By now, NC’s MAKE should be a household name for any metalhead or music lover of a harder inclination. The band’s first two full lengths were heavily steeped in atmospheric doom but with their recently released third album, Pilgrimage Of Loathing, the band is angry and not in the same headspace they were a year ago. They’re angry at the current state of affairs — politically and otherwise — and the resulting sound is one of aggression and abrasiveness. Anyone familiar will be floored initially by the chances they’ve taken here that were necessary to vent and share their unhappiness with as many people as possible. But with an attentive ear this album shows the most growth out of the three and a band that sounds completely reinvigorated and to a point, reinvented.
I recently caught MAKE on tour with Primitive Man and Dragged Into Sunlight (covered here). The band was nice enough to take some time out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions. Wait, let me rephrase, to have a friendly discussion. See, these three guys welcomed me like they’d known me for a very long time and we talked like a bunch of friends that hadn’t seen each other in ages. As you will read below they are vehemently passionate in their view of the world right now and just as passionate about their opportunity to voice it to try and make a difference. But also fired up about a new beginning of sorts that really fleshes itself out on Pilgrimage Of Loathing but also means more good things to come in the future.
The current tour is winding down, how has the reaction been to the Pilgrimage Of Loathing material?
Scott Endres: Its been really good. Even on my sloppiest night which I’m not saying which one that is, the response has been fantastic.
That’s great, everyone seem to be digging the aggressive tone?
SE: Yes, I think it truly is the right audience for it.
Agreed and personally with The Golden Veil material it feels like if this tour would’ve happened at that particular time you guys would have been in a ‘light in the dark’ scenario so to speak but with this one…
SE: So we toured with Dragged Into Sunlight 4 years ago, and that’s when we were touring Trephine, but even Trephine was pretty slow, a lot of softer parts. I guess we were doing some of what would become the b sides (Demos & Outtakes) — “Sisyphus” and “The Inevitable Circle”…
Spencer Lee: We did Axis that one night in Pittsburgh…
SE: Because we were too high and figured, let’s just do a long intro. We were in the green room just smoking up listening to the new Bong record and suddenly they told us we had to go on and…
SL: We were, understandably, floored…
SE: But no, this really has been perfect because Primitive Man are huge, loud and just heavy as fuck and Dragged Into Sunlight are just brutally heavy.
SL: People have been totally digging it and of course I’m stoked. Even last night in New Orleans there were a couple of locals on the bill that were super fast, grind core and sort of power violence and as they were playing I’m thinking that we are just not fast enough to meet the fast thing and not slow enough to meet the ultra slow thing either. So we didn’t know if everyone was going to hate us but the response was really good and everyone seems to really love it. The response was touching and everyone loved us.
SE: It’s always the best with younger kids I think, that’s the best for me, when I see a younger kid and see that look in their eyes.
For me what you just mentioned is what hit me initially, the pissed off tone, that produces that look at times. The album has “Human Garbage” which calls out Pat McCrory and all his terrible decisions. Any response at all from his camp?
SE: Oh I would love that. In fact it’s funny, I don’t follow him because I’m not going to like his page but some of my friends will post on his page. He’ll pat himself on the back for how many jobs we’ve created or point to the liberal media as if thats why the NBA is pulling out and no, you fucked up and did a bad thing, now its time to own up to it. Every time I see one of my friends post anything I’ll get involved and say some shit or just post an image or tweet our image at him. But if he’s not losing sleep over the NBA, that fucking guy, when the oligarchy buys you what fucking conscience do you even have, you don’t.
SL: We know he’s probably at least seen the t-shirts. A friend of ours, as he was leaving the anti HB2 show that we set up, bought a t-shirt and said ‘Im going to go hang this on the inside of the fence of the governors mansion’.
SE: So we have some friends that have been doing an airhorn orchestra every Wednesday since HB2 passed and they’re going to do it until it stops. Every Wednesday. And they’re actually working on an NBA version for the next one and they do it across from the governors mansion.
So, I have to know – “Two Hawks Fucking”, tell me about that one.
SE: I live in a pretty wooded area, a lot of pine trees, particularly where my house is. It almost seems like camping and as I was leaving for work one morning that, literally, was what I saw and I thought it was a beautiful thing and made some joke on Facebook like ‘just saw two hawks fucking and I think it’s going to be a good day’. And I’ve always loved bands like Mogwai or Don Caballero who have instrumental songs so the title doesn’t have to have meaning because it’s instrumental and there’s not necessarily a story the audience is going to glean from it. I just like Mogwai and Don Caballero, bands like that have such a good sense of humor when they’re titling their songs. There was the thought that popped into my head and I never really said it out loud but this fucking election cycle is about two war hawks. But really it comes from what I saw on my way to work and it just seemed like a fun title for the instrumental track. And if it could make anyone wonder what it’s about then all the better.
