Interview: Anthony DiDio (Vein)
Massachusetts’ Vein spit vicious, spastic metalcore with unrivaled vitriol while their eccentric sound, imagery and lyricism belie their brief four year existence. To be blunt, most current bands can’t touch Vein’s bonkers, abrasive but fluid sound, which harkens back to the rarefied bombast of late 90s / early aughts metalcore and screamo. To wit, there’s much under the surface of this quintet’s brief, textured songs. I had a chance in April to get on the line with vocalist, lyricist and occasional bassist Anthony DiDio to discuss what inspiration and passion courses through Vein’s...um, veins.
How did Vein get started?
Four of us were in another band prior to this. Me and our drummer, Matt Wood and guitar player Josh Butts had been jamming. I met Matt when I was 15 and Matt and Josh grew up playing music. We had another band and guitarist Jeremy Martin came along. We were doing that band for a while and we all had different influences outside of that band that couldn't really fit into it. We were all ‘why don’t we just start another band?’ It was the just four of us without our singer. I sang and played bass originally in Vein, then we added an additional bass player. It was sick, because we had so many influences and ideas that just wouldn't even fit and our singer didn’t understand them at the time. It didn’t make sense for that band so we were just like fuck it and we started a new band.
In terms of those ideas, your sound is reminiscent of the chaotic sound of bands like Converge, Botch, Orchid and similar bands. Coming from the same Massachussetts scene, was your sound and visual aesthetic informed by those bands?
Oh, 100 percent. Jeromes Dream and bands like Orchid, for me personally, were what got me into screamo and I already loved Converge and Botch. Screamo more than anything was a huge starting ground for the band as far as inspiration. We want to do shit like that. There’s heavy parts in those bands, you know what I mean? Especially Jeromes Dream. We wanted to take shit like that but obviously have the more chaotic end of it. We were all super big Converge fans and I love Botch. We all got into screamo together. Those bands definitely all have a huge impact in terms of influences that we wanted to put into our music.
Do you have any favorite release from that time period?
From the late 90s to early 2000s? An Anthology of Dead Ends by Botch. When Forever Comes Crashing by Converge. I love all the Jeromes Dream shit. When I got into it, I listened to the whole discography but I’m honestly going to say that Presents was my favorite, because that was the one that just hooked me and it was the weird shit they have. That album is super important. The first Daughters EP and the Orchid self-titled. Not Chaos Is Me, not any of the other shit, the self-titled, that’s the one to me.
That’s a good album. In terms of the aesthetic, what do you think you bring from that era into your band?
I don’t even know how to explain it. I feel like we don’t intentionally pull from this but I feel like a lot of bands at that time had very dark art but it was presented in a really simple way. Especially with screamo. A lot of old screamo art was wicked minimalist but really fucked up at the same time. We were influenced by that but I don’t even know if we have put that as much into our aesthetic as a band. Maybe subconsciously, like for instance with When Forever Comes Crashing, the original art that has the baby on it, shit like that, I feel is wicked important now because it’s just so fucked up and so grimy and all over the place. It just looks as disgusting as the music is.
In the beginning of the band we just did random shit, we wanted different shirts that had a lot of Japanese on them, like frames from manga and shit that looked wicked minimal and said ‘Vein’ on the sleeve, instead of on the front. In a way, I feel that subconsciously we pulled it from that minimalist screamo but we always try to do our own thing with it. Now it’s more just like grimy, if anything. I feel like we, even in terms of band photos --- like do you know Jeromes Dream discography CD that has that blue picture of them, we wanted our photos to look like that, from that era. That was influential in a way, that when you see videos of those bands, that was always huge on how we wanted it to be presented.
Your 2016 demo sounded like Deftones in some areas, was that also intentional?
Yeah, 100 percent. That’s also a huge inspiration to our band. I don’t even want to group Deftones into nu-metal, I disagree with that but coming out of that era, bands like them and Korn are super influential on Vein. We definitely wanted to add that element, especially with melodic shit too, because we’d had melodic stuff in the past but we wanted to have more melodic parts. We can do that naturally and express that side of ourselves because we are influenced by that, write it and feel strongly about it. Those three songs [from the 2016 demo] are going to be on our full-length that we’re writing, it’s kind of a teaser for the rest of the full-length. I don’t know if it was a conscious goal but in hindsight we took screamo and Deftones and sort of mashed it together. There are screamo elements in that song, like the beginning and the fast part and the middle is like Deftones.
Lyrically speaking, some of the songs that have stood out to me were “Ripple” and “Progenitor.” What do you find yourself writing about the most?
Internal struggles and shit that goes on in my head. Really self-reflective stuff. The way I feel like anxiety, depression, but it’s all really like self-reflective. Even like self-destructive behavior. The way I am as a person.
You mentioned manga as a visual influence before. Manga and anime can have some considerably deep content. Have those mediums informed you lyrically?
Not really anime as much but there have been things that have influenced my lyrics. There’s a song off the very first thing we did called “Spiral” that was based on The Ring and you can read into the lyrics and imagery and how it’d relate to that. I like to take a concept and relate it back to my life. Even on the new one, “Progenitor” is about a certain character in the Resident Evil series and it’s about seeing through her eyes, but it’s also my perspective at the same time. It’s relating to that character and how they feel but you can kind of relate it back to yourself sort of thing.
What other media has informed you as writers and musicians?
Definitely movies. I think the art of any bands is an extension of the music. Watching certain movies definitely brings out a vibe I feel from one of our songs. You can almost speak on music in terms of visuals, if that makes any sense. Like that song sounds like how that movie looks. Or look at a movie and it be vice versa. I’ll throw shit on and write to it, like the old David Lynch short films, like The Alphabet and The Grandmother, those I love a lot. I love Japanese horror movies. Not a lot of them, because a lot of them are kind of bad. I used to think that shit was wicked cool as a teenager and now I think there’s not that many good ones. Some of them are fuckin sick. I love Suicide Club, that’s a sick movie. That movie Pi is cool as hell visually and also has a cool soundtrack, there’s drum & bass shit in it. I think speaking for all of us, we all operate on the same level of relating visuals to the songs. Even video games too, like older horror games, like Silent Hill 2, mean a lot to us as influence on the band.
What bands have you enjoyed playing with the most?
We just did a tour with Jesus Piece and Absolute Suffering and that was fuckin awesome. We did a couple of dates with Code Orange and that was amazing. They were just awesome to watch every night. It was only five days and we jumped on it last minute. I think they’re just leaders right now in terms of experimenting with music and really killing it live. They were an inspiration in a lot of ways and they were sick to hang out with and watch. Other than that we’ve haven’t been playing many shows since we stopped touring for a second.
How do you translate your recorded sound to a live setting?
Dude, I think the struggle is the opposite. We want to get the live feel on the recording. I think that’s more of the struggle, not even kidding. I feel live, how we play together is all we know or what we truly care about. The recordings we’ve had in the past before this split, I think the 2016 demo didn’t really have this problem, but the first two EPs were definitely a little sterile sounding and it didn’t represent the band live. It didn’t even represent the songs to their full potential, like how they made us feel. It was struggle. The split, recording-wise, got that perfectly. It got all the intensity of the songs and how we feel about them when we play them live. It captured all that. It sounds live when you’re hearing it. It’s an attack when you’re listening to it, whereas the older shit didn’t cut it. The 2016 demo we recorded live in a living room, but that was just like me playing bass, Josh and Jeremy, our guitar players and our drummer Matt. We recorded that as a 4-piece and added in the vocals after. That was the very first thing we did that I was like ‘holy shit, this sounds like the band. This sounds live.’ It’s definitely something I’d consider in the future too. Just recording it live or use parts of it live because it keeps that intensity on the recording.
You said that the songs on the 2016 demo are going towards a full-length. When will that be going out?
We still have to record it and lock down recording time. We have some stuff recorded but it’s a pre-production sort of deal. We’re definitely set on re-recording. I have no idea on a release date. I’m hoping for fall or winter time. It’s really hard to say at this point, but hopefully by the end of the year. I can’t wait.
Out of your four releases, which is your personal favorite?
The split. 150 percent. It’s like the only thing I can listen back to and be psyched on.
What did you do different with those four tracks that you didn’t do prior?
We recorded it all in a day, which is fucking crazy. The act of recording in a day isn’t crazy, but we’ve had so much trouble beforehand with not finishing something and having to go back weeks later and record. You begin to get jaded on the recordings. This we busted it all out in a day. Even the way the songs were written was so spur of the moment. The whole idea going into it---- and we were talking about the influences we had earlier, I think the idea on this split was to go full blown into those ideas and not give a fuck about anything and have it be an intense blast of all that shit. And add samples, weird shit and have it be horrifying. We didn’t think twice about anything and it just felt natural.
Our good friend Evan, who plays in Separated, also a great band, recorded it and did such a sick job. He made it sound the way we wanted it without us really having to tell him what we wanted. I think he really made the songs sound how they should be presented. Which like I said was an issue before. Like on “Terror’s Realm” we wanted that to sound how the split sounds now. That was the feel back then but on the recordings it didn’t really come across. Evan made it sound wicked natural and insane. I would like to record with him again maybe between now and the full-length.
In terms of touring, what does Vein have planned for the year?
We’re doing a tour up to Sound and Fury with Queensway. In August, we’re doing another tour that’s still in the works. As far the fall, we have another US tour. Beyond that we have no idea, but we’re trying to tour as much as possible. We’ve never played in California, excited to play Sound and Fury and just a normal show there. Excited to play anywhere we haven’t played before.
In addition to Sound and Fury, Vein will also be on This Is Hardcore. Is this your first fest circuit?
Yeah, this is the first time we’ve played anything like this ever. It should be sick, I can’t wait. It’s definitely intimidating, but it’s going to be sick.