We recently caught up with the members of MAKE, a rising post-metal band based out of North Carolina featuring ex and current members of Horseback and Systems, who have composed a compelling set of songs for a forthcoming re-release of their Trephine full-length in LP format by UK’s Devouter Records on July 30th. Hailed across the board as one of 2012’s best and most deliberate musical accomplishments, Trephine is a focused hour of doom drenched metal that creates patient soundscapes that sit somewhere in the spectrum of sound offered by predecessors Neurosis and the more modern approaches of bands like Horseback. Guitarist/vocalist Scott Endres, bassist/vocalist Spencer Lee, and drummer Matt Stevenson give Blow The Scene readers an inside look into the making of Trephine, how the band linked up with Devouter Records, plans for 2012, and much more in this exclusive interview.
Without further ado, let’s here from MAKE..
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking time to answer a few questions for Blow The Scene readers around the World! Let’s begin by having you introduce yourself and declare your onstage weapon of choice with North Carolina’s rising sons of ambient doom metal, MAKE.
Scott: I sing and play guitar, mostly I just play guitar.
Spencer: Weapons of choice: Four-string bass and vocals.
Matt: I bang the drum.
Joshua BTS: MAKE recently wrapped up an East Coast US tour with Dragged Into Sunlight. How did the road treat you on this latest outing?
Scott: Really well. Aside from one minor vehicular inconvenience everything was as near-perfect as I could have hoped. Audiences were excited and enthusiastic, the bands we played with were all great, the clubs and everybody working with them all treated us very well and of course we had a blast with the DIS guys. Hilarious, fun, awesome guys. Their entire crew. Would do it again in a heartbeat. If every tour could only go so well.
Joshua BTS: Any shows or extra-curricular activities that were particularly memorable on this tour? Any favorite food stops?
Spencer: There really wasn’t a dull moment on the whole tour, nor a show that wasn’t particularly awesome. Some high point shows were the first night in Chicago with Encrust, Indianapolis with Coffinworm, and Brooklyn with The Year is One. I’m pretty sure every band broke the 108 decibel limit for Saint Vitus Bar. I know we did (someone had a decibel meter), and I’m pretty sure we were the quietest band of the night, hahaha. Tons of extra-curriculars too. Bob Evans with Ryan Kasparian was a big one, lots of whiskey, lots of shenanigans.
Scott: Yeah…Philly was our last night together and things kind of went to the next level. Really too much bourbon involved. Somewhere there’s a fence repairman cursing the wind.
Joshua BTS: MAKE is gearing up to drop the LP version of your latest full-length, Trephine, on the UK’s Devouter Records on July 30th. Give us the skinny on the record. When, where, and whom did you record with?
Scott: Seems like ages ago at this point. We recorded last August at Track and Field Recording with our friend Nick Petersen who also works with Horseback, Caltrop and just about everybody else in town it seems. I guarantee if you hear something interesting coming out of the area, go ahead and check to see if Nick engineered it. He has, at least where MAKE is concerned, an incredible capacity for empathizing with what we’re trying to accomplish at any given moment. Some of the material wasn’t even fully formed or completed when we entered the studio and Nick was really instrumental in helping to flesh out some ideas. We hope to see him in the same context soon!
Joshua BTS: How did you come to link up with Devouter Records?
Scott: A recent UK expatriate who worked in the magazine industry befriended the band after discovering us through word of mouth and an article in the weekly independent paper here. He started contacting his friends and that’s really when things started unfolding for us. One day he called me to let me know that Phil from Stressed Sumo was going to get in touch about pressing Trephine on vinyl for his new label. After a few emails back and forth with Phil it was clear that there was every reason to do it and no reason not to, so we immediately set it in motion. It should be exciting to see Devouter grow!
Joshua BTS: I know the band had transitioned from a four-piece to a three-piece outfit during the writing process for this record. What were some of the challenges you faced having to complete a record during this transitional period? Were there any opportunities that you were able to take advantage of as newly re-assembled three-piece?
