Whenever I am angry I find it often useful to put that rage into perspective by spinning some overtly aggressive music. Bands like Watchmaker, Pig Destroyer, Today Is The Day tend to be so much more angry than I am that it generally helps me calm down and laugh about whatever it is that bothers me. This kind of psycho maniac vitriolic hate is typical of genres like bestial black metal or grindcore, and luckily we now have Dendritic Arbor to fuse exactly those genres into an even viler stew. Don’t let the title of their EP Romantic Love fool you, this stuff will get under your skin. It is probably the most extreme metal record I have heard this year, and naturally I had to go talk to the people responsible for it. I found Maxwell Beehner (guitars/vox), Adam Henderson (guitars/vox), and Chris Cuhne (drums) willing to explain a few things about the monster they created.
Max: We’re good, writing this at a venue in Little Rock, AR called the Rev Room, it smells strange in here. But one week into tour, no deaths, and people are coming out.
Chris: Great and excited to be visiting new towns and cities, and also revisiting some of our favorite places like The Lost Well in Austin, TX.
You’re just in the middle of touring the US, how is life on the road? Any weird/cool things happened?
Max: Tour has been great, I feel like this is our first tour with substance, touring in support of a record, being a support band on a small stint of shows with Maruta which were all incredible, lots of great things to look forward too as well, playing with Complete (yeah that band) Dead to a Dying World, Barghest, Author & Punisher, and many more bands that were all stoked to see. Strange things? Well we did just play a Halloween party in Atlanta at what I think was a pseudo squat run by an all-chick gang who raised money for animal shelters. Homemade stage, no PA, generator, gnarly strange 4th ward Atlanta people, just an overall shit show, which we’re fond of. Also got a free hunk of hash from a drifter in Chattanooga, TN. I’m sure the next three weeks will be noteworthy, maybe check back? Haha.
Chris: Lots of vanity plates that don’t seem to make any sense.
Adam: Life on the road has been and continues to be equally rewarding and exhausting. To this point nothing too strange or out of the ordinary thus far; however; our day-to-day experiences tend to be pretty weird/cool so it’s all a matter of perspective really.
Max: First off, I love touring. it’s something so unique that it doesn’t really have an explanation, to consider yourself worthy enough to perform each night in front of 5 people, or 40,000. I can’t imagine touring as any musician has ever had a reason behind it, besides playing music and loving your passion. We’ve toured many moons since beginning this project, we play lots of mixed gigs, lots of nights with a sound guy and the bartender staring at you intensely, nobody in attendance, but as a small band, that is just more fuel to try and play better the next night. But would I recommend it? I probably wouldn’t recommend it, but never attempt to dissuade someone from pulling off a tour.
Chris: Touring for a band our size means something different every night. One night is a small bar, the next is a house show, another will be a community center. We like the diversity of crowds that comes with that. We aren’t just performing alongside grind/metal acts. We’ve shared bills with pop, noise, ambient, indie, etc. which is great and exposes us to people who might not be familiar with our sound. or bands with similar sounds and actually have had great success “getting over” to crowds outside the extreme music niche.
Adam: It is nice to travel in small numbers, less weight in the van, less mouths to feed on the daily, less heads on the blunt. The lack of characters to interact with in close quarters tends to drag on once you’ve been on the road for a while, but in contrast it also allows for time to reaffirm the connections that brought your band mates and yourself together in the first place.
How ambitious are you with this band? I mean this is definitely not for everyone. In fact, even most heavy music listeners find it quite hard to listen to! What is your aim though? Do you have a target audience for example?
Max: I think at this point we’d consider ourselves ambitious. It took months to book this tour with little help, we’ve obviously had to take a large amount of time off from our jobs, luckily we all work in industries that allow this time off to do what we love. I grew up listening to lots of bad music, but no shame, I was raised in a culture that didn’t exactly provide outlets for me to learn about music or anything really aside from raising a family. I think that growing up the way I did – confused, naïve, but eager to play my guitar, or other instruments, with little to no direction – it may be possible that’s who I’m after as an audience: the people who are as curious about music as I am. Fans and musicians who try to dismantle a genre and reimagine it, regardless of the consequence of it being good or bad. I believe it’s my main drive to create strange grind/blackened/death/doom or the many other genres Dendritic has been labeled. I’m totally into bands like Deathspell Omega or Antediluvian because they seem to be pushing hard against a strict tradition in black metal to again reimagine its sound. But I also listen to a number of different styles, more than I can count, so influence comes from multiple perspectives, whether that’s my creative contribution to the band melding into the other 4 people in our band. Don’t get me wrong, traditional-sounding music still slays, and has a strong place in metal, but my approach is a bit more liberal I suppose.
Chris: We write and perform what we wish to hear ourselves. Our ambitions are to keep the sound from becoming formulaic.
Adam: We are very ambitious towards this project. The aim honestly is to write music that we collectively assume nobody will like and then act all surprised when the incubation phase passes and thus we are welcomed by a whole new creature. Our target audience is the entire human race, animals, some plants and mineral deposits, aliens, alien plans and mineral deposits and fictional creatures (ie. Zeus, Dracula, Howard the Duck, etc.).
Max: That title is really only ironic on account of being a metal band, and that title is very not metal, haha. To be honest the album has so much to do with sexual behavior that to me it almost is too clear of an answer. Most of the lyrics point to relationships, and how easily it is to exploit them. Romance has more passion than it does heart, and vice versa when it comes to love. To be romantically in love, in my opinion, is a dangerous and almost cruel emotion.
