When I was informed of Uncrossing's existence last summer, the group was described to me as simply having a "heavy alternative" sound. Combined with the knowledge that half of the band—guitarist Jared Drace and drummer Sunny Leejean—are also members of unique crossover hardcore outfit Activator, I was more than a bit curious. Finally faced with the opportunity to check out some pre-release material toward the end of last year, I learned that "heavy alternative"—while not inaccurate—modestly oversimplifies the group's diverse palette.
Having had some time to further digest the band's self-titled debut EP—out today—the quartet strikes me as an interesting hybrid of doom-tinged alternative metal that's tactfully adventurous and memorable. In fact, were it still the early- to mid-'90s right now, I could totally envision Uncrossing releasing one or two decently-promoted albums on a major label—complete with tracks hyped out on all those classic Concrete Corner sampler cassettes and whatnot!
Opener "Get it From Me" churns like classic '93 - '95 Paradise Lost at their best, introducing moody-yet-soaring vocals that fall somewhere between Inger Lorre from the Nymphs and, say, Jex Thoth. "What I Want" then kicks off with a Led Zeppelin-y, ballad-type intro before surging into a little more of those simple, driving, melodic U.K. "doom rock" chord progressions; and "IOU" further spices it up with a modernized take on classic Sabbath worship—plus some dual guitar harmonies and more of a rockin' pace toward the end.
Stream the entire three-song, 17-minute affair below (or on Spotify, and grab it name-your-price style via Bandcamp), followed by an interview with the entire band—rounded out by vocalist Kristin Flammio and Scott Meyer on bass—providing some additional insight as to where Uncrossing is coming from, and where they might be headed...
As with many relatively new and unknown bands, there's not much information floating around on Uncrossing, so I'll open with a couple of relatively standard-fare questions just to get some facts out there. Most of what I know is that the band formed sometime in the first half of 2017. Talk about how that all took shape...
Kristin: I've been friends with Jared and Sunny for several years. I've seen them play in Activator a bunch, and they would come out to see my last band, Forts, here and there. Being buds who are also musicians, it was natural to talk about getting together one day and jamming. Even though many years had passed since we first brought it up, in the beginning of 2017 we finally got around to giving it a try. Once we realized this was going somewhere, we found Scott, played our first show last April, and have been off to the races ever since.
Half of Uncrossing—Jared and Sunny—also plays in Activator, which is a very different band, even considering the wide-ranging influences discernible in Uncrossing's material. So, what did you initially set out to do here, and what is each individual bringing to the table in terms of different styles and influences?
Sunny: Well, I'd say the intensity level of the music and performance is on par with Activator, but Uncrossing is much more melodic and straightforward—there aren't as many parts or as much technical playing, which allows us to slow down the tempos and be a more dynamic, grooving band. To me, the musicianship level between the four of us is a perfect mix, because we understand and complete each other musically. A lot of that is due to the fact that Jared and I have been playing together for a decade and that there was a pre-existing friendship with Kristin, but Scott has joined the club and fits in seamlessly—not only sound-wise, but as a good friend as well.
Jared: I kind of wanted to get to do some things I'm not able to do in Activator, so I think initially I had a vision of this being a two-guitar band playing just crushingly slow doom metal with me doing melodic backing vocals and harmonies. But once I got in the room with Kristin, I quickly realized there was no way I could even attempt to utter a backing vocal in this band, I just don't have the pipes. I also got reacquainted with the reality that it's way too much of a pain in the ass to get another guitarist—I mean, have you ever had to deal with a guitar player? They're notorious pricks! We still had to find a bass player at that point, which was taxing enough, and I'm very grateful we found Scott fairly quickly once we put feelers out. All that being said, I'm really happy with the way our sound has unfolded—in fact, it's way better than what I originally imagined, and it all happened very organically! One of the things I've learned over the years is that with music, things hardly ever come out exactly the way you envision them in your head, and 9 times out of 10, that's a good thing.
Kristin: I set out to just be the singer in this band. In previous bands, I would sing and play guitar as well, but for Uncrossing it was important for me to focus solely on my vocals and my performance. I wanted to play slow, doomy, kinda sexy, melodic music with a heavy band behind me, and that's what I'd like to think we've been doing! I have a pretty wide range of influences and I like everything. I sing pop, I sing rap, I sing rock, and I love heavy songs from bands like Smashing Pumpkins that also incorporate a melody that makes me feel something. Another big influence is definitely Ann Wilson, who has amazing range where you can really hear her voice while the music is still heavy, and I like the idea of being able to hear myself singing very specific melodies and notes in between what everyone else is playing. Sometimes, what I'm doing and what the guitars are doing almost has a dissonance to it—which is on purpose—and I'm always trying to fill in little notes here and there to juxtapose the music.
Scott: What do I bring to the table? Sleeveless shirts and handlebar mustaches! But seriously, I try to keep it simple and add an overall heaviness to the bottom of our sound. As far as influences go, I think we have a Heart and Jefferson Airplane meet Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard kind of thing going on, and I'm very into that!
You wouldn't necessarily know from listening, but the EP was recorded in someone's home studio, right? What was the recording process like?
