Suicide Silence Take the ‘Doris’ Backlash in Stride
Deathcore has long been an easy target for criticism and hatred online. But when Suicide Silence released new single "Doris" ahead of their upcoming self-titled record, no one could have predicted the level of vitriol it would receive from the band's own fan base. It marks a departure for the band, singer Eddie Hermida making good on a promise that the record would feature more clean singing, adding a falsetto before its chorus. The funniest part about all of this? It's probably the record's most straightforward track.
Suicide Silence is potentially the most ambitious album ever crafted by a deathcore band. Their desire to move out of the realm of breakdowns and chug chords resulted in a record rife with atmosphere, groove and a level of harmony the band hadn't previously attempted. Songs like "Listen" intersperse plumes of distortion and reverb between the metallic chaos. "Run" is understated, yet heavy, the band's most well-developed chorus to date. "Conformity," on the other hand, is through-and-through rock 'n' roll, Hermida sounding completely confident in his new singing role. It's the band's most challenging and surprising work to yet, one that isn't afraid of leaving longtime fans in the dust if they fail to keep up.
We spoke to Hermida about the record, fans' reactions to "Doris" and why his band refuses to stay stagnant.
I grew up in San Francisco. You played in All Shall Perish, and Suicide Silence's bassist, Dan Kenny, played in Animosity, two of the Bay Area's best deathcore bands. What was the scene like for you in those early days?
It was a lot of work. Kind of buckled up my pants and went for it. Started touring and haven’t really looked back. It’s been a lot of ups and downs, seeing the scene grow, seeing the scene evolve into what it is today. It’s kind of the forefront of what we’re doing now, watching how being a niche band can really force you to see the truth behind music. That music doesn’t just belong in one section — you can branch out and do whatever you want, really.
Growing up as a fan of that scene was always kind of weird. I think deathcore helped a lot of kids get into extreme music — it had the perfect mixture of riffs and poppier structure.
I mean, it resonated with a young crowd, and any time a young crowd gets interested, the death metal elite feel threatened. That’s the reality of it. You gotta think that death metal originated with kids that weren’t really welcome anywhere. The nerds that got made fun of in high school. So, once you find a place where you’re cool, the first thing you revert to is the kind of prison system upbringing that we’re all used to. It’s happening today with deathcore, kids that don’t feel like their deathcore palette has been met by the bands that are “supposed” to stay deathcore — they start clowning. So, I mean, it happens with every niche culture — you have people who believe it stays a certain way and it needs to stay with their identity. People change, times change. The fact is, that’s what happened with death metal, hardcore, metalcore — people hate it and ignore the fact that all the bands they’re in love with provide a shit-ton of melody to their music. When it comes down to it, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse — they’re not all open-note chugs that sound like death metal with blast beats and low vocals. They have a lot of rhythm, syncopation and melody in there. You ignore it because the fan base is yelling and they look different from you and you hate them. And that’s very on the surface; death metal is very much alive. This record we wrote has death metal in it. But it’s going to receive flak because it’s different.
Right. Yeah, I liked "Doris," thought it was a cool single, so going into the record, I figured there might be a more rock edge to the sound. But in reality, the album is weirder than anything else the band has put out.
Yeah. “Doris” is a heavy song. There’s two notes that make you forget about everything else in the song, but the song is heavy; it’s got one of the heaviest breakdowns we’ve ever done. It was all recorded live. There’s no tricks, no sound replacement to create a vibe. It’s all real, a real sound coming out of a real band. Which is weird for a lot of people.
As a band, did you guys hit a point where you didn’t want to do the same shit again?
I think every band that isn’t a new deathcore band, pretty much all the originators branched out in some shape or form. We’re obviously committing to that branch. With All Shall Perish, there’s singing all over the second and third record; it’s very in the realm of Opeth, Killswitch Engage, Emperor. There’s that. The thing is, in order to fully commit to a sound, fully commit to a change, a lot of the bands — including Suicide Silence, up until we decided it was time to fully commit — they wanted to change, but didn’t fully do it. Chelsea Grin added singing; Whitechapel just did it with the newest record. The only bands that still stick to the “original” deathcore sound are the newest deathcore bands, because they think that’s the way to make money and that’s how to get fame, just like Suicide Silence or All Shall Perish or Despised Icon. So, they’re the ones waving the flag nowadays; the old-schoolers realized the one-trick pony [aspect] of it. Fans don’t really like the technical aspect; they love the breakdowns. So, either they become more breakdown-y and continue doing whatever they do, or they branch out. We started seeing that trend, and really, Suicide Silence wanted to make a change before I even joined the band. When I recorded "You Can’t Stop Me," that was the time for that record. When it was time to start writing this record, it was time. We all looked at each other [and said] this is the perfect opportunity to branch out and do something different. We looked at each other and all jumped off a cliff.
