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The guttural pursuits of sonic terrorists: an interview with The Sediment Club

Interview by Tamim AlnuweiriPhotos by Luis Lucio at Nick van Woert’s studio.

Writing about The Sediment Club feels like a futile mission. Not that they’re not worth waxing poetic about but everyone besides them does a disservice by trying to talk about them. For 10 years they’ve been a band unencumbered and unaffected by the changing tides of music hipness in New York’s music scene. They’ve just continued to make loud, chaotic, and abrasive noise rock even during periods when that was out of favor.

And they are confrontational, though not in the pseudo-symbolic way that everyone and their mother spitting fake blood over their naked bodies is. It’s a sort of ruminative aggression and confrontation. Less about outward chaos and more about forcing uncomfortable levels of self reflection—forcing you to confront yourself and the way you’ve participated in some of the more shallowing givings of the socio-political structure. Listening to them you end up face to face with the parts of yourself that are grossly hypocritical.

During a time when everyone seems to be moving further and further into the chaos of noise, The Sediment Club (like other stalwarts of noise The Dreebs and A Place To Bury Strangers) has moved more to the middle. Stucco Thieves is as disarming as anything the band has ever done but instead of being a punch to the gut it’s more like sitting under the slow and constant drip drop of a leaking pipe. Stucco Thieves is a sonic universe that swallows you whole without hesitation.

How do you guys feel about interviews? Do you ever get annoyed at the questions?

Austin Julien-Sley: Well, if something’s crazy, we’ll just answer crazy. If something’s cool, we’ll answer cool. I don’t know, we’re nice people I think.

You are nice people. It’s funny, the contrast between your personalities and your music. The music is intense and sometimes difficult to listen to. It’s not like easy jazz elevator music.

Austin: We gotta compensate. I guess like there’s been a few things that are irritating like they’ll spell Lazar’s name wrong or say we’re from Boston—stuff like that. We don’t say anything.

That’s the fucking weirdest thing—I feel like you guys are always the New York band.

Lazar Bozic: We’re so New York we’re from Boston [laughs]

That’s mean. Someone has it out for you. No one wants to be from Boston, no one even wants to fucking visit Boston. It’s not that chill. So, you guys feel like you get like extra…I don’t know what the word is— street cred? Because you’re actually from New York?

Austin: I feel like the Dreebs, when we met them they were like “Y’all are like, from New York,” like Adam made a point to tell us that. We’re not spewing pizza or anything.

Lazar: And yet, it runs in our blood [laughs]

Austin: I mean, it is a distinction to be actually from here, you know? The music scene is pretty dominated by transplants. It’s a city that has always been here to accommodate people from all over the world, but it does say something to the climate.

Jackie McDermott: People take some pride in it, for sure. I’m not somebody to blow an airhorn about it but I definitely take some pride in it and specifically about the band.

So this new album Stucco Thieves, it also marks 10 years for your guys as a band in New York, and honestly it’s tough to survive for that long—people usually break up by then, but you guys are doing a great job not breaking up.

Lazar: Thank you [laughs]. It’s been difficult of course but we were actually just talking to someone about this the other day. We have been lucky to have enough people captivated and let us keep playing. That is something we’re super privileged to have—people still wanna listen to our music for some reason. But each of us have also had a healthy distance from the band, which has definitely contributed to longevity. We do other projects and have lived away from New York for periods of time. We have commitments to partners and family that take us away from the band so that has actually been really helpful in keeping the band vital and keeping our interests captivated internally.

Austin: In terms of surviving in the New York scene or whatever, it’s been nice that in the past 4 years dissonant music has become more accepted. When we started as a band, it was confrontational and not in a very cool way. I feel like people just didn’t really—we’ve always had friends that very much supported us but for the most part we would play shows that would upset people. It comes with the territory of what we’re doing but I do think that the climate in the world is calling for more dissonant art and music and people.

The landscape has changed so much and is now way more accepting of noise. Right now there are also a ton of bands being more confrontational both in their music and physically in their performance whereas like 6 years ago that shit was not happening. How is it to exist in this new territory that’s more accepting of what you’ve always been doing?

