New Jersey-based—with members scattered across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware—Lifeless had been on my radar for some time, but it wasn't until October of last year that I watched the hate5six video of their performance from This is Hardcore 2014 and was completely blown away by their intensity, and immediately went and digitally purchased their discography to date (which I've since re-ordered in physical form).
It was long overdue.
As I started to check out some interviews with the band, I was just as impressed by their open and approachable attitude as I was by the vicious energy of their music. Expressing a rare degree of candid honesty, you wanna talk about "keepin' it real"? This is it.
Officially out on March 24, with pre-orders shipping a week prior, their incredible new offering, Dream, is available now from Fast Break! Records on CD or LP. Containing 13 tracks of top shelf metallic hardcore that blends similarities from Merauder to Crowbar (to cite but a few), the album finds Lifeless continuing to sound far more unique than the majority of what you'll encounter these days; while contrasting the pessimistic brutality of their material with a welcoming and fan-friendly demeanor—as frontman Jeremy Tingle communicates in the conversation that follows...
At one point Dream was being touted for release almost a year ago, wasn't it? When was the album actually completed, and what held up its release date over the past year or so?
We always seem to have some major delays at the end of the recording process with things like the mixing/mastering (five different band members with five different opinions) and artwork, but we actually just really took our time tightening up the songs, doing a pre-production recording/demo (something we are not used to), and taking our time recording everything. We actually had gone to a completely different studio in North Jersey just to do the drums, and did everything else in Len Carmichael's studio in Trenton. We are all pretty busy with work year-round, so there would be weeks between times we would be able to hop into the studio for a day or two. The mixing/mastering process was much less complicated this time around, and instead of trying to throw a bunch of shit together at the end for a cover and layout, we contacted Matt Sielawa and he came up with the art just in the nick of time. So, I guess next time we will have the hang of all of the elements it takes to make a record... maybe.
The album title was also originally promoted in acronym form, representing the phrase "Dope Ruins Everything Around Me." At what point did the title start to take on a slightly different meaning?
To me, personally, DREAM will always represent that acronym... that is where it originated. But, in all reality, even though drugs (particularly heroin) are a big, recurring topic in many of the songs, Dream is simply not an anti-drug anthem album. The title track—whose musical roots were actually written before I was even in the band—came to take shape around the idea of having a dream of life (whatever that dream may mean to you) and realizing that, most of the time, the dream is a dream for a reason, and it never becomes reality. The older you get, the more you question what you have done in your past, and worry about what the future holds: Should I have done this? Should I have done that? What will happen next? Those types of primal thoughts that usually lead to some kind of mental anguish and anxiety. As the album was rounding the final steps lyrically, it seemed every topic was about a dream in one way or another—and the disappointment in those dreams never coming to fruition, and all of the thoughts and emotions that come along with that.
Speaking of acronyms, it seems like a lot of fans really latch onto and identify with the "No Love For The World" (NLFTW) tagline that's become synonymous with Lifeless. Who came up with that, and do you feel like it helps attract like-minded listeners to the band?
If I'm right, I do believe [Lifeless guitarist] Kyle was the one who came up with the acronym. Honestly, NLFTW has grown to be its own entity. Everyone who knows Lifeless knows what NLFTW is, and its roots... but not everyone who knows or identifies with NLFTW necessarily knows that it comes from our band, you know? Regardless, I think it really does help attract like-minded people. Everyone in one way or another has some major struggle in life, just like us, and we lay out those struggles musically and lyrically in a way that is personable and honest. Struggles, overall, can't always be compared, and really they shouldn't be, but everyone has their shit they have to go through, and when it happens it's never easy. Those struggles lead you to question yourself, your peers, and the world around you. It's hard to have love for a world we as humans built that seems to have no love for itself. So, it's comfortable to find people who have been through similar struggles and find solace that you are not alone with the way you feel... at least, that's how I look at it.
What does the typical Lifeless songwriting process look like? The band has a unique ability to compose these short bursts of powerful aggression that are still memorable and familiar, but without sounding particularly comparable to any of your influences or contemporaries.
