CON­VERGE

FOR THE ART STILL LEAD­ING

Exclaim! - - TIMELINE - BY BRADLEY ZORGDRAGER

INAPRIL 2005, AL­TER­NA­TIVE PRESS In pub­lished “Bring­ing It Back: AP’s Hard­core Spe­cial,” in which Con­verge vo­cal­ist Ja­cob Ban­non com­mented on the scene and band he’s been in for nearly two-thirds of his life. Hard­core is “the an­tithe­sis to all things in­sin­cere and dis­heart­en­ing,” he said. “It is mu­sic as ex­pres­sion, rather than en­ter­tain­ment. When the main­stream takes a step into the com­mu­nity search­ing for the next big thing, real hard­core takes two steps to the left or right.”

These Mas­sachusetts me­tal­lic hard­core masters have spent nearly three decades break­ing rules and rewrit­ing the book, only to take two steps to the side when ev­ery­one else crashes their party. As they re­lease their ninth al­bum,

The Dusk in Us, they’ve main­tained their sta­tus as in­no­va­tors with­out trip­ping over them­selves, a tes­ta­ment to con­sis­tent in­no­va­tion.

1990 to 1993 High school gui­tarist/bassist Ja­cob Ban­non joins up with gui­tarist Jeff Fein­berg and drum­mer Da­mon Bel­lorado to form a band based on mu­tual in­ter­est in Motörhead and Ju­das Priest. “Do­ing that kind of thing when you’re so young is so thrilling be­cause you’re mak­ing some­thing out of noth­ing, out of thin air,” Ban­non tells Ex­claim! now. “It’s re­ally pow­er­ful.” They re­cruit gui­tarist Kurt Bal­lou, who’s bet­ter than Fein­berg, who moves to bass. “Kurt could play scales and stuff,” Ban­non says. “He was older than us by a year in school, which at that point feels like he may as well have a mous­tache and fam­ily of four.” Search­ing for a name “that wasn’t a to­tal hard­core cliché,” they land on Con­verge.

The band head to West Sound Stu­dio in Lon­don­derry, NH to track their Gravel demo, which they self-re­lease and dis­trib­ute on cas­sette. At a show in Bos­ton, where Bal­lou is sell­ing the demo in the crowd be­tween bands, he meets Aaron Dal­bec and Tre McCarthy; the for­mer joins the band on gui­tar, the lat­ter be­comes their tour man­ager and later forms la­bel Death­wish Inc. with Ban­non.

Con­verge re­lease two more demos, Where Have All the Flow­ers Gone and Dog Days in mid-’92 and early 1993, re­spec­tively. From the for­mer, “Sav­ior Sal­va­tion,” ap­pears on a com­pi­la­tion called In Our Blood, and “I Ab­stain” and “Yes­ter­day” find homes on later re­leases, but three songs are lost for­ever, since no one in the band has a copy.

1994 to 1995 Con­verge re­cruit gui­tarist

Dal­bec, which opens new pos­si­bil­i­ties thanks to his di­verse mu­si­cal in­ter­ests. Their de­but full-length, Halo in a Haystack, is re­leased on Earth­maker Records (Ban­non’s la­bel) and Stol­nacke Records in spring 1994. Ban­non pays for the re­lease with money saved from work­ing at a nurs­ing home.

On tour, they meet Nate New­ton, who’ll even­tu­ally join them on bass, and Banno vis­its Epi­taph Records, with whom Con­verge will sign a decade later. See­ing punks driv­ing fork­lifts of Off­spring records at Epi­taph, Ban­non re­al­izes how big punk is. “It’s re­ally hard to de­scribe how im­pact­ful all that stuff can be when you’re a kid,” he says now.

Bal­lou con­ceives of GodCity Stu­dio, more hobby than re­al­ity. “When I first started, my goal was some­day I’ll have my own phone line and I could have, on the an­swer­ing ma­chine, ‘This is GodCity,’” he’ll tell the Scion Mu­sic(less) Mu­sic Con­fer­ence in 2011. “That’s why I chose that name.”

1996

Pe­ti­tion­ing the Empty Sky is re­leased on Fer­ret Records, first as a four-song seven-inch, then as an 11-song CD. Three of the songs are from a live ra­dio per­for­mance; when a song is stopped due to a bro­ken string, Ban­non is heard say­ing, “I hit my­self with the mic stand in the head and I’m bleed­ing; I’m bleed­ing like a sieve. It was my fault. I’m okay. It’ll make us look punk.”

The CD con­tains an un­listed cover of Twisted Sis­ter’s “Burn in Hell.” “We al­ways thought that it was su­per heavy [and] ac­tu­ally a pretty well-crafted song,” Ban­non says. “Pop­u­lar metal cul­ture al­ways treated them like such a sort of comedic act. We were like, ‘Hey, you know, this song is pretty good, let’s just have some stupid fun with it.’” The al­bum art fea­tures de­sign work by Ban­non, which con­tin­ues to this day. 1997 to 1998

Bassist Jeff Fein­berg leaves and is re­placed by Cave In’s Stephen Brod­sky. In April 1997, Con­verge head­line the Re­ally Loud Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Northamp­ton, MA; part of their set will ap­pear on 2003 DVD re­lease The Long Road Home. In the crowd is Equal Vi­sion Records’ Steve Reddy. “I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘Wow even the nerds/emo kids are kick­ing the shit out of each other,’” he re­calls. “I was shocked by their mass ap­peal across the en­tire scene.”

Equal Vi­sion signs Con­verge in July and reissues Pe­ti­tion­ing the Empty Sky be­fore un­leash­ing When For­ever Comes Crash­ing in April 1998. The al­bum marks their only record­ing with Brod­sky on bass, who leaves to fo­cus on Cave In; Je­suit’s Nate New­ton re­places him.

1999 to 2000 Drum­mer Bel­lorado de­parts and is re­placed by John DiGior­gio; this lineup records six songs for Con­verge’s side of The Poacher Di­aries, a split with Ago­ra­pho­bic Nose­bleed on Re­lapse Records. DiGior­gio doesn’t last the year; he’s re­placed by Ben Koller.

In 2000, Ban­non and Tre McCarthy start their la­bel Death­wish Inc. “We cre­ated a proband, proac­tive en­vi­ron­ment for bands to be treated as they would want to be treated,” Ban­non will tell Ex­claim! in 2001. 2001

Con­verge re­lease their land­mark al­bum, Jane Doe; it’s in­vig­o­rated by the ad­di­tion of Koller, New­ton’s in­creased con­tri­bu­tion to song­writ­ing, a new tun­ing Bal­lou has in­vented, and Ban­non’s need to achieve cathar­sis from a de­te­ri­o­rated re­la­tion­ship. “I re­mem­ber all of us want­ing to write a hard­core record the kids were go­ing to hate,” New­ton will tell The A.V. Club in 2016.

Jane Doe is recorded over 13 days, and fea­tures a few quirky mo­ments. Af­ter orig­i­nally record­ing in the stu­dio’s larger room, they’re kicked out when singer-song­writer James Tay­lor books it. Ban­non’s vo­cals are

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