PE: How did CETASCEAN start as a band? Who are the current and past members?
Surgeon: CETASCEAN’s been around for about three years. Esmerelda and I were in a band called DEAD DOGS together and wanted an excuse to keep d-beating in dank basements and discussing anarchism. Drogo, our first bass player, helped write our first two records but then ended up getting really into photocopiers and kind of disappearing… Liz joined us about a year and half ago. He listens to a lot of grind, so we’ve definitely incorporated that style more into our new songs. Now you know everything.
PE: What are some of the main ideas behind your lyrics and music?
Liz: mainly our lyrics touch on social ills and other fucked up things happening around us. There is lots of racism, sexism and gentrification around us where we live and we try to critically and emotionally respond to that which see I guess.
Surg: Yeah…I would say we are fairly angered and sickened about the things that we see and due to our privilege, often directly benefit from. That translates into what we write. Without that approach, this band would cease to exist. I feel that the values are what drives CETASCEAN as a project.
Ezmerelda: maybe we’re a pretty typical punk band in many ways, trying to push certain registers that many people have pushed already for decades in punk. We’re not trying to do anything new, but we’re also trying to do it thoughtfully I guess.
PE: How does the song writing and lyric writing process work for your band? Is there one writer or do you write collaboratively?
Ez: For the music a lot of the time Surgeon comes to us with ideas and we work them out over many months, changing stuff infinity times before somewhat settling on a certain arrangement. Although not all ideas originate with him, it’s only fair to say that he spends more time writing riffs and thinking of arrangements for our songs. Lyrically, again it’s mostly Surgeon, though we’ve all written lyrics to at least one song. In this area we mostly stick to one person having control although input is always welcome and sometimes alters the final product.
Liz: Yeah, a few riffs usually become a song pretty quickly.
Surg: I do a lot of the initial writing, but do so with both Ez and Liz in mind. I feel like those two are what shape the style of this band, because what would come out would be drastically different if I was doing this without their input at the forefront. Pretty sure if I just wrote the songs we’d sound exactly like a worse AVSKUM. Ezmerelda brings what I would call a post-modern approach to this shit…he asks the question ‘why?’ when I’ve written things that are typical or cookie-cutter in terms of d-beat style or timing. He pushes us to progress and write different styles of riffs, to do something harder to define. Liz brings a delivery vocally and instrumentally that is both earnest and devastating. The riffs he has written are among those I am the most excited to play and record.
PE: Have you ever disagreed about your lyrical content?
Surg: Yeah that’s actually how I lost this finger (holds up hand with partially missing finger). Just kidding (laughs), but not about disagreeing though, because that happens and is important. Just because we are friends doesn’t mean we share exactly the same perspective, and we don’t sometimes. Dialogue about the lyrics is an important process to this band. When a song’s lyrics come together, we elicit and provide feedback. Each of us wants to write about things we have feel strongly about. Since our perspective is unique to us as individuals, dialogue is necessary to figure out what the position of our band is on the subject matter. Through these discussions our perspective becomes better informed. I really value both Ezmerelda and Liz’s perspective which have both challenged and supported my own at different times. Liz: the three of us talk about the general idea or theme of a song before attacking the lyrics, so we’re generally on the same page. Fine tuning is a normal part of the process, when we really want to be clear with what we’re saying though.
Ez: I think most people can benefit from some editorial feedback, no matter what it is they’re writing.
PE: Your album art steers away from some traditional punk themes; can you explain where the ideas for your album art come from?
Surg: Adam Kindred from CONTAGIUM/ABJECT PAX has provided us with our cover art up to this point. He has a beautiful and crusty mind (as well as nice glasses). We converse with him and provide him with ideas, he then runs with it in a way that is completely his own. The idea behind the crow ouroboros that donned our aptly named Crows EP grew out of the lyrical concept on the album. I find crows very fascinating as a species. Many have probably read how incredibly intelligent they are, in terms of societal development, facial recognition, and tool usage. I wanted to draw a parallel between two sentient species and make the connection to humanities inability/unwillingness to alter our clearly all-consuming destructive path. Crows still flourish in the face of our decline. This planet, no matter the destruction we cause, will continue in some form after we have disappeared. There will be no salvation for humanity. We procreate and destroy. The duality of our nature fascinates me.
PE: How do the tracks on this split differ from the Crows release?
Ez: We’ve moved away from the d-beat centered stuff from earlier records a little bit, incorporating traditionally more mince and metal rhythms. That’s the main diff to me.
Liz: Yeah, we like to sound punk sometimes too. Surgeon and I are playing simpler, heavier riffs in the stuff we’ve written recently.
