If you pay attention to the heavy music scene, it’s fairly likely that you’ve already heard about Pound. A non-stop, pummeling thrill ride, the band’s sound is instantly idiosyncratic, like throwing Gridlink, Converge, and Meshuggah into a high speed blender. It can be a tad overwhelming for some. But not for us.
In fact, it could be argued that Pound is more than a band pushing the limits of tone and composition in heavy music: Pound is a sign of what is coming. Ten years ago, the nine-string guitar, let alone the baritone nine-string guitar, was near incomprehensible. It could be done in theory, but it was an unknown, and more than likely inaudible territory. Yet here we are, guzzling this sweet, sputtering buzzsaw of a low end, and it goes down easily. So in the end, who knows what the future of music holds, but bands like Pound keep us alert and open minded in the meantime.
Oh, and all of this is to say nothing of the fact that the band literally names their songs… algorithmically? Just check out their single “xx_.+-x_ _” to get a taste of what we mean.
But rather than guess, we decided we’d shoot our shot and ask the band themselves. Luckily, guitarist Ryan Schutte was happy to answer a few questions of ours after finishing up the first of a number of tours the band has lined up. In fact, this interview essentially came to be when Pound reached out to Muscle Beach Petting Zoo for support in Eugene, who were unfortunately (yet rather predictably) upended by an incident involving hot sauce, Elden Ring, and cryptocurrency. Regardless, we’re stoked to have salvaged an important opportunity to chat with the band about their songwriting “formulas” and more. Enjoy!
FB: It’s great to see that the band has been playing out, how has the tour been treating you so far?
Ryan: Tour has been the same as it always is. Lots of ups, a few downs, an insane amount of work, but very rewarding. There’s a lot of pressure in this industry to always be positive and talk about how great a tour or an album is, but that’s very rarely the case. There’s always obstacles to overcome and there are always problems. Pretending like there aren’t misrepresents the entire industry and paints an unrealistic picture of what it’s like to do this.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of fun times and playing shows every night is great, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it, especially with this kind of band. We’re a niche band, we’re still small and relatively unknown, and the shows very much reflect that. In the areas we’ve already been through a few times, the shows have been great. In the areas we haven’t been to before they’re hit or miss, mostly depending on the promoter and the locals, and that’s completely okay and to be expected, because that’s how this works. It just means that we need to play in those areas more often to build our following there.
There’s also been a lot of discomfort on stage. I’m a very introverted person by nature and had to work hard for a long time to develop the kind of extroverted personality that excels in this industry. Interacting with a lot of people and being on stage again has been a little jarring and awkward. In a lot of ways, even after 33 shows back, I still feel like I’m shaking the rust off a bit.
FB: Your latest record is an earth shaking batch of winding, grinding mathematical destruction. Do you guys follow a particular formula when writing the songs or are ideas jammed out first then put together?
Ryan: The bulk of our songs are fairly formulaic in nature. Not by design, it just works out that way because that’s what feels right. For the most part, we follow a fairly standard sonata form, but it’s modified a bit. To keep things interesting, oftentimes instead of repeating a part when it comes back, we’ll do a modified version of it to keep things interesting.
I always want to bring ideas back. In order for the listener to be able to really latch on to what’s going on in a song, it helps to have repetition, but too much repetition feels boring to me, particularly with instrumental music, hence the changes when a riff returns.
FB: Speaking of formulas, how do you name your songs? And how do you even say their names out loud?
Ryan: The song names are a very stripped down drum tab. You can play them. We don’t expect people to say them out loud.
FB: Would you say writing such intense music is easier or more difficult as a duo?
Ryan: It’s hard to say. I’ve never written this kind of music outside of this band, so I lack that perspective. With just the two of us, there are fewer opinions on how things should go. At this point, we know what a Pound song is supposed to sound like. It took years, but now we’ve found our musical identity. We know the ingredients that need to be there for it to sound like us.
While having a firm grasp on what your band is supposed to sound like is really important, we’re always trying new things and stretching things in new directions, but we do it in a way that adds to what we already have so it’s an organic evolution of our sound instead of a jarring turn in a new direction.
FB: Do you two share any particular influences when it comes to heavy music?
Ryan: Yes, and I think that’s part of what makes it work. We each have some things that we like that the other doesn’t, but for the most part if I’m into something, there’s a solid chance David is going to be into it too, and vice versa. We’re constantly hunting for new bands and new music. That’s part of what keeps things fresh and prevents us from just reinventing the wheel over and over again.
FB: Sometimes songwriters have a particular lore or scene of mental imagery that they rely on to help stimulate their process. Does Pound have that? I ask this because the entirety of “..” sounds like a war between robot werewolves and liquid metal squids, therefore triggering the apocalypse.
