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Interview

The Members Of Arbogast Discuss Their New Album "I"

Chicago’s Arbogast is not the kind of band that engages in the conventional nature of metal. Their sound is hard to pinpoint, sounding like a thrashy take on punk one song, and then a sludgy mess on another. Pulling their cues from many different influences helps them retain a sound that can be defined as their own. Arbogast makes the most out of it on their debut album “I,” which was released back in last December. It was largely overlooked, stuck in the space between end-of-year lists and building anticipation for 2013’s releases. I had the opportunity to speak to all three members of Argogast - bassist/vocalist Aaron Roemig, guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheid, and drummer Mike Rataj - about the creation of “I” and finding a balance between all the different styles the music pools from.

The band’s new album, “I,” came out last December. What can somebody expect from diving into this album for the first time?

Aaron Roemig: We go fast, we go slow. Definitely elements of thrash, old-school punk, and then coming from the Chicago land area, we got a lot of post-rock. We’re kind of infusing all that. That’s my impression of it, with the ultra-aggressive vocals.

Mike Rataj: Just keep an open mind (laughs).

Mike Scheid: Keep track of how much longer each song is, because it’s hard to tell with this one. Personally, on this record, it all kind of runs together, so it’s hard to tell where it starts and it ends. I like that, but it was hard to pin down which song you’re listening to. At least for me it was.

Was that the band’s intention when you guys started to put this album together, to make it into one seamless listen?

Mike Scheid: Seamless could be the word for what we were going for, but we were trying to make it all flow together. The content isn’t very theatrical, but just something that was one flowing body than a bunch of songs stuck together.

Aaron Roemig: Yeah, we came at it where we wrote it all together, and wanted it to be one cohesive piece. A lot of those parts had been around for a while, but we put our minds to it and set a goal that we would record by the summer, and that was in February of 2012. We just dedicated our time to put an album together and take all the riffs that were just kind of floating out there and bring them together, and then trying to make sense of it all. The words and the vocals were definitely the afterthought for the album, in my opinion.

To any of you guys, do the words still have a purpose in the album as a whole, or does the music drive everything forward?

Aaron Roemig: We always had an idea of the concept of what we were going after. The storyline, or whatever, we knew what it was going to be, but we waited until the music was all together before we started to craft that. I guess some of it was creeping along different melodies and stuff.

Mike Scheid: To elaborate on it, from my perspective, the lyrics and the ideas and the imagery, they flow like a story, just like the music does. That’s what I think. We did come up with a lot of the lyrics last minute and a lot of vocals were nailed down almost in the studio.

Since you guys have so many styles and sounds that you infuse into the band’s sound, how long did it take you guys to find a balance between everything?

Mike Scheid: I think when we first started playing, it happened naturally just because we were jamming on so many different feels. Our songs have always been back-and-forth and all around. I don’t know if it’s because we get sick of playing the same things for too long. It was a little hard at first, but it has come real natural at this point. I think repetition and listening to a lot of different stuff, and jamming a lot of different parts, with a wide variety of dynamics, just gradually fit together.

Aaron Roemig: I would say to answer that, it did take a while for us to evolve into this sound, which is hard for us to define. I think a lot of it comes from our influences. I know at the beginning, things were a little bit different, and we learned to kind of play off of our strong suits. I think the influences of the band, from me anyway, directly come from what I’m listening to that week, that month. It’s constantly changing, what I’m into. It’s all heavy, it’s splitting hairs, but there’s a lot of different styles and genres incorporated into the stuff we’re listening to.

Mike Rataj: I think the other thing is, we also didn’t decide to be one particular band. We just decided to elaborate on bands that are our influences. Trying not to pigeonhole ourselves as one thing has allowed ourselves to really explore all of our influences.

Do each of you guys bring your own influences into the band, or do you all have similar tastes?

Mike Scheid: We all agree on a lot, but we definitely have our own side interests. It’s cool because we share that with each other.

Aaron Roemig: I would say definitely we all bring our own thing to the table, and that’s what makes us unique. We all do agree on a lot of stuff, and that’s what brought us together. We met going to a Mastodon show back in 2006 when I moved back to Chicago, and just talking from there, next thing we’re talking about Propagandhi and old-school punk and Black Flag and stuff like that. There’s definitely solidarity with that kind of stuff, and some of the more contemporary stuff that I think we’re all into, like Baroness and Torche.

Did you find that these 11 songs on “I” came together quickly, or did it take some time to really fine-tune each song?

