[Photo by: Aaron Marsh]

ERRA's self-titled album finally freed them from the fear of expectations

Despite forming over 10 years ago, ERRA’s upcoming self-titled record feels like the group’s fullest collection of work and has justly earned its title. As a collective unit, ERRA have composed a clear revolutionary objective both lyrically and thematically across their 12-track self-titled album. Leaning heavily into their progressive metalcore musings, ERRA reflect their consistent growth as well as create a sense of life’s deeper and existential purpose. 

Guitarist/vocalist Jesse Cash admits to finding purity while writing for the album. However, he urged himself to find a balance between the music the band wanted to release versus what they thought might be expected of them. Cash caught up with Alternative Press for the 100 Artists You Need To Know issue ahead of their self-titled release.

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ERRA’s self-titled album, set for release in March, will be the group’s fifth studio album, and it feels like the fullest body of work to date. How was the writing process different on this album that allowed that to happen?

There were a few factors this time around that made a difference. I was living alone, and pretty much my only objective during summer 2019 was to write the record. So I think having a lot of peace of mind and a lot of free time was really beneficial. I would wake up and walk a couple of blocks to my favorite coffee shop. So I would walk and drink coffee and read a bit. And then that would usually just get me in the right mindset to go back home and work on music. I figured out how to be alone a lot of the time and [learned] to be comfortable with a very simple lifestyle. I was figuring out the balance of getting too caught up in expectation for writing songs based on preconceived notions of what I think people expect of us. I tried to keep it as pure as possible this time around. I finally came to a point where I guess I had balls. [Laughs.] To not worry about people too much.

For those unfamiliar with ERRA, how would you describe your sound? How has your sound evolved since forming in 2009?

I would say we’ve gone through a lot of changes over the years. Unfortunately, I think for a lot of bands getting started, the first record is always so pure. There is no expectation because there are not really fans yet. You’re just doing it for you because you believe in something, and you feel like it can lead to something, but you’re not sure what because you’ve never seen it before. For us, growing up in Alabama, we didn’t have any peers in our local scene to show us an example of what it could be if you reach “success.” It was purely faith-based. It was a very pure process. Then the first record came out, and now we had people listening and paying attention. We never experienced anything like that. Over the course of 10 years, you process all these new expectations, and all these new factors come into play that honestly deviates from the purity of just writing songs. It can make you jaded, and you can certainly make your music suffer. When I listen back to our records, I hear that flow of growth and figuring out how to further progress, finding our voice to just do it from that attention that came from that first record but also with everything that we’ve learned.

Before the pandemic hit in 2020, you were touring with your other band, Ghost Atlas. Did Ghost Atlas inspire or influence the writing or recording process for the self-titled album?

I would say they influence each other but in a subconscious way, not really an intentional way. We were writing the new record while I was on that Ghost Atlas tour because that was the next thing that we had coming. We did the Ghost Atlas tour, and then a week after that tour, we were in the studio recording. The two definitely influence one another, but again, it’s a subconscious thing. I only notice after the music is out, and we’ll pick up on it, and then I go back once every two years. I’ll go and just listen to everything.

In the journalism world, writers are taught to not write above an 8th grade reading level to appeal to a wider audience. Do you find yourself feeling the need to write on a specific level for mainstream appeal, or do you find your writing to be challenging to the listener and possibly challenge their beliefs?

I think a lot of people do associate us with sometimes having brainy lyrics, almost to a fault at times. After our first two records, all of the lyrics on those records were by our original vocalist. Once JT [Cavey, unclean vocalist] came into the band, I personally wanted to simplify things and make things a bit more accessible just because, even for me, some people call it dictionary-core or whatever. [Laughs.] I think if you look at the lyrics compared to the last two records, it is way more accessible. We wanted to keep moving in that pattern. This record did harken back to the lyrical style of those first-year records. There are weightier subjects, but the difference between them is that it didn’t really feel forced for me this time around like it would have been if I was writing for the last two records. I think I just suggested a lot of good information [and] read a lot of good books that inspired me, and that just translated into the quality of the lyrics I write. 

Lyrically and thematically, I do feel like this record is more of a challenge. At times, lyrically, maybe it isn’t going to be for everyone that just wants a straightforward message. But at the same time, I do think those three or four messages bleed through within the complexity because I think that’s an important principle for me as well. I have a tendency to overanalyze and make situations too intricate when really I just need to get out of my own way and stop thinking so hard and let things be simple, so you can feel that bleeding through.

Divisionary” heavily compares technology and religion in excess. Do you consider the track to be a criticism of the two, a warning against excess or something entirely different?

For me, it’s more of a first-hand critique on technology. If anything, a second-hand critique on religion because of the way the way that it compares technology to religion is what highlights what I’m not so sure about religion. We’re definitely not an anti-religious band. None of us have a polarizing opinion about it, but 100% [it’s] not for me. And it has been at times in my life heavily. I was raised Mormon. A lot of people don’t know that, but I learned so much from being a part of that community there. So many things that to this day, I defend, just mostly regarding the people in the lifestyle. I think it is the biggest thing that motivated me in my life when I was going through some tough shit as a kid that made me turn out to be a piece of crap. [It] actually made me want to be a good person. So I was just surrounded by that community. It is no longer correlated with a set of values that I was developing as I was becoming an adult, so I stepped away from it. I try to be as open as possible.

Despite this being your fifth full-length with ERRA, why did the band make the decision to title the album after the band? What about this album made it representative of the band as a whole? Which song from the record best represents ERRA?

I think the reason why “Snowblood” was the first single is that we felt like it accomplished that. It does have a lot of the elements of what the record is going to be in that song, and it’s track one. Right out of the gate, track one says, “This is what you’re in for.” And I love that because that’s something that you always want to accomplish. If I had to list one song that I think exemplifies the heart of the record, if there is one song that I think is the soul of the record, it would be “Vanish Canvas.” “Vanish Canvas,” to me as of right now, is my favorite song that I’ve written. I’m really proud of that one. I think the way it sounds and the performance on it, the delivery of the vocals and the lyrics and the ambiance, the soul of the record is in that song.