Meet Volcanoes, the drum and bass duo whose shitkicking noise rock has taken seismic toll on the eardrums of St. Louis' underground enthusiasts. Jon Ryan and Eric Peters are probably the most badass act to come out of St. Charles in quite some time, and definitely the most badass thing to ever come out of Lindenwood University. The roommates live on campus at Lindenwood, host shows in their dorm room, and in less than a year have scored opening slots for Bass Drum of Death and Bug Chaser. Volcanoes is releasing its first full-length, self-recorded album Heavy Hands on Saturday at Apop Records with the (happily!) omnipresent Spelling Bee, electronic ace Ra Cailum and Spastic Plastic, featuring members of Fragile Farm. We caught up with the pair this week to talk St. Chuck, mouth riffs and the wildest basement in Illinois.
Diana Benanti: Are you jazzed for the release this weekend?
Eric Peters: We're really excited. We're going to play the whole album because there are still some songs we haven't played live yet.
Eric: We haven't played "And Then We Destroyed Each Other," "Exploding Hands" and we have not played "Steel Plates Slicing Through My Every Thought." I'm most excited for "And Then We Destroyed Each Other." We're actually going to play straight through the track listing on the album, I actually saw the Dynamos release show for Loud Wars, they played their album backwards, and I sort of like the idea of, "this is our album, we're going to play it for you. And then you can buy a recorded version of it right here." With the new album, we want to really push it. Five bucks, boom, listen to it super loud in your car.
How did you guys choose the other bands on the bill?
Jon: Spelling Bee are friends of ours. We had asked them before to play it, and they had some concerns because they were playing a lot of shows that week. We've played a lot of shows with them. They have a fairly decent following in St. Louis, their record is on Apop Records, so we know it's like home to them. Ra Cailum is also a good friend of ours, we played a show with him at the Crack Fox and we just really dig his music, and he's an awesome dude. He's getting a lot of recognition, and we wanted people who might not necessarily hear his music to come out to our show. I talk him up a lot, because he's an incredible composer.
He's just the nicest. it's almost amazing how geniune he is as a person.
Jon: Yeah, yeah. He's great. We definitely wanted to align ourselves with him as well. We also have Spastic Plastic, it's two members of Fragile Farm, it's their new thing. They say they're heavily influenced by Spelling Bee and Caddywompus, two person guitar and drums, a mathy, distorted type of deal.
Why was the recording process for Heavy Hands so lengthy?
Eric: We recorded it ourselves, part of the first stage, I'd say, was just acquiring the equipment we needed. We spent probably a month, month and a half just gathering up the resources. We bought a mic, we bought an interface, and we have a lot of friends that are audio engineers, and we were seeing if they would let us borrow equipment for the summer, just getting everything we needed to record this album. We were lucky enough to have really great friends who let us borrow extremely expensive and high quality equpiment all summer long. We got two mics from a friend at school, we got very, very nice mics from a worship pastor at our church, just thousands of dollars of equipment that he just let us have all summer. We got a new program, learning how to use that took time. A lot of it was just obtaining knowledge. And then we converted my basement into a studio, I'd say, even more so than the recording, just getting prepared for it took a lot of the time. We're perfectionists and spend a lot of time going back, adding in little noises, adding in undertones, stuff, and the mixing process took quite a long time as well. We did a lot of trial and error with the mixing. We're not trained professionals, we're not audio engineers.
Do you guys feel confident in what you learned through the process to go ahead and record a third album yourselves?
Eric: I don't think that we're going to record the third album ourselves. We're not planning on recording it ourselves, mostly because I don't think things could align themselves in that perfect of a way again. The way that things worked out for the album was like a miracle. I don't think it could happen again. We're going to be saving up money, we're in contact with a label that we may or may not be signing onto. But they might be helping us out with that. We're doing our best to not have to record it ourselves. That was sort of the deal with it, we were like "we have to record it ourselves." Plus, we like recording it ourselves, if we want to spend eight hours just doing noise and screaming over stuff we can do that. We're not worried about time
I want to come back to the label you can't talk about in a second, but what are you screaming? Is there a lyric theme throughout?
Eric: This album is really bare bones a break up album, for me. If you strip it down, that's what it is as far as lyrically. Most of the songs are sort of reflective of what was going on in my life with my girlfriend, a lot of it was about confusion. Most of the songs are about confusion, some of the songs are loosely based on her, some of them are based on fictional characters. A lot of it is based on confusion....we'll leave it at confusion.
