Belgium. The first thing that springs to my mind is their waffles. The second? I think they make lots of beer, though I think they spell it "bier." Anyway. It might seem a bit out of place for the same location to offer the likes of Rise and Fall. The four-piece outfit conjures up a loud and raw metal driven hardcore with inspiration from the likes of Integrity, Discharge, Black Flag, and Corrosion of Conformity. Scene Point Blank caught up with Rise and Fall's vocalist Bjorn on their recent U.S. trek alongside Converge to discuss the band's upcoming full-length.
Scene Point Blank: Rise and Fall is back in the states for the first time since your Westcoast tour last year, correct?
Bjorn: Yeah, Summer of last year.
Scene Point Blank: Did you miss playing in the States?
Bjorn: Definitely. Actually, since that Westcoast tour, we haven't been playing much at all. I would guess we did ten shows since then. We've just been really busy writing and practicing; just trying to get that record done. So I definitely missed playing. Cutting down on touring was a good thing though because it makes you appreciate going out and playing shows. When you tour a lot, sometimes it all kind of blends together. It's good to have quieter downtime. So we definitely missed it. Playing here is awesome. Been here a bunch of times and love it.
Scene Point Blank: What are the main differences between playing shows in the U.S. as opposed to European shows?
Bjorn: They're pretty similar. Hardcore kids everywhere are pretty similar - similar looking and behavior. In the States, the average age is definitely younger. Kids tend to go a lot crazier for almost every band. In Europe, the first couple of band will tend to get a lukewarm reception - kids just stare. Kids here are definitely more into going off and they tend buy a lot more merch. Other than that, there really aren't any huge differences.
Scene Point Blank: Do they have all-ages shows there?
Bjorn: In Europe you really don't have any shows that are eighteen plus or twenty-one plus, like the restrictions that you have here. Almost every show is all-ages in Europe.
Scene Point Blank: A lot of that probably has to do with alcohol restrictions here. It's more embraced in the culture over there as opposed to the United States.
Bjorn: Yeah. The legal age to buy alcohol is sixteen for beer and I think eighteen for stronger stuff. But it doesn't really matter. Kids start drinking younger, but they're a little more controlled and not going all crazy. In England though, you do have a lot of that. Bars close early there so kids will get hammered really quick and go out. In Belgium, people are a lot more reserved though.
Scene Point Blank: You just wrapped the recording of your new album. It's called Our Circle is Vicious. What's the meaning behind this name?
Bjorn: Vince our bass player came up with the title. I really liked it a lot. It reflects the vibes of the songs, especially the lyrics that I wrote. We've known each other for so long, our mindsets are so similar. I like it a lot because it has different layers of meanings. For the most part, for me, it's kind of about how life is a vicious cycle. For example, we're in this band, that's a hardcore band. That's different from the average band. We do this band to get away from regular society. Trying to break out and do our own thing to be creative. Tying to be our best - to tour and build our lives around it. In the end, the band will end and you'll have to get a regular job to get by. You can escape, but you always come back to the stating point. It's a vicious thing. That's one of the meanings I see in the title, but there's more. That's what makes it interesting because of the layers.
Scene Point Blank: It's ambiguous, so people can draw their own references from it.
Bjorn: Exactly. All the lyrics really have that too. When I was writing them, I wasn't really thinking about it. Just kind of going with the flow and let whatever comes out. And when I was finished and reading them I was like, "Fuck, this is going to be a depressed CD." [Laughs]
Scene Point Blank: Going into the recording, was there anything that you did differently than the last album. There seemed to be a lot of demoing going on - I don't recall seeing anything documenting Into Oblivion.
Bjorn: The other two albums we had one demo session which was basically a month before we actually recorded just to check out the songs. We didn't do much with it, we just liked to see what we had but we didn't change much. This time we did two sessions. The first time we did six or seven songs, the second time we did five or six songs. We listened to those recordings a lot. Personally, Vince and I listened to them a lot to check out how I was going to sing on them. The songs, in my eyes, are very different, so it was harder for me to sing on them. So he helped me out with them. We definitely worked harder on this record than the other two. There was definitely more of a struggle too. We were stuck in this place where nothing was coming out. We would practice and practice to force ourselves to write songs. The first couple of songs were horrible but after you got past that point? So that was a big test for us. It took so long to get this record done that we wanted to let people know that we were still alive. Once a while we put up video showing what we were up to. We left certain things out in the open that we were arguing about amongst ourselves. We knew we weren't going to find a consensus so we leave it out in the open to check with Kurt. It was a hard way to do it, but it was good.
Scene Point Blank: What was it like recording with Kurt verses previous recording experiences?
Bjorn: Every other thing we recorded, we recorded in Belgium in a studio called CCR. The dude that owns it, he's an older dude in his 40's, but he's an awesome dude. He's awesome to work with, but he's more of an engineer. He doesn't have the same background as we do. He's easily satisfied. He likes what we do and he's easy to work with. As far as Kurt, he has a lot more background. Been around a lot longer than us, he's been doing Converge forever and recorded so many bands. Whenever he had something to say, we would listen. Whenever he had an idea, we would try it. We wouldn't necessarily use it, but they were valuable. So we had a lot more input from him, more producer than engineer.
Scene Point Blank: Were there any particular bands/writings/events that influenced the new material?
Bjorn: Definitely. We're four years older. Our tastes have changed. We've evolved as people, maybe not necessarily in the best way. As far as the riffs - the music - go, it's coming from a different place. We still love all the shit that we listened to before. Being here in Cleveland. I'm psyched. Integrity is from here? but yeah; it's from a different place. Lyrically as well. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I tried to write more song lyrics that deal with me. A lot of lyrics I used to write were like me pointing fingers. I was always very angry. I was only seeing all the shit I hated. I still do. This time, I'm pointing the finger at myself trying to see what I've been doing with my life, how I've been behaving. I think once you hear the record it will make sense.
Scene Point Blank: Into Oblivion ended with the instrumental piece "Ruins" ? was this one of the last songs written for the album? Will we see more experimentation with songwriting direction on the new album?
Bjorn: It was one of the very last songs. I wouldn't say the new stuff is in the same vibe, but it was definitely one of the songs that branched out. On the new record, we branched out a lot, not necessarily in that direction. We've always done that, like on the first record we had "As This City Burns;" we've always been trying to do weird stuff here and there to spice it up. This record has more variation than the other records. We've always had that seed in us, and with this record its all coming out.
Scene Point Blank: Yeah, based on the new song you played tonight I can hear that a lot?
Bjorn: Did you like it?
Scene Point Blank: Of course. It's slower and much heavier riffs, but still loud.
Bjorn: Yeah. I find it really hard to describe the new songs. When I try to explain how they sound, it sounds terrible, you know? [Laughs] I come up with shit like, "Yeah it's like this and that"? It's still heavy, still aggressive, but I don't think we've gotten more metal, but I don't think we've gotten more hardcore either. It's fucking weird; it's grungy at time, that's what I think. I'm not saying we're the most original band out there, but that's how it sounds.
Scene Point Blank: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean having to describe band's music. I love writing but I hate having to describe it for people instead of just saying, "Listen to it yourself." Instead of "Oh this sounds like this and this songs reminds me of that."
Bjorn: Yeah. There are definitely certain songs on the record that will remind you of this band or that band. But as a whole, the record, it's pretty fresh.