Mizery Won’t Accept Hardcore Being Metal’s Little Brother
Though they’ve only been a band for a couple years, San Diego’s Mizery have stirred up excitement from coast to coast. Their Survive the Vibe EP brought interest to a boil, and now exciting new full-length Absolute Light has cemented people’s suspicions that Mizery are one of the most promising heavy bands out there. An easygoing and engaging group of guys, Mizery have carved out a special place for themselves, where disappointments like a broken arm that ends up in a cancelled tour only heighten the anticipation, instead of waylaying it. Frontman Jose Gonzales talked about the group's musical dynamics and aesthetics, and why you favorite band has to be your own.
What is it to make a hard record in 2016? It seems like bands with more metallic sounds have less legacy hang-ups. You aren't asked to play by strict rules, but so many do. How did you find a sound special to you?
Well, first off, it's a pretty freeing experience. You go into it knowing you aren't getting commercial airplay, you aren't going to reach a massive audience, and that allows you do whatever you want, however you want it. There is no pressure. We make the music we want to hear, combining all the elements of our favorite pieces of music to create something that's unique to us. My friend Nate told me, "If your own band isn't your favorite band, then you're doing it wrong." And I probably listen to our record more than anyone else in the world.
What were you hoping to accomplish with Absolute Light? What were the growing pains between Survive the Vibe and AL?
By the time Survive the Vibe was out, we had already written enough new material that would be too much for an EP, so we decided to sit and put a full LP together. Going into it, we knew we wanted 10 songs with enough ebb and flow to keep you interested for the whole duration, and I think we accomplished that. There’s no filler; every riff and transition is carefully thought out. Our guitarist Taylor [Parker] has a tendency to not repeat the same riff twice, but somehow puts everything together to make one cohesive-sounding track. It can be frustrating as a lyricist, but keeping up with different song structures makes for a fun record. We had a good share of personal tragedies that pushed back the recording and subsequent release of Absolute Light, but things turned out for the better. The original pre-production sounds like a completely different record — a record I wouldn't be as proud of as I am with this one.
You put a comparison to Leeway and Crown of Thornz in your record release promo, which is apt. Riffs are great, but COT also take you on a magic carpet ride before — and usually after — the breakdown. Given your guitarist's blues background, how do you work that sound in?
Taylor is kind of a mad genius. I've known him since middle school, and he's always been a great musician. His writing style is a mix of Mike Dijan and A.J. Novello, with a Dave Mustaine twist. Whenever we're jamming, he's always noodling on some blues or jazz licks in between, and I'm always like, "Why don't you throw that in there?" I'm the one to push him to go for the crazier or weirder stuff; he will always ask if something is too much, but for me, it's never enough. I think there was definitely more of a bluesy sound with some of the earlier versions of the songs, but some stuff just didn't fit. There was a little change-up in the end of "Execution Style" that sounded straight out of a Stevie Ray Vaughan record, but unfortunately it didn't make the cut. Maybe I can convince him to do it live.
Heavier bands have this option of taking a route that most resembles a metal band, at least commercially. Is that something you guys think about as you grow as a band and as people?
Right now, it's not in the cards to a be a full-blown touring act. We want to do as much as we can, but life just seems to get in the way sometimes. We are more than willing to take that route. For us, music is a passion, and if we could make a livelihood doing what we love, we'd be foolish to turn that opportunity down. Seeing our good friends in Power Trip, Code Orange and Turnstile doing it is a very exciting thing. Hardcore has a lot to offer to the world of heavy music, and it's about time people took a serious listen. We aren't just metal's little brother anymore.
The aesthetic of your records — and logo — is very consistent. Who's responsible for the visual representation of the band? Are there any new ways you're looking to explore that side of the group?
Our guitarist and I are, for the most part, the driving force behind this band. Of course, we always go to the rest of our members for input, but they almost always love what we come up with. Taylor is an extremely creative person. I've been so lucky to be in a band with him. He just needs someone to guide his creative force most of the time; that's where I come in. I take a lot of his initial ideas and expand upon them. I'm a graphic designer, so the aesthetic of Mizery is a very important part to me. I've put together everything the band has ever put out. Every shirt, every promotional poster, every record layout — I am very particular on how everything looks. I try and keep a consistent look for everything — it's completely intentional. I'm crazy about typefaces, about placement. If something doesn't fit the band’s aesthetic 100 percent, it goes in the trash. Andrei Bouzikov did an amazing job on our first album cover, and I think Sam Octigan stepped the bar even higher for Absolute Light. We're just going to keep pushing the envelope and make sure our look always matches our sound.
You're going on a big tour of Europe early next year with a shitload of legendary bands — Suicidal Tendencies at the top, for starters. This is your first time playing in Europe with this band, but most of you guys have been over with other bands before, right? What do you think you guys might do differently this time?
Well, everyone else in the band except me has been there multiple times. They know the rundown, they've seen the sights — been there, done that. What makes this different is that all those times before, they were just hired guns, playing the music someone else composed. This time, there’s more pressure to do well because this is our own music that we've put our heart and soul into. It's an incredible opportunity to be able to play on a lineup of absolute legends. I mean, seriously, we are the youngest band on the bill by like 10 years. WE PLAY UNDER BURN! It's totally crazy. This is personally my first time out, so I am overly excited. I have a lot of expectations to beat when it comes to being a frontman on this tour. How am I supposed to compete with Chaka [Malik], David Wood or Roger Miret? I'm fucked.
A member of your band had an injury that kept you guys off the road. Are you planning to make up those dates in the near future?
It sucks. We haven't been able to play a single show since our record came out, and it's so disappointing. We have our record release dates coming up, and I'm very excited for those, and we have some other things in the works. We definitely have to hit the U.S. hard soon. As of when and where, I'm not sure, but we want to get back out there as soon as possible.
What are you guys vibing on currently? In and outside of hardcore/metal? Music and beyond?
Me personally, I've been trying to do a lot more graphic design work. I just did Bent Life's new LP, and I'm working on Higher Power from the U.K.'s new LP as well. Music-wise, I've been jamming the new Discrepancy EP and a whole lot of Bad Brains have been getting play from me recently. I can't get over the new James Blake, Kvelertak and Kaytranada either. Taylor recently moved to Atlanta, where he's been [a chef] at a restaurant called Ammazza. I'm sure he's been listening to Blood Orange's new album nonstop. Our bassist Mike [Salazar] also got a new culinary job at this golf course in San Diego. He's a trap boy, so all he listens to is 21 Savage and Young Thu ... I mean Jeffery. Cayle [Sain] is doing his own thing in Van Nuys; he's currently been playing live drums for this rap artist named Fat Nick. If you couldn't tell by our music, we are all huge hip-hop fans, and Cayle has that drum groove on lock. All of us have some pretty chaotic lives, but we still somehow are able to make time for Mizery. Taylor and I were recently discussing some musical ideas for the future, so a new record may be coming out sooner than you think, but don't quote me on that.