Animosity

author PP date 29/06/07

Meeting with the Animosity frontman Leo was an interesting experience, as he turned out to be an intelligent young man with well thought out answers to my questions, even though he was visible overwhelmed by being interviewed by a local magazine in a country where he expected next to nobody to have heard their record. It's always a pleasure interviewing a band member who is genuinely interested in answering your questions and gives you detailed answers and isn't afraid to hold back details about what they think about themselves, the scene or the genre that they belong to. Through the interview it became clear that the band is very much Leo's band, more than a shared ownership, which is why he was able to articulate his thoughts about different aspects in the band this well. It's an interesting sidenote that he seemed very calm when I was interviewing him, but on stage he turned out to be a monster-out-of-control. Read on to find out what in my opinion one of the more intelligent frontmen in metal had to say about his band.

RF.net: Hi and thanks for agreeing to do this interview with us! Please introduce yourself to the readers.
Leo: I'm Leo, and I'm the singer for the band Animosity.

RF.net: So, how are things in Animosity at the moment?
Leo: Things are pretty awesome. Obviously we are in Denmark which is a new experience for us, and that's always welcomed. We have a new album that we just recorded, it'll probably be out in September or October, available here in Europe as well. That'll be another new thing for us. This whole European experience is pretty huge for us. So probably the best we've ever been [with a huge smile]

RF.net: You're currently on a tour with an impressive lineup, supporting Converge and Rise & Fall - how did your support slot come about?
Leo: I'm not exactly sure how it came about. I would imagine.. well I had been in touch with the European booking agency for quite some time, and I knew that they booked Converge. I was always telling him to put us out with them. We arranged to have our album recorded by Kurt [Ballou] who plays guitar in Converge, and I imagine that he would've possibly put in a word for us or something. But we couldn't be happier.

RF.net: You've been on this tour merely a week - any stories worth telling yet?
Leo: Umm.. aside from me losing every night in gambling on the bus, let me think. Let me think about that and tell you about it later.

RF.net: What do you guys play?

Leo: We've been playing poker, texas hold em and rolling a lot of dice. I have the worst luck known to man.

RF.net: So who wins?

Leo: Usually this guy over here [points at Nate] Nate, he plays bass in Converge. Today our drummer came up 50 euros for one dice, which is pretty huge for us. [laughs]

RF.net: In my ears, there isn't too much in common soundwise between you and Converge or even Rise And Fall - keeping this in mind, what kind of response have you received so far from the Converge fanbase?
Leo: It's been mixed. Yesterday in Chemnitz I don't think they really had any interest in hearing us. We played, and our friends Job For A Cowboy played, and they're more of a death metal band, and neither of us were very well received. But the day before it was entirely different, we had a crowd going. I think it's just gonna depend each night, we've only played three shows so far, and we got a good response and bad response. So we'll see how it goes tonight. Either way, it's our first time over here and most of these people have never heard of us so the fact that they might not understand us right away is totally normal anyhow.

RF.net: People call Converge deservedly 'the most artistic chaotic hardcore band in the world', and Rise And Fall are clearly heavily influenced by them. But you guys are more of a death/grind band than a hardcore band at least soundwise. Do you have any roots in hardcore or is it metal all the wa
Leo: Well our roots, we definitely came up playing within the hardcore scene. All the bands that we initially started playing with were hardcore bands and we associated, and we still to this date associate with hardcore bands as well as death metal bands. And we take influence from all styles of music including hardcore, and including Converge, who is pretty much just influential on the entire world of heavy music, in every way from the music to the artwork and merchandise. Just the whole philosophy of running your band they are pretty influential on me that way. So we definitely don't play hardcore music at this point but we've taken a lot of things from hardcore and incorporated into our band.

RF.net: So can you tell me a little bit about how you got started as a band, and how did you choose your musical direction?wa
Leo: Yeah, well, basically when I was 14 years old I started high school in America, in California, and I just met this guy named Nick who was best friends with our guitar player Frank, and they had been playing guitar for a while together, so we started a band. They didn't know what hardcore was, they were into kinda more mainstream metal. I was at that point really involved in hardcore and underground metal. We kind of just came together and started playing music. It was pretty bad for a while, we were 14 years old, but soon enough we started getting our members in line. We got our drummer Navene a year after we started, and about a year later he brought in Chase. I think we've had our musical style kind of cut out for us since the beginning, however it's just been a journey of growing as musicians to be able to play what we wanna play. Whereas when we were younger, although they were all skilled musicians for their age, just the technicality and the originality that we strive for now we couldn't achieve back then. So I think we still have the same goals as musicians that we ever did, but we are just able to execute things better now as we get older and play more.

