Friday 1 December 2017

American Standards - Interview + Anti-Melody Review

A week or so ago, Brandon Kellum (vocalist) from Amercan Standards sent me his top-ten favourite albums for inclusion in my ongoing Recollection feature series. At the same time, he was kind enough to answer some questions about the band's new album "Anti-Melody", it's themes and about being self-sufficient in the music biz. Here's that interview, a cheeky Spotify playlist and a review of the new record...

I first heard about American Standards around the time of the "Hungry Hands" EP. My friend Dale Robinson helped to release the EP via his label Enjoyment Records (RIP) in 2014. Your latest full-length “Anti-Melody” was released in April 2017. As a band, you’ve been through a lot over the years so how much of a relief was it to get the album out?

That’s awesome to hear. Dale is a great guy and was doing a lot of really cool stuff with Enjoyment Records. We’ve always been so appreciative of him and the run of vinyl he did for the Hungry Hands EP. Between that release and now we went through so many changes both as a band and in our personal lives. I think a lot of that may have delayed our new music but also built into the songs themselves. I’m thrilled that “Anti-Melody” is finally out and now we can begin the writing process for what’s next to come.

Can you talk about some of the themes and the subject matter on the album?

I started writing the lyrics for Anti-Melody in early 2016. Being an election year, I felt like we were all getting beat in every direction with decisive content whether it be in traditional media or online. Everywhere you looked there was something trying to instigate a visceral reaction. So my initial intent wasn’t to take on the individual issues but rather comment on the underlying theme of how our culture is evolving and through that evolution has created echo chambers. Those silos then feed into the disregard of critical thinking and make us opt for consuming headlines, expressing gut feelings then moving to the next.

Unfortunately during the process I woke one morning to a text that our founding guitarist Cody Conrad had committed suicide. Only weeks after my father was then diagnosed with cancer and passed very quickly. It made me reevaluate what the album was going to be about and where we landed was a concept in two acts. The first act being the growing divide in our society and the second the separation of losing a loved one.

Do you think it’s important for bands to help start conversations about serious issues, especially with such a focus on metal health in society now?

I feel that it’s important for everyone to put some thought into it because it impacts all of us in one way or another. I think it’s also key that if someone chooses to start a conversation that it truly is an open conversation where they’re willing to listen as much as they talk. We often forget that key part.

You’re currently planning more touring for 2018. What can people expect from an American Standards live show if they’re never seen you play before?

Our number one goal as a band is to make you feel something. Once we’ve done that, we hope that that feeling inspires you to then do something. We’re not the band at a show trying to recreate the album, we’re trying to create an experience that’s unique to that night and to everyone there with us.

Following on from that question; have you confirmed anything plans yet? If so, can you reveal any dates etc?

I can say that our first run of 2018 will be on the West Coast up through California, Oregon, Washington and if the stars align, a couple Canada dates. It’s been a while since we’ve done that route so we’re excited to go back. We’d also love to get out to the east coast and it’s always been a dream to do the UK.

You’re a DIY band. You’ve self-released “Anti-Melody” and you’re doing a lot of self-promotion and media work. How important do you think it is to be self-sufficient in today’s music industry?

Being self-sufficient is absolutely vital. Too often people wait around for something to happen and that’s just not the way it works... or at least not the way it works anymore. You can’t expect to write that one song that magically starts a fire. You’ve got to go out there and make it happen for yourself and hopefully others will see and respect that.

What advice would you give to bands that are just starting out themselves?

Don’t follow the trend because you’ll always be one step behind. Don’t get discouraged when people don’t seem to get it, it all takes time. Also, remember to have fun. The journey is what matters. No one is guaranteed anything more than that. 

You’ve played a lot of gigs in the States in support of Anti-Melody. Out of the bands you played alongside, who should we be checking out?

There are so many that deserve your attention. Locally, bands like Sundressed, Lifelink and DED are really doing things right. Outside of Arizona we love Stay Wild, Common War, Steaksauce Mustache, Fero Lux... there’s just too many more to name. We actually keep a monthly Spotify playlist of all the bands we love in our genre that we’d highly recommend giving a listen and follow - 


1. Writers Block Party
2. Carpe Diem, Tomorrow
3. Church Burner
4. Bartenders Without Wings
5. Danger Music #9
6. Cancer Eater
7. Broken Culture
8. Chicago Overcoat

American Standards have spent time crafting and honing their own brand of chaotic hardcore, playing live all over the States and putting their own experiences and emotions into their songs. It shows on “Anti-Melody”. They start straight off the bat on Writers Block Party, which is filled with harsh hardcore screams, classy percussion and riffs, plenty of riffs. Both the bass and the guitars adding aggression and technicality. They don’t write songs that hang around forever (neither do they tell you how long they are on their bandcamp page!). It’s a clever ploy actually because it makes you listen more intently. Carpe Diem, Tomorrow is a melodic hardcore song written in the key of Cancer Bats. I think that’s the best way to describe it, though i’m not directly comparing the two. 

The clean singing on Church Burner reminds me of a lot of the grungy/post-hardcore bands in the UK of late. There’s also plenty of heaviness going on too, so it’s certainly not a dialled down version of the band. Emotion coarses through Bartenders Without Wings, which features quite a cinematic verse structure. The gang vocals add to the  sing(scream)-along nature of it and the instrumentation is top notch, with some great guitar work along the way. Following that is their best take on the spazzy/technical hardcore blueprint with Danger Music #9. Granted, it’s not overtly mad but it’s off-kilter bursts work really well in adding yet more variation to the record. 

In the interview Brandon talks about re-thinking the theme of the album after going through some personal tragedies and it feels like Cancer Eater is a song born out of that time in both his and the band’s life. The anger and urgency is palpable. Broken Culture attacks the problems that exist in today’s modern society, including political issues relating to the US and made all the more pertinent because of the election of the current US President. Closing song Chicago Overcoat is mid-paced and bass-heavy. It’s one last chance for American Standards to unleash (and cleanse themselves of) their anger. It works for the listener too. 

“Anti-Melody” is an album that closes one chapter for American Standards and opens up another. They’ve taken the musical influences they wear on their sleeves and combined them with their life experience. The only way from here is up.

You can stream "Anti-Melody" and buy it both digitally and on cd below:-

I just want to take this opportunity to thank Brandon for answering my questions and for being so receptive. I have one more piece to bring you from Brandon, but won't be posting it for a week or so, so stay tuned...

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