In the discussion, the metal band talked about their upcoming Sole Lord, backwards tour, having three guitars & three vocals, shorting out a place’s power, their home borough’s mediocre metal (including ‘hipster metal’), Yes, and much more…
QRO: Carmine, was your father a guitarist before you?
Carmine Laietta V: No, my father was a doo-wop singer, actually. He doesn’t play any instruments except the vocals.
QRO: Did any of you know each other before you moved to New York?
Sean Dunn: Nope, not at all.
Drew Mack: No story there.
Nick Palmirotto: No sir. The common cause of metal drew us together.
QRO: How did y’all form in New York?
CL: Drew and I used to be in a band a ways back that disbanded. Then we kept playing, and accumulated Nick, and Sean, and Jeff [Stieber].
QRO: For this tour, you started off in New York and now you’re Austin. What’s the route for it?
DM: It’s the same route we did last year, except we’re doing it backwards. We played Philly, Richmond, Charlotte, Boone, Knoxville, and then Little Rock. Then we just played Austin last night, and we’re going to play Louisiana, and Jackson and Vicksburg in Mississippi, and Nashville, Athens, and then three dates in Florida, and then Virginia Beach, and then we’ll be home.
QRO: Have y’all had three guitars since the beginning?
CL: Since it counted. When Drew and I were still looking for other folks, we decided to add a third guitar player. We knew Nick, and it just seemed to make sense to ask Nick to play with us.
NP: Drew and I had played together in a band called Reservoir, and Sean and I played in a band called The Inmen. We had known each other just through mutual friends, and a couple of us were vegetarians, met up that way, jammed together, and our good friend Brett Romnes kind of brought us together. Then when Carmine and Drew, their band was coming about, our connection brought us together.
DM: We had three guitars before we solidified the bass player.
SD: And I was like, “Why do you need a bass player, why don’t you just get a baritone guitar?” “No we need a bass.” “All right, I’ll play.”
QRO: It’s pretty hard, especially in a venue like The Ale House, and probably any venue really, to figure out which guitar is playing what at the loudest moments, but it does seem like some of you have lower tones than others do and were playing more bass-style parts.
DM: I do, normally I play half out of a guitar stack and then half of a bass rig. I definitely play more of the rhythm parts. But we all solo, too.
QRO: It seems like it really helps you in that you’re able to have two people soloing and still have a good, dense sound. The other thing, I guess, is if somebody has technical problems, you won’t lose the whole sound that way.
DM: We did pretty good last night considering that we turned all our amps on and the place still had power.
QRO: Has that been an issue before?
NP: Yeah, we play on too much shit.
DM: We play in a lot of dive bars in Brooklyn, hole in the walls, people’s apartments, and as soon as we start jamming, all the power usually goes out.
NP: As far as working on tones, the sounds, accompanying the different solos, and who’s gonna stick out where and what, we rehearse like crazy. I don’t know of many other bands that really get together the way we do.
QRO: What’s crazy, like how often?
NP: During crunch time, it’s sometimes seven days a week. Generally speaking, three to four days a week.
QRO: You talked about rhythm earlier, but how would you say your guitar styles differ?
CL: For me at least, I play out of a fully solid-state rig, and I use a Fender guitar. Whereas everyone else–
DM: It’s a big difference, actually.
CL: A pretty big difference. We all have different styles of playing on top of that, just equipment stuff. I tend to do a lot of melodic full-chorded type, harmonies and fill-ins–
DM: “Fill-ins” [laughs]
NP: And I do more mids, and like Drew was saying, he does a lot of the lows and rhythms. But we all solo, and I primarily play Gibsons, Carmine’s a Fender guy, Drew actually is playing a custom guitar made up by our good friend, roadie and photographer Marcus Shaffer, which is just an awesome guitar. So a combination of different tones, and our different playing styles seem to come together. And then with Sean’s bass rumbling thunder underneath.
QRO: I also saw all three of y’all singing last night.
DM: Yeah, we want to get it to a point where we all five sing.
To have five vocals up front…we’re lucky to get two at this point.
CL: Sometimes we get to kick it ‘80s style and sing two guys to a mike.
QRO: I used to do a local music radio show, and bands like y’all were always trouble. A duo is really easy to do, but with an 8-channel board, you just hope people don’t have background vocals, because it’s just a disaster.
