Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Expurgatory Interview

1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the band?

We've been around for five years, aiming at the more uncomfortable elements of DSBM and depressive rock, and are firmly left wing. The band started with just two members - George and Alexander - who met whilst training to be librarians, and wound up sharing a love for a very wide spectrum of black metal (and other related extreme genres).

2.Since 2013 you have released a great amount of material, how would you describe your musical progress over the years?

There is much more structure to our songwriting these days, as well as a much larger line-up to draw creative energy from. Most tracks used to form one layer at a time, passed back and forth between whoever was able to contribute, until the song reached a finished stage, but we tend to lock in together to a particular melody more often these days.

3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?

This varies a bit depending on who is handling the vocals. If that's the role you're taking for that track, you tend to write the lyrics too. For L, who provided guest vocals for the new track on the latest compilation, the source was an old and particularly violent Scottish folk song. For Susan, who sings lead vocals on half the tracks of the latest compilation, they the lyrics are a mixture of an exploration of a mood/psychological state and addressing places or events that have happened (ie: Fortress W, which is about the 'Battle of Wapping' in 1986, and Grand Union was inspired by a stretch of canal near where they grew up that's this mixture of wild and industrial that always made them feel excited and on edge at the same time). For Alexander, the vocals often comprise of almost randomly assembled latin sentences from our namesake, and, in one case, an extended set of questions aimed to provoke an emotional response in people applying for jobs in prison libraries.

4.I know that the band got their name from a list of banned books that where banned from the Catholic Church, do you feel that the church has deprived a lot of people of knowledge over the years along with the Vatican also having a hidden library of hidden knowledge ?

The list in question - the Index Librorum Prohibitorum - ceased to be a thing around the same time as the last of the great book obscenity trials (ie: Howl, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Naked Lunch, etc), which I think isn't a coincidence. They probably realised that the days of them telling people - in such a direct and formal manner, at least - what they can and cannot read were definitely over. If you look back further at the volumes (stretching back to the 16th century), they just got thinner with every reprint, so perhaps even that monolithic global influencer could see their strength waning. They definitely have like to keep things covered up, for a wide range of disturbing and entirely predictable reasons that are only in recent years finally coming under the scrutiny they deserve.

5.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the album compilation cover?

It's a sourced from a 19th century photograph showing a woman from a psychiatric hospital. Knowing what we do now about how arbitrarily people - especially women - were sent to those places, God only knows what she actually did to warrant such a sentence. The more time you spend thinking about how fear and misogyny governed the make-up of those places, the worst you tend to feel about humanity.

6.One member lives in the United Kingdom while the rest of the band lives in Australia, how does this work out in the recording process?

Quite well, actually. Most of the recordings are done on very basic recording programs, and most of the vocals from Susan are synched up simply by having them count in to a click-track at the start of the track. Once we realised how well that works, it was really liberating. It gives us all more autonomy, and we don't need to go through a gate-keeper with access to and understanding of the more high-end recording software.

7.Has the band done any live shows or is this strictly a studio project?

We've done a handful of live shows, starting with the launch gig for our first album, X, in a zine store in Melbourne called Sticky in 2015. The space is small, but it was very well attended, and was in many respect the ideal location for us: claustrophobic, underground, and dimly lit. The next gig was also in there, and was the first performance to feature Leah on spoken word. The one after that was very different - six of us in person at an impro music night in Fitzroy (inner suburb of Melbourne), with Susan providing a noise backing track. That was the closest to a live metal performance we had done that far - first time with live drums, more than one guitar, particularly intense screaming vocals, Begotten screening over the top of us... it was pretty amazing. Our gigs since then have been similar to that later one. All our gigs so far, though, have improvisation in common. For our next approach to live settings, we'll be going against that approach by playing pre-planned songs with more traditional structure, which is nerve-wracking, but also pretty exciting.

8.In the last 5 years the band has released a great amount of material, do you spend a great amount of time writing and creating music?

