Hardcore heavy metal band Converge has earned a bit of a reputation for being an aggressive band, but lead singer Jacob Bannon wants people to know that he and the other three members – Kurt Ballou, Nate Newton, and Ben Koller – are perhaps the antithesis of that term.
“I think people mistake the volume for aggression,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it [that. Rather] it’s complex emotions played at a loud volume.”
Bannon also said that because of the volume of the music, many people automatically assume the band members themselves are angry, which often leads to misinterpretations of what the songs are about, as well as assumptions of what kind of people they are.
“A lot of people…feel that they know the artists that are making art and music specifically through their songs, you know? [Like] that’s the only aspect of their personality. Which, it’s really not,” he said. “Some of the people that are probably the darkest and most mysterious are probably the least that in real life. [Instead], they process those things through their music.”
As for the Converge guys themselves, Bannon explained that they are more likely to make each other laugh than to get upset about things.
“We’re all idiots,” he said, smiling. “We joke around with each other a lot and I think we’re intensely sarcastic and we’ve always been that way. That’s the only way you can really stay a band for a significant amount of time…to be able to have a fairly decent sense of humor and be able to laugh at things at much as possible, you know? Because otherwise, it could get grim.”
Late last year, Converge toured Europe, playing Berlin’s SO36 in December while promoting the newest album. Now the group is back on this side of the Atlantic for a string of summer festivals interspersed with a handful of one-off shows in various cities, and earlier this week the quartet played Magnet Club.
“It’s a lot of, you know, rinse and repeat, when it comes to stuff like this,” Bannon shared, hinting at the monotonous aspects of being on the road. “Touring, you’re kind of exhausted all the time…you only get to venture out a little bit, you know, within the basic neighborhood of where you’re playing. And that’s pretty much it. You don’t really get a chance to see all that much, to do much else aside from just play.”
However, that said, Bannon did note that the live performances are most definitely the worthwhile part of it all.
“The only joy is playing,” he said matter-of-factly. “We’re in a fortunate position to be able to tour and get to play music to, you know, a whole bunch of different kinds of people. But there’s a whole lot of sitting, hurry up and wait.”
Converge’s eighth studio album, All We Love We Leave Behind, came out late last year. The album is also touted as being the first Converge album without outside collaboration, something that Bannon is indifferent about.
“It’s not really a calculated thing; people just make up weird talking points,” he said. “Our records had collaborations and guest spots before…and the people who chose to write the marketing on that wanted to amplify that aspect of things. And then, with this one and having none of it, you know, people amplify that.”
However, as Ballou shared, there was an emphasis on making it sound live and raw, and Bannon confirmed that part was, in fact, intentional.
“We’re always trying to capture our energy collectively…I think you’re always trying to do that as a band,” he said. “At least, a band like ourselves, that is very much about that sort of live experience. And, I mean, the energy and the intensity that you come off in a live experience a lot of the time then gets lost in the recording of this sort of specific subgenre of music…it gets clouded. [And] in a strange way, it takes a lot of work to make a record sound raw. I guess you could set up just a room mic and let a band go, but you don’t get the subtle nuances that are there in a live setting.”
Speaking to his own relationship with other bands, Bannon admitted that with life on the road, he doesn’t have much of an opportunity to see live music. And even when he’s back home in Massachusetts, the notion of going to gigs or talking shop is relatively far from his mind.
“I don’t miss it, per se,” he said. “If I’m working creatively for, you know, 12 hours a day, you know whether it be working on something Converge related or Deathwish Inc. related, [I] don’t necessarily want to sit in a room and talk music for another four or five hours after [leaving] work, you know? [I] just don’t.”
He did, however, note the irony of how he is living what is not only his dream, but that of many other musicians, and how is has the tendency to change his approach to music.
“In a way, a lot of my…activities and interests outside of – I wouldn’t call it a day job, because it’s a labor of love – those things don’t really revolve around music that much,” he explained. “It takes nothing away from the relationship of music and…the positive connections that you can have with it. It’s just a very different kind of relationship.”