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War//Plague: Band Of The Day
Dark, brooding metallic crust punk is what Minneapolis’s War//Plague are all about, bringing to mind such bands as Amebix, Axegrinder, Deviated Instinct, Extinction Of Mankind and fellow Minneapolis crusties Misery – a sound that is as every inch as dark and grim as the images the band’s name and the intro and outro to their debut album ‘On A Darker Dawn’ of swarming flies conjures up, and as harsh and abrasive as a long Minnesota winter.
The band mix up doomy and darkly atmospheric clean guitar driven passages and chugging mid paced riffs with raging punked up distorted aggression with some frenzied lead playing thrown in for good measure, they know how to mix up tempos well resulting in a varied and dynamic aural assault on the ears and their sound continually twists and turns with various metal and crust/punk influences entwining themselves around each other creating a perfectly balanced crossover, a sound that should appeal just as much to metalheads as it does to crust punks.
The band have just released a new 7″ ‘Primal’ on the long running cult punk label Profane Existence so I thought it was the perfect time to interview them and make them a band of the day. The band (made up of Leffer, Lutz, Defoe and Chud) collectively answered my questions below:
WORDS: Kat Gillham
WHO ARE THEY: WAR//PLAGUE
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
FOR FANS OF: Amebix. Axegrinder, Deviated Instinct, Morne, Doom, Early Neurosis, Misery, Extinction Of Mankind, Tragedy
LATEST RELEASE: ‘Primal’ (Profane Existence, 2014)
WEBSITES: Official site, Facebook, Bandcamp & BigCartel
First off please give me some basic background info about the band for the readers and introduce the current line up.
Lefton: “I’m Andy (Leffer) Lefton, guitar and backing vocals.”
Lutz: “Also an Andy, but everyone calls me Lutz. Main vocals and guitar.”
Vern DeFoe: “Bass.”
Chad (Chud) Brunsell: “Drums!”
You first appeared on the scene in 09 with the demo, is this still available? What formats was it released on – what was the initial response like to your debut recording?
Lefton: “Yes, the demo is still available through Moshpit Tragedy records for free or sliding scale downloads. I feel the response was quite positive to the demo. I think some folks were curious to see what post-PROVOKED might sound like. We’re thankful to Moshpit Tragedy for taking a liking to the demo. That helped set the stage for us, to some degree.”
Lutz: “People were really supportive of it, Moshpit Tragedy really helped spread the word.”
You also released a split w/ Police Bastard from UK. How did that come about? Tell us a bit about that release.
Lefton: “PB has always been a personal favorite of mine. I was out in London for the CRASS “Feeding” gig in 07 and during one of those nights was an after-party show at the Dome, I believe. POLICE BASTARD was one of the bands playing next to RUBELLA BALLET and others. So, I made it a priority to high tail it to that gig immediately after the “Feeding” show. I chatted (drunkenly) with a few of the members and the relationship just grew from there. Sometime later we discussed through the internet to plan on the split, and that’s how it happened. We initially had a different label interested in the release, but a few things fell apart and Profane Existence was nice enough to help pick it up and release it.”
Your debut full length album ‘On A Darker Dawn’ was released last year, please tell the readers a bit about this album in your own words and what they can expect from it?
Lutz: “I think after the PB split, we really wanted to explore our sound more and make ‘OADD’ the best record we could with the resources we had. It already feels like ages ago we recorded that… Anyway, we really wanted a cohesive album from start to finish. So we sat down and figured out how to compose and make the album flow from one song to the next, instead of just slapping a bunch of songs together and calling it a day.”
Lefton: “This seemed to take a while to release as well. ‘OADD’ was our first full length release and that’s when we brought on our close friend Chad to drum for us. Chad really brought a new element to the table and helped expand some of the musical realms.”
Chud: “Writing ‘OADD’ for me was like riding a bike except not knowing when you’re going to get whipped in the face by a branch! Haha, what I mean is that it’s super exciting to be jammin’ in a band with old friends whom I’ve played numerous shows with in some of my past bands, and having them write songs that would completely stump me on stuff like timing, changes, different rhythms, then screw with my head for a whole week till we’d meet up again. It was exactly what I was hoping would happen upon them asking me to join. I was aware of the direction they were heading and knew with the drum influences that I have we would collaborate pretty much on all levels, and here we are today, still with the damn branch in the face treatment, haha! Good times!”
