WORDS: ADAM HOPKIN
Only a five minute walk from our office , crudely scrawled onto the wall of an old library building is the statement, “People are only happy on TV.” With escapism so readily available, creating comparisons between the lives that we lead, our expectations and of what quantifies a valuable existence is only natural, if even a little divisive. But this naïve, fly on the wall approach to reflection does provide something inescapable when contemplating morality and purpose…a unique perspective.
But despite the obvious disconnect that can be taken away from these narratives when considering distance, both geographical and circumstantial, a far richer insight is always found into someone spilled across each and every page without their name ever being mentioned.
“I always think that the best fiction is when you go deeper into it…”
“I always think that the best fiction is when you go deeper into it and you find out that even on some small scale something in the story is based on the authors own life”, inquisitively comments Derek Archambault, vocalist of legendary Hardcore narrators, Defeater. “I think on every record the protagonist on every album is born out of something in me”, continues the frontman in a nod to the engrossing conceptual tales Defeater creates with each of their releases. “The stories are pulled from my own life and those really close to me, so in a lot of the stuff I am talking about personal experience, but the larger concept at hand, like poverty, greed, infidelity, addiction, love and loss, those subjects are easily felt… write from a humbled point of view… that’s the way to do those subjects justice.”
“I went to Catholic Church with my grandmother a few times but I was always a doubting church goer anyway.” Says the vocalist when giving an insight into how far his reach extends when drawing upon authenticity for his writing. “I was never completely immersed in having faith, but for ‘Abandoned’ I had my grandmother’s pocket-sized prayer books and I would thumb through those for inspiration. She passed away when I was 15 and she was still going to mass and still had devout faith right up to the very end, I think that sentiment resonated throughout the record. Even though the priest himself is filled with doubt, guilt and remorse because of the terrible things he has done, he still hangs onto the idea of faith. The idea that he is working for something bigger or better than himself. It was my grandmother’s faith that I was speaking through.”
Over the last decade the band has meticulously crafted an intricate narrative surrounding a single family as their relationship, beliefs and morality are all tortured through numerous devastating milestones in their lives.
“it’s meant to take the veil away from things and give the situation some truth.“
“In a way, if you really look at all the records and take a step back from them every album is about the mum in a different way. It tells her story from everyone else’s perspective but hers, and that’s something that I have wanted to do from the beginning.”
“I do that on each record, tell the same parts of stories through someone else’s eyes, but it’s meant to take the veil away from things and give the situation some truth”, explains Derek. “What one person tells on one record might not necessarily be the truth and then you see it through someone else’s eyes the listener then has to decide what the truth is using their own moral compass. One person’s actions across one record send the story line and trajectory down a different path. They might screw things up, or someone might die because of it.”
This intricately weaved narrative is embellished by the subjective nature of the right and wrong of each record’s major plot points, but what is perhaps most astounding is how the narrative has maintained its cohesive vision across each of the bands albums and EP’s.
“Even ‘lost ground’ is almost a mirror image through someone else’s eyes. How everything from the beginning of that EP is all because of that characters love for his mother. That mirrors the protagonist in ‘Travels’, him losing his mum sends him on a different path and leads to him returning to America and being cast aside by the populous and the government. All the records are meant to tell the story from other people’s viewpoints. She is the focal point of the whole thing without her story having to be told word for word.”
“it was intended to be a social commentary on this day and age”
“Lost ground specifically was meant to be political commentary, even though it was set in immediate post world war two America, it was intended to be a social commentary on this day and age,” asserts Derek explaining that our own surroundings can be Just as unforgiving as the character’s pained reality. “I hope that every time someone listens to that stuff and there is references to people only looking at the colour of peoples skin, then that hits home and makes people think about their actions and go on to treat other people better. In our two countries its fucking chaos, they have seen such, Derek takes a long pause as if quelling his frustration, eventually letting out a deliberate exhale, “the pendulum just keeps on swinging from one side to the next. It’s just like what the fuck have we done here.”
“I feel that it is a subject matter that is so relatable that something on every record hits home for everybody. Consciously, the band wants to, and tries to exist in both categories where we can write relatable lyrical content or you can look deeper into the overarching concept and storyline… I’m not writing about those to move forward and gain popularity.”
Detailing how he plans to proceed with the next chapter with the bands upcoming self-titled release, the frontman explains how he is now revising his approach to the craft. “This is the first record that is written from multiple perspectives. It’s something that I have been toying with for a while, on ‘Letters Home’ I thought about doing it but I decided to write that one backwards instead. It still feels like one story from start to finish and it’s up to the listener to delve into that and see where one character takes over from the next.
“I just want people to be able to pull something hopeful from the records even though they are just laced with despair.”
When I was really young and I was finding out about history and both my grandfathers’ being in world war two I was kind of taken over by that, comments Derek with nostalgic delight, after being pressed on how the band is able to craft such an authentic setting for each release. “It changed my perspective from ‘these guys are my grandfathers to; they helped play a part in saving the world. As I grew up I learned more about it and since I have always been obsessed with the era.”
“I just want people to be able to pull something hopeful from the records even though they are just laced with despair. I think there is an undercurrent of hope and trying to figure out what is worth fighting for, I think that is what makes it worthwhile to people.”
DEFEATER IS OUT NOW VIA EPITAPH RECORDS.
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