Photo by Jake Murnane
Nashville’s deathgrind force, Knoll, continues to carve out its own path in extreme music. On their second studio album, Metempiric–which arrives this Friday–Knoll builds upon and blows away their debut, Interstice. Knoll are young and still relatively new to heavy metal. They have been essentially learning as they go, but that hasn’t hindered their ability to create absolutely blistering music. Where Interstice signaled a jumping-off point, Metempiric solidifies their upstart supremacy.
Knoll’s music is meant to be one continuous expression and exploration of humanity. It seems to grow and evolve as the members of the band do. Metempiric undoubtedly shines as a massive step forward. Heavier, tighter, and more complete, the 13 new tracks showcase a sinister intensity undoubtedly attached to the band’s ongoing learning. There are many stellar examples of Knoll’s intensity, but some standouts include “Gild of Blotted Lucre,” “Marred Alb,” and the blistering, eight-minute finale, “Tome.”
While Knoll is still in a relative fledgling phase right now, they show immense promise and a spectacular grasp of the fundamentals of extreme music. Whatever may come next for them—and it is most likely soon, according to the band—seems almost guaranteed to blow their current material away. For now, dig into Knoll’s newest slice of insanity.
Read an in-depth interview with Jamie Eubanks and listen to an exclusive stream of Metempiric now. The visualizer for the album was created by the talented Frank Huang. Be sure to pick up a copy of the album ahead of its release this Friday from Knoll directly.
It seems like Knoll is the first band for a lot of you guys. How did you all decide to come together and create this band?
Jamie Eubanks: It is all our first band except for our drummer. We were all in high school, so none of us really had experience playing with other people. It was me and our guitarist Evan that initially got together, and we had a brief revolving door of members. He and I met each other through school, and then we ran into our bassist, Lukas, through shows and whatnot.
That was our core three for a little while. Then, while we were still in Memphis, we picked up a second guitarist. Lukas had known Ryan since they were kids and he had never played in a band before. He was new to heavy music and so young but an immediate friend. I think that’s always been the first and foremost thing about the band.
It’s just all of us getting along, and I think that’s why we work so well. I had to play and write drums for the band for the longest time because we couldn’t find a drummer that was both not a dick and was able to play fast enough.
So, I had to handle that for a while. Then a bunch of weird stuff happened with schooling. Evan, our guitarist, went up to school in Nashville, and then we got Drew to hop in and play with us for a few shows. We moved to Nashville–now most of us are located there–and we found our drummer Jack.
It’s weird that we had to move cities to find a drummer who is actually capable of playing with us, but that’s just how it happened. He’s older than us, like five years, and he’s been playing in a lot of other bands for a long time. It’s been nice to have that anchor while we’ve been here. He’s someone who is extremely passionate about his instrument and practices more than anyone I know and that’s been dope. He’s the guy that gave us the ability to tour and push the music. Before he was in the band, it was hard to be much outside of the studio as I had double duty, but now we’re able to fully recreate the music organically.
What’s the learning process been like with this being your first band and developing demos, your debut, and now your second studio album? What’s the learning curve been like?
Eubanks: Ridiculous with it being our first band. There has been so much that we have had to handle, especially being independent. We never really got on a label or had much label interest at all until now. Not only did we have to figure out how to write music together–which took us years, we were kids when we started–we had to learn how to play our instruments. I think our ambitions were ahead of our physicality for some time.
We were in a band and had to figure out exactly what kind of sound we wanted to go for. That took us a while. Then the hurdle of paying for a record yourself while you’re in high school and getting that pressed and really putting your best foot into it was also difficult. It was just hard work, saving money, and trying to plan ahead. Doing it that way was so nice because there’s no middleman taking a cut. So, when you’re managing yourself and managing your own money, it all comes back to you and you’re able to make decisions of what to do with that fully.
From a musician standpoint, how about learning how to play drums, doing electronics, or vocals?
Eubanks: I’ve been doing vocals since I was about twelve. I was in my mom’s car practicing songs while she would go shop at Kroger or something. I thought nobody could hear me outside the car, but everybody could.
I was a young deathcore kid—it is really goofy how that started out. I thought it was the most brutal thing available at the time. Most people I encounter started out in punk or whatever, but I was into the worst shit imaginable. I am eternally grateful to Lukas for showing me Nails. That was the first time I’d ever really heard blast beats used in a way that I was obsessed with. Once I heard blast beat-centric music, that was something we got super into. We settled on this weird avant-death grind thing quickly. There was a huge evolution for me playing drums for a while and getting into grindcore at the same time. I think that might have been kind of what shaped the band into being extreme in the first place.
We always wanted to play something extreme, though. It was just a matter of our cognitive ability to even think about what that looked like. I feel like all of us have, with the records, tried to implement new things and challenge ourselves with each new thing that we’re doing.
Even now, Metempiric hasn’t even come out, and there’s already a third record that we’re super deep into. I think it’s even more extreme than the last thing and it’s harder to play. Technicality is not always the goal, but it tends to be the fruit of us pushing ourselves.
