Interview by Melissa from Profane Existence
War//Plague has just released their debut full length album On A Darker Dawn. There is a progression and growth about the new album in comparison to their last release. There’s a unique and cohesive theme and sound to this album that must have taken a lot of time and hard work. Previous bands of War//Plague are Provoked, Calloused and Pontius Pilate. They’re pleasing to listen to both live and on plastic. The new album is breathtaking and if you haven’t bought yourself a copy yet, you’re missing out. Profane Existence intern, Melissa, recently got a chance to ask the band some questions for CVLT Nation and this is what they had to say.
Lefton – vocals / guitar
Luts – vocals / guitar / artist (album cover)
Sam – bass / vocals
Chad – drums
On a Darker Dawn is your first full length album and follow up to your split 12” with Police Bastard. This album seems to have a cohesive theme to it. I couldn’t help but notice a lot of flies, both visually and in the audio. Can you explain this?
Lefton: It’s a theme that keeps with the band’s title and overall outlook as a whole. I personally see it as semblance of our world. Rotting, plagued by humans that devour the Earth’s natural resources, self-destruction and no will to empower ourselves to make this a better place. Rather, some of us rely on our individual experience and moral compass to guide us to a better path and hopefully a better world.
Lutz: We really wanted the album to feel ‘whole’ and connect the art and music. I think the flies can be interpreted in many different ways. But, I believe many people see them as disease spreading nuisances. They feed off the dead, eat shit, are annoying and generally unpleasant creatures. You can see the context there.
Sam: I was really excited about the artwork Lutz did, as I am virtually obsessed with the notions of decay, entropy, and erosion in a philosophical sense. These are the final truths of life and deserve to be explored – sorry, too much Bataille in my system at any given time. But to have a mild representation of that in our artwork is pretty great, and easily fit within some of the lyrical themes.
Lutz, can you tell us a bit about the new album’s artwork?
Lutz: Well, as mentioned, the art was meant to help create a theme. I wanted to create something a bit more ‘organic’ feeling, so I decided to use more charcoal and ink, rather than attempting to create something computer-based. The idea for the cover (and back) stemmed from our name and the song ‘Crusher’ on the album. The cover, in short, is death spreading plague. I wanted his cloak to feel like ‘tar’ and disease, with the flies circling and coming out of the filth. In regards to it tying to our name – I think we all look at war as a plague or disease that spreads rapidly and affects everyone. With that said, I also wanted to try and create something memorable and somewhat different. Something that would stick out a bit more in a sea of black and white albums; while still playing on the themes that are familiar in our genre. I mean, who doesn’t like skulls, right? (haha)
It’s interesting how you’ve used two different images of flies in order to identify who wrote each song. Do you write the lyrics initially then add instruments or vice versa?
Lefton: Actually, it’s both a fly and flea to coincide with the “plague” theme. Lutz did the layout, so this was his doing and can explain his intentions.
Lutz: (one is a fly and the other a flea) We create the music first, something that can take weeks or just a few practices. After the 4 of us are satisfied with the song, we write lyrics and start fitting them into the song. This time around, Sam and myself took on the lyric duties and really started connecting the dots, to continue the albums theme, and still add some graphic interest to the insert, the bugs help differentiate who wrote those particular lyrics. I think it’s worked well and really become a collaborative process.
Sam: In most instances, for me, we’ve already written the music to the song. So I just sit down and write out (and then edit) whatever frustrations or struggles I have swimming around in my head with no concern for where they will be in the song aside from trying to fit it roughly for length. Since Lutz does the majority of the vocals, he puts the vocals where he sees fit. I usually keep a verse or a couple of lines that could be cut, if needed, or let him know the part I had intended to be the chorus or bridge.
So within the past couple of years, Chris left the band and you guys now have Chad on drums. How has Chad’s drumming changed or progressed your sound since his inception? Did your musical development change since the exchange of these two great, but diverse talents? Chad, has playing in this project brought any diversity or challenges to your style of playing? Also, since you’ve known the others for so many years, has this specific group made you satisfied with where you’re at musically?
Lefton: Obviously, Chad can answer most of this. I would like to say that his ability has brought our band and “family” closer to what we’ve always been shooting for. Chad coming into the mix definitely brought us to where we want to be. No doubt about it.
Chad: As a drummer, I’m constantly pushing my abilities to new heights, and joining War//Plague has been nothing short of challenging for me. I sort of took a step away from the Punk/crust style of drumming to challenge myself with other interests musically, and I feel that during that whole process it’s led me back to my first love of aggressive, crusty D-beat battery! Only this time around, I feel like I have a much better grip on how to better articulate my thoughts and actually compose rather than react (reacting is not always a bad thing!). When I first heard the band, I had different tempos in mind right away to what they were doing. I always thought, “hey, that would sound sick as hell if it only had a double roll kick tempo instead!” Then, when I was finally in and we would sit around talking about beats and what not, turns out I was right, (they likey the heavy!) everyone was on the same page as me with that! This is not always the case for those of you who do not understand my enthusiasm. We started writing pretty much right away and shit just clicked! I couldn’t be happier playing in a band with old friends and all having the same agenda for once!
