We’re very pleased to bring you this exclusive interview with Indianapolis ambient deathcore outfit, The Contortionist.
The band’s brand new LP, Intrinsic, just dropped last week and vocalist Jonathan Carpenter took time to talk with UTG about their new effort, sci-fi, flexible women, and the band’s influences and aspirations. Read through and get caught up with one of the most promising metal acts in the game!
With the success of Exoplanet and the following it attained, was there any extra pressure going in to begin work on Intrinsic?
I’d have to say that whenever you’re listening to the opinions of different fans, you obviously have to take everything with a grain of salt. One person says one thing, and this group of people are expecting one thing, and this group is expecting another. All in all, I feel like we decided to just go in there and do our thing like we did before and do the best that we can at the moment. It’s always kind of like that with albums when you get done and you already want to improve it. You just have to go as hard as you can while you’re in there and you have the time with it. It felt pretty good doing it. We were at a good place.
The new album definitely sounds like The Contortionist but it also differs in a lot of ways from Exoplanet. What was your focus when beginning work on the album to show the band’s evolution?
A lot of our focus was trying to make the melodic parts more fitting that way the melody didn’t seem forced or random. We definitely like to do the heaviest of heavy and go as far as we can with that but it’s also fun to do a complete layer of melodic stuff right over the heavy and I think that’s been a big change for us.
Your lyrical content on both albums follows various sci-fi ideas. What has inspired you to write with those themes for Exoplanet and Intrinsic?
All of us in the band get into the whole sci-fi vibe with the video games we’ve played and the movies we’ve watched but the lyrical style is more so influenced by sci-fi books that I’ve read. That take on trying to portray a story there. A lot of books like ones Michael Crichton have written are very well-read and have a lot of good information in them and it’s not just the story. So I kind of took those influences and brought it to this.
What is your favorite sci-fi movie?
Off the top of my head, probably Total Recall. I really enjoy that one. Oh man, maybe Star Wars though. It’s kind of like a tie. It’s hard to choose.
How do you feel about the Total Recall reboot?
I don’t know if I want to see it. I feel like it’s ever ingrained as an Arnold movie for me.
Who/what are some of your personal influences?
I’d say bands that I’ve always liked for a long time but maybe wasn’t able to get that full voice into Exoplanet because of how late I came into the album cycle as far as when it was being made. I think this time around, keyboards were more of a focus, and with me personally that kind of comes from a Dream Theater influence, and Symphony X. Bands like that. Our guitarist Cameron has a little bit more influence from progression like an Allan Holdsworth type feel or a Rush influence so between the two of us we have kind of a fusion with more options. Cameron does a lot of work on the keyboards too. He writes a lot of parts right alongside guitar so sometimes by the time I’m into the writing process sometimes I don’t even have to do anything in the sense of writing keyboards because he already thought all of it out, you know? So I think we kind of split the work on the keyboards. With vocals, it’s kind of hard to pin something down but vocalists that influence me would be Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree, Tommy Rogers from BTBAM and I really like Thom Yorke a lot. I don’t think I sound like him or anything like that but I like the way he uses a lot of sounds, not just words. I really like that a lot.
Does the band name happen to be inspired by a love for flexible women?
(Laughs) It should be. I think it will be now. From now on we’re just gonna say that.
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on stage during one of your shows?
Oh, man. It doesn’t get too nuts, because I’m not really the type to incite people to like hurt things or whatever but I’ve seen people get thrown up on stage from crowd surfing and see-saw my keyboard right off the stand. So shit like that where people are kind of getting themselves hurt. Other than that, I’d say there hasn’t been anything too awfully crazy. I think we do crazier things during our buddy band’s sets, like there’s been a few times we’ve played with Volumes and I’ll get on stage with a mask on and do a vocal guest spot or something.
I saw you guys with Structures, Rings Of Saturn, and CFTG in Orangevale a year back or so and there was a lot going on. A lot of people on stage and a lot of water being thrown.
Yeah! (Laughs) Absolutely. A lot of water was flying.
So you guys just started the “Intrinsic Tour” the other day right?
Yeah, it started on the 14th in our hometown of Indianapolis.
This is your first headlining tour?
Yeah, this is our first true headlining tour. The only other time we were in a headlining spot was “Summer Slaughter Survivors” and that was a rotating spot; much different. We’ve got our own crew this time around. We’ve got 8 people total riding around in the van. Definitely a different feel. More of a headliner feel.
How’s the tour going so far?
It’s going good so far. We had a little mishap last night; one of the local bands kind of went a little nuts. A little violent, at one point had some fire out. The show had to get shut down due to safety reasons and the people weren’t feeling very safe with some people running around beating people up specifically, you know? Like singling people out. I wasn’t really there to see it, I just heard a lot about it. But yeah, the show got shut down and only one of the bands, 7 Horns 7 Eyes got to play. None of the other bands on the package played.
So do you guys still get paid for that or was it just a wasted trip?
Yeah, we ended up getting taken care of by the promoters. They did the right thing but it was disappointing to tell the fans. They were walking out. You know, some of them came pretty far. It was a bummer.
Is your set list on the tour pretty evenly balanced between the two albums?
Yeah, it’s almost split down the middle actually. It’s a little more towards Exoplanet though. I believe there’s five or six songs off Exoplanet and four off the new one, two of which we have been playing but we added a couple more.
What has been the biggest obstacle for you guys as a band so far?
Well, that’s a good question. Nothing specifically comes to mind.
That’s not a bad thing.
True. I guess trying to get the right attention to the right people and playing with the right bands and I think all that’s been happening. Our manager and our label have been taking care of us and working really hard for us so I think it’s just a matter of time. We have to work our way around and get the word out.
And what has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career so far?
The first thing that comes to mind is my favorite show and that’s been the “New England Metal and Hardcore Fest.” We’ve played that a couple times now and both times I think were the most people we’ve ever played to. Like a little over a thousand or something, so that was sick. You kind of feel like a rock star for a day because you play in front of so many people.
For all the gear nerds, what does your vocal and keyboard set-up consist of?
In essence, I’m just running a keyboard through a mixer and it’s a Yamaha MO6 running through a low end Behringer, like two channel mixer. For vocals, I just carry around my own stands and my own two mics and hook those in each night. We run some small layers of backing tracks of noises and stuff. They’re not really keyboard sounds per se but sounds that are on the record anyway that we want to portray live. It doesn’t get too out of hand. Our goal is to have it be a live experience and not be taken over by the backing tracks.
If we are to experience the long-rumored apocalypse this year, will The Contortionist survive?
(Laughs) I guess it depends what it consists of. If our practice space and gear are still in tact afterwards, I think so. We’ll be fine. I’ve played enough Left 4 Dead.
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion