Today we introduce a new interview series, The Creation Formula, focusing on prolific artists and the processes behind exciting new and upcoming releases. First up, we have Southern Lord recording artists Centuries taking us in-depth with the creation process behind forthcoming sophomore LP, The Lights Of This Earth Are Blinding, along with the added pleasure of an exclusive track debut of new song ‘The Endless Descent’, featured below the interview.
For those just tuning into Centuries, the band formed in 2008 and made waves with numerous tour outings through the release of Southern Lord debut, 2013’s Taedium Vitae LP. Fusing elements of dissonant hardcore, d-beat punk, and a knack for walloping tones, the band has taken the last five years and honed the overall sound and writing approach. This latest effort affords a new level of intensity and artistry. Founding member, vocalist/guitarist Eric Verporter, and bassist Dionisio Rodriguez take us through the details behind this latest effort.
Don’t miss the exclusive track premiere of ‘The Endless Descent’ below the interview along with pre-order info through Southern Lord for the January 26th release.
BTS: You’ve kissed the Florida suburbs goodbye and traded it in for Pittsburgh, PA. Having lived there myself, I know the underground music scene is great. What sparked your impetus to move there?
Dan: Personally I think everything in Pittsburgh is great. We’ve had some pretty strong ties with Pittsburgh after having toured with Pray for Teeth and playing several shows with Heartless. I moved here in 2015 sort of on a whim and Eric moved his family up here a year later, however, Eric moved to Nashville in August. Derrick has actually never lived anywhere near us. He lived in Boston initially and now in Manchester. Ultimately I think we’d all like to end up in Pittsburgh together but who knows.
BTS: Last time we caught up with Centuries was during the tour cycle following 2013’s Taedium Vitae LP that was also your Southern Lord debut. The creation process for Centuries up to that point had been mainly centered around founding member, vocalist/guitarist Eric Verporter. Is it fair to say you’ve settled into a more stable line-up recently?
Dan: 5 or 6 sounds about right. By our standards; our line-up is about as rock solid as it gets right now. Phil joined on guitar in early 2016. Phil played drums in Pray for Teeth and we were all good friends already anyhow.
BTS: How has the writing process evolved with the current line-up and geographical challenges? And since we’re debuting new song “The Endless Descent” today, let’s throw it up on the dissection table. How much energy do you put into revision, re-writing, and structure editing before entering the studio?
Eric: Though everyone is pretty spread out the writing process is pretty much the same! I will usually come up with the riffs and make a demo of the song to give everyone a rough idea. For this album, we really tried to take our time and sit on the songs for a few months listening non-stop and slowly making changes as we go along. The song structures mostly stayed the same. In the studio, we just would add little things here and there.
BTS: You again opted to work with Kris Hilbert at Legitimate Business Studio in North Carolina. Seems you’ve built quite a relationship over the years. What role, if any, does Kris play in the pre-production and writing phases of the album?
Eric: Kris is honestly the best. He definitely has no problem giving an opinion if he feels the take could be better or if he has a cool idea on how to give something a little more life. I think Kris makes good, powerful records. He really helped us realize that there’s more to heavy records than just being heavy. It was his idea to incorporate things like steel guitar, 12 strings and clean guitar for certain parts. Things we definitely wouldn’t have otherwise.
BTS: Once you’re in the studio with Kris- What does the recording formula look like? How much time and effort do you spend to find the right drum & guitar tones?
Eric: We certainly spent a considerable amount of time finding drum/guitar/bass tones. Without Kris’ guidance, I don’t think the record would sound the way it does. Kris knows exactly what heads to match with what cabs and what the drums and vocals need to sound like. Working with him is very fluid and easy.
BTS: Do you begin tracking separately and to a metronome? How much trial & error to you leave room for per track? Do you experiment much in the studio or keep it to a rigid schedule?
Eric: We did each track separately and to a click track! Kris went through all of our demos and made the click track for each song to map all the tempo changes. Derrick and I recorded this record, however before coming to the studio we never had a chance to play the songs together. Before each take we’d jam the song a few times to iron out the drum details. I feel like the drums came out very raw and fresh because of that.
BTS: Does your tracking formula vary from one track to another? IE Are some tracks recorded live while others split up per-instrument? How long did it take you to track and mix this LP?
Eric: We did everything instrument by instrument. It was about 5 days total for us to track the record and about another month or so of mixing & mastering.
BTS: What would you say were 3 or more specific pieces of gear that you brought with you or utilized in the studio that you feel are cornerstones in regards to the final output and overall feel of the record?
Eric: Kris has a pretty wild assortment of gear that he very graciously lets us use. It’s really tough to pick three, but if we had to pick just one, I’d say our drums are my personal favorite. They sound massive in the studio and even better live.
BTS: What would you say were the biggest changes to your creation formula in the studio on ‘The Lights Of This Earth Are Blinding’ vs ‘Taedium Vitae’?
Eric: I’d have to say that the biggest change is that we just took our time writing this record. For the first record we really just wanted to get it out. So the songs were a little more thrown together. But with “The Lights of This Earth are Blinding” we knew what we wanted and everything was a lot more thought out.
BTS: What are some of the lyrical themes found on ‘The Lights Of This Earth Are Blinding’? And specifically “The Endless Descent”? Which members contribute to the lyrical themes?
Eric: This record mostly focuses on personal themes. A lot has happened in our lives since our last record. Most of this record touches on the things that are out of our control throughout life and how we choose to deal with them. “The Endless Descent” really focuses on the fact that the actions you make are irreversible.
BTS: The art for ‘The Lights Of This Earth Are Blinding’ is fantastic and was created in-house by Centuries’ guitarist Phil Trona. How early along in the writing process do you begin the visual components of the album? And how does the album title and lyrics correlate with the art creation?
Eric: Phil is a great Illustrator/designer and he began work on this after listening to the record. Even though the artwork doesn’t necessarily correlate with the lyrics it does draw inspiration from the sound itself.
BTS: And lastly, the final phase of the creation process is taking it to the road. What do your tour plans look like for this record?
Eric: We will heading to Europe in April with Portrayal of Guilt. After that, we’ll take things as they come.
Interview by Joshua T Cohen
‘THE ENDLESS DESCENT’ by Centuries – Track Premiere:
Southern Lord will release Centuries’ The Lights Of This Earth Are Blinding on LP and digital formats on January 26th, 2018. Find preorders at the label webstore and Bandcamp where the track “Bygones” is also streaming.