The Acacia Strain – Vincent Bennett
Interviewed by Shawn Jam Hill
Vincent Bennett is a burly bespectacled behemoth, a throat-shredding larynx overlord pushing out the poison as The Acacia Strain’s foreboding frontman. Formed in Springfield, Massachusetts nearly 10 years ago, TAS’ downtuned vitriol reached capacity on 2008’s Continent (Prosthetic), a dirgy slab of molten metal providing a fitting sound to the end of days. New bomber Wormwood (out July 20 via Prosthetic) picks up where Continent’s swirling miasma left off, a blatantly rage-filled cauldron of king sized riffs (courtesy of equally burly guitar whiz DL) fleshed out with the seriously killer drum chicanery of Kevin Boutot and lunging bassman Jack Strong both of whom are, oddly enough, sinewy and skinny as rails.
I recently caught up with the disarmingly soft-spoken singer via phone to discuss TAS’ new jams, the reality of being in a band of road dogs and the happiness that can be found in isolation. Vincent Bennet is a friendly dude but just wait and see why humanity has it in our best interest to keep him on the mic for a long time….
Where are you right now?
Sitting outside here in Springfield, Massachusetts, waiting for band practice, getting ready to go on tour. [Note: It was 11:30 AM. That’s dedication!]
You guys are basically on tour for the rest of the year.
Yeah, we have pretty much all of August off [after the multi-band Cool Tour wraps up] and after that we’re pretty much on the road until April 2011.
How does that affect you guys as a band? I know you are true road dogs!
It’s actually weird because we’ve taken a bunch of time off to record the record that we’re just so anxious to get back on tour. We’re used to it. We’re used to being dogs for extraneous amounts of time so we’re really excited to get back on the road, it doesn’t really affect us at all, we’re just really used to it.
You guys are close as dudes. Does that help?
Um, yeah, most definitely. It’s always important. You’re gonna be close, physically, in a van next to these people for months on end so it’s important you’re close mentally, too.
What do you guys do to cope with being on the road as it wears down your brain and your body?
Most of the dudes in my band cope by smoking marijuana. I cope by reading books and by distancing myself sometimes from people because isolation is a punishment a lot but I feel like when you are surrounded by people it’s kinda like a gift you can give yourself, it gives you a chance to clear your head and just, y’know, not get frustrated by being around the same people for a long time. I think everybody abides by that rule in my band, we all take our alone time once in a while and it definitely helps.
Are there any other dudes on the Cool Tour for example that you are excited to hang with?
We’ve toured with Between The Buried And Me before; we are really excited to get back on the road with them. It’s been like 5 years since we toured with them and we’ve hung out with them between then and now but it’s just gonna be exciting to get back on the road with them.
Are you the type of dude who might stand at the side of the stage and watch the proceedings?
Oh, most definitely [but] not every day, obviously and not every band. That would get old fast but, y’know, Tuesday will be Cancer Bats day, stuff like that. It doesn’t get old and at the same time it gives me something to do- I like to support the bands.
I’ve heard a few cuts from the Wormwood album, it sounds awesome. What does the name conjure up, what does it mean to you guys?
Wormwood is a star that falls to Earth and poisons the water which in turn destroys pretty much all life on Earth and it’s a recurring Acacia Strain theme but this time around I made it a little bit more personal. I mean, I took it at face value but at the same time I had it mean a little bit more. This record is about the true inherent evil in all of humanity and I feel like that is our world: we are the star that falls to Earth and poisons everything. There is kind of a double meaning there.
It’s like something as ubiquitous and yet horrifying as the Gulf Of Mexico oil crisis that is going on right now. Wormwood is kind of prescient in that the record comes out after a star like that has fallen, BP is that star.
Exactly. We wrote Wormwood before all that happened and as it developed, people are like ‘Oh, you planned this!’.
I found Continent, one of my favorite records, to be an end of the world thing as well. Is Wormwood even darker?
We always try to make it heavier, to make it more of a dark record. This is definitely the darkest of all of our records. It’s the meanest. It’s the meanest lyrics I’ve ever written and it’s on a personal level, so there is more meaning.
Does that pigeonhole you as an angry guy? Does your music get that anger out of you?
I’m an angry guy, naturally. I have a way to channel it without becoming physically violent towards people.
What do you think you would do if you weren’t the singer in a heavy metal band?
I’d probably be a serial killer. [I giggle nervously] I’m not gonna lie to you, I have thought about it but the rational part of my brain says it’s not a good idea.
Totally! And it’s more fun to play music, right?
Can you tell me a bit about the recording process for Wormwood?
With Continent, we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into because we took a block of time off and we wrote the entire record in a couple of months just rehearsing every day, writing the record. When we went to record it, we recorded with [famed producer] Zeuss who we had never recorded with before and we were all nervous- we didn’t know how it was going to turn out. This time around, we took the same approach [but] we knew what we were doing. Y’know, it takes a couple of tries in the studio to really get comfortable with a way to go about things and, finally, I think we fell into our niche and, with Zeuss, he makes the entire process really laid back. You’re recording things on a record. Basically, it’s gonna be around as long as humanity’s around so, for the entirety of the human race, you’re gonna have something put to wax or CD or digital media or whatever: It’s gonna be around for a long time and that kinda wears on the brain a little bit. So, we do whatever we can to take our minds off it, naturally.
Is that where the weed comes in?
I guess for them. I don’t imbibe in that kinda stuff but Zeuss really helps because he’s really laid back, he’s like ‘I want to make you guys sound like you, I want to make you sound like you guys’ and the way he goes about things, you kinda forget you’re recording a record.
I saw you guys here in Ottawa at a terrible bar called the Underground.
Yeah, that sucked. I couldn’t even stand up straight down there!
That was the first time I saw you and I thought it was really professional that you guys knew the whole place sucked and you still leaned right into it. Is that part of TAS’ longevity and the way you connect with your fans?
Most definitely. You’re booked at a place where people paid money to go see you. It doesn’t matter if there’s 5 people there or 500, people paid money to see you so that right there makes me want to give 100% no matter what, it makes us all give 100%. If I was in that person’s shoes, I’d be bummed out if a band just sat on the ground and played acoustic guitars. People don’t understand that, no matter who you are, you’re still a human being. You could be fucking David Lee Roth and you’re still a human being, you’re no better than anybody else just because you play music on a fucking stage and people like you, it doesn’t matter. No matter who you are playing for, you have to give 100%. That’s what you are there for.
Check out the band here: