The oregon duo documenting social anxiety one crushing album at a time.
Lee Buford, drummer for The Body, is deathly afraid of flying. We’re talking about a fear so paralysing that, “Whenever we play shows out of the country, Chip [King, vocalist/guitarist] has to take a ‘fake me’. Chip flies everywhere, but I get crazy panic attacks and can’t. It bums me out because Europe would be great to see, but I never will.”
When Subterranea proposes hopping on a boat to traverse the Atlantic and bring their experimental doom/sludge/noise to the Old World, Buford’s response indicates a more pervasive and generalised dread.
“We actually tried that once. It was not good,” he laments. “We were going to play Roadburn which is in April and there aren’t many cruise ships running at that time of year, so we took a cargo ship, which rocks way more than a cruise liner. The trip was supposed to take two weeks and when we first got onboard and were going up the coast, it was fine. But once we got into open water, I was like, ‘Nope!’ We had to get another boat come meet us, get us off the ship and bring us back to the US. We drove down to Philadelphia and taught our friend Matt the set. He and Chip flew over and didn’t miss any shows.”
On the surface, the above speaks to the impact of common and rational fears. Dig a little and it quickly becomes evident that The Body is Lee’s vehicle for the expression of not just those fears, but everything cooped up in his psyche. The band’s outward appearance and aesthetic is steeped in despondent anger and negativity, and their creative methodology varies from record to record, but deep down The Body is the sound of Lee hanging on for dear life.
“That’s 100% of it,” he says. “We have a lot of fun together and we’re best friends, but there is a level of ‘How do you function in the world?’. People will say our records are angry or scarysounding, but I don’t see that. For me, it’s more about trying to deal with living. This new album is darker, but the game plan and aesthetic hasn’t changed; it’s about just trying to function and the difficulty in doing so. For me, this is normal and what I think people live with every day, but it’s not. I have to check myself a lot and remember that most people don’t feel like this.”
It’s fitting, then, that The Body’s latest album, I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer – a paraphrased excerpt from author Virginia Woolf’s 1941 suicide note – is a wholesale deconstruction of the concrete, the abstract and all stops in between. This includes anxiety-riddled battles with modernity, an upending of their own creative process, an exploration of personal neuroses and trauma and a redefinition of what heavy means to a heavy band. On previous full-length, 2016’s No One Deserves Happiness, the pair channelled their affinity for Beyoncé and other chart-toppers in the creation of the “grossest pop album of all time”. On I Have Fought…, the original goal was to ignore what brought them to doom/sludge metal prominence by having neither member actually play their instruments while mining their love of dub to shatter preconceptions.
“Originally, we were trying to go in the direction of doing it more electronically, but that was really tough. Chip’s guitar isn’t sampled and a lot of the drums are drums I’ve played on other stuff that we just cut up, but not sampled in the hip hop sense. And there’s definitely some dancehall influence; I’ve always liked the heavily reverbed drums on dub stuff, but I feel like we’ve always had that, it’s just more pronounced on this one. It wasn’t very conscious. Like all our stuff, it’s just a collection of influences. It’s just that certain things come out more in some songs than others.
“Most people listen to a wide range of music,” he continues. “I’ve been in bands where it’s been, ‘This is what we sound like’ and it’s hard to break free from that. When it’s just the two of us, it’s easier to say, ‘Let’s do this’ or ‘let’s do that’. It’s definitely multi-dimensional and there isn’t any set thing we’re supposed to do. It would be awkward if there were.”
Twenty-six years ago, Lee was a 14-year old kid hanging around the Fayetteville, Arkansas punk scene when he became acquainted with Chip. Despite the vocalist/ guitarist being three years older, the two quickly became chums and creatively inseparable, deciding that adding a frontman, a second guitarist or even a bassist would be a deadweight hassle, especially when it came to the unfettered exploration of musical avenues.
“I’ve always felt music doesn’t have borders,” he asserts. “Even growing up in the punk scene, we loved the crossover with metal. We’ve always loved all kinds of music and never been like, ‘This is what constitutes heavy.’”
The two friends didn’t officially come together as The Body until 1999 when they uprooted 2,400km northeast to Providence, Rhode Island – they’ve since relocated 5,000km west to Portland, Oregon – and, despite accumulating thousands of DIY touring miles under their belts, it wasn’t until 2004 when they recorded their four-song demo and debut full-length (both self-titled) that anything was caught on tape. Since then, the floodgates have opened to the tune of more than 25 releases.
“I think [2010’s] All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood was the first record where we believed we could incorporate different things like a choir, strings and horns and all this production stuff, but still have it have the same effect for us,” he recalls.
Their discography is not only littered with countless guest appearances, but includes multiple collaborations in which The Body and whichever musical entity they are paired with kinetically redefine one another during the
“People say our music’s angry, but it’s more about trying to deal with living”
LEE BUFORD FINDS EXISTENCE AN UPHILL STRUGGLE
communal writing and recording process. These associations have had Lee and Chip working with artists as diverse as electronica’s The Haxan Cloak and post-rockers Braveyoung to sludge metal kings Thou and grind-noise kiddos Full Of Hell.
“We have ideas for stuff and we find people who can play them because we can’t,” he laughs, describing the planning for collaborations. “Like for the Full Of Hell records [2016’s One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache and 2017’s Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light], me and Chip can’t play like those guys; like Dave [Bland, Full Of Hell] is an animal as a drummer. But working with a greater number of people means we can just add whatever we’re doing to whatever they’re doing.”
In the same way legacy acts and sonic compatriots like Godflesh, Swans and The Young Gods have upended the process and progress of extreme music via elements like hip hop beats, tormented vocals, heart-eviscerating acoustic guitars and sampler-powered sonic de/ reconstruction, I Have Fought… subverts traditional notions of heavy. It’s hardly about thunderous riffs churned out at an agonising pace, Chip’s paint-stripping vocals and noise-splattered rhythms (though that exists) as it is the musical twisting of sound towards uncomfortable hopelessness and emotional claustrophobia.
On their sixth full-length, The Body pick away at hearts, souls and psyches – both the listener’s and their own – with dynamics and textural contrast instead of barrelling over all and sundry with a distortion pedal. To the best friends and bandmates, the weirdness and experimentation they get accused of are perfectly sensible and logical moves; their conceptual approach to art is them figuring out how to survive in a world they feel not entirely cut out for. A world where modern conveniences can create more anxiety than calm and where most people can’t see the connective tissue between dub, pop, prog-rock and painfully harrowing experimental extreme music.
“Listen to Sgt Pepper, Pet Sounds or Electric Light Orchestra,” Lee recommends. “There are so many layers to the production and instrumentation. That music has always been our main influence. Sure, I can play drums and Chip can play guitar, but I’ll have ideas for strings and I can’t sing. So, whenever I write lyrics, I’ll get Chrissy Wolpert [of
The Assembly Of Light Choir] to sing them. Plus, I like having a female presence as juxtaposition; Chip screaming, Chrissy singing beautifully and having those things playing off each other. It makes things more interesting than two dudes playing guitar and drums. To me, it’s a more rewarding listen. At the same time, I get how it’s frustrating for some listeners because we started out doomy and sludgy. There are definitely people out there who would rather we keep doing that stuff, but there are a lot of bands doing it way better than we do. It would feel counterproductive to keep going down that route when there are so many different ways of expression.”
I HAVE FOUGHT AGAINST IT, BUT I CAN’T ANY LONGER IS RELEASED ON MAY 11 VIA THRILL JOCKEY
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