Southern Lord have been in the genre-expanding game for a few years now, and even with more hardcore-inclined names such as Xibalba, Power Trip, and All Pigs Must Die, a band like Jesus Piece still seem to stick out a little more than usual. “Working with Southern Lord on our first LP is not something I thought would ever happen,” says guitarist John Distefano. “[At first] I wasn’t sure where we’d fit in but when you look at SL’s roster, he’s got bands all across the spectrum of heavy music so it made total sense to work with them.”

Knowing the legacy of such a label was there a pressure to perform, especially with it being the debut full-length? “Finishing the LP was probably the most relieving feeling ever. We’re not a band that’s good with deadlines so when we booked recording dates we were super nervous we weren’t going to have it done on time.” It is evident, however, that any nerves that existed before have been erased as Only Self is as dense and heavy as it is complex and experimental, not at all sounding like a band in any kind of state of awe at the situation they’ve found themselves in but more like a band ready to push back at some of hardcore’s more stagnant aspects.

“Having to write an LP [instead of a demo/EP] definitely allowed us enough room to try new things,” John tells us. “We knew from the start that we weren’t just going to write ten two-and-a-half minute hardcore songs because who wouldn’t get sick of listening to that? People would lose focus.” Showcasing the expected brutality alongside touches of slightly left-of-centre bands such as Burnt By The Sun, the overall feeling is one of a band trying to reach that little bit further, challenging themselves as much as the audience. “When you’re trying to write a full ten-song LP I’m not sure how you can go without experimenting at all.”

Outside of the riffs, even the subject matter was given the boundary-tweaking treatment. “The lyrics are a bit of an introspective dive. I really dug in on myself to see what makes me… me.” adds vocalist Aaron Heard. “I touch on subjects like how I’ve been feeling about the political climate of America, violent impulse, inability to work hard for my own personal interests, and my struggles with anxiety. I guess you could say the unifying theme is self-understanding and exploration.”

Having only been a band for three years and reaching the level they are currently at what do Jesus Piece mean to the heavy music landscape of 2018? “We’ve never been sure!” proclaims John. “Between the bands we’ve toured with and the people who come out to our shows it’s pretty hard to pigeonhole us in my opinion. Music scenes are blending more now than they have been in a while which I love to see… honestly, I can’t give you a straight answer on that. Sorry!” Freed up musically and mentally, Jesus Piece are clearly ready for the next part of their rocket ride and Only Self is the fuel the will ignite said journey with a bang.

Only Self is out now on Southern Lord. Purchase here.

Words: Red Sismey

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