As a publication dedicated to noisy music and progressive causes, hearing the term “proletariat crust” was enough to make us turn our head so fast that our neck almost snapped back when we first discovered St. Louis’ Redbait, a six-piece born out of the activism and community organising movement in their hometown. In the wake of Neckbeard Deathcamp, social media comment sections seem to be overrun with metal fans offering their two cents on why NSBM and left-wing metal both suck equally, but those people are surely yet to hear Redbait.
The band’s blend of growling guitars, dizzying blastbeats, thrashing riffs and punk-meets-metal dual vocals is enough to make anyone want to overthrow the system and free us all from underneath capitalism’s thumb. Last year’s Red Tape EP combined themes of politics, labour issues and feminism with a multi-faceted strain of brutality that took from hardcore as much as it did extreme metal. The follow-up, out on June 14th, continues this trend whilst expanding the band’s musical horizons, all the while commenting on the continued downfall that society and global politics have taken since their last outing – there’s a reason it’s called Cages.
Eager to find out more about the inspirations behind it, we reached out to the band, and they have subsequently provided us with a track-by-track breakdown of the release, unveiling more about the lyrical and musical writing that fuels the righteous fury of the music. The band were also nice enough to offer us a premiere of the EP’s title-track, a blistering track that kicks off all blackened fury before descending into an onslaught of muscular sludgy riffage. Check it out below, then keep scrolling to find out more about the release from the band themselves!
R (vocals): At first we were looking at just releasing the other four songs on a 7″ and that was it. I started pushing for a short, fast banger because all the other songs are bum-out songs. I like to keep things kinda punk. So then B came up with some riffs and I think N added that breakdown. M (vocals) and I were both separately working on some working class liberation themed lyrics, unbeknown to the other. So we just sat down and smooshed our two sets of lyrics together and edited them from there. At first I heard the breakdown vocals as more of gang vocals, hardcore style. But then we tried it with death growls at W’s suggestion and the results are less expected and pretty brutal. I like this song a lot.
W (guitar): This was the last thing we wrote for the EP, an eleventh hour thing because we hadn’t written anything that really sounded like the earlier material, but the joke’s on us because this doesn’t either. There wasn’t much space left on the 7″ so it was an exercise in concise writing. The back half of the song is us aiming at something like an old Sepultura riff, and Cody’s switch to the half-time feel in the middle of it turns what was a decent groove into a huge payoff – one of my favourite moments on the record.
B (guitar): Straight up, I wrote the main riff from this song by accident. The song turned out to be a heavy hitter and one of my favourites. I love divebombs.
N (bass): I love a short song with lots of changes. I also had been getting impatient for lyrics to surface on the topic of labour. Labour is the cornerstone and waking bulk of every Working Class day. It’s astounding to me that more songs are not devoted to the grind.
C (drums): This was my favourite song to record simply because it was the easiest to record, and I am lazy. The rest of the band had figured out the riff order they wanted, and I just played what felt right, so recorded that drum part and bam. That’s pretty different than how we recorded most of the other songs on this, which all had at least one fill or section that took a lot of practice to polish up to actually get a recording. It was also the song I got to do the most double-kick work that wasn’t blastbeats or 16th or 32nd note straight runs, which was sweet. I definitely credit Sepultura and Lamb Bf God for influencing the drum feel of this song.
R: This is a song about St. Louis and the biases that are baked into the culture here.
W: This song predates Redbait, it’s based on something from N and B’s previous band that never got recorded. Originally more of a stompy hardcore thing, a few jams turned it into the thrasher that’s on the EP. I like the verse in 6/4 on this one, it’s our big prog rock moment.
N: I wrote the riffs years ago for a past band, while I listening to Trial and Downcast a lot. The current version by Redbait is vastly different, mostly due to the fact that most had actually not heard the original version. Truly, I love playing this song. The lyrics are about St. Louis and the wicked dismissal of the legitimate plight of some citizens by others (that’s code for white denizens’ misconception of Ferguson’s challenges being remedied by “just getting a job”). Despite our love of St. Louis and the surrounding areas, we are not naive to the racism, sexism, and classism that dominate local policy.
