Jesse Cash of Erra, Trent Hafdahl/Anthony Notarmaso of After the Burial, and Lukas Magyar of Veil of Maya: The Heavy Blog Is Heavy Interview

TRENT HAFDAHL AND ANTHONY NOTARMASO OF AFTER THE BURIAL

Trent: So you’re going to bust our balls now? Is that what’s going on?

Yeah, you’re about to go through the gauntlet. It’s about to get very real. I’m doing some hard hitting reporting today, so I’ll start off with a very serious question: how’s the tour been, buddies?

Trent: Amazing! We started off in Minneapolis on the day our record dropped, so that was fucking overwhelmingly awesome. There hasn’t been a bad show yet.

There have been kids outside lined up for a while. I got here at 5 to do interviews and there were already kids around the block. I come to this club a good bit and I rarely ever see that.

Trent: Apparently there’s still a line now! It’s been a while since all of have toured together…

I’ve been listening to all three of the top bands on the bill for a good while now and I can’t think of a time when you were all together.

Trent: There was a “Sumerianos” tour where it was the three of us (After the Burial, Born of Osiris, and Veil of Maya) and a band called…uh…oh, it was Sea of Treachery. That was in 2008, so that was a long, long time ago.

Are there any sold out shows coming up? I’ve seen a few dates have already been sold out.

Trent: I think there might be more coming up because people are starting to realize “oh, I might not actually be able to see the show if I don’t get a ticket.” So as far as sold out presale, there’s only been one. I want to say we’ve sold out five now.

And you’re about ten shows in now, right?

Anthony: Last night in Baltimore was about sixty away from being sold out.

Trent: And we’ve been playing bigger rooms, too. We played the Skyway Theater in Minneapolis, which holds 2,000. We also played the big Palladium stage, which is about 1,700. The numbers have been good, though! We all kind of knew this was going to be an awesome tour, so it’s nice to see it finally come to fruition.

So speaking of numbers, what have you guys heard about the sales of Dig Deep?

Trent: The first day we did over 10,600, and it’s our highest selling record! It feels good, because it really took a lot of hard work for us to get it done.
Anthony: And we’ve been gone for so long, so it finally feels like everything has paid off.
Trent: Plus it leaked really late.
Yeah, I saw that it was within a week of it being out.

Trent: It’s nice because Sumerian Records has people they can pay to police that kind of stuff and take down links.

I’ve noticed compared to other labels they’ve usually been way more protective about their promos and material.

Trent: Well, when you’re shipping physical copies to shit like Best Buy and FYE, there’s always going to be one kid who’s stocking a shelf or gets a box in the receiving department who has to bust it open and make sure all the stuff is good and notices it’s a band they like. Boop! Right in the pocket, and then he’s doing everybody a favor.

Anthony: He’s getting some fuckin’ internet karma.

And in this day and age with a lot of bands streaming the album a few days beforehand, it’s really not as big of a deal.

Trent: We did the stream for it two days before and we’ve basically doubled what we sold for Wolves Within.

For the new album in terms of tone, it’s not nearly as bright as Wolves Within. Everything is way, way darker. The album art reflects that too. Was that something you deliberately wanted to push, or did it come out that way?

Trent: All this emotion was happening in the studio and even when it came time to make a guitar tone I was just in a dark place. It reflects that, and when we sent Will Putney the mixes it came out more that way too. I’m a fucking mix freak, and I think between us we did about 13 mix changes. As far as the actual guitar tone, I just wanted to sound pissed. Really, really pissed off. All the riffage is pretty pissed.

I’d say so. There are still plenty of solos and techy riffs, but it feels like there’s a lot more groove. It really feels more primal and like Rareform, but it does encapsulate the past, present, and future of the band.

So I’m a big nerd and noticed in an old video of you guys recording Wolves Within there was a riff from “The Endless March” in there. How much old stuff went into this new album, or was that a solitary thing?

Trent: The thing with “The Endless March” was that we were going to put it on Wolves Within but it sounded like way too much like another song to us. It might not have to anybody else, but it felt like it would have been filler if we did. So we just put it on the backburner. As far as what was old as far as material goes…dude…I demoed “Heavy Lies the Ground” in 2006. So a big chunk of that song has been sitting in the archives for years.

Anthony: And for “The Endless March” I wrote vocals for that on Wolves Within and then completely threw them all away into the garbage can. I just didn’t like them.

Trent: It’s nice because sometimes in the winter like to play guitar and write a lot of riffs, and I save everything. Some of ‘em are shitty, but I always toss it in the archive. Justin [Lowe] used to keep a ton of stuff and I have it. It has over a hundred song ideas in it! Literally I think it’s at 106.

Wow, are these all whole songs?

Trent: No, I mean if you click on one it might just be a synth line. But if you click on another it might be an entire song. We’ve got entire songs that we’ve just never used. We’re all about the “all killer, no filler” mentality.

I definitely like that, though. I think a lot of bands will load up albums with like 14 tracks, and I really just want 8 completely killer ones, you know?

Anthony: A lot of people will come up to us and say “why only nine songs?” We’re not going to put some doodoo in there for the sake of it. Plus they’re long songs.

So much like Trent, do you also have a bunch of lyrics on the backburner? Or do you wait until a song is done and you know it can be used?

Anthony: I’ll write ahead of time, but with this record I only had two songs written. I didn’t know what they were for though; I write without the music. Then I’ll listen to it, and see which song has what feeling. A lot of it I was writing in the studio though, because it was just the way it worked out for this one. I don’t really have a lot ahead of time.

