We have a special treat here: a full interview with Vince Bennett of The Acacia Strain. Read on, or skip to the bottom to hear the audio of the full interview.
Few bands play heavier than The Acacia Strain. While they despise the “deathcore” label, their brand of slow, chugging, extreme downtuned hardcore gets called that a lot. With their eighth album, Gravebloom, due for worldwide release on June 30, 2017 and a sweet spot on the Vans Warped Tour coming along with it, we linked up with The Acacia Strain’s vocalist Vince Bennett to talk about Gravebloom, the tour, where his music stands, and other ‘First World problems.’
The “Sad” Album
Nobody would accuse The Acacia Strain of playing happy music. They dwell in a genre powered by existential dread and Vince Bennett told us Gravebloom is dark, even by their standards.
“It is sad. It is sadder than the rest, in a dark way. It has a general atmosphere about it that is just sad. When we started writing the record, I actually wanted to call it Sad.” When the band asked him what he wanted the album to be like, he said, “Make it sad. Those are the parameters.” Bennett spat that out whimsically on a day heavy with interviews, “And I’m driving in the rain, which is the worst!”
He went on: “A lot of our records have been like that in the past, but this is more so, and I like it!”
Gravebloom is preceded by 2014’s Coma Witch, a mammoth at 64 minutes, with the final song “Observer” taking up 27 of them and an entire disk by itself. With Gravebloom hovering around the 40 minute mark, it is clear The Acacia Strain wanted to step back from that.
“There was definitely a conscious effort not to make the same album twice. Everyone was like oh, well they’re gonna do another song like “Observer” and no, that’s not how we work. We wanna do the exact opposite of that. We don’t want to do the same thing twice because that’s gonna bore people, but at the same time we don’t want to stray too far from where we’ve been headed because we don’t wanna alienate our fans who bought our records. So, you gotta find a middle ground and you gotta find a balance.”
All the same, listeners to Gravebloom would hear an Acacia Strain staple, a siren-like, droning guitar dirge. This shows in songs like “Dark Harvest” and “Cold Bloom” and it played a pivotal role in the aforementioned “Observer.” Bennett noted those background sounds were never meant (by him at least) to be a part of their sound. “You’d have to ask our guitarists. We don’t want to put out songs that are too straightforward. Some of them are very straightforward. Then there’s always going to be something going on in the background. And I don’t always agree with what these dudes do with their guitars but that’s their thing. That’s what they wanna do and I’m not gonna inhibit somebody’s creativity just because I don’t necessarily agree with it. I think it’s cool when I hear it later on but at the time, I’m just like ‘oh guys! Why can’t you just leave this be, crush it, and not have all this other shit going on in the background,’ but that’s their thing.”
“You don’t imprison someone’s creativity. It’s all ‘you do what you wanna do’ and we’ll make the best possible record together while being as creative as we can individually.”
Straining To Be Acacia
Metal bands, particularly the more extreme ones, turn to negative themes for their own sake. Puppies and flowers do not seem to go very well with breakdowns. The Acacia Strain seem more sincere about it than others. With equal amounts of whimsy and candor, Bennet acknowledged this with, “Yeah, nothing’s good.”
He elaborated: “A person who is sad needs to find something that can help them be a better person and be happy. I have music. I have this band and I am lucky to have it because I am a miserable human being. And if I didn’t have this band, I would collapse into myself like a dinosaur. There would be no saving me.”
Warped: This Time It’s Heavy
Anyone clicking on the link to the Vans Tour in this article’s opening paragraph could see how big that tour is. They would hardly be surprised at how stoked The Acacia Strain is to be a part of it. Bennett said, “It is very exciting, and at the same time very terrifying ‘cause it’s two months, long days, hot days surrounded by people that you’re just kinda forced to be with and it’s a lot of conflicting personalities but there’s also a lot of friendships. It’s a very exciting thing, ya know?”
He said the real value will come in The Acacia Strain reaching a new crowd. “Obviously the die-hards are gonna come out. But just like, catching people who are walking by the stage who are gonna say ‘Hey, what the hell is this?’ Ya know? That’s a cool feeling!”
Some politics and opportunism played a role in this. Bennet noted that without the Mayhem tour around anymore, Warped seems to have acquired all the heavier bands. Indeed, this year’s Warped lineup includes Carnifex and After The Burial.
The Acacia Strain are all but certain to have other tours in support of Gravebloom. He hilariously could not recall the exact number of tours they did for Coma Witch: “I think eight? Ten? I dunno.” No plans are in place at this time of writing, but he pointed out, “I think Warped is a good introduction for us into touring. It’s a good ‘welcome back,’” pointing out that other plans are sure to pop up during the tour.
First World Problems
Vince Bennett avoided talking politics during this interview, though he pointed out, “This is a miserable time to be an American.” Like the individual who created these miserable times, Bennet is very active on Twitter.
His followers are privileged to read the brief musings of one of the funniest guys in metal-influenced hardcore. He tweets about a neighbour blasting Hatebreed. “Yeah, he drove down my street blasting Hatebreed, like, day after day he goes down to work listening to Hatebreed.” He had one hilarious rant about the lines at Starbucks. “I go to other places but if there’s a Starbucks in the area and I’m like, ‘Shit, I want a coffee but I can’t because these… children! Literal children are buying seven dollar milkshakes just because they say Starbucks on it. I don’t understand. Maybe make a separate line (for them), or a separate store.”
This might clash with the “dudebro” fans stereotypically associated with The Acacia Strain and Bennett was thrilled to tell us what they are really like: “We are a bunch of World Of Warcraft-playing… nerds. And we just play the (music) that we play just to get stuff off our chests.
“And we listen to Rhapsody Of Fire and we listen to Manowar and we play Dungeons & Dragons®. Yeah, we’re setting up a Dungeons & Dragons campaign on the Warped tour for whoever wants to play it with us.”
Vince Bennett seems to have more in common with a lot of us than we might think, one of many reasons The Acacia Strain continues to make music that resonates with such a wide audience.