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Caught In A Mosh: March 2011

| March 1, 2011 | 1 Comment

Eastern Promises

There’s very little to complain about when it comes to being a headbanger in Chicago. There are good-to-great shows every week of the year, metal-catering venues across the city, and a metric ton of homegrown talent.

But maybe, if I had to choose one thing to complain about, it’s that the wealth of awesome local bands is so great it’s too easy for smaller, but-still-equally-awesome acts to go unnoticed. I could name five to 10 absolutely killer Chicago bands that can’t draw more than 20 to 25 people a show — others struggle to pull more than 15. Some of this, of course, is the bands’ own doings. Bad promotion, poor choices, laziness, and shitty attitudes (hipsters and beardos aren’t the reason people don’t show up to your gigs, so shut the fuck up) will be the downfall of any band, no matter how good.

Others fight the good fight, but need breaks. Hay Perro, for instance, is unknown to most of you right now, but you’d be doing yourself an enormous favor by changing that and listening to the scorching Eastern Ideas Of Death. Recorded late last year, it’s guitarist/vocalist Christopher Grubbs, drummer Emily Agosto, guitarist Brian Gonas, and bassist Dan Agosto‘s first full-length (a split 7-inch with Venom Lords and two EPs complete the catalog) and is the absolute essence of the sound Hay Perro has crafted during its five-year existence: intricate heavy-metal — dual-guitar harmonies everywhere — played with madcap punk-rock ferocity.

Grubbs, trapped at home after Snowfuckingpolalypse shut down the city, connected with “Caught In A Mosh” via e-mail and talked influences, drunks, Sanford Parker, and dating his bassist’s sister. Hay Perro hosts its official record-release show at Quenchers on March 11th.

Mosh: Hay Perro is just a little too punk to be metal and vice versa. So who are the punks and who are the metalheads in the band?
Christopher Grubbs:
I’m not sure it breaks down all that cleanly. Everyone’s kind of into everything. Although, now that I think about it, Brian probably has a few more punk records than I do.
M: That said, Eastern Ideas Of Death is closer to being a “metal album” than the Summer Of Destruction EP. Agree? If so, why? Did you intentionally set out to make a “more metal” record?
CG:
Agree. It’s the direction we’ve been going in since the band began. It was frankly easier to start off playing punk, but I’ve found writing from a more metal direction has been more creatively rewarding. It just seems like you can do a lot more with it.
M: What are some of the specific influences from both genres?
CG:
Well, there’s harmonized guitar riffs all over the record so obviously Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, stuff like that. I find Voivod pretty inspiring, and some of their shit (i.e. Killing Technology) has a pretty punk feel at times. As far as straight-up punk goes, it’s hard to get specific. There’s probably some Turbonegro in there somewhere, if that counts. I feel like I’m more influenced by the mishmash of shit in my head than any one particular band.
M: What side of the aisle, audience wise, has been more accepting of the band?
CG:
I guess we do pretty O.K. with both. The sort of metal folks who are into us tend to be into some punk rock anyway, I would say.
M: What song on Eastern Ideas best represents Hay Perro’s punk/hardcore influence, and what song best represents its metal influence?
CG:
“He’s From Norway” is probably the most punk-sounding track. In retrospect I feel like it channels the Misfits’ “Death Comes Ripping.” Probably that’s not a terrible thing. Most metal influenced? “Eastern Ideas Of Death” kind of blends together everything I love about metal, I’d say. It has a lot of riffs, some rhythmic variation, almost like a Wishbone Ash kind of epic, prog vibe in the middle, and there’s some doomy heaviness in there too. There’s even some singing, as opposed to my usual shout. And I love how the ending came together. We put in a lot of guitar overdubs and some subtle keyboards just underneath, which really brought up the intensity.
M: What the hell is “He’s From Norway” all about, anyway?
CG:
Heh. There’s not much to read into there. I have this friend who’s this sort of insane force of nature when he’s drunk, and I had this vision of him as this sort of Norse god wreaking cosmic havoc. So, that. Or it’s a nuanced exploration of life’s ephemerality, I don’t know.
M: What’s Hay Perro’s songwriting process? Was it the same for this record as the other releases?
CG
: Basically I’ll write a song and bring it into practice and we’ll work it out. Sometimes I’ll write half a song, and the way the band sounds playing it will help me finish it. I don’t think there’s a single song that sounds exactly the way I intended it originally, and I think that’s a good thing. When they’re done they’re more our songs than my songs.
M: You guys recorded with Sanford Parker at Semaphore again, right?
CG
: A good portion of it, yeah. There were some time issues, and our bass player Dan is an engineer also, so we finished the rest ourselves. Dan mixed and mastered as well and did a fantastic job. We’re excited for people to hear it.
M: What makes Sanford such a great choice for heavy bands?
CG
: He just has tons of experience, and he’s super easy to work with. I think he has an intuitive understanding of what heavy bands are trying to achieve, and he’s able to bring that out. The way he recorded the drums was effective in particular. I know Emily was really happy with how her kit sounded.
M: Was Hay Perro one of the last bands to record at Semaphore before it closed? If so, that’s a bit of history to have in the pocket, right?
CG
: You know, I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re right.
M: There’s an interesting dynamic going on in the band in that there is both a boyfriend/girlfriend and sister/brother. What are the pros and cons of such a setup?
CG
: Probably it seems weird, but it works for us. Emily gets sick of our shit sometimes. She usually ends up driving the van after shows because everyone else is wasted. But honestly I feel pretty fortunate to be in a band that works as harmoniously as ours does. You hear a lot of times that bands end up hating each other as time goes on and thankfully that has not happened to us.
M: Could you ask Emily, who is harder to be in a band with, your brother or boyfriend?
CG:
“Neither,” she says. A diplomatic answer.

MOSH-WORTHY . . . LIVE: Weedeater, Bible Of The Devil, Reptoids (Abbey; 3/1); Sweet Cobra, American Heritage (Beat Kitchen, 3/4); Master, Lightning Swords Of Death (Reggie’s, 3/11); Dawnbringer (Red Line Tap, 3/26); Agalloch (Reggie’s, 3/27).

MOSH-WORTHY: Reptoids Invasion EP (self-released); Ghost Opus Eponymous (Metal Blade); Weedeater Jason . . . The Dragon (Southern Lord); Wino Adrift (AFM); Macabre Grim Scary Tales (Willowtip).

— Trevor Fisher

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