The conventional wisdom on hardcore holds that the best bands are brief flare-ups of loud-fast-and-angry that exist just long enough to leave a legacy of some blurry black and white photos and a couple of rare 7" records or demo tapes. But Converge has spent more than 20 years smashing away any and all traditions, rules or calcified conventions. Their brutal, whirlwind mix of hardcore, metal, noise and punk has earned them a devoted, worldwide fanbase. And not only have they stuck it out for years, they've consistently upped the ante with each release. The band's latest LP, "All We Love We Leave Behind," is another collection of blazing, structurally complex hardcore that could've only come from them. The Times recently caught up with singer Jacob Bannon, a visual artist who's also responsible for striking album artwork for Converge and many other bands and who runs the label Deathwish Inc.
Converge plays a Nov. 4 show at Downtown Music Hall with tourmates Torche and Kvelertak (see calendar for more details).
You guys have been at this for more than two decades now. What are some of the biggest changes you've noticed in the realm of hardcore over the course of Converge's existence?
Changes? It really depends on how you define it. There are hardcore purists out there that would say that hardcore music hasn't really existed since '81 or '82, or that punk rock was a reactionary thing that was a specific date in time, and they live by those diehard belief systems. For us, we're a weird amalgamation of a bunch of different kinds of music, a bunch of subgenres and classifications. We're a melting pot that's hard to describe, so in a way, we embody what contemporary heavy music is; it's a whole bunch of subtle genre styles all blending together. They're not fragmented, it's not like we're a band that jumps from rap to rock or something like that, but sometimes it's the character of something, sometimes the spirit of something that you carry, but more importantly, it's your own voice that you express.
It seems like, compared to especially the '90s, things aren't nearly so hidebound and puritanical, not only in terms of politics, but music. Would you agree?
The political end is interesting. I think a lot of that has to do with how people have a fairly difficult time just wanting to speak their mind publicly about anything. There are a lot of bands that come out there that are numb or devoid of any personal stance, because their goal is popularity or their goal is to not shake up the foundation of their supporters or followers. I think you have a little of that, people playing it safe. You have music getting even more refined over time, ideas that don't work, things that don't artistically fit that well, they kind of tend to just go away over time.
What are small-venue hardcore shows like nowadays versus in, say, 1994?
They're a lot different. They're different in the sense that there aren't that many small venues that are independent venues anymore. Most have some sort of affiliation with a larger business, whether it's a larger conglomerate or a smaller subset of club owners. So it's changed a bit, it's a lot safer in that regard, whereas before all the way up to the mid '90s, you would definitely run into unscrupulous characters and you'd have less-than-legitimate promoters all over the country waiting to screw over bands. And you'll always have people who think they can get rich quick, come in, set up a venue and treat bands like dog shit and move on with some money in their pocket.