February 14 marks the release of a new album from Chicago hardcore punk four-piece The Kreutzer Sonata entitled ‘The Gutters of Paradise,’ out via Don’t Panic/Collision Course/No Time Records. The band has launched two singles off of the album, available now for pre-order via their Bandcamp. In a new interview for Prog Sphere, they give us an insight to the new album, influences, and future plans.
Describe the musical vision propelling your upcoming album The Gutters of Paradise.
With The Gutters of Paradise, more so than a unified vision, there were themes that popped up through random batches of song writing, that ended up being strung together as one work commenting on the social and political state of the world and its affect on our microcosm of living and working in the city of Chicago. With the instrumentation it seems we have always maintained a growing vision of fast paced high energy punk music taking influence from old school street punk and hardcore, while bringing a modern guitar sound into the mix. Karl and Adam have been writing together from the start in 2011 and have always focused on trying to write guitar riffs, songs and lyrics unique to their own lives. We wanted to write hardcore punk albums that strayed away from the cookie cutters while still being catchy. And we wanted to take the personal effect of old rock and folk music story telling through music but onto the hardcore stage. This ended up with the group of songs that we dubbed The Gutters of Paradise.
What made it the right time to pursue that vision?
In early 2016 the band was at a crossroads. Long time members Kat (Bass) and Skyler (Drums) had departed the band for various reasons and we ended up meeting up with Jack (current bass player) and Logan (current drummer). Instead of dwelling on the old material, we took time off to write and learn the 15 tracks that would make up The Gutters of Paradise. On October 28th, 2016 we played our first show with the new lineup, opening up for Total Chaos and One Way System in Lombard, IL with local punks, The Horrids. That show kicked off a year of multiple tours and out of state bouts, opening up for World/Inferno Friendship Society, recording the tracks at Atlas Studios in Chicago and hooking up with Don’t Panic Records and subsequently No Time and Collision Course Records for this Vinyl/CS release. I guess you could say it happened organically once we found the right people.
Tell me about what you’re communicating with the album cover.
The Gutters of Paradise itself can come across as an oxymoron. Why would a paradise have its gutters? It insinuates things are not as they seem. The hyena has always been an interesting animal to us as it is equally misrepresented and misunderstood. There is a duality to the animal. Often viewed as evil and associated with witches and cowardice and in the same time living in a chaotic society where the female of the species are more courageous and tougher than the males and adorn false phallus that have confused humans for years. In reality an animal is an animal and the symbolism humans give natural bodies are just ways of explaining the world to themselves. The world will always have a balance of good and evil and people’s interpretations of that will always vary. Paradise will have its gutters and often people or animals viewed as filth (punks included) are cast aside in society despite their merit. Thus, the misrepresented Hyena, and the name The Gutters of Paradise. It also works as a little jab to people blindly believing in the greatness of modern America when most of the nation is currently living poorly. This theme is definitely discussed in the second to last track “Old Glory.”
What was the creative process for The Gutters of Paradise like?
Usually Karl and Adam will come up with an individual song and record a quick scratch track of it on a computer program. If Karl doesn’t have any bits of lyrics, the song is sent to Adam to listen to for a bit and come up with lyrics. The songs usually sit in files on our computers for months and sometimes over a year before they are brought to Jack and Logan and learned as a band. There edits are made to give the song better flow, style and hooks. We mess around with the vocal and backing vocal styles and then start on a few months of practicing and adding songs to learn each week. Once we had enough rough demo files added up we picked and chose what tracks would make the cut to record the full length and sat on the rest. Some songs just get thrown in the trash forever, and some of the songs on the album are revisited from years before.
Speaking of the album’s creative process, provide some insight into it. How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
Karl has some garage band type program on his home computer, and we record basic guitar and bass (no vocals) then add in a bare-bones computerized drum track and send it out to the rest of the band to mull over and decide if it works for us. Once we introduce songs into the live performance we like to film our gigs with some cheap camera equipment, often VHS, but we have moved on to go pro. Adam and Karl often go over the image like a sports team would a athletic reel and see what we wanna change about the songs going into the next slew of gigs.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
The dynamic flow definitely develops over time. Usually whoever composes the music will have a vague idea of dynamics and song structure open to changes when they are actually practiced. Once we get to real instruments and a live practice flow, the energy and vibe of the song usually changes to sound more natural and aggressive and we start to get ideas of the sound and structure that should be upheld.
Which bands or artists influence your work?
In The Kreutzer Sonata we all have a varying range of influences. Logan our drummer listens to a lot of mathy, intricate and rhythmic obscure punk bands, definitely some more lo fi stuff than our sound. In the van on tour we usually get more of a taste of Logan‘s musical style on the long rides.
Karl is a great example of our range of influences because you can find him rocking A Global Threat and Morning Glory but then in his downtime at work recording motown and Elliot Smith style covers on his guitar.
Jack is a huge World/Inferno Friendship Society fan with probably the worlds largest collection of T-shirts of said band, and also listens to metal bands like Ghost as well as hardcore punk. I’d say our biggest similar influence through out the band is A Global Threat.
Adam listens to 80′s/90′s hardcore and street punk mostly. He is a big Monster Squad and Unseen fan, but at the same time can be found listening to Tom Waitts and The Pogues for inspiration.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
The reason a lot of us got into punk and hardcore as kids was because for people truly into the genres the music always serves a purpose intertwined with a lifestyle, attitude, community and sub culture. The message of punk has always been important to all of us, and instead of regurgitating a lot of the old stale punk slogans and lines, we strive as a band to add our lives to the general message and inspiration of punk while staying true to our roots with the music. Playing music is enchanting to a lot of young people because you see the opportunity to have a voice and inspire and get your views across, and that stays with us today. So ideally somewhere, someone if at least one person would listen to The Gutters of Paradise and find some sort of hope, motivation or inspiration.
What are your future plans?
We are already at work on some new songs believe it or not. We are also trying to make some more videos of The Gutters of Paradise tracks to put online, and hit the road a little bit for some weekend runs. We are going to do a release show for the vinyl in Chicago in March with label mates and friends in Bombflower, who play a really dark reggae and political ska punk sound. At this point we are just trying to hit the ground running and never stop.