You’re steadily building out and learning different things than honing technical abilities. Looking at Knoll overall and knowing this is yours and many of your bandmate’s first band, what sets Knoll apart from other people’s first bands that didn’t quite make it off the ground? What has made you guys so successful that maybe hasn’t made other people’s first tries so successful?
Eubanks: Recognizing that we have had some success is the first thing, which is cool and surreal. I think a lot of it is luck. We were in the right place, right time, and the right age, especially when it came to being an independent band. I was still living with my mom, and I was privileged with having this high-paying swim lesson job when I was still in high school, and I worked my ass off. Between school and that, I was pulling 70-hour weeks.
That’s the reason that we were ever able to pay for the first record, get it recorded by people that we were ecstatic to work with and have it pressed ourselves. I think the underlying factor of it all is just being determined above all else. All we’ve ever wanted to do is play something extreme that resonated with a deeper psyche-prodding core. Knoll clicked as that thing for me. There was no other option. That’s all I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be in any other band, so I push what we have as far as I can.
Did your success with Interstice shift or change things for Knoll during the creation of Metempiric?
Eubanks: Definitely, yeah. We started writing Metempiric before Interstice was out as well. We were about halfway through writing it when Interstice was taking off and people were starting to listen to it and get what we were about. Maybe it was a combination of the fact that we hadn’t toured yet or seen the world and we read some of the negative stuff that people had to say that pushed us to expand.
We went on our first tour halfway through writing Metempiric, and I came back feeling like we had something more to prove, and I wanted to drop the most visceral record that my brain could conjure. I think we’re in the process of doing that. I’m proud of the record. I think it’s taxing and heavy. There was a lot of pressure to follow up.
We’re a band that deeply cares about what we’re doing and we’re not going away. We’re not just going to put out one record, tour on it one time, never sign to a label, and fall off because we don’t know what to do. It’s always about advancing and putting out something better than the last thing and pushing our boundaries. Interstice was a great foothold for us.
What changed in the writing process between the two albums?
Eubanks: I feel like we don’t even have a concrete writing process. It’s fucked up. It’s different every time. With Interstice we were learning how to even be musicians when we were writing that record. There was so much going back and rehashing the material. A lot of those songs had 20 different versions in order for them to look like the idea that we had in our heads.
With Metempiric, there was a lot more improvisation happening, especially between Evan and I. We’ve been the core songwriters for a long time, though everyone contributes. I interpret much of the structuring amidst the albums and their individual parts, and he provides the sonic counterpart. It came out a lot more naturally, though we still thought about it a lot. We honed that process—playing the music, recording it on our own, listening to it, and critiquing it again to achieve the record that we feel both internally and externally obligated to make.
We are straight-up better songwriters. We had learned a lot, so things were better right off the bat, and we didn’t have to go back as much and alter things. I feel like the same can be said about our future material.
What other goals or ideas were you hoping to achieve with this album?
Eubanks: We need it to be a cohesive statement of work rather than just a collection of songs. We intended that the records flow together, and they do. There are pieces on both of those records that echo themselves and each other. The lyrics and themes are following that as well. It all must have a distinct correlation and connection.
The music is both intertwined with the self and abandons it. We needed to create recordings that accompany a raw sum of experience and explore outside of it. I think the record came out that way. It feels horrific to perform.
You all certainly tap into something raw and emotionally visceral in that sense. The word “metempiric” itself describes something beyond experience or knowledge. How has the title of your album fit into the more abstract lyrical themes, like consciousness and time, or more oppressive ideas, like existential dread?
Eubanks: Much of what I was writing about on Metempiric was thought processes themselves, where the limits of consciousness might be, as well as a large feeling of inadequacy with the human platform, among many other endeavors.
Even within the music and going beyond that, to my own life, there’s always a desire to strive for something greater. Waking up, punching in the clock, getting out, and doing the same fucking thing every day is menial and an unlivable bore. There are desires for something beyond that – some of which the answers may be self-contained or completely removed from a common understanding. People find ways to cope with that, like wishing for an afterlife or whatever. I like to dwell on metaphysicality and other pursuits of enlightenment. Metempiric reflects these ideas and their permeations in time.
That does bring up an interesting point. People have these big aspirations, these big goals for who they want to be in life. Then sometimes you get stuck in these monotonous rhythms of the day, and you start to question, “What am I doing? What is this life? What am I subjecting myself to?”
I think that probably feeds a lot of things. We feel like we lost our locus of control.
Eubanks: For sure. Metempiric is an exploration into thought as a form. The boundaries of selfhood and disillusionment from that–abandoning the mindset of seity and thinking of existence on a larger scale.
How do the lyrical themes of Metempiric fit into the ideas of cosmic nihilism on Interstice?