M: ‘Cages’ is about the U.S. empire, specifically how U.S. intervention into the political and economic affairs of other countries causes corruption, displacement, refugee crises, and environmental destruction, especially in Latin America. We can see this happening at this moment with the U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela. The refugee crisis is a result of U.S. imperialism and the United States is dealing with it by separating and imprisoning families. The government’s complete and total lack of empathy is revolting, although not a surprise.
B: ‘Cages’ is probably the most proud I’ve been of a song I wrote.
W: ‘Cages’ is the classic Redbait style of writing, which is to work out a few riffs and play them one after another, pure linear structure. We were thinking about stuff like Converge and Cloud Rat for a lot of it, and it came out with a frantic, nervous feel that suits the urgency of the lyrics. The breakdown that takes up more than half the song was inspired by sludgy New Orleans kind of stuff. The whole thing puts the metal side of the band forward in a way that I really like.
N: Right now is a time of reactionary fervour in America, to the degree that children are separated from their parents and kept in cages if caught being undocumented. For decades, we have lamented the Japanese internment camps, California marriage laws barring ethnic Armenians, and a constitutional law specifying slaves as “⅗ a person”… yet in 2019, we carry on archaic racist scapegoat traditions. It is happening NOW, and we must look ourselves in the face.
C: I love that this song is both the most chaotic and the most sludgy/doomy parts on the album. It was really exciting to write.
Bred For The Knife
W: I was listening to a lot of Svalbard and Fall Of Efrafa/Momentum while we were writing (still am) and this was my attempt to work in/pay tribute to those influences a little. It’s not a coincidence that this one is the animal rights song. Early versions were pretty busy and the band made me tone down the guitar harmonies a lot, but it got workshopped into something much tighter and sharper. C put a lot of work into crafting drum parts on this EP and this is one of my favourites, it feels tense and nervous until the very end, the outro and especially the last fill feel hugely cathartic to me.
Also I love the twin guitar stuff that’s happening in the verses, but someone in the band said it sounds like Christmas music and now I can never unhear it. Thanks guys.
M: We wrote ‘Bred For The Knife’ as a commentary on the commodification of animals, specifically in factory farming. The problem of violence against animals isn’t taken seriously and I think that can largely be attributed to the fact that the butchering and processing of animal bodies is discreet and avoided. It isn’t a practice that a lot of people are willing to confront. The lyrics mention animal cruelty, environmental destruction, and worker exploitation as interconnected struggles in this industry. The commodification of animals is a cruel outcome of capitalist society. It’s something that most of us feel very compelled to talk about and inspire conversation through the music we make.
N: It is my opinion that there are never enough songs that lambast animal exploitation and/or demand that we consumers consider the impact of what we consume. Furthermore, this song to me means more than reflection on “food” choices. It’s healthy to consider everything we choose to spend time, energy, and resources on. Materialism > consumerism.
Forever Ends Now
W: This is the weird one, probably the prime example of all of our influences getting mashed together into one thing. Biggest influence for me was that I broke my finger in the middle of writing it and spent six weeks in a splint. I arranged all the material we had at that point for slide so I wouldn’t have to miss shows, and some of that made it into the recorded version of ‘Forever Ends Now’. This one also has all the best feedback moments on the EP.
B: I wanted to write a “slow burn” jam where it would start soft but really pay off in the end with a huge sounding breakdown. For said breakdown, I definitely had The Hope Conspiracy on my mind when writing it. This song is very different from all out other material, and, in all honesty, I was a bit worried it was too different. But I was so pleased with the way it came out that I knew we had to present it. Also, if we’re being real… I think I may have accidentally put a Slint riff (well it’s only a couple notes) in there. Shout out if you caught that.
N: Since writing the song, I lost an old friend to a heroin overdose. What a waste. Those in my life who have used heroin have almost exclusively died prematurely. It’s a different kind of pain. R’s lyrics are about a close friend who died of a heroin overdose. That different kind of pain made for a different kind of song.
R: Everyone I know who has shot heroin is dead now. People, friends, who struggled to get sober, relapsed, and died leaving a gaping wound in everyone who knew them. It was primarily inspired by one person in particular, but the older I get, the more friends I lose, and it never gets any easier.
C: I love the sudden tempo changes and how weird this song is. It was one of the songs that had me going back and forth between sitting in silence mumbling to myself and playing the same couple measures over and over while recording (thanks Will for the patience).
Cages is out 14th June on New Age Records. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr