The hardcore scene these days is quite a large and vibrant landscape. However, the almighty dollar has pervaded the burgeoning scene and has created a climate of image-driven and image-conscious bands (as well as fans). But hardcore heroes, CONVERGE, continue to stay the course and use their music as a creative and expressive medium. No gimmicks, no bullshit. The band’s latest triumph, You Fail Me, continues to build on the brilliance that was their last album, Jane Doe. Brutally honest and emotionally powerful, You Fail Me continues the band’s journey through the human heart and soul. While CONVERGE is a band that lets their music do the talking, APESHIT caught up with bassist Nate Newton during their most recent stop in Los Angeles to let him do a little talking.
APESHIT: So how’s the CAVE IN and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME tour been going so far?
Nate: The tour’s great. All the shows have been insane. All the bands we’re out with are awesome. We played with a bunch of cool bands here and there…all over the country. Yeah, it’s been great. A lot of fun.
APESHIT: How much of the new material are you guys playing on this tour?
Nate: We play about half of the album every night.
APESHIT: In the minds of a lot of people, Jane Doe was a brilliant album…CONVERGE at the top of their game. But that put you guys in the position of having to top that album. While some may think otherwise, the new album, You Fail Me, really does step it up in a lot of ways.
Nate: Thank you very much. I’m happy with it. I think it’s a better record than Jane Doe personally.
APESHIT: Did you guys feel pressure to make a better album?
Nate: Pressure in the sense that we wanted to make a different album. We wanted to make an album that was better to ourselves. But we didn’t feel like we had to write a record that people were going to like per se.
APESHIT: So when you guys were writing the album, did you write with your critics or fanbase in mind?
Nate: No, we’re a pretty selfish band. We do what we wanna do and that’s about it. (Laughs)
APESHIT: You Fail Me is an emotionally intense record. I think that the overall theme of the record, the fear of failure, is really the heart and soul of the album. Can you elaborate on that any?
Nate: I didn’t write the lyrics obviously. But I think, honestly, the whole record is as dark and as depressed as it seems to be. It’s kind of like a self-help manual. That’s how I view it. I think you can read the lyrics and kind of, I don’t know. I think it’s about finding hope in yourself, realizing where there’s shortcomings in your life and you know, making those changes. I’m not the lyricist so I could be completely wrong. It could be about hotdogs. (Laughs)
APESHIT: Vocalist Jacob Bannon writes the lyrics. And when he brings the lyrics to you guys, how connected do you feel to his lyrics?
Nate: Well, his lyrics I kind of feel like although they’re very personal, I feel that you can read them and take your own meanings out of them. All of my favorite albums are that way also. As far as when he brings the lyrics to the table for all of us to read, it’s already a done deal. We don’t ask. It’s like, “That’s your department. You deal with it.” I wouldn’t feel right asking Jake to change his lyrics because he’s the one’s that’s gotta sing [them].
APESHIT: He writes about very personal stuff it seems…stuff inspired by his own trial and tribulations. Does it feel awkward to read what’s in his soul?
Nate: Maybe more so for us than most other people simply because we can read them and go, “Oh, I know what that’s about.” But by the same token, I’m glad that everyone in the band feels secure enough with everybody else that they’re able to do that whether it be Jake writing the lyrics or us coming up with songs that are something that we’ve never done before.
APESHIT: What’s the vibe like in the studio? CONVERGE’s music is intense, but are you guys really intense people?
Nate: Well, we are intense people. (Laughs) In the studio, honestly, this time it was pretty mellow. We all live really close to one another now that the studio is in the town that we live in. And so we can walk to the studio and work on stuff for a couple hours and leave and come back. It wasn’t as intense as a workload as our past records. As far as getting into a mental zone to write and record aggressive music, it kind of was intense. But it wasn’t like we were running around smashing stuff and yelling at each other. It was more like we were really focused on our task.