NP: Dude, we’re like full extreme, always.
QRO: What’s the metal scene like in Brooklyn?
CL: Saturated with mediocrity. Basically, just completely saturated with post-hardcore and really average doom bands.
QRO: When you say post-hardcore, are you talking about bad vocals, or math-y rhythms, or what?
CL: People still putting in the chugga-chugga, and the fashion hawks. And lots and lots of hipster garbage. Pompadours.
DM: It’s also pretty hard to get away from Brooklyn and Long Island hardcore, tough guy bands.
QRO: Youth of Today type stuff?
DM: Well, I mean not even that good.
CL: People want to be The Deftones, still.
NP: The other thing with New York, the reason why we really like being out on the road a lot, is people actually come out and respect what’s going on, and they buy your stuff, and they’re really into what’s going on because there’s not as many – in New York, it’s sensory overload, and everyone’s seen everything or done everything, and everyone’s an artist or musician or whatever, dog eat dog, so even when people come out to shows, they just cross their arms and don’t really, you know, do anything. I wonder a lot of times why they’re even there. So being out on the road is very invigorating for us.
QRO: When you say people come out to shows and buy stuff, is it good in terms of quantity too, are there a lot of people who are coming out and buying things, or is it–
NP: In other areas than New York, yeah. It’s seldom that we sell anything in New York, or people – we have a lot of friends that come out, but it’s kind of hard to drag out new people.
QRO: It’s common that I hear people talking about hipster metal and fake metal, but nobody ever – unless it’s like the Fucking Champs or something like that – nobody ever admits that they’re not really doing a legitimate thing. How do you tell the difference between real metal and fake metal?
CL: Eyeliner. EYELINER.
NP: You just know.
That’s the thing about the Caltrop dudes, they’ll take their time and just play like they’re supposed to be playing, and they’re putting their full heart into it all the time, and you can totally tell that.
NP: I also think a lot of times too, you can tell when people are real ‘cause they come out and they don’t have any kind of act, they don’t have any kind of uniform or haircut or anything, they just come out and they –
QRO: So is Judas Priest (QRO photos) a hipster metal band?
NP: Yeah, totally. But fuck yeah, Rob Halford, bringing it out when all the metal dudes were thinking he was a tough dude, and he was actually a flamer.
QRO: He might still have been a tough dude.
NP: Yeah, he is a tough dude. But fuck yeah, Freddie Mercury. When these people who are actually really into it and doing it because they love it, you can tell they come out and they don’t have to have an act, they just come out and absolutely destroy their instruments. And I think that people that know, just know.
DM: We all actually get called hipsters way more than we’d like.
NP: Fucking tattoos, live in New York, long hair. Anywhere else, it’s like, oh you’re metal, or punk rock. It’s just being in Williamsburg…
DM: You go into Hot Topic, and Hot Topic totally blows, but they took everything that was cool from a decade ago and made it into something that everybody can have now. So now you see a kid with a Nintendo shirt, you can’t assume he’s a Nintendo geek or a Nintendo master. He probably just went to the Hot Topic and was like, “Whoa, that shirt’s awesome!”
QRO: There’s nothing wrong with wearing an awesome shirt.
DM: That’s true, that’s true.
NP: I mean, shit, I’ll take being called a hipster any day for having tattoos, fuck them.
QRO: None of this stuff really plays into anything that’s really important, does it?
DM: It’s not important. Anybody that looks at a t-shirt and says, “Oh, that dude’s this kind of guy, because I see what t-shirt he’s wearing,” or “I see his haircut”…we all have different really different music tastes, we listen to everything from fuckin’ speed metal to what people would call bluegrass, emo, fuckin’ progressive rock, whatever –
QRO: Who likes Yes?
DM: I fucking love Yes.
One thing I liked last night is that y’all were arranged in a semicircle behind the drummer.
DM: That’s the first time we’ve done that.
QRO: Oh, really? I just assumed y’all always did that. It’s cool. Do y’all all fit in one van?
DM: We just bought a 15-passenger van, and we have a trailer. We can basically fit most of our equipment, or enough equipment to play a show in the van, with all of us, but then it’s not very comfortable, so we decided to take a trailer.
