Chances are, whatever you're listening to right now isn't as heavy as The Body's Christs, Redeemers. The record, the latest from southern-born duo Chip King and Lee Buford, opens with a haunting drone, "I, The Mourner of Perished Days," before "To Attempt Openness" kicks in, marrying Buford's doomy drums and a blackened riff to the incantations of the 24-member female choir, Assembly of Light Choir. Then King starts screaming, all distorted high end, sounding like a cheap keyboard with a drained battery.
The remainder of the record follows suit, blending distinct touches of droning Americana, sludge rock, fuzzed soundscapes, and industrial clatter. It's resolutely bleak (sample lyric: "The pain of living holds no victory") but compelling, and though it's void of redemption, there's a something curiously triumphant in the record's DNA.
King and Buford are currently on tour, and we spoke with them as they departed from their adopted home in the Pacific Northwest. Don't worry: Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball came up.Up on the Sun: I've had a hard time finding an interview that doesn't mention the guns in your press photos. Does it surprise you at all that people are so interested in that?
Lee Buford: Yeah, definitely. I mean, that picture's old too, so I don't know why [there's so much interest in it]. I feel like we've talked about the guns enough in past interviews. [Laughs]
I'm more interested in the reaction music writers have had to that image. It seems like people are super interested in discussing it.
I don't really know why. I guess it doesn't seem that crazy to us. It does to other people.
But it's an interesting choice. Was it posed? Was it a deliberate image?
I mean, yeah. But I think people think there's more to it than there is.
You could tie it to the music if you choose to do that. There's an element of violence in what The Body sounds like. I think people are freaked out by it. I'm in Arizona; it's actually not the first press photo I've seen with guys with guns. There are a lot of guns out here.
Yeah, it's definitely where you grew up. We grew up in the South, so it's really not an issue for us.
Christs, Redeemers features a lot of religious imagery in the album art and the song titles. What role did Christian imagery play in the creation of this record?
I think we just use the Christianity stuff as stories that we can relate to. I don't think it's as much the "Christian" aspect [to us] as the "story" aspect of it.
When you employ Christian themes, you sort of bring to the table people's ideas which are sort of already formed. It's like thematic shorthand.
Exactly. Yeah. It's what we're familiar with, and most people are.
What does the plurality refer to in the title?
I don't know. Chip [King] came up with the title; that's more on him. Yeah. [Laughs]
It adds some ambiguity to it.
Yeah, that was probably the point.
You guys worked again with the Assembly of Light Choir. What is it about working with them that appeals to you guys?
We like the "choir" aspect of it, but also, Crissy [Wolpert] is one of our best friends. She's always done stuff with us to some degree. She's on pretty much most of the stuff we've recorded.
When you perform songs live, do you use pre-recorded material or loops you can trigger?
Naw, not usually. The choir has gone on tour with us, and when they're with us we'll play those songs live, and Chrissy sings on other stuff, so if she's around she'll sing with us. But we usually don't use pre-recorded stuff. I think it would be too hard for us to keep in time with that.
There's obviously a juxtaposition in the way they sound, which is traditionally beautiful and uplifting, mixed with what you do. How important is that contrast to you guys, and when you don't employ it, do you feel like the songs come from a different place?
I feel like it's coming from the same place. Chrissy has been friends with us for so long. I used to live with her for years. I feel like she has the same aesthetic as us, so it feels more in line with what we're doing. I feel like the stuff she writes is...you know, it's exactly what I would write or Chip would write if we could write stuff exactly how she does it. It's pretty perfect. I feel like it goes along pretty well.
Listening to the record, there are elements of chorale music, Americana, and industrial. How much stock to you guys put in the "metal" genre tag, and does it really matter to you guys at all if what you do is metal?
We listen to so much music, and nowadays I feel like so little of it is metal. I don't really feel like we belong in that category. I mean, to a degree, but, I don't really know. I feel like aesthetically we fit in more with noise music more, as far just experimentation stuff. As far as lyrically, maybe even more black metal, because it's just negative. I have no idea where to fit us in in the spectrum of music.
What kind of stuff are you guys listening to in the van?
Usually we listen to a lot of pop music because we're around so much heavy music on tour. Just now we listened to some reggae. We listened to the Miley Cyrus record last night. It's not any good. I had high hopes for it, but...
You weren't into it?
I wasn't that into it. The singles I think are good, but, beyond that it's a pretty terrible record.
The Body is scheduled to perform Sunday, November 10, at Wall Street.
You might also want to read:
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.