No Longer “So Unknown”: Jesus Piece’s Metallic Hardcore Takes Control on New Album (Interview)
Jesus Piece are one of the premiere hardcore bands in the scene today. Hailing from Philadelphia, they've powered through global tours and built a reputation for a commanding live performance, but they also deliver some manic music videos to go along with excellent recorded offerings. Two notable examples, both taken from their upcoming record So Unknown: “An Offering to the Night,” with its mayhem only balanced by the stompy riffs and breakdown towards the end and “Gates of Horn”, developing imagery of internal struggle complete with white backgrounds that offers a stark contrast to the band’s darkened lyrical themes.
With So Unknown coming out in April, I sat down with lead singer Aaron Heard to discuss the new things with the band, their current tour and the excellent album art that has a lot more going on with than on the surface level. We also spoke on how important visibility is to Jesus Piece as a hardcore band being fronted by a Black man and their upcoming festival appearance in Europe and what it’s like to try getting new songs into the setlist. After years of playing tons of shows and getting exposure, Jesus Piece are calling their own shots and the crowds that they leave in their wake are all the better for it.
One of the first things that stood out to me was the artwork, which gave me serious Immolation Dawn of Possession vibes, is there anything to that?
Aaron Heard: Not necessarily Immolation, but the fallen angel shit has always meant something to me. What we really wanted to do with the art was to tap into our roots and what we were into while we were growing up and a big part of that was the airbrush aesthetic in the mid to late 2000s. We really like lazygawd’s work. I think that we didn’t exactly know what we wanted art wise either. By the time we figured it out it we knew we wanted to work with him.
It looks like some shit that would be on an FYE button up t-shirt. It was perfect. I was tired of seeing all this artwork with white people all the time. A big part of why I’m doing this is visibility as a black artist. I talk to publications and they don’t know what these black angels are about. I don’t need to walk you through an art experience. What does it mean to you?
I appreciate some of the song titles here, even doing a double take when I saw “FTBS” which I got correct right away as “Fuck The Bullshit”, which I 100% live by.
AH: Haha, that’s how I know you’re from Jersey. You know what that was? It was us trying to make one of those anti-conformity banger songs and see what would happen. But it seems to have really come out really well-done, because it rocks. Still trying to work it into the setlist by release day. So far we have been playing “Fear of Failure”, “Gates of Horn” and have been trying to get “Silver Lining” in the next couple of days. We are still playing shit off our EP too, all of the stuff that makes the people go apeshit.
How did this current tour package that you’re a part of come together? What does each band bring to the fold?
AH: All around everybody is a character and they have a lot of “pizzazz”. Between Zulu’s grind and powerviolence influence, Scowl’s aggressive punk and stompy situation going on, then shifting gears to poppier stuff, but still punk and they draw a much different and younger crowd after the tour with Limp Bizkit. Then there’s us, all around headbangers and Show Me The Body’s crowd is also different. Each of these bands has carved a niche for themselves and take matters into their own hands as far as touring. It's a beautiful thing to see us all selling out shows around the country.
I see you guys are playing Outbreak Fest in the UK this summer. What’s your history of touring outside the US?
AH: We have been all over the place. We did Australia with Knocked Loose. We’ve been to Europe a bunch of times, the first time we went by ourselves and then another time we played with Year of the Knife, then with Comeback Kid and Terror. A lot of these shows might not have gone that great for us, but the names on paper sounded awesome. We haven’t played Outbreak Fest in a few years, the fest has grown like tenfold. So, I’m very excited to go back out there.
How do you go about putting together tours nowadays?
AH: I just keep my head in the air and see what happens, luckily our years of doing support tours are over; we aren’t at the mercy of that anymore. The first couple of years we used to just go out with friends and push it, because we weren’t getting any offers. It helped to build a strong mindset for us, we don’t settle for shit nowadays.
Since I’m basically a New Yorker, do you have any uniquely Philly stories to share, some of Philly themes about the record?
So Unknown releases April 15th via Century Media Records (pre-order the vinyl).