Violent Life Violent Death – Seething AggressionFriday, 20th July 2018
One has to admire the directness of a band name like Violent Life Violent Death. It’s direct, it’s pointed, and it tells you exactly what to expect. There’s a reason why the subject of aggression frequently arose with our talk with guitarist Joe Benham below. The band’s new EP, Come, Heavy Breath, is an explosive mixture of hardcore and metal. The directness and urgency of the material comes through with all guns blazing – an onslaught of abrasive riffing and frantic drums with caustic screams sitting atop of it all. Perfect for those in need of a fix to cure their rage. In addition to aggression, we also talked with Benham about the name itself, songwriting, and their goals for the future.
Dead Rhetoric: Since the band is somewhat new, could you go into the name, Violent Life Violent Death.
Joe Benham: Our singer, Scott [Cowan], and I wanted to start this project, and thinking of band names was one of the first things to tend to. He just kept shooting them here and there, and what caught me with [Violent Life Violent Death] was the VLVD acronym. I thought it was pretty cool, and the words kind of grew on me. We liked the aggression with the word violent so much that we got it in twice [laughs]. It fit what we felt we were going for. It was something cool sounding that no one had done.
Honestly, another huge selling point was that we can get domain names. It is what it is – we don’t have to add suffixes or anything like that. Just having facebook.com/violentlifeviolentdeath versus having violentlifeviolentdeathhardcore or NC or whatever, it was pretty cool. All of the other bands that I’ve been in, the names had already been taken somewhere else. This was a first, so it was kind of meant to be.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel having a name like that tends to lead the listener that the music will be pretty heavy?
Benham: We’d like to think so. It sounds aggressive by nature and our music definitely reflects that.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do the southern influences stem from that mix with the punk/hardcore/metal?
Benham: When we first started this about a year and a half ago, we were kind of toying around ideas with the sounds we wanted to do. Me and a couple of the guys have been in past bands together, and it was mainly pretty metal. We wanted to do something a little bit different – we have always been big fans of Everytime I Die, and we wanted to do something more ‘dirty’ sounding. I will say that our first EP had a little more of the southern stuff. We didn’t divulge into it as much this time. We just kind of wanted to put something out there that reflected all of the bands we listened to growing up and were a big part of our lives, and put a new school edge on it.
Dead Rhetoric: There was a little description in you promo that I enjoyed – could you discuss what ‘fight riffs’ means?
Benham: [Laughs] Is it not self-explanatory? It kind of comes back to that aggression. I feel like a lot of the riffs we have on the album are all very driving. We wanted driving all of the time, in various ways so that it doesn’t get monotonous. I think when you take into consideration the driving and aggressive aspect to it, it may make people want to fight when they listen to it [laughs]! It’s not something we want to condone, but it’s one of those things.
Dead Rhetoric: So how do you write riffs that maintain a level of memorability while trying to keep things as driving and abrasive as possible?
Benham: There’s something about me personally, in the way that I write, that a lot of the stuff I write is very busy – whether it be quick tempo or fast chugs. I think the dynamic with that, coupled with the drums – when we write our music, we look at what drum beat we really want and the energy that it will portray, and the guitar riffs are secondary. Either that, or a combination of doing them both at the same time. We have a few beats that we revert back to a lot, be it the two-steps or punk-rock beat, or the metal snare downbeat beat, and the random blastbeat and breakdown beats. They all seem to be high energy rhythms, and we stick with those a lot of the time. It helps to bring about that dynamic aggression.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about the album title and gasping for air in terms of the songs.
Benham: Scott, our singer, was sort of the mastermind behind that. He does all of the lyrics. We really just wanted to portray the various different moments that take you aback, or make you gasp. Whether it be through happiness, loss, fear, or joy – the whole spectrum. We kind of wanted to portray all those moments that grab ahold of you in meaningful ways. Scott would have said that much better than me [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that you’ve advanced from the V-EP?
Benham: We don’t want to be a band that puts out stuff that’s exactly the same sound all the time. It gets monotonous for us. We try to give ourselves an overall sound, but to veer off into different areas, be it a southern type of riff or on this album, we did some blastbeats, which we didn’t do on the first one. Granted, they are very short. It’s like, here’s us, but we can kind of dig into some other repertoires.
