A Textbook Tragedy

A Textbook Tragedy
From their adolescent beginnings as a band that dabbled in the realm of screamo, to being tagged as a Dillinger Escape Plan wannabe A Textbook Tragedy have been nothing akin to their moniker. They are a band with the blood of rulers flowing through their veins as they prepare to travel the long roads of Canada with aspirations to dip into the U.S. and hope to move on to world domination if all goes to plan. A Partial Dialogue Between Ghost And Priest was their way to catch people’s attention and with the help of a label in Distort, follow-up Intimidator is set to be unleashed on the public as ATT’s foot-hold on metal and hardcore. Guitar and vocalist Kai Turmann chatted with Exclaim! about trying to break as a band from Van-city, why Blink-182 were so important to them growing up and why Intimidator keeps horror movies as a reoccurring theme.

Vancouver isn’t exactly known for a great metal/hardcore scene, does that affect A Textbook Tragedy in a positive or negative way?
Well we love Vancouver. It’s been such a long time that we’ve been jamming here, in high school and doing local shows. It started to get serious when we got out of high school and were able to tour full-time. Once we were 18 we had a decent draw in Vancouver and there weren’t a lot of metal bands or hardcore metal bands that were doing much so people did pay attention at that point. Now we only play Vancouver maybe once every month or two months. Mostly for tour kick-offs or homecoming shows and they’re always really good. We still like Vancouver, it’s definitely a challenge to break Vancouver and we’re cool with that.

What’s the scene currently like there?
The scene is good and it’s getting better. There are at least a couple bands that are doing big things. Daggermouth are doing big things in the States, kind of set your goals style music. There’s a band called Carpenter, who I know are going to sign with a good label. There are endless bands that we’re friends with that are starting to make headway. I think with Vancouver the bands I know are doing big things. It had a lull for a few years where no one was doing anything and people thought that we should move away from here [laughs]. But it’s cool and people are starting to notice it and it’s picking up at the same time.

Does coming from a place like that provide motivation for the band to get out on the road touring and become as successful as possible?
Yeah, I think it does man. You can’t sit in Vancouver and get singed or make a lot of fans at all. The shows can be really funky once you have a draw here, but you can only play once a month really. You have to tour if you’re from Vancouver, it’s not like southern Ontario where you can play a different city every night. The closest place we have to play is four hours away. You really have to tour and all the bands from here that are making serious headway are touring. They’re going out to Ontario and down to the U.S. and it really is a motivator if you want to succeed as a band.

Has the reality of being a Canadian band that have been signed to an American label hit home yet?
When we signed with Distort we knew that initially we would only be released in Canada. Distort will represent us throughout the world now so we will be released overseas, the States is in the works. Right now our focus is Canada. People think Canada is a dead-end place, but we love it. It’s a great starting point for bands, like Alexisonfire blew up here and then transcended into Japan, Australia and the U.S. We’re hoping to do a couple of Canadian tours and branch down into the States and tour there, which is a huge goal for us right now. And hopefully do the UK because there are a couple of big Distort bands in the UK. We definitely have a worldwide mindset and we’re taking it one step at a time. Right now Canada is the starting point and we want our new album to pick up here, hopefully Canadians like it.

So you don’t feel Canada is a dead-end at all? No not at all man. Canada population-wise is smaller and touring-wise the drives are long between cities but you have to do it. It’s really important to us and it’s where we’re from. If we’re only big in Canada for the first while then we can say we’re big in Canada and that’s huge for us.

A Partial Dialogue Between Ghost And Priest was released while some of the band were still in high school. How did that affect the recording and the band as a whole?
The last album was the first one we did. There were at least one or two members who were in school and we all kind of did our own thing. We were really tied down to being in Vancouver and it restricted our touring. We were all super busy and we did our recording in night sessions from 11 p.m. to six a.m. Some of us went to school the next day and others were heading to work at eight a.m. and it was a crazy experience. Our last album we love because it helped us get the recognition to get attention from labels like Distort and we made a lot of friends, not to mention touring. That album did a lot for us and recording it was a huge learning experience.

When the band was assembled what did Blink-182 have to do with it?
[Laughs] When the four of us, without our new lead singer, originally started the band we were hardcore in love with pop punk like New Found Glory and Blink-182. We still listen to it in the van all the time. We didn’t know a lot of metal or hardcore bands. We started to play heavier stuff and dabble with screaming, this was before the Used and stuff like that came out and we hadn’t heard of screamo, but we knew that we wanted to play a heavier version of pop punk. It was our high school phase and at that point we weren’t A Textbook Tragedy we were just kids playing local shows. We give total credit to Blink-182 and New Found Glory and all those staple pop punk bands that really got us going. If we didn’t have Blink-182 I don’t think we’d be the band we are today.

I read that you guys used to be a screamo band. Is it nice to be separated from that herd?
For sure. We definitely used to be a generic screamo band and this was before we knew other bands did that. We just played music that we thought was creative. Before the genre even blew up we were headed towards a more technical sounds with off timing and that’s where our last album ended up. People often called it a Dillinger Escape Plan rip off, we were cool with that at the time because we really liked it and didn’t think it was a rip off. Now we just want to play heavy music we like. There are a lot of influences in there that sound a little Converge-y or Botch-y. So yeah, the screamo thing is cool and we don’t feel like we are a part of that anymore. I’m defiantly glad we’re not.

