Jesus Piece is difficult to ignore — and that’s not just a figure of speech. Turning on their debut full length record Only Self, out now via Southern Lord, you can’t get away from their sound. The band packs a sonic hurricane of epic proportions into the record’s ten tracks, catapulting themselves beyond the realm of genre boxes into the domain of pure sonic intensity. There are hardcore blast beats and more straight up metal riffing, and there’s even a doom metal component.
Only Self‘s Blistering Dynamics
“I think the biggest driving factor was for us to really express our musicianship,” drummer Luis Aponte explains of the Only Self writing process. “Not in a way to be like ‘oh, look how good we are,” but people want to box us up like ‘oh, they’re a hardcore band,’ but I feel like we have a lot more to offer.”
“We really went the direction of diversity because that’s just who we are,” he continues. “All of us like a lot of different things. We didn’t want to box ourselves in — we essentially wanted to make what we liked.”
Aponte’s personal contributions include helping push the doom metal closer to the album, which takes the form of the two tracks “I” and “II.” Listening, it’s as if after coming through the whirlwind of the rest of the album, the listener has found themselves on a new plane of (at the very least) musical existence.
It’s quite an experience — which is intentional.
“We played the songs, the bangers — now let’s end this on a ‘you just want to sink in your chair and drown out everything’ moment,” Aponte explains of the band’s thinking behind the doom. “I didn’t want the record to just end. I want it to be an emotional experience, especially at the end. It was really nice for us to do that.”
He got inspirationally pushed that direction thanks to bands like Boris, and he’s cultivated the drive via making some ambient music with drowned out vocals on his own time.
“It was one of my favorite times of writing the record for me, because we got to really get down and experiment and essentially just do whatever we wanted,” he continues. “It just felt good that we could do something different other than what people would expect from us. That was nothing new for us personally, but it was new for Jesus Piece, because we were known as a certain kind of band. I think that’s just the beginning of what we’re capable of, and I think we have a lot more things in store in terms of just like living outside our box and seeing what’s going on.”
Only Self‘s Personality
Part of that living outside the box includes the fact that the band’s vocalist Aaron Heard doubles as the bassist of the shoegaze group Nothing. There’s a consciousness of the implications of music at large here — Only Self isn’t just empty riffing.
“I’m glad we could write an album where people feel like they have to listen to it a couple times for them to understand like wow — this is not just a hardcore record, it’s an album,” Aponte quips. “I want to just write music. I love moshing and I appreciate the mosh parts and everything, but I really appreciate a good song.”
Part of the broader consciousness at play in Jesus Piece’s music includes their socially minded lyrics. Their concern, though, grows from a very real personal intensity. Aponte and Heard are both people of color, and just living as a non-white can lead people to tense — and even dangerous — situations.
In other words, there’s nothing drummed up or falsified. Only Self is real.
“I think in hardcore it’s very important to read the lyrics,” Aponte posits. “The lyrics are what makes hardcore different than metal or rock or anything like that.”
He continues: “I think I can speak for Aaron that a lot of these lyrics are not direct political songs. They’re about his political identity or just him in general, his personal qualms with himself, his rising up above being shit on — things like that. It’s very, very personal. I wouldn’t say that this record is political in any way, but I think that we always represent the minority — Aaron and I especially, we represent the minority because we are the minority. That’s very important to us; we keep that in mind. We don’t just talk about it. We live it. I am a person of color and I live this political identity every day — that’s what the songs are about. It’s just about being him personally and him overcoming things and him dealing with shit, and there’s a lot that goes into that.”
Now — Get To A Jesus Piece Show
Tying everything perfectly together is the fact that it’s all turned up to 100 — which is precisely how the band likes it. Aponte points to the intensity of the band’s live performances as important to their musical identity as a whole.
“You watch us play live — you’ll see,” he says. “I always feel that way about pretty much any band — I don’t want to talk shit about them until I see them. I would say seeing Jesus Piece and just listening to them are two different experiences, because live, you have to look Aaron in the eye and see the emotion he expresses every day — the emotion that he puts out — not just performing, but living these songs. It’s very important to him and very important to us that people recognize what’s going on and what we’re doing.”
Via recording, Only Self sounds intense because, quite simply, the writing process was intense. The band held nothing back, unleashing their monstrous record.
“Only Self was just like us going hard in the practice space, just like non-stop,” Aponte explains. “We literally locked ourselves essentially in our practice space for like two months just going so hard. All of us, I would say, are very hard headed and individualistic, so we want things to be a certain way. A lot of the times we were just trashing a lot of the things we were writing in the first place. Everything that came out, we really love, but essentially it was a lot of dedication and hard work. It almost felt essentially like a second full-time job to me — and I’m really happy with the results.”
Listen to the results below on Spotify, and catch the band back on the live circuit as 2019 dawns — for now, they’re happy to (finally) chill and let Only Self work its magic.
Photo by Tracy Ngyuen