Published Aug 27, 2015Since their inception, Defeater have stood apart as storytellers in the world of hardcore. With their last three full-lengths and EP, the New England unit have pieced together a tragic, ongoing narrative of an unnamed New Jersey family struggling to survive in the post-World War II era. Speaking to Exclaim!, vocalist and lyricist Derek Archambault explains the latest chapter in the ongoing tale, which tells the story of "The Priest" on their new record Abandoned, out August 28 on Epitaph Records.
"The Priest was introduced on the song 'Cowardice' from [2008's] Travels, and his importance is pretty explicit on the new record," Archambault says. "It just shows how a minor character on one record can end up playing a very integral role in the whole story. The story isn't just about this family, it's about the important people that they meet. We have another record called Lost Ground  — it's about a character introduced on Travels, that plays a huge role in the protagonist of Travels' life. The song where he meets him is a turning point in that character's life. Sometimes seemingly insignificant people on one record are ultimately a very large part of the overall story."
Archambault emphasizes that with this new record, the atmosphere hasn't changed, and the bleakness that the band have come to be known for remains.
"[Abandoned] is the overall way that this character feels, be it by this god that he never really believed in, but took a leap for, to pay back this man that saved his life, or be it self-inflicted, where he leaves the woman he loves but takes it out on himself emotionally and through drug abuse. The title itself is the overall feeling of the record."
With each new entry, Archambault has provided a new perspective on the same chain of events through the eyes of each member of the family. Abandoned is the first full-length to step beyond the immediate family, but is no less crucial to the overall narrative.
"I want people to sympathize with each protagonist and to feel for these people. I want you to care about the well-being of the main character of the album. I also want the bigger story to come to light with each record, so you see just how people influence each other's lives for better or for worse. On Travels, you don't really know what's going on with the relationship with the father and son but you know it's painted very grimly.
"With the older brother it's the same thing; with Empty Days  I got a chance to expand on that a little bit, from an entirely different angle. And then with Letters Home, same thing — you see it from the father's perspective and see why he is the way he is, why he drinks the way he drinks, what he saw in war and what changed his life, what his relationship was like with his wife while he was away at war. It just shows how we all fit into each other's lives and how you only really see it from your point of view when it's happening to you."
Archambault goes on to explain the writing and recording process of Abandoned, and the changes that took place in crafting the particular sound achieved on the album.
"We just constantly revised while we wrote — we do it simultaneously, which is not something that a normal band does. What's really different about this one is that all five of us helped write it instrumentally, so this is the first one where we all wrote songs from the ground up, which was a lot of fun for me because I've always wanted to help write the music. I think that all of us are really happy with the way that this turned out, and I just think it has a lot to do with the fact that we were working more as a unit from the start.
"I feel like this is us getting back to where we started with Travels and Lost Ground. There are still the dynamic twists and turns in the songs and there's still some of the stuff that we expanded more on with Empty Days, but this record instrumentally reminds me a lot more of Travels' sound. It reminds me of when we were just more of a hardcore band. There's really a little bit of everything here, I think on the whole it's a much heavier, darker record."
With Abandoned, Defeater have entered a new chapter, but it is certainly not the last. So long as Defeater continue to make music, so shall the saga of "The Family" continue.
"We started this band seven years ago, saying 'This is what we're going to do,' and luckily we're still here doing it. The story is the band and the band is the story."
Stream all of Abandoned below.