ZT INTERROGATION: ZT’S WILL PINFOLD STRUGGLES WITH THE UK’S OBLIVIONIZED
Life Is A Struggle, Give Up. The first thing to say is that Oblivionized have recorded an album; this is good news. In the past six years the band has released a stream of demos, EPs and split releases that epitomise the vitality of the UK extreme underground, from the primitive brutality of their 2008 demo to the deathly complexity of their releases as a five piece and now back to a far more eccentrically brutal approach as a three piece (Zac Broughton, Sammy Urwin and Will Brunsden), playing a kind of exhilarating semi-atonal, dissonant punk-death-grind hybrid. For grindcore, probably more than any other genre, the album is a somewhat anomalous beast. The intense marriage of high aggression with low attention span makes the single, EP, compilation or split album a more obvious format for the music than the LP or full-length album. In 2014 is a debut album still a big deal?
Sammy: I think so. I see it almost as a test of whether a band’s got enough good material and enthusiasm to create a full length record. It’s quite easy to get together with some friends and write enough material for an EP but an album takes quite a lot of time. It’s one solid piece of work and it has to flow and work together as a whole.
Zac: Releasing EPs and splits is the best way to experiment with ideas and find your sound. I think many bands rush to release a full-length, or don’t explore their music enough beforehand. Music is a piece of you, it shouldn’t be easy on anyone.
Does that mean that the writing process for an album is essentially different from an EP or single?
Zac: We were writing songs that expressed how we felt in that moment, so there was a lot of music just happening, so there is no process really. Once we had about six songs together we knew what the record would be missing.
Sammy: For the last few songs we definitely had a much more solid approach. Not saying that other songs are not as good, but by the time we came to the last 4-5 songs we had a really good idea of what we wanted them to sound like. Some of the oldest songs on the album were written not long after Will joined the band and when we changed our sound, so I really think (in a good way) you can hear the progression over this record. It serves as nice snapshot of the first year as the new Oblivionized.
By way of a palate cleanser, the slimmed down, three-piece Oblivionized can be experienced minus their more considered aspects; and really, without any kind of subtlety at all, on their current release, This is S.O.A.N., a live split with Razoreater, released through Witch Hunter Records. Was it easy to adapt the sometimes very technical music of their past releases to playing live as a three piece?
Sammy: Since becoming a three piece we’ve consciously made an effort not to write or record anything that couldn’t be recreated by just the three of us live, otherwise we might run the risk of not sounding as good as our records. The album in fact is pretty much exactly what you get at one of our shows. Playing live for us is definitely what it’s all about. I feel the music is way more emotive when you can see the musicians performing it. We also like to see how much noise just three people can make…
Zac: I feel like the music only really works when you see us play, people can’t seem to get over the technical element and understand how much apathy there is in our music until they see us live, the This Is S.O.A.N. release is all about that.
One might expect This is S.O.A.N. to strip away the technical/death elements of the band’s previous work to reveal the grindcore skeleton beneath, but in fact the music is, while more extreme than ever, less easy to define, will the album be in a similar vein?
Sammy: I would say our music (particularly on the album) stretches way past just grind and death influences, mixing in loads of different ideas from across the extreme music genre. On the album I would say there are hardcore, screamo and doom influences as well. We’re quite happy to experiment with almost anything as long as we can make it fit in with our sound.
Will: When I was asked to join the band in 2012, Zac and Sammy wanted to change the musical direction and add new drum elements. I wanted to bring in more groove, more hectic double bass, different variations on blasting sonically and rhythmically to the Oblivionized sound. I can’t blast or gravity as the same as the previous drummer Jon, so I wasn’t going to try and imitate his playing style.
It’s hard to equate the squalling chaos on This is S.O.A.N. with ‘maturity’, but the band’s newer material seems less generalised and ‘grind lyric’-oriented and more lyrically/vocally intense and personal than before.
Zac: I think it’d be naïve to try and escape reality, I spent a long time doing that lyrically and I don’t feel it was positive for me. This music and these lyrics are a very real and personal outlet that I cherish, overall the theme for Life Is A Struggle, Give Up is weakness, whether it be my own or the people I choose to spend time with. To anyone who reads my lyrics and wants to talk to me about them, I really value the conversations. Life can be really fucking hard and I feel if you are struggling, that struggle is the part you should give up, it takes a lot of strength to move forward.
