it was an interesting thing to try.
The cover of this EP shows a black-and-white picture of a cliff which was taken by lead vocalist Nat Lacuna. What is the significance of this image?
Nat took it on our April tour when we went to Niagara Falls. It’s a really stunning image of a swarm of birds circling around this cliffside. Atop the cliff you see a herd of people swarming to this tourist site almost in the same manner. It’s meant to mirror the impulsive, animalistic nature of humans and their squawking reactions to things they’re uncomfortable with.
In this way, the image also mirrors the music and the intent behind a lot of the lyrics. We want to swarm toward this thing that is supposed to fulfill us or loudly protest against and fly away from something we think puts us in danger, but it doesn’t always work that way and before too long we’re desperate for something else. Desperate for any kind of traction, satisfaction, and/or understanding.
On top of that, all of our releases are photos that Nat has taken. It’s an important self-fulfilling thing for us because most of what we do is contained within the band or kept within a tight-knit group of people we consider friends of ours. From recording to collaboration to merch design to who we play shows with. We want to have our hands on as much of the process as we can because it makes the end result feel that much more connected to us.
How would you describe your songwriting process?
Incredibly intuitive. We write all of our songs physically together, sometimes in our practice space and sometimes in the studio. [laughs] One person has an idea for a part, and the rest of us talk and jam on it until we figure out where to go with it. It’s very connected and human because of this. We’ve now had a couple of songs we’ve written in the studio where we had to learn how to play it live after the fact, one of which is even on this release!
“large recall monolith” starts with a spoken word intro which talks about someone seeing a mysterious figure before the vocal delivery shifts and the lyrics take on the viewpoint of the mysterious figure. What inspired this shift in perspective?
Actually, the beginning is a segment from a poem our bassist, Sleve, wrote about an actual experience they had when we were at FEST in Gainesville last year. It was a really memorable time during that weekend for obvious reasons. Nat had wanted to write a song about killing bigots and politicians in a very haunting, menacing way. So pulling some of that influence as an unidentifiable stalker to marry both together came naturally.
On “human blue screen” you say “Nothing in the past has ever been changed without lines to empathy/And nothing terrible in the past has ever been changed without direct action”. What helps you to remain empathetic?
Talking to people, primarily. Learning from people whose backgrounds are so incredibly different from yours. Understanding different struggles like addiction, growing up with insulated worldviews, homelessness, et cetera, and seeing how the world reacts to those people and how it treats them. It’s often really fucking badly. We just have to do what we can to offset that.
What would you say to someone who wants to become more politically active?
Find an organization near you. Create one if you have to. Whether it’s something trying to help feed and clothe homeless people, trying to do art therapy for disabled people, going around helping plant native plants, or figuring out how to effectively protest and create change in a legislative manner.
Build a network of people who occupy similar spaces as you and have similar goals on a personal and political level for something like this. Figure out a time and come up with a plan of how to make effective change. Start advertising for it, spreading it on social media, and educating people about what you’re doing, and it will grow from there. Every single person can create change from small actions. The more sets of hands we have operating on a smaller scale the bigger the overall impact is.
What is the best way to “menace the bigots”?
Violence. We’re not exaggerating or trying to pose hard for the internet. If a nazi walks into a show or a bar, in the right places, they get their shit rocked. The royal we, as marginalized people, are always in danger and largely unprotected by the law. Most of the time our opponents are actually protected by the law, so we have to leave no room for things to get worse. They want us dead, so we have to hit back until they can get some sense.
As a band you highlight how important it is to tell your friends that you love them as well as remembering how loved you are. How do you make sure your friends feel loved? What helps to remind you that you are loved?
First and foremost, tell them. Try to give them the space in your life that they need. Find out their love languages and try to communicate with them in ways they feel reassured with.
It’s incredibly hard to internalize that you are loved due to the mortifying ordeal of being known, so diverting your self-loathing and pushing it into love for others is a way to help move the focus away from yourself and create positivity from it.
Write affirmations for yourself to help remind you that you’re loved. Put them somewhere visible like a mirror or a doorway. Tell yourself things you like about yourself, even if it seems silly. Every block builds together. Try to be kind to yourself, and curb absolute language. For example, instead of saying, “I’m an idiot” when you make a mistake, say, “That was silly, how can I fix it?” With stuff like this, truly and sincerely, fake it till you make it baby!
Also, most importantly, reach out when you feel out of your depth. There are people who care about you, even when you feel like there’s no one. Send an SOS before you make any hasty decisions.
Along with being the name of your EP, Heartland Attack is also the name of the tour you’re on right now. What does this name mean to you?
The heartland always represents this sort of religious and at times conservative, haven in the center of our nation. It’s traditional and spiritual in ways that are inexplicable, and this is us facing that head-on with our boisterous, ridiculous music. It’s also a wordplay on a heart attack.
What is the most cathartic song to play live?
