Brooklyn-based Survival is a relatively new band, but with a long history: Jeff Bobula, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and Greg Smith met as college students, and previously played together in a band called Birthday Boyz. After the success of Hunt-Hendrix's black-metal outfit Liturgy, in 2011, the three re-formed as Survival, and earlier this year released a self-titled debut album that's equal parts psych rock, '90s math-rock and post-hardcore. Bobula spoke with CP by phone from his home in Brooklyn before the band's summer tour began.
What first brought the three of you together?
We all met in college, exploring the New York City scene. Greg and I played together first; we started essentially an emotional hardcore, screamo type of band that Hunter ended up joining. So we've been writing music since the early 2000s.
Is this band a backdrop to the other bands you have going on separately?
I think the band that's now Survival has always been a sort of home for us, regardless of what other bands we've been in. We all have diverse interests, with art in general, whether or not it's music. I guess it's fair to say it's something we all come back to. It's always an itch we can never fully scratch, so we'll probably be doing it for a long time to come.
I can see some of that late-'90s, early-'00s emo-hardcore stuff coming through on this record; is that the main music you all start from? Have you stuck with it even after it lost popularity?
It's definitely what brought us together. We were lucky to be emotionally invested in the music when it was coming to its last real crescendo. As Birthday Boyz evolved, and Survival has evolved, that sort of dire tension that's really great within that music is something we're always trying to capture and evolve in new ways.
These songs reach huge apexes, musically and emotionally. Is it a challenge to bring those about?
I think it's a constant search. I think those big moments are never things we come to the table intending to write. Through sort of a strange, meticulous care for transition and flow within parts that are quite complicated, we just end up having a knack of getting there, hopefully getting there in a way we find surprising or enjoyable. That gives that feeling that I guess we had when we were first listening to that extremely epic, decadent music from the hardcore scene in the early 2000s.
The vocals on this record are sort of droney, almost a chant, but also are complex close harmonies. How did you come to that?
It was definitely difficult to achieve, and is an interesting departure for us, because before that we'd really just screamed and yelled, and sometimes [didn't have] microphones. I think it helped us pace the longer songs that we wanted to start writing with Survival, and helped add another nice dimension. It helps add another level of depth.