Rob: Who is Death Will Tremble?
Hunter: Death Will Tremble is a metal band from Austin, TX. We’ve just put out our first album, “Mona,” which is available on iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, and pretty much anywhere else you can think to buy music online.
We’ve been playing music together for the last 10 years in some form or another- whether we were in bands together, or just getting together in our rehearsal space and making noise– but we just started writing for this project a couple of years ago.
Rob: Where does your name come from?
Hunter: The name Death Will Tremble is taken from a poem by Charles Bukowski- I’ve been a big fan of his writing for a long time, and when I came across this line it always kind of resonated with me.
“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
Rob: What inspired the title of “Mona?”
Hunter: Mona is a song that we’ve been trying to write for a long time, since way before we were Death Will Tremble. Maybe 7 or 8 years ago, when we were in a different band, Jason told me about this elephant in his hometown of El Paso that had become sort of a local celebrity- Mona. She was 52 when she passed away, and the official word was that she had died of old age, but it came out later that she’d been abused. And it had always really stuck with him that this animal he and so many other people had loved so much, that had been such an important part of their childhood, had suffered her whole life, in this tiny enclosure, at the hands of the people entrusted to take care of her. So even in our old band we were trying to find a way to tell that story without being so black and white about it, but there wasn’t much of a place in the style of music we were playing at the time for subtlety. I think Mona was the third song we wrote for Death Will Tremble- and the first time he showed me the riff he was like, “Man, this is it. This is Mona.” It was a really important song for us, so it made sense to title the album after it.
Rob: What are the different themes within this album?
Hunter: The very broad answer to this is that a lot of this album is about loss, either directly or indirectly. It’s about a lot of things, but there’s certainly an underlying theme that’s consistent throughout the entire album. My father was really sick while we were writing this record, and he passed away just before we started recording- so whether I intended for it to or not, it affected a lot of what I was writing about at the time. I don’t think I ever wrote about it directly, but something like that bleeds into everything else. At least for me it does.
Rob: What is your song “Gallows” about?
Hunter: I wrote most of Gallows in one go, on the back porch at my old apartment, the night before we went in to the studio to record a demo of the song- this was probably a year before we ended up recording the final version that went on the album. It’s hard for me to say exactly what a song is about because I don’t really start many songs with a particular story in mind, just kind of a feeling that I get as the guys are working out the music. Usually I’ll work out the phrasing first, syllable placements and patterns, and as I’m doing that I’ll start drafting lyrics- and when I write the first line that really sticks, I’ll scrap everything else and build the song around that. With this song, it was “We become who we are. We become who we always were.”
I’ve always had issues with depression and anxiety, and this song deals with a lot of that. Again, I can’t say what it is exactly, but it’s my attempt at painting a picture of that feeling. I don’t know. Depression is rough because you can really lose yourself in it, and it can become so comfortable that you’d rather be there than anywhere else. I can recognize it now and understand that it will pass, but it wasn’t always like that- and when you think you’re stuck there, that it’s who you are, that you belong there- it’s hard to let go of sometimes. You start to romanticize it. There’s a line in this book called The Unbearable Lightness of Being that says, “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine,” and I think Gallows is partly me playing around with that idea and what it means to me.
Rob: What is your favorite song on this release?
Hunter: Personally, “What Becomes” is my favorite song on the record. It’s definitely my favorite vocal performance, but even beyond that I just think it flows really well, and I think the music and the lyrics both tell a good story- together and separately. We worked a long time on that one, on arranging it and getting it to sound just the way we wanted it to, and I think because of that it’s the song I’m most proud of.
Rob: Name your favorite record label.
Hunter: You know man, I’ve never really thought about it. Relapse has put out a lot of good records, and a lot of good bands have come out on Southern Lord. Indie Recordings seems to have a very genuine approach to the way they do things, and they’ve put out a lot of great music, too, but I don’ t know if I’ve ever really gotten into a label’s entire roster. There are just so many. That’s a really tough question. I was really glad to see that Pluto Records started putting out music again recently- I was a big fan of some of their bands when I was younger and they just picked up our friends in DSGNS a year or so ago, which was kind of surreal for me.
Everyone is acting as their own record label now, there’s a lot to take in. A lot of my favorite bands are releasing albums on their own dime, under their own labels, and keeping a lot more control of their music that way. There are so many resources available to independent musicians now that there’s no limit to what you can do if you’re willing to put in the work and do the research. Especially if you’re already somewhat established.
Rob: How is Austin’s music scene?
Hunter: I guess it just depends on who you ask. I think Austin’s got a great music scene, overall. A lot of us are bitter about it, or we’re jaded, but I don’t think any other city has it that much better than we do, really. Being a musician in any city is tough, and bands that don’t play covers are never going to get paid as much as they should, but the reality of it is that there’s a lot more opportunity in Austin than there is in a lot of other places- and as a result, there’s a lot more competition. Someone is always writing better songs than you. Someone is always working harder than you. It’s a good place to cut your teeth.
Rob: What are the band’s plans for 2016?
Hunter: We released this album in May and went out for a few weeks afterward in support of the record, and since then we’ve been working on new material. I imagine we’ll play a handful of shows later this year, but we’re really trying to focus on getting back in the studio to record a new EP. We feel like we laid a pretty solid foundation with “Mona,” but we’re really excited about the next couple of songs that we’ve written, and we’re anxious to get them out. We’ve actually just set a date for our first pre-production meeting with our producer, Tim Gerron (M.O.D/Deadhorse), so if things go well we should be in the studio in the next couple of months.