Sunday 25 March 2012

Ceremony // Interview & Live Review

Ceremony are back in the UK and with a new album in tow. The follow up to the 2010 smash "Rohnert Park" comes in the form of "Zoo". 
The Californian hardcore punk outfit take another new direction on the new album, nevertheless it is as expected; aggressive, captivating and unforgettable. Est.1987 headed down to the final tour date in Leeds to catch up with guitarist Anthony Anzaldo. We chatted all things fans, recording and isolating social media...

Hey Anthony. So, tonight’s the last night of the UK tour- how’s it gone? Have you enjoyed being back over in the UK?
It’s been awesome; way better than the last time we came to the UK. It’s been really great. I mean cities that we thought were going to be maybe a little more obscure were great, and Leeds is always awesome. We were supposed to play at The Well, but it got shut down so that’s a drag because we always have really fun shows there; but this [Santiago’s] is really small so it’s going to be interesting.

Your new album “Zoo” came out recently, is it good now taking that out on the road?
Yeah, it’s only been out for two, two and a half weeks, but we’ve been dying to play these songs for a while; so we’re super psyched that we can finally get it out there, and it’s going to be even more fun when it’s sunken in even more when we come back.

Recording this album was the first time you’d worked with a producer (John Goodmanson) and recorded outside of LA. How was that experience and how did it help shape the record?
Yeah, we recorded it in Seattle. It was awesome! John Goodmanson is really good at what he does and it was a new experience, he was like the sixth member of the band. When you’ve been working with the same people for so long it’s easy to get caught up in the same common practices, so it was nice for someone to bring a fresh take on everything. And, recording away from home was great because it’s all you have to do; work on the record, concentrate on the record.

I read that you said when you were writing your previous album, “Rohnert Park”, that you as a band were all going through life changes and you said the record was more grown up. There’s a definite change again on "Zoo” – is it the same things that have affected that?
I feel like it’s a natural evolution of the band. With “Rohnert Park”, Ross moved back to Rohnert Park and started going back to school and we were in the process of losing a band member and all this stuff. But, I feel now that we’ve settled in and that’s what “Zoo” is, more of our comfort zone.

Rohnert Park” was a very different album to your previous, and again “Zoo” is very different to everything that came before it, which I guess has split your fans. Do you intend to provoke that reaction?
No, we don’t. I mean we know what’s going to happen when we write these, but with everything that we do we know we are going to lose fans. There are people that stopped listening to us after our demo, and also with punk and hardcore in the States the turnover is so quick. I was talking with our tour driver and he was saying it’s interesting because in the UK the people who were into punk thirty years ago and in the 70s are still into that. Whereas in the States you’re into it for five to seven years and then you move on. I bring that up, because we don’t concern ourselves with fans we’re going to lose because if we stayed the same people would be like “that’s the same old s**t again, f**k them!” We are constantly changing and evolving as people and we don’t try to write certain things, we just go into practice space and stop when it sounds good. If that means it’s different then it’s not contrived.

And in terms of how this all works live, do you mix brand new stuff with your older more hardcore material?
Yeah totally. We still love all the songs that we’ve written and love that style of music so we’ll always do a broad mix of everything.

You don’t have Twitter, Facebook or Myspace. Why did you decide to isolate social media and do you think it’s at times harder to get yourselves out there, or that is actually makes your message and music stronger?
Yeah, the less you have out there that isn’t in relation to your music, the more your music is going to stand out on its own. If you have a Twitter, a Facebook, a Myspace, a Tumblr and this and that, a website and a record it’s like “what?” It’s like “no, we come out with albums, there’s a website and you can find our shows.” We make music because we want to make music not because we want people to see us tweet “cool show tonight” or “we just watched Back To The Future in the van today”. It’s like who gives a f**k? We have no status concerns at all. We make music and we are honest and passionate about it, that’s the end of the story.

It kind of takes it back to the good old fashioned days, some may say, of it being just about the music.
Yeah. I see bands in the exact same position as us who have Facebook and Myspace and Twitter accounts and it’s obviously not helping them. It’s going to make it more accessible maybe for your fans to find out certain things; but I don’t think anyone is going to be about us, “no they didn’t post about their show in Twitter so it must not be happening”.

Anthony Anzaldo on stage in Leeds
Hardcore as a genre seems to take itself too seriously at times. You don’t really get that sense when listening to your records and they have that accessible side. Do you agree?
Yeah, I mean I think as time has gone on we have become more accessible, but it’s just rock music at the end of the day. We are all really passionate about music and we all have this creative urge and that’s why we do the band and that’s pretty much where it ends. We don’t have an existential message, and there’s nothing wrong with that but we’re just music snobs and nerds, that’s all it is.

And finally, what do you make of the current hardcore scene?
I mean in the [San Francisco] Bay area it’s really localised. A lot of the bands where we live just stay there and it’s special that way, but like I said earlier it’s constantly changing; the trends and the styles and sub-genres are constantly recycling. What’s cool now is going to shift out in five to seven years and there will be another fad. Lucky for us when we started out the stuff that we were doing was something that people were interested in, this fast short, abrasive brand of punk and hardcore was something that was popular at the time. It is what it is, we try not to break it up so much; music is music for us and there’s constantly stuff of all genres that we’re into. There’s a band from the UK called “Flats” and they’ve got a new record out soon and they’re f*****g amazing, so that’s probably the hardcore record that I’m looking forward to the most.

And here is what happened when Ceremony took to the stage...

Ross Farrar in the crowd at Leeds
When the original venue The Well, shut down, Santiago’s saved the day and became the even more fitting new setting for tonight’s gig.  The venue, tucked away inside a shopping precinct is definitely a hidden gem. Having a somewhat quirky, homely feel to it, it seemed the perfect backdrop for the California punk outfit, Ceremony. 

Santiago’s eclectic space, bursting with an eager crowd, was a nod towards the early days of punk where guerrilla gigs would pop up spontaneously in underground bars or front living rooms.

With a new album out of some may say more accessible tracks, Ceremony delighted fans by showcasing selected tracks from their full body of work.  As the first chords echoed out fans dived from tables and speakers; the chaos had begun and the band followed suit in typically vicious fashion. The energy was electrifying; bursts of thrashing guitars with front man Ross Farrar’s ferocious vocals layered over the top.

Ross climbs the speakers in Santiago's
Newer single “Hysteria” is paired alongside crowd favourite “Sick” from the band’s 2010 offering, “Rohnert Park”. Ross’s bulging eyes and his no holds barred demeanour truly captivates and it's hard not to be pulled in to the ever enlarging pit: Ceremony aren’t for the fainthearted. There is little room to take refuge as Ross forces his way through the entire crowd while guitarist Anthony Anzaldo throws himself from great height down to the swelling pit below.

“Why? Tell me why? The dullness is filling me, I have to get away” drones Ross on “The Doldrums- Friendly City”; the crowd sings over him with fists pumping and energy never flailing. Ceremony’s albums are all encompassing; they are ambitious, wild and mesmerising all in one breath. Their live show, and indeed final night of the tour, is all the above taken to another level; you truly can’t understand it until you’ve seen Ceremony for yourself!

 Ceremony's new album "Zoo" is out now on Matador Record.