Does it bother you when someone says your album sounds like Dillinger Escape Plan rip off?
With the last record it started to get a little irritating because that’s all we would hear. It started to become a bad type of compliment at some points because we would get a couple big websites that would describe us as the best independent record of the year but they’d say that while saying its still sounds like Dillinger. It got a little bit much. At the same time we were okay with it because that records helped us create a following, especially in western Canada.

What was the band’s mindset while working on Intimidator?
We wrote most of the record while on a cross-Canada tour. I would usually be sitting in the van writing most of the lyrics and Nick [Yacyshyn] our drummer, who is one of the key songwriters and a great guitar play too, would be at people’s houses playing guitar trying to write riffs and it worked out to be really cool. It didn’t feel rushed but it felt like we wanted to take what we went on the road with and work with that while being on tour and then we went into the studio in Winnipeg. It was cool to have toured all the songs, pretty much, or at least half of them that are on the record. The mindset, musically, was that we didn’t want to be as technical as our last record. We kind of got tagged as a musician’s band meaning that a lot of musicians loved it but a lot of music listeners didn’t because it was so mental [laughs]. We really wanted to make it a lot more fun between that record and this record, we changed our style so much of what we listen to and bands we were hanging out with and that really influenced us a lot. We were aiming to make a record that everyone could get into a little bit more and something we had more fun playing live.

I’ve read a few articles about A Textbook tragedy on the internet and they mention your music relates to jazz and ambient. Do you agree with that?
We totally relate to jazz as musicians because we all played jazz at times, mostly in high school, like when we were all band geek guys. We love jazz and on our last record we had a huge jazz solo in the middle of it. With this record we didn’t bust out and jazz on it, but we do love jazz. Our drummer and other guitar player they are the most jazz influenced guys in the band. You can say we’re still jazz influenced but you don’t really hear it on the new record.

Have you ever Googled your new album Intimidator to see what comes up?
Not really.

Well apparently that word "intimidator” is synonymous with paintball and Dale Earnhardt. Do those themes have anything to do with the album?
[Laughs] No that just a total coincidence. We wanted a one-word ’80s metal band album name, a lot of the cool metal bands from the ’80s did that for their records. We liked the idea of having just one word that grabs people’s attention. Intimidator just made sense for us. It took a few days for us all to click on the name and we all eventually fell in love with it. We didn’t search it or look to deep into the name.

On the song "Dude I’m on Alesse” you don’t make any references to the actual birth control pill. Is that because you’re afraid of a lawsuit?
No. I’ve worried a little bit about that wondering if there’s any kind off copyright infringement by using their name. That was one of the sillier titles on the album. The song itself, if you read really deeply in to it, someone could get the vibe that it’s about someone going crazy on some sort of drug. You could say that girl’s go crazy on birth control. But that was a working title that we just fell in love with because we thought it was funny and we kept it.

In the song "Intimidator” the lyrics read "You may have heard of my victims, I put pennies on their eyes.” Do you know what that reference is to in a mythological sense?
I’ve seen it happen in numerous movies and when I was writing that song I didn’t feel rushed but I had two days and took five hours to come up with the basis for the lyrics and got together with Chris Bahris [vocals] to finish it. The pennies on the eyes things I just remembered it from seeing a few movies and I know there is a mythological meaning. I couldn’t tell you very much about it.

There seems to be a lot of religious themes and statements on Intimidator. Is religion an important thing for the band?
Not really. When people ask me about my lyrics like why are they so crazy and what to do they mean? I don’t have a ton of stuff in my life I can write about. I don’t want to write a political record, I’m interested in politics but I don’t want to be a political band. As far as religion goes I don’t lean towards anything. I think religion’s cool and I like to know about it but I don’t follow it or live by it. I just write stories. I love horror movies and that helps me write these crazy stories that are like seeing a movie. On Intimidator with the first track "If You Want Blood,” that song is almost straight out of a zombie movie that has an end of the world theme to it. We just try to write cool stories. We all have things we could write about from our lives but so far have choose not to.

Is there any chance the band would write a conceptual album based around a horror movie?
Yeah, I think that would be awesome. Our first album was a loosely based concept album and after doing that I wanted to do a full concept album. With this record it didn’t really happen and I didn’t pursue it very much. I could see one of our next few records that we do, assuming we get to do that many more records, one of those will be a full out concept album.

How real are the lyrics on Intimidator, are they factual or made up?
For the most part they’re not really in any way factual. If they were then we’d have to be going around killing people [laughs]. The song "Stay Out Of Riverdale” is based on an episode of The X-Files, at least my memory of that episode that I saw when I was ten years old and it freaked the hell out of me. I love how the lyrics turned out even though it’s probably nothing like the actual episode.

When I saw that song title the first thing I thought about was a Simpsons episode.
Yeah [laughs]. Yeah that’s where the title came from. When I was writing the lyrics I had seen that episode multiple times and it just seemed to fit. The song is about a town full of crazed zombies.

Back to my question about how real your lyrics are. I was asking because on "Total Immortal” you reference date rape and date rape drugs, I thought that was kind of intense.
On that song I was expressing my distaste towards that whole thing that people hear about all the time. So I thought, what would it be like if that girl came back and wanted to get that person back by killing them? In a fictitious sense, of course. I’m not telling anyone to go out there and kill or do bad things to anyone. It’s more like you’re going to get what you deserve. All of these songs are things I’ve dreamt up.