QRO: What are the worst crowds you’ve played to so far?
CL: We played a show at a record store in Boone to about two people. And one of the two worked there.
NP: Well, there was more than that. But yeah, that was probably the worst turnout on the tour. But all shows are always fun, no matter what, if there’s one person or 50,000.
QRO: It’s spring break now in Boone, isn’t it?
DM: They had just got back; it was the first day of classes.
QRO: How about the best crowds?
DM: So far, Richmond was good. Every time we’ve been to Little Rock has been awesome.
CL: Actually, in Richmond at Nara Sushi, the lead singer from Lamb of God showed up and watched us play, and there was also this other band Suzukiton, who fucking owned their guitars; those guys were riff scientists, and really really good at it. And the bass player, who is kind of the lead-ish guy, had lots of fun things to say.
QRO: How was Charlotte for y’all?
DM: Charlotte was sweet. We played at the Milestone Club, and it was totally like a CBGB’s vibe. Great venue; we pulled up front and thought the place was condemned, we must have the wrong address. Then we went around back and that’s where the front door was, and it’s a fucking sweet place.
NP: Milestone actually has a lot of history. There’s old school tags, original tags from the Bad Brains (QRO photos) and Motörhead (QRO photos) and bands like that when they first came to the circuit, Charlotte was kind of the farthest south that the bands would go back in those days, so it’s totally like that shrine to punk rock and metal. Whereas stuff like CBGB’s and stuff that has closed down, hopefully things like the Milestone will stay open forever. That was awesome.
As far as playing with these bigger bands, getting a bigger reaction, which is what we need, a lot of that has to do with just growing – you know, we just signed, we just finished our album and it comes out in May on The End Records, and that’s going to be called Sole Lord.
QRO: So Lord?
NP: Sole Lord. S-o-l-e Lord. But basically, we need to acquire a good booking agent. Right now, we do everything ourselves, which is awesome. We’ve always been into the DIY ethic, and print shirts and posters and all that shit ourselves in our studio, and actually Jeff and Sean did pretty much most of all the engineering and mixing on our record. So DIY is awesome, but at the same time, we do need some extra help.
CL: It’s becoming too much. It’s becoming way too much. I don’t know, more so recently, there hasn’t been much writing of new stuff because we’ve been constrained with all the other stuff that’s been going on. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the most important thing, you know?
NP: If we had a little help…
DM: It’s also just getting it out there, we’re kind of stuck. We had a self-released EP, The Viking Funeral, which is going to fit on an album later down the line. Which we pretty much released all ourselves, had to print the CDs, had them pressed, then we would make tri-fold CD cases for them, screen-print it and all that, wax stamps, and if we had more time to just focus on that, it would be great.
But even – same thing with this album we’re putting out in May, it’s like as soon as we get signed to a record label, they give us a deadline, and we’re the type of band that needs to have a year to a year and a half like Neurosis and just sit in the studio and hammer it out until it’s fucking perfect.
NP: We write – sorry to interrupt – very conceptual albums, and our idea is to have a conceptual career as far as our albums go, and in the end having everything be completely tied together. So working with that aspect, and then we also write insane crazy long sagas that go along with – so it’s not just music, it’s an actual piece of orchestrated composition, to where there’s that published story, there’s a 45-minute piece of music to go along with it, and then of course the artwork too, completely encompass that entire thing and make it the solid, complete thing. So like Drew was saying, it is kind of hard when we have a deadline, because deadlines are good and bad. They’re good because they help us get the job done, but at the same time, we’re a band that can’t really rush things.
QRO: All y’all probably have jobs, too.
NP: Especially in New York, man, it’s dog eat dog, and that cliché, “If you make it New York, you can make it anywhere,” I firmly believe it. Because it’s nothing but persistence, struggle, sacrifice.
, and we love each other like brothers and family, and that’s the main important thing with bands, is that a lot of times people just really try to be in a band because they glamorize the rock star aspect of it that’s been brought out ever since the ‘60s and ‘70s of just girls and drugs and this glamorized aspect of it, but we really do it because it’s just our main focal point, our main love in our lives, so that’s what I think is going to keep our bond as strong as anything.
DM: And beer. Lots of beer.