Spencer: I think, ultimately, our biggest challenge in transitioning to a three-piece was trying to keep as full a sound as possible with an entire layer stripped away. It was a big layer, too: Daniel is a fantastic guitarist with an impeccable taste in tone. After talking about it for a short while, though, we all decided we wanted to just try doing what we do as a three-piece instead of trying to find another member. We knew it’d be a challenge, but we welcomed that. It pushed us all to write differently, create parts that maintained the atmosphere we had as a four-piece, and I think that challenge is what really motivated us out of a writing lull we had been in for a minute. After we got used to it I think it streamlined our writing process as well, so there are a couple of silver linings to the whole situation for sure.
Scott: It wasn’t like we were working on a record, so to speak, when Daniel left. Most of our time is spent writing, practicing and playing out. At any point we’ve got a certain amount of material and the stuff which doesn’t get thrown out gets put on the queue for future recording. Right around the time Daniel was leaving we felt it was about time to finally get a full length out there, but we didn’t want to record material we couldn’t play live any longer which left a huge hole in our set-list. On top of it all, Spencer was going on tour with Systems. I remember thinking to myself, “It’s either now or never. If inspiration doesn’t come, if we don’t find a way to move on as a three piece this band might be fucked.” So Matt and I got together constantly and worked out what ended up being the basics for “Ancient Tongues” and “…And Time Came Undone”. The material sounded new but ultimately we felt like our personality was still in tact. Huge morale boost. Spencer came back and we just kind of hit a streak. In a pretty short time we put together “Valhalla”, “Returning to the Ruins of My Birthplace”, “Scorched Sky” and finally “Surrounded By Silent Lies”.
Joshua BTS: What are some of the lyrical motifs that listeners will encounter on Trephine? How does the band approach the lyrics for the songs?
Spencer: Scott and I got together and wrote the lyrics for most of the record after the music was done, but the concept itself was being formed throughout the whole process of writing the record. It’s strange, there are a lot of different angles for all of us in writing the record, but they all centered around this notion of apocalypse or finality in some sense or another, so elaborating upon that theme came pretty naturally.
Scott: Existential struggle and the battle between hope and hopelessness.
Joshua BTS: Several of your members have colorful music histories with such bands as Horseback and Systems. Is MAKE a full-time project for its current cast of musicians?
Spencer: I’d say it’s definitely a full-time project for me. Not that Systems isn’t (and that’s not to even mention the two jobs that I work), but I think I have a larger role in the writing process with MAKE. Really, just music in general is a full-time thing in a sense. It just permeates my entire consciousness.
Scott: Yeah, it’s not uncommon for this area. Everybody you know seems to have had a hand in something else which you’ve been introduced to in one way or another. I’ve lived here for 8 years now and I’ve seen people come and go but the people who’ve been here to stay never stop. This is a town seemingly entirely comprised of full-time musicians, no matter the current incarnation.
Joshua BTS: The artwork for Trephine is very clean but also engaging. Who crafted the artwork and what, if any, significance does it have to the music?
Scott: That would be me, though Matt’s discerning eyes helped fine-tune everything. The correlation to the music is simple but a little esoteric, maybe. It’s interesting you chose the word ‘clean’. I wanted something which felt simultaneously cleansed and fading. There is the significance of death or the absence of life. Dying is fading from living. Then there is the very specific personal significance of expelling anxieties through this music. Exorcising demons or trepanning, metaphorically speaking, leading to the fading of those anxieties. And with this album, thematically and personally, those two ideas are forever married. Beyond specific symbols, I wanted something aesthetically striking and minimal which represented the philosophical ideals I’m attempting to convey through this band. Similar to my favorite existentialists, my interests lie mainly in the acts of embracing the struggle of life and the rejection of self-pity. I wanted something which felt hopeful, even if only by virtue of absence.
Joshua BTS: Sonically, you guys pull from a vast range of influences. I’ve seen everything from Isis and Red Sparrows to Godflesh mentioned when referring to MAKE. Is there an established framework or formula to the songwriting process? Or will you let anything fly at first? And on that same note- How long will you keep songs on the chopping block before you feel comfortable with them as completed pieces?
Spencer: We usually start songs based on a couple of riffs or parts that Scott or I bring to practice, but we also have a pretty good number that we came upon just by getting our minds right and jamming. I wouldn’t say it’s an anything-goes situation, but we have a lot of riffs that we’ve brought in and put in the bank, so to speak. Stuff that we like or think we could expand upon but just don’t have the context for yet, haven’t worked on enough, et cetera. Every song is pretty different in terms of how long it stays in song-purgatory. There have been some that have been almost entirely done within the span of a practice or two and others that we’ve worked on for months. It just depends on how the inspiration goes.