The song "And Then We Destroyed Each Other" makes a bit more sense now.
Eric: The song "And Then We Destroyed Each Other," let me just give you a tidbit. That line was actually a quote from our friend Audrey. I wasn't there, but she was talking to Jon about a past relationship, and she was talking about how horrible it was, and she said, "...and then we destroyed each other." So Jon texted me that in all caps, and I was like, holy crap. We had the names of our songs pretty much before we wrote them and before I wrote the lyrics for them, I wrote the song with that theme and title, and this was our end cap on this album.
Is that generally how your writing process goes? You come up with the nut of an idea and then see how it goes from there?
Eric: Yeah, our songs start pretty small. The name, or a riff. Jon will come to me with an idea, and we'll sit down and hash it out in like an hour. And we can get the rough bones of a song just by working together through that process.
Does this ex-girlfriend know she's splashed all over this album?
Eric: She's actually no longer my ex-girlfriend. We were together for five years when she broke up with me, we just got back together this July, so we were broken up for like six months. That's the longest we've ever been broken up. She does know that all these songs are pretty much about her. She explicitly told me 'there better not be any thank yous or weird mentions of me,' and I was like, 'no way' so I just tucked her in there, right in the thank yous. She's alright with it. She knows she was acting a huge fool. And she knows the album is super badass, so I'm like, "C'mon now."
Is there a lyric on the album that you aren't particularly fond of? That would be my biggest fear, making a great album and then having to live with some dumb lyric I wrote.
Eric: A lot of what I wrote for this album is pretty melodramatic. I make it seems like I was a lot more distraught than I actually was. But I was very distraught. Let's see, one that is pretty haughty, pretty heavy writing that whenever I listen to it, I'm like that is, like, right there on the line. What is wrong with you? It's the very first line of "And Then We Destroyed Each Other" and it is: "How can you love me forever if you're already dead." Yup. Gold record! [laughs]
Man, if Bruno Mars wrote that he'd make a billion dollars.
Eric: Exactly! That's what I'm saying. Yeah, that one is particularly distasteful.
How did you guys get started as Volcanoes?
Eric: I've known Jon since high school, but the way we knew each other was very very loose. He played in a band, I played in a band, and we played shows together, nothing more really, but it wasn't until my freshman year of college that Jon approached me about playing drums in a band that him and another guy were starting called The Future Past. They came to me with this idea, I was just sort of doing my own music. Two bass and me on drums, we were going to play mathy indie pop. We wrote and practiced for like a year, we recorded an EP, but there was a lack of drive in the band. And the other guy, the lead singer was dragging us down, and he's a very good friend of ours. He was at a point in his life where it was not important to him anymore. At this time, me and Jon moved in together. So we started Volcanoes, a little dorm project, we'll call it Volcanoes and we'll just make the hugest music ever. It'll be super huge and it won't matter because it's called Volcanoes and those are massive. We started messing around and we had a dorm show where we had a concert in our dorm room. We had like, 45 people at the first one, 55 at the next one, 65 people at the next one, all slammed into a dorm room. We were just sort of doing that, messing around, and then Matt came to us and it was particularly apparent to us that he was not in this. And we were really more into Volcanoes at the time than Future Past. And so he came to us and he's like, "You know guys, I'm not feeling like this, I'm going to move to Beirut Lebanon."
Eric: [to Jon] She goes, "Oh!" So he was there for five months, he's an aspiring missionary. Christ Follower. And we're like, you know, that's cool. Me and Jon are Christian as well, we obviously feel if that's what God is calling you to do, do it. The next day, we were pretty much like, let's do it, let's do Volcanoes. So we hit it hard and wrote an album, recorded it in the next four weeks. Faults was recorded in a total of three weeks in our dorm room by us.
So, St. Charles has this reputation as the worst place in the world. What's one thing that you guys love about it that maybe us city folk could love about it too?
Eric: Okay. I really like St. Charles. I've grown up in St. Charles. I just really like the atmosphere, especially on this side of it, rather than further down 94 where me and Jon both live permanently. It gives a really old town feel to me. Main Street St. Charles didn't used to be really cool, but it is now. I think there is some culture here, we have Picasso's Coffeehouse, and they have an open mic night, there's some cool culture there as far as like, the experimental and that sort of thing. I just really like it because it's home for me.
