Night Verses – Into The Vanishing Light: Exclusive Album Stream

Douglas Robinson, frontman for one of the most eclectic, diverse and explosive post-hardcore bands in years, discusses the process of working with Ross Robinson on their sophomore album

Remfry Dedman
Wednesday 06 July 2016 17:09 BST
Night Verses, from left to right, Reilly Herrera
Night Verses, from left to right, Reilly Herrera

Formed in 2012, Night Verses are set to release their second album, Into The Vanishing Light, on 8th July via Graphic Nature / Equal Vision. Produced by the renowned Ross Robinson, the album is availalble to stream in full two days before its official release exclusively with The Independent. The record comes after the release of debut EP Out of the Sky (2012) and first album Lift Your Existence (2013). Whilst the band’s foundations lie in post-hardcore, they pull in a multitude of different genre influences, styles and guitar effects to produce a dynamic, multi-layered textural canvas that is one of the most distinct sounds in heavy music today.

It’s undeniable, through speaking to vocalist Douglas Robinson, that uber-producer Ross Robinson’s involvement was absolutely integral to making Into The Vanishing Light the chaotic sonic maelstrom that it is. His previous work speaks for itself; having helped to create and pioneer the nu-metal movement, he almost single-handedly completely changed the game for heavy music. Album’s like Korn’s self-titled debut and Life is Peachey, Sepultura’s Roots, Limp Bizkit’s Three Dollar Bill Y’All and Slipknot’s self-titled debut and Iowa, all helped to usher in a new era for heavy music. But with crushing inevitability, nu-metal descended into a cartoon caricature of itself, a diluted hollow commodity used as a license to print money. Around the dawn of the 21st century, Ross Robinson announced his intentions to destroy the genre he’d helped create. His weapons of choice? Albums such as Glassjaw’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence and Worship & Tribute, The Blood Brothers’ Burn, Piano Island, Burn, Vex Red’s Start With a Strong and Persistent Desire and The Cure's self-titled record. Regardless of genre, Ross Robinson’s focus was always on performance over technique and emotion over posturing, and his run of phenomenal albums between 1994 and 2002 is one of the best in the history of modern recorded music. ‘Ross is so genuine with what he does that it's hard not to gravitate towards his records’ says Douglas. ‘Not many people produce with as much sincerity as he does. When you have a guy like Ross Robinson making records from all different ends of the spectrum that have changed your life, you know he has a track record that you want to be affiliated with.’

When asked to hone in on one record that was key to the band’s decision to work with the producer, Douglas points to one of the most unique and inimitable records of all time. ‘It's so difficult to really pinpoint the record that made us want to work with Ross because he has so many that were pivotal,’ he says ‘but I know a common ground is At The Drive-In's Relationship of Command. That record changed all of our lives dramatically, I certainly wouldn't be any type of musician without it. I was always an At the Drive-In fan but Relationship of Command was on another level entirely.’

A characteristic that both Relationship of Command and Into The Vanishing Light share is their sheer sense of chaos; they both capture their respective bands balancing on a knife’s edge, seemingly about to fall apart at any second, before miraculously pulling back and retaining control. ‘Ross likes to push you to the point where everything is chaotic, as if it could collapse at any moment,’ says Douglas ‘and right when you think it's all about to come crashing down is when the most beautiful epic moments happen. That's something that people don't get on these polished records. The fun is almost taken out of things like that. I grew up listening to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd, The Smiths, NoFX, Knapsack, Smashing Pumpkins; that's something people don't really get anymore with these ultra-modern, overproduced records. The mystery and adventure of spontaneity is almost always missing from recordings nowadays. We didn’t use click tracks on this record because Ross believes the music itself is what should take the player and listener for a ride, it shouldn’t be tamed. It’s really cool to be a part of a record that I can listen to and know that this is 100% who we are and what we sound like as a live band.’

There’s only one way to capture the essence of a group of musicians all playing in a room together … you can’t fake it! Like many bands of the modern era though, Night Verses have geographical distance between them, with guitarist Nick DePirro, bassist Reilly Herrara and drummer Aric Improta all based in Fullerton, California, whilst Douglas lives on the opposite coast in Jersey City, New Jersey. Such impracticalities make basic things like getting in a room and playing together difficult, something that didn’t get past the eagle eyes of Ross Robinson. ‘When we went into the live room, for some reason I’d put myself in the corner, subconsciously placing myself further away from the rest of the group. We're playing the songs for Ross on the first night and there's no reaction from him at all, he just leaves saying, ‘alright, good night! Talk to you tomorrow.’ We don’t really know what’s going on at this point, we’ve only just met Ross, so we don’t know if this is normal or if he’s pissed. The next day, we have this huge talk and he says to us 'I didn't feel anything in that room last night.' I tell you man, all of our world's came crashing down because here we are thinking we have these great songs, we're really excited about them! So we ask Ross 'Do you like the songs?' And he says, 'You wouldn’t be here if I didn't like the songs and if I didn't think your band could be something more than what you are. But right now, there's such a big disconnection in this room that it’s making me sick!' Those were his exact words. He saw that disconnection and jumped on it straight away. There was nothing that we brought to the table at that moment that moved Ross because we weren’t working together as a unit. Once he pointed that out, it changed everything.’