It can take some time for tracks to come together, especially now that we've formalised the process, though as most of us are also rooted in noise music, we like to keep a random element to things - like, allowing for a layer to fall where it falls in the recording process, then work other layers around that. There was a one hour long collaborative track we did with a Sydney solo musician named Frances Piers, which involved a lot of montage, but also a reasonable amount of quiet precision. That was an amazing project. Often the most satisfying tracks are the ones that come easiest, but as we keep changing, it never quite feels right to stick with what's easiest.

9.The band has also been a part of a great amount of splits, can you tell us a little bit more about the bands and musical projects you have shared these recordings with?

Most of them have at least a member shared amongst them. Shallow, who put out a split demo with us way back at the start (recorded in late 2014), is the solo noise project of Alexander, that has stopped and started somewhat since 2010. The Church of Hysteria, which shared a split that featured the first live Expurgatory performance, is also another project of Alexander, though this time a loud take on stripped back indie rock. Colostomy Baguette? is a harsh noise group involving Alexander and the vocalist for Religious Observance - Wayniac - as well as Susan (performing as K-Hole) and a recently passed away member, The Shitter, who managed to make it quite surprisingly profound in recent years (which nobody expected when the name was chosen). Hadal is a more recent project involving George on guitar, Alexander on bass and vocals, and Wayniac on lyrics. Sludgy, sparse, funeral drone/doom, that was started to experiment with other forms of more direct heaviness.

10.On the last full length the band did a cover of Hellhammer's "Messiah", what was the decision behind doing your own version of one of their songs?

The song actually first appeared on an EP in 2016, though we wanted to put it out there again to honour the memory of Martin E. Ain, who died a month before the album came out. This was a favourite track for us for some time, so deciding whether to give it an extra polish and a chance to be heard didn't take much deliberation. It's probably the best track from the first wave of black metal (a tough call to make, and one that will likely enrage folks and/or make them do eyerolls).

11.Currently you are unsigned, are you looking for a label or have received any interest?

We've released albums and splits through labels in the past, and both of these are sensational DIY focussed operations. We'd definitely be interested in getting an extra leg-up from a label down the track, as we've all got an absurd amount of commitments, and all work full time, so the completely DIY approach only takes us so far, exposure-wise.

12.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black metal and experimental?

We're mostly unknown, though we've had a couple of nibbles here and there. It's hard to tell these days. Social media gives you the sense that you can guage interest in and engagement with your art, but it also messes with you a lot. Getting a handful of direct responses from people means a lot more than a whole bunch of numbers, really. Also, when we're able to bring our approach to a live setting, the powerful response is especially humbling.

13.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?

Alexander is the most busy beyond this band, with his doom metal band Religious Observance getting a steadily increasing level of support and interest over th last couple of years. Their work with Shallow has picked up some more too, as has The Church of Hysteria, who are working towards recording their third full length album later this year.

14.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

Building on the volume we have produced, which will hopefully lead to a deal where we can get a vinyl LP of our new work put out. We're particularly interested in playing our take on black metal to adjacent crowds - ie: darkwave, queer electro, etc - which may very well blend back into our sound as we work with how that audience engages with us.

15.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

For the music that influences us, the main acts that come to mind are Ildjarn, Urfaust, Hellhammer, The Body, Lifelover, Woods of Infinity, and Xasthur. As for what we're listening to, there's Ill, Wrekmeister Harmonies, The Ex, APARTHIVA RAKTADHARA, Meg Baird, Helena Espvall, Sharron Kraus, Shirley Collins, Wormlust, MMMD, V, Sarah Mary Chadwick, Uboa, Diploid, Bell Witch, Moon, Nekrasov, Deader, and Military Position

16.What are some of your non musical interests?

Esoteric films, books and artwork. Black metal theory is a growing interest, too - it's great that this genre can spread and seep into so many other areas of cultural interrogation and appreciation.

17.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

Thank you again for your interest and time. Hopefully you'll hear more of us in the near future.

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Cheers,
Expurgatory

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