We were a little bit heavier this time, especially with the first song. We kind of wanted to show people that we could do that route to, and make it sound like us. So that if we wanted to explore that later on down the line, it won’t sound totally out of place. Like I said too, a lot of the material we write is super influenced on what we grew up listening to: be it punk rock in the ‘90s or late ‘90s hardcore or early ‘00s metalcore, and the different variations of metal. We are trying to take what we think are the best aspects of those styles of music and put them into one, while making it sound like it’s still one cohesive piece of music, as opposed to “those guys are all over the place.”
Dead Rhetoric: How important is the overall momentum in each track with songs ranging from 2-6 minutes?
Benham: That is something that we actually took into consideration this time. The first album, I swear that 4 of the 5 tracks were almost 3:30 [laughs]. They were the same tempos and everything. We took a lot of looks at that, and this time there’s more variation. Like I said, we wanted to not be monotonous and tried to switch it up, whether it be song length, tempo changes, the style of riffing and drumbeats on top of it. That helped out with being aggressive like we want it to be, without sounding the same, so those variations are very important to us.
Dead Rhetoric: This is your second EP. Do you feel that the music is more responsive in shorter doses?
Benham: I don’t know. We’ll see [laughs]. I know we are in your face a lot and it demands your attention. With both albums, they were pretty aggressive. We’ve had success with people being into it, considering its hard and aggressive nature. I think too, what I was talking about earlier, with tempo changes, we are doing some slower ones. We like the aggression; we are going to try to use it with different intents. We don’t want to be 100% in your face all of the time, like a grindcore band or something. We still value being the music being listenable. We’ve been doing it this way, and if we feel we need to make some adjustments, we might. But at the same time, we really love what we are doing ourselves, and that’s important to us as well.
Dead Rhetoric: We’ve been talking a lot about aggression. What draws you towards writing more aggressive material?
Benham: I personally love it. If I find a band, like Everytime I Die for example, that is upbeat and in your face, I love when I can find a band like that and can just put it into my car and blast the speakers and go 100mph down the road. I personally get engulfed in that. Taking that dynamic a little bit and try to make it our own to our best. If we can get people wanting to listen to our music going 100mph down the road, we consider that a victory [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: What do you have as some goals moving forward?
Benham: We definitely have some things that we would like to see happen. We’d like to get on some nice tours, some festivals, and a label would be nice. But right now, considering we are so new still, we are not really considering focusing on all of that right now. We want to refine our craft: be it our live performance, our writing, and all of that. We really want to build up a resume before going down those roads, so we can show people what we have to offer as we get more time underneath our belts.
But at the same time, we have been playing in multiple bands throughout the years. What’s nice about this band is that we are more loose with it. We want to have fun and not worry about the business aspect of it. We want to play music, play out as much as we can. We want to have a good time, and hopefully people really like what we are doing. That’s kind of the mission. If other great things, like labels and tours, spawn from it, then it’s an added bonus.
Dead Rhetoric: What does the band have planned for the rest of the year?
Benham: We have a bunch of really good regional shows coming up. We have a cd release show in Charlotte. Another noteworthy show we have this summer is July 21 with our good friends in Hopesfall. They recently got back together and they are doing some shows, so we are excited to get in on that show with them. Other than that, we are in the midst of working on an east coast tour right now. I can’t talk about too much yet, but we are looking at end of September through a portion of October. On top of that, we already have material written for another record, at least partially.
Another thing we are really trying to do is just keep the content coming out. We don’t really want to take the normal path that bands do, where they come out with a record once every three years. I think being a new band, we have to work extra hard right now to get people’s attention, and I think we can come up with quality material once a year. We hope it will really help keep things going strong for us. We’ll avoid any lulls and keep adding onto that resume that I was talking about before and really keep things going.
Dead Rhetoric: The attention span nowadays is pretty fleeting…
Benham: Oh, I know it. You’ve got bands that will come out with a record. I’m a huge fan of the band Ghost. They came out with their new record a few weeks ago and I’ve driven it into the ground. I’m sick of it now. I’m ready for them to come out with something else. I think with the scene being so saturated and there being so many good bands coming out with quality stuff, we want to stay in the mix and try not to get lost amid what all these other great bands are doing.