Published Mar 15, 2011Over the past decade, Trap Them have managed to continually expand upon their penchant for taking the rhythmic weight of doom-y crossover acts such as Cursed, nailing it up against the cross of D-beat double-time and then slapping it a few times with opposing vocal attacks, outright screeching and inspiring, anthem-spawning choruses. Over the past few releases, it sounded like they had taken their ravenous delivery about as far as possible without either becoming white noise or Carcass. With latest long player Darker Handcraft, however, the ante is sufficiently upped, to the point that we must absolve ourselves of such a sin as thinking they were anywhere near capped-out. Pushing beyond the explosively monolithic work showcased on last year's Filth Rations EP, the quartet manage to funnel everything from expedited minute-long chuggers like "Manic in the Grips" to patient, slow-burners like "Sordid Earnings" through their filter to create an album full of dark agility. Bleak and intimidating, thanks to hammering, detuned riffs, it's no wonder such a demonic, bellowing presence would emerge from a band working with the likes of Converge's Kurt Ballou as producer. This is aural volatility at its finest.
This album finds you mining some new, dirtier territory.
Vocalist Ryan McKenney: This record is probably the closest embodiment of what we've been working towards since starting. At first, we had a large grindcore influence and death metal approach. There's only so far you can take that when you don't have a death metal vocalist though. I came from a punk background and that's the only way I can do it; I can't growl, so I'm not going to try. We had this common ground of knowing what we really like and what this band would become, which is heavy, heavy rock with blast beats and a lot of piss'n'vinegar. We've slowly morphed it into that, but there were hints early on so it's not a surprise for people who've listened to us since the start.
How did you achieve this progression?
We just had more time in the studio and more time to realize songs and create a full record instead of just a few ideas. An LP isn't something you can throw together. A lot of bands throw in filler, which is nauseating to me. We want every song to have an impact and I think that happened this time around. We took every rock and punk influence we enjoy and morphed it into the sound we know we have.
Darker Handcraft feels like an album that progresses away from your original sound without venturing too far. Was that a difficult line to ride?
This is probably the easiest album we've done; it was the first time we've gotten to write together as a full unit, so it was a lot easier compared to when we were emailing back-and-forth to write songs. There was breathing room. Brian [Izzi, guitar] was able to work with Chris [Maggio, drums] and everything flows better because of it. This is also the first time we went into the studio with everything fleshed out.
So there is something to be said for working together, as opposed to shooting ideas to one another digitally?
Yeah. No matter what, this band are unconventional with recording and touring anyway. Any time we find a way to make it easier though, we will. At first, we didn't know how it would go; Brian and I were so used to the old way, which wasn't the best way. It was easier and more familiar though: our regular M.O. This way made way more sense.
Reflecting on being in the same room, as opposed to file sharing to write, do you wish you'd approached the other albums differently?
It was still good to do it that way; it suited our personality and the way we approach this band. The first record was when Brian and I lived together. He'd write the songs with pre-recorded drums and then email them to me in the next room. For the albums after that, we had more breathing room and a writing process, so it was a natural progression to where we're all together. It kind of makes sense. Once we record an album, I listen to it for a month or two and then just leave it behind.
That's understandable: it's done and over. Why live in the past?
Exactly. We're not a band that like to play all our old songs over and over live. I don't need to refresh myself to get the feel or something. It's like how some directors make a movie, go to the premiere and then never watch it again. That approach doesn't affect your future creativity.
There will still be some surprises though, even for longstanding fans.
Yeah, our Queens of the Stone Age and Hot Snakes influences might surprise some. Still, I don't think most people will pinpoint it until I do something like this and spill the beans, admitting something was totally pulled from a Drive Like Jehu song. Brian and I are really focused on stuff like that: the discordant aspect of a lot of garage and punk rock bands. I find it so much more liberating than a lot of streamlined ― I don't want to say "processed," 'cause they're not all like that ― metal. There's a more urgent sense of creativity in punk and rock'n'roll. It's a much dirtier feel that I can identify with.
Like Zeke; they're the epitome of that.
Dude, when I moved to Seattle and knew I was in the land of Zeke, I was so stoked. Now that we tour a lot, I miss seeing Zeke and the Dwarves play down the street from my house every fucking time. It drives me insane.
It's redeeming to know that, as with Darker Handcraft, sometimes the feeling you take and/or project from an album is actually what the band intended.
Totally. We'll take songwriting over technicality or the modern version of brutality any day. That's what it comes down to. We want to write songs, not riffs, but in modern music listening, that falls under the radar. They just want 10,000 different parts in a song; it's a short attention span/music video era. Some people might think we're too stripped-down and boring for a three-and-a-half minute song with only four riffs and five parts. What they're not grasping is that's what built rock'n'roll and punk in the first place. It wasn't braggadocio competing for making every riff mind-blowing; it's about mind-blowing songs, not riffs. That's what's important.
You can do something technical, but it has to feel right?
Yep. It's like the videogame era: these guys learned to work with their hands and beat Halo a thousand times, so they can do weird things on the guitar. They can't just write a good riff though; it's not straightforward. It blows my mind that some people can follow these songs. I can't. I don't have the mindset for it and never really did. I didn't even listen to most metal when I grew up. I think I've heard one Slayer album, maybe one Metallica album. I haven't heard a lot of these things 'cause I identified with the two-minute punk era. All these noodles and stuff? It goes over my head and I have no desire to try and jump up to catch it.
There's an overriding darkness to this album. Where does it come from?
I think it's just witnessing modern life when things aren't necessarily handed to you. I grew up in a small town where my parents were working-class. You witness the weekly paycheque-to-paycheque life struggle. A positive outlook is an underlying theme of life, but you also accept the bleak future a lot of people have. There's a lot of hard work put into life with only a few getting a payoff. That undertone of growing up and realizing that in my surroundings, it was a lot easier to mould this idea of what reality is. I'm not all about, "We're all going to die, this is so fucked up," but I associate with everyday life and modern day lower-class struggles. That's a bleak part of the world; I'd rather focus on that. People can identify with that more than achieving things. It's like the hip-hop world: a lot of new guys that come out, their albums are gritty. They talk about modern day ghetto struggles and things like that, but then they go multi-platinum and most accept that they can't rap about struggling in the ghetto anymore. They have to figure out a new way to do it. In the punk and hardcore community, nobody's going to hit that platinum mark. They're going to keep the same lifestyle so they keep focusing on it.
It helps people to feel like they're not alone, that's for sure. Not only that, but your take on it doesn't seem fallacious.
You bet. Dead end kids; it's pretty easy in modern music to identify the fake hostility versus the real. It's easier to pretend you're evil than to try to look pissed off when you're really not. (Prosthetic)