Middle Class Rut Talk "No Name No Color"
Mon, 04 Jun 2012 08:10:54
Middle Class Rut isn't quite like any other band out there.
The Sacramento duo cooks up heavy alternative with a gutter grit and punk rasp. In fact, their debut No Name Color is one of the most thrilling rock records since At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command. If Middle Class Rut isn't already your new favorite act, they will be as soon as you hear the album.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief, Middle Class Rut vocalist and guitarist Zack Lopez delves deep into the record and so much more.
What's your take on No Name No Color as a whole?
It's the culmination of two years' worth of writing. We started off writing scattered shit, but we found the overall vibe of this band at some point. Then, it was really easy to write different types of songs that still felt like Middle Class Rut when you heard them. We do a lot of different things whether it's really loud, up-tempo stuff or slow, droning stuff. It's hard to get all of those sentiments across in one record without sounding like you don't know what you're doing or you don't know what you want to do. We picked the songs we felt made the record the best and showcased what we do. If we do different things on the second album, you can see signs of them happening on the first.
It's a boundless sound.
Yeah, completely, there were no rules at all. There's probably at least one song on there we never played live or haven't played since we recorded the album.
What's the story behind "Cornbread"?
That was the last song written for the record. It was already done. The whole album was recorded at Sean's mom's house. That's where our studio is. A few months before wrapping it up, I got a Pro Tools rig and set up shop in my mom's house. It's got these crazy vaulted ceilings with wood floors, and the sound is really good. We jammed out one night in that room. Within an hour, we had "Cornbread" down. We were like, "Man, this doesn't sound anything like the record." However, it was one of our favorite songs so we figured we'd close the album out with it.
Where were you coming from lyrically?
I have absolutely no idea. I started playing that riff to the beat, and the first thing I wrote was the chorus. I started doing some backwoods-sounding verses with this creepy harmony on them. I didn't even stop to think. I didn't care where it went. It came out how it did.
Is writing lyrics about tapping into a moment for you?
I hope so. If I'm lucky it is. A lot of times, I'll have a melody but I'll be so stuck on that I mess with words until they fit in. I'd rather fit the word into the melody if it's really good than the other way around. Most of the lyrics are on the spot. If I like the line I happen to say, I'll write it down and build off that. If something comes out, I have words to build off and make sense of.
Is it important for you to paint pictures with the songs?
I'm relatively new to that world. I've been playing guitar forever. I started singing and writing when we started this band. I try not to overthink it. In terms of what I'm writing about, it's what's happening at that second. You sound how you sound when you open your mouth and play guitar. You don't have much choice in it. If we're going to be compared to certain bands, I'm not upset about the bands people compare us to.
Where did "Dead End" come from?
Sean had actually written that loop and put this crazy groove to it. He had a couple of words, and he tucked it away. When I heard it, I said, "Shit, man, I want to sing and write to that." It got me right away. I wrote the chorus to it and both of my verses immediately. He listened to what the song was about and wrote his verses. We took it to a whole new level together.
What inspires you outside of music?
We definitely do read a lot and watch movies. I don't know if I consciously ever saw a movie and said, "Damn, that inspired me to write." I get inspired by wanting to finish as song. If I hear a part that gets me excited, I want to get the thing done. I want the music to inspire me to say something. We're always doing things outside of this.
What are your heavier influences?
Well, we grew up on super heavy music. We don't necessarily listen to it as much anymore. Being a kid, bands like Rage Against the Machine are spinning over and over in your head. At some point, they were a massive influence. We always wanted to write heavy music, and that's what we felt we did, but it's not dumb heavy music. We want it to make sense and feel like we're doing something different.
Does being a duo makes things easier?
Yeah, I think so. It has been thus far. There's so much shit we want to keep doing. We want to keep evolving as writers and musicians. We love other instruments. There are all kinds of weird, untraditional instruments on the record we played ourselves. I think, eventually, we'll go down that road even farther. We have a million songs people haven't heard, and it's going to keep going from there.
What are some of your favorite movies?
There Will Be Blood is massive. Then, there's Gangs of New York. I can watch anything with Daniel Day-Lewis over and over again. He's probably my favorite guy. Sean probably watches a million movies a day on tour.
What books do you come back to?
For a while, I tried to read everything on Bob Dylan I could find. I read his first book and then I read a book that published all of the interviews he'd done in a certain scope of years. I read a book called Conversations with Tom Petty. I was digging into those guys to see where they were coming from. They're pretty much all I listen to. I'm halfway through that Woody Guthrie book, Bound for Glory. That's way different. I started getting into a lot of Charles Bukowski over the past six months. I try to feed my brain something.
If you were to compare No Name No Color to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
Whatever movie is a big, unplanned mess [Laughs]. That's a tough analogy to put together!
Have you heard Middle Class Rut yet?