The Banner is one of the greatest hardcore bands ever. Period. Don’t believe me? Pick up any one of their three albums, Your Murder Mixtape, Each Breath Haunted and Frailty, and you’ll be blissfully hating yourself or someone else by the end. Next month will see the release of the band’s first material since Frailty in 2008 with the release of Born to Ruin I, the first in a series of three. With the cassette’s release fast approaching, I took an afternoon to discuss the EP with vocalist Joey Southside, in addition to The Banner’s influences and recent adventures.
Born to Ruin I is almost upon us. What can you say about the cassette at this point, what can fans expect?
I can say that it’s six tracks and I guess I got a little bit out of my safety zone with this one. It’s nerve racking but I’m looking forward to seeing what people think.
So far, based on the tracks released last year like “Negative Zone” and “Lilith,” Born to Ruin I looks to be one of the band’s most unique releases yet. What new influences have found their way into The Banner’s sound?
I would say it’s more of our old influences becoming more prominent. “Negative Zone” was written the day Peter Steele passed away so that’s how I approached the vocals for that track, as an homage of sorts. That sort of just opened the flood gates for me just writing whatever the fuck I felt might not bore me to death. Plus the off chance of alienating our fans always appeals to me as a masochist.
The Steele influence in “Negative Zone” does add a gloomier flavor to the music, though fans should come to expect a different sound with each release. Frailty, for example, was “heavier” than the albums that came before it. Half a decade later what are your reflections on that record?
As the first record I wrote mostly alone and recorded just me and Will Putney the producer I wish I had been a little less intimidated and really pushed for some of the things I chickened out on. At the same time that record was really empowering and I think put me in the mindset that I was capable of creating the kind of music that I’m proud of and represents well what I’m shooting for.
The years since Frailty seemed to have been trying for the band, from a brief breakup to general lineup troubles. Is Born to Ruin a culmination of these tribulations?
The Banner is the culmination of those troubles. Our records, I feel very strongly, have only gotten better. Darker, heavier, uglier, faster, weirder: all the shit that represents what leads me to write the music. The only lineup troubles we ever have is me unable to find someone I think is up to the task of playing with us. The Banner is and always is me and to the extent he wishes to involve himself, Garrett (Defalco). Later on Paul (Klein) became the heart of the band and as it should be that heart was ripped out. So once again we are the heartbroken, scummy shitbags The Banner should be. That sounds negative against Paul and that is totally not my intent. Paul is the best human being I’ve ever met and him and his wife are the only flickering glimmer of hope I have for humanity. The stool behind our kit is always his and always will be when he wants it. You know when he’s not busy with his wigger rapcore band that is.
Has working on Born to Ruin allowed you to push further toward that goal?
Absolutely, I feel like I’m just going to push it to ten until we go off the rails.
Punk is Dead is fast approaching, what do you expect from your first show outside of the Northeast in so long? Can attendees expect new material live and some good oldies? Will there be any touring to follow?
I’m having a full on anxiety attack freckled with bursts of invincibility roars about the gig but that’s why Allah made whiskey I guess. We will be playing alot of old shit and one or two of the new shit and maybe a cover.We don’t tour, it’s just impossible we have jobs and dogs and manic depression so touring isn’t exactly a fruitful or healthy endeavor. We’re really only doing this gig to finally see Mel’s boobs in person, other than that if I wanted to scream in front of a bunch of people I’d just stay in Newark and get drunk outside the Home Depot.
On the subject covers, you released a cover of Zola Jesus’ “Night” last year, with the song’s lyrics having a fitting flavor. What brought this cover about and will there be any similar covers to come?
Basically, I was trying to learn the Logic software and dip my toes into writing more industrial styled song structures, I chose to try to cover that track as a bit of practice but it just seemed to come together so I decided to release it to the masses to see if anyone would get butt hurt. Unfortunately the feed back only ranged from tepid disinterest to positive…so that sucked.
What was the decision behind releasing Born to Ruin I on cassette and what your thoughts on the medium’s comeback?
I like any medium that gives a big insert to do art on. It’s fun I guess, they all come with the download code so I think it’s pretty much an aesthetic thing which I’m cool with.
Does your work as a visual artist go hand-in-hand with your music at this point?
Absolutely, I feel like my music and art come from the same place and are fueled by the same coals. My best stuff, I feel, always comes when I’m doing something related to The Banner.
What are your thoughts on the untimely breakup of My Chemical Romance?
I don’t really talk to the dudes as much as I’d like to anymore (i.e. at all) except for Frank (Iero). From what I understand it was for the best and they’re a bunch of talented dudes, I’m sure there will be a mess of new projects coming from those dudes. I know Frank’s got a ton of cool shit he’s been hammering out so I look forward to hearing that stuff when it’s done. Me and Frank wrote a track a week or so ago and it was really fucking cool, I hope I get back in the lab with him again soon.
How has it been working with Melotov Records?
Mel is a beautiful sex goddess of punk and everything with her has been incredible. I adore her.
What plans do you have for the band after Born to Ruin I? When can we expect II and III and on what medium?
As far as II and III, the plan currently is to record them at the same time and release them a few months apart. We’re figuring out some businessy nonsense right now but once that’s all squared I’ll know better. I think the next two will be on vinyl for sure or at least that’s the plan as of right now.
Thematically what is the Born to Ruin series based on?
Any words for Cvlt Nations readers?