Converge Unite with Chelsea Wolfe and Cave In's Steve Brodsky — but Don't Call Them a Supergroup
Jacob Bannon sheds light on the ego-free new version of the band he calls "Converge Bloodmoon"
Published Nov 18, 2021It seems the term "supergroup" gets tossed around every time pre-established artists join forces. Granted, it's hard not to get excited about a joint effort from Converge, Chelsea Wolfe (with her writing partner Ben Chisholm) and Steve Brodsky of Cave In — but Converge's founding vocalist Jacob Bannon emphasizes the distinction between clickbait jargon and genuine collaboration.
"Why is it inferred that the narrative of the artist is that they consider themselves super?" Bannon asks, laughing. "The conversations around those things fall into place right away, and it becomes an argument about nothing. But it is what it is. We're just happy people care about aggressive music in 2021."
In fact, the roots of Bloodmoon: I trace back several years before the idea of a collaborative album was on the table. The septet's potential for divergent beauty manifested in 2016, through live performances of post-rock-leaning interpretations of classic Converge songs.
"We're all multi-instrumentalists, so there were some songs where I played guitar, or bass, or sang," he explains. "Sometimes Chelsea would play guitar, or not. Bloodmoon, now as a fully formed entity, still has those qualities."
Though a pointed fork in the road for Converge's usual sound, Bannon maintains Bloodmoon: I's status as a Converge album. He distinguishes the "Converge Bloodmoon" lineup from regular Converge the way a multifaceted act like Melvins distinguishes their iterations. Melvins don't stop being Melvins when the lineup shifts, so why should Converge separate Bloodmoon from its creative thrust?
"They have Melvins Big Band and Classic Melvins," Bannon says, "Converge Bloodmoon is a band, a seven-piece band … We have no intention of subtracting anyone."
Semantics aside, Converge's unapologetic nature leaves little room for fans to feel too surprised by the self-titled single "Blood Moon" or "Coil." The songs might not carry the frenetic rage of the band's metalcore sound, but to Bannon, they remain within the overarching ambitions of converge.
"I guess we kind of answered that directly in the creative process," he says. "It's another branch of our tree."
While older albums like 2009's Axe to Fall found Converge bringing many outside influences into their sound, Bloodmoon: I offers far more than guest vocals from Chelsea Wolfe or riff contributions from Brodsky.
"These songs were written by seven people," Bannon clarifies. "Not only shaped by the seven, but we're all in that mix together — more so than any other Converge record."
Distinguishing Cave In and Chelsea Wolfe from the core four members becomes difficult, as their joined energies seep into every follicle of the album. The most surprising facet of this collaborative depth is the lyrics and vocals. Bannon normally takes care of the lyrics himself after the band finishes the instrumentation; this time, he found himself singing words written by Chelsea Wolfe and Brodksy, or vice versa.
"That sort of flexibility is all over the record," he says. "We didn't know how much we would keep when we were throwing all of our ideas into the mix. Then it was Kurt's time to shine as an engineer, to edit the mass and see what would or wouldn't work."
Performing lyrics written by others took a lot of getting used to, but it ultimately became a healthier headspace for Bannon. Besides his aversion to treading water as a songwriter, he also realized how some of the lyrics he wrote for Converge can create a negative feedback loop.
"Typically, Converge songs are rooted in exploring personal conflict," Bannon says. "Sometimes that stuff doesn't get resolved in real life. People can connect with it and have a positive effect in their lives, but you're sometimes left at the same point you were when you wrote it.
He continues, "Analyzing that aspect of my creative output has me thinking, 'I can't do that anymore.' Being welcomed into a group who wants to explore new ideas takes some pressure off. I don't have to put my heart directly out there. I can get lost in these larger existential ideas from Chelsea and Steve."
Bloodmoon: I's trio of vocalists truly brings it to life. As a self-described frenetic, percussive vocalist, Bannon is continually inspired by his partners' unique approaches.
"Chelsea has this really ethereal, magical voice that's also really strong," he notes. "The way she almost sings a melody around the riffs, coming in a beat or two before the riff starts ... Steve would say, 'Let me play you this new counter melody idea for the song I wrote last night,' and it'd be completely different from what we were working on."
Having so many artists in one room carries the risk of conflict, but Bannon speaks on how amicable the meeting of minds remained. Where regular Converge would micromanage their music for weeks, Converge Bloodmoon embraced soul — imperfections included.
"Ego is always the enemy of this kind of shit, when everyone wants to be heard," Bannon reflects. "This is the opposite of that. None of us want to be heard. No one wants to be the star. We're just happy to be on the ride."
Mutual reverence between these collaborators existed even before the 2016 live shows, resulting in a smoother undertaking than a normal Converge session, which is often peppered with sarcasm.
"We always joke that we've all agreed to be equally unhappy forever, in terms of how we connect and compromise on things," he laughs. "I don't know if we would have been able to do something like this 10 or 15 years ago. Now, we know what matters for the song. The seven of us want to make the best possible music for ourselves."
As rewarding as the writing was, leave it to a pandemic to derail the recording. After demoing material since the initial live performances, the band's plan to record during the spring of 2020 was obliterated.
"We wanted the recording to sound live, but all of that got postponed because the world shut down right at that time," Bannon remembers. "We went into this holding pattern. What could we do? How can we work on it? Should we wait this whole thing out?"
They gradually chipped away at the recordings, an unusual process that resulted in them capturing the drums last. This required Chisholm and Converge guitarist-producer Kurt Ballou to tempo-map the entire album, time signature changes and all.
"That's not uncommon with pop music, where a monster studio session drummer can come in and nail it," Bannon observes. "But in our world, the drums are the heart of everything."
The perseverance paid off, given the album's dark, evocative emotiveness. It attests to Converge's drive to stay on the vanguard of the metal and hardcore scene they've so profoundly impacted — much like they did with Jane Doe 20 years ago.
The bewitching melodies and hair-raising crescendos of a crushingly gothic cut like "Flower Moon" check different boxes than a classic like "Fault and Fracture," but Converge never forsake their time-tested ethos within these explorations.
"We're not the first band to want to expand and pull in new ideas," Bannon says. "But it often feels like too much of a departure. Our musical character is very honest and pure. It feels natural."
He continues, "We've blown the doors open of what we can do. Some moments are more rock-oriented, and ethereal or even doomier than we ever would have done. It's also looser and explores space in a way we never had before."
If this is I, what about Bloodmoon: II? Bannon remains hopeful for the future of this version of Converge. Bloodmoon: I doesn't even span the breadth of what they've already written.
"Will there be II, III, IV? We hope so," Bannon says. "This has been positive so far. If we can get another few releases together, we certainly will. Everyone's enjoying the process so far."
It's not every day a band can pull off something on this scale after 30 years — a position which Bannon remains grateful to be in. "It feels crazy to be doing something you did as a teenager," he marvels. "We're always appreciative when our music appeals to people in new ways."
At the very least, it's a good world to live in where doomfolk shamans can join forces with metalcore legends.