Published Mar 13, 2014Featuring three-quarters of the now-defunct Gaza, the members of Cult Leader are doing their best to move forward with a new outlook and sound after rape allegations against their former band's singer tore the group apart. The release of an upcoming six-song EP, Nothing for Us Here, is the first step in moving on and getting back to the music they love: pissed-off grindcore with punk/hardcore roots. As Cult Leader vocalist Anthony Lucero tells Exclaim!, they are ready to put the past behind them and do what they do best.
"That was the reason for starting a completely new band and really focusing on each other and moving forward," he says. "We wanted to continue writing music and ultimately we had nothing to do with anything that happened, so all we want to do is continue making extremely pissed punk music. And shit like [the rape allegations] is terrible, but it ultimately has nothing to do with us."
As we reported at the time, the allegations against former Gaza vocalist Jon Parkin surfaced in January 2013, leading the band to oust their singer and consider what to do next. Eventually, they decided to start from scratch, changing the band name, adding bassist Sam Richards and moving former bass player Lucero to vocals for Cult Leader.
"We followed our guts through the whole thing, and it just felt like we needed to burn it all down and start completely fresh and build it again from the ground up, which was an extremely tough decision to make," explains Lucero. "But it's already been extremely rewarding and it feels really good. We all like the music more than anything we'd written in the past and everything about it feels extremely positive, so it's been a really great process building this new band up, as frustrating and terrible as it was to walk away from the last band."
The resulting, self-recorded EP is a maelstrom of hardcore-tinged grindcore, delving into territories that Gaza never went. And, better yet, it came together really fast and naturally, according to Lucero.
"We put the whole thing together in about a week and we were prepared to go DIY with it, but we decided to send it to Jacob [Bannon] at Deathwish, since we were buddies, and see what he thought about it, with no real expectations of him wanting to do anything with it. We basically just wanted to show it to him. But once he heard it he said it was good stuff and suggested we work together. So it came together super quick: a lot faster than we expected. It's been awesome and a really cool, smooth process."
A significant switch for the band — besides a more punk/hardcore songwriting base and a lyrical shift away from what Lucero calls "preaching to the choir" in Gaza — was the somewhat left-field shift in frontmen. Lucero had sung in hardcore bands before when he was a teen but had never done the kind of growling, unearthly screaming featured on Nothing for Us Here.
"I approached the band and told them that I wanted to do it and they were all hesitant, and rightly so, I had not proven myself in any way," he says. "So it took a little while for them to sign off on letting me give it a shot, but once we played the first show everything really fell into place and locked in. It was the cementing moment for us to be what we are, and know what we were all doing and the direction we were going to head in."
As the band release their debut EP and begin working on a full-length album to follow, they are relieved to put the Gaza era behind them. The last two years of Gaza were full of tension between Parkin and the other three members, and the rape allegations were the "last straw" and a definite sign that it was time to start over, says Lucero.
"It brought the three of us closer together, then bringing in Sam with a fresh perspective, and fresh blood, and a really great musician, gave us that moment of trying to write a song and as soon as we started it just felt natural. And we started writing stuff that put big smiles on our faces; we really enjoyed everything that was coming out of those first jams together," says Lucero. "It's been really positive and much more natural than any of us expected."
As for Parkin and the woman who made the rape allegations, the members of Cult Leader have not had any contact with either party since the decision to oust Parkin from Gaza and start over.
"There's been no contact with anybody involved since we decided to cut ties and start Cult Leader," confirms Lucero.
Nothing for Us Here arrives April 15 on Deathwish Inc.. Cult Leader will be taking the album on a U.S. tour, whose dates you can view here.
Read our full interview with Lucero here.