How has the overall response been to it?
Lefton: “The response has been quite good! We tend to have a different take on writing, compared to all of our different projects in the past. When we receive feedback from other reviews, critics, etc. mentioning that “The conglomeration of styles and genres is varied enough though that it makes it difficult to put a solid label on them” it lets us know we’re doing something right.”
Lutz: “Yea, from what I’ve seen and heard, people seem to really like it. We’ve received some really kind words from people over the years, which is nice to hear after you’ve put so much time and effort into something.”
Chud: “At gigs people seemed to be pretty into it, of course I wasn’t fast enough for a couple badasses way in the back though!”
How did you hook up with the label? Are you satisfied with the work they have done with the album?
Lefton: “We’ve worked closely with Profane Existence since the beginning of PROVOKED. Since we’re based in Minneapolis and are close with the PE folks, it just worked out that way.”
Lutz: “After things with the other label didn’t work for the PB split, PE expressed an interest in releasing it and doing some future releases. Like Leffer said, we’ve worked with PE for a long time and had good experiences. They were at the first War//Plague show and liked what were doing, so I guess it kind of just fell into place from there.”
Where was it recorded?
Lefton: “‘On A Darker Dawn’ was recorded at CoreSource Production here in Minneapolis.”
Lutz: “We recorded the split there as well. I think we learned a lot during the Darker Dawn session. Originally, we were going to record the drum tracks in an old discarded church, but the care taker got cold feet and it fell through. It would have been interesting to see how that would have turned out.”
Chud: “Amy SHREDS!”
The artwork is great, who designed the album cover?
Lutz: “Hey thank you! I illustrated and designed the album art. We wanted to have something that reflected the tone of the record, while also tying things together both visually and musically. It was all drawn in charcoal and ink – it was a really fun piece to create.”
Tell us about the ‘Smolder’/’Malevolent Winds’ split.
Lefton: “This was our first official release right after the demo.”
Lutz: “Shortly after we released our demo, we came into contact with Active Rebellion. We chatted and they wanted to do something together. We also happened to be in the process of going back into the studio. So we recorded a studio version of ‘Smolder’, and at the time, one of our newest songs ‘Malevolent Winds’ as a B side. The two songs were pretty similar in message and seemed to complement each other. ‘Malevolent Winds’ was definitely us beginning to dig deeper musically. I think it’s a pretty cool EP and it was great working with AR!”
You have a new EP out, ‘Primal’. Please tell us about this recording/release, where can people get it from? Profane Existence has released this if I am correct?
Lutz: “Yeah, the ‘Primal’ EP was part of Profanes Single Series. We had just gotten done doing some heavy writing for another project, so we weren’t sure what to write or record for it, all we knew is that we wanted to cut loose a bit. That’s where the idea of ‘Primal’ came from; we just wanted to write something like we did in the ‘old days’ – lots of aggression, lots of energy. It was kind of us getting to go back to our roots for a bit.”
Lefton: “Yes, PE did release this but you can either get it through them or us at our web store where you’ll find most or all of our releases. The ‘Primal’ EP was where we charted into unknown territory, recording wise…. and it turned out to be great! Chad had a connection at Triple 4 studios and we heard the dude there catered to more “metal” sounds, but outside of that he dealt with more extreme music production in general, which was quite beneficial for us.”
Chud: “That’s right, my friend Jamie is not only a rippin’ good drummer but also an amazing all around good musician. He’s been recording his whole life and specializes in metal. I couldn’t stop thinking that if he got his mitts on this stuff it’d literally start on fire! Hell yeah! Thanks to Profane Existence it did just that as the July ’13 release in the Profane singles series.”
You have another release in the pipeline please tell us the title and more details about that.
Lutz: “The new release is called ‘Temperaments of War’. It’s a concept album based around the Four Humors, which is an old Greek/Roman theory. It suggests that too much or too little of any of the bodily fluids know as humors, can influence a person’s temperament. We took that idea and tried to see how it pertained to war throughout history.”
