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Interview: The Convalescence do everything BUT convalesce

Posted by on September 6, 2017

One of the key aspects overlooked today more than ever in the metal world is the amount of blood, sweat and motor oil spent on touring. With music sales still in the basement, the way almost all music acts short of Taylor Swift and Adele stay afloat financially is by touring and selling merch. This means that even heavy metal royalty like Slayer has to criss-cross the country multiple times to earn a living. Slayer, of course, has the benefit of being known by everyone and is able to rely on an extensive catalog to help put people in seats. The reality for newer bands, however, especially those just starting out, is that you have to record, tour, tour again, tour some more, and then maybe do one more tour before recording again – and hope that you can sell enough merch along the way to fill your gas tank up and pay for pizza. There is no glamour in touring in metal unless maybe you’re Lars Ulrich and you can bring along your gallery of modern art pieces with you on your deluxe ultra premium tour bus.  

The Convalescence is a hard-working deathcore band from middle America. These guys (and girl) have played over 400 shows in the past few years. Most of these shows were in dive bars with very few amenities (if any at all). And while most of you know that I’m not really into deathcore and often limit myself to True Norwegian black metal on my iPod, I’m definitely down with seeing bands from other genres that put on high energy shows and clearly love being on stage. That’s what turned me on to this band. This six piece is high energy all the time and they are going to do their best to win you over.  It’s difficult not to appreciate that.   

Speaking of dive bars, I caught The Convalescence at the horrendous Voltage Lounge in Philadelphia on September 1. As I mentioned, this a six piece band. The stage at Voltage can barely hold a four piece with any space, let alone six. But this is what bands sometimes have to do to gain a following. They have to play places like Voltage with zero amenities, no dressing room, an incredibly tight stage and terrible sight lines. Bands play these places, fans see them and hope they never have to actually move in a small crowded room or have to use the bathroom. But the Convalescence proved that they were significantly better than the meager, appalling venue and made the most of their limited time on stage.  

The band just released their third record in nearly as many years, entitled This is Hell and it’s their heaviest work to date. They’ve been promoting their recent albums incessantly to date touring with the likes of metal greats Prong, Sepultura, Goatwhore, Venom Inc. and Testament. Unfortunately, they’ve also toured with metal “never were greats” like Otep – but these are things you have to do sometimes to build your audience. Touring with Otep, I would imagine, is probably even worse than listening to Otep, so let’s give these folks from Toledo, Ohio some props.

I spoke with the entire band right after their Philly show in the back parking lot of the Voltage (again – no amenities) right after they clearly won some members of the tough Killadelphia crowd over with their energy and enthusiasm.

 

Band Lineup:
Keith:  vocals
Brandon:  guitar
Zac:  guitar
Ron:  bass
Charles:  drums
Katie:  keys/vocals

 

The new record sounds heavier than previous releases.  Was this a deliberate turn or did it happen organically?

Keith:  Yes, definitely deliberate.

Katie: We had a lot of member changes. With each album that we’ve done we’ve had a new set of ideas.  With this lineup we were about to sound a little bit different.

Brandon: We had a heavy influence on the album because of the Texas Death Metal Scene.

Keith:  It was more of a group effort than previous albums. We just book studio time and just play stuff until we leave.  

Ron:  We had them in our heads.  The guitar work was framed differently.  

Brandon:  On this album, “Burn” I wrote when I was 16 years old so that had been on the table for a while. One song I wrote in a day and it just showed up. Zach and I will show up.

Keith and Katie: The producer [John Burke] was really good.  The producer comes from a diverse background and brings in aspects of other genres and artists into our mix and songs. He was able to give us more depth in the past.  We don’t have to go line by line.

Ron: We all had the mindset that we had to knock it out.  We didn’t want an album that was going to be bullshit.  We fine tuned some songs we previously wrote.

Keith: One person would bring in a skeleton and then everyone would add to it.

Zac: It’s like building a house. Building with other people helping.  

Katie: We all have differences in other types of music.  I get inspiration from a totalluy different genre than metal.  We listen to death metal, hardcore, etc.  It was a group effort and we were all able to feed off one another’s ideas and make it.

Ron:  I’m a huge Hatebreed fan.  From a local scene, DRI came from Texas and they were a huge influence on me. Good Morning Gorgeous is a great band and we’ll be going out with the vocalist.  

Brandon: Gods of Death Screw. Nifelheim Terror was the band I originally wrote “Burned” for.  They scrapped it when they kicked me out. I joined Diminished and soon after was picked up by The Conv.  

Ron: I was in Dinner at Dahmer’s and things started [growing] apart. Got into grindcore and deathcore. I hit Brandon up as a guitarist for The Con.

Brandon:  Learned all the songs in a week.

Zac: These guys came up to your house July 1, 2016 and we went through the songs and they got them down so quick. We just kind of progressed from there. A new dawn. I’m not going anywhere.

 

You guys have played well over 400 shows in the past few years yet your energy and intensity on stage is unmistakably high and incredibly contagious.  How do you keep your motivation and energy up through these massive treks through the US?

Keith: Adrenaline.

Katie: It’s a natural high.

Brandon: It’s put up or shut up and you try and do what you can. You gotta work.

Keith: You’re put in front of a bunch of people who’ve never seen you before and we try and do as much as we can.  We need to get merch.  Bands rely on merch to eat and be able to buy gas and pay the bills.  You want to really put on a great show and then hope people want to buy your merch.

{Writr’s note:  Voltage Lounge – you have to have a better place for merch tables.  You can’t put merch tables in a remote area of the building that nobody even sees.  The merch might as well have been in New Jersey.  I couldn’t even get up the tables to see what was being sold}

Charles: We all have our own personal problems and issues at home and when we get on stage, that 30 mins really makes it worth all the trouble.

Zac: It’s our escape.

Brandon: When we’re pissed off at eachother that’s when we’re the best.  My mindset is that we have to compete with the headliner.  You better be top notch.  You have to prove why you’re there.

Keith:  We have corpsepaint.  That makes it feel special.  We give the people a show. We want to give them an intense show.  

 

What was it like playing with legends like Testament, Sepultura and Prong?

All:  A dream come true.  It was crazy.  

Katie:  I fan girled so hard (to myself).

Keith:  My Dad has a Testament tattoo so I was really into it.  

Charles:  Even the crew was really nice.  Everyone was so nice on that tour.

Brandon:  For me I was just stoked to be touring with half of Death!

 

One of aspects that people constantly talk about when it comes to the Convalescence is the incredible mixing and sound quality of your recordings.  How do you and your sound team go about engineering the album and ensuring that all the nuances and technical aspects come out in the final mix?

Ron: We put the guitars down and get them to sound as great as they can. Then bass and then drums. We adjust all scratch tracks and try and refabricate and get the tone that we actually use live. Brandon is a very clean guitar player so that helps a lot. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

Keith: Our producer doesn’t fuck around and he says ‘do it until its right.’ Our mastering and mixing team (Christian Donaldson) is top notch. Poison Words came out great for what it was. We love our producer’s ideas so much so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

 

A lot of keyboard warriors have criticized the “Scum” video.  Can you tell us what that video is really about?

Katie:  Yes.  It’s a horror movie.  The girl always gets killed in the end (in slasher horror flicks).

Keith:  We’re not trying to glorify anything. It wasn’t meant to be anything more than a horror show. The actress is our merch person and she volunteered for it. We just made a brutal type of horror film. We’re against violence against women. 90% of everything that comes out of people on the internet is just people talking shit. Nobody wants to give new music a chance and everybody wants to talk shit.  Everyone is tough behind the keyboard.

Katie:  There’s a female in the band too!  {Note:  Katie is a female in the band} I mean, we put on a show.  That’s our intended purpose.  Everyone always has to formulate their own importance to someone or something that is just wrong.  But our video actually shows that violence against women is shocking and appalling.

Ron:  We only have one official video like this and people are not used to seeing a deathcore band in corpsepaint. So people talk.  

Keith:  We put out the lyric video for “Burn” and nobody complained.

Brandon:  A lot of the songs on the album are way darker than “Scum.”

 

How did you get started with the corpse paint?

Keith: We wanted to do an actual show and be more than just jeans and t-shirts doing metal. So many bands don’t put on much of a show.  You can buy a CD and listen to music.  You don’t need to see that live. People want a show. I grew up listening to Zombie, Marilyn Manson and the music and image worked together. First Slipknot show was one of the best shows of my life.  That shit was nuts. I saw Sid jump off the scaffolding in the arena and was like ‘Oh my God!’ I want to give people a show about the music. We went with the corpse paint as part of the show.  

 

Are you all fans of KISS and King Diamond?

Keith: We played with King Diamond and I was so happy and I never even thought I would get to see King Diamond.  

Ron:  I would love to go golfing with Chuck Billy at least once. {Writer’s Note:  I’m sending this to Chuck Billy.}

 

Your record Poison Words tackles the issue of speech. How important is the right to free speech and free expression in metal today? Where do you stand on the right to free artistic creation without the risk of being shut down?

Keith: It’s always been important in metal. It’s part of what metal’s about. People with a different opinion… and people that don’t fit in.  

Ron: With social media everyone is bashing someone. Poison Words is about not being afraid to say what you stand for.  Katie:  The way Keith writes his lyrics….  people can interpret the lyrics for themselves and people can find their own meaning for themselves.  That is crucial.  It gives us diehard fans and we reach them in a way that’s personalized to them.

 

How were you able to hook up with Coki Greenway for the new album cover?

Keith: Through Unique Leader. We liked our last artist but we wanted something a little more in depth for this record.  

 

Anything else to share?

Thanks to fans!   Always for the fans!  We just had that new album drop.  Pick it up help us get where we’re going.  We want to grow better as a unit.  The band isn’t just about us anymore.  It’s fans every where.  Everyone is a part of this… manager…. label… fans….  everyone pushing hard.

We’ve gained some new fans on these tours!

And they certainly have gained new fans.  A pleasure to interview this exciting young band.  I really like these folks, they are incredibly friendly, very down to earth, and very respectful of other metal bands.  Its clear that they love metal and love what they do.  You have to respect a band that isn’t afraid to work and really grind it out to make it.  If deathcore is your thing, or even some of the newer death metal out there as well metalcore, definitely check this band.  Tickets on their tours are cheap and you will have a good time.

 

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