We are not Free-Hardcore - An interview with Lambsbread
I’d heard the buzz on Lambsbread a long time before I ever got round to hearing their music, and it took a live show on YouTube to prove I was missing something. Mentioned by all the big heads of the US underground noise guitar scene, the buzz seemed to spill over onto anyone referencing the newer wave of American bands. Lambsbread seem to spend the entirety of their songs like a prize-fighter permanently coming out of his corner. A rampant combination of fret cracking, string fraying slabs of hard noisy improvised deteriorated rock, they manage to swing their sound around without the seams ever fully ripping open into total chaos. On the eve of their first readily available release, Stereo Mars on Ecstatic Peace, Dusted’s Scott McKeating finds out a little more about this trio.
Scott McKeating: So, who's in the band and what do they do? Are you the totalitarian leader?
Zac Davis: Lambsbread is Shane Mackenzie on drums, Kathy O'Dell and Zac Davis on guitar; everyone contributes to the sound equally. Even though we are into totalitarianism there is no leader in the group.
SM: You've got the same name as a US Reggae band and a few awful US guitar bands. You had any problems with the name yet? Could you kick their asses if it came down to it?
ZD: No problems with the name yet, maybe Shane could kick their asses. We are a US reggae band also.
SM: Is weed and reggae/dancehall really as big a part of your life as you guys give the impression of?
ZD: I don't think we really go around trying to give the impression we are into weed and Jamaican music. The weed thing we are known for because honestly we smoke a retarded amount of weed, not much else to do out in the middle of nowhere with nothing around. It's not like reggae and dancehall are the only music we listen to, but personally they take up about 60-75% of my listening time with most of it being dancehall. We are also heavily influenced by "black music" and the underground tape/CD distribution circuit, actually it's awful that hip-hop mixtapes, soundclash mixes etc are always written out of anything about "cassette culture"
SM: What is it about Dancehall and Jamaica music you love?
ZD: One thing we really want to take from Jamaican music is the total physicality of the sound. How you are totally enveloped and sucked into the song while it is going, and every different movement of sound triggers a different feeling in different parts of your body....trying to heighten the state of "now" as much as possible.
SM: What was the musical epiphany that sheared the top of your head off and left you knowing that Lambsbread was meant to be?
ZD: I don’t think anything like that happened at all. It all came out of a long process of weird jamming with no real idea what we were trying to sound like, but then learning our own sound from the sound we had just made. I think we’d all spent a lot of time listening to lots of different music and just decided to not think about how our jams would sound and just let them go where they wanted to go
SM: When Lambsbread play, is it a conscious deconstruction of rock styles?
ZD: I would say so. We talk a lot about how what we like and don't like about every single thing we listen to, in all honestly we're real anal and fussy. One thing interesting to us is the many different ways rock can be "deconstructed". On one end you have things like Demo-Moe, Mainliner, "LA Blues", The Velvets live @ Valleydale boot; shit that is so out and ripped apart at points it has nothing resembling "rock" going on at all. Then on the other end you have bands like Motorhead, spacemen 3, Ramones, Stooges, AC/DC, Discharge and Sabbath; bands who "deconstruct" rock by stripping it to its bare essentials (the riff), leaving all the tension to be built by constant repetition as opposed to typical build/climax rock scenarios; the guitar solo, big chorus etc). And then on another side you have bands like black flag, royal Trux, sonic youth, what these bands do is kind of "quote" from other genres somewhat ironically yet in a way even more unironically; when listening you often cant tell if they are poking fun at these genres or paying tribute in a fucked up slightly skewed way (of course neither do they).
SM: Is Hardcore one of the roots of what you do?
