Body Void discuss how they tackle their struggles with mental illness and gender dysphoria through colossal sludge.
Monolithic, crushing pain deserves a monolithic, crushing response. Bay Area Sludge/doom trio Body Void know this, and use the power of amplification, screams and dissonance to not only give shape to trauma, but also to transcend it. Like their peers in Primitive Man, Vile Creature, Forn and Weltesser, Body Void’s music moves beyond sludge’s original nihilism and punked-up blues into altogether more expansive, existential territory. This is music that doesn’t revel in ‘life is pain’ sloganeering, but instead asks why is life painful, who causes that pain and what can we do about it?
Although their music might share the long-form sludge DNA of forebears like Grief, Body Void’s latest LP I Live Inside A Burning House is an altogether more cathartic and considered exploration of the genre. Borne out of personal struggles with mental illness and gender dysphoria and set against a background of a repressive post-Trump United States, I Live Inside A Burning House is a monument to pain, but also a manual for survival. We caught up with the band ahead of their latest US tour with psychedelic doom outfit Chrch.
Ruins was a great EP, but ILIABH is a huge step up in terms of its ambition. Was expanding on the length of your songs an intention going into the writing process for the album, or was the longer form something that came about more organically?
It definitely came about more organically. We usually go into writing each song separately without an expectation regarding length and just go by what feels right. I think our goals have just become more ambitious as time has gone on. Everything is a learning process and everything that came before – Ruins and the demos – helped us to get to the point where the longer songs made sense.
Musically and lyrically, ILIABH feels intensely personal. Does being in Body Void serve as a therapeutic process for you and did you feel any kind of catharsis or closure while making this album?
Absolutely. I think if the band has any one function it’s that catharsis – exorcising certain thoughts and feelings. Closure is trickier. I try to approach every topic with a sense of exploration and see where things go. Sometimes it does result in some sort of closure. The title-track of Ruins is actually a good example of that, where after recording and releasing it there was a sense of “oh that’s behind me now.” But with other topics, it can feel like a starting point, like “I’m finally facing this head on.”
Are there any contemporary bands that you consider your peers, or that you feel a kinship with, particularly in terms of doing interesting things with sludge/doom and being politically engaged?
Yes, Vile Creature. I’ve been a fan of theirs since their first album. I love their music and their point of view felt really vital in the doom/sludge space (and metal in general). Their first record hit me in a really personal way so it was awesome to see Dry Cough sign them for their new album. We’ve since become internet friends and we hope to play some shows together in the near future.
What does the artwork for ILIABH represent for you and how did the collaborative process work in terms of realising your vision for it?
The album is about living day-to-day with mental illness, gender dysphoria, and trauma and the cover art is meant to communicate the more bodily feelings of disassociation and formlessness that arise out of those experiences. Ibay Arifin Suradi did the cover art and his style really lends itself to the themes we’re going after. I had the general idea for what we wanted to do and gave him some references and he came back at each step of the process before we settled on the final design. He’s great to work with.
What do you listen to outside of Body Void, particularly on tour? Do you ever feel the need to get away from heavy music when your own is so intense to play and listen to?
We listen to everything. We’re always interested in what’s new coming out in heavy music, but we listen to indie, pop, hip-hop, electronic, and old rock music too. We all have pretty omnivorous musical tastes and there isn’t a lot of fighting over what to listen to on tour.
You make your own politics very clear inside and outside of your music. Is that something that you notice having a positive effect when people interact with you and is it something that you feel more bands should be using their platform for?
People seem supportive for the most part. If there’s anything I want our politics to accomplish it’s to help marginalised people in metal to feel included and seen. There can be a performative aspect inherent when politics are a central focus in music, which I don’t think is necessarily bad, but I think bands using their platform outside of the music when specific things arise like abusers in the scene getting a free pass is more important than having a song about those things, if that makes sense. Obviously, the two aren’t mutually exclusive and the latter is vital, but actions speak louder than words in this case, and you can be a band who screams about dragons and Tolkien and still hold people accountable.
We read that your drummer Eddie [Holgerson] lives up in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Does your physical environment inspire Body Void’s sound in any way and how does San Francisco’s countercultural history influence you?
Yup, Eddie commutes a couple hours to San Francisco to practice and play with us. I think our environment definitely influences us. I don’t feel much personal connection to SF’s counterculture history since it seems all but gone these days. That said, I think the Bay Area is a unique place socially. No one really bats an eye at openly queer musicians, for instance, and there’s at least an awareness of queer, feminist, and leftist politics that maybe isn’t the norm elsewhere. The issues that plague the area like gentrification and the effects of tech companies seem to be on everyone’s mind as well. It’s hard not to let that stuff have an impact.
Is it important for you to connect with other non-binary, trans or genderqueer people through Body Void? How important do you consider it to be for non-gender conforming people to be active and visible in heavy music scenes?
Definitely. It’s amazing when trans and non-binary people reach out because they connected with our music in some way. And like I said, I hope our music can help those folks feel seen in a space where we’re historically underrepresented. I’m also just a strong believer in the ability of music to build community, so it’s important to me to connect with other queer people in that context too and to help build that space within heavy music for queer people to occupy. Heavy and dark music can offer such solace and it sucks to be excluded from that because of identity. I do think it’s important for trans people to be visible in the scene, but it’s also important for everyone to work to make it safe and normal for trans folks to be visible.
How has it been working with Crown & Throne, Dry Cough and your other record companies? Were you pleased with the way the physical formats of ILIABH came out?
It’s been great. We’ve been lucky to work with people passionate about the music they put out and they’ve just been really easy to work with as well. The physical versions of the album came out even better than expected so we’re definitely happy.
Have you got any plans for further releases or tours this year? And might we see Body Void in the UK at some point in the future?
Yes, we’re touring the US starting June 11th with a handful of southwest dates with Chrch and a stop at Austin Terror Fest on June 16th. We have a few shorter releases lined up, one of which might drop by the end of this year. As far as the UK, we’re very hopeful we’ll make it over sometime.
I Live Inside A Burning House is out now on Crown And Throne Ltd/Dry Cough Records/Seeing Red Records. Purchase here.
Words: Andrew Day