RF.net: California isn't exactly known for Death Metal, you got NOFX and the punk bands and you got Atreyu and the Orange County bands.

Leo: We come from San Franciso. Right now there's some of the best death metal I think comes out of California. It's like the new school brutal death metal stuff that is all coming out of there. There's a label called Unique Leader Records that puts out most extreme death/grind. It's owned by the guitar player of the band Deeds Of Flesh. So most of the bands kind of sound like that. Death metal is experiencing kind of a reneissance in America right now, where it's becoming more widespread and a lot of people's ears are much more open to death metal and death metal influenced bands, and the merging between hardcore bands and death metal bands is alive. We listen to bands from all over the place.

RF.net: You are impressively young for a band in this genre, the guys I usually tend to meet in interviews are long-haired and in their 30s. Have you encountered any situations where this has been an obstacle in any way?
Leo: In some way. We've toured with like every sort of band. We've toured with straight death metal bands like Origin and Malevolent Creation. Sometimes when we are playing in front of a crowd, like if we are playing a Malevolent Creation show, we did a whole tour with them, some of the older guys might not get it right away. They might think we're just some punks, but I don't know, the music speaks for itself. We're not trying to impress anyone with how we look or.. I mean as far as I am concerned it's better to be young than it is to be old so [laughs]. We just try to let the music speak for itself, and if you like technical aggressive music, there's a good chance that you might be interested in us, whether we are old or not, or look like long-hairs or whatever.

RF.net: You mentioned Job For A Cowboy before, they've sold 13k records on the first week, and they have over 3 million Myspace profile views. They're on the same label as you guys. So I'm just wondering what makes the difference between them and you guys because you don't sound that radically different from each other. They're very famous and you guys are a very small band.
Leo: Lets see. We're not entirely on the same label, they're on Metal Blade proper, we're on a label called Black Market Activities, which is distributed through Metal Blade. Although we've been a band a lot longer than them, they were able to come up and gain a lot of popularity really quick through Myspace, whereas when we were a starting band there was no Myspace. I didn't know anything about that. So the difference is.. there are musical differences but I mean.. I can't explain it, it's a phenomenon, and it needs no explaining. It just is what it is.

RF.net: Lyrically, the stuff on "Empires" is impressive, I especially liked "Holy Shackles", which criticizes organized religion quite bitterly. Overall, your lyrics tend to have a very critical tone - is this a conscious decision or is it something that just comes naturally?
Leo: I think its kind of the nature of the band. Animosity, meaning extreme aggression and hatred. It's just kind of an outlet for me to see disgusting things in the world and criticize them through the band. We're playing aggressive music and the lyrics are right there with it in terms of the level of aggression. It's really hard for me to write lyrics about things that I love and things that make me happy for this band, just because of the nature of the music. So it is a conscious decision, it's the same thing on the new record but in relation to different topics. It's more of a personal record as opposed to just social criticism as it is on Empires.

RF.net: You've now had about two years to reflect upon "Empires" - how do you feel about that album today?
Leo: It's cool. I'm not excited about it anymore. We've played the songs enough times to be really ready to move on. But it was a good release for us when we put it out, and I think it will stand the test of time. The recording and the whole sound of the record has grown a little old to me. But there's nothing that I regret on the CD or nothing that I look back on as being a mistake or anything. I stand behind the record still, two years later.

RF.net: So you were talking about the new album earlier - what should we expect from it?
Leo: Well, I'm definitely really excited about the new one. You can expect umm... first of all it sounds a lot better than "Empires" did. As I said, Kurt recorded it in his studio in Massachutes, and we spent a lot more time recording it. The songs are just more mature, the riffs are hundred times better. We put a little more focus onto writing each riff on this record. Although, we did on "Empires" as well, but the whole band, being that we are young, has been a growing experience where we grow as musicians and as songwriters, as years pass by. So I think it's more of a musical record as well, we didn't focus on any sort of sound or there were no intentions with the record other than to make the best riffs and songs that we could. I think it's definitely a more genuinely honest record. Musically I know that these guys are playing right from their heart and I know that I wrote lyrics that mean a lot to me. So it's a more personal feel that I think people will actually be able to relate to.

