The Love Below are a particularly vicious hardcore outfit based in Redlands, California. Founded in 2008, the band have enjoyed a partnership with Baltimore's A389 records since 2010. Their latest LP, Every Tongue Shall Caress, is a luscious exercise in violence awash in hardcore sludge. The sound is thick and heavy as a whipping with a heavy rubber truncheon. They restrain themselves in terms of tempo, going for an inexorable throb in their rhythm rather than the typical full-tilt sprint of hardcore. The album is also characterized by a complex and varied vocal performance, employing techniques ranging from spoken word to metallic, inhuman wailing. We so enjoyed the aural beating that the Love Below had laid on us that Exclaim! took the opportunity to chat with bassist Anthony B. Tetrow and vocalist Jerry Wayne Woolbright Jr.
You've often been described, and described yourselves, as "pissed-off hardcore." What is the exact flavour or tone of the anger you are trying to capture in your music?
Jerry: That phrase kind of strikes me as being a bit redundant. If your band isn't pissed off, there's a good chance it isn't hardcore to begin with. That being said, I just wanted to write an irresponsibly neurotic sounding adult punk record.
Your music pace tends to be on the slow side for hardcore, evoking the feeling of a slow-burn, simmering rage that has yet to fully explode. Was this a deliberate artistic choice or something that naturally comes out of your songwriting process?
Anthony: I think we definitely have a balance of fast and slow parts. Our songs are kind of all over the place as far as speed and length goes. Though, there is a lot more slow and sludgy stuff on Every Tongue Shall Caress than on previous records. Everything we write is pretty natural; we're not trying to copy one specific style or sound like another band. Someone recently mentioned that we don't wear our influences on our sleeves. I think that's a pretty accurate statement.
What are the main inspirations for your lyrics?
Jerry: I never intentionally set out to write songs about anything specific. I've noticed that ever since the demo, I keep unintentionally writing songs about my extended family. They are some of the most fucked up people I've ever known. I often collaborate with one of our drummers [Chris Arias] on the lyrics, whenever I get "stuck" or run out of ideas. Usually he will give me pieces, or a whole song. Sometimes I take those pieces and give him back something completely different. There are a few songs on Every Tongue Shall Caress that he initially showed to me, half expecting me to completely rewrite the whole thing like I usually do. But I was like, "No way, leave it. This is perfect."
How has your sound evolved since your 2010 seven-inch Reproductive Rights? How do you believe you have grown as artists since your demo and that first release?
Anthony: I think our sound has evolved quite a bit since we wrote and recorded that seven-inch. I think it represents a very early stage of the band. The demo songs are more or less us showing up to the first practice and going, "Anyone got any songs written?" The track "Serious Delirium" was from our first batch of songs we wrote in 2008. We even recorded a version of it during our 2009 demo session, but the re-recorded version made it onto the Reproductive Rights EP. There was definitely a noticeable leap from the demo to that EP. We tried to incorporate a little more into the mix, such as the keyboard on "Some of Us Have Real Problems" and overall sludge/stoner feel of "Sore Subject."
You have been with label A389 for two full years now. What has that working relationship been like? How has your partnership with that label helped to shape your sound?
Anthony: It has been incredible really. Some larger labels originally approached us after we put out our demo, but A389 was a label that we felt would be best for us. Dom [Romeo] is an awesome dude, and I feel he does everything in his power to support us. I know for a fact he releases music he actually loves, not music that will guarantee him a return on his investment. Which, after four releases [for us], is definitely the case. I don't think being on the label has affected our sound in any way, and I can honestly say we don't write songs with anyone in mind but ourselves.
You originally planned to release Every Tongue Shall Caress in February of 2011, and it finally appeared in April 2012. What has accounted for that delay?
Anthony: I can't recall when we originally planned to record and release Every Tongue Shall Caress, though the record did get delayed quite a bit. Most of these songs were written in 2009 and 2010. We've had a few line-up changes that have accounted for the delays. There is also a little bit of distance between band members that makes it difficult to practice more than once or twice a week. Also, we wanted to be extremely prepared and rehearsed when we went into the studio. We did eventually start tracking in March of 2011. We recorded 17 songs in total over the course of a few weeks. I think the finished product was well worth the wait. The four songs [three new, one cover] that didn't make the LP will be released as an EP later this year on A389. It was a hard decision to choose which songs to cut from the LP, but it came down to not wanting to make the LP any longer than it already was (22 minutes).
Despite being based in Southern California, you have very strong ties to the Baltimore metal and hardcore scene. How do those two scenes compare to each other?
Anthony: We've only played in Baltimore twice now, but both times were at rather large and awesome shows. Of course, that's all thanks to the work of Dom and A389. But as far as Southern California goes I don't think it's that much different than any other scene in the U.S. The bigger/hyped bands draw a bunch of kids, while the local/smaller touring bands struggle to draw 30 kids. I don't know if it says more about the bands than it does the kids who are/aren't coming out to the shows. Who knows?
You sell your merch through an Angelfire site. I didn't know any of those were still operational. How does it feel to be the custodian of a genuine piece of internet history?
Anthony: [laughs] A few people have actually commented on that. Our merch site itself is just an extension of an Angelfire site I had made years ago for my other band. I really didn't think about the reaction we'd get when people see we're still using Angelfire. However, I'm in the process of setting up a Big Cartel site. So rest assured, the Love Below will finally make it into the 21st century.
You share your band name with an OutKast album, Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below. Has this ever let to some interesting mix-ups or shenanigans?
Jerry: Not really. Just the occasional ding dongs who like to yell things out at shows. There is always that one guy in every room who thinks that this will be the first time that anyone has yelled "SPEAKERBOXXX" at us onstage. Interesting fun fact: I have never actually listened to the OutKast record in question. I actually didn't realize that we were even named after an OutKast record until two weeks after we settled on a name. By that point I was completely over it. Just like, "Ah, fuck it. I can live with it."