You may recall that I've scribbled out more than a few words regarding unique Brooklyn unit Chain Gang Grave over the years (if not, check 'em out). That project may be on ice at the moment, but two members—Andrew Lanza (vocals/guitar) and Jason Markowitz (drums)—have recently resurfaced in Cement Mind. Similar in attack to Chain Gang Grave, the project follows a comparable path at least in terms of linear, ever-changing song structures and a focus on raw, dissonant riffing that can't really be categorized. Bits and pieces of blackened hardcore/punk-warped doom/noise rock abound in ways that feel not entirely obscure and yet nothing at all like anything that could be directly slipped into any one of those particular genres. All that to say: this is another fuckin' weird—but cool—band.
Stream the duo's three-song, 10-minute demo below, followed a mini-interview with Lanza to get the scoop on how Cement Mind arrived...
Chain Gang Grave had gone relatively quiet, and you mentioned to me that the band is essentially on hold right now. What went on that sidelined things on that front?
Basically, it comes down to band members leaving the New York area. Alan Grunberg (Young Al Bundy) and Joshua Poveda, our original singer and bass player, left the country one after another. We reconvened with Amy Mills (bass) and Joe Merlini (vocals) for a bit afterward, playing the old stuff and writing new material. Amy ended up leaving due to scheduling issues, and Joe took up the bass. Joe ended up making plans to move out to Los Angeles after about a year or so in the band. So, for now, Chain Gang Grave is dormant.
Obviously that freed the two of you up a bit, so talk about how that led into the formation of Cement Mind?
After hitting a couple of dead ends looking for a replacement for Joe, and with some encouragement, I tried my hand at vocals. We ended up cranking out a few songs fairly quickly and decided that it was different enough from Chain Gang Grave to warrant a new thing.
How did you decide to stick with the vocals/guitar/drums duo approach?
It comes down to the simplicity of it, naturally. Jason and I were the main drivers of Chain Gang Grave for the most part, so to pare it down to the duo format was just the next step in the evolution of the band. It's just easier to get two people in a room to practice or record than three or four.
Cement Mind presents a similarly unique sound to Chain Gang Grave in terms of building from a range of influences that avoids pigeonholing. In what ways do you see this new material being connected to or separated from the compositions you were putting together with Chain Gang Grave?
We write the same exact way we did with Chain Gang Grave—meaning Jason and I just improvise for hours and pluck songs out of the maelstrom, so to speak. It's all still very free-flowing influence-wise—we just come up with what we come up with without much forethought. Lyrically, I am very different from both Alan and Joe. Alan, in particular, was a fantastic lyricist, though I don't think our choice of topics or styles will intersect much.
Being such a self-contained unit in terms of writing, recording, artwork, etc., do you have a feel for where things are headed next for Cement Mind, or is it too soon to tell?
Ideally, we'll be able to write, record, and release material at a more prolific pace, and find someone to release it. But, who knows? Creativity is a funny thing.