Monday, January 10, 2011

First Impressions: He Became The Martyr

First Impressions of He Became The Martyr

Genre: Electronic/Southern/Metal

For Those Who Like: Underoath, A Skylit Drive, Confide, Asking Alexandria

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By: Mike Heffron

As I pulled up to “The Good Stuff” warehouse on Spring Grove avenue I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the name. They unknowingly reflect to the city the overwhelming talent of the bands and artists that create in the rented nooks within. The crumbling building is a used furniture store topped by band practice rooms. I expected to have to wait outside to be let in, but the door was surprisingly unlocked. Up creaky, crooked stairs I met Blake Hawk, drummer of the newly formed band He Became The Martyr.

He led me up another set of narrow stairs to the third floor. Muffled bands jammed out behind the numbered doors. The peeling walls were graffitied and dimly lit by overhead incandescents. In the hallway we came upon the rest of HBTM and flooded into their practice room. The walls were high, covered in carpet stapled from floor to ceiling. Their one large window was held open to spill their sonic fervor out into the quiet Cincinnati night.

Even though they were just practicing, the energy of the band was like being at a show. They clustered close to together and head banged wildly in time to their skull-cracking breakdowns and heartfelt southern metal riffing. Their guitars create a wall of sound that opens in gateways to allow the melodic synth runs and electronic dance rhythms to give beautiful contrast to the weight of the hardcore distortion. Dave’s and Blake’s vocals cut through the mix of instruments to give a soul-wrenching human element to their aural onslaught.

While He Became The Martyr might be a new band, the members are certainly not n00bs to the Cinci scene. They’ve all been playing for years, sharpening their musical skills and now they’re ready to sink their teeth into a new project. Despite their music’s heavy and serious sound, the HBTM guys seem light-hearted and fun. They goof around and crack jokes that always result in resounding laughter from the group. To start the interview we gathered around on the floor of their room and sat in a circle like a kindergarten class.


Nati Sound: Ok, He Became The Martyr, what’s up?

He Became The Martyr: Hello. Hey.

Nati Sound: So, tell us about how you all met each other and how you formed the band.

Blake: Taylor, me, and Andy used to be in a band together called Arm The Masses. We all kind of wanted to branch out with our sound and what we were doing. We started jamming on the side, doing a little bit different kind of stuff. When[sic] Arm The Masses broke up we decided to take that on as a full project, our main project I guess. We recruited our buddy Dave, who was actually in Arm The Masses a long time ago, to do vocals. We had a couple people on bass and guitar, but it didn’t really work out so well, so we got Brad to play bass for us; who is also an ex-member of Arm The Masses. Then Dave recommended his friend Peter for guitar, who has never been in Arm The Masses, ever (laugh).

Nati Sound: You guys have a very interesting style. How would you guys describe your style of playing together?

Blake: In general terms, I don’t if we really encompass this, but like the Southern feel of the parts, and the straight-up metal feel of the parts, some breakdowns, also electronica and dance feel of some parts.

Taylor: Electronic Southern metal.

Nati Sound: By “Southern” what exactly do you mean?

Taylor: A little bit of twang.

Nati Sound: In the guitar parts?

Blake: Definitely in the guitar parts.

Peter: As long as you pull off to open, you’re fine. (laugh)

Blake: A lot of the rhythms, off tempo, swung kind of rhythms.

Andy: Swing rhythms.

Nati: It seems like every hardcore/metalcore band sort of gets chocked together. What sets you guys apart for your peers in the scene?

Dave: I would honestly say: Andy, and the way he writes his key parts. It’s different from the anybody else who has written any kind of key parts, ever.

Peter: What Dave is trying to say is that we’re all expendable except for Andy. (laugh)

Blake: A lot of the stuff we do. Instead of sticking to one style we like to do new things. We’re open to new things, we not just saying ‘hey, we’re this style, we’re[sic] ‘metal’, we’re ‘Southern’ or ‘electronica’, this is what we’re always going to be doing.’ We’re trying to branch out and encompass all of our talents and influences. I feel like we’re a diverse band. There are a lot of good bands in Cincinnati, but we’re trying to kind of set ourselves apart by having a real professional sound and working really hard to write music.

Peter: Another thing is, not taking ourselves too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s all about that we love playing music together. It’s not like we’re out there trying to get signed tomorrow or something. We’re just enjoying what we can.

Andy: At the same time, everybody’s in a band. A lot of people say ‘oh, we’re different.’ But forreal, everybody in this band listens to completely different styles of music. Blake listens to indie, alternative type stuff. Me, I listen to a lot of heavier stuff.

Taylor: Andy’s the breakdown guy (laugh)

Dave: After watching a lot of other bands we play with, I think our chemistry has something to do with it[sic]. We all just click with each other.

Peter: We’re still brand new, so it’s going to get better.


Nati Sound: What are some of your short term goals for the next couple months?

Blake: We’re really trying to play out as much as we can, trying to write new stuff too. The first songs we have we pumped out in a few months, which is relatively quick for our writing style, so we’re really sitting down and going through every song bit by bit. It’s going to be better than any stuff we’ve done so far. We’re recording an EP that will out Spring or early Summer. We’re picking up our new shirts and just getting our name there.

