I’ve never been a huge fan of overtly political music, mostly because none of it aligned with my own views, but mainly because those kinds of bands always became a caricature of themselves. When Rage Against the Machine espouses the evils of capitalism, but turns around and sells a box set for over $100.00, you have to stop and go “huh, something isn’t adding up here.”
Before we even had a drummer, Joe and I would spend a lot of our Friday nights working on music together. One song that he brought to the table early on was a fast and short slab of punk rock that cut out all of the filler found in modern hardcore. In its initial stages, the song barely broke the minute mark. As the song progressed and we had more band members in on the writing sessions, it extended out to just over 2 minutes. A perfect length if there ever was one.
When picking song titles, I never tried to take things too seriously and have fun with it. Some of our previous working titles have included such gems as “Tacocat is Tacocat” and “False Meat,” but with this one, I knew I wanted to make a statement, even if we didn’t have any lyrics written for the song.
There is an individual that members of our band, myself included, have had dealings with over the years. I believe deep down that this person has a good heart, but at the end of the day the first paragraph in this entry sums up their use of social media. Things like Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, and YouTube are all great tools. They allow the sharing of ideas and thoughts to happen freely and instantaneously, but they can also be abused. This person was an abuser and they would viciously attack anyone who didn’t agree with them. Instead of being able to articulate a single thought, they resorted to personal attacks. Ad hominem much? We agreed on the title “Armchair Activist.”
|Panthallasa at House of Bricks in June of 2014 Photo by Bigfoot Diaries|
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I’m sure I had heard that phrase somewhere else before, but I couldn’t tell you where. It’s a direct title and it leaves its meaning up to no question: someone who sits in a chair and talks about all of the problems in the world, how they should or could be fixed, but doesn’t actually do anything about it. The music fits the title perfectly. From the start, the song kicks into high gear and is really a testament to the speed and dexterity of Joe’s playing ability.
I’ve stated before what an awful guitar player I am, well maybe not awful, but certainly not the greatest. This song is fast, I can’t stress that enough, and while I can’t tell you the exact bpm, I can tell you that when we went to record the song I wasn’t comfortable actually playing the rhythm track on it. The great thing about playing in a band with such talented musicians is we always have a contingency plan in place. Dan, our bassist, graciously stepped up to the task and recorded both the rhythm guitar and the bass tracks on this tune. This wouldn’t hinder us however; I had actually been using my down time from playing the song to incorporate electronics into the song. For my part, I wanted to add in sounds that would keep the song on edge and almost uncomfortable. I used a white noise filter and something resembling air raid sirens as well as a bass synth to keep the song menacing without overpowering the strings.
Our drummer Shane is a gift that keeps giving. Not only is he one of the greatest drummers I’ve ever heard locally, but he’s (and he’d probably laugh this off) an extremely poetic lyricist. He nailed the theme of the song perfectly with the lyrics. He captured the sarcasm and “holier than thou” attitude that I was looking for. I’m sure Matt may have rephrased some sections of the song, but they remained largely untouched.
|Shane Mills is a gift that keeps on giving. Photo by Bigfoot Diaries|
Sequencing any release is an under-appreciated part of putting something together. Forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but an improperly sequenced album or ep can be disastrous for the listener. For the kind of music we play, front loading an album (or in this case ep) with the heavier or louder songs would leave the listener winded by the time they got to the more subdued and softer tunes. The opposite is also true; by putting the more melodic leaning songs up front, it could potentially lull the listener to sleep when the primary goal should be to have them actively listening and enjoying the music.
In the 11th hour before we went to record I sprung a new song on the guys that I really wanted to include on this release, however I knew it was going to increase the recording budget and add more stress on the guys by them having to learn a new song with less than a month to go before tracking started. The guys were gracious enough, agreeing to add it to the recording.
The song itself was written in a single afternoon, on a hot Sunday in August. I had some free time that afternoon after church and I jammed through it without over thinking a single part of it. I’ve always felt that the best songs capture an intense moment of passion, be it guilt, love, anger, fear or even sorrow and I’ve tried to convey whatever emotion it is I am feeling into my writing. It’s another fast punk rock anthem that has very sludgy ending. I had several ideas for the title, but in keeping with the spirit of not over thinking things, I opened up a search engine and typed in random words eventually landing on something called a “Skinwalker.”
I’m an avid fan of the horror fiction genre, be it video games like Silent Hill, the original Resident Evil or movies like Dawn of the Dead or The Thing, something about it gets my adrenalin pumping. Skinwalkers primarily show up in Native American folklore and there was even a case of a lawyer suing someone accused of being one. I didn’t want the title to be directly influential on the lyrics, and instead went with “Skinwalk and Rupture.” It leaves a bit of mystery and ambiguity to the title of the song and also serves as a break between the two very distinct sections of the piece.
|Guitarist Joe Curry: Photo by the Bigfoot Diaries|
Lyrically the song is a continuation of “Armchair,” but on a broader level. The line “Can you form your own opinion without parroting everything you read” is the greatest indictment of my generation; even I’m guilty of it at times. Matt actually flipped the lyrics around between the bridge and the chorus to fit the song better, it kept the message intact which was pretty cool.
Something that I feel is missing in punk rock, hardcore and metal is music with substance. We’ve made a conscious decision to never push a message on our listeners, but instead to have them question themselves. Why do you believe what you believe? Is it because they were your family’s values or your own? And if these beliefs are yours, do you hold them sacred or just when it suits your own needs and desires?
By Grant Peter
Panthallasa is having it's EP Release Party on Valentine's Day at the Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines. It's a 5:00 show and will include The Maw and Creation Complex. $10 gets you in the door plus a copy of the EP.