It's actually very simple. Kyle comes up with and writes pretty much all of the music. Kyle will bounce a riff off of [our drummer] Michael, and they will go back and forth for as short as an hour or as long as a few days to really pull the core of a song together. Once the foundation has been laid, I come in and write the lyrics. I always bounce the lyrics back off of the rest of the band, because even though I am pulling from my life experiences, this band isn't just my stage to preach or say what I want. Thankfully, it has really never been an issue, and the whole writing process from start to finish is pretty seamless.
I'm curious how much time you all put into the band on a regular basis? From the quality of the songwriting, to the artwork (Dream's cover art is especially fucking great), to the production values—I don't know, I just get this feeling that you guys somehow "care more" than the average hardcore band about what you put out there to represent yourselves.
Michael and Kyle live literally five minutes apart and are always playing/writing music. I live a little over an hour away in Delaware. [Our guitarist], Jay, and [bassist], Ryan, live in Philadelphia. When we first became a band, we practiced all the time and life was much simpler back then. Five years later, though, we now all have crazy work schedules (some of us having multiple jobs) and getting the band together as a whole has become harder and harder. I would love to put more time into it, as I'm sure everyone in this band does, but sometimes you just have to make up for it in different ways. When I'm not playing with Lifeless, I am thinking on behalf of Lifeless. My social media is dominated by Lifeless, and even the decisions I make in my everyday life revolve around Lifeless—and it's the same for the other members of the band. I have probably said this in every interview we've ever done, but Lifeless really is our only release and escape from everyday life... so, if we're not working, we're living and breathing Lifeless in one way or another. We definitely care and give a shit, sometimes to a fault.
In almost every interview I've encountered with Lifeless, there's been a reference to working "dead end jobs." Do you mind if I ask what you guys do to pay the bills? I almost find that type of stuff more interesting than standard fare music talk, 'cause the day-to-day life shit is what influences the pessimism and anger that fuels the music, and also makes it so relatable to the people who listen to and identify with it.
I won't go into too many specifics about the other members, because I'm not sure if they want that info out there... but I can say they are shit jobs with no future. No hope of moving up. No "career." We are in these jobs simply to pay the bills, and that's it. For me, specifically, I work two jobs for two small companies and am in the same boat: I probably can't get or make much more than I do now unless someone simply dies, ha, ha. Every one of us lives check to check, and sometimes things get rough and we have to "borrow" money off of the band or each other. Some of us never even finished high school. I, honestly, probably have the least labor-intensive job, and I'm a warehouse receiver during the day, and a kitchen bitch/runner at a local pizza shop at night... and I need every possible penny to keep a roof over my head and feed myself.
Something that I really respect and appreciate is that you make a point of openly encouraging the scene to accept people from all walks of life and not judge them based on their appearance or other superficial bullshit.
Everyone started somewhere... and everyone seems to forget that, and when you're a newcomer it's intimidating, to say the least. We all weren't born "cool" or knowing any of the right answers. However, there are so many cliques. Hardcore is supposed to be open-minded and accepting, when in reality it can be like high school. You got the cool kids table, the nerds/geeks, the bookworms, the freaks... yet this is supposed to be the place people who have nowhere to go can come. Even if we are all different, that's what helps a scene like ours flourish, and those who take that diversity for granted by shunning people are really taking their own scene for granted. When I first started going to shows, I was wearing plaid pajama pants and Cradle of Filth shirts, spiking my hair with bar soap, ha, ha. I had to fight tooth and nail to find my place, and eventually people took me under their wing and "showed me the way," so to speak. I was just persistent and proved to everyone that this is where I belonged and that I wasn't going anywhere. I see those kids now, who are like me when I first started coming to shows, who almost seem lost, and I just want to help them all and reassure them that they have a place here with the rest of us—even if some people are too cool to acknowledge that fact. I understand the feeling most people have about fly-by-night, "here today, gone tomorrow" hardcore kids, and I am as skeptical as anyone... but I don't push people away or bully them. I would never fathom doing that in hardcore, unless someone is straight up full of shit and faking the funk because it might be what's cool at the moment. I encourage anyone who's here for the right reasons to keep coming, and see the benefits hardcore can offer if you ignore the politics, drama, and bullshit.
