WORDS: LUCA CESCON
Have you ever considered heavy music as a way to tell stories and describe human beings as weak as they are in situations of lack of self acceptance? Have you ever considered heavy music as a way to create a path into which listeners and artists walk together, talking about life’s stories in an autobiographical way?
New York’s noise-industrial-hardcore trio Uniform manage to evoke this kind of theatrical scenario with their new record called Shame, which is out today via Sacred Bones Records. Formed in 2013, Uniform have been delivering their own features of experimental music since then, releasing three full lengths, one EP and a couple of collaborative albums with The Body. “Uniform have had a pleasantly bland life, I think”, confirms vocalist Michael Berdan. “Being in Uniform is the best job in the world, but it’s still very much a job. We take what we do seriously without taking ourselves too seriously, if that makes sense. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all pretty lighthearted people who are just grateful that we get to do this”.
“it was very much a current aesthetic choice. We wanted to invoke some of the feelings of film noir imagery”
A few years ago, Michael and Ben Greenberg (guitarist) joined their forces with drummer Mike Sharp to start the writing process of their new album. “The writing process on Shame was far more collaborative than our previous work. We met up in Austin, Texas for a few days to fit the pieces together as a band in one room. That meeting wound up being a heavy writing session that laid the groundwork for what became the record. We really pulled our proverbial weight as a collective unit on this one”, reveals Michael. What will draw listeners’ attention the most is the fact the this record has been inspired by lots of non-musical-related arts as well: “Shame was largely inspired by the emotionally destitute characters in novels by Raymond Chandler, James Elroy, Ryu Murakami, Cormac McCarthy, and Matthew Stokoe, as well as the cinema of Alan Clarke and the early films of Michael Mann”, told us Michael during our interview. Shame’s artwork too is linked to movies, as Uniform’s frontman reveals that “it was very much a current aesthetic choice. We wanted to invoke some of the feelings of film noir imagery, specifically from the film The Third Man. Our friend Heather Gabel brought it all to life in a way we could only hope for”.
“If everyone is miserable chances are you’ll make a bad record…”
As the word “shame” does evoke something hard to cope with for people, we asked Michael to explain us what brought the band to choose such linguistic term: “The record deals with people who are in situations where they’ve created their own personal hell. With our backs up against the wall, we’re often forced to realize that we ourselves are the architects of our suffering. When there’s nobody left to blame, you must look inward. Shame is a powerful emotion. We felt that the title got the point of the record across in as clear and concise of a manner as possible”. Listening to Uniform’s new record, you will be told the autobiographical story of an anti-hero who is unable to escape his own past. “The lyrics attempt to touch on some universal truths about guilt and an absence of self acceptance. I would like for the people who identify with the themes in this record to see themselves in it and know that they aren’t alone”, reveals Michael. The previously released collaborations with The Body did influenced Uniform as well during their career: “I think that it taught us to sit back and enjoy the process of making a record more than we had been. Chip and Lee are best friends who ultimately make music because they love being around each other. Working with them opened my eyes to the fact that I should be consciously enjoying the precious time I spend with my bandmates. Making a record should be a fun experience I have with my friends. If everyone is miserable, chances are good that you will make a bad record”, confirms Michael. Since worldwide music industry is still under siege due to the pandemic, we asked Uniform’s vocalist to give us his point of view about what the d.i.y. culture can (or cannot) do to help: “It’s hard to see any possible silver lining in this scenario, but if it leads to a renaissance of d.i.y. spaces that don’t get hounded too hard by the authorities then it could be great. However, we need to make sure that those spaces are all safe to occupy.”