Ironically, Life Is A Struggle, Give Up is in itself a testament to the band’s persistence and commitment to maintaining the momentum they have built up over the years since their 2008 demo. The album may be their first, but the band has already carved itself a place in the UK underground.
Sammy: We definitely fit into the scene as there are a bunch of bands that we do shows with regularly and help out, but at the same time we’re still happy to play anything really. The plus to Oblivionized being influenced by many different things is that we end up being on all sorts of bills. Last year we played with death metal bands, grind bands, hardcore bands and punk bands. As of recently, we’ve been playing a lot of darker hardcore shows but although I wouldn’t label us as the same genre, we have enough in common to still fit on the bill without being out of place.
From the inside does the UK underground scene look to be in a healthy state at the moment?
Will: Yeah definitely, there are some amazing bands.
Zac: I think more than ever which is rad, we played with Yards not too long ago they ruled! Obviously there are all our mates just check any of the gigs I put on in London/Brighton through The Bloated Corpse of Punk.
Sammy: Definitely, there’s loads of great bands around at the moment, friends of ours like Razoreater, Let It Die, Ithaca, Old Skin, and Teef to name just a few. It’s really exciting to see so many bands active and working together!
The grind scene in the UK was always more a lifestyle than simply a music scene, is this just as true now as it has always been?
Sammy: I would say it still is very much a lifestyle really. The three of us are quite active in the UK extreme music scene and more often than not spend most of our time doing something to do with music. Will does a lot of tech-ing for bands at festivals and on tour, Zac is always doing art, putting on shows and helping bands book tours and I play in three bands and also book shows. The majority of our spare time is dedicated to doing something to do with the music scene.
Will: It’s our lives and who we are.
The biggest difference between 2014 and the original grind scene is the internet. The world wide web is far more accessible and popular than tape trading, but also far less focussed; easier to get noticed perhaps, but by the nature of the sheer volume of available material, easier to get ignored too?
Will: It’s easier to get discovered and then instantly forgotten about as there is so much music out there to listen to. There are not enough hours in the day to listen to every musical release. We are hardly the most accessible band as well, but if you don’t get it, fuck off. I’m not going to waste my time trying to make some brain dead moron understand my expression through rhythmic sonics. I don’t like talking anyway, I’d rather drum.
Sammy: It works both ways really, and I would say in our case the internet has helped hugely to get our music heard. Thanks to a lot of awesome people doing video reviews, blogs and posts about us over the last few years we’ve been noticed by more people than we could have been without it. For example, we have people from the states and a load of other places we have never toured who always pick up a copy of every release we do, and we have no label or management promoting us out there, it’s all thanks to the internet.
Looking back over the band’s career to date, the steady series of releases does seem to have been heading towards a full-length album as the next logical step, but has it been easy to keep the momentum going?
Sammy: Ha! It feels like it hasn’t been steady, but I suppose looking back on it we have pretty much done at least one release each year since we started. It won’t be hard to keep the momentum going now we’ve got the right line up. We had a lot of member problems in 2011 and 2012 which put a strain on writing new material and getting it recorded. Now it’s the three of us and we know exactly what we want to write.
Zac: writing is far easier now, with just the three of us we are all on the same page. I feel it was always an uphill battle in the past; less people less problems.
With Life Is A Struggle ready and looking for a label, what hopes do the band see in their future?
Will: I like playing, I’m not really bothered as long as I get to play drums. We do what we do, we don’t change for what others want. However, I’d like to play to more people around different venues (not necessarily bigger, hey it would be awesome to play bigger shows I’m open minded), play more shows/tours with bands that we all admire and see parts of the world that we haven’t played yet. We have been very lucky so far with where we have played and whom we’ve played with. I’m very grateful and proud of what we have achieved so far.
Zac: Will’s nailed it, I think you have to earn everything and bringing our music to as many people as possible is the entire point.
For more information on Oblivionized, befriend the band on facebook.
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