Ryan: That’s quite the interpretation! No, there’s no lore to dig into. We intentionally keep things very open ended so the song can mean whatever it needs to to the person listening. Over the years, people have told us that it made them think of and in some cases process such a wide variety of things. Sometimes it’s things that we were going through while writing or recording those songs, which is always a bit of a head trip. Sometimes it’s something completely different, which is equally great. I’m just glad when something that we’ve made resonates with people.
FB: The logo for pound is extremely clever, and also just badass looking. Is it supposed to represent nine guitar strings and a set of drum heads?
Ryan: That’s correct. We wanted something that represents us as a band that we could use to help brand ourselves. I know that sounds extremely capitalist and very un-punk, but it’s part of the industry.
We spend a lot of time studying up on the business side of things. Sharpening our skills and looking for ways to improve. Nobody picks up an instrument and goes “wow, this is great, I can’t wait to make some spreadsheets” but if you want to move up in the industry and do more with your band and your music, learning about how to run a business goes a very, very long way.
There isn’t a single larger band on the road today that doesn’t have at least one member with those skill sets and if there is, I guarantee there’s somebody behind the scenes that does (and they’re probably taking a hefty percentage to run things).
FB: I saw on your Instagram that the band allegedly has recorded about three hours of unreleased material – is that legit?
Ryan: I think there might be more at this point, but I’m not sure. We recorded two full lengths at the beginning of the pandemic, then another two about 6 or 7 months after that. We also have a few EPs in the bag as well.
The pandemic broke me. I spent seven months booking all of our tours in 2020 and we lost all of that. I lost my dream job that I cared about a lot and all of the side jobs that I was doing related to the music industry. My partner of five years went through her own life changes and our relationship was no longer compatible. It was a lot of large, drastic life changes at once and I was spiraling trying to cope. I started having incredibly intense anxiety that would leave me a confused, disoriented, mumbling mess, unable to form sentences. The attacks that became more frequent and would leave me in a mental fog for days.
I’m still struggling with that and doing my best to deal with it. The worse I’m doing mentally, the more I write. Like a lot of other creatives, it’s how I process and cope with the world around me. I’m always writing. At this point, partially because of the pandemic, I probably have around three more albums worth of material written that I need to go through.
When we start working on an album, I have to narrow things down and focus on what we think are the strongest songs. When I’m writing, I number all of the songs and ideas sequentially so I can keep track of things.
The albums we recorded at the beginning of the pandemic were the strongest 16 songs between Pound Song 74 and 122. I wrote 48 songs (the bulk of them complete, some just ideas and pieces) before we recorded those albums. The two we recorded before things started opening up again were Pound Song 123 through 176. That’s 54 songs and ideas.
It’s also important to keep in mind that we don’t write songs for other people. We do it for us. Writing music is just a built-in part of who we are as people. Everything else is just a means to an end so we can spend as much time as possible writing. Don’t get me wrong the touring, recording, and even a lot of things that have to do with the business can be fun, interesting and rewarding, but writing is where we feel the most comfortable and at home.
FB: Did you guys force yourselves to be productive throughout the pandemic or did you sort of let things come along naturally?
Ryan: David was ecstatic to get some time to himself to relax. I was the complete opposite, which is another aspect of why our band works so well. David forces me to slow down and take time to myself, because it’s something that he needs for his mental health. On the other hand, I keep things moving forward and make sure that the work gets done.
As soon as the pandemic hit, I got to work rescheduling tours, booking studio time, applying for artist grants and writing. After two or three weeks of down time, we started practicing 6 to 8 hours a day, five days a week. We did everything we could to level up. I spent a lot of time studying the industry and developing other skill sets that I knew I would need coming out of the pandemic. We were relentless, and it’s already paying off in dividends.
FB:So when can the people expect to receive another crushing round of Pound?
Ryan: That’s a bit up in the air at this point. We’re waiting on a few album covers and we have a lot of video content to shoot. Musicians and bands have a tendency to put themselves in pressure cookers of their own making and it’s awful for mental health, so we’re not doing that.
When we have all of the parts and pieces and feel ready for the onslaught (both positive and negative) that comes with releasing an album, then we’ll release an album. Until then, we’re very happy to continue touring since that’s what feels comfortable and right at the moment. If people would like to hear the new material early, they can come see us live. We’re playing a lot of it.
There you have it! Catch the band on the UK portion of their tour, which they just announced last week, including Rustfest, for which you can get tickets here. Coming up we’ve got Science Penguin, Solve for Why, and more! Keep us caffeinated here, otherwise, we’ll catch up with you soon. Thanks for reading!