Hailing from Fresno, CA, Elder Devil dropped a nuclear debut of grind/crust/sludge back in May titled Graves Among the Roots — six tracks of razor sharp hate best consumed at maximum volume. And the artwork, as you’ll see below, was done by none other than Ethan Lee McCarthy from Primitive Man. Since Elder Devil sound like a sped up version of that band it is definitely fitting (more on that to come). Band submissions are a good thing and this release hit our inbox sans label and sans PR but it kicked like a mule, needless to say we were impressed and had to find out more about the band and album. So we sent over some questions and as you’ll see below they were more than gracious with their answers. Read on to see what they had to say and hit the link to purchase this amazing debut.
Based on your Bandcamp page it seems that Graves Among the Roots is your debut. When did you guys get your start and what’s behind the band name?
Stephen: We started as a text in September 2016. I was wanting to start a new project that was heavy and pissed and really wanted to take a break from playing drums and doing vocals in my other band Cabin Fire. Since I live in Las Vegas most of the year and Jacob lives in Fresno, we started as a studio project that Jacob would write and I would do vocals. Originally, we wanted to call ourselves Old World, but there were too many other bands with the same name. I got Elder Devil from an H.P. Lovecraft story. I feel like it summed up the underlying dread and threat to the people in the lyrics.
Reading through the lyrics one may get the impression that there’s a religious aspect behind the album. Is that the case or is it purely coincidental? Please expand a bit on the lyrical meanings and/or story behind the album.
Stephen: I would argue that religion is the main underlying theme of the album. It’s a story set roughly in 1600s colonial America that follows a group of colonists breaking away from their original settlement. This is driven by their misinterpretations of events like stillbirths and other dogmatic differences. Once they get to their new location, some colonists discover a grove of trees that they believe to be divine, and it all goes downhill from there.
Ethan Lee McCarthy (Primitive Man) did the album art for this release. How did he get involved and, in your opinion, did he fully capture the intent of your vision for the album?
Stephen: Both Jacob and I admired his other work, and he posted that he was taking commissions, so we sent him a rough overview of the story and he got to work. He got it right; we love the artwork. We were heavily influenced by movies like The Witch and Antichrist and I think he took all of that into consideration while also staying true to the story.
Speaking of Primitive Man, your sound shares similarities. Sure it has the trademarks of grind but there’s an inherent violence to it reminiscent of Scorn that hit me when listening for the first time and particularly on “New Gods.” And then on “Needless” traces of Thou bleed through. Are these bands, or similar bands, influences on your sound.
Jacob: I definitely listened to Scorn a lot and I do play doom primarily in Keeper so I’m not surprised these influences leaked into Elder Devil. I was trying to keep the grind bands that I love in mind while writing, such as The Secret, Magrudergrind, Rotten Sound, and Fiend.
Tell us a little bit about the writing process and headspace for Graves Among the Roots.
Stephen: Lyrically, I knew the direction I wanted to go in and had written the story out longhand as a narrative beforehand. But I waited for Jacob to send the scratch tracks before I began parsing them down into lyrical form. I wanted something incredibly dark, foreboding, ultimately hopeless. Mission accomplished!
You guys are a duo, how do you get such a huge sound with just two members?
Stephen: Since we are (for the time being) a studio project, since we live in different states, our big sound is completely thanks to Jacob’s engineering.
Jacob: I’ve been recording myself and other bands for years and it’s considerably easier to get a good sound when you are your own client. We went through about a dozen different mixes before we were both happy.
What or who are some of your musical heroes and how did they influence you to come up with the final product on Graves Among the Roots?
Stephen: My number one influence is definitely Trap Them. Especially vocally and lyrically. For years, Gaza and now Cult Leader have been huge influences for both of us. I still think that “Calf” from I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die sounds like the end of the world. I’ve also been listening to Pig Destroyer for years so they’ve definitely snuck into my subconscious. More recently, I’ve been listening to Oathbreaker’s new release on repeat. Oh, and Daughters. Always Daughters.
Jacob: The Kurts! I grew up listening to Nirvana so Kurt Cobain’s noisy guitar playing has had a huge influence on me. And Kurt Ballou (and the rest of Converge) is a huge driving force in my work ethic, especially with mixing and recording. Lately, I’ve been in love with Plebeian Grandstand, Young and in the Way, Monarch, Cult Leader, and So Hideous. And Daughters.
I realize this EP just came out but what’s next for Elder Devil? Any tour plans? Full length in the works?
Stephen: We would love to release a proper full length by the end of this year. We’re both very motivated, it’s just finding the time to write. Jacob’s currently writing for Keeper and I’m working on my dissertation, so there’s a lot going on. It would be great to play live if we could fill in the spots with members, but at this point, given our schedules, that’s not the goal. We’d rather just release music that people dig.
If you could boil everything that Elder Devil stands for down into one word, or sentence, what would it be?
We spent thirty minutes trying to come up with something that we both felt good about, but we ended up with nothing, so: RIP Paul Gray.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions, anything you’d like to add?
We’d like to thank anyone who has given our music a chance and to those who have donated or downloaded the album. And thanks for interviewing us!
Many thanks to Jacob and Stephen (Elder Devil) for their time!