Aaron Roemig: We definitely took some time to flesh it out. Some stuff when we write is that either Scheid or I will come to practice with a riff or two, and then we’ll rip on them and jam on them until it turns into something. Sometimes, we have more whole pieces that we’ll bring to the table. Everything, in my opinion, is open for rearranging and adding more onto it. I think we definitely do take our time. Shit gets rearranged, shit gets dropped; we’ll play it for a month and just realize, ‘That’s stupid.’ We probably dick around way too much (laughs).

Is there any particular song on this album that went through so many particular changes that the first time you guys played it is way different from the studio version?

Aaron Roemig: The first two, we got the intro keyboard thing, that was actually a guitar and a full band thing. First it got dropped completely, then it brought back in half time, and then it got brought back with keys. That one definitely almost didn’t make it. The second one, “Final Throes,” I feel that definitely got chopped up and mixed around quite a bit. “Forming the Flock” was two different songs, and we ended up putting them together, and it just worked. I had some of the riffs for “Dethroned” and brought them in and me and Scheid rearranged that.

Mike Scheid: I can give you two. “Forming the Flock,” we started jamming on a bunch of riff nonsense that we couldn’t even figure out how to play ourselves, so we dropped it for a while, then we came back to it. That one went through a metamorphous, then we put it on the shelf, and then came back to it. I’m surprised that one turned out to be a song. For me, the instrumental, the last one “Soulsfate,” that one was just a shit load of different stuff.

If you could pick only one song off this album that would represent what you’re trying to get across with this band, which song would it be?

Aaron Roemig: I really dig “Blasfamous.” That was one of the first ones we completely put together for the album. With “Forming the Flock,” a lot of the lyrical imagery embodies the album as a whole. I dig that we get really sludgy on it. Between those two for me.

Mike Rataj: “Forming the Flock” we’re actually making an animated video for that one, so we’re trying to put that out to embody the album with the themes we’re using of the flock, etc. I think I have to agree with Aaron; that or “Blasfamous” kind of embody what we want to do.

Can you tell me a little more about that video for “Forming the Flock”?

Aaron Roemig: We’ve actually only seen a few stills of it so far, but we’re really stoked. It looks pretty cool. I think he was saying hopefully by April we should have something together. It’ll be basically some animation, with a little bit of live footage cut in-between.

How much touring is the band looking to do in 2013 in support of “I”?

Aaron Roemig: As much as we can do. We do have jobs and stuff, so there’s that, but in the first week of April, we’re heading out east. Right now, we have Philly booked on the 4th at Kung Fu Necktie with this band Carved Up, the 5th is Brooklyn, and the 6th is going to be at Asbury Lanes in NJ. Then I’m trying to line up a few more dates. That should be our little jog out east. We play Chicago about once a month, but we’re going to do some Midwestern dates. After that, probably close to the summer time, we’re going to do Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Iowa and St. Louis. We’re talking about the Southeast over Labor Day weekend: Georgia, Florida, and somewhere around Nashville. Hopefully, we’ll be recording again towards the end of the year. We keep getting offers for shows at all these rad places, like Las Vegas and Portland and Seattle, but it’s just figuring it all out (laughs).

As you guys play these songs live, or rehearse them, have you noticed them evolve from what the studio version sounds like?

Aaron Roemig: So far, I think we’re sticking pretty true to the studio album. A lot of it we kind of worked it out before we got in the studio. There’s always a tendency for this project to play faster live, so that’s the only evolution I see.

What is your idea of the perfect live show?

Aaron Roemig: I’m like old-school DIY kind of grind dude...just a little bit of dim lighting. No bullshit; just dudes who knew how to play their instruments and play them loud. That’s my ideal live show; a lot of energy, a lot of people, loud amps, good sound. That’s all I need.

Mike Scheid: My ideal show is something similar to that. I think the smaller the place filled to the gills is a better time than a big place that’s like half filled. Try to play to places that fit. We’ve had some pretty good crowds. We’ve also done big places that weren’t so fill.

Mike Rataj: For me, it’s the same kind of idea. It’s more how many people are going to appreciate it and enjoy it. I’m okay with stages or the floor, but good sound where you can get a nice thickness tune and a bunch of people who are there to hear a bunch of other good bands. I think that’s what makes the best shows; bands with similar energies that can help fill up the bill and complement each other, instead of just the same thing. I think the line up also helps the perfect show.

Aaron Roemig: That was a good point. A perfect show would be people that want to be there, not people who are foot traffic or dragged their girlfriend’s friends there and they are sulking in the corner. People that are excited to be there and into it and into the moment.

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