It’s no secret that we love heavy music. There’s just something comforting about all those walls of sound, pummeling drums, and shrill banshee shrieks. Whether it’s melodeath, slam, djent, or doom… we hardly discriminate. But when it comes to Fecking Bahamas, we try to keep it around the edges. We still cover it occasionally because it’s something we love, but for better or worse, it’s not our most consistent area of focus.
Unless, of course, it’s really mathy. Recently, some of our favorite moments in math rock have also been our favorite moments in heavy music. This intersection of sound is often referred to as mathcore, and who better to talk to about mathcore than our friends at Mathcore Index? That’s right, literally no one.
Mathcore Index has been indispensable to our personal listening habits for the last several years. They introduced us to bands like p.s.you’redead, Black Matter Device, The Callous Daoboys, and The Sound That Ends Creation, which are just a handful of faves we’ve picked up over the pandemic. A lot of these bands are also featured on MI’s satellite record label, Dark Trail Records, adding a level of investment and value to the scene that goes a long way when it comes to quote unquote “music journalism.” There is a lot of shlock out there, and Mathcore Index stands head and shoulders over much it when they let you know just how down for the cause they really are.
Simply put, they’re a genuine gift to a ravenous heavy music community, and we highly suggest attending the upcoming Mathcore Index Fest in Chicago this July 9th and 10th. Chicago is full of incredible music – hell, even our own contributor William Covert is going to be there playing with the recently reunited Space Blood, which is insane!
But we’ve been curious, and wanted to have an expert weigh in on a few things. We’re stoked as hell to present this brief conversation with Mathcore Index founder Christian Segerstrom, in which we touch on defining characteristics of the genre, new blood in the scene, and of course, Mathcore Index 2022.
FB: This is the fifth mathcore index fest. Other than the amazing lineup, what’s got you most excited for this anniversary?
Christian: This the first in-person iteration since 2019 in Oakland, so what has me most excited is the prospect of getting to see all these bands I love so much in the flesh as opposed to remotely. I really enjoyed doing the livestreams in 2020 and 2021 because it allowed me to enjoy it from the comfort of my home, but there’s nothing like feeling amps push air and experiencing all the aspects of crowd participation like call and response and moshing.
FB: You recently put out a couple social posts about the new wave of math core. What are some defining characteristics that separate the new from the old?
Christian: Instrumentally, one thing I’ve noticed is that extended range guitars have had a huge influence on the way the genre sounds, so you see a lot of newer bands in that lower register and playing more chuggy, breakdown-heavy stuff that is drawing more from Ion Dissonance and Tony Danza (Tapdance Extravaganza) than it is from Dillinger Escape Plan or Converge, for example. The other more obvious thing the newer bands are embracing is the sheer abuse of the Digitech Whammy pedal, along with a variety of other pitchshifters that are used to simulate dissonant guitar harmonies, so it seems like pedals are playing a more important part than ever. There’s also more bands experimenting with traditional instrumentation like violin and horns and keys, but conversely, there’s more bands really successfully integrating electronic and glitch elements too.
Vocally, I’ve noticed a lot of newer artists are really embracing that more sassy, zany side that takes a lot of influence from West Coast bands like Heavy Heavy Low Low, The Blood Brothers, and The Locust (RIP Gabe Serbian), to the point that sasscore has become a fairly recognized term. Musically, the sound is more abrasive, chaotic, and technical than ever, but I think there’s a lot more willingness to experiment with melody and genre integration, and that sort of unpredictability is part of what I think makes this music so exciting. It’s fun to hear a band go from a blast beat to a disco beat to a clean jazz break to a massive feedback-laden breakdown all within 60 seconds, and that’s just not something one usually experiences with any other style of music while still being under the same umbrella.
FB: Influences in metal can be pretty nonlinear, with old bands inspiring new ones and vice versa. Do you see this new generation of bands influencing old standbys in mathcore?
Christian: Not particularly, in fact I think most of the bands in this style struggle to ultimately break free of a fairly small and rather obvious pool of influences, so there’s not really much opportunity for them to inform their seniors. You’ll probably see more of the older bands busting out the old whammy pedal now though, at least at practice.
FB: On a scale of one to ten, how difficult is it to run a label and a blog at the same time? Or are they fairly compatible?
Christian: It’s pretty difficult, especially when balanced against my own music endeavours. I would say a solid 8. It’s fairly comparable when it comes to the style of communication or how I promote things, but the sheer amount of interactions I have and queries I receive can be really tiring. I spend about 30 hours a week between Dark Trail and Mathcore Index stuff, so it can be challenging to balance that with my other professional work and my home life. I would love to be doing this shit full time though, be that the label or the blog or both, so that is ultimately my intention.
FB: When you’re running the blog, you’re probably listening to dozens of submissions a week if you listen to everything that comes your way. But that’s what makes a sleeper hit so exciting- what’s the last band that really caught you off guard?
Christian: This Japanese band, Wombscape, really caught my attention. They’ve been around for a while, but they finally got a more substantial official release out and what really caught me off guard was how much I enjoyed their noise interludes, something I’d normally skip. Another recent one was Graysea from Wisconsin, who I think are very promising. They have a very active social media presence, something which can be a bit of a red flag for a newer band with that kind of profile, but their music matches that effort in quality.
FB: Dark Trail has some super cool vinyl variants to its name – are there any you’re sentimental about?
Christian: Pressing vinyl is still relatively new to me, in that during the earlier stages of the label I didn’t do much vinyl and didn’t press any at all during 2019, but I would say looking at the SeeYouSpaceCowboy / secondgradeknifefight 7″ definitely still gives me that nostalgia. Very proud I got to be a part of that one, and funnily enough our biggest claim to fame is probably being a footnote in SYSC’s Wikipedia article.
FB: We’re definitely stoked that Space Blood is reuniting for the fest – are there any bands you’re particularly excited to see for the first time?
Christian: Well, obviously I’m really excited to see all the bands I’ve collaborated with in a label capacity, but I’m especially excited to see Chicago’s Snooze. Their music really connects on an emotional level with me, and I’m excited to sing along to their stuff. I’m also really excited to see Madison, Wisconsin’s The Central, who we haven’t even officially announced yet, because they are just tremendous musicians.
FB: What was the first mathcore record you bought with your own money? Did you like it or did it take a while?
Christian: Strangely enough, I didn’t buy many mathcore records in my early phase of enjoyment because they weren’t as easy to find, but first mathcore (or otherwise adjacent) record I bought with my own money was Between the Buried and Me‘s self-titled album, followed by Ion Dissonance Breathing Is Irrelevant, both of which I think I pretty much took to immediately because I had been listening to Mudvayne really heavily several years prior. Funnily enough, I did not immediately like Calculating Infinity or Jane Doe though, and didn’t fully appreciate either until a couple years after the fact.
FB: Have you ever been asked to define mathcore by someone completely out of the know?
Christian: Almost daily. It never gets old. At this point, I’d like to think I’ve gotten pretty succinct in my explanation though. I just say it’s a metal and punk hybrid, but with better musicians.
FB: If you could add one more hand to the lineup, living or dead, who would it be?
Christian: That’s a tough one, but considering Dillinger hasn’t been long gone, I would say Botch would be the most hype.
Not a bad choice, we’d say. Get your tickets to the fest from the Mathcore Index site over here. Coming up we’ve got POUND, Childspeak at Robert Lang, and more info regarding our own festival collaboration with South America’s Anomália and UK big boys Delta Sleep. As always, you can keep us caffeinated and motivated by buying us coffee, but also by just reading the blog. Both ultimately contribute to our well being. Thanks for reading!