That was one that stuck out both in title and in the stark contrast, you go from aggressive to extremely calm…
SE: Calm and I think, for me, everytime we are in the studio it’s a big deal for all of us to improvise. I feel like the closer you are to something happening, in its birth, the purer that moment is and it’s not always going to work but once we started mixing — the rest was done by Kris Hilbert but I mixed that track — in my head it was melancholy and that’s what I was going for. It seemed when I was listening back to it that the more I messed with it the more, (to Spencer) you even said something about that, the melancholy aspect, do you remember what you said?
SL: Not really but it felt to me like that moment after you’ve finally punched that hole through the wall and sort of reeling. Reeling and everything sets in and the adrenaline takes a break for a second. You feel the throbbing in your hand and come back for a second and we are right back into it.
SE: We also wanted there to be a break. We were thinking about the LP and thinking that it would be nice to have this sort of come down and when you put it on side B it’s back to being in your face.
And of course album closer “Nothing” with its strong black metal sound…
SE: I’ll let Spencer talk about that one, that’s his forte…
SL: We’d been writing that song and we had written pretty much everything up until that section where it bursts into blast beats. We were trying to figure out a way to end it and I’m the black metal fan in the group and I said ‘guys can we do this one thing, at least give it a shot? We don’t have to stick with it let’s just give it a shot.’ And when everyone agreed of course I already had it written. I already had the chord progression setup in my head and it just felt like the thing to do at that moment and to sort of go back to before “Two Hawks Fucking”, that moment of when the adrenaline hits you hard enough to punch a hole through the wall and all the feelings mounting, swirling and watching the colors in the room go weird and suddenly there’s that weird moment of relative silence after everything comes to the surface and its just hits you. It just felt like the thing to do, finish the album strong.
SE: We normally don’t think about how we’re going to approach an album but this time there was just so much shit. I mean this year is fucked, last year was fucked, this year is twice as fucked. Actually on the drive down here I’m reading about the end of the world and I feel like I’m on the verge of perpetual panic now. We just made a conscious decision that this was going to be a political punk rock record from us. This isn’t just us making our next record but it was for sure an intentional statement record. With “Nothing” I at least wanted to give a little bit of who we normally are to the record.
SL: On the musical side of that we have all the anger behind it but Luke’s (Luke Herbst, drums) style, his power and playing is what really made us able to do that. The writing process right after Luke came in from day one was just everything.
SE: It jumpstarted the band, we were on a long hiatus. There were a few of us that didn’t know if we wanted to keep going. Luke came in and it was literally MAKE 2.0. It was a different band. And to that effect Matt (Stevenson) was not really a heavy music guy or a metal guy. Myself and Jinks Miller from Horseback worked with Matt and the two of us would introduce him to stuff and he liked Harvey Milk but he didn’t like Carcass. After awhile he just stopped wanting to do heavy stuff and it felt almost like we were having to get a nod of agreement to do a heavy part. Then Luke came in and he was ready to just do it, hammer it. Honestly I’m reinspired now with Luke.
And to that point, the drumming and intensity is a huge difference from The Golden Veil to now…
Luke Herbst: When I listened to The Golden Veil I loved it, I loved everything Matt did and as long as we’ve played it I’ve tried to copy everything he was doing. Even though the guys would tell me to make it my own and if I wasn’t feeling this part or that part just change it. I’ve tried to make those songs the same but just in my style, heavier and hitting the drums a little harder but he did a great job in terms of articulating the songs and riffs. Fast forward to the new stuff, I’ve gotten better control over my anger in the past few years but I’ve always been a little red line. Playing the drums hard and hitting them hard is an outlet for me, as much for the music as it is for me personally. It makes me feel better to break a sweat whether its practice or whatever. They said they wanted to write some heavier stuff and I would’ve been fine if they wanted to write the same record all over but it had a heavier tone and they were already frustrated with the things that were going on in the world and locally so it just worked out. We weren’t mad in the room but it definitely came across as fired up and energetic. Every practice it was never an issue of being too heavy it just flowed well.
