L.A. industrial duo CONTRACULT Collective started 2020 on a high. Formed three years ago by Cultprit and Svrt, the two started writing music together and spent subsequent years piecing together the band. They passed around various demos and went through a number of lineup changes before signing with Roadrunner Records earlier this year. With buzzworthy singles “Hogtied” and “Violet” and praise from critics and peers alike, CONTRACULT was on the rise. Then COVID struck. Not being able to tour and having album plans scrapped is especially detrimental for a band trying to establish themselves. Yet, the two trudged ahead with the same fury and fearlessness that drives their music. With the release of their debut EP, CONTRACULT Collective has finally arrived.
Frontman Svrt chats with GENRE IS DEAD! about the struggle of launching a new band during a global pandemic, why industrial is the perfect soundtrack for these uncertain times, and how The Downward Spiral scarred him for life.
GENRE IS DEAD!: Believe it or not, were still in the midst of a pandemic, something that didn’t seem likely six months ago. How have you guys been spending quarantine?
Svrt: Well, it’s interesting because quarantine started right in the midst of our release schedule. Like anybody else, we’ve just been trying to use it to our advantage. First thing we did was make a video for “WDYT,” which we needed to do anyway. All our previous video ideas went into the toilet when [COVID] happened and the more we listened to the song, the chorus resonated with us. [We figured] it would make a cool video for somebody experiencing lockdown and quarantine. We thought there may be an interesting way we can shoot a video and not all be there. Besides that, we’ve been writing a lot and trying to keep music and content moving as best as we can with the limitations at hand.
GID: Because of COVID artists have delayed or even canceled releases. That’s difficult in itself, but it’s got be even harder when you’re a new act trying to establish yourself and share your music. What has it been like trying to record and put your music out there in the middle of a global pandemic?
S: It was tough and at the same time, it was easy. I think what was really hard for me and for us is there’s so much uncertainty in the industry and in the future of the economy and social gatherings and everything that comes with the pandemic. So, there was this feeling of what’s the point? Or even thinking this is could be the last thing. This could be something you’re releasing just to be out there, and it might not necessarily manifest itself into the hopes and desires you had before. The easy part of it is that most people are home and not working and respond to your emails a little faster and it’s a little easier to get artwork.
It was tough because [the EP] went from a label release to an independent release. So, there was a grace period of getting everything back and having that control in your own hands – going from working with people where that’s their job to being in control of all of that. One of the other upsides is that people in the music industry always want to schedule and delay things based on what they perceive as the best time to do things, which in hindsight a lot of times is complete crap. If a record’s good and has the right viewpoint and energy towards it, it doesn’t matter when it comes out. By not having touring on your side and not having these other kinds of monetary elements that go along with a record release, it kind of provides a sense of freedom because you’re not trying to schedule your record around a tour, a show, or a festival. You pretty much have free range to put out music whenever you want. I think everybody always has that but there’s this ingrained technique among the industry that everything has to be modified to a schedule. If anything, the quarantine has shown it really doesn’t and you should put out things when you feel it’s good and it feels right.
GID: Hard to believe that’s there are some positive aspects of quarantine after all. Though CONTRACULT is new, the band has been in the works for a while. You and Cultprit started the band three years ago writing music and putting everything together. You guys went through some changes and different iterations of the band before you landed on what CONTRACULT is now. You finally released some singles earlier this year and now the debut EP is out. Congrats on that! Just from what I’ve seen online, it’s been getting a great response as it should – you guys did a great job with it. What’s it like to finally get the EP out there knowing how hard you guys worked to get the band off the ground?
S: It feels good. I wish it had happened at a different time, obviously. But it feels good to know that it seems like it’s getting better as opposed to getting worse. Now that we have a full release of songs, I think it’s brought a lot more people into what we’re doing. You can see it as this cohesive piece as opposed to why does this band have three songs out right now? It’s tough because you can’t go out and meet your audience right now, but gazing over the people that are following us and reposting our stuff and ordering merch, it at least gives me an idea of who our audience is and who it could be and who is interested in the stuff we’re doing. Besides that, it feels good to have finally arrived and feel like we can actually be a band.
GID: As you mentioned, the EP is more cohesive. It features the previously released singles along with some instrumental pieces that tie it together nicely. There are also new tracks “Spider” and “K.” Can you tell me about those songs and where they came from?
S: They were all part of a collection of songs we had recorded to be released as an EP. They were all part of the same session when we were in the studio with Josh [Schroeder]. We weren’t sure what was going to be released. Initially, our plan was to have a full album and a full body of work out but with the pandemic, it made more sense to release what was already in the works. That’s part of the reason why things sort of trickled out and why most of our record was already released as singles.
Being a new band and with how the industry is changing, we wanted to see how an industrial band would do resting on a few singles as opposed to blasting everything out with one record. When we started to see how that was working and what kind of play counts we were getting and where the attention was coming from, that encouraged us [to release] a more cohesive body of work. “Spider” and “K” are just added bonuses from that writing and recording schedule.
GID: Your debut singles “Violet” and “Hogtied” created a lot of buzz for the band. You were featured on sites like Revolver and Metal Injection and pegged as the next artist to watch. That’s exciting, but it also seems nerve-wracking. What was it like to suddenly have all this attention on you? Was there any pressure at all?
S: To an extent, yeah. It was great to get attention on those singles, but in hindsight, I don’t know if those are the first two songs I would’ve released for this band. The thing I really like about our EP is I do sincerely feel like every song has its own vibe, each song sounds different, but I feel those two songs were on a certain end of what we do when there’s a lot more to the band. I guess I was a little nervous that people who might’ve been attracted to those two songs wouldn’t understand the rest of the stuff we were doing. You know, people have very short attention spans – there’s so much music out there right now – so I did have some worry that by the time we released our next single it wasn’t going to be as well-received because people expected us to be a certain kind of band. So, there was some pressure and nervousness around what the next release might be like. But I also felt strongly about the other stuff we were going to release. Even through the uncertainty of it, I was confident that people who liked us on that stuff would still like us with the next batch of songs.