Let's talk Alice in Chains. Covering "Again" was a cool choice for a number of reasons. What drove that decision? I love that it's true to the original, but still has that Lifeless twist, and doesn't sound out of place on the album. That self-titled Alice in Chains record doesn't really get enough love.
That was a decision made on a whim in the studio when Michael and Kyle headed up to lay down the drum tracks. We had talked about an Alice in Chains cover, but I would not have picked "Again" as a first choice. But the track was laid down and paid for, so there was no turning back. I think that's just a more intimidating song, vocally, for me, and that's what really made me kind of shy away from the idea. As time went on, I pushed off the recording of that song because I wasn't really sure what I was going to do or how I was going to do it. This is where having someone like Len as our producer/engineer really helped us out. He threw some ideas my way and eventually I found a groove I was comfortable with to do the song. We had to throw a little bit of a Lifeless twist in there... couldn't just lay it down and carbon copy it! Oh, and can you name that beautiful voice underneath me? That's Mad Joe, from Wisdom in Chains. Shit, even Ryan was on the recording of that one—he is solely responsible for the "Doo-doo!" that none of us could seem to make sound plausible, ha, ha. It was a fun experience, to say the least.
Prior to discovering hardcore, what kind of music were you into growing up, and what band(s) eventually did introduce you to the more hardcore side of things?
The first band I ever loved and had somewhat of an obsession with was Nirvana, and I still have that obsession to this day. I'm not so much of a merch collector as I am a recordings collector, and that's still a very active and intense process in the Nirvana community. Around that time, other interests were popping up on my radar, like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Mudhoney, Metallica, Fiona Apple, Counting Crows, Bob Dylan—all sorts of genres of the musical spectrum. But the thing that really pulled me into hardcore was seeing those mixed diversity shows that were such a staple back when I first started going out in the summer/winter of 1999/2000. You would see a ska band, an emo band, a hardcore band, and a pop-punk band all on the same bill. Seeing local hardcore acts and the reaction they would get instantly drew me in and I fell in love... and I haven't been able to walk away since. I don't ever want to, honestly.
New York tends to get the most recognition, I suppose, but personally I've always sort of favored New Jersey bands from the '90s on, so I'll ask the textbook question of what are some of your all-time favorite New Jersey hardcore records?
E.Town Concrete's Time 2 Shine is up there, no doubt. I used to always listen to Ensign a lot, and even though I haven't in a long time, I loved their Fall From Grace EP and the Direction of Things to Come LP. And let's not forget the almighty Fury of Five: I love that At War With the World record, and all of their 7"s.
You've done guest spots for a shitload of bands—Doubledealer, Life After Death, Look My Way, Objection, Ready to Die, Ruckus, etc.—so you're probably more "in the loop" than most. Who are some other bands that are kindred spirits with the style and attitude of Lifeless that listeners should get hip to?
There's a band that flies under the radar and isn't too active, but Not 'til Death, from North East, PA, is such a great, heavy band that writes awesome songs that are topped off with some pretty dope, deep, and well thought-out lyrics. They're probably one of my favorite bands from the area, and in general, that people may not know about. Also, there's a newer band called Ten Ton Hammer, from Philly (or the Philly area), that fucking shreds. Their grooves are fucking ignorant. And, finally, an even newer band is Iron Price, from Delaware/Maryland. They don't even have a demo recorded yet, but we played a show with them—very Turmoil-esque, with a little more structure. Again, very heavy, but very dark as well.
Alright, man, thanks for your time. It seems like things are really starting to pick up steam for Lifeless, and I'm looking forward to hearing more and seeing where the band runs with it.
As always, thanks to everyone who has ever supported us and still does to this day. Lifeless isn't going anywhere, and we've got more tricks up our sleeve after this LP. But, first, we're gonna whoop that ass with Dream! NLFTW.