What can we expect from the new material overall compared to the album? Is it in the same vein more or less?
Lefton: “I feel the music and theme is always in the same “vein”, but we do have a natural progression with writing it seems lately.”
Lutz: “Same vein, yes. But I think you’ll hear some things expanded upon. We are constantly trying to push ourselves to the next level.”
Please tell us why you chose this band name?
Lefton: “Well, both Lutz and I back in the day would meet at our local pub and literally write down names that we felt coincided with our ideology and whatnot. So it sort of just happened where we just kind of threw these words together and it just formed. We wanted it to go deeper than just another “WAR” titled band. The words WAR and PLAGUE really have a cohesive them with the music we write. ATTRITION was at the top of my list, but didn’t make it…HAHA! But, as you can see, our split with POLICE BASTARD is where it made the cut.”
Lutz: “I’d like to think the name is a nod to the 4 Horsemen, but it also implies that War is an ongoing Plague. It can also be looked at as ‘War equals Plague’ or that they are one in the same. A lot of what we write has a ‘heed this warning’ message to it, so the name reflects that in a way. Plus it’s an easy name to remember, haha!”
How active are you on the live front? Do you play out a lot within and out of the state of MN? Wheres the farthest you have gotten to play so far? What can people expect from a War//Plague live show?
Lutz: “We play locally a few times a year, it’s always a balance of making sure people don’t get sick of seeing you, but also so they don’t forget about you. We want to make it worth your while when you come see us, like it’s more of an event rather than just another show. I think we’d like to play out more, but it really comes down to everyone’s schedules. I believe we are planning a few things for this year, so hopefully more people outside of Minneapolis will have a chance to see us play. We’re not lazy, I swear! We just have a lot to juggle to make things happen.”
Chud: “We aren’t playing every weekend or even every month for that matter but we stay current I guess you could say. Getting out of town has happened but not far, Wisconsin. This is definitely not a long lasting trend btw, it’s just been schedules, family, work… life’s speed bump! We will be readying the masses sometime soon hopefully! A War//Plague live show is FAST, HEAVY, AND FUN AS HELL!!!”
Any plans to play or tour this year within or outside of USA? Would you like to tour Europe at some point?
Lefton: “We talk about touring all the time. It’s tough for us because the whole lot of us have obligations, families, etc. So when the stars are aligned for us, we’ll jump at the chance. We attempted to play the Scum Fest 10 year anniversary, but sadly could not.”
Lyrically what inspires you to put pen to paper?
Lutz: “That’s a tough question. I think it really depends where I’m at mentally. I’m generally going to write a better song when I’m down in the dumps versus feeling great. All you have to do is watch or read the News for a few minutes to feel totally overwhelmed and defeated. The thing to remember is no matter how depressed you may get or how fucked up the world is, there has to be a way to improve things, even if it’s only a small improvement. We’re only on this planet for a short time, I think the best thing we can do as people, is to try and leave it a better place then it was before we were born.”
What bands fuel + shape the sound of War//Plague influence wise?
Lefton: “We’re all influenced by one thing or another. Personally, I don’t like to mimic or try to carbon copy anything out there. Yes, that’s difficult to do in this day and age where everything has been done over and over. For me, I can say that specific eras influenced me. Anything that crosses the stenchcore or crust punk side of things has been an influence. I feel we have the need to implement some of the old school D-Beat elements. It may not be the D-Beat purist type of sound, but our hearts are there. I feel Chad brings a ton of talent to us that helps broaden our scope. So we can write a killer punk or D-beat type riff and he’ll top it off with some pulverizing metal-esque drum techniques. It’s really nice to have that element with us.”
Chud: “I agree with Leffer, all is good in the land of crust and stench. I tend to dwell where music gets really dark and get many of my ideas for things musically there but by the time it gets to be a working groove it’s been beaten up, kicked this way and back again and it’s not anything at all what I was thinking… and then it’s a “keeper”!”
Lutz: “Naming bands that influence us might be tough, we all listen to so much different music. I can be influenced by anything from Joy Division to Venom and everything in between!”
