Dendritic Arbor has released quite a bit of material since forming in 2012, including the ‘Romantic Love’ full length and ‘Sentient Village / Obsolescent Garden’ EP. The band’s sound is one that can’t be fully lumped into one metal sub-genre, with elements of black metal, grind, and noise all prominently on display. It’s a mixture that can be a bit hard to get a feel for initially, but the longer you spend with Dendritic Arbor the more everything starts to click. I had the chance to send some questions over to the band to find out more about the recording/writing process behind their most recent EP and other aspects of their music.
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. You guys had a busy year, releasing a full length and an EP as well as touring for a month around the U.S. What are some of your standout moments from 2015?
Dendritic Arbor (Maxwell): Well our SXSW tour was a short, but very exciting jaunt. We got to play with the band Medusa, a legendary doom/psych band from Chicago, which was not only sick but very humbling to discuss music with veterans. Also recording ‘SVOG’ and with Kurt Ballou for Converse, can’t really pick between the two, but it’s just a surreal feeling to have so much music recorded and released in one year’s time.
TO: Romantic Love was recorded in a single day, whereas Sentient Village // Obsolescent Garden was recorded in five days. Did you approach any aspects of the recording process differently, given the extra time you had in the studio?
Dendritic Arbor: Absolutely, I really enjoyed the process of recording ‘Romantic Love’ in a day, but don’t get me wrong, it was a nightmare as well. We tracked ‘RL’ live and had to go over the songs countless times from the beginning, and it was exhausting. ‘SVOG’ gave us the opportunity to really hone in a sound for the record, but even the extra time given proved challenging and we did end up paying to record for a 6th day. It was great to have Dave Cerminara at the helm, I’ve known Dave since he was 16, and his presence was a breath of fresh air.
TO: The lyrical content throughout Sentient Village // Obsolescent Garden suggests to me the idea of humanity’s rush towards their own demise and the destruction they’re bringing to the planet. Can you elaborate on some of these themes, and does the artwork for the EP tie in to these ideas?
Dendritic Arbor: Well most of our lyrics tend to go in that directions, but I will say with ‘SVOG’ we actually decided to each write the lyrics to one song, so all four songs lyrics are unique to that member. I know that with Cotard Delusion I used the condition of believing you’re actually dead as a juxtaposition with exactly that, humans’ innate desire to be a selfish sore on a planet it doesn’t respect. I won’t get into every little concept behind each song, although ‘Latex’ has a great subject in that it’s actually about the creator of The Rock-afire Explosion, which is an animatronic robot band that played in Showbiz Pizza Place from 1980 to 1990, then went on to become the band at Chucky Cheese, haha.
TO: With so many different parts to each song, how does your writing process work? How are you able to bring all of the individual elements to create the controlled chaos that is a Dendritic Arbor song?
Dendritic Arbor: Funny thing is, we don’t really think of it that way, most of our music comes very organically. We tend to have ideas come out of thin air, we tend to try and write riffs together, rather than writing at home, we bring our gear together and attempt to build a song together. We go from having Chris come up with a beat and write to that, or vice versa, whereas Adam or Tom might start playing something “off the dome” to quote my favorite MC, Guru. Adam and I come from a background of metalcore as well, which has a lot of riffs strung together with a basic structure. We just dismantled the normal (verse, chorus, bridge etc.) and attempt to manipulate this overdone, and in my opinion boring approach to music. I just don’t exactly enjoy recycling old sound that had its time, I hope more bands start to push against that craze.
TO: The EP retains the noise/ambient interludes from Romantic Love that give a brief respite from the chaos and destruction, which I feel is an element that helps to make your material feel different. Previously you had contributions from some guests, but are you now handling all of the noise elements yourselves? Could the noise/power electronics angle be a part of your music that might take on a larger role on future recordings?
Dendritic Arbor: Well our noise guy Kyle lives in California, he did all the noise on our first release and a few others, and actually I currently live in Los Angeles, taking a break from the hellish winters in Pittsburgh. So I have been writing some music that pushes our electronic element even more, and not to give away any details but I think it’s very likely that our sound will take a few different turns in the near future. Our guest electronic idea was basically something that came from nothing, by just asking some artist I respected. I also threw a show for Fuck the Facts in Pittsburgh a few years ago, and Topon and I discussed him contributing and after he said yes I decided to reach out to a few more musicians to add to the mix.
TO: I had the chance to catch your set at Shadow Woods Metal Fest in September, which was a great experience in the wood amphitheater. I felt it was a unique festival experience as a music fan, and wanted to get your thoughts and perspective on the festival as a band that was able to play its inaugural edition.
Dendritic Arbor: What a weekend! It was a fucking blast, I’m glad you thought our set was good, I felt great about that show. We really tried to have our noise elements included but things worked against us in a few different ways. I couldn’t believe how great everyone was, the good spirit that infested that campground. I even enjoyed the fact that people sat while we played, I’ve never been one to enjoy moshing or any of that childish pushing that tends to be the reason people can’t enjoy a set. I salute Mary and everyone who made that happen, I hope to be a fan at the 2016 edition.
TO: You recorded material for a split with Kurt Ballou, which should be out sometime this year. What was it like working with him and are there any details available as to when this split might be coming out?
Dendritic Arbor: It was incredible, and it was a nightmare. My career in music has rarely reached a point of professionalism on the same caliber as Kurt, but he made it very comfortable for me and was extremely friendly to a point where it seemed unreal. I grew up listening to Converge, I can remember going to see them play in Edinboro, PA at a venue called the Hangout, it was with Unearth and Norma Jean, and watching him play guitar, I would say is a big reason I even play heavy music. Getting to do something like that validates my time in this project, as dumb as that sounds. We’re releasing the songs on a split with a band from the Bay by the name of Infinite Waste, looking for a label to help out with that.
TO: What else does Dendritic Arbor have in store for 2016?
Dendritic Arbor: ‘Romantic Love’ is actually on vinyl currently, just haven’t announced it yet (whoops guess I just did) and ‘SVOG’ is actually set for a vinyl release as well. We have a small tour in May taking us up to Brooklyn’s St Vitus, hopefully that pans out. A Europe tour is currently our goal, but logistically it’s obviously difficult to go that route without the help of a booking agent, or at least more time than I have to book it alone (hint hint, nudge nudge). Just going to take it easy for a few months, then get back to the grind, no pun intended.