Jared: My good buddy, Matt Snedecor, is to blame for how good this thing sounds. Matt worked at the Hit Factory back in the day and has engineering credits that range from Beyoncé and Luther Vandross to Rush and The Dresden Dolls, but now he's mainly an ADR and sound department guy for features, documentaries, etc. But the good news—for us, at least—is that he still maintains a sweet little studio setup at his home in Ringwood, NJ. We recorded about half of the 2013 Activator record there, and ended up doing 100% of the Uncrossing EP there. We knocked out the drums and bass in one day and took a little bit more time with the guitars—dialing in the tones and layering rhythm tracks, which took about two days (and I could've done two more but had to be stopped for my own good)—and then we did a day of vocals and left it to Matt for the arduous task of mixing it all into something cohesive.
Scott: The final mixes ended up sounding too good for us to drop the ball when it came to mastering, so we knew we had to go to the best: Alan Douches at West West Side Music in Newburgh, NY. Alan masters everybody's stuff—Clutch, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Brand New, Converge, Gwar, Misfits, you name it—and between you and me and whoever has made it this far down the page, he was wowed by the mixes and found them comparable to or better than some of the music he masters for reputable labels. So, that was a big confidence boost, and reinforced the notion that these tunes didn't just sound good to us, they sounded good period!
Jared, I have to mention that I absolutely loved that you referred to a "beer commercial-like solo" in the recent premiere for "Get it From Me" [laughs]!
Jared: A lot of the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal stuff that I was listening to heavily in the late-'90s—and basically still to this day—had such unabashedly melodic guitar harmonies that even though they were soaked in distortion and bookended by screams and growls, they would not be totally out of place if paired with the visual of a cheesy '80s beer commercial where you'd be prompted to "head for the mountains" or "tap the rockies." Maybe that's just me!? In any case, I love the guitar harmonies of bands like In Flames, Arch Enemy, and—for that matter—Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy. Even though I'm just one man, I will continue to fly the flag of twin-guitar hook-ups in my riffs and solos, thanks to the miracle of modern recording technology and Boss harmonizer pedals!
It's probably too soon to tell since the full EP is just now starting to circulate, but having been playing shows and such for a while now, I'm curious what challenges (if any) you've experienced in trying to get the music out in front of people? On one hand, it seems like listeners are more open-minded and accepting of varying influences than ever these days, but there are also such a massive amount of bands out there to filter through...
Jared: We were fortunate enough to have larger sites like Invisible Oranges and Dread Central premiere songs from the EP, so that was a good start. Of course Aversionline has been a big supporter since day one, and I can't thank you enough for your help in getting the word out about our music. But we're D.I.Y. right now—no PR agencies or label support or anything like that—so it's just a matter of putting in the work, believing in the music, and putting ourselves out there to the people, venues, blogs, websites, labels, etc. and hoping something sticks. I believe it's important to invest in our social channels like Facebook and Instagram and engage people that way, but it's also key to be out there in front of real people playing the right shows at the right venues with the right bands. That doesn't happen by accident, we have to put ourselves in those situations. We just booked a gig at Saint Vitus—which is by far the best place for heavy music in the Brooklyn/NYC area—in March, which we're very excited about, so it's all about keeping the momentum going and hopefully getting some more eyes on us along the way.
Kristin: The hardest part now that the EP is out is that we have to get people to listen to us online and not just at our shows. So, the question is: how do we talk about and promote our songs and get people interested when we can't just show them in a live performance setting? We're working on doing a video and getting some merch printed up, and of course recording more and playing more shows while we figure everything else out. We are growing. The more we play out and put songs out, the more people are starting to hear us and catch on, but it takes some time.
Sunny: The irony is that it's easier than ever to put music out, but harder than ever to get people to actually take time out from whatever they're doing in their day and give something a listen. Especially in NYC, where there are so many bands and so many different things to do every night of of the week, how do you stand out and get noticed? Thankfully, we've cultivated a loyal following that comes to all the shows and supports everything we do, but I also think it has to do with luck as well—right place, right time, right person hears us, that kind of thing—so, hopefully we get a little lucky!
Scott: This is a big test for us to see what happens with these three songs now that they're on Spotify, etc. and if people will listen to them or what.
My initial, overarching takeaway from the EP was that it's an interesting hybrid of doom-tinged alternative metal that's a little more memorable than usual—though without diving into blatant hooks or taking things "too far," you know? Jared mentioned to me at one point, however, that some of the group's new material is even darker and doomier. That being said, where are things headed and what should listeners expect from Uncrossing moving forward?
Kristin: That's actually a really nice thing to say, and very accurate as well, so don't be surprised when part of that question ends up in our bio! I would say our newer stuff is a bit more straightforward and gets away from the somewhat traditional structure of the tracks on the EP—maybe a little more stoner rock, even.
Jared: We have a song called "Hollows" that we open our set with that starts off with clean guitar for a good while before it eventually gets a bit heavier, but it's long and slow and droning and really unlike anything I've ever done in the past, and people really have responded to it at shows. It's hard to predict what the future holds, but I'm really looking forward to recording the rest of our songs—either in small batches like this EP, or maybe even a full album, who knows?
See more from Uncrossing on Facebook and Instagram. They'll also be playing an EP release party tomorrow night at Lucky 13 Saloon in Brooklyn, NY; and on March 5th at Saint Vitus (also in Brooklyn) with 1000mods and Telekinetic Yeti.