Few hardcore releases I heard last year hit as ferociously as Calgary outfit 壕Trench’s Blossom. Just an absolutely crushing amalgam of detuned grooves, ground-fissuring beats, and vein-bursting vocal aggression (via vocalist Jay Breen, as well as a guest spot on “Hellbent Gate” from Misery Signals’ Jesse Zaraska). But as thorny as Blossom can be, the quintet also knowns when to ease back from the metalcore mayhem to introduce pulse-quickening trance interludes, or even a Mogwai-ish wash of post rock mellifluousness on the record’s closing “Blossom II”.
Though the pandemic postponed touring plans behind Blossom, the record has gained traction through international press and a growing fanbase. A limited run of 40 lathe cut 12”s (10 on black, 30 on clear) was snapped up as soon as they hit the band’s webstore, but Blossom and a handful of earlier EPs are streaming.
Guitarist/programmer Cole Young spoke with Gut Feeling about beatmaking, the surprisingly sweet acoustics of a U-Haul trailer, and how the band’s new music could be pushing their experimental heaviness further out into left field.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
It kind of felt like 壕Trench were poised—even by virtue of naming the album Blossom—to take things to the next level in 2020. You got some advance international press; you were about to head out on tour in the spring, though that was ultimately cancelled. Despite what ended up happening because of the global pandemic, did 壕Trench manage to bloom all the same?
Cole Young: I think we did, actually. We released Blossom in April, just after everyone started locking down. But it received a lot of press. It was good for us, despite the circumstances. It was definitely our busiest year to date, even though we didn’t tour, or anything like that. We were getting lots of feedback on Blossom, and we still are. All the attention helped us get through this pandemic, as a band. I do think that we tried to play our cards as well as we could through all of this.
The record itself is an intense but aurally gorgeous listen. What can you say about what 壕Trench were looking for in terms of tone, and how you wanted to make a sonic upgrade from 2019’s The Gift of Guilt EP?
C: The Gift of Guilt was our pre-Blossom teaser; We didn’t necessarily experiment as much as we did with Blossom. With Blossom, we were really going for a unique sound. We don’t hold back when writing songs. We’ll write a soft song, a slow song, or incorporate electronics and samples, but we all love heavy stuff, too. We wanted to hit all spectrums. I know people that don’t love heavy music, but they love some of the songs on Blossom because they’re more of an ode to post rock, or to electronica. We weren’t trying to impress anyone, but it’s cool that people that listen to all genres of music can appreciate Blossom.
As far as guitar tones go, we probably spent two or three days just dialling in our tones. We used a ton of cool little cabs, and tried a bunch of placements for them, but I actually ended up using my 5150 into an isolation cab that was sitting in our U-Haul trailer in a garage. For some reason, that got me my best guitar tone. Bryce [Jassmann], the other guitar player, he ended up doing the same thing, though through his Mesa Electra Dyne head. We tried Kempers, all sorts of heads, but we just ended up using the heads that we use in our live show, you know?
How about the guitars themselves?
C: We keep it pretty true to what we play live! Bryce plays a Jazzmaster, and he always has. I play a seven string Ibanez. I’d never been a huge Ibanez guy, but then I found this and I haven’t looked back. It’s the Apex20, Munky from Korn’s guitar; It’s all the stock electronics and pickups. I’ve been looking for a second Apex20 just to have in the bank, but they’re hard to find.
If The Gift of Guilt was intended to be a teaser to Blossom, can you get into how you connected the two releases by repurposing the closing riff of the former’s “Burn Through” into Blossom’s introductory “Crawling Past”?
C: That is something that Bryce was really feeling. We like little Easter eggs that maybe not everyone will hear, you know? But the people that do are into it. We also weren’t really finished with the riff; We wanted to see that riff expand. We thought it was a really cool way to start the record, and built some electronics over it.
What kind of hardcore did you grow up listening to?
C: I grew up listening to all sorts of hardcore. I really loved metal and metallic stuff when I was really young. I’m 31, so Terror was huge when I was 15-16. Still are! I loved a ton of youth crew stuff, but I always appreciated the metallic hardcore, too. I really like this band called Violation from California. They’re still influential to my songwriting; They do a really great blend of metal and hardcore.
But I truly grew up listening to a ton of hip-hop. That was the genre that I really listened to the most, I would say.
How did that impact your philosophy around building electronics and beat work into 壕Trench’s music?