Eubanks: I feel like our records keep coming back to a similar point. I have a compulsion to explore these very negative ideas that I think are very real and true to living. It’s a lot of taking these deep themes and sometimes unintentionally veiling them with metaphor and coloring an image that is indicative of what you’re trying to get across. There are a lot of direct conceptual continuations off of Interstice. My influences from physics, anatomy, nature, religious philosophy and other arguably pretentious jargon are on both of those records.
I’ve noticed that a bit. Just with some of the song titles and such. There’s a big focus on physics and history too. What are some of your favorite metaphors in Knoll’s music?
Eubanks: There’s a song from Metempiric called “Marred Alb.” If you take it super literally, it’s about stabbing priests. It’s blunt at a glance, but something I like to do is portray a smaller idea within a larger picture, be that within a song or an entire record. That song is also about religious disillusionment and being misguided into the warmth of confirmation in thought. Eternal unease and uncertainty in your knowing is the way.
I think music is about the listener and how they’re going to interpret things. I like pieces that you can revisit and derive a new meaning from each time.
What’s your background and how did you develop this metaphorical expression for Knoll’s music? These are very deep and it’s incredibly intelligent.
Eubanks: Thanks! I appreciate it. I’ve always really been into literature and all types of science. I’m young, there’s always stuff that I like to read and discover. Even in high school and a little bit in college–even though I dropped out of college–I was studying physics a lot. In high school, I took a lot of physics. That’s something I’ve always been really interested in. I intake too much for my own good and am always in a peril of judgement regarding my own belief and understanding of where I lie in being. I have horrific anxiety and OCD and am in an unending loop of pondering these things to better myself.
Being vegan has been a big thing for me too. Stepping away from the “individualist” and caring about the things around you, looking at how those things interchange, and exactly what the extensions of your mind are. Everything that you do in your life has an effect. You’re affecting everything around you. You leave a trace everywhere and exist beyond your years and knowledge and I’ve always found that fascinating. I like to walk through my life with that in tow. It is easy to squander in the smaller details but I think it is important to have an image of how you operate under each level of scrutiny.
I think it’s unique and I think you bring a very positive and very special perspective with that mentality to, almost ironically, a genre of music that typically doesn’t sound like such.
Eubanks: Yeah, Knoll is never a black and white thing, I don’t think. I would say it is mostly negative. That is the way I like to exude this emotion, and that’s the way I feel is most natural to me. Yet, there are also things in there I think are beautiful.
I feel similarly about the ethos perspective of the band. Maybe the reason I’m playing music is to be able to have a kind of output for that sort of thing and just be a freak where I want to be a freak. I’ll never be the guy that’s rude to people at shows and putting on this false persona to act tough or whatever. Within the context of very serious and heavy music is one thing, but it’s important to us to be able to connect with people externally and communicate with them as a fellow human being. I adore that about being a musician.
Do you think the way you view and approach things influences your band’s continued independence and decision not to sign with a label?
Eubanks: Definitely. I feel like not being on a label is almost like a statement to ourselves. I don’t mean to get ahead of myself in any way because I know we are a very small piece of this community and are blessed to be able to do things the way we do, but we want to set an example for the music itself because we care about it so much and we care about the other bands that we interact with, in the same way, that we interacted with and learned from our peers.
Knoll is a product of all the people that have surrounded it and supported it. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am, whatever that is, without having resources to go to and ask for advice from. Ethan McCarthy has been a huge one for that. That relationship is interesting as he does our art and interprets my lyrics and that shared conceptual process is something that I don’t take lightly. I trust him a ton in every realm of the band. He gets who we are and knows how to distill that visually on top of being a total champion of the scene.
What advice would you give to other bands trying to do this independently? What would you offer them? Say, this has made us successful so far. This is what you could try as well?
Eubanks: Again, we got lucky. I was staying at my mom’s house. I didn’t have to pay bills, and I had a high-paying job. We are from Memphis and the surrounding area, which sometimes isn’t the toughest place to live. A lot of people have it harder than we have. So that disclaimer being there, the shit is still expensive.
You have to be pretty good at managing your money. Honestly, I love that element of being in a band, and it feels like a fucked up and fun game to me. It’s a good challenge. Yet, something I feel maybe goes over people’s heads–it seems like there is an intentional movement by this industry to make self-releasing seem harder than it is. Doing your own vinyl order form takes you an hour. If you can build your own team, learn how to book your own tours, and just be nice and form real, genuine connections with people, you will have less to worry about. You can do a lot of things a label is going to provide for you.
Don’t get me wrong, there are great labels out there that are helping people, and being independent is not for everybody. There are people out there that like to work their day jobs and maybe don’t want to spend all their time doing the minuscule parts of being in a band and that’s totally cool because ultimately being in a band is about making music first and foremost and the smaller shit can make it a burnout for some. Not everybody wants to handle shipping all their own shirts and shit like that.
If you really want to have total control over that sort of thing, it’s a huge learning curve and it’s a long process, but you can invest your own time and commit to it. It’s what we’re about right now!