Trent: Plus some of the times before we go into the studio it’s the first time he’s hearing the full mix. It’s just the whole perfectionist aspect. You are always going back and changing the song. I’ll go back and send Anthony shit four different times with the most minute changes. Then he’ll say “just tell me when it’s done!”

Anthony: I don’t listen to the music anymore, I just write by myself. That way every single line, every single lyric, every single word all has meaning. They all make sense, and they all belong together, instead of me just trying to fit it into the song.

Trent: For me, I just write wherever. I’ve got a pretty similar routine every day, and I have a lot of guitars hanging around the house. I wrote a riff while we were at home before leaving on this tour, and I did that on the couch just watching Jeopardy.

Anthony: With a bunch of tissues and napkins around him!

Trent: Probably just some coffee. I just play with a practice amp and place my phone up to it. If you went through my voice mailbox you’d hear all sorts of goofy shit. You’ll hear me singing into the phone or doing beats. If you have it, get it down.

Oh yeah, totally. I have so many garbage videos on my phone of me writing riffs.

Trent: Even in my Notes app I have full song structure ideas. “How about we do 4/4 at this tempo for this amount of time?” Blah, blah blah. It’s a way to break down a structure. I don’t’ know man, writing music is crazy.

Do you intentionally map out crazy tempos and time signatures, or do you just make a riff and figure it out later?

Trent: It’s always groove. Just play along with it. If I’m stuck on a song I’ll play through it like a hundred times and just start to play different things after and see what feels right. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s why having the archive is good. You can see where old ideas fit with new ones. We probably write music in a really fucked up way compared to most people, but I don’t know! It’s cool.

I feel like you guys more than any other band on this tour keep things more in house, so to say. You guys seem to keep a lot in the home studio and don’t send it off until it’s basically all finished. Is that something you always want to keep doing? What importance or good qualities do you find in that?

Trent: Up until this last record, that’s how we did it. With Forging a Future Self, all of the instruments were done in my bedroom of a two bedroom apartment that I had with our singer at the time. We recorded gang vocals in the kitchen! All of the demoing always happens in house. For Rareform, Justin and I rented out a studio just to put ourselves in a creative spot where it felt more like we were really doing something here. If you’re in your bedroom you can get distracted and you don’t have that same sense of importance. You’re just fucking around and jamming. In Dreams, dude, we were tracking guitars in hotel rooms. We were just doing DI tracks and sent those to a studio in Sweden. We were in Europe at the time trying to download mixes over their shitty Wi-Fi they have over there. I was so stressed, dude! This time we just went out for a month saying “all right, let’s just do this.” We lived there, too. There’s an apartment in the studio, and it was awesome, man! It was like going to your job, but a good one. I woke up, made coffee and breakfast and then do 12 hour days banging everything out. I was just immersed in it, which was really cool.

Anthony: He’d be in one room doing guitars, I’d be in another room tracking, Dan [Carle] would be doing drums over there…then we’d go take breaks and watch each other.

So it wasn’t like you did all of one instrument at a time?

Trent: Well, the first things to get done were all the guitars, because we’re a guitar-heavy band. The guitars are often on top, so just to have those done so the drums can fit under them well and the vocals mesh really well, they have to be done. So right when I got in the studio I was like “I gotta write three songs, ugh!” It was crazy, and stressed, but it came out great and was all worth it.

After this tour do you guys have stuff lined up for the summer or even before that?

Trent: We do, but we can’t talk about it yet. That’s usually how it goes.

Will you be headlining next time, or is it another support run?

Trent: I can say that we won’t be headlining probably until later in the year, because when you drop a record it’s nice to get it out there to as many people as possible. Obviously doing a tour like this where you have a great opportunity to do that.

Is that going to be another US run, or do you plan to head over to Europe?

Anthony: There’s another US run, and we’re aiming for Europe. We have tentative plans for that, though. We’re still waiting for offers, and it’s just that usual band stuff where you just have to wait around and see.

Trent: It’s out of control on our end now, though. We just have to wait around for other people like “fuck, let’s go!” [laughs]

Speaking of decision-making and touring, I had a question for you guys. Recently CJ from Thy Art Is Murder talked about quitting the band due to lack of sustainable income. Is it really a 24/7 struggle where you’re starving even at this level?

Trent: I could assume that for them since from Australia because it’s really expensive to get over here. Even when they’re over here…I don’t know how much they make, but going back and forth I can imagine takes a pretty big chunk out of what they’d actually keep if they lived here. Plus all the gear rentals and shit, hiring crew…

Anthony: You can make, as far as like monthly, compared to doing 9-to-5’s we still make pretty good money. The thing is that we’re on tour for a month and then you’re off the next. That’s where it starts to weigh in.

It’s like working 20 hours a week instead of 40.

Anthony: You can look at one month and think you’re doing great, but rent’s still due next month.

Trent: None of us live in our parent’s basements or anything. I mean, we both own houses at this point.

I feel like people started building this myth about how hard it is, but at a certain point you’ve got to be doing at least reasonably well as long as you don’t horribly mismanage your money.

Anthony: It can be really fuckin’ hard if you don’t get to a certain level as a band, but you’re playing music that takes a lot of passion.

Trent: It’s not like we’re pop stars or some shit, but I haven’t worked a day job since like 2007. This has been it.

Anthony: I do actually have a business now when I’m at home. Just a small mouth guard business. We have a lab in the back of our house, it’s super sick. They just got so busy lately and they needed me.

Well hey, you probably got to get warmed up for the set now, it was great talking with you!

Check out the interview with Veil of Maya on the third page!
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