AFTER THE BURIAL’S TRENT HAFDAHL: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
After the Burial released their new album In Dreams on November 23rd just before heading out to California for their current tour with Winds of Plague. On the day of the album’s release I caught up with ATB guitarist Trent Hafdahl by phone; we chatted about the new album, new vocalist Anthony Notarmaso and his role in the writing process, what really went down when they dropped off the Bleeding Through tour this fall, their plans for 2011 and, of course, Sumeriancore. Our chat after the fold.
How’s it going, dude?
Good, man, good. Just wrapping up last minute things before we hit the road. We’re leaving to go and meet Winds of Plague and jump on the bus for California. We got to be up there by Thursday, so we’re leaving tomorrow.
So are you driving out there? Are you doing any shows along the way?
No shows. We’re just going to hightail it out there. We’re leaving tomorrow sometime before noon. I think it’s like 36 hours. We’re taking our stuff out there and then we’re going to meet up with the tour bus. We’re sharing a bus on this next tour. We just have to be out there . . . I think the bus leaves at 3 a.m. on Thursday night/Friday morning and our first date’s in Phoenix on the 26th.
Are you going to be playing songs from the new album on this run?
Yeah, man, yeah. We’ll be playing at least two if not three. We’re really stoked to be playing them for people and especially with the album coming out today. We’re really stoked to be playing some new shit for people. Hopefully they’ll be listening to that album as much as possible so they can come out and have a good time and recognize the songs when we play them on this next tour.
Yeah. Congratulations, by the way. I was going to ask you about the new album seeing that it came out today. Are you pretty psyched?
Yeah, man. I’m so excited about it. It’s been a long time coming. We haven’t put out a serious, brand new release since the first time we put out Rareform which was in 2008. We did the re-release deal, but that was just to showcase our new vocalist Anthony and show people what we were going for as a sound. This one is more us grooving together and writing together and more of how we want our music to sound. So we’re really psyched to hear good things from all of our peers and friends and stuff like that.
Yeah, man, absolutely super excited. I just fucking can’t wait to play the songs for the fans and have them respond to them as well.
What took so long? It was like you guys did the re-release and then it seemed like you started writing or doing preproduction as far back as February or March. A lot of people were wondering why it took so long to actually get this album out.
Well, you know after we did . . . as everybody knows who is a fan of us, we had lineup problems right after we released the first Rareform. The vocalist Grant (at the time) it was just like . . . he went out on the road on Thrash and Burn . . . it was May, June, July of 2008. We just had . . . obviously we kicked him out so we kind of had that whole rebuilding aspect of that year. “We have to find a new vocalist now and this is just crazy” transitional period in the band. Once we got back together with Anthony, we did a few tours and it was feeling good. We did the re-release and kind of rode it out as far as doing the touring and continuing to be on the road and staying in people’s minds and hitting those cities as often as we could. It took a long time because of all those other circumstances that we were dealing with from the actual release of Rareform up until the release of this record. There wasn’t much time to really sit back and put all of our thoughts into writing a record because there was just so much other shit to deal with as far as staying relevant, getting a new singer and making sure that the lineup was solid. We were writing the whole time, but we didn’t really sit down and start putting the album together until early in 2010.
So how’s it going with Anthony? Is he part of the writing process?
Oh, things are going great, dude. You’ll hear it. Have you heard the record yet?
Oh yeah. We’ve had it for awhile.
Cool. Yeah, you can hear it in the record just right off the bat. It’s definitely something different than our past 2 releases, well 3 releases, in a sense where he is holding it down in the vocals spot. Rareform was the record where the vocalist . . . Grant didn’t know how to do any of that stuff. He didn’t know how to write lyrics. He didn’t know how to do patterns. We didn’t know that until we actually got into writing the record. So it came down to me and with the help of our bassist, Lee, to write all the vocals.
When Anthony came into the band he was singing all this other dude’s stuff, singing somebody else’s lyrics (which is kind of hard if you think about it). As a vocalist, you are really keen on what you’re saying. If you have lyrics written that you really feel strongly about, you’re going to belt them out harder than . . . as hard as you feel you can go in your emotions. On this record, it’s really him showcasing his own voice, how he feels and how he approaches every spot. I think it shines through definitely.
This is definitely the strongest vocal performance we’ve had on any record. I’m hearing really positive things on this one because we’ve always been a musician’s band. I don’t want to say “musician’s band” because we’re not fucking Dream Theater, but a lot of people are paying attention to what the guitars and stuff are doing more so than what the vocalist is doing. This one is more balanced out where we’re all just grooving together. The instruments are doing the same thing we’ve always been doing, just grooving and vibing together and Anthony is controlling the whole vocal aspect by himself. He wrote all of his own lyrics and stuff like that. We all wrote together, obviously, but the words you hear on there are all him. It’s all him.