C: I do a lot of hip-hop production; I’ve been making beats for probably 10 years. I was really interested in how adding electronic elements and samples into the music would affect the journey for a listener. The band was all about it. They really push me to do crazy electronics. They really don’t limit me when it comes to that.
Hip-hop influences definitely came into play while doing the production for 壕Trench. I love to throw a good old 808 in there; I really like low-end heavy production, and crazy, off-time drums. It’s something I’ve really grown to love, and it will definitely be a part of 壕Trench [going forward]….even leaning heavier into it for the next stuff.
Would that be integrated organically into the songs themselves, rather than the more interlude-based embellishments heard throughout Blossom?
C: It’s funny you mention that, because we’re currently writing some new material. One of our biggest goals was to weave electronics into the songs, to get busier with having electronics overtop the music. It almost makes it heavier—more left field and weird. We’ve been loving it, so far.
Both Blossom and The Gift of Guilt were tracked at Oodelally Recordings in Kelowna, B.C. with Jordan Chase. Considering the position we’re all in, movement is kind of limited. Have restrictions and safety concerns around travel led Tommy [Chan, drums] and Tony [Chan, bass] towards recording 壕Trench at their Toms & Tones home studio?
C: Our ultimate plan is to be recording our stuff with Jordan Chase, whenever things calm down enough to where we can safely go there without putting anyone in danger. We love Jordan; we also love consistency. With that being said, we also love to pre-produce our material. We recorded a new song, I guess demo-style, at Tony and Tommy’s house. Honestly, it turned out so awesome. It sounds so good. I’m super proud of those guys, they’re very talented.
It’s been really nice to do a lot of our work ant Tony and Tommy’s. That’s been a really awesome thing through these restrictive times. I’m thankful for that space and those dudes.
We’ll most likely still record the final product with Jordan, though, to allow Tony and Tommy to not worry about engineering, editing, and all that stuff, and really just be in the headspace of performing in 壕Trench.
While last year was especially challenging, it was also an especially strong year for Calgary-based hardcore, between releases from yourselves, Serration, World of Pleasure, the Fuze demo that Tony and Tommy both played on and recorded. The city’s Wild Rose Hardcore Festival may once again have to be postponed, but where do you see Calgary hardcore heading this year?
C: Even though things like Wild Rose may not be happening this year, they’re still an active organization. Hopefully they can still work to keep the scene going, to keep positive things happening. I’ve heard some mumblings on some projects, so I’m crossing my fingers that they happen.
As far as the bands—World of Pleasure, Fuze, Mortality Rate, Serration—they’re all still active. I’m hoping everyone uses this year to get some awesome music together...but those bands have always been great at producing good material for our ears. I don’t see any of them letting this stop them. I have a lot of faith in Calgary-made music right now. It might be better than ever!
MF DOOM “Rap Snitches Knishes”:
This is one of countless tributes to the late MF DOOM, whose passing was announced this past New Year’s Eve. A master wordsmith with impeccable internal rhyme skills; a world-builder with wild punchlines, non-sequiturs, and Marvel Comics know-how; a staggering crate-digger and sample collector.
Regarding the latter, DOOM’s metal fingaz flipped a ton of beats, pushing a lot of awesome music listeners’ way. Personally, it’s how I got into and sought out records from the early 70s Scandinavian jazz group Cortex or Anita Baker, or the reason I dug further into Ray Ellis’ campy, mid-’60s Spider-Man score. “Rap Snitch Knishes” is hardly a deep cut, having even been quoted in this weird old MSNBC clip, but it’s an all-timer built around a snippet of an interstellar guitar solo from a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.
David Matthews’ (no, not that Dave Matthews) take was a decent, but kind of schmaltzy re-do, the kind of thing you’d hear during an awards show montage. DOOM found just the right splice of ethereal guitar bending to transform into this particularly manic, overjoyed extravaganza. R.I.P. to the Supervillain. Long Live DOOM.
I’m entering 2021 with this palette-cleansing, five-song burst from Santiago, Chile hardcore group Gripe. Their 2020 demo, released just a few days ahead of the New Year, is a no-holds-barred explosion of pre-crossover beauty: adrenalized and punky, with a brittle, treble-blaring guitar tone.
“Desconfinamiento,” in particular, is a brutal blur with a micro-sized, one note solo breaking through the noise barrier. Highly recommended.