APESHIT: Where do you envision carrying the sound and style of CONVERGE in the future?
Nate: We’re pretty much into trying anything. Everything on this record felt like a natural progression to me even though I think we took a few chances on stuff that we haven’t really done before. It’s all stuff that felt natural and so it’s very possible that we could keep going in this direction. The way this band works, it’s very possible that we could pull a complete one-eighty and do something completely different.
APESHIT: After being on Equal Vision for such a long time, what made you guys make the move to Epitaph.
Nate: I think it was just Epitaph’s commitment to musical diversity. I think that was the biggest thing that really drew us to them. The idea of being on a label that could put out a LOCUST record and TOM WAITS record at the same time. That’s cool to me. All of us kind of feel that way.
APESHIT: The hardcore scene in the U.S. has grown quite a lot in recent years. How do you feel about that? You guys have been around for a while now, but do you think the growth of the scene could diminish the importance of the music with all the labels, money, and overflow of bands?
Nate: On the one hand, I look at it like “Yeah, this is the new grunge.” On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to go on tour for once and come back and be able to pay my rent. That’s kind of cool. That’s a first. I’m happy that people are getting into what I think is a pretty honest form of music. But at the same time, I don’t like how a lot of bands in the hardcore scene these days are acting like corporate rock bands…and labels too. That really turns me off to it. But at the end of the day, it’s just music to me, and I do it because I enjoy it. Honestly, I could care less if a thousand kids were coming to shows or ten kids were coming to shows. It’s just music to me.
APESHIT: How far do you guys wanna take this band? How big do you wanna get?
Nate: We really don’t think about it. Like I said, we do it cause it’s fun. As long as it’s fun, we’ll keep doing it. The second it becomes stale or contrived, we’re going to stop.
APESHIT: Are you going to try to break into other scenes and audiences?
Nate: I wouldn’t say that we’re going to make conscious steps to play to nu-metal kids. But if they find out about us, I’m not going to say, “Get the hell out of here.” I feel that music is for everyone. Like I was saying about hardcore earlier, about how I feel like a lot of bands are acting like corporate rock band and just not acting ethical in the way they act. We make an effort to do things ethically as a band. Hopefully, that will rub off on new people coming into it. So in that sense, yeah, I would like to appeal to other people so they can see why hardcore is such a good medium for everyone. But then on the other hand, you’re not going to see us on the Ozzfest. I could care less about that.
APESHIT: What are you guys going to be up to after this tour finishes up?
Nate: Well, we’re going to go home and do a lot of sleeping. And then early next year, we’re going to start doing a bunch of stuff. Up until then we’ll be playing shows. Early next year, I think we’re shooting to go to Japan, Australia, and Europe. Doing some more U.S. stuff. And we’re going to start writing songs. We already have a couple things on the backburner musically.
APESHIT: How was your previous Japanese tour with LOCK UP and WILL HAVEN? I always hear great things about touring Japan.
Nate: Japan is awesome. Japan is like a giant video game that’s always on. All the kids were amazing. All the shows were awesome and we just had a great time. We’ve been there twice now and both times have been unbelievable.
APESHIT: What’s the status of the re-releases of Petitioning The Empty Sky and When Forever Comes Crashing?
Nate: They’re coming. I can tell you that they’ll be out pretty soon.
APESHIT: So are you guys done on your end?
Nate: Yes. It’s going to be repackaged, remastered, and remixed with new artwork.
APESHIT: You guys have been working on a project with CAVE IN. Can shed some light on that project?
Nate: It’s just about a bunch of friends wanting to play music together. It’s weird. That’s all I can say. (Laughs) It’s weird.
APESHIT: It doesn’t necessarily sound like CAVE IN or CONVERGE, right?
Nate: I guess there’s aspects of both bands that you can hear but it doesn’t sound like CAVE IN or CONVERGE. You know what it is? It’s guit-tarded. I’ve been waiting to use that one for so long. (Laughs)