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Converge's Jacob Bannon Lets Down His Guard on New Solo Project Wear Your Wounds

Luke Morton

Stream the debut album, and read our conversation with the patron saint of hardcore about his foray into raw, emotional experimental rock

On April 7 (via Deathwish Records), hardcore's patron saint Jacob Bannon will release one of the heaviest records of the year—but it will be heavy in an altogether different way from what we've come to expect from the Converge frontman. For his first solo effort, Wear Your Wounds, Bannon has deviated from his blood brothers at his genre-defying day job. The project's debut, WYW, has been in the making for years, with the earliest songs being written just after Converge released their iconic Jane Doe album in 2001. Here, unable to hide away behind a wall of noise, Bannon has created something raw and ultimately more vulnerable. 

Merging the worlds of experimental rock, post-rock, psychedelia, and folk, the tinkling pianos weave into intense drums and distortion-heavy vocals that dance around experimentations with electronics, but stays inherently lo-fi. No longer are you waiting for that signature Bannon bark; instead, an ethereal, dark croon ebbs and flows throughout, leaving a record with as much in common with Nick Cave as it does Swans, bolstered by what Jacob describes as "Floyd worship." The end result is wonderfully deep, and beautifully sinister.

But he's not alone in this new venture into the void. On WYW, Bannon is joined by a who's who of esoteric music, with Kurt Ballou (Converge), Chris Maggio (Trap Them), Sean Martin (Twitching Tongues) and Mike McKenzie (The Red Chord) lending their sounds and souls to WYW. Away from their respective comfort zones, his collaborators are free to breathe and channel each and every emotion into this almost 15-year-old project of unashamed honesty.

Wear Your Wounds will make its live debut this month at various underground festivals, including Roadburn, Desertfest and Dudefest. This will be the first time Bannon has played these songs in front of any audience—stripping himself bare, laying his own demons on the stage. I caught up with the man himself to find out why this emotional project was born, and what is feeding its heavy heart. Read on, and listen to an exclusive stream of WYW below—preorders are now live.

Noisey: What does the phrase 'Wear Your Wounds' mean to you?
Jacob Bannon: I haven't really thought about it in a while, it initially came out of a lyrical idea I had. I write a lot of prose when I'm just feeling like I have the need to, when I don't feel like making visual art. It was just a metaphor that came out that means positively wearing your damage and experience in life, coming out on the other side, and to be proud of the person you are in some capacity. I think everybody can relate to that basic message.

So how does it feel to step away from Converge and record something so different?
It's funny, people know [Converge] for a lot of the more aggressive and intense music that we make, but we've also had melodious, more dynamic moments in nearly every record that we've done in the last fifteen or so years. So, I see it as an extension of that. When I'm listening back to a bigger, slower song for Wear Your Wounds , it doesn't really feel that much different. I think the only real difference to me is that I'm steering the ship completely, whereas with Converge it's much more of a democracy, and I'm definitely not a slave driver when it comes to recording music.

Wear Your Wounds is a lot looser, I have a song idea and I'm just excited to play with the guys, and so if they have a melodic idea that they want to add to something, like a guitar idea or some sort of nuanced riff or something, I think bring it, let's do it, let's have fun. Whereas with Converge, there's a lot more chiseling and fine crafting of songs, where we'll sit and work on a six-second part of a song for a whole rehearsal or practice and try out a million versions. I wouldn't call it jam-oriented, but it's definitely a looser approach.

It feels a lot more vulnerable than Converge.
I write personal prose and personal songs within Converge but I think a lot of people don't hear a lot of the emotional vulnerability in that because of the volume we play at. When I sound like a monster, when I'm yelling at the top of my lungs, it's a little bit different than a more melodious approach, or a more laid back approach. Sometimes a narrative can be lost in the sheer volume of things.

Musically it's very dark and brooding, often teetering on the edge of uneasy experimentation. Do you prefer then to create music that makes the listener feel uneasy?
No, because I don't really think about the listener when I'm making it, I think that's one thing about Converge and Wear Your Wounds which is very similar. It's very selfish. We're doing it for ourselves and just enjoying the atmosphere that we're creating. I think with Wear Your Wounds we do concentrate a little bit more on atmosphere and exploring the space, it's definitely a little bit more open, because there are no rules. I have songs demoed that are extremely heavy and slow, and I have songs that are a little faster and upbeat as well, and this record has a little bit of everything in there. It doesn't have many smiles per say, but it does have a lot of dynamic to it for sure.

You mentioned the atmosphere, and WYW has a very spiritual, other-worldly feel to it. Do you see yourself as a spiritual person?
No, not at all. If anything I'm a lifelong pessimist. It's a personal record about personal things, and there are some songs that are extremely vulnerable. I tend to be a realist, too. If I want anything in this world, I want to be forever a happy person, and I think that everybody who makes dark art and music in some capacity is trying to purge a lot of those dark things from themselves and give them a place that's not just in their head, to make a positive out of it. I think that's where a lot of people mis-define heavy music, they can't get past the volume of it—they just see heavy visual and they say, 'Okay, it is what it is, I know what this animal is.' I think Wear Your Wounds is a bit tougher to define because of the approach. Hopefully people can relate some of the lyrical subject matter to their own lives and connect with it in some way, but that's obviously not my goal. My goal is just to get it out of me. 

Is there anything on this record that you've not written about before?
I've written about loss and pain, and anger, and life... It's funny because people think that the older you get, you run out of ideas or you run out of motivation, or some sort of drive to do those things. That's not true. The older you get the more complex life gets, the bigger the picture becomes and you don't necessarily find peace. You find different kinds of anger, you find different kinds of emotions. Your life takes different twists and turns, this album just contains that formation in another chapter of that for me.

The closure of this record is a song I wrote for a friend of mine that passed away a couple of years ago, and I didn't know how to present my emotions to anybody about it. It was really heavy, and I was just propelled to write a song, for him and to him, and thanking him for everything that he gave me and my wife over the last few years. That's what I use music for. Music is a place where I can put those things, where I can deal with them in a healthy way.


WEAR YOUR WOUNDS ON TOUR:

15.04.17 Rowley, MA @ Camp Cedar Mill w/ Stephen Brodsky
21.04.17 Switzerland Pratteln @ Z7 w/ Crippled Black Phoenix
22.04.17 Netherlands Tilburg @ Roadburn Festival
23.04.17 Germany Karlsruhe @ Dude Fest
24.04.17 Switzerland Zürich @ Bogen F w/ Chelsea Wolfe
25.04.17 Germany Nürnberg @ Z-Bau
26.04.17 Czech Rep Prague @ Futurum w/ Chelsea Wolfe
27.04.17 Germany Berlin @ Berghain w/ Chelsea Wolfe
28.04.17 Germany Hannover @ Mephisto
29.04.17 Germany Köln @ MTC
30.04.17 UK London @ Desertfest

Luke Morton is only slightly wounded on Twitter.