Scott: To borrow a phrase from Captain Beefheart, we’re just trying to turn ourselves inside out. I can’t really speak to what others hear in our music though I’m sure inspirations come through via influences all the time. One day I might have been listening to Talk Talk, for example, and thought, “Their use of negative space is really interesting” but it’s never something which consciously shapes our writing process. To add to what Spencer was saying, sometimes you can have a set of pretty good ideas but something will be missing or unattainable. Maybe the arrangement is slightly awkward, there’s a lack of cohesion and sometimes the momentum is just off. I’m of the opinion that if at any point a song in progress simply doesn’t feel right and obtaining that feel becomes too much of an effort it needs to be shelved. Most of the material we’re happiest with comes out naturally and doesn’t need second guessing. If it’s not working there’s no sense in trying to force it just because “That one riff is really great!” Better just put it away. Who knows? Maybe one of those riffs can be dusted off and used later. At the end of the day what matters most is our ability to confidently agree on the answers to questions like: Does it sound like MAKE, does it excite us, and are we exploring interesting territory?
Joshua BTS: Who came up the band name? And what came first- The music or the name?
Spencer: I’m pretty sure Scott came up with it. We had played together a few times and decided we all wanted to give it a shot as a band, and I think the name came pretty quickly. At the time I think we had a song called “Drifting, Landing” and the beginnings of a couple of the songs that would eventually be on the EP.
Scott: I suppose you could say I came up with the name though it was more like brainstorming and running through a list until everybody stopped saying “no” to my suggestions. Haha. Eventually “make” stuck and I came up with the logo we’ve used since. Part of my selling point was the dynamic range of the word and the idea that once we name ourselves after such a common word, our band becomes one of the connotations that word has.
Matt: All this time I thought we were named after MAKE magazine…
Joshua BTS: What is in store for MAKE as we head into 2013? Any new material or tour plans in the works?
Scott: We’ve got the Hopscotch Music Festival coming up in September with Vattnet Viskar, Atlas Moth and Altar of Plagues playing the same night which is pretty exciting. The entire festival looks brilliant. And yes, new material. We’ve got a handful. I’d say at least 90% of what we’re playing out these days is new and unrecorded material. The tentative plan is to book studio time in October and hopefully have a new EP out before the year is over. No tour plans at the moment but I’d love to get back on the road as soon as possible.
Joshua BTS: When you are not busy writing and performing with MAKE – What do your daily lives look like?
Spencer: I’m a manager at a café, work at a music venue, and spend a fair amount of time driving around town listening to music at a deafening level and headbanging/air guitarring/air drumming in such a way that I should probably feel embarrassed.
Scott: I work in one of UNC’s libraries for income, just started doing the occasional door shift at a club in town run by friends mainly to force myself to get out of the house once in a while. Most of the time though I’m either working on something MAKE-related or my solo project The Pod. And since most of my time involves being surrounded by LOUD music, when I’m not doing that I’m sitting at home spinning ambient, drone and electronic music while reading and chilling with my awesome cats.
Matt: These days I work at a music venue and spend my days floating around cafes, catching up on my reading, and being mistaken for homeless.
Joshua BTS: Favorite cartoon from the 80s?
Scott: I don’t know how to quantify my love for all things animated from my childhood more than saying Don Bluth‘s rendering of Secret of Nimh is one of the all-time greatest works of animated genius I’ve had the fortune to witness. I must have watched it a hundred times since I was old enough to create memories.
Joshua BTS: Big Wheel or tricycle?
Spencer: BIG WHEEL, DUDE!
Scott: Come on. Would anybody seriously answer “tricycle”? Those were for assholes.
Matt: I grew up in the country so I’ll have to say four-wheeler.
Joshua BTS: Thank you kindly for taking a few moments with Blow The Scene readers from around the world, as we look forward to keeping up with your future endeavors. Any final thoughts?
Spencer: Scott called me today and asked me “Is a goose a moose?” and I’m still thinking about that stumper. If anyone’s got an answer, shoot us an email because it’s driving me crazy.
Scott: Rhetorical, dude. Can’t answer that.
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