THE BODY

The ore­gon duo doc­u­ment­ing so­cial anx­i­ety one crush­ing al­bum at a time.

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: CON­NIE GOR­DON

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

“I’ve al­ways felt mu­sic doesn’t have bor­ders” LEE BU­FORD ON WHY MU­SIC SHOULDN’T LEAVE

YOU FEEL­ING TRAPPED

Lee and Chip rely on peo­ple power. and, it seems, pe­tal power…

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