That’s great. What about the rest of the guys? How would you say this album is a change or growth from Rareform?
Rareform was . . . when we were writing it, we hadn’t really started the whole balls-out-touring 6 months, 8 months out of the year on the road kind of thing yet. We really hadn’t experienced what it was like on the road and all those feelings and emotions that come out when you’ve been on the road for 5 weeks with the same dudes in a cramped ass van. We were writing the music, at the time, that was how we felt. We wanted to write the songs and they were really good. We liked it a lot.
On this one it’s two years later. We’ve been over to Europe three times. We’ve done the U.S. and Canada multiple times. This album is more focusing on our emotions from the last couple of years that were really just grinding from being on the road and just working hard as hell for us to be able to do this and continue to do it — just living a dream. It’s a more mature release from us because it’s a progression from the next one that’s really kind of like taking a step back and putting thought into the songs. We’re trying to rip into people’s minds because that means somebody on this forum is going to say “yo, did you hear that blast beats?” There are still moments on the record where we’re doing that, but it was just more about the natural feeling about how we felt over the last two years. I definitely think it’s a more natural release from us. It’s definitely fresh. It’s definitely something fresh for us to listen to even. I really like it. I think it’s something super dynamic and diverse from what we’ve done in the past.
Do you feel like there’s any pressure at this point to write in a certain style or have a certain sound that people expect from After the Burial?
Yes and no. Obviously we’re going to stay true to our roots and stay true to the sound that we love. There’s a little bit of pressure that we put on ourselves to do that, but then again, we’re at a point musically right now where we are experimental. We’re always trying to progress and try something new. If we can find something that sounds really cool, we’ll just write it no matter what theme it is or what genre it falls into. We’ve never been about fitting into this specific genre. It’s just been about writing music that we think sounds good and writing stuff that we like to listen to personally. That’s just the bare bones of it, man.
We’re not trying to fit in with any group or any sort of scene. We just write the music that we like to listen to and that we feel we want other people to hear. It’s always been that way, and it’s always going to be that way until this band fizzles out. It’s music and you got to write how you feel. We’re super heartfelt guys that put a lot of thought and feelings into our writing. It’s just a reflection of how we’re feeling at the time.
What do you think about the word or term or grouping “Sumeriancore”?
I don’t get it. It’s one of those fad things. I guess that it’s flattering in a sense because we are among the first group of Sumerian bands that were like, you know, Born of Osiris, signed. We actually said no the first time to Sumerian because we were hard on about the DIY stuff. Veil [of Maya] signed and Veil have been good friends of ours since back in 2004 when we were playing at VFWs to all the local kids and shit. They’re like “dude, you guys got to come on.”
At the time back then, there were only a few bands on there: it was: BoO (Born of Osiris), Veil, us, the Faceless, Kenotia, Creature Feature (I don’t know what those guys are like, but I remember seeing their name on the roster) and maybe 1 or 2 bands that I’m forgetting, but that was it. To be a part of the original group of bands that really stuck their feet in the ground and said “hey, we’re a force to be reckoned with.” I guess it’s flattering for someone to say something like ‘Sumeriancore” because of that, but Sumeriancore being a genre type thing where all these bands kind of sound the same because of the production or the song approach, I don’t get that. I think it’s kind of B.S., but whatever, if people want to put labels on it then it’s probably just easier for them because when they’re talking to their group of friends they can speak about a group of bands equally. That’s really all it is. That’s the only way I see it.
I think it’s definitely a presence that’s being felt in the modern metal scene. All those bands that you just listed, with the exception with the two you hadn’t heard, are definitely a scene and a force to be reckoned with.
Yeah, yeah, definitely. The flattering part about it is when somebody says that you sound like a Sumeriancore band. I guess I just don’t fully embrace the whole labeling thing. Even bands labeled “deathcore”. We’ve been labeled deathcore before, and I just don’t get that. The blast beat aspects of our metal aren’t death metal really. It’s more like a progressive, symphonic metal like even more black metal. We also have these other parts of our music that’s . . . I don’t know, dude. It’s just weird. It’s just weird the whole breaking down bands into genres thing. It’s whatever. I’ve never used any of those terms ever — nobody in the band has. We just kind of resent them almost. With the “Sumeriancore” thing, I’ll just be flattered. I’ll take it as flattering because they’re saying that this group of bands started something and it’s really taking over and people are relating. Emulation is the highest form of flattery and that’s the way I look at it.
