Interview: A Hero A Fake and the Joys of Metalcore and Mosh Pits
Posted Wednesday, August 01, 2012 3:25 PM
The band A Hero A Fake meet their demise at the hands of a supermodel armed with scissors, tree branches, and a wooden plank. There’s a lot of blood — little is left to the imagination.
You can’t say they didn’t warn you. There’s a message scrolled at the beginning of the music video for their new single, “Dead and Done,” that’s read aloud by the ominous voice of the narrator: “Tonight’s presentation,” we’re told in capital letters, “contains depictions of human horror and the atrocities commited [sic] during the violent massacre of A Hero A Fake one evening in June. Parental discretion is advised for the young or sensitive viewer.”
Their music is every bit as intense as their videos. They just released their third album, The Future Again, which is, in its entirety, 27-minutes of nonstop, full-throttle metalcore and more. While metalcore is typically defined as a fusion of extreme metal and hardcore punk, A Hero A Fake borrow from a variety of genres and subgenres. Their music boasts both the screaming and/or growling usually associated with metal, as well as the softer harmonizing reminiscent of thrashcore or skate punk.
Guitarist Patrick Jeffers, who has been performing with the band since 2006, spoke with Highbrow Magazine in July. Like the band’s founding members, Justin Brown and Eric Morgan, Jeffers is a North Carolina native and speaks with the plucky, genial dialect of that region.
Did living in North Carolina influence your music?
It did. It forced me to listen to bands like Between the Buried and Me and the other local bands. There are a lot of North Carolina bands, [and] if you listen to all the stuff they write, there's a very similar style. It's hard to define. There’s just something different about the North Carolina metal scene.
When it comes to metal music, there are so many subgenres and fusions and influences. Your band has been categorized as metalcore, but it seems that there are more influences at work.
There is. We’ve all brought influences from all over the board. It just depends on the song we’re writing, or the kind of idea we have. Sometimes it’ll come off as something more thrashy pop, some parts are real melodic and technical.
Guitarist Eric Morgan once described the band as “nerds who love to play heavy music.”
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s true. Starting out, we used a lot more kind of mathy, technical parts. But we’ve always just been nerds.
I recently learned about the mathcore genre. Was it anything like that?
That’s not really what we do. I always thought of mathcore as...it’s a band that will try to make [their music out of] the most obscure time signatures [and] crazy technical parts. [We] can’t really get into that, that’s why we never went down that road.
So with mathcore it’s the obscurity that makes it what it is.
Yeah. You have to be super talented [to be in] that market.
Do your parents listen to your music?
They do. They still can’t get over the screaming thing. That’s a generational deal, I believe. If I had a nickel for every time I hear that. [In old creaky, voice] “Well, you know, listened to that new song you put up and, it’s all good except for that screamin’!”
As I was listening to your album, I couldn’t help but wonder how your vocalist protects his voice. Is there a technique?
There is. There’s a video that just about every screamer knows, a vocal coach lady that goes over this vocal technique where it won’t harm your voice and lets you use your voice from night to night. If you do it wrong, you can get scars from it and it’ll mess up your voice and you’ll have to get surgery. If you do it wrong, it’ll catch up to you. I can’t do it, it’s kind of hard for me to explain. I don’t really understand how it works.
Is there a distinction between screaming and growling?
It just refers to different ranges. If they're singing something real high, they call it a scream. If they try to go into lower registers, they call it a growl.
Who writes your lyrics?
[Vocalist] Justin [Brown].
Is there any kind of collaboration?
Occasionally we'll collaborate a little bit. But mostly it's just Justin.
What comes first: the lyrics or the music?
It starts with the music. The guitarist will come up with a riff or an idea, and run it by the other guy. Then the other guy will change things around and add to it. Then we’ll build up a few different parts that we want to work in, not really sure how we’re gonna transition on them or anything like that. Then we’ll bring it in to the drummer, and Evan [Kirkley] will go over it with us, and we’ll just work back and forth until we’re happy with what we have. It’s usually after we get all of the music done that [Justin] hands us full lyrics for it, and starts working out his rhythms and stuff like that. Generally, our lyrics come in last.
Within the metal genre, the role of the guitar and the singer’s tone of voice seem to more important than the lyrics.
There [are] some bands that no matter how hard you try, you can’t understand what they’re saying. A lot goes into just the feel and how it works with the rest of the music.
Do you understand the lyrics of other bands?
Most of the bands that I listen to, I can understand what they’re saying. Over time, I’ve developed that skill I guess. You listen to it long enough, you start to know what they’re saying.
Do you listen to much non-metal music?
Every once in a while, I venture off a little bit. Sometimes you’re just way to tired for heavy metal.
Do you draw inspiration from other art forms, like film?
Um. I’m. Not really. [Laughs] It never really did much for me. There’s no other form of art that speaks to me. I know Justin is way more inspired by writing and stuff like that.
I guess the reason I mention film is because your music videos for “I Know I” and “Dead and Done” have a torture-porn sensibility.
As far as the horror theme, I think it’s just a coincidence. What happens is, we pick a song and then we pitch that out for a music video. Whoever’s producing the video comes up with the treatment. Generally, that’s what ends up happening. It’s gonna be a bloody video. Couldn’t tell you why, but that’s just what happens. We always wanna do a party video or something. But they [say], “No, you’re lyrics are way serious. It’s gotta be serious.”
So you get stuck with the blood and needles and the faces getting smashed in.
Yeah, it’s not bad. It’s definitely a lot of fun to make.
How often do mosh pits get out of control?
Pretty often. Depends who we’re touring with. We went out with Attila, this was before Attila really blew up, and even then [they had] huge crowds. The people at their shows, all they wanted to do was stage-dive. People were diving off the stage and landing on their heads. We played in Atlanta with them and we had a couple people go to the hospital. We play some shows and some really get out of control. Somebody’ll get hit, and there’ll be some kind of childish bickering back and forth, and they’ll end up fighting. [That’s] how it always goes. There’s inevitably a fight at some point in time.
Well, with a name like Attila, it does seem inevitable. But let’s say a person is determined to mosh. Any general recommendations?
Know what you’re getting into. I don’t ever do it. I’m not a big guy. I’d just get trampled all over. If you’re just standing [around], somebody will come up and just hit you in the face. And they’ll do it on purpose. You need to know what you’re doing or just don’t go in there. You’re asking for trouble. I’ve seen it happen. People are just standing in the middle [of the crowd] watching, and someone would just come up behind them and knock ‘em out. Another one bites the dust.
Do you think some people go to your concert just for the opportunity of knocking people around?
There’s some people that do. There’s a term for it: crowd-killing. They’ll just come running from the back and just smash into girls or whatever, people just standing there minding their own business. It’s pretty screwed-up. [A member from] one of the bands we toured with ended up choke-slamming one of the [crowd-killers] who bumped into him at the wrong time. He just choke-slammed him! It was the greatest thing ever. There are people that do that. But generally if they keep doing it, somebody’ll correct them.
Christopher Karr is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.
Photos: Victory Records; Independent Music News - U.K.