Lutz: I think the music is always evolving, but Chad joining the group has definitely helped progress things. We also were still developing what and where we musically wanted to go in the early days. When Chad joined, things clicked from the first practice. I’m satisfied where we are musically, and at the same time, I’m excited to keep pushing things forward to see what happens. I feel like our sound has really sharpened in the last few years.
Sam: The whole sound of the band changed. If you listen to the split with Police Bastard and then compare it with On a Darker Dawn, it’s like two different bands, but with similar roots. Now that doesn’t only have to do with Chad joining the band, as we also spent a lot more time writing and editing the new material, but it certainly was a huge part of the evolution of our sound. It also presented me with the challenge of learning to play with a drummer whose style is quite different than Chris’ was. I think the new album also reflects the growth of the whole band learning how to play together in a new way. And with the new-new (unrecorded) stuff, don’t even get me fucking started!
Whose idea was it to have Al (Nausea) and Jon (Misery) on backing vocals for the “Holy Blood” track?
Lefton: Ha! We were going into the studio on some weekend and I was hanging with Jon and Al the previous days and mentioned we were recording. Jon stepped in and asked if he could swing by. It all kind of started there, and lo and behold, guess who comes knocking on the studio door. The rest is history. It’s been great having Al back and getting involved again. His head is definitely in the right place. Needless to say, Jon is a person that the world can take an example from. Kind heart, good mind and great friend.
Sam: Al actually almost didn’t do it, he was feeling kind of sick and didn’t want to not hit it 100%, but we goaded him into it and he kicked the shit out of that track. It worked out well and they really filled out that part of the song. They did a great job. Honestly, it was sort of a dream come true to have a John Misery and Al of Nausea fame be a part of this album, much less do backing vocals on a song I wrote the lyrics to.
Lutz: I think our friend ‘Two Gingers’ whiskey helped too. (haha)
To me it seems that aggressive music in general, regardless of genre, has skewed itself toward a more “experimental” way of development. Bands such as Morne and Tragedy seem to be experimenting with more levels of sound effects and melodies as opposed to the standard run-of-the-mill construct of traditional crust punk music. Do you feel that this new era of experimentation has had any effect on War//Plague’s musical development?
Lutz: I like both of those bands, they have unique sounds, but I don’t want to sound like them. I think that’s a problem with a lot of bands, they try to mimic these other bands too much, which I feel can be counterproductive. I’m sure someone out there could say the same about us, but we’ve always tried to play what comes natural; granted, it’s influenced by something – everyone is influenced or inspired by something. But yeah, I like to experiment with sound and music, and I think that’s what being in a band is about – trying to create something new, whether you fail or not. Anyway, I don’t know if I’d go as far to call us ‘experimental’, but we definitely draw influence from everything punk to metal, thrash to postpunk, tribal to ambient, and so on.
Lefton: I would say that we may have some elements of that nature, but in the same instance we aren’t going out of our way to “be something” or to reach for a different style or structure. We’ve always done what we do naturally and organically. Never went “Hey, let’s take this route” and become flavor of the month. We’ve always wanted to do something more dynamic, but due to previous projects, whatever it may have been, limited us due to opinions, talents, etc. Don’t get me wrong, personally I love the D-beat genre and all other realms of punk, hardcore, crust, etc. But when I pick up the guitar, I feel a need to challenge myself a little more. Lemmy said something along the lines of “when the punks learn to play their instruments, they’ll play metal”…Ha! Although I’m not too keen on the term metal, he’s got a point!
Sam: I think, if anything, what it’s done is make it more acceptable to step outside of the realm of a ‘traditional’ crust sound, which is fucking great – and necessary. Fuck the ghetto of punk scene traditionalism. Music should constantly be evolving, stagnation is creative death. No one in this band only listens to crust or punk. If you were to ask each of us our musical influences, you’d get a huge list of genres and styles, and this diversity of influence is reflected in the music we write. Also, I love the term – and the musical world of – Metal, just to clarify.
Do you have any plans for touring or are you sticking to shows in Minneapolis for now?
Lutz: As time moves on, eventually War//Plague will start spreading out of the midwest. It’s just really hard to say when…
Lefton: Ultimately, we would absolutely love to tour. It’s in our blood, but due to each of our obligations, it’s difficult to arrange something at this point. It’ll happen, but probably won’t be in the context of how we used to do it back in the day, like in Provoked or Calloused, etc. 44 gigs in 45 days. That’s just not feasible, since you just come back annoyed at each other. It’s much more realistic to do a 10 day tour for instance, just to hit the ground running for that duration and come back still loving each other and wanting more, ha ha! As for local gigs? Yes, we’ll definitely be doing this for ages. We’ve been really doing quite a bit locally and are already finishing up some new material for our next recording this year. So finding that balance between playing live and focusing on writing is usually sensitive, considering some of us have families, dedicated jobs, etc.