Austin: Everyone should be really honest and confrontational. There’s enough room for everyone to do it. What we do is honest and succinct to how we feel. It’s not really a conversation with what other people in the music scene are doing. We all came together in a very organic way and strive to write organically. There are definitely people that you can see that their art is not genuine and you can see how they’re adapting to the scene and the tides. But everyone should be really loud and confrontational—just duke it out in the world, it doesn’t really matter to me. If someone is making disingenuous loud noisy art it’s kind of like yeah do it—I mean otherwise they could be making quiet ingenuine beach music or whatever and that, to me, is much more offensive. More and more people are willing to support it and maybe that’s a good tide. Again, we’re on our own creative path of creating angular dissonance and emotional, good art or whatever.

Do you think authenticity is a requirement for art or do you think it can exist without it?

Jackie: I often feel like disingenuous people make genuinely good art and that’s something I gotta contend with a lot. But I still put value on something that really bleeds—that’s exciting to me. But there are things that I can value knowing that authenticity is not at its core.

Lazar: I know personally I’m constantly struggling with the fact like, Am I a genuine person? Am I an authentic artist? Like, what’s my word here? What’s my place? So obviously we all judge people and we judge bands and artists and whatever and scenes and venues, but I try to remind myself too —I struggle with my own identity constantly and whether or not I’m authentic enough, so I try hard not to judge people but sometimes there’s bozos and sometimes there’s good and sometimes there’s bad.

Do you guys think that your music has gotten more accessible or do you think that the music culture has changed to where it seems more accessible?

Austin: I feel like a mixture of both and also like kind of an ebb and flow of it. Our last record is much more extreme. With this one we kind made a conscious move to make more it more straightforward, whatever the hell that means. More songs, less chaos, but we’re always mixing those two things. It’s all kind of grey soup and we have nice friends and more people have been nicer to us. I’d say in the beginning, I was an artist that wanted to be loud and confrontational with people so I started playing guitar.

Do you think that this is your most accessible record?

Jackie: I think without having to talk about it too much we kind of just like aligned on what was most compelling to all of us at the moment—it felt like a nice alignment of wanting to write a record that was still abrasive-sounding but with more accessible songs. I think when we started writing, it just started coming out that way and it felt really good.

Do you think it’s a reaction to the world feeling like, more fucked up and chaotic? Making music that’s a little softer in response to it. Or do you think it’s potentially a reaction to everyone else moving more into the noise territory?

Lazar: If anything, it’s all subconscious. We talk about everything, we talk about the world, we talk about politics, we talk about scene politics but it was more of just about what kind of music we wanted to write and explore without really thinking.

Austin: I think like at least in writing lyrics and thinking about songs for this record—you can’t not be influenced by the world and what’s going on. I definitely have it on my mind and I’d say socially and politically a lot of what’s happening is reflected in these songs. In terms of my personal creative input, I definitely think it was pretty social-political. People in groups tend to scare me, human beings interest me—I mean that’s why pithy music or music that doesn’t come across well is offensive because it all reflects what’s happening. You can not make a statement but if your statement is like “chill out, man! That’s too much, you gotta calm down,” it’s an offensive statement to anyone that’s suffering or having a hard time.

Where did Stucco Thieves come from?

Austin: There’s a really cool book called “A Fine and Private Place” and it’s about a guy who moves into a cemetery and starts seeing ghosts. It’s this really beautiful trajectory of like how ghosts finalize their lives in death and what ghosts really are. But it starts with this kind of imagery about the Bronx housing projects and stucco material. The imagery brought me to this narrative about espionage in a housing project and that’s where the song “Stucco Thieves” comes from. It’s this hapless spy in this caustic disaster landscape and that’s where the record lives. It comes from all kinds of influences just anything you can get your hands on in order to make something happen. Intellectual pursuits are really important and I like them, but guttural pursuits are really important too.

What’s the most surprising thing you found yourself bizarrely, I don’t know like have you ever heard a Justin Bieber song and just been like wait, is there something here?

Lazar: For sure, Jack and I love to listen to like Top 40 radio when we’re on tour. torturing Austin most of the time. I stole a bassline from this metal band called Asbestos Death which is something I used to love in high school—I still appreciate but it is funny to take something from this hardcore metal band but they had this intro and I just totally ripped them off which I guess is probably not like the most shocking thing in the world [laughs]

Jackie: I stole a beat from a Tears for Fears song.

No Taylor Swift though or anything? She’s like a sonic terrorist

Jackie: The guttural pursuits of a sonic terrorist [laughs]

Austin: I saw Aaron Carter on tour once. I played a show at Athens, Ohio the university there and he was playing during the day at the quad. I went and it was really surreal and terrifying. This is 2014—he had this comeback tour because I think he had run out of money. There’s a very sad element to it but it was very surreal. He was doing this PR thing where he’s serving icees with syrup but he had the icees someone else had the syrup and people were just so starstruck, eating plain ice from him like “Aaron Carter’s amazing!” Eating ice in this really bro-y frat quad or whatever, it was so terrifying.

I feel like those situations are when I’m like most scared of humanity because I’m like if all of these fuckers are here for this mayonnaise hard boiled egg what the fuck are they capable of? Murdering someone? But okay, is that the most offensive type of music in general? Or is it like surf rock?

Austin: Kenny G is pretty fucking offensive. I understand myself as being partial and I like things a lot of people don’t like so I’m not about to rank anything, except for Kenny G. I think that’s terrible. I can’t, I got it out for Kenny G.

I don’t know if I could identify Kenny G, or something by him

Austin: He plays the flute over elevator music. There’s some pretty offensive contemporary music, but again I would play a show with any of those people, like Taylor Swift or something I would do it. There’s enough room in the world for all these dumb people. I’m happy to have a conversation.

How do you guys feel about like what’s going on with music right now like in New York?

Austin: There’s a lot of really amazing music, it’s just there’s not a cohesive network comparable to other times in history when it’s been really easy to be an artist in New York. Right now in general in America, financially you can’t support yourself. You can’t openly collaborate with people, you have no free time and you’re just like a corporate cog. It’s a different climate but we’re all young people and just have to adapt. New York is not the same and if you’re an artist I don’t see why you should move to New York, there’s a lot of really great people here but there’s great people all over the country.

Are you sure? You saw the election, are there great people all over the country?

Austin: They’re spread out. Well we have a lot of friends like this band Buck Gooter and they’re our good friends they’re from like Harrisonburg, Virginia. Without them, like …it’s like a small town full of, half full of kind of aggressive white people that I’d be kind of afraid of but those people are genuine and beautiful. There’s good art all over the country, I’d say. I think in New York’s history it’s been like a thing to move to New York because you have to or should, and I don’t get it. I just took four months of a break from being in New York and even in that time, more and more people are being jammed in a pretty poorly urban-designed area like North Brooklyn, and it’s just gonna fucking collapse. And all these people are gonna get tired of living really shitty cramped lives and they’re gonna move back to their comfort zones wherever they came from. That’s what happened with Harlem in the 20s and it will happen again and again. When something becomes popular, people with money want it, and that’s the capitalism we’ve all been stirred up in.

Lazar: New York has always been a city of immigrants. Both my parents are European, it is important to accept people that come here that are not born and raised in New York or America are different. It’s just always made this city so beautiful and it is the diversity and the difference of backgrounds, the difference of culture. That being said, there’s a big difference between people that come here genuinely seeking that, that come here with good intentions, and the people that are here just to buy into culture with their trust fund or fucking NYU education. So when Austin is railing against that just to be clear we are not people that are like “if you’re not from New York, go the fuck back home.” Of course not. All of our parents come from different places, and we all understand this history and legacy of what New York is and why it is special, but it is these leeches that come here, and they’re also gonna leave in three, four years, and just leave debris with full impunity.

Stucco Thieves is out today on Wharf Cat Records. Find The Sediment Club on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The Sediment Club play a joint record release show with The Dreebs on May 31st, tickets and details here.

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