Interview: The Contortionist Guitarist Robby Baca Discusses the Band's Upcoming Second Album
It’s been nearly two years since The Contortionist signed to Good Fight Music and started recording their debut album, Exoplanet, with Unearth’s Ken Susi.
Since then, the Indianapolis-based progressive metallers have been shuttling their high-energy shows across state lines -- and international borders. In February, they'll be heading back to the studio with Jason Suecof and Eyal Levi at Audio Hammer Studios in Orlando, Florida, to start tracking their second album.
Guitar World got the exclusive scoop from The Contortionist guitarist Robby Baca on recording, writing -- and life since signing with Good Fight.
GUITAR WORLD: What is it about Eyal Levi and Jason Suecof at Audio Hammer Studios that attracted you when planning your follow-up album?
Audio Hammer Studios was kind of the first idea our label pitched to us as far as where to record. We immediately said yes. They’ve done records for All That Remains, August Burns Red, Black Dahlia Murder — a bunch of stellar-sounding metal records -- so we were immediately stoked.
Since signing to Good Fight Music, do you find yourselves heading toward a more refined sound?
Good Fight has never really expressed any interest in trying to control or manipulate our sound in any way. Coming up with a more refined sound would probably come from us just growing as songwriters. Good Fight has never tried to have a hand in the creative process at all.
What do you think is the biggest attention grabber when it comes to your music?
I feel we have a somewhat strong sense of using interesting rhythms. And just for the sake of keeping it interesting to us, we like to hear odd rhythms and to play with dissonance and consonance -- and just make interesting sounds, not focusing on just being a metal band. Sometimes the rhythms come naturally, but other times, it’s very specific where we’ll say, “We want to take this measure that’s a 13-count over a 4-count, and we want to do [this] for so many counts.” Sometimes it’s very methodically plotted out, but other times it just comes out that way, just naturally. I’d say we’re kind of mathematical.
Do you listen to your older songs and critique yourself? What are some things you've picked up on and later worked on? Is a song ever complete?
Yeah, definitely. Specifically, the songs that are on Exoplanet — if you listen to the songs on the record and then hear us play them live, there are a lot of things we do differently, just because, over time we’ve found that there were new things we wanted to add to make the songs better. If we could go back and change some things, we would. There are definitely things over time that have just become part of those songs that originally were not there.
I think this happened with Exoplanet because it was really rushed with the recording and writing; but we wrote the songs and went straight into the studio. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to refine everything. For me, a song would be complete after all the vocals are done. Once I can hear one of our songs with the finished vocals, I can really hear everything together, and the song becomes a song for me.
Can we expect this next release to be a concept album?
Do you have a special routine for writing? Give an example of how a song becomes whole for you.
For me, it’s very sporadic. There’s no real set time or anything. We have set times during the week now, just because we’re getting into crunch time for getting the record finished. Personally, getting into that creative mindset can, most of the time, be difficult, but it’s hard to predict.
Is there any gear you're excited to test out for the new album?
We actually just got some new guitars from Ibanez, which we’re pretty stoked about. We’ll be using two new guitars and two new basses in the writing process and recording. They just sent us a couple of the RG Premium series; we got a couple of 7-strings from them, which are super sick, and a Prestige 5-string bass as well. We’re also getting a couple more Prestige 7-strings.
What tunings to you tend to use?
We used to play tuned down extremely low, which we aren’t too fond of anymore. That’s why we switched to 7-strings. We take the seventh string and we tune down a half step — the tuning from low to high would be A#, D#, G#, C#, F, A#, D#. So it’s like having a 6-string tuned down really low with an extra high string.
You recently visited Australia for the first time. How do crowds there differ from in the US? Did you guys play any songs from the new album?
We didn’t play any new songs, but the crowds in Australia were -- really dependent on the city. We played a couple that felt a lot like shows here. There were a couple of shows with, like, 200 kids, and it was packed, but a lot of that tour kind of felt like we were starting over. We kind of were starting over, just being in a new country, and we’d never played any of those cities before.
Hardcore and metal can be very regional genres. Do you feel growing up in the Midwest has influenced the type of music you play and listen to?
I would say so. We kind of grew up in a really Deathcore-influenced area, so I think a lot of that came out in what went into our writing style — especially on Exoplanet. We’re actually going to be moving away from that a little bit, but I would definitely say we were influenced by what was popular around here. We don’t even listen to much metal right now. Lots of artists like Brian Eno, Bon Iver— all kinds. Not to say we don’t listen to metal at all. Obviously, we love Meshuggah and Between The Buried And Me and all that stuff.
If it were up to you, when and where would you play the kickoff show for a tour in support of the new album? Also, who else would play? Any personal significance?
I would probably play in or around Orlando, Florida. We’ve played some really amazing shows in the Orlando area. As far as bands go, it’d be sick to play with some bands that are kind of similar to us like Cynic or BTBAM. That’d be really cool.
The Contortionist will be in the studio starting in February 2012, and the release date of their next album is TBA. Keep up with the band on Facebook.