Surgeon: I think anyone that listens to “Crows” and then to our new split will notice a bit of style departure. Although I feel that crust/d-beat will stay the backbone of this band, we’ve also been interested in bringing in elements of hardcore punk, sludge, stench, and blackened raw punk. Like if DEVIATED INSTINCT were swimming with DESTINO FINALE at NOOTHGRUSH’s 50th birthday party. Everyone’s just partying, having a good old time up in the pool with those floating pool noodles and then BONE AWL gets busted inside the house stealing someone’s VHS collection. Classic BONE AWL, amirite? The next 13.5 minutes is what our side of the new split is like I guess. Well not really. It probably sounds closer to Bristol squat-era AMEBIX tongue kissing “Hear Nothing…”-era DISCHARGE on top of an erupting punk volcano… a couple of goats watching, probably smoking weed and drinking root beers being like, “Woah – check that out. You don’t see that very often when you are in jail”. I guess in this scenario the goats just got released from prison. Also we are trying to be mindful to write simple progressions because I hate when a punk band begins over-producing and over-thinking their songs. This becomes a danger when you become more adept to what you are doing (not so much of an issue for me! Ha!), and want to keep progressing. Just because you can play more complex songs, should you? (Everyone take a second to think about this). We want to stay away from melodic or ‘epic’ sounding crust because none of us listen to that shit or find it interesting. We want what we are doing to be earnest at all times. We want it to be punk in both intent and implementation.
PE: What’s your next release?
Surgeon: we are currently working on our next release with Neanderthal-Stench, a label based out of Belgium. We are also releasing a tape to coincide with our tours this year which collects a lot of our unreleased material and hit singles.
PE: Why did you decide to do a split record rather than a full release of your own material? Why did you choose to do a split release with AHNA?
Liz: Splits are great. That’s no secret to anyone, I don’t think. It’s the opportunity to collaborate with another party, to create something that’s shared, but also complementary to each band’s offering. In some cases you meet new friends and cover new ground with splits; in this case we get to share this record with good friends of ours who we’re all massive fans of musically.
Ez: I think we first met AHNA when Anju booked us a couple shows in Vancouver almost 3 years ago and we really hit it off. I had been hearing some good things about AHNA already and was stoked to see them play. Since then we must have shared bills almost 10 times or something. I think we share a lot of common ground in terms of our approaches to doing music and doing being punk.
Surg: I was actually thinking, once all this LP/punk volcano bullshit gets sorted out, we should all get an apartment together. I’ve heard Squamish is lovely.
PE: You’re from Winnipeg. It rules for music, why do you think this is the case?
Ez: Egh. That’s your opinion.
Liz: Winnipeg has a handful of really great bands but it’s no punk utopia or nothin’.
Surg: I think it has been in a lull for about 3-5 years, roughly since we started, actually! I have definitely seen more exciting times, but I feel like every late 20s/early 30s punk has said that and it’s a fairly boring/unproductive sentiment. There are definitely way less women involved with our scene, which is disheartening and points to bigger issues to what is going on. It is not that women don’t like playing brutal music. It is the dynamic of our community which is continually pushing women out. As an all-male identified band we realize we are playing a part in that. I do miss the days when people gave a shit about their lyrics and everything wasn’t a fucking joke all the time. So doing this tour with HEAD HITS CONCRETE and this split with AHNA is exciting because I feel like we are doing shit with bands that care about what they are saying.
PE: Why is Ezmerelda such a sick drummer?
Surg: Well, funny story about ol’ Esmerelda here. Esmerelda stole part of his first drum kit from a POLICE cover band when they were playing a police BBQ outside of a police station. It was kind of like the Oscar nominated film The Perfect Storm. He just slow danced in and then slow danced out with two cymbals and a snare stand. Since that moment, Ez has been like I CAN DO IT with every new riff and problem with his punk house. I don’t use the word hero very often but…
PE: What are some of the political/activist activities you take part in?
Liz: Does reading stuff on the internet count?
Ez: I’ve only recently become involved in stuff other than taking vacations to Montreal to run amok. One group I’ve taken part in that I’m stoked about is the Prisoners’ Strike Support Network, which formed to support and raise awareness about the federal prisoners’ strike to protest wage cuts. This happened in the fall of 2013. We raised money for them and organized other shit aimed at raising the profile of the story and connecting with the strikers. Me and Surgeon were also involved in a DIY feminist venue/art gallery over the last few years called Negative Space.
Surg: We just finished doing a fundraiser for a long-standing anarchist bookstore that was going out of business. Other than that, I’ve been mostly trying to stay informed and support friends and family that are having hard times.
PE: When is Cetacean going to tour next?
Ez: End of March 2014 with HEAD HITS CONCRETE and our new record!
Surg: we’ll also be doing three weeks throughout eastern Canada and the US in July. Take us to your rich parents place and feed us their organic vegetables. We won’t tell anyone you have rich parents, don’t worry.
To listen to CETASCEAN’s new LP Imperial Decline (EXIST 149), check out: