Interview with Jonathan Carpenter from THE CONTORTIONIST; Touring with @Deftones 3/4/13 in Rochester!!! @tcband @goodfightent
Indianapolis, Indiana quintet The Contortionist is another fine example of A&R selection from Good Fight Music. With the rise of progressive metal in recent years, and no shortage of limber-fingered shredders vying for a higher ranking in the metal food chain, Good Fight continues to show good judgment and support for their artists to help propel them to the forefront of the genre. Kudos!
Currently touring in support of their 2012 release, “Intrinsic,” The Contortionist are providing support for Hatebreed, Shadows Fall, and Dying Fetus during the early part of 2013, and are working very hard to bring their brand of metal to the masses. I caught up with vocalist/keyboardist Jonathan Carpenter prior to their performance in Syracuse, NY on my 35th birthday, February 16th, to discuss their latest release, their plans for 2013, and how touring with Hatebreed and Shadows Fall has been treating them. You can also catch them opening up for Deftones on their Spring Tour coming up in just a few weeks… Score!
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five!
J- Hey no problem, man. Thanks for asking some questions… Sounds great!
G- Absolutely! So, first and foremost, this is going to be my first time getting to check you guys out in a live setting, and I’m not sure if many of our readers are familiar with you yet, so if you could, introduce everybody, tell us what they play, and where does everybody hail from?
J- My name is Jonathan and I do keys and vocals, Cameron Maynard does guitars, Robbie Baka does guitars, Chris Tilley does bass, and Joey Baka does drums. And we are all right now located out of Indianapolis.
G- Right on. And how long has The Contortionist been a band and when did you guys play your first show together?
J- I think the first time that our current lineup played together was in the Summer of 2010, and since then we’ve been basically touring, I’d say, 8-9 months out of the year since then. So it’s been a busy few years, and we’ve gotten a lot tighter as a group since then, but that’s when we first started on our first tour.
G- Nice! Do you remember that moment when you really felt it all click?
J- Oh yeah. Well, yeah. It probably took a couple of tours, I feel like, before I ever felt some sort of comfortability and I felt like ‘Yeah, I’m nailing it!’ I was always pretty hard on myself and kinda wanting to get better all the time and trying to push myself.
G- A vocalist being hard on themselves… that never happens (laughing).
G- So, you hail from Indianapolis… Tell us about the scene out there. I remember Burn it Down from way back when in the 90’s and stuff like that, but how’s the scene right now and how are the responses at your shows?
J- Well, actually, at the current moment, it’d be kinda wrong of me to say that I know much about the scene because we haven’t played there in quite a few months now. So, every time we’ve played there, it’s been a rad show and we’ve got plenty of fans coming out and making it a wild show, so we love playing there. It just hasn’t been on the tour routing… Not in the routing we’ve been on. Unfortunately, I don’t have control over that. I think we’ll be doing a show there very soon.
G- Excellent! Now, you’re currently touring in support of your Good Fight music release, Intrinsic.
G- Can you tell us a bit about the release… Where did you record the album, who was behind the boards for production, and how happy are you about the finished product?
J- We’re really stoked on it! It’s basically an album about everything that’s within the brain and in the mind, and kind of takes a scientific approach to that, sort of metaphysical and, what’s the word… I’d say ‘metaphysical’ would be the best way to describe the approach, some neuroscience or something nerdy like that, if you will. Exit Plan was more of a spacey-type story and Intrinsic is move diving deep into the mind and different oddities and different mechanics of it.
Anyways, we recorded that at Audio Hammer in Florida last year. In February we recorded it, and we released it in June, I believe. I’m not sure (laughs.)
G- And who was twiddling the knobs for you?
J- Ayal Levy, and Jason Sukoff as well there at Audio Hammer.
G- Nice. So, you kind of talked about the metaphysical theme, and this lineup is very diverse with your band, a death metal band, a modern metal band, and a hardcore band… How have you been received on this tour, and what’s it like playing with all of these guys right now?
J- I mean, the crowds is not exactly our normal crowd or something we’ve cultivated much before, so whenever we go out, there’s been some stiffness. You know, some people kinda…
G- Crossed shoulders?
J- Yeah cocking their heads a little bit, but I would say, for the most part, we’ve had a good time on this tour and have seen some pretty energetic crowds. But also, at the same time, like I said, it’s one of those things where you go on a tour that you’re not used to, and you’re going to learn a lot of stuff about your set, and you’re going to learn about the weaknesses of your set a whole lot more than going out and playing to your crowd every night and everyone is pumped no matter what. I can’t say that there’s not value in what we do, whether or not people go crazy every night. It’s ok.
G- It’s hard for a band like The Contortionist to have the fans go crazy when Hatebreed is the headliner.
J- Sure. It’s much more different. It’s a different ballgame.
