Published Mar 21, 2014When Imbroglio called it quits a week prior to the release of their masterful 2012 album, Declared Self Hatred, it came as a shock. But what no one knew was that frontman D.J. Gilbert was battling deeply serious personal demons at the time. Having come out of it on the brighter side, Gilbert has regrouped the Dayton, OH-based band and they have relaunched their career with some of the group's best material to date. The new, five-song EP, The Struggle In Pursuit, takes Imbroglio's chaotic and abrasive mix of grind, sludge, doom and experimental noise and replaces feelings of despair and self-defeat with hopefulness and optimism. In a recent interview with Exclaim!, Gilbert discussed the reasons behind the band's break, their reformation and the latest EP, as well as how he has progressed as a person and Imbroglio's newfound, more positive outlook.
You've regrouped Imbroglio after a brief hiatus. Why the break?
Yes we have regrouped, it is now Bret Newland [drums, vocals], Josh Deeter [bass, vocals] and myself [guitar, vocals]. Overall the brief hiatus was for my sanity. I have kept this band alive for over seven years now. I no longer felt a fire burning inside because, with Declared Self Hatred, I felt like I finally wrote my final piece — my suicide note. I knew I was on my way to the easy way out. I literally expelled every ounce of hate for myself on that record. So it was either put it on an indefinite hiatus for a while or just allow myself to self-destruct.
What made you decide to start up again?
Overall the regroup was an idea brought up by Bret. I wanted to start a whole new band, basically new everything. But no matter what I do it will always sound like Imbroglio. If my hands are on the strings and voice is being heard, then it would just be Imbroglio with a different name. So I agreed to Bret's proposal of wanting to play drums. I even asked for our original drummer's permission and consent to further this idea. He gave me his blessing and he knew of Bret's capabilities, so overall Nate [Harrah] was comfortable with everything. So I got Josh back into the fold. Once we had our first full band practice it literally felt right. Not that it never did before, but it just felt like everything was meant to be. Bret learned most of Declared Self Hatred at that point, and just running through that material it lit a fire in me that I thought had burnt out over a year ago. So now we are back. Everything is more positive with us as people. Bret brings a very positive vibe to this band, and he truly brings out the best in us. Including our capabilities as players and musicians.
What was the writing and recording process like for the new EP, The Struggle In Pursuit?
I will sum it all up in one simple word: easy. Everything fell into place almost effortlessly when it came to the writing process. We had so much fun writing this. It all was almost an accident. A lot of it was written on the spot. It felt and feels alive, like it's a part of us. Not that I don't hold that connection with our older material, but this is the most spiritual music for me to date. Because I literally felt at times our spirits and souls were communicating in such a way that this material just sort of came to be as its own thing. The recording process was pretty intense for me, I didn't sleep for almost two days; I was out of my mind in the slaphappy way. We went in the studio with Bobby Leonard who did the record before, Declared Self Hatred. I know he didn't have a clue of what to expect from us at this point after I had a mental breakdown in his studio before. But he truly brings out the best in us when we are in the studio with him. He is not afraid to strive for the better take or capturing a more sincere moment; that's hard to do with bands. But we believe in him just like he believes in us to perform to our best capabilities.
Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the musical direction would be?
No. That's the beautiful idea about Imbroglio. We are a constant state of confusion. Not intentionally either. We never know what the next song is going to sound like or how it will feel. I feel if we were to preconceive it, it wouldn't feel so alive like a new life or newborn child. It keeps things exciting. It keeps things moving. It keeps us on our toes, to keep trying new things and topping ourselves without intentionally doing it.
Has the time away from Imbroglio had an impact on the band's sound?
I don't think so. Bret has brought so much to the table that there are things now that are different. But different is good, or at least it is for us. It has pushed and pulled us in all different directions. When I put Imbroglio on hiatus, I literally did not pick up my instrument ever with the intent of writing a song. I am not an at-home player, I write with the band 99 percent of the time. There are times where I come up with riff ideas at home, but never full-structured songs. But I feel as I get older the material feels more mature. This new material feels more adult instead of young, and fuelled by all the wrong things for inspiration. Especially lyrically.
How have the new members had an impact on the band?
Well Josh has been in the band since Declared Self Hatred, but we both have grown so much on this hiatus. But Bret had a huge impact on me as a person. They both teach me so much as a person, and as a man. They bring out the positive side in me. They keep me levelheaded and always on the go, which is what this band has always needed. Not that the previous members haven't done that, but I was a completely different person in a lot of ways back then. I had to learn how to grow, and most of all learn to love myself. These dudes helped teach me all of that.
How do you feel The Struggle In Pursuit compares to your previous releases?
I feel this new release from us shows that we are more mature now. I am not trying to write music that will send me to my grave anymore. This new material is very self-triumphant in the sense that it's no longer negative for me. It just feels alive to us. It's breathing with us. Imbroglio is no longer this machine that is fuelled by hate for the wrong reasons. It's fuelled by a band of friends, and people who want to create together, who also want to dominate their expectations within evolving, playing and writing music.
Imbroglio's sound features many different styles. Is the diversity within your music deliberate? How do you describe your sound?
I will say no, it's not deliberate. There are no intentions of just trying to be off the wall. It just happens in the heat of the moment. We glue things together that we see fit or sometimes unfitting because we want to snap you out of a groove. We unintentionally are messing around with different genres on this record. They just happen. They seem to work and fit with us. We simply play what we want to hear in music. To answer your second part, it's hard to describe. The only way I can describe it is abrasive, often extreme with variety, and tasteful.
Thematically, what is the EP about? What influenced the lyrics?
It's about the struggle of being a working class, blue-collared American citizen; failing friendships; the seasons and how they affect the moods of us as people; the inner walls we build to guard ourselves from harmful people; and the uphill battle of the pursuit of happiness. It's truly its own thing. I grew tired of the consistent negativity in most extreme music. Nobody wants to seem to talk about the real problems or the real things that are truly going on with themselves to try to become a functioning, real member of society. I am very much a hardworking American, just like everyone else in my band. The lyrics were influenced by everyone's life in the band. We work to feed Imbroglio, to keep it going, but yet we are constantly set back by financial struggles. In all reality, the title says it all for what we are talking about, and it's a representation of who we truly are as men now.
The Struggle In Pursuit is extremely dark and aggressive while hopeful at the same time. Was that juxtaposition intentional?
None of this was intentional, like I said, it all kind of just happened in the moment. The songs had no order until we really sat down and decided what the track order should be in the studio. The songs weren't even named until we left the studio the night it was finished. But that's exactly what I wanted you to feel, the darkness but there is a light in there that will bring you out on top. I want this record to inspire people to take on the world. I want people to better and further themselves. Digression is not an option, especially for us as a band and as people.
What's next for Imbroglio?
We are going to be doing a bit of touring this year; a lot of weekend warrior stuff. We plan on releasing another EP before the end of the year, along with some possible splits. You never know what could happen with us. We are still writing, we never stop. We're always evolving and always progressing.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Please check out our record labels Red Moth Records and The Path Less Traveled Records. They work very hard to help us out in any ways they can. They both have nothing less than amazing artist rosters. Thank you guys for interviewing us, and for your never-ending support for our band. March 21st is the big day for us and our return. Be sure to pick up a copy. This is our best material yet.