Collaboration involves risk, which makes it exciting. The threat of disaster looms larger than with making a traditional album, the potential pitfalls amplified many times over. Bands must filter through the rush of ideas, subdue the clash of egos, navigate the timetable clashes. It is a blessing, then, that so many great collabs have risen above this. Conjurer & Pijn, Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas, Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle—all these have a special place in the modern canon.
At their best, this tension is a chance to mix up the house style and to enter a space where treasured ideas will be teased in new directions, methods of working tempered and scrutinised by fresh eyes. Those who survive the gauntlet may emerge with a record that sounds like them but charged with a thrilling strangeness.
Collaborations are also a celebration of friendship that goes beyond a feature on a record, a reminder that the scene is full of people itching to get weird together. That’s clearly the case here, where storied veterans Boris have joined forces with comparative newcomers Uniform, whose collaborations with The Body put them in good stead to make Bright New Disease, a tightly wound record that snarls, snaps and hisses, spitting out threat signals as it gradually unfurls.
I spoke with vocalist Michael Berdan, who was kind enough to take me through their startling new joint effort.
Congratulations on the new release! How did this collaboration come about?
Thank you! Man, what a surreal trip it’s been. It’s kinda strange to put it in such casual terms given the fact that we’re talking about a band of Boris’s legendary stature, but in all honesty it was a natural evolution. Uniform supported them in 2019 on the North American leg of their Love & Evol tour, and the two bands just hit it off. We’re all products of our respective punk and noise scenes and the roots of both bands are firmly planted in the underground, so we found a lot of common ground early on. Eventually, Boris started inviting Uniform on stage to perform a collaborative rendition of ‘Akuma No Uta’ with vocals and additional instrumentation. It all kinda snowballed from there.
Working with Boris sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. What was the most surprising thing about the collaboration?
I’d say that their humility and genuine interest in what we were doing came as the biggest shock. We knew that they were cool, but for a band as universally beloved as Boris to treat Uniform as creative peers on equal footing speaks volumes about their character. There is not a hint of ego to anything they do.
I can hear a lot of elements that Boris have brought, but your voice as Uniform is still extremely clear. Did you get to experiment with anything you wouldn’t usually try?
Absolutely. The genesis of the songs all came from each of the bands trading barebones skeletal ideas from one camp to the next. Because we already weren’t writing in the same room, the process kinda unfolded like a game of exquisite corpse. If they sent us something that was outside of our usual sonic wheelhouse, we had to find ways to adapt. This led to a number of dalliances with slide guitar and unorthodox synth interplay.
I love the play of vocal styles, especially the contrast between harsh and soft styles in the call-and-response parts of ‘No’. How did you work out how to phrase this?
This was mostly Atsuo’s doing. Once the music to ‘No’ was finished, he sent over directions on how he envisioned the vocals would sit throughout the song. Atsuo wrote his portion of the lyrics and I wrote mine, but the general phrasing was his brainchild entirely.
You’ve talked about being excited about Wata’s solos—what’s your favourite part of her work here?
She’s just so incredibly tasteful and versatile. I can’t think of a guitarist whose playing oscillates between technical brutality and hard rock sleaze with such effortless grace. It’s one thing for a musician to be competent across styles, but absolutely nothing seems outside of Wata’s comfort zone. She exists in a class all her own.
‘Not Surprised’ deals with mental health in a very destructive, cathartic way. As the last track it’s quite a statement. What can you tell me about this track?
Bright New Disease is supposed to play out like a book with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. While ‘You Are the Beginning’ is a rage-fuelled primal scream; ‘Not Surprise’ is mired in inevitable disappointment. It’s the death throes of hope, giving ourselves over to the void just like we always knew that we would.
Are you planning any joint live performances?
That’s the ultimate goal. It’s a logistical nightmare due to our respective locations, but we’ve talked a bunch and a few potential prospects have been kicked around. Right now, we’re in a holding pattern but hopefully something cool can come of it sooner rather than later.
What’s next for the band?
Things were fairly static for a while coming out of Covid, but thankfully Uniform have had a busy year. We just toured Europe for the first time since 2019 and it was a fantastic experience. Right now, we’re chipping away at our next LP, which should be finished within a few months although it’s hard to say with certainty. If Covid taught us anything, it’s that taking our time to create something of quality needs to supersede any false sense of urgency in pushing a product out the door. This is a record that we believe in deeply and we’ll be thrilled when the time comes to show it to the world. As we get older it becomes increasingly important to create something of substance, and that’s a process that can’t be rushed. Other than new music, we’re planning a North American tour for this coming fall. A few shows with Botch, Baroness, and Pelican have already been announced, and there’s much more on the way.
Bright New Disease is out now via Scared Bones Records and can be purchased here.
Words: T Coles