G- It’s almost an academic approach to the music as opposed to the straight up…
J- Pulsing, heavy approach. You know, it’s one of those things. Some of those people are going to be open-minded to listening other things, and some of them aren’t. But I think it’s cool that we can kinda grab some audience members that we never would. That person probably wouldn’t go to an online store and pick us up because they wouldn’t have found us in the first place. I’ve definitely kind of seen some new fans come up to us and say ‘I really dug your set. I’ve never heard it before.’ A lot of first-timers on this tour, so I enjoy that.
G- Nice! And what else do you guys have in store for 2013? It’s very early and you’ve already started with a pretty big bang…
G- So what else do you have planned?
J- Well, we have an upcoming tour on our way to Metalfest with After The Burial, and then we have some other tours that aren’t announced, but we will be very soon, and we’re really excited about those.
G- Any exclusives for Live High Five? 😉
(By the way, it’s with DEFTONES!)
G- I’m just kidding. It’s ok. Now I would like to know, and this is your personal opinion, but do you have a favorite song you have ever written or that’s most fun for you to perform with The Contortionist or, since you’re exposing yourself to a very large number of new people tonight, if you were to offer someone who’d never heard your band before, what song would you offer them and why?
J- Umm, it’s hard to pick just one, but I’d say maybe… Oof. Just one. Probably “Hollow Movement” which is a single that we released first, just because whenever I listen to it, it’s the one I enjoy the most and I feel like that’s the one that would probably come across smoothly to most listeners, whether or not they’re a prog-head or a metalhead. Maybe not, but I would say that that song would be easiest to take in of our songs.
G- Dig it. Now again, though you’re currently on tour with Hatebreed, Shadows Fall, and Dying Fetus, but are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? To take it a step further, if you could personally curate a feasible 3-bill dream line up…
J- Oh man…
G-… for The Contortionist to be on, who would you select to tour with?
J- Well, concerning this year, I’d say that we’ve got plenty of cool things coming up with bands we look up to, iconic and legendary bands even, so there’s definitely going to be some cool things this year. However, concerning a dream lineup, I would have to…
G- Think big!
J- Oof. Probably… it’s hard to say, because if I pick bands that… I don’t want to pick a band that’ll make us sound like shit, but they probably will anyway, so it’s like what’s a good fit? What would it work good with and not just shame us? All of them would. Ok I’m just gonna pick Meshuggah and Dream Theater.
J- And/or Cynic.
G- And Cynic too?!
J- If I could do 4, that’d be great!
G- No that’s good! Three bands and you guys… That’s great!
J- That’d be a very fitting lineup.
G- Meshuggah and Dream Theater on the same bill. Damn!
J- And/or BTBAM. But it’s hard. It’s hard to… If we could do a 5-band lineup, I’d be happy. But 4, hmmm. It’s hard to say.
G- I just saw the Meshuggah tour opener and you guys are better than the opner they had, so I’m fully in support of that.
Now, though you’ve probably had some wild ones on this tour, do you have a particularly memorable show that you have played to date as The Contortionist? Where was it and what was it like?
J- Favorite show? One that stands out in my mind actually was… Lemme know. Oh, it was on the Periphery tour with The Human Abstract and Textures, but we played in Canada. We played in Torontoand it was like the sickest show ever for us.
G- What venue?
J- It was The Rockpile I believe. Also cool was either Intervals or… There was a band that opened for us on that tour that we toured with the next year, which would’ve been this past year, 2012, so I think that show may have been 2011. Either way, it was 2012 Intrinsic headliner, and I think that was one of my favorite shows in recent memory.
G- Any good Poutine while you were up there in Canada?
J- Yeah rock the poutine sometimes. We go for it. It can have dire consequences, but we go for it.
G- Yeah traveling in a van after eating fries, cheese curds and gravy…
J- Bouncing around, man. It’s no good. You gotta have it earlier on.
G- (laughing) Right?! Well lastly, to finish up today, as a band that is still building and making a name in the music industry, there are kids out there who want to do this, and the music dream will never die. You guys are currently on the upswing and making it happen for yourselves, so what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands that want to try to go on the road, and become a professional musician like yourself?
J- I would say that the main focus for any band, no matter where they are right now, whether or not they’ve done any kind of weekend warrior stuff where you do 2-3 days in a row, or they’ve done little mini-tours… Whatever stage you’re at, or if you’re just beginning, I’d say that the main focus should be learning and creating a really tight set that you can perform in front of an audience every night. Whether or not you’re touring, you don’t have to tour, but if everyone practices equally and you’re all on the same page, I’d say that’ sone of the most important aspects of a band. When you go to see them live, just the tightness of the set, whether it’s sloppy music or tight and technical music, I would say, for any band, you should just keep it tight and practiced, and that’s what you should focus on. Then people will come to you and like what you’re doing… If you’re practiced. I’d say that’s an important tip.
G- Dig it. Well look, very excited to see you guys today! You have one more day left on this tour… Travel safe and play well!
J- Thanks, man. Appreciate that!
G- No problem!