Chris: It is not meant to be ironic. Working titles were “Sex” and “Blooming Amygdala”. Romantic Love was chosen as words to use for its relation to passionate feelings of love AND hate, which have their chemical beginning in the same brain center of the amygdala.
Can you explain what being from Pittsburgh means to Dendritic Arbor, in what way did the place you grew up in shape you musically/politically/socially?
Max: Well I was born in New Mexico but ended up in Pittsburgh in 2004 for college. But I still feel like it’s where I’m from, and I consider it home. It’s a tough city, with a great group of musicians backing it up, we had a band in the early days, but it wasn’t until after college that I began to understand the city, it’s grueling, by choice. Glad to see lately how much it’s changed in contrast to my progression. It’s almost a parallel. Grassroots are a staple in the rust belt, and I love how hard people work in a city that is on its way up. I tend to stay away from politics anymore, but Pittsburgh seems to have a decent amount of concern for more progressive ideas.
Chris: Pittsburgh is an amazing city to live in and be from. The music scene in Pittsburgh is so strong and together and has been since we’ve all been performing in bands. We came up at a time when there were some absolutely crushing bands (there still are) like Circle of Dead Children, Creation is Crucifixion, Commit Suicide, also a lot of what was going on with Willowtip Records which is headquartered outside the city. Heavy and extreme music has always dominated Pittsburgh’s underground scene.
Adam: Being from Pittsburgh means that we’re from Pittsburgh, just like being from Kokomo would mean we were a band that is from Kokomo. Growing up in Pittsburgh has blessed us (and continues to daily) with many amazing musical acts to embrace; however, with personal motives like complete auditory malevolence, such things as region, belief, attitude, food preference, desired personal weight, etc. are irrelevant.
Is there a heavy scene to speak of in Pittsburgh? Could you recommend any bands?
Max: Well on that note, I think Pittsburgh has a great thing going, lots of shows, probably about 6 out of 7 days a week. When I first moved here, bands like Circle of Dead Children, Creation is Crucifixion, Complete Failure, The Pax Cecilia, we’re all doing such insane stuff, but there seemed to be a gap in excitement. Kids seem to be coming out again, and the stagnant nature of shows nowadays seems pretty distant from our scene. Bands that really deserve my praise are Wrought Iron, No Reason to Live, Radon Chong, Lost Realms, Gothmog, Tartarus, Night Vapor, Microwaves.
Chris: There is a thriving heavy scene in Pittsburgh with great shows by local and national acts every night. As far as some current local heavies I’d have to mention Wrought Iron, Slaves BC, Egality, Lady Beast, Wrath Cobra, Ed Hoculi, Night Vapor, Eel…too many to list. Experimental and avant-garde are also two scenes that do well in Pittsburgh.
Adam: Yes. I really like Bear Skull.
Max: Well yeah, we really wanted to record with our friend Dave Cerminara before he moved to LA, so he cuts us a small deal and we recorded some stuff that didn’t make Romantic Love and some new stuff. Sentient Village, Obsolescent Garden is a very fast, very aggressive sound for us, the recording quality is obviously noticeable, but lends a hand to the obscurity that is some of our riffs. 4 tracks of pretty strange stuff with some electronics as well, which we’ve recently been able to incorporate live much more. We’re very excited for people to hear it, and also what we have up our sleeve for 2016, since we’ve already recorded for a forthcoming split.
Chris: We are about to release our second recording of 2015, Sentient Village, Obsolescent Garden on December 28. It’s still fucked up and noisy, yet significantly more “produced” than Romantic Love which was a deliberate decision of ours to be able to create certain textures and moods. Whereas Romantic Love was recorded in one day, the new one was recorded in five days.
Adam: Twenty-odd of the more puzzling minutes you could choose to spend your day on.
Is the EP the most suitable release form for your band? It seems to me that it makes the experience more “bearable” for the listener, is that your aim? Or would you rather have recorded a humongous 70 minutes magnum opus…?
Max: Actually that is almost exactly why we only have released short records, our music is more digestible with a short running time, I sure as hell know that I am usually bored with a record no matter the band 40 minutes in. I know I’m not speaking for everyone, that kind is riffage also has a place, but live or on recording, I prefer a smaller sample size than a large portion. It also allows us to experiment with noise without boring the listener, I really enjoy some of the soundscapes on this release, the contrast between chaos and harmony is my favorite part of making this music.
Chris: We have never waited long after writing a song before demoing and recording it. We’re more, I think, interested in getting our ideas together and getting them to a listening audience quickly than going into a studio over months at a time and perfecting some “magnum opus”. The idea of lots of shorter, small run releases is interesting. We’ll try to keep ’em coming!
Adam: Both are nice. It is good to give people something short and sweet so they can focus on the dynamics between passages and hymns, as well it makes for an easier run-through if you so choose to evaluate the music more thoroughly. It would also be a pleasure to write a whole suite, many parts, many phases, I guess only time will tell?
Which takes me to the final question; if you had unlimited time and unlimited budget, what would Dendritic Arbor do with it? Who would you hire, which tours would you be on, etc…
Max: Unlimited funds? Jeesh, well I have a feeling we’d break up, haha. Struggling as a band makes it worth it. Although if we’re dreaming, I’d buy about 15 pounds of herb, a tour bus, and beg Rush to let us do a tour with them.
Chris: We’d buy a lot of weed.