From an outward perspective, it’s “Thinking About The Immortality Of The Crab”. That burst of energy is so incredible and we always take the time to speak about what the song means as a song about unity in the face of death - big business and politicians - and how the world could use more John Hinckleys.
From an internal perspective, “Liver Budget” has been a recent favorite. A couple of us deal with pretty intense suicidal thoughts and ideation and this song is a nitty gritty outlet for exactly that. Some days it feels insurmountable, and this is our way of bottling it up and sending that shit off.
How is the tour going so far? What are you most looking forward to on this tour?
Tour is good!! A little bit of rain, a lot of heat, but nothing we’re not used to. The shows have been fantastic, and we’re incredibly grateful for anyone who gives a shit enough to come see us.
As per usual with us, food is a huge motivator. Trying cool regional foods and finding cool holes in the wall. Our guitarist, Aaron, also has the opportunity to see a couple of family members who live further away from us which is cool. Seeing Chicago is going to be a highlight because we get to do it with Graveface Records who released Slow Murder last year, and it’s in a beautiful venue with some cool friends of ours.
You’ll be providing overdose prevention tools at your merch table on every date of this tour. How did the idea to do this come about?
We’ve all got friends and people we know who have overdosed. You can’t ever get away from it. Whether it’s intentional or accidental, we can’t be afraid of it or ignore it to the point that it allows more people to die. Everyone deserves that level of care no matter what.
You often post memes on Instagram after your show flyers. What meme do you think best represents the band?
THAT’S CONK CREAT BABY!!!!!!!!!! Anything ridiculous, honestly. Neodadaist memes for our renaissance men and self-deprecating humor for our proletariat.
How would you describe the punk scene in Savannah?
So, historically, it’s monumental. Massive artists like Baroness, Boy Harsher, Damad, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Circle Takes The Square - they’re close enough, and quite a few others owe their beginnings to Savannah. However, most of them wouldn’t necessarily talk about it. After decades of decline and the particularly difficult past few years without a dependable amount of venues, it’s struggled a lot.
That being said, right now, it exists and is clawing its way up. It’s growing again and the musicians are incredibly motivated to make a difference. It's a very mixed genre, all the people involved play vastly different styles of music but we all come together to support one another. It’s cool to see smaller artists coming up and going out on the road too like Pink Peugeot, Jus B, Defiant Path, Smalltalk, and a few others. I will say that some of the locals we have that are newer are incredibly special and will definitely be huge cornerstones as they start doing more stuff. Artists like NOSEBLEEEEED, Oshiner, Measurement, and Aethereater.
What are you listening to now?
We’ve had some long driving so we’ve listened to Dijon, letlive., Chat Pile, Meshuggah, the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, ZETA, Primus, Soundgarden, Thou, Homewrecker & The Bedwetters, Nerver, MSPAINT, and The Chariot.
What does the future hold for The Holy Ghost Tabernacle Choir?
Our three-day September run with Chat Pile and Nerver. And a pretty big fall tour centered around FEST that we can’t quite talk about yet. West Coasters stay tuned though :)
|Jul 06||Hotel Vegas||Austin, TX||w/God Shell, Edith Pike, Yatsu, Votive|
|Jul 07||The Sanctuary||Oklahoma City, OK||w/Otis Vcr, Typhoid, Czar|
|Jul 08||The Annex||Wichita, KS||w/Nerver, Bad Eyes, Verruckt|
|Jul 09||Farewell||Kansas City, MO||w/Nerver, Nightosphere, Missouri Executive Order 44|
|Jul 10||Raccoon Motel||Davenport, IA||w/Jenn Taiga, The Hunder Grounds Death Cult|
|Jul 11||The Aquarium||Fargo, ND||w/Hanging Wound, Idiot Man Child, No Divinity|
|Jul 12||Caydence Coffee and Records||St. Paul, MN||w/Wanderer, andthecanaryfell.|
|Jul 13||Sleeping Village||Chicago, IL||w/Stander, What It Felt Like, Bussy Kween Power Trip|
|Jul 14||Garden Bowl||Detroit, MI||w/Feast For The Crows, Everything Evil|
|Jul 15||Magbar||Louisville, KY||w/Meditator, Noosebearer, Devil Be My Judge, Strange Skies|
|Jul 16||Mom Said||Atlanta, GA||w/Mannequin Grove, Low Before The Breeze, Ammonia Wash|
|Jul 19||Lodge of Sorrows||Savannah, GA||w/Bleached Cross, Secret Shame, Blind Equation, Deathtrippa|
|Sep 12||The End||Nashville, TN||w/Chat Pile, Nerver|
|Sep 13||Asheville Music Hall||Asheville, NC||w/Chat Pile, Nerver|
|Sep 15||Richmond Music Hall||Richmond, VA||w/Chat Pile, Nerver|
|Sep 30||Flicker||Athens, GA||w/20 Watt Tombstone, Horseburner|
|Oct 28||FEST||Gainesville, FL|