When did you start singing?
Kindergarten. I sang in The Wizard of Oz when I was a little kid. I was the Scarecrow and sang in front of 250 people. [Laughs] I’ve been singing ever since. I was in choir, in theater, I sing in the shower — I sing everyday. I started screaming when I was about 16 years old. After covering Zeppelin for so long, old rock standards, “House of the Rising Sun,” old Jimi songs, you hear a band like Slipknot and you’re like, “Fuckin’ rad. I want to do this.” Heard Chris Barnes’ voice and was like, "Fuck, dude, I want to do this. Those vocals are next-level." Up until then, I was doing nothing but singing.
Has that been an itch for you, to sing like that on a record?
Yeah, man. I’ve been really wanting to do something a lot more full-bore songwriting, making sure choruses are choruses. Singing. I’ve always done it in some way, shape or form on some record. Even my screaming, in a way, I would always try to sing my parts out first and write like kind of a catchy part to myself, and scream the same kind of cadence. That’s always what I did. So, I’ve always exercised my singing prowess. I’ve just hidden behind the screams because I was afraid of losing fans, but that’s just something I’m not afraid of anymore. I don’t really give a fuck. I’ve been giving fans what they’ve wanted for 10 years, and I’ve realized fans don’t want you to give them what they think they want. Fans want you to be yourself. Now that I’m being myself, I’ve seen the reaction, and it’s fucking killer.
Is it fun seeing the ridiculous level of hatred for it?
Yeah, man. [Laughs] You look at it, and it’s like someone making fun of your bright pink hair. Like, I don’t have bright pink hair, but you can go ahead and think that I do, and have a good time calling me gay for it. I don’t really care. It’s not real, so it doesn’t really affect me. Like people saying I’m out of key, when I can literally play a piano to the notes I’m singing. [Laughs] It’s not real. I don’t take true offense to it. Fact is, it’s real to them, and I get a lot of joy from it. I wrote a song and it creates a different reality for people. It brings their real feelings to the surface, and they start speaking about it on the internet, which, in a way, feels like a weird social experiment that’s going way better than I would’ve ever thought. I’m getting a cultured response by the scene. And the scene is the only people who are online — the scene-y kids who don’t buy music or go to shows, just sit at home and blabber off, kind of try to dictate how bands do by their opinions. It’s not real; it’s all fun on the internet. Just like all the hatred for Trump on the internet — it’s not doing anything and creating more buzz. I’m urging the other people who are like, “I don’t understand the hate; it’s good, all the people hating are idiots,” like that’s complaining about the complainers, which sounds even worse. I see it as fun. I see it as a big joke. The song in [and of] itself is not a joke. The song has a deep connotation for me, but it’s funny to see people make memes out of it and making fun out of it.
“Social experiment” is funny to me. If you put out just any ol’ deathcore song, you’d be hearing the same shit you’ve already heard for the past 10years.
And it would do worse than each record before. Nothing sells as much as our first record. That’s what it ends up becoming. That’s what bands like the Black Dahlia Murder and Cannibal Corpse do. You know, they found their niche and they sit in it, and they love it. They sustain and go out on tour, and that’s a cool life. I think it’s safe, and kind of a sellout in a way. It doesn’t push boundaries, and caters to a niche of people, as opposed to trying to create music that helps the world, changes the world.
With your intent going into the record, how did Ross Robinson help you realize it?