Peter: Getting Andy’s van back from the mechanic.

Taylor: Yeah, that’s a huge goal.

Nati Sound: Could you elaborate for us about your name “He Became The Martry”?

Dave: We were struggling to think up a name for a couple weeks, and as I was driving home from a hang out session the name just kind of popped into my head. It was stuck in my head, I couldn’t get rid of it, so I next time I saw the guys I told them and each one of them did the same thing: paused and said “I like that.” It doesn’t necessarily reflect a message, but it’s open to interpretation. It could be a religious theme or a war type thing, we just want our audience to think about it. For us, it’s a cool name.

Nati Sound: You mentioned that all of you except Peter were in Arm The Masses at one time or another. Can you tell us a little bit about what broke up Arm The Masses and got you to where you are now?

Blake: Like we said earlier, the point of this band is too really have a blast playing music. Arm The Masses was together for three years and by the end it just wasn’t fun. We were getting on some big shows and had a lot of great opportunities coming up, we put a lot of hard work into, a lot of time and a lot of money into it, but at the end of the day it wasn’t satisfying, it wasn’t fun. Andy, Taylor, and I talked about it and we decided it just wasn’t the way we wanted to go. We couldn’t act as one unit anymore so it was the best idea for us to go our separate ways.

Dave: Even before they broke up you could sense that the band just wasn’t a family, and I think that for a band to work and be taken seriously you have to be a family with each other. There was some tension between some of the band members, and some things that just kept happening contributed to it.


Nati Sound: What do you think is unique about playing in Cincinnati?

Blake: As of right now, I kind of f’ing hate playing in Cincinnati (laugh). Our past experiences in trying to get our name out here have showed that a lot of people in this scene really aren’t receptive unless you a big name or a lot of friends. It’s hard to book shows, you get ripped off by shitty people, and it’s hard to get people to come to shows. The upside about playing in Cincinnati is the amount people and it has huge potential. It’s a matter of promotion, playing in the right places at the right times. We don’t want to play here every week. Our goal is to play here once every couple months maybe. If you play anywhere too much people will stop coming to your shows.

Peter: A big part of it is that the Cincinnati music scene is pretty homogenous. There isn’t a lot of unique sound to it. What sets bands apart is who has a more expensive rig or who has more friends. This is where our roots are and it’s important for us to revive this scene. A lot of venues out here don’t have the right equipment and they can make you sound horrible and turn people off toward you. Venues don’t do a very good job promoting bands and people don’t know where to check for shows.

Dave: I remember four or five years ago people were going to shows left and right, whether you knew the band or not, every weekend. Around three years ago people seemed to stop coming to shows. We need to get people to come to shows again. A lot of kids do like to go to shows still, because its something fun to do. Kids will see a band, go home, look them up, and spread the word.

Peter: We blame Justin Bieber. (laugh)

Brad: And the Jonas Brothers. (laugh)

Nati Sound: What other local bands do you really like or have influenced you?

Blake: A lot of bands we liked when we were in Arm The Masses are..gone. Devil Wears Prada and Beneath The Sky, before they got signed, I saw them at The Underground and liked them before and like them now. The one band from that time that never broke up is The Beneath. They don’t influence us musically, but they are all awesome musicians and the way they do things is awesome. A friend of mine, in another band, is now the screamer for Corpus Christi. They are really good guys and help us out a lot. Except they’re not allowed to borrow our trailer anymore because they fucked it up. (laugh)


Nati Sound: You guys only started playing shows two weeks ago. How were your first shows?

Dave: This was the first band I’ve ever been a vocalist in, so I expected to be super nervous, but I wasn’t; it felt really natural. The first show the crowd got really into it and that’s what I set my standards up to. The second show I was kind of disappointed because the crowd wasn’t really responding, but we as a band played great both nights.

Peter: I had a lot of fun. Our first show, The First Friday at Fogarty’s one, it was a little more intimate and it was great; great for a first show. Despite the fact that my wireless didn’t want to work, and we had trouble with the head and took forever to set up. We had a blast and had some good crowd chemistry. We have a blast playing so being nervous is not an issue. The second show was just different, I wouldn’t say bad. We played great, met some cool people, and there was a playground nearby. (laugh) I’m really excited to play the next shows, and I’m even excited to come to practice.

Blake: We’ve had a better response that any of us expected. We’re getting a lot more attention than we thought we would. We’ve gotten four show offers just in our first month of playing out together. In December we’re playing with A Hero A Fake and Corpus Christi, so we’ll tickets for that as soon as we get details from the Mad Hatter.

Nati Sound: Is there any final thoughts you’d like to give to readers?

Blake: If you see us at a show or on the street or whatever, say hey and come talk to us. We’re always down to meet to people and hang out. Give us feedback if you love us or if you hate us.

Peter: Try to reach us and we’ll always respond. We have no friends, so if you’d like to be... (laugh)

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