Prog-metal quintet the Contortionist are still buoyed by the success of their 2010 debut, Exoplanet, as they enter Audiohammer Studios in Orlando, Florida, to record their sophomore release. AP caught up with guitarist Robby Baca, who opined on their shift away from deathcore and the possibility of a comic book—and other non-music-related Contortionist goodies—in the future.
You guys are at Audiohammer and are working with Jason Suecof and Eyal Levi. What made you guys decide to work with them? How is the relationship going musically?
Audiohammer was the first studio that our label pitched to us, and we didn’t even have to really think about it—we just said, “Yes.” So far, they’ve pretty much been on the same page with us. We’ve had a few things they’ve brought up that we have agreed with. Any input that they have had so far has been for the better.
How is the recording process different this time as compared to Exoplanet’s sessions?
It’s a lot more relaxed. We’re still on a pretty tight time budget, but last time it was super high-stress the whole time—at least for me. This time we’re actually living at the studio. We have our own beds and room and we can just relax. It’s really cool because so far we’ve been working mostly with Eyal, and he’s super chill and we’re super chill, so that works out really well.
How far along in the process are you right now?
We are about almost halfway done with the drums. We have three more weeks.
How many songs did you come to the studio with, and how many do you plan to have on the record?
We came with eight or nine full-band songs, and then we have plans for some other tracks that will hopefully end up on the record. Kind of like last time, I wrote one song in the studio and we ended up using it. We plan on doing a few tracks like that again.
Musically, what steps are you taking to try and not repeat yourself? In what direction is the Contortionist headed?
We’re moving away from the deathcore kind of thing we’re associated with. You’ll still hear some of that, but this time around with the writing, we really got super into detail. Every note—every beat—was analyzed far beyond what we did with [Exoplanet]. I feel like the complexity stepped up a little more. Where before trying to write technical music was kind of a struggle, this time around everything has been much smoother.
You guys have always had a very progressive balance between a lot of post-rock and ambient sounds with the brutal and heavy stuff. How are you going about these types of tones this time around?
There’s definitely lots of heavy still. We just went about it in a different manner. We have picked up a lot of influences since writing Exoplanet, so there’s a lot of different influence going into it. I’d say it’s a little less heavy, to be honest, but there’s still a balance between the heavy and the more ambient things.
Are there any songs on this record you think are going to stick out and show people something new about the Contortionist?
I’d like to say there’s at least one thing in each song that we tried to do that we haven’t done before. There are definitely a couple songs that really stand out. There’s one that has more of a jazz-fusion influence—you’ll hear it right off the bat when the song starts. That’s probably one of my favorite songs. We’ve never done anything like that kind of sound. We also plan on having one or two songs that have more of an electronic feel, as opposed to a full-metal-band kind of sound. I think those will definitely stand out. I can’t think of too many metal bands that go out of their way to put a couple of electronica or fully ambient songs on the record.
The last record had a very space-oriented theme. What’s going on lyrically this time around? Is it still as conceptual?
It’s definitely centered around one concept. I can say it’s not going to be about space. We feel a lot of bands have been doing the space thing. We are trying to do something that hasn’t been done or touched on much. There’s a central theme and the individual songs will be more specific. With Exoplanet, it was sort of a storyline in a sense and this time around, each song is its own piece of the concept and a different motif and theme, but it’s all related to one main thing.
Do you guys plan on releasing specific extras related to the story outside of the music to integrate it into your aesthetic?
Yeah, we sort of tried to do that with Exoplanet with a few space-related designs. We’ve always talked about doing a comic book or something. Just something outside of music, but that is still the Contortionist.
What do you want people to know about the record and the future of the Contortionist?
If you’re a fan of Exoplanet, everything you liked about that—we’re still going to be that band, but with a few new sounds and new instruments. It’ll definitely be more of a diverse sonic experience than Exoplanet was, so hopefully people can look forward to that. alt