Toronto's eyeswithoutaface were one of the first bands I interviewed for this blog - but don't hold that against them. Their eclectic style fuses music from opposite ends of the spectrum, and is never less than gut-wrenchingly heavy. With a new split EP out and a new album in the works, it felt like a good time to hit them up again and see what they've been up to all this while. I fired off some questions, which vocalist Max Deneau and guitarist Mike Szarejko were kind enough to answer.
MAX: Hey Adrian! It sure has, but I suppose in that time we had very little to report on the EWAF front, although most of us have kept fairly busy with other projects and music-related endeavours. We did a couple of summers worth of short-run touring in support of Warguts as well as a handful of regional shows. Somewhere in that time the music for the IRN split was finalized, but was held back from release due to the label originally committed to a cassette run dropping out, as well as the material on both sides going through some additional recording and mixing once it became clear that we would likely self-release the split and weren't working with any sort of deadline. Over the course of this period, music was being slowly demoed for our third full-length, but only now that the split has come out have we really settled into buckling down and finishing the album. In the meantime, Tuka (Shahidi, current drummer/former bassist) has been busy with a couple of other projects I do vocals for, Homolka and Witches From Everywhere, both of which are more in the grindcore vein. He also recorded drums for Kosmograd's second full-length and joined Ancress, a new-ish project with our Homolka bassist Scott (Tessier, also of The Isoceles Project) and a couple of the dudes from Vilipend and Titan that just dropped two EPs this year. All of these projects have remained pretty active locally although not so much outside of Eastern Canada.
Tuka and Neal (Poirer, drums) of Witches From Everywhere also have another grind project called Truth of All Death that are doing a couple of weeks of touring in the US in August and September.
As far as releases I've personally played on, Witches From Everywhere put out splits with Beggin For Oxys and Deceiver. My other band John XII just put out our first full-length, Depraved Indifference, which is more of a sort of metallic hardcore thing, and have been playing some regional gigs to support that. Homolka remains largely dormant for the time being besides the occasional gig, although there may be a new release later this year if all goes as planned. Mike (Szarejko, guitarist/electronics) remains busy as always producing, and recently tracked some new material for his electronic/punk project tig.erve nom. Justin (Boehm, bassist) has been more focused on work and other unrelated ventures. Strangely enough, despite what may seem like a lot of activity on my end, there has been a lot less gigging the last few months which has led me to focus more on promoting shows as of late.
MIKE: Most of the music on this split was written on a minimal set up in order to try and get away from over-thinking and over-indulging: A laptop with a single amp simulator pedal and very basic on board effects.
MAX: IRN's first show was with eyeswithoutaface quite some time ago and since then we have toured together and stayed in touch. A couple of the members I knew from their other projects over the years, but I'd say our bands emerged around the same time and ended up playing on a fair amount of the same bills. The idea for the split has been thrown around for a long time, and since we were going to be doing it with such a punishing band, we figured we'd do a release that was fairly swampy and doom-centric. One song (“Free”) was actually written around when we were working on Monotoneoteny, and has remained pretty much the same in that time, while “Spring” and “Fall” were written for the split. I suggested doing the “Skates” cover as we had never recorded one before and I felt it made sense thematically with the material we already had, and I believe that was the song we recorded vocals for first. I think that while we wanted to keep it pretty heavy for this release, there was also a general desire to not repeat ourselves and branch into new territory – vocally I think I pushed myself to incorporate a broader range of melody and textural detail while also experimenting a bit with a more death/doom inspired delivery for some of the louder bits.
Mike recorded all of the music for it, besides some additional percussion on “Fall” that Tuka tracked, and really knocked it out of the park from a songwriting and production standpoint, in my opinion. I think maybe “Spring” is my favourite song we have done up until now. The Hayden song we covered is last on our side and acts as a sort of coda to the trilogy of originals lyrically, depicting a future where a relationship ends tragically after decades rather than in its infancy. By doing this I hoped to illustrate a sense of timeless and cyclical futility, but also to try and capture the vibrancy and celebration inherent in the process rather than a destination which offers little comfort in either possible reality. I had recently watched Kim Ki-Duk's Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring as well as read Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being which were the main inspiration behind the structure and themes.
MIKE: Nameless Dread (Andrew Nolan of Scalp Elevator and Intensive Care, formerly Column of Heaven/The Endless Blockade) was someone who remixed tracks for us on the first record. His remixes have been successful in recontextualizing our band within a more noisy, experimental, and classically industrial sound. It was no-brainer to have him back. The First Seed is a friend with a knack for making drums quake. His name came up right away to remix such a rhythm-centric tune. We constantly try and pepper our hip hop influences into our material and it made us feel very free to bring that full circle with the help of Jack Moves on “Friends Come True”.
MAX: Although we are often described as industrial metal or some sort of sludge, I think our most dominant influences are probably hip hop artists and various rock, metal and hardcore bands from the 90s. This release definitely draws a bit from both ends of that, as the format is somewhat inspired by all of those non-LP Nine Inch Nails releases that a couple of us religiously collected growing up, as well as the generally dead “CD maxi-single” format. While there are a lot of hip hop-inspired rhythms, samples and nerdy references in our music already, we had wanted to do something with full-blown rapping in it for a while. I had previously recorded some verses over a Killer Mike beat with our friend Mike Simpson of Godstopper, so doing another collaboration seemed to make the most sense – in order to build the beat Mike (Szarejko) sourced samples from “Dead Friends” off of Warguts, which was also the source for most of the material on the EP. This is my personal favourite part of the release as I was pretty worried I would embarrass myself and I don't think I sound nearly as dorky as I could have. I am also super happy with the “Ringfinger” cover which takes a great tune I always thought could have used a bit more oomph productionwise and pretty much goes full Techno Animal with it.
DoC: What can you tell me about the next eyeswithoutaface album? How much of it is finished? What should we expect from it?
MAX: The album will be called The Garden of Terrifying Thought. Lyrically it moves away from the more outward-focused Warguts and will cover a wider range of thematic ground to match music that is a little bit less single-minded. I think the material on the IRN split laid the groundwork for some new territory I wanted to mine vocally, and you can definitely expect a more varied approach on my end all-around. The loose concept of the album is inspired somewhat by the nature of early memory, urban pilgrimage, non-traditional psychology and the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges.
MIKE: The structure and most of the music is in place. The recording of vocals has commenced. The music on the last record was very stream-of-consciousness, with spontaneous recording dictating how the songs were written. It was rare not to distort something. There is more planning this time around and the level of scrutiny is at an all-time high. Parts that might otherwise be awe-inspiring are cut without question if they do not serve a particular tune, and/or the record in general. The overall goal has been to make something more cinematic, dynamic and impressive in sonic quality.
DoC: Max, you also seem pretty active with Briefcase Show, Inc., which books gigs in the Toronto area.. How did Briefcase start? Do you have a focus on any specific style or genre, or are you open to anything heavy and underground?
MAX: Briefcase started maybe five years ago or so, mostly as a way for EWAF and our friends' bands to be able to book our own events. At the time there were a couple of people doing smaller heavy shows, but there was a severe lack of fully functional venues to play at and we didn't want to overburden the friends we did have who were decent enough to give us gigs on occasion as is. At the time it was myself and Yegor Zakharov (Homolka/Kosmograd guitarist/vocalist) handling the bookings, but in 2014 he moved on to other ventures (he also works for Inertia Entertainment among other event promoters, stage managing among other things) and I took over running it myself. By this point Briefcasefest was entering its third year and I had started working with more touring acts and on shows a bit larger in scale. A crucial turning point came around that time with the emergence of several new venues with more professional setups that were open to this sort of music such as Coalition and The Smiling Buddha - this made everyone's jobs easier by not having to wing a lot of our shows at random bars or places that were unfamiliar with and sometimes unfriendly to the community, although there were a handful of spots that did the best they could to accommodate us when few others would.
I think when we started out there was more of a focus on post-metal, sludge and hardcore in general, but as the years went on and especially since I fully took over we have done a lot more black, death and experimental shows as well. The annual Briefcasefest usually devotes some time to as wide a selection of genres as possible, although I try to stay away from stuff that a lot of other local promoters have carved a niche in. I'd say on the whole a lot of my gigs lean a bit towards the more avant-garde side of extreme metal and heavier hardcore or punk inspired genres, but I love pretty much all strains of heavy music (besides power metal) as well as a lot of things well outside of the umbrella, so I try to maintain a loose aesthetic without limiting what that can be too much.
It's funny because my flyers are all pretty stark and uniform while the shows they advertise are usually pretty colourful and eclectic, thanks mostly to the excellent smorgasbord of local talent out here!
DoC: What's next for you guys?
MAX: As far as Briefcase goes, you can definitely search us on Facebook or keep an eye out at the Toronto record shop Faith/Void for advance tickets as well as other info. 2017 will be the fifth anniversary of Briefcasefest as well as the sophomore annual Slave to the Grind Festival in conjunction with documentary filmmaker Doug Brown, so we are inevitably going to have a noteworthy year without even thinking that far ahead! Regarding EWAF, the focus right now is on completing the album with no shows planned. Since we have never been a full-time band with a traditional approach to live shows, anyone who is familiar us might expect this sort of vagueness at this point, but after going our longest stretch yet without releasing new material we feel like it is important to make that the priority right now.
You can order the split through either us or IRN directly on Bandcamp, as well as keep up with any further news and download our music free. Thanks again for your interest and to anyone who has supported us thus far.
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eyeswithoutaface on Bandcamp