Totally. In a sort of related question is, not that you really have any basis for comparison to answer this but: what has been your experience with Sumerian Records and are you guys happy there?
It’s been great, and they have a lot of faith in us. They have a lot of pride in the fact that we work together and it shows because they really do pull hard for us in the situations that matter. It’s really nice to have that kind of support from your label because there are a lot of bands out there that don’t get it. They don’t get that support from their label. They don’t talk to the dude that owns the label on a weekly basis. With our group at Sumerian, they’re a phone call away and they’ll be happy to talk. Other bands on other labels when we talk about talking with our A&R guy or something or our publicist, it’s like “oh man, that’s really cool that you guys have that kind of interconnectivity with your label because we don’t have it.” They’re on a bigger label that has hundreds of bands that they have to worry about. They don’t have it because the other guys are worrying about the heavy hitters only. It’s nice. They treat us real well through the tough times and through the good times. It’s good to be a part of it and we’re really glad that we’re on such a progressive label because we, ourselves, are a really progressive band. We’re evolving together, and it’s nice to do it with a label like Sumerian.
Cool. I got to ask you: what happened with Bleeding Through on that tour over the summer?
To keep it short, I don’t want to do too much because they did release a statement about it. They were involved in that situation, man, which is like . . . when you’re out on the road, emotions wear thin. We were coming to the end of a pretty long album cycle. We were touring on Rareform for two years, so there wasn’t much freshness in what we were doing on the road because we were doing the same thing we’d been doing for two years. That definitely will add to the stress and turmoil on the road. On top of that, that tour for us wasn’t that good. It wasn’t a tour where we felt like we really were having a good time playing the shows. A lot of the shows were good but we weren’t enjoying it as much as we had with our other tours.
So it kind of came to a boiling point, and the best thing for us was just to go home and catch our breath rather than make any sort of rash decisions like breaking up or doing anything like that. Being out there in the middle of fucking Buffalo, NY and everybody is arguing. Nobody has their head on straight. For us it was best to salvage what we had and what we have coming in the future because we were already working on the new album and stuff at that point. It was like “let’s go home, gather our brains and have a good time in Europe.” We did what was best for us and just left. We came home. We’ve never done it in the past. We’ve never done anything like that. We never cancelled shows. Hopefully people understood that it was something that we really put a lot of thought into and was definitely the best thing for us as a band.
You guys all hugged it out? You’re all cool? You’re all brothers again?
Oh yeah. Yeah, man. Like I said, we got home to catch our breath and shit. Nobody wanted anything to go sour with the band. We hugged it out. We gathered our heads and talked to each other. We’re open about all that shit. [Afterwards] was some of the best times that we’ve ever had on tour. I could just put that European tour on the top three tours that we’ve ever done because we just had such a genuinely good time with each other and with the bands on the tour. Yeah, that was good. Everything’s cool now and we’re really excited especially with In Dreams coming out. It’s like a huge breath of fresh air. You know? Now we have something that we put a lot of heart and effort into. Now we’re going to be out on the road supporting that and showing people what the fuck is up with us these days because we’d been off the radar in a sense with writing material and stuff like that. Everything’s all gravy now.
So you got this tour coming up with Winds of Plague, and are there anymore touring plans for 2011?
Um, yeah. We have touring plans. We confirmed a tour that I can’t talk about yet because it’s not been fully put together, but it is with a pretty big headliner. That’s going to happen sometime in the middle of February. After that we’re putting together . . . we’re really trying to get a headlining run done this year sometime. That might come sometime around April. We’re pushing our label and our management really hard to get us on a Warped Tour or Mayhem Fest, something where we can actually be out amongst a big group of bands and play for a big group of kids. That’s where we are right now. We’re doing as much work as possible to get on those tours. Right now I think we’ll probably do some dates in Europe sometime during the summer. Right now we have one confirmed and we’re getting a lot of offers, so we’ll just try and build the first six months of the year. We’ll do six months at a time, try to stay six months in advance with all the touring and stuff like that. We’ll definitely be working. This album is going to be super busy.
That’s great, man. It sounds like it’s a pretty good time to be After the Burial and you’re pretty psyched on everything.
Yeah, man, absolutely. With all the ups and downs that we’ve had in the past with the things we had to deal with, it’s really nice and relieving that we have this album out because we have so many good people behind us working just as hard as we are to make it a success. It’s definitely showing, even right now, the album has been out for 15 hours or so. We’re all really stoked and excited for this next year and what’s to come with it.
Great. Congratulations to you. Thanks for taking the time. I really appreciate it.
Yeah, no problem, man. It was nice talking to you.
Visit After the Burial on MySpace to hear music from their new record In Dreams.