I mean, Ross is Ross Robinson. His name precedes him — he’s the godfather of nü-metal. He helped create post-hardcore, which is a massive scene, a much older scene of people who really give a fuck about music. He’s the type of dude who knows exactly what to do in a situation. When he came to us and said, “It’s time for you guys to work with me,” he saw what we saw: This scene full of incredibly talented musicians is killing itself. It’s unwilling to change, it’s unwilling to grow, it stays within the margins with safety — meaning it’s not going to spend more money to record records, it’s not going to challenge the way it records records, is found its way of doing it the same way every time. It’s dwindling — record sales were low when we started, and they’re even lower now. That is something to keep in mind for the whole story. So, when he came to us, he was on the same tip, like, “We need to figure what your band is about and who you are through music. If that means you find your core by writing stuff that doesn’t sound anything like your old stuff, then let’s do that.” But we found a way to meld it. The band prepared extensively; we jammed and did pre-production for six months before going into the studio with Ross. We were literally as prepared for destruction as any band could be, and Ross put the icing on the cake. “This is how you do it: You let go of your ego and who you think you’re supposed to be, and you just serve the music. You show up to be that 13-year-old kid again, jamming with his buddies. Forget all the magazines, the interviews, the fans, the drugs you’ve done, the shows — it’s never happened as this band.” And that really started it all. We were prepared to write a record. If you took the masters after the recording and threw them into the ocean, what’s the record you’d be the most proud of? And that’s what we set out to do. If no one ever heard it, I’d know in my heart. It’s the best work we’ve ever done, the most versatile I’ve ever been; it gave me a new formation for singing. Ross was the main proponent of that. He was the main dude who helped us achieve our goal.
Speaking of your singing on the record, I think the way your voice is employed is interesting. “Dying in a Red Room,” weirdly enough, reminded me of Portishead.
Oh wow. That’s a big compliment. Thanks, man. Hold on one second. [Leans out of phone] Garza! He just said “Dying in a Red Room” sounds like Portishead. [Leans back] Fuckin’ badass, dude.
But yeah. [Laughs] Like, I’ll hear from bands, “Oh, we listened to a lot of Entombed, we listened to a lot of Springsteen,” whatever. But this track just sounds out there. How did you get it down?
We all come from really different walks. Alex [Lopez, drummer] loves goth music and new wave, and various Latino artists, and post-hardcore. Alex loves that, along with nü-metal, Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Taproot — all these different sounds, Alex is into, and it shines all over the record. Same thing with Mark [Heylmun, guitarist]: He’s really into '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll. We’re all huge Pink Floyd Fans. I love Portishead. All of us have eclectic tastes; you take that melting pot of all these bands and sounds, and something new is bound to come. I’ve never heard anything that sounds like "Dying in a Red Room" in my life. That’s the hammer on the nail of the new sound and new vibe to the core. That’s kind of the goal of music, right? To write something that hasn’t been touched before? The fact that nobody can ever put a finger on it — it’s a brand new sound. That said, the basic answer is all of us listening to as much music as possible, bashing our heads against the wall to try and create something new, to create something fresh and different [that] you have to be really committed to.
What vocal performance were you most proud of?
That’s a hard question. I think “Conformity,” when we finished that song, Ross looked and me and he said, “Dude, you just smoked Stone Sour; you just smoked every wannabe pop-rock band from a heavy dude, ever. And you did it from your own band.” That was a song that was really hard to nail the feeling of, where it melded into one thing and its own sound. That song will always be one of my proudest achievements. That song is blues, it’s rock 'n’ roll, it’s the song that’ll force everyone to shut up and listen. You won’t be able to question whether I have the chops to sing. It’s undeniable.
Do you think there’s any future for deathcore on its own?
If bands keep doing what we’re doing, it can still remain as a powerhouse. Fact is, the reason people don’t believe in deathcore is it sounds dumbed-down and cheesy, and not challenging to play. A lot of the death metal elitists make fun of it, and anyone who doesn’t listen to all screamed vocals isn’t going to listen to it. So, you’re kind of stuck playing to these fans who are either deathcore fans or death metal elitists. Or just metal elitists in general, the patch-wearing fucking weirdos. [Laughs] You start playing to these crowds, and they’re never going to accept the virtuosity of dumbing down your music; they’re never going to understand it. If it’s not played at 230 bpm, people are gonna think it’s wack. That right there goes to show how simple-minded and afraid of change people in our scene are. If bands starts challenging themselves and pushing what they can do as musicians, and goes out there and write some really good tunes, I think deathcore has a future. If bands succumb to what Thy Art Is Murder just did, like, “Oh yeah we’re gonna save deathcore,” and they write the same song they wrote on their last record, it’s going to die. That’s just it. If bands start to grow, deathcore will grow; if bands make the music they’ve always made, it’s going to die.