XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Brandon: Well 2018 was a big year for us in that we finally finished and released our self-titled debut album. It was completely DIY and took a considerable amount of work, but we persevered and got it out! On the heels of this release we are continuing the search for a full-time vocalist to perform live locally and beyond. The only project on the horizon would be our second full length album which we are aiming for a late 2019 or early 2020 release.
Eric: The biggest news of late is the release of our self-titled debut album, available on all digital platforms, and on CD Digipak. More recently we have been adding to our line-up in preparation for live shows. We also plan on beginning recording for our next album early in 2019. Last but not least, look for some The Blank Standard merch to appear soon.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Eric: Since 2011, though we lost a good chunk of our members at the end of 2013. Brandon and I did not want to call it quits, so instead, in early 2014, we starting the recording process for this album we just released. We also sought out new members to join the band, without success. Our super-talented (and patient) friend, Paul Gravdal, recorded us at our rehearsal studio, then, when we kept