It feels rare to see a death metal institution be minted in real-time, but that's exactly what happened this year when Oakland's Necrot dropped their second LP Mortal in August of this year. Mortal is a fresh take on the American death metal playbook that plays to the sinister strengths of the genre without sounding derivative. And people are going nuts for it!
I hate to quote Billboard charts but they're usefully illustrative in this instance. Since release, Necrot has become the #2 Top New Artist, shot up to #10 on the Heatseeker charts, and climbed to a respectable #41 on the Top Album charts. This is an insane performance for a death metal band. The people who buy Cage the Elephant albums usually do not turn out for dyed-in-fetid-offal death metal. And I'm not saying that the type of rock fan who usually has their tastes reflected on the Billboard charts is all about Necrot now. But Mortal has certainly gained a lot of attention in the underground metal world, and it's likely that their chart performance is not only due to the old guard embracing them, but new fans who are possibly just getting into death metal after coming up on noisy punk and hardcore.
Whatever the reasons for their success, they've earned it and ever penny that is coming their way. Necrot are a hard-touring, hard-working, and dedicated band who exemplifies musicians and sonic craftsmen who have adapted to life on the road as a way of making a living while plying their trade. It's because of their passion and commitment to living a life in service to the gods of brutal sound that I wanted to catch up with them for Scene Point Blank, to talk about their new album and get some perspective on a band that is changing things up by playing it old school. What I learned over the course of the interview, is that in the depths of the COVID era, being the hottest metal band in the continental United States doesn't do much to alleviate the economic or material concerns that plague the majority of Americans. Courage and passion will only take you so far before you run up against the limits of your mortal body's ability to resist the crushing pressures of systemic failings. Necort's vocalist and bassist Luca Indrio was kind enough to share his perspective with me as he attempts to promote his new album in the exile of quarantine. Luca has a great perspective on the issues of the day and is able to translate them into lyrics that are particularly relevant at a time when we are swimming in a sea of silent death.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation that took place between Mick R. and Luca Indrio by phone in August of 2020, just prior to Mortal's release.
Scene Point Blank: Thanks again Luca for speaking with me for Scene Point Blank. How have you been holding up throughout the pandemic?
Luca Indrio: I’ve been going through different phases. The first phase was slowly seeing all of our tours getting cancelled and everything we had planned to do getting destroyed. It happened to many people. Around March we were in Mexico City playing a show when everything started happening and we came back to quarantine pretty much. We thought, maybe we’ll have to cancel the first tour, or maybe just the first and the second tour and then slowly everything got cancelled.
The first period was a bummer. It was upsetting. And then came the second phase. You know I was quarantined with my girlfriend in a very small space and that was stressful too. I started to accept what was happening and realized that I couldn’t just be mad about it, so I started looking at other things I could do. Ultimately, I ended up breaking up with my girlfriend and then I ended up moving back to my house.
Scene Point Blank: Wait, you broke up with your girlfriend?
Luca Indrio: Oh yeah. We weren’t together for a long time. It was very brief. Going on tour a lot it can be very hard to maintain any relationship. But she had a studio, and I decided to go live with her, and you know, when you haven’t been dating long and you go to live with someone it can be very stressful.
Scene Point Blank: That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young relationship.
Luca Indrio: Totally, but initially it seemed safer, because it was just us two instead of a bunch of roommates who come and go, and especially if they’re not taking it [the pandemic] seriously. It felt like the right move for the time, but regardless, I ended up moving back to my place, which I ultimately decided to sublet. It’s too expensive to live in the Bay Area right now without making any money. So I subletted my room and moved to Mexico and that’s where I am right now.
Scene Point Blank: Really? Where in Mexico?
Luca Indrio: Baja California Sur. It’s not even a three-hour plane ride from my house. It’s great because I can actually afford to be here. It’s 5 to 10 times less expensive than the Bay Area, in terms of anything: food, transportation, everything is way cheaper. It’s great because instead of just sitting around being sad about everything going to shit I actually did something about it. So I came here got a place, and I brought my guitar so that I can write music and record. I’m trying to see the whole thing in a positive way because you can’t sit down and cry about the shit that is happening. That doesn’t help anybody. All I can do is try to save money until we can tour again.
Like right now in the Bay Area it’s really impossible to find a job unless you wanted to work in a Walmart or something like that. The pandemic is going to last potentially another year. Lots of people are being displaced because of it. At least I found a solution that allows me to wait it out without losing my place to live.
We were just very lucky that we were touring so much the last three years with Necrot, not even taking breaks for making the album, which happened between tours.
Scene Point Blank: Are you working at all, or are you just hunkered down?
Luca Indrio: In the last three years we’ve been living off the band touring all the time. Before that I was a waiter in restaurants forever. So right now there really is no finding work in any of the fields. So we keep promoting the album and doing interviews almost every day. And we’re working on our webstore and coming up with new merch items that we are trying to sell in order to make some kind of money. None of us have earned any money. Our guitar player is a sound engineer for live concerts when he is not on tour, so he doesn’t have work either. Chad [Gailey] is running is record label Carbonized Records, but it’s not really something that’s going to break even, you know. [Laughs]
Scene Point Blank: Carbonized puts some pretty great stuff out. Shout out to Carbonized Records.
Luca Indrio: Chad had all these plans to put out all these records because we were about to play almost a hundred shows. We were going to play 90-95 shows with Necrot between May and September. Chad invests some of the money he makes with the band into the record label so that he can put out other people’s albums. He had all these plans that he couldn’t back out from, you know what I mean? He had plans for the label that he was seeding with money he was supposed to make with Necrot.
Scene Point Blank: Oh man, that’s rough. I’m glad that you’ve at least sorted your situation out.
Luca Indrio: Well I sublet my room for six months out of the year anyway. Every time, after I tour, I go to visit my family in Italy. But I’ve also done this before where I’ve sublet my room and moved down to Mexico. Sometimes you come back from a tour on the tenth of the month: it’s half way through the month, so instead of coming back and paying the whole rent for the month I keep subletting for the rest of the 20 days and go to Mexico because you spend less money [down here]. It’s something I’m used to doing as a touring musician.
Scene Point Blank: Does the sublet basically cover your expenses?
Luca Indrio: No, I don’t sublet for more than what I pay in rent. And the person subletting pays the bills. So I don’t have any expenses back home. And if you spend money down here on groceries, even $5, you really eat. You can do groceries and cook at home in Mexico and you’ll spend $10-$15 a week. So with $500 a month I can really get by. But with that amount in the Bay Area, I don’t even pay rent.
Scene Point Blank: It’s amazing how much rent has shot up out West.
Luca Indrio: It’s insane! Especially now that people are losing their jobs, it’s really crushing. In the Bay Area it’s really hard to afford anything. It’s desperate and it’s not worth the money that people are paying to be there. Especially now that a lot of the people who helped drive the price of living their up so high, now a lot of them can’t afford to live there.
Scene Point Blank: Yeah, I don’t want to dig into the situation in California too much. I know it’s not good there. And the way that the homeless population is treated, is basically a human rights population.
Luca Indrio: 100%! That’s 100% right.
Scene Point Blank: How is the pandemic response in Mexico?
Luca Indrio: More people wear masks. Sometimes there are police cars that drive around and tell people to stay home or remind them to wash their hands. Every single store that is open, you have to kind of clean your shoes, and then they check your temperature and give you hand sanitizer as you walk in and when you come out. People are a little less stressed about it.
And most people here own their own homes and there are no property taxes from what I believe. It’s like in Italy where there are not property taxes on your first home. It’s your house, you bought it, it’s yours. If you are coming from abroad to Mexico you’ll rent, but speaking with the locals, most of them own their own homes. The housing situation is not as tragic as in the US. And the basic items like food are really inexpensive here. The local shops sell food the farmers bring in, and of course it’s all organic, and extremely cheap. For 5 bucks you get a bag of avocados, tomatoes, cheese, and a bunch of other stuff. But, yeah, a country like Mexico is not going to be as effected by the social disaster as what’s going on in the US. And going back to Italy, like if you stop paying your rent it will take years before they can kick you out. Because housing and food and health care are considered human rights there.
Scene Point Blank: Oh right, in the US if you stop paying rent the landlord will have the sheriff at your door at the most in 30 days.
Luca Indrio: Right and you can’t afford health care, and quality food in the US is really expensive. Like, you want to eat fast food? It will kill you. The social problems in the US are so bad and now they’re just exacerbated. The situation is so tense. People here are stressed due to the pandemic for sure, but not at the level it is occurring in US. The stuff they’re dealing with up there, like things like calling an ambulance. You tell someone outside of the US that people in the US have to pay to call an ambulance it blows their minds!
Scene Point Blank: Right. It’s why some people are using rideshare to get the hospital instead. Like, if you cut your figure dicing vegetables, just hit the app.
Luca Indrio: Yeah get an Uber instead. [Laughs.] But really the band is very lucky in the timing of it all. I mean we lost a lot of shows this year, but it didn’t happen while we were out actually on tour. We could have been on the road and have to cancel shows with thousands of dollars worth of merch in the van. What happened is that we finished recording Mortal in February, a month before everything started turning to shit. So at least we were able to finish, because if we had not been able to finish recording it would have really hurt us. We lost a 150 shows, but at least we have a new record to sell and talk about. And before that we had been touring really intensely.
Some bands were just getting off of a break when this all happened. I’m thinking specifically of our friends in Gatecreeper and Exhumed. They were so happy to be back on the road late last year. They had both taken a year off to write and record because they thought they could wait to get back on the touring line. They went on tour with us, and then they had a festival that got cancelled. And like I said, we were just very lucky that we were touring so much the last three years with Necrot, not even taking breaks for making the album, which happened between tours. So the timing was bad like for everybody else, but it could have been way worse.