RF.net: Like you mentioned, you worked with Converge's Kurt Ballou for this album. What did he add / do differently to the recording process than in your past experience?
Leo: Well our past experiences were all with the same guy, who does a great job, but working with a new producer who has entirely different equipment and entirely different approach to things, is inevitably gonna bring about a different sound. So I think we spent more time initially getting the sounds that we wanted from the instruments than dealing with it after and altering stuff. It's kind of more natural sound that represents our life experience pretty well, I mean better, but..[chuckles]. I wouldn't say it's raw, the recording, but it sounds amazing. It sounds great.

Another band member from the side: Natural and organic!

RF.net: What do you think is the most important aspect about the music you create?
Leo: [long pause] For me there's a couple of different aspects to the music that we write. The first and foremost is just the emotional aggression that comes out with our music and that it's just blasting loud music. That's the face of the music to a listener who is not familiar with Animosity or even the whole genre of metal. That's what they're gonna take away from it, that it's aggressive music. And I think that is actually really important but more importantly, specific to our band, is just the creativity and technicality that goes into each riff. We look at each riff as an entire song, and there's hundreds of riffs on our CD. I don't know if what I'm saying makes sense but every part of each song is perfected to its...perfect [laughs].

RF.net: So are we talking about a Tool kind of perfection or something else?

Leo: I don't know, we just try to make each part interesting and we really don't want to just continue.. going on tour so much you see so many bands playing just rehashed music from other bands that we are all influenced by, and it gets pretty mundane and old. So we are trying to continue playing metal, continue playing extreme music, but add something new to the whole music extreme music world, and step it up.

RF.net: I'd like to finish off with two questions, one more specific and the other one more broad, and I'll start with the latter: Where do you see the whole death/grind metal scene moving towards in the future - again keeping in mind that 13k records shifted by Job For A Cowboy?
Leo: Where do I see it going? Well, I definitely see it catching onto more trends that are kind of popularized by websites like Myspace, but I don't think that is the ultimate fate of death metal. There's always going to be a true death metal sound that's going to be timeless. Some of the original death metal bands like Suffocation and stuff can be heard with new bands today that are ignoring trends and whatnot. I think that will maintain as like a rock. However, to say which way, which trend, or what's going to be the next trend in death metal and grind..I'm glad I don't know, because I want nothing to do with it.

RF.net: So are you against this whole 'scene'?

Leo: I can't say I'm against it because it's exposed a lot of people to music that's pretty cool. But it's a little weird. I'll say that much. It's a little weird seeing fourteen year old girls at our shows buying our T-shirts, because I would've never imagined that they knew what we were about or cared what we were about. But they might be, It's just umm... I'm not gonna say that I don't appreciate people who like us, cause no-one has to like us. But yeah, I think it will keep going in this direction of more of a watered down scene version of death metal.

RF.net: Do you think it will blend more towards what's popular now, like say Metalcore? Do you think they will get closer together?

Leo: They already are. Now metalcore's kind of done, it seems like it is a few years old and people are over it and now all those people are listening to the new death metal or deathcore bands. Some of the might have keyboards or clean singing. It's not any direction that we are going though.

RF.net: More specifically then, how does the future look like for Animosity?
Leo: I think our newest album "Animal" is going to be a really good stepping stone for us, because it opens up a lot of musical boundaries where there's more of a rock and roll influence on the album. Although it is definitely blasting death metal, it's got a really progressive vibe to it, and I think it could open doors to us in terms of exploring other genres of music and not being bound to blastbeats and breakdowns and whatever people want to hear. We haven't started writing the new one obviously - another new one - but I think there will definitely be more unorthodox elements on the next record. There's already some on this record.

RF.net: Such as?

Leo: Just different vocal stylings, there's a little bit of acoustic guitar.. and we did an experimental kind of art track where it's just art and vocals, and Kurt actually played saxophone on it on the background. So we definitely got a little more experimental on this one, and I see that continuing for us, because it's fun.

RF.net: Thanks for the interview - any final words to our readers before you go up on stage?
Leo: I don't really have any last words except if you came to see us in Denmark, that's amazing. I wouldn't have imagined people around here have ever even heard of us so. I'm just really happy to be here and this whole experience is mindblowing to us. Thanks for everyone who cares about us!

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