Photo by Steven Brown
For nearly three years, sludgy post-metal titans Irreversible were on an indefinite hiatus. Yet somehow it didn’t seem all that long to me. Maybe it was the fact that most of the members remained visibly active in other musical projects with Jacob Franklin, Zach Richards and Spencer Ussery combining to form Isness as well as being heavily involved with sludge rockers Big Jesus (although all three have recently left the band). Or maybe it’s the fact that the group’s diverse and distinctive sound—a thundering mashup of sludge, doom and post-metal combined with ambient soundscapes and electronic experimentation—seems to have been drawn directly from the DNA of the Atlanta underground music scene. But regardless of the reason, after many changes and difficulties, including losing longtime members Ussery and JJ Hodge and making the transition from a quartet to a trio, Irreversible are back with their first record since 2009′s complex and ambitious Light.
Dense and difficult, Ashes retains the same adventurous spirit that has come to define the band’s music. Comprised of four lengthy tracks, the record highlight the band’s ability to interweave bruising riffs, atmospheric synths and off-kilter rhythms and tempos into elaborate, crushingly heavy, and—considering the material—remarkably catchy compositions. With a revamped lineup and renewed focus, the band is once again set to blow minds and crush skulls in our city and beyond.
It’s been a turbulent few years for you all since the release of Light. What were some of your motivations and thoughts as you headed into the studio to record this record?
Over the past three years, the four members that played on Light (Jacob, Zach, JJ and Spencer) explored a few other sounds and projects that lead us in other directions (i.e. Big Jesus, Isness, etc.). Zach and Jacob were encouraged by Speakeasy’s Brannon Boyle to continue Irreversible. Through working with Speakeasy as Isness (which includes our former bassis Spencer Ussery), Zach and Jacob had a built a solid relationship with Brannon and took his advice full force. Upon realizing that playing with JJ was no longer an option, it allowed the band to take on a new form which included Billy from the Sins era.
There was also kind of pressure coming from the sounds that other bands were introducing and attempting to mimic. We wished to deliver a sound that was relevant to our own experience, and not just fabricate songs that sound intense. There are two methods to writing—trying to play like your favorite bands or having real experiences and documenting them with your music.
Talk to me about the recording of the album.
We recorded drums and some vocals with our longtime friend Matt Washburn at his in-home studio, Ledbelly Sound. Everything else we did at home. All guitars, bass and electronics were tracked, mixed and mastered where we live. All of the production was DIY. We just sat down together and tweaked whatever needed tweaking.
In a recent interview, Billy described Ashes as “an interquel between the flow of SIns and the album Light.” Can you elaborate on that thought?
Ashes was conceptualized in early ’07 and initially intended as an EP to be released after Sins. Natural life changes directed us toward writing and recording Light, which was mostly a technical work that stretched our skills. We had to play in every key, in a variety of tempos, with multiple vocal styles, and so on. There is a large, geometric kind of theme to the album, but as we stated in the previous interview, it felt more like our last attempt to hold the band together. Ashes redirects the original intent of the band towards the more intense, straightforward sound.
How has the absence of JJ Hodge affected your music and your songwriting process?
A little different, but the band is still alive and vital. We’ve evolved with Irreversible for years now, and there are times when pruning is required, but it is done by the band, for the purpose of the band’s growth. We have more energy as a three-piece. It’s been great to live and work with each other on something that revives the band’s original intent, in its raw form.
What have been the biggest advantages and disadvantages of making the switch to a trio?
Specialization, for sure. Each of us are able to express our rhythmic, melodic and production skills in our own domain, without having to compromise. It’s been a really fast paced, efficient way to write music and experiment in an effective manner. We also have our own responsibilities concerning film, design and production, so if there were any disadvantages, it’s that we had lots more to do than just play music. It really does make you proud at the end though, to see your film, your artwork, and your production skills mingled in with the music itself.
In many ways, Ashes sounds like an amalgamation of a lot of Atlanta’s heavy music lineage—sludge, doom, thrash, atmospheric post-metal. Is that coincidence or by design?
Maybe an amalgamation of all music that we are into. Atlanta’s music lineage is as influential as the climate or scenery in Atlanta. It kinda goes back to the first question: we are documenting our experience and Atlanta is like our operating system for doing so.
Now that you’ve had the opportunity to let the album soak in, what are your thoughts on the final product?
We’re relieved and excited to see it out and to hear feedback. We had a terrific response at the show and playing the album in its entirety felt great live. It was also unifying to recruit former live members to play some Sins and Age material. The album itself will continue to unfold as with any album, and we’re optimistic about its trajectory.
What’s your favorite club to perform at and why?
529 has a comfortable vibe. Intimate, chill and right down the road.
If you we’re leaving the city forever where would you eat your last meal? What would you have?
Zach Richards: Fifteen of those oatmeal cranberry cookie cream pies from Sevenanda.
Jacob Franklin: Huevos rancheros at Gato Bizco.
Billy Henis: Burnt Fork BBQ.
The best bar in Atlanta is _______________.
ZR: The best is Brickstore, but my favorite is 529.
JF: The Bookhouse.
To put it mildly, there are a lot of wrinkles and nuances to the Atlanta music scene. In your opinion what’s the most unappreciated aspect of the scene?
Too many Feds and too many Christians are too appreciated.
If you could bring back one defunct Atlanta band, who would it be?
ZR: Paid in Blood.
JF: Final Expression.