The band were hardly slackers before they got into the studio though. Douglas says they wrote around 50 songs for the second album, before showing half of those songs to Ross. Together, they then knocked another 14 off the track list to end up with the 11 songs that make up the album. But the songs underwent intense dissection and reconstruction in the studio. ‘We wrote all these songs and when we presented them to Ross, it was so interesting how he took them and made us realise that we hadn't developed them as much as we thought we had. Those influences that you hear on Into the Vanishing Light, so much of that came from Ross pulling stuff out of us. This process was so new to all of us it almost felt as if we were recording for the very first time. I really feel that all those influences shine on such a broad spectrum because of Ross showing us exactly where it was coming from and how not to be afraid to tap into those new sounds.’

Ross Robinson is famous for using unorthodox methods in the studio with his protégés to get results, pushing them to their limits and drawing out deeply disturbing emotions; you need look no further than Korn’s Daddy, Machine Head’s Five or Glassjaw’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence to see the dark places Ross can push his vocalists too. ‘We were nervous at first because we’d never gone to these places before and we thought, 'Is this record going to turn out the way we want it to?' But we learned to stop worrying too much and embrace what was happening. Most producers and bands pretty much know what the end result of their record is going to be, especially when it comes to the more over-produced records, but that’s not how it is with Ross! You completely re-work those songs with him, being pushed way outside your comfort zone. There’s so much excitement in not knowing where your record’s going, and not many people get to have that because a lot of people don't get to work with Ross. He's one of a kind, all of his records are so unique, because his formula isn't a formula. He wants to push bands as far as they can go and he doesn’t even know where that is until he starts working with them. I don't think there's anyone else like him in the music industry at all!’

Recording sessions with Ross Robinson can act as incredible catharsis, purging deeply rooted repressed emotional turmoil, capturing it and turning it into something creative and unique. ‘It's 100% therapy,’ says Douglas, ‘it’s channelling negative energy into something positive. There's no self-pity on this record at all, I had so much of that before we went in with Ross. He sat in front of me, right up in my face and said 'Get this self-pity off the f**king record. There will be none of that on here! You are so much bigger than that!' No matter where you go with a record you do with him, you’ll come out of the studio a different person, and we just happened to tap into some pretty serious s**t. People have their different sessions with Ross but I really think we went into something much deeper than he’s done in a long time and he's admitted that as well. None of us expected this record to blossom into what it became and I think that's what makes it so special to us.’

Such an intense, remedial environment requires privacy; whilst Douglas is more than happy to share his experiences of the recording now, it was vital to Ross that the band were not distracted by any sources outside of the studio. ‘We thought it would be a good idea to get some studio footage to put up online for the fans and to have it as a memory for us. We put up this Go Pro in the live room and Ross pulled out a handful of quarters in his pocket, an insane amount of change and he threw it full force at the Go Pro and it just fell to the ground. So we were like, 'Ok, that's not happening!' But things like that are what made this record what it was, every day was a journey like that, every day brought us closer together and we were just so willing to give ourselves over to Ross's process. He really delved into this record and I think he saw how willing we were to 'improve' ourselves.'

Into the Vanishing Light is a record devoid of sonic compromise or polished sheen, its raw untamed pandemonium bursting out of the speakers like a rabid feral hound. Equally, there are moments of organic beauty and textured nuances that accentuate unyielding emotional exposure. It is not a record for the faint of heart or casual music listener, but Night Verses would rather have 100 people love their record than 1,000 merely liking it. ‘We grew up on bands that didn't just get big overnight and fade away the next day because of one hit single on the radio,’ says Douglas. ‘They got, 'long-lasting' success because they put in constant work. There are still people out there that make music for creativity and not for a dollar or for an hour of fame. Yeah ok, those bands might not be as big as a Coldplay or a band along those lines, but you know what? They're so much more important and integral to so many more people's lives because people connect with those bands in a way that will never leave you. And that was something we went into with this record; we want to be the type of band that shows people that we don't have to stray down a formulaic path. We want to make our mark in the world on our own terms.’

Into The Vanishing Light, Night Verses sophomore record, is released via Graphic Nature / Equal Vision on 8th July and is available to pre-order now. Night Verses are currently on tour with letlive. throughout the United States until 31st July

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