You can't ever argue with home.
Eric: Jon might have a better answer. Jon's just shining his dress shoes right now.
Is he wearing them to the show this weekend?
Eric: No, he works at at James Cash Penny Dry Goods store. Which is J.C. Penney. So he has to wear dress shoes. I just got this super awesome shoe cleaning kit from my grandma's house, so he's taking advantage. He didn't ask. This is Diana, she's a very nice woman. Be on your best behavior.
Hi Jon. What's one thing you like about St. Charles?
Jon: Tough to say. I do like Old St. Charles, but I think I only like it because it's kind of like South City. I grew up in South County for about ten years, and then my dad's job moved, so I was kind of forced to move here. Like, I'm glad that I live here or none of this band stuff would have happened. I have a lot of nostalgic memories about South County, I'm planning to move to South City. I really like St. Louis better than St. Charles.
Have you guys ever been to a volcano?
Jon: No. Google imaged a lot of them. Eric says he's been to Yellowstone National Park, which he says is actually considered a supervolcano.
Eric: You didn't know that? The whole thing is set to erupt.
Jon: Eric knows a lot of about that nature crap. If you guys were to describe your own music, without using the words "bass" "drum" "loud" or "duo" what would you say?
Jon: I was describing it today to someone, and I said, okay, when we play a show we want it to be that people don't know whether to dance or just straight mosh. Grind or mosh is the option.
Eric: Like, sexually.
Jon: We actually played a show in Illinois where people were doing both things. Attractive girls grinding on each other and then fat sweaty dudes just moshing and throwing each other into the stage. That was at a place called Day old Basement, in Macomb, Illinois. It was the craziest show we've ever played. At one point, Eric said the words "Jon, what have we gotten ourselves into?" That was actually their last show ever, but Macomb parties hard. Eric: [laughs]
You gotta watch those Southern Illinois small towns. They get buck wild.
Jon: That's for sure. It was insane.
Do you guys have plans to tour?
Jon: We can't do a whole lot during the school year, so we're hopefully trying to get something together for next summer. Possibly maybe over Christmas break, but that would take a lot of scrambling.
I know this album is just coming out, but are you writing new stuff?
Jon: We live in a dorm with a complete band set up, with a bunch of practice amps and an electric drum kit, so we can jam whenever we want. We kind of just write stuff constantly. We have a couple new songs in the works. We wrote the seven song EP between November and December, and then we wrote this album between January and June, so basically one semester.
Eric: The vibes were thick!
Jon: An interesting little technique that we use, Eric, or me occasionally, will think of a riff or a melody and just record it on our phones. We call it a mouth riff. That's how probably a third of the first Volcanoes song were conceived. That's how the first song, "Lava" was written.
Eric: Completely riffed by my mouth.
Jon: I specifically remember I was driving to work, the riff for the end of "With Black Gloves" came into my head and I recorded it on my phone and then went home after work and picked it out. And it was perfect.
Do you have any local influences?
Jon: So Many Dynamos would be a big one for sure. They were definitely Eric's favorite band in high school. We're actually opening for them November 10 at Foam which is an awesome opportunity for us, to open for someone we've looked up to for so long. I've seen them live probably over ten times.
What do you think the St. Louis music scene is missing?
Jon: Let me think.
Eric: Good fans.
Did he say...oh he said "good fans?" I thought he said "good bands."
Jon: I think just like interest in general. A lot of people are just kind of flaky, just don't show up, I don't necessarily think that's the end of the world. The people that really do care are the ones that make the difference and there really aren't that many of them. But I think the scene is getting stronger, and being involved in it is really, really cool. That we're able to have the relationships that we do. We're both really stoked about the development of Cherokee Street.
Do your classmates at Lindenwood ever venture to Cherokee?
Jon: Not really. Some of them do, but everyone at Lindenwood is really apathetic about the music scene in St. Louis. We'll tell them about a show we're playing, and it just seems like they don't care. We have fans in St. Louis that go to our shows all the time, more than our really good friends at school. They come to the dorm shows. They're infamous on campus now. Eric crowdsurfed at the last one. It was out of control.
How do you get away with that? Do you have to let the R.A. know?
Jon: [laughs] I'm an R.A.
Heavy Hands release show October 22 8:30pm, free With Spelling Bee, Spastic Plastic, Ra Cailum