An Interview with Converge: Getting Straight To The Point

On Oct. 9, 2012, hardcore punk band Converge released a new record via Epitaph Records, All We Love We Leave Behind. It was clear to me that all the hype the CD received wasn’t for naught, as it proved to be fantastic and extremely original.

I was fortunate enough to catch frontman Jacob Bannon while they were in between cities on the road for their current U.S. tour. We spoke about playing with great bands, abrasive styles, and the traditional feel of music behind Converge. The transcription is below:

The new record is more stripped down and unique in many ways. Where did your influences come from with this one?

We don’t really look to any outside influences all that much anymore. We kind of haven’t for a long time. We have been a band for over two decades. We’re more introverted. We’re used to writing and creating in our own little bubble. We love and appreciate all different kinds of music and at times you can hear little subtle things come out but for the most part, they’re just an extension and exploration of things that we’ve done in the past. We’ve gone from point A, to point B, to point C, and that’s what you hear in a record like our new album. There’s a type of thrash vibe that we tend to gravitate towards. It’s just a natural thing. To be incorporating other things into our music keeps things fresh and exciting, and that’s just how we do it.

Has it been difficult to follow up with your breakthrough record, Jane Doe?

Ironically, that album actually got something like over 80 percent negative reviews. You can find those reviews online pretty easily. There’s all sorts of people giving their own narratives and importance to the record. It’s all just music and records. We’ve been writing in this band since we were teenagers. I don’t really hear much difference between each record. I just hear us as those four guys who love creating and playing music together. As to how people rate the importance of records and who reviews them, that’s entirely up to the listeners. That’s not something that we care about or that we talk about ever. When we’re writing, we’re just writing new songs. We don’t really get heady about our reviews or anything like that.

Your voice sounds more present on this album. Was there anything specific you were trying to convey in the lyrics?

Each song has its own tune and its own subject matter, so basically the lyrics cover those personal stories. As far as the vocal approach, it’s no different than the other records. I think that people have generalities about our band to where they think that all of our music is a certain way. I mean, live, it’s how we like to play. We like to play abrasive fast music. With the music, we have already had that style. Dynamically and vocally, there’s always stuff. It’s kind of funny how people have made comments on how we opened up this record. You’ve got people saying, “Hey, you guys are coming out with a style that’s not totally abrasive.” The truth is, though, with each record we’ve done the same thing. Our last three records have been the same thing. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, it’s just the flow of the music. It’s just what makes the most sense to us.

What was the writing process like this time around?

Well, in actuality, we’ve recorded our last five records ourselves, with some help in some way. For the most part, it’s us. It’s always been us. On Jane Doe, we had a great engineer come in and help us, and he helped us mix the You Fail Me album. We just wanted a separate pair of ears on it. It’s good to take some sort of input because sometimes you just kind of feel like you’re in a bubble. Within the last 10 years, we just keep on doing things the same way. We record at Kurt [Ballou, guitarist]’s studio. I handle the artwork for all of our records and we just kind of take it from there.

How has this tour been going so far?

Great! I like the challenge. It’s hard work, but it’s what we enjoy. We love just getting out on the road, and sharing our music and art with people. I think we really feel collectively grateful that we have this opportunity. We’re not an easy band to get into, for anybody. The fact that people try to connect with us on an emotional level and come out and support our music is fantastic. We can’t thank them enough. Even if it were only 10 people, we don’t care. We just get out there and do it.

The next tour is in Europe with Touché Amoré. Is there any part of Europe that you are looking forward to playing or seeing the most?

We’ve toured Europe countless times. All of those tours are a bit of a blur. We don’t really think about specific countries. If an audience is perceptive, then they are perceptive. Touché Amoré are great. We took them out on one of their first tours

Do the bands that you take out on tour with you impact the aggressiveness of your own set?

No. We’re always kind of on our own level when it comes to that sort of thing. I think that if you ask any other band, they would kinda feel that way. We just use everything that we have, emotionally and psychologically on the stage. We’re not competitive like that. We just do our own thing and don’t let that affect anything else.

Could you compare the early days of Converge live with how it is now?

It’s no different. We’re still the same dudes doing the same thing. We’re just better performers and better technical musicians. You kind of get better and grow on the language and vision of what you’re doing. Nothing’s really changed at all.

How about a few words regarding Deathwish Records?

Sure! It’s my label. I started it in 2000. My pal Tre [McCarthy], who used to be Converge’s tour manager, came in and started managing certain aspects of the label. I don’t like dealing with some of the things that are involved sometimes. Each of [us] just divvy up our responsibilities. We just work together to make the best label environment that we can for people.

It seems like the label is growing quite a bit.

Well, we’ve put out over 200 records in the last 10 years, so I would hope so. We’ve worked with, in my opinion, some of the best punk rock, hardcore, and metal artists out there.

Coverge will play at Union Transfer on Nov. 9, The Stone Pony on Nov. 10, and the Highline Ballroom on Nov. 11. For more information, go to