Fresh off a release show for their new record Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace, hardcore outfit Verse are dropping said record tomorrow. I reached out to the band via email a couple weeks back, and the band was kind enough to give their thoughts on the new record, playing shows again and how important it was for them to record with Machines with Magnets.
Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace marks the first album for verse since 2008's Aggression. Now that we're so close to the actual release of the record, what stands out to you about being able to have a new record for this band and being able to tour again?
Sean Murphy: The major thing that sticks out to me is our unwavering chemistry as a group of musicians. It was like we never stopped, and that was an incredibly comforting feeling. We also came into it with a new refreshed attitude about writing and the way we interact with each other, not wanting to write the next record everyone was expecting, not wanting another 2009 kind of meltdown. We're a lot more picky with what we do these days, which for us, in our current lives, is a very good thing.
Musically, while certainly in the open-minded verse style, this record does have an interesting change of pace, almost calling upon bands like Pianos Become the Teeth and the like. where do you think this particular change, or any musical change this record has taken in your eyes, has come from?
Shawn Costa: As far as influences go, we've always been a fairly eclectic band in that regard. Everything from Into Another, Quicksand, Burn, to Deftones, Failure, Hum, Nirvana, and early Weezer have influenced us as musicians. The major difference now, I believe comes from our growth as musicians and song-writers. Earlier we weren't able to properly execute or pull of the stuff we were going for, where as now we're all skilled enough to fully realize the music's potential. As far as pace goes, a lot of the newer material is in a 3/4 time signature, and I personally just have an affinity for writing songs in that timing, I think it's the Cuomo super-fan in me. I also think that regardless of what our influences may be for a particular song, something happens when the five of us play together that ultimately gives the song that "Verse" sound.
What are some particular passages lyrically or musically that stand out to you that you hope people will take notice to or perhaps stand out a little more to you personally?
Murphy: The record is basically a story, so lyrically I hope people can connect with it in its entirety. Musically it has a very quiet/loud/quiet/loud vibe to it. So even with the music, for me anyways, I view it the same way as the storyline/lyrics. It's up to the listener to decide what they want to take from it. I think it's the first time we've written a record in this sort of way, not being quite as direct. There are still undertones of social political issues and personal/class division issues, but the goal was to include all walks of life in the story; violent, peaceful, or anywhere in between.
You've stated previously different aspects to what you did in the time off and what made you come back to doing this. Was there a particular moment in the writing or recording of this record that everything just sort of clicked like you knew you had made the right decision to reform?
Costa: I can't speak for everyone else, but personally I knew it was the correct decision right away. I had a wealth of material written from before we were even technically together again, and early on in the rehearsals I knew we had something special going on. That feeling carried over to the recording sessions, and through to the completion of the record.
Do you think that having so much time between this record and Aggression gave you a little bit more of freedom than usual to change your sound a bit?
Zak Drummond: I guess in some ways, yes.
Did it ever seem like there was a pressure to try and rekindle some of the sounds of the past specifically, whether it be internally or from the community?
Murphy: We could have written a record to please everyone, there seems to always be that option for bands that want to increase their popularity. I can understand why, bands want to stay relevant and sometimes they're almost forced into a particular template for what they create by record labels and the people who have taken a liking to their music. It's sad, really. Luckily we felt no sort of restrictions whatsoever in the process of working on this record from anyone. Our label had enough faith in us to let us do our own thing
We just naturally did what we wanted to do, and so far the reaction has been very positive. For that and the level of understanding/connection we have received from the people that have have stuck with us through the years, or even recent listeners that can get down, we are all very thankful for.
How did the writing and record process go this time around considering the length of time since this group had recorded together? what made you decide to go to Machines with Magnets as far as recording is concerned?
Murphy: It was the same old process. It's always just clicked instantly for us when we jam together. We've been very lucky to have such good chemistry between us on a musical level. We decided to go to Machines for a number of reasons. They're friends of ours and we've known them for quite a while. They are a very important contributor to the local music and arts scene; putting on shows, coordinating events, etc.. They're very community oriented. It's wonderful to have something like that in our backyard. We wanted a very natural sounding record; clean but not overproduced, and no triggers or fake sounds. They're super good at capturing that, so it was an easy choice for us. They're great at what they do, they have a lot of input and no ego. Perfect studio. Great people.
That being said, what can you tell us about your touring plans post-BCUG release shows?
Murphy: Right after the record comes out we head over to Europe with our friends in Soul Control and Ritual to do a tour. We're super excited about this tour. Right before we freaked out and broke up, we were planning on touring with them the next time we went. So this worked out in an incredible way, it also happens to be [Ritual’s] final tour. We're so happy they would pick this tour for their swan song. We finally get to play Fluff Fest, also very excited for this. We've been trying to make that happen for years, our schedules were just always conflicting. We're also planning on heading to the west coast for something, talking about more tours in the near future to places we've never been and, places we have been. Nothing 100% confirmed yet though. Soon enough.
After playing your first show back, how did playing a festival like Groezrock set the bar in terms of what type of return people can expect to see from Verse, and vice versa?
Murphy: Well, the first show back and Groezrock were more like "events" rather than a typical show. We knew it would go back to normal for the most part. We didn’t expect to come back and have everyone fall to their knees and worship us or anything. We're pretty level headed when it comes to why we do this band, and it's because we're passionate about our music, and we love the total freedom and release we have when we play shows. There's nothing like that, 50 kids or 400 kids, if there is some sort of connection in the room happening, then it's all worth it. We're not concerned with big or small shows, just shows in general that can sustain an intimate unified vibe. We expect to make the most of this, we hope everyone else will do the same.
The hardcore community has seemingly been quite eager to see you guys tour again. do you feel like that yearning for a particular connection from fans will help you guys in terms of longevity on this 'second go'?
Murphy: We're humbled by the way people have embraced us reforming. verse has been very lucky to have people stick with us through our ups and downs as people and, as a band. We have lives that we need to keep in check, jobs that we need to uphold, relationships, family issues, etc., it's not as easy to just up and go whenever like we used to. But we still plan on doing as much as we can, being careful not to put too much stress on our already stressful (waaahhh) lives.