Sam: I know we’d all love to tour, but it just isn’t in the cards right now – someday hopefully! I do like the idea of playing one of the bigger punk/metal fests that happen every year, but like Leffer said, the logistics of it all just make it pretty difficult. We’re trying to get into playing out in Minneapolis more. When we played our first show of the summer, it had actually been like 9 months since we had last played, which is way too fucking long. Granted, we were busy recording, mixing, and writing a new album, but I’d still like to avoid a dry spell like that again.
Could each of you give a general idea of the future of War//Plague and what you would like to see as the next phase in your musical development, i.e. what would you like to accomplish in the future of War//Plague?
Chad: Writing, recording, shows! Pretty much the same thing we always do, only heavier.
Sam: I feel damn good about what we’ve done and where we’re going, but it is important to me that we don’t become too comfortable and just keep doing the same things over and over again. I’d like to keep evolving and incorporating different sounds and textures into our music; to expand more on the themes we’ve written about, and bring in new ideas; but most importantly, to do some totally new things (for us, at least). And I mean this in terms of all possible routes: live shows, song writing, album artwork and packaging, lyrical content. It hit me yesterday that we’ve been a band for something like 4.5 years, and in that time we’ve been able to do some cool shit. If nothing else, I’d just like to continue writing music, putting out records, and playing shows that we are all proud of. I guess it’s pretty simple.
Lefton: Writing, writing, writing!…and play gigs. We go at our own pace and this ensures we don’t burn out and become annoyed at each other. I don’t want us to fall by the wayside because we had to rush into anything. We’ve learned from the past and we just move forward. We’re also here as punks, and for me that means sticking to our roots, both mentally and emotionally. The world at large is a very dangerous and unstable environment, and I feel we’re here to keep our own sanity and also to show what a nasty place this can be. Through our writing, I hope folks can hear the music and read the words and understand that it’s vital we think smarter and empower ourselves to not become a drone and fall into this shallow world of hate, greed, war and the other elements that have brought us here. The music is a great outlet for me and I couldn’t be any happier with where we’re at.
Lutz: I’d personally like to keep working on making our sound bigger and better. For instance, working with more effects and outsider sounds, making things heavier and heavier. I just wanna keep working on putting out better material with each new record, while at the same time improving our live performances with every show. We don’t play out often, but I think it’s about quality over quantity, ya know? We learned a lot about frequencies, acoustics and tones this last year. I think that is another thing that will help us grow.
Lefton, you recently got married inside a castle in Scotland. What was your reason to be wed there?
Lefton: Yes! Terral and I did get hitched in Scotland. It’s difficult to put into words how amazing that area of the world is. Our reasons for going overseas varies, but in a nutshell, we didn’t really want to be a part of the whole American tradition of marriage (plus, we always have the travel bug). I mean, both of us never, EVER intended on this to happen. We oppose all traditional values in marriage, we oppose all religious aspects and assimilated standards of getting married. So…why did we then? It’s strange…Terral said to me one day “I don’t want to call you my boyfriend forever”. She’s my best friend and it just made sense. That’s when we would joke around, laugh about it, but internally, the ball started rolling. We wanted to get out of here and go somewhere, where there was no family stress, no sense of obligations. It worked out, and was an incredible experience. We had a small civil ceremony in the little quaint castle in Oban called Barcaldine (or the Black castle….go figure) and it was perfect. We feel a closer bond due to it.
Working with Profane Existence must be exciting. As an intern for Profane, I have grown up listening to the bands Profane Existence has put out whom I idolize. What’s your relationship been like with Profane Existence throughout the years, as a band living in the same city as PE?
Lefton: First off, welcome Melissa to the PE family! PE has had it’s ups and downs, but that’s natural for some thing of this nature. There will always be naysayers abroad, but ultimately PE has come to fruition as a great resource for the DIY punk underground and has always persevered. We thank Dan for all his years of dedication and commitment. For those who know Dan, they know he’s an ace individual and his heart’s in the right place. For War//Plague, it is our second release on PE, but for Lutz and I, it’s our 4th or 5th….lost count, HA! Our relationship with PE is strong and Dan, Ben and all involved know our hearts and minds belong to the DIY nature of the punk community. I moved here many moons ago to be involved with what happens here in Mpls, PE, etc and it has been a great journey and appreciate all that goes into the whole realm of it. PE has supported us and all the projects we’ve been involved with and we thank the PE family for all it’s efforts and energy into bringing what we feel to life and music. Cheers to you all for that!
Lutz: The relationship with PE has been great through the years. They’ve always been very supportive of us and really gave War//Plague a chance. The Twin Cities has definitely gone through changes through the years, as has PE, but it’s great they are still here and going strong. MPLS wouldn’t be the same without them, imo. I hope the relationship between PE and the band is one that continues for years to come. Thanks to for the interview Melissa! And thanks to CVLT Nation and PE!
Sam: That same thing sort of happened to me. I had been listening to PE bands for a long fucking time, and a number of years ago a did a short stint as a volunteer at PE Headquarters, stuffing records and whatnot. PE have been a wonderful resource for the local, as well as international, DIY community. Great stuff. Good job folks!
Lefton: Yes! Thanks Melissa, PE and CVLT Nation for supporting the global punk community and for keeping our world so strong and genuine. Cheers!