August 16, 2010
Carnivores are an Atlanta-based band about to release their second full-length, If I’m Ancient. The band is Nathaniel Higgens (guitar), Philip Frobos (bass), Ross Politi (drums), and Caitlin Lang (keyboards). Contributor Ezra Morris speaks with them.
You guys started playing together as teenagers when you all still lived in Gainesville. When you moved to the city and were exposed to the care-free party culture of Atlanta bands, did that have an effect on you?
PF: Yeah, some of the bands we saw, they were like garage rock party crusaders that came in and chopped the head off all the serious indie rock stuff that was going on in my head. We saw what was happening and we started having more fun. It was also a forward movement as a band, just being more comfortable. When you are trying to take yourself too seriously, it’s just not as awesome.
Your first LP, All Night Dead U.S.A., has received some positive press from some big outlets, have you seen that buzz translate into interest outside the city?
PF: Yeah, every time we’ve been back to a place in the past year we’ve seen better attendance and more and more enthusiasm.
Do you think the Atlanta tag has anything to do with people starting to take an interest?
CL: I don’t think it has gotten to the point where Atlanta has the reputation built around an entire scene of bands, yet. Right now most people are still focused on a couple of the more prominent bands but it seems like it is getting to a point where the city is about to explode.
PF: I don’t the city itself is going to explode, I think we could be doing a lot more awesome things, but more bands are taking it on the road and putting out records.
CL: Atlanta’s not waiting for people to ask, we’re taking it into our own hands.
Do you guys feel like you are part of a new wave of bands? Like a whole new scene emerging?
PF: Yeah, totally. On this last run up so many of the promoters we dealt with were talking about how all this past month they’ve had so many bands come through from Atlanta and Athens, and they’re all bands we play with all the time. I think bands we’re friends with have an impact on us.
Do you feel any sense of competition with other bands?
NH: When we hear a band we’re friends with play an awesome song it is inspiring, it makes us want to write better songs.
PF: I’ve talked to other bands on our label about that. We all seem to be passing each other with each new release. It is like we’re punching each other on the shoulder, tagging each other.
RP: It encourages us to work harder. We’re all the same color checkers, we’re just jumping each other.
CL: Are we red or black?
RP: We’re red because we’re carnivores.
Tell me about the title of your last record, “All Night Dead U.S.A.”
CL: I think it is almost a comment on the Atlanta scene, in a sense. People coming together, talking and creating a community based on music. Which has happened in the past couple years.
PF: Hmm, a little bit. Lyrically it doesn’t mean that at all. But that sounds good. I wrote it when I lived in East Atlanta during a five-month blackout that I had. I was waking up, going to the bar, meeting a new girl, doing the same thing every day, every night.
So was the title a thumbs up to that sort of a lifestyle or was it more of a negative comment?
PF: Both. The dead aspect was saying we are still doing this over and over again like we’re zombies. But it’s not all bad. In context, it’s about having a party in a graveyard. We have so much dead culture here, we’re all having a good time but it has a nihilistic quality to it, stuck with the past but there is something beautiful about it.
When you say dead culture here do you mean your own insular scene?
PF: I’m talking about America, it’s so big, there’s so much culture and it is so destroyed, especially in the south.
We’re all dancing in the ruins?
PF: Exactly. And the new record is called If I’m Ancient, which applies to that as well. It’s coming out in September.
How is this one different from the last one?
NH: The songs are a lot more concise. Faster.
RP: There’s more variety.
PF: It is more of a punk record. It’s spooky, we’ve been told it sounds like a haunted house. I feel like it is more cohesive even though the production end was a mess. We recorded at a few different places with three different drummers.
I felt like the old drummer had a big impact on your sound, getting that tropicalia feel, did you feel like that was something you had to replicate?
RP: I’m from south Florida, so I grew up with a lot of Latin rhythms around and I played in a lot of surf rock bands. Philip gave me a record before I joined and then I heard all the nuances. The music relates to me, with the new songs we’re not really quitting the tropical element but adding ten other elements to it.
What are you trying to accomplish with the songwriting?
NH: I’m less focused on making it catchy and more interested in dynamics, loud, soft, fast slow. I’d rather we be dynamically interesting.
PF: Dynamically interesting pop music, we’re still a pop band. We don’t want to be one of those bands that is just weird to be weird.
RP: We like bands like that, but we don’t want to be like that.
PF: The songs have the clutter and craziness to appeal to that element, but aren’t defined by those traits.
Caitlin, this is your first band?
CL: Yes. I was classically trained on piano. I spent 16 years in lessons, sight-reading music so it was difficult to break away from that.
Has it been difficult to unlearn?
CL: In the beginning it was, since I was so used to reading what I was playing. It was hard to make up stuff but as I’ve grown I’ve become a worse and worse pianist but a better rock and roll keyboard player. Now I’m better at creating parts that are interesting, that fit in better with the songs rather than showing off, “look what I can do.”
PF: Initially, getting her to sing was also a process of unlearning, she had tot get into the craziness because you could still hear her choir training. But now she’s a rock and roll beast.
Carnivores on MySpace