As humanity continues to leave its industrialised footprint on planet Earth, with climate change becoming an ever real threat to our future, more and more are beginning to wonder exactly what sort of world the next generation will be living in. But what if we zoom out even further; what will humanity’s legacy look like, millions of years into the future; what will be our lasting mark, and will there be anyone there to care? These topics are the main focus of Metamorphism, the third album from Baltimore synth-punk duo Curse, released this October via Fake Crab Records.
The band, comprised of Logan Terkelsen and Jane Vincent, have been performing together as Curse since 2011, coming together from such varied genres as grindcore, punk and goth. So far the duo have released three full-length albums, four EPs, and two split 7″s, but Metamorphism is their most ambitious work yet. Coupled with the heavy and emotive lyrical themes are rich synth textures bolstered by intricate drum work and programming all adorned with vocalist Jane Vincent’s ethereal and haunting melodies. It’s an incredibly mesmerising sound and one which suits the expansive nature of their latest album perfectly.
To find out a little bit more about the duo’s background as well as discussing the themes present on Metamorphism, Astral Noize spoke to Logan and Jane as they currently take their new album out on the road in America.
You both come from very varied musical backgrounds. What can you tell us about this and how does the music you make with Curse differ from what you’ve done in the past?
Jane: Well, I came from the crust punk scene and the goth scene, and had been playing grindcore with synthesizers in previous bands. I had all these synthesizers, and Logan was a drummer with an interest in electronic music. We started out wanting to make poppy synthy doom metal, and evolved from there.
Musically, Metamorphism is somewhat of a departure for the band. To what extent was that a natural evolution for you both?
Logan: We definitely set out to make this album a leap forward. However, I do think that everything we’ve done previously has been leading to this in a pretty natural evolution too. When we started working on this we knew that we wanted to make it different than our previous releases in a myriad of ways. We had been making notes of ways to do that for the years leading up to it. We even bought new synths to make possible many of the sounds we were seeking to make. Sound design and mixing played an important role in that step forward too. We laboured over researching the best way to do things to get the best results possible for us. We learned a lot. This was a clear step forward and we won’t stop here. We are already making plans on how to advance our sound on the next one!
Jane, your voice and lyrics work effortlessly with synth-based music. Do you have any vocalists you admire in that genre of music that have inspired you?
Jane: My early influences were definitely Jarboe, Dog Faced Hermans and Diamanda Galas, as well as a number of female vocalists from the Philadelphia punk scene. As far as contemporaries who have inspired me a lot, Maralie from Humanbeast has been a huge influence, as well as Daron from Pinkish Black, Zack Kouns, and SRSQ.
Along with the vocals, the drums were recorded separately – what was the thinking behind this?
Logan: Our process of songwriting typically begins with crafting or choosing sounds that we want to work with then developing progressions and sequences with our machines and/or computers. We typically record parts as we write them in our basement studio. We do all the mixing ourselves so for us creating a song also involves recording and mixing it bit by bit along the way. At the very least we record the machines and sequences first. This allows us to work separately on our live parts, the drums and lyrics. Drums can be tough to record at home. Though we have done that in the past, I find it to be worthwhile to record the drums in a studio as well as the vocals. This way, Jane has an extended amount of time to fully develop her lyrics and vocal progressions.
You’re currently touring the US. How are the songs from Metamorphism translating to the live setting?
Logan: So far it’s been really well received! People that have followed us for years are liking it a lot! Old and new fans alike seem to be enjoying it.
Jane: We tour so much, usually a two month tour and a few shorter ones every year, so we always write with the live performance in mind.
The lyrics to this album are incredibly powerful and emotive. They bring to mind the best kind of science fiction in the way they convey complex human emotions amidst an interstellar backdrop. Aside from the topic of climate change, were there any other inspirations that influenced the themes of the album?
Jane: Logan and I spent a lot of time outside, backpacking, kayaking, rock climbing etc. Our experiences in the natural world definitely inform our writing. Certainly it points us to writing about climate change, as we see firsthand islands in the Chesapeake disappearing, glaciers in the Rockies melting and fires ravaging forests in the West. We are losing valuable, wonderful things to man-made climate change, permanently. But some ways, this record is really more about deep time. We’re watching these things change, and setting ourselves up for disastrous shifts that will make life on earth a lot more challenging for the human race – but the earth will still be here, changing, with life evolving, recording the major events in the geological record.
On ‘Aricebo On Deaf Ears’ you sing, “In a vast universe we were alone, we left nothing but an odd layer in the stone.” To what extent does this represent your view on humanity and our legacy?
Jane: I’m a big fan of John McPhee’s writing on geology, and there’s a part in Basin And Range where he says, “If you free yourself from the conventional reaction to a quantity like a million years, you free yourself a bit from the boundaries of human time. And then in a way you do not live at all, but in another way you live forever.” As a science fiction consumer as well as a geological writing consumer – as well as an optimist – I love the thought of an alien geologist examining the layers of the earth’s crust and finding one inexplicably full of the remains of our plastic trash and building materials. As an artist, I love considering what will be my species’ permanent mark on the earth, and seeing myself as an insignificant but inextricable piece of a trillion-year geological timeline. I think it’s far more profound to be a piece of forever than anything any religion has come up with. Thinking about being alone in the universe is just struggling with the Fermi paradox – I want to think we’re not the only ones, but what if we are? What if we’re here alone, and we’re killing ourselves off, leaving nothing behind but a geological anomaly, an odd layer in the stone, to be discovered by no one?
Finally, is there hope for planet Earth?
Jane: It’s not earth I’m worried about, or, I only worry about Earth in the context of losing things I love, like mining destroying Bears Ears (national monument in Southeastern Utah), things like that. I think the debate on climate change really needs to transition from being about killing the Earth, to making it uninhabitable for human life. Even with drastic interventions, humans are going to face more fires and floods, conflict as climate refugees resettle, possible disruptions to food systems and many, many other catastrophic effects of the changing climate. Although I think we’re on this crash course for disaster, it is certainly worth doing all we can to mitigate these effects. But, there’s hope for planet Earth – I actually think planet Earth will be fine. Life on Earth has adapted to catastrophic climate change before. Our cities fight nature. I think once we’ve made the planet uninhabitable for humans (taking many other species with us) life on earth will probably bounce back quickly. Like the forests growing into the apartment buildings of Chernobyl.
Words: Adam Pegg