Interview: Loma Prieta

Loma Prieta is a band of consistency. Having released four 12″ releases in just over four years, the band is committed to routinely writing, recording, and releasing music, and yet its members remain humble about their already-extensive output, hesitating to identify any of these 15 to 24-minute releases as “LPs.” I.V., the band’s Deathwish Inc. debut, further establishes Loma Prieta as an unstoppable force within the realm of hardcore. Embodying elements of screamo, emo violence, and traditional hardcore, the band’s sound is difficult to pigeonhole, as I.V. explores a diverse array of melody, distortion, grittiness, and experimentation, with many of these characteristics overlapping in a unique manner. I spoke to the band in Hamden, Connecticut, to discuss the record and the unrelenting drive that informed its creation.

This first question is just for clarification. Do you refer to the title of the record as “I.V.” (as in the two-letter abbreviation) or “I.V.” (the roman number for “four”), or is it both? What is the title’s thematic significance? 

SEAN: It is “I.V.” (the two-letter abbreviation). It definitely was never intended to be “Four,” but it seemed like a cool ambiguity, I guess. I’ll leave it at that.

BRIAN: I didn’t even realize that it was the fourth LP, also.

SEAN: It’s not.

VAL: It’s not the fourth twelve-inch.

SEAN: Do we even have any LPs? I have no idea. What’s the distinction between…

VAL: I think technically we don’t have any LPs within the constraints of what an LP is supposed to be. There’s a certain time limit for when you cross the threshold from EP to LP, and I think technically we’ve never done an LP.

SEAN: It would be too punishing, listening to us for more than forty minutes.

I.V. contains a second sequence of Trilogy songs, following the first three songs that appeared on Last City. Are all six songs connected conceptually? 

SEAN: No. The concept was just to try and create something that was, not like a mirror image, but we were trying to do a trilogy that was playing off of the other trilogy in the opposite sense, something completely harsh. I think the original one went from something really chaotic to something beautiful, and this one was meant to start nice and get ugly.

Lyrically, I.V. is much less abstract than your earlier work. “Biography,” in particular, is very personal. Has anything specific informed the relatively more direct songwriting? 

SEAN: I don’t think so. “Biography” covers a similar topic that a lot of the songs have. There has been no conscious effort to change the way that we write songs. Everything comes out as it does. I can’t say that there’s been any intent to shift the way that we write, musically or lyrically or anything else. It’s just probably about life shifts and creative influences and everything else. It’s not intentional, I don’t think, as far as that song…

BRIAN: I think this is the first record that had any songs that I sang on where I wrote all the lyrics. My personal writing style is way different than Sean’s. On Life/Less, Sean and I wrote collectively on a lot of the music and the lyrics. We didn’t talk to each other about it, but we were on the same page with everything, and with this record, there was definitely songs that both of us went into saying, “This is the lyrics for this song,” and I think that dictated how those lyrics turned out in the long run.

On I.V., you again worked with producer Jack Shirley, who also engineered Dark Mountain, Life/Less, and releases from some of your guys’ previous bands. Do you feel that he has come to be a critical component of helping define the band’s progressing sound? 

SEAN: To some degree, yeah.

BRIAN: I would say that what he does that helps us progress is he lets us do whatever we want. I feel like a lot of engineers are there with an idea of what they do and how they’re going to work with you, and when we work with Jack, it’s just free reign over whatever we want. There’s no idea that’s too crazy with him. It’s fun for him to work with us because he gets to do something that’s a little bit different than what he normally does.

VAL: When we have an idea, none of us know how to record music, so he knows how to do it technically. We’ll come to him and say, “We have this thing that we want to do,” and a lot of other engineers or producers would be like, “Oh, well, you can’t really do that, because it’s going to break my equipment,” whereas Jack will let us do stuff like that.

It was announced in October that Loma Prieta had signed to Deathwish Records. Can you talk about how the signing came about?

VAL: Tre (McCarthy) and myself had been working on other musical projects, and he was particularly interested in the record label, Discos Huelga, that we do, and Loma Prieta was one of the bands that he had heard of that we had done records for, and he didn’t realize that they were actually pretty much self-released records that Brian and I were in, both Punch and Loma Prieta. Punch had just done a record on Deathwish. I think one day Tre was kind of like, “Hey, are you in any other bands that I need to know about?” And so I was like, “Oh, yeah, here’s a bunch of bands that I do.” Now at this point, Tre has put out three different bands that I’m personally in. So I think that’s how that came about. He had apparently been a fan of the band but didn’t know anything about us, or who was in it, or who we were, or where we were from, or anything like that, so he was stoked to find out that it was me and Brian.

Did the Deathwish signing alter your approach to I.V. in any way? The record is, for example, significantly longer than the two previous full-lengths. At the point of the signing, how much of the record had been completed? 

VAL: The record was completely done by the time that Deathwish…

SEAN: It was recorded, mixed, mastered, before there was even a conversation. As I recall, we were essentially just waiting on the art, and then they took interest, so we sent them over a mix.

BRIAN: In the Loma Prieta trend, the last four years we’ve written a record about a month before we leave for tour, and since we put it out ourselves, we write it, send it to print, and we have it for our tour. That was the plan for this time also. We ended up doing two U.S. tours without a record because we were waiting to see what was going to happen with it. If we would’ve put it out, it would’ve came out in June of last year, but it didn’t come out until January of 2012. I’m glad that you asked that question, because once you’re on a record label, people view the band through the eyes of the name of the label. We just write music for ourselves; I think that if we would’ve put it out on some other label, they would’ve said, “Oh, it sounds like it was written for this particular label.” That’s just what people say. We just did the same thing that we always do. We just write music that we feel inspired by and we feel passionate about. It happened to be this one that is the one that is showcased on Deathwish.

Both the “Fly By Night” and “Trilogy 4” videos were directed by Evan Henkel. How were your experiences working with him, and will there be any additional music videos? 

JAKE: Filmed by Evan Henkel.

BRIAN: I’ve known Evan since I was in high school. Our bands played together ten years ago. He recently went back to school for video production. I’m not sure of his exact major, but he kind of approached us. He wanted to just come hang out and film. We like Evan as a person. He’s our friend. We didn’t go into it looking for music videos. He pretty much just wanted to come along and have fun and film us for fun. We played a lot of really interesting spaces on that tour, and he got some really cool footage. He kind of pitched it to us, and yeah, we really liked how it came out. We worked back and forth, editing and throwing ideas around, and the first one came out for “Trilogy 4.” After that, he wanted to do a real music video, but we were gone still, so he used more live footage for that instead. And then we just did another video with him of a live session at Panda Studios. It’s a live set that we played, and it’s for a series that he does called The Waiting Room.

Parts of I.V. remind me, musically, of Converge. In “Uniform,” there’s even the lyric, “No love, no hope,” which is notable for also being a lyric from the Converge song “Homewrecker.” Is the line an intentional nod to the band? 

BRIAN: When you write hardcore songs, there are certain topics that a lot of people talk about. I was angry. That’s what I wanted to say. I feel like you could easily link every topic on half the hardcore records that exist to some other hardcore record.

VAL: Or to Converge.

BRIAN: Or to Converge. Those guys have been around forever. That band has been a band for as long as I’ve been alive. It’s hard to not have some kind of overlap.

SEAN: It happens every time you put out a record. It’s hard to not accidentally tread on something that’s already been done. When “Fly By Night” came out, everyone was like, “There’s already a Rush song called ‘Fly By Night.’ I had no idea. I like prog-rock. I’m sure I’ve heard that song. I don’t know the title. It’s very difficult, because to me that meant something very personal. These things happen. There’s sort of a collective consciousness about art. It’s fun to have it pointed out to you. Like in the heat of the moment, when I was writing, that was what came to me. Obviously you never want to plagiarize.

BRIAN: And those are the most basic words to use for the emotions that we were trying to talk about. I don’t know. I definitely love them and respect them as musicians, I just wasn’t at the time very familiar with their lyrics. It’s funny now, though.

JAKE: Thanks, dudes! Thanks for everything!

Brian, you’ve mentioned that you run an art label, a t-shirt line, and a merch distribution company. With such a busy tour schedule in 2012, how do you manage to balance your time among all of these pursuits? 

JAKE: He doesn’t.

BRIAN: Well, there are a lot of people that are angry. It’s funny, because I think half the kids know that it is just me that does everything, and they’re more than happy to wait a week or two or three or whatever, and then there’s the other group of people where it’s like their moms buying it, which is awesome, but they think that it’s Amazon, and they expect it to be there with like a confirmation e-mail and tracking number and all this stuff. Now I’m at the point where I’m just paying somebody at home to do it while I’m gone. I’m gone for this tour two and a half months, so I can’t just shut it down. At this point, I don’t make any money doing it. Somebody else is helping me facilitate my hobbies. As long as they keep going, that’s all that I care about. I’m not doing it for the money. For me, I started both stores to support bands that I was in, and then it grew into doing a larger distribution company. And then I went to art school, and I wanted to support other artists, so I started doing that, and then since we tour so much, I was feeling that my creative outlets were very limited, so I started the t-shirt line. It’s all things that I want to do just to do. It’s not like a career, or some kind of money-making plan. It’s just things that I’m inspired to do at the moment. As long as they get to keep going, that’s what makes me happy.

I.V. is your fourth full-length in just about five years. What makes you guys so driven, in terms of producing new material so regularly? 

SEAN: We just can’t stop writing music anytime that we have free time.

VAL: We’re full of beats, dude.

SEAN: As far as any of us are concerned, we’re just full of ideas.

JAKE: New record coming out soon, keep an eye out!

SEAN: I’m sure that, between us, we have like ten albums’ worth of shit just shelved, waiting.

VAL: We were on this cycle for a long time where it’s like, any tour we do, you need a new album, you know?

SEAN: We always had it on deck, essentially.

VAL: That’s how it would always work. We’d spend a month woodshedding, and record for two days, and then immediately put it out, and then tour on it. This past year has been the first time that we’ve toured on the same older material, and it was rewarding in its own way. There was a time, for me personally, in the band, when I felt like I was most comfortable in the studio, recording, being creative there. I’m enjoying playing live a lot right now. It’s gonna be a little bit more difficult now to find time to actually sit down and write and record a new thing, but I think we’ll find some time that works for all of us soon.

On that note, do you expect the fifth Loma Prieta full-length to be as immediate in its eventual release, or will you give it some more time before you return to writing and recording again?

BRIAN: We already have — well, not for a full length — we’ve all been cooped up in the van for almost a year. It’s funny, now that I’m on tour, I play guitar less than I do when I’m at home. All of us feel like we have a lot of stuff that we want to just do that is different. After this tour, we’re going to try and just go home and start writing new music just for fun. We never really go into it looking for a certain record, like, “This is going to be an LP or a seven-inch.” It just kind of comes out, whatever we have time for. It’s something we haven’t done in a while. Whenever you’re excited about something, that’s when it turns out the best. I think this is going to be an interesting next step for us.

Is there anything else you guys would like to add?

JAKE: Discos Huelga, lots of records coming out this year.

SEAN: Hxcmerch.com.

Thank you to Brian, Val, Sean, and Jake. Two days from now, Loma Prieta will embark upon a tour with Converge, with additional support from Burning Love, Git Some, and Pianos Become the Teeth along the way. I.V., which remains my current favorite record of this year, is available now on Deathwish Inc.

About Anthony Glaser

Interviews editor at National Underground. Freelancing music journalist. View all posts by Anthony Glaser

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