Published May 18, 2016After a decade apart, getting back behind the microphone with post-hardcore supergroup Head Wound City meant that vocalist Jordan Blilie would once again be screaming himself sore. Time was the Washington-bred frontman wrote off blasting his vocal cords to deliver subtler work with acts like Past Lives, but there's a really good reason he brought back the aggro vocal style for Head Wound City's A New Wave of Violence: he's just really damned good at it.
"It is kind of weird to have this very particular, very odd skill set, which is screaming really loud. There's only a handful of contexts in which to use that," he tells Exclaim!
When pressed to offer up any other lines of work that require a raw and bloodied larynx, he takes a second or two before coming up with horror movie voice actor.
Blilie's journey back to the harsher side of the singing spectrum started in 2014 for a series of reunion dates with his feted Blood Brothers project, which found the ghoulish band playing their greatest hits. Later that year, Head Wound City guitarist Nick Zinner, also of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, got the old gang back together for a show in L.A., which led to them writing a new album together in early 2015.
The music was written in a week in a San Diego rehearsal space, and later recorded in a Venice, CA studio with Ross Robinson (Slipknot, At the Drive-In). To make sure Blilie could be as punishing as possible, the producer spent a rigorous month-and-a-half with the singer, getting him to scream for hours on end in the vocal booth before pressing the record button. The intense training session built up Blilie's vocal strength like never before.
"Screaming is intense and very physically taxing," he explains. "Every recording experience prior to this one, I would just have to take it phrase by phrase, part by part, and line by line, because I would just blow myself out. By the end of this recording, I was just going over all my comped vocals with single takes. I had never done this before."
While Blilie is happy to be howling with Head Wound City again, he hadn't always expected to be back in a hardcore band. Back in the late 2000s, he was fronting Past Lives, a more experimental project that saw him toning down his vocal approach. At the time, he told Exclaim!: "It would be silly to scream in another band." Entering his mid-30s has mellowed his position on a lot of things, including shouting in a punk band.
"When I was younger I had a tendency to over think and take things more seriously than need be," Blilie says while reflecting on his old comments. "When it comes down to it, it's a style of music that I grew up with in my teens. It was the first thing that had an immediate, life-altering impact on me. I loved the idea of coming back to it as an adult."
Check out Head Wound City's upcoming North American tour dates here, and have a listen to A New Wave of Violence below. The album is out now on Vice.