Hardcore is a difficult scene for longevity. Since the genre’s core sources of power tend to be anger, youthful energy and raw impulse, even some of the all-time greats ultimately fall due to running low on one of these elements or playing too close to negative emotions ending up being too much to cope with. Converge however, make it look easy. Being the one of leading groups in underground aggression for 25 years now, Converge have always delivered the most punishing and emotional hardcore you can get. This is down to their often sporadic, unpredictable, pummelling instrumentation and Jacob Bannon’s harrowingly feral vocals, as displayed on scene classics like Jane Doe and You Fail Me. With their newest record The Dusk In Us finally out and expanding their legacy in brutality, it seems Converge aren’t slowing down anytime soon. We were lucky enough to have a conversation with Bannon about The Dusk In Us, what keeps the band running and their lack of compromise.
“I guess this is our ninth album, if people are keeping count, which I’m not”
‘We’re all pretty excited about it. We got together. It took a long time to finally be able to make the time to all be in the same room together, to get all hashed out as a big creative body of work, but we did it.’ Bannon says of The Dusk In Us. ‘I guess this is our ninth album, if people are keeping count, which I’m not.’
When Bannon speaks, it feels like he’s still the same hardcore kid that started Converge, the way he’s humble and doesn’t seem to quite see Converge’s legendary status as much as a fan would. ‘I don’t really think about it to be honest, we just do what we do. If it influences somebody that’s great and that’s part of this’ he has to say on the band’s influence. ‘You make music that’s expressive and powerful to you and you hope that it connects with somebody and if it connects with somebody to the point where they want to pick up an instrument, that’s a positive thing.’
One thing that helps Converge be strong and one of the most constantly refreshing bands in heavy music, is their dynamics and how they stray away from the typical hardcore template. Whether it be masterful musicianship in Kurt Ballou’s dazzling fretwork, rhythms being jumpier than your standard hardcore or even just how certain Converge songs aren’t afraid to hit the brakes, going into more esoteric, slow-burning atmospheres. ‘Our albums have always had dynamics and diversity. You go back to our records in the 90’s and we were doing the same thing. The formula’s really no different now, we’ve always explored through dynamics in songs.’
Bannon is keen to speak of Converge’s integrity, lack of compromise and doing things organically. ‘We don’t ever really look at our listeners or audience or potential audience to dictate what we are as a band. Doing that just makes what you create as an artist ingenuine. At that point you’re just pandering to the masses and that’s just not something that ever we’ve done as a band. I mean just look at our sound, we’re grossly noncommercial.’
“There’s no rules, there’s no playbook you need to follow. Just exist and do what feels right”
And grossly noncommercial is Converge to a tee. With Bannon’s vocals often being so torn and anything of a melody being a rarity, someone new to Converge may struggle to fathom why anyone would put themselves through such ear-battering music. As any Converge die-hard fan will argue though, there’s two key reasons Converge fans are so dedicated and even addicted to the band. Firstly, just in how far it sits on the spectrum of punishing music. It’s the greatest challenge for a listener of extreme music to be able to keep up with the rapid-fire pummelling and handle the sheer level of bludgeon. Secondly, there’s hope. Whether it be the ‘heart still beating’ chant of Last Light or the ‘we’ll show those demons, for what they are’ promise of Dark Horse, you’re always bound to find fighting spirit when you dive into this band’s works.
However, even when it comes to being a lifeline, Bannon still insists that Converge is entirely for themselves. Upon being asked if he’s consciously trying to help people with his music when he writes, he bluntly responds ‘No. Absolutely not. Being in this band is a very selfish thing in terms of what we do. We write personal songs and share those experiences to purge them from us and it’s honestly a positive thing and welcome thing if they find some sort of comfort or relation to our psychological place when we make the song, but that’s not the intention.’
Converge are such a larger than life, one-of-a-kind band. They’re complex, multi-layered and at this point, seem unstoppable. It’s surprising to hear that in terms of approach to songwriting and attitude to creativity, that Bannon’s views are quite straightforward. Do things for yourself and be honest. ‘Just do what you love. That’s it. If you’re getting stuff out of what you’re doing as an artist, then you’re doing something right. There’s no rules, there’s no playbook you need to follow. Just exist and do what feels right.’ Perhaps more than their skills as musicians and the maximum level of aggression Converge are able to craft, it could be this uncompromising attitude that’s enabled Converge to continue being one of hardcore’s finest. ‘We’ve been a band for as long as we have because we love playing aggressive, heavy, dynamic music. If we didn’t need that, we wouldn’t be here.’
Converge’s new album The Dusk In Us is out now via Epitaph Records.
WORDS: MAX CUSSONS