ZD: This kind of a tricky question, although we all enjoy certain hardcore records and certain aspects of sound that hardcore pioneered/embraced; it has never been a concern of ours to try to incorporate hardcore into our sound. The furthest talk on that we might have is something like "play an up tempo punk beat" or "play one of those Discharge / Cro-ags / Sabbath but faster style riffs". I have seen a lot of writing describing our sound as "free-hardcore" which I think is kind of ridiculous because honestly we are neither. Although the music is always 100% improvised it is by no means "free"; there is a specific sound we are going after every time we play, even though as I said earlier we approached making music with no concrete idea in mind and kind of taught ourselves our sound from listening to the mess we made and picking apart what we liked and didn't like about it. Honestly there is a lot of weirder hardcore that I think we share some certain things with aesthetically, as far as letting the mistakes sometimes be more important than what’s done "right”, like Psycho Sin, Plasmid, State Children and Demo-Moe (which is debatable on whether it is "hardcore" or not, but I feel it is a much more conscious deconstruction than what we are doing and has more in common). But at the same time I would say we find the same thing in bands like 012, Index, The Silver, Raven, Daily Dance and anyone else who took a genre and pushed it to the limit, often without this being a conscious thing, but still somehow remained working within its walls; never amounting to total disrespect but rather like pointing to many new places the sound could go.
SM: So Lambsbread’s music is a kind of unconscious blending?
ZD: I think all of us appreciate and listen to many different kind of music and try to take what we like from it and where we think it somehow falls short and maybe try to "expand" on it. Working it into our sound without ending up sounding like some sort of John Zorn or Bill Laswell related project. Hardcore is no more important to our sound than jazz, Jamaican music, blues, black Sabbath style hard rock, free improv, psychedelic rock, punk…whatever.
SM: What’s a day in the life like running your label Maim and Disfigure?
ZD: Nothing too spectacular. Lots of weed smoking, bad food eating, sitting around the couch type shit. A lot of cutting shit out, gluing, spraypainting, duplicating, dubbing, mixing etc. Probably blasting Dancehall music all day.
SM: Do you release everything you do? Is this to document the evolutions/ideas or because it's all good?
ZD: We only release about 1/3 of everything we do. We are somewhat picky about our sound and only use recordings that we feel are somewhat interesting / listenable, playing everyday gives you a lot of material to work with. I don’t even know if we could release everything we did, there are probably a lot of tapes of recordings we've never even listened back to, much less released.
SM: Is there a record you'd recommend since I haven't seen you guys live yet?
ZD: I'm not too personally attached to many of them separately, they all kind of roll into one big mass for me. It’s kind of like every month you can check in a get a few CDs or tapes and see what we're up to, how we've "developed" or whatever. When we play live the jams are much looser, fast and to the point. Recorded we get more into repetition and contemplation, so it depends on what you’re looking for; they kind of do different things. We are on tour constantly to keep the party going.
SM: As a band you seem a lot more interested and capable in self-promotion and getting your music heard than a lot of your contemporaries? Is this fair to say?
ZD: I think we worked very hard for almost two years on playing and recording music, and then releasing it and working on a label aesthetic. If you look and listen to our early releases, they're much rawer and shitty compared to the new ones. That’s not to say that the newer stuff is somehow slick or polished comparatively; but it is definitely a more developed and expanded version of the earlier idea. At the same time we also are constantly analyzing what we sound like and trying to reduce everything we don't like out of our sound, one of the reasons we release so much stuff is that we think its fun to see things develop slowly over a long period of time. I don't think there is anything special about us that makes us more capable of having our music seen and heard. I think anyone who toured as much as we in the time we have and released as many things in time we have would be in a very similar place. All 3 of us have heard a lot of people say "one thing we really like about your music is that when you're all really locked in, you just kind of go for it as hard as you can and all let everything pour out". I think people can easily identify with our sound; in fact we all hate thinking about it in avant-garde/experimental terms. We're always trying to come up with a new thing to top the last you did, trying to make your product look better every time you make it, building your own thriving, decentralized economy where you are your own boss and not having to do anything you don't like. I think we all feel like people should be less uptight about their desire to succeed with their art, whatever it is.
SM: What’s the next step for Lambsbread and are you happy where you are at?
ZD: I think this year we are all going to lay back a bit, record a lot of records, but probably not tour as heavily. There will be some tours, but I think we really laid the groundwork hard in 2006 and can focus this year on honing our sound a bit more. We are very happy where we're at, not to say we wouldn't enjoy playing bigger shows, selling and making more records etc, but we have absolutely no complaints about where we are at. Honestly we all feel very lucky and are totally thankful for what we've been able to do as a band and the position we are in.
By Scott McKeating