SE: Yes, we wrote it really fast. Luke was the bucket of ice water and the slap in the face. All those things just made us more inspired to write. Not to say that I’m trying to tell anyone the songs are good but we were really inspired in the writing. It really had everything to do with Luke and the unfortunate situation of horrible shit going on and just being truly passionate about how horrible it is. Like Luke was saying about his anger, that goes for all three of us. I mean what do you do? We can’t nor can any of us just walk down to DC and change what’s going on. This is all we can do. It’s the only catharsis we have for this shit. The climate of politics right now, I just can’t see us not writing heavy and angry music. In my mind I’m just, I forget who I said it to or what the conversation was but with politics, the way they are now, I don’t know when I’m going to feel comfortable with turning back to a Golden Veil type of vibe. That’s just not where my head is right now and thats the thing, it’s not to say I’m ignorant that things at that time were cool either but man, things are insane right now. Things are beyond what our age — I grew up in the cold war, I mean that’s crazy. People that grew up with JFK were this close to the world vanishing and then the Cuban Missile Crisis. We’ve always been there but Trump, I can’t even. The pot has always been boiling and all the racists and horrible people are still out there. Now with us there is a mouthpiece. That’s all that’s changed. I was feeling absolutely crazy in the car on the way here just reading and scrolling through social media with all these articles just makes me crazy.
SL: I’ve been the driver on this tour and we stopped for gas and I actually thought about making a Facebook post but there are times when I’m glad Im the driver and those times are every time I look at Facebook or anything because if I had to read that all day everyday I would have pulled all my hair out by now. We are all in disbelief at what is happening and say all the time that this can’t be happening.
And I’m sure all of this was the driver for Pilgrimage Of Loathing to only take a year, almost to the day. An album like this normally takes much more time, thoughts?
SE: Yes, we felt impassioned but again, Luke, as much as he’s blushing, or not, hearing this but he was the catalyst to the album happening as quickly as it did. As soon as we got done with some of the last material we just figured let’s keep our momentum. Let’s do an EP but once we got in the studio we realized we had enough for an album. Let’s face it, if you don’t have enough money or support you don’t want to put out an LP. But we just figured we were roughly at 40 minutes so this is an album.
It’s definitely obvious the huge difference from the last album is a reinvigorated intensity…
LH: It feels good, playing with a band I had always wanted to play in and tried to get going, gave up on, and now with moving back to NC it’s a right place-right time kind of thing. My running joke is I’m glad Matt quit as it gave me the opportunity. I mean they would have made another great record with him but it did give me the opportunity to play that style and the band were more than happy to listen to my ideas if I had something. It made me feel welcome and I think we did a great job. We played the songs a good handful of times before we recorded them and for me personally I have developed some personal things with these songs I wish I would have had when we recorded, but you go record and do the best you can in that moment. All the shows since then, performance wise, have been for me, more comfortable. All the sets have been solid and nothing seems unrehearsed.
(At this point I got a spoiler of the only song the band would play from The Golden Veil that I would hear for the very first time with Luke on drums so of course my anticipation was high.)
What do you guys do when not focused on the band, politics or the world in general?
SE: I wish there was less time I was focused on politics. I have a really cool job, I work for an art vendor so I photoshop pretty much all day and I go home. Really between that and this band my time is spent. I don’t have a family, not married and no children, I have 3 cats who are really awesome. Every time I try to date I’ll get to the third date and I just don’t have time for it. Most of my time is coming home, working on music stuff or playing video games, spending time with the cats or reading. And that’s really it.
SL: For me it’s working with a really great coffee company with a really intense focus on not so much fair trade, but it’s our owner going to the farms and asking what can we pay you to make a difference. We roast all the coffee. Between that and music that’s about it.
LH: I’ve got 2 young daughters. I do stone masonry for a living and I really like it. It’s hard work but I love doing it. My wife is extremely cool, she lets me practice twice a week. I say that but really, I’ve got friends that can’t believe she’s ok with twice a week practices and at dinner time no less, that’s serious. But she’s cool and she’s always excited when I get to do cool stuff, she knows that this is the type of band that is for me. So I stay pretty busy, I work most Saturdays, jam a few times a week and it’s good, it keep things happening.
I know its early but any chance the next album will keep this aggressive tone?
SE: With as bad as things are currently, I can’t imagine feeling comfortable not letting that aggressiveness out and directing it purposefully and towards where it needs to be directed. I’m not excited for this tour to end but I’m excited that as soon as we get back we are taking a bit of a break then we will reconvene. Then it’s just going to be writing again. We are playing the Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh and will do an LP release as soon as we get them in our hands but other than that we are just going to say no to any other things. Well, say no for the most part and just focus on the writing part.
As you can see from the above, the band was extremely gracious with their time. And all of this happened just before they were to take the stage. Sincere thanks to Scott, Spencer and Luke for their time and for their friendly, warm welcome.
Thanks to Dragged Into Sunlight for allowing us to crash their space for this interview.
Also, thanks to Darren from Post-PR.