DeFoe: “I could go on and on about music I like and am into, but for the sake of talking about War//Plague I’ll keep it relevant to this question. I grew up a metal dude myself. I also got into a lot of the English stuff that was happening in the 80’s/90’s too. All the old Peaceville records stuff. And of course Napalm Death and Carcass… Anyways, it seems like that is still my favorite era. I also really love the early Swedish Death Metal and a lot of the Swedish D Beat bands, I use to really like Black Metal but have backed off recently due to how trendy/accepting of fascism it has become. I still listen to bands like Darkthrone or Enslaved a lot though.”
Your local scene is well known within crust / DIY Punk circles thanks to Profane Existence being based there – I know some of you guys are or have been very active and/or close collaborators with PE and the band is currently part of the PE roster. Please tell the readers a bit about PE and your local punk/crust scene, how active is it currently? Any current MPLS bands you can recommend?
Lefton: “PE has been in the forefront in regards to a lot of what we do. This isn’t because we planned it that way, but I feel it happened organically due to our history with PE and the folks involved. When Lutz and I were in PROVOKED we were a straight up PE band and at that time PE was involved in a lot on all fronts. With WAR//PLAGUE, yes we are in the PE circle, but not to the degree that we were back in the day. There are many reasons why and they’re all good. We’ve had other, outside labels find interest in us and I think that helps keep it fresh and expose ourselves to maybe a wider and more diverse audience. In the same instance, we are grass roots with our DIY ethos…and this is a reason why we chose to assist in the self-release of Temperaments of War. Locally, the Minneapolis scene is active. There is usually a good populace of punk, crust, thrash, metal and hardcore bands that are active in the DIY scene. No one is here to make any money off of it. The dedicated ethics of the scene has helped itself sustain a good crowd and it shows. I’ve been quite busy lately booking bands and helping promote what we’re about (bands, community, etc). I’m not doing this alone. There’s a gang load of other well established and diehard locals that are doing the same. I never get the sense that there’s a competitive edge, as that wouldn’t survive for long with what we’re all involved with. Currently, there’s a good handful of bands like Despise, Temple, Fucker SS, Cognitive Dissonance, Skrutiny, Rifle Diet and a lot more!”
DeFoe: “Profane Existence was pretty much like a culture back in the day. I’ve met a lot of people from Central and South American that moved here because of PE. And like Leffer said, there is always a very solid bunch of “DIY/basement bands” that are really good bands. We have our harsh winters here but there is nothing like taking a backpack full of beer to a basement show here in the summer time. As far as bands go there are a ton of great bands from here. Svoboda, Kontrasekt, Agitate, Morality Crisis, False and In Defense are a few that are strong bands that I can think of off the top of my head.”
What’s your opinion on the nationwide and international crust/punk scene?
Lefton: “I think it’s a wonderful thing! Given, it’s different everywhere you go. I feel Minneapolis (along with other areas of the U.S.) is a great resource for what we’re doing. We have a tight connection with areas like Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Austin, etc. As for internationally? From our experience abroad, I feel areas like Europe, U.K, etc are a great model for how a well-organized, DIY punk community can be. It’s tough to create a semblance like that over here.”
Lutz: “Yeah, I think it’s great. Everywhere we’ve toured overseas in the past, people have always been great and accommodating. It’s a cool feeling to be able to connect with people from different parts of the world through music. I’m always blown away when people in other countries know so much about our City!”
DeFoe: “Yeah its great, it seems like a lot of people that are really involved with the scene know each other world wide.”
What are the plans for the rest of the year?
Lefton: “All we do is write music and play when feasible. So we’re up to record our next release once we wrap up these new songs.”
Lutz: “Yup, already working on a new album! Besides that, we’ll play some shows and hopefully get out on the road a little bit. This place can be a frozen wasteland, so we’ve got to get out and enjoy the warm weather while we have it!”
DeFoe: “Hopefully playing a few more shows.”
Chud: “Exactly, keep the steady diet of life’s obstacles and write music to go with it, new album is around the corner!”
The last words are yours Andy – plug merch, websites etc! Cheers for answering this short interview!
Leffer: “Hey Kat, thanks a ton for the interview and all that have found interest in reading it! WAR//PLAGUE does have a website at www.warplague.com and of course we have a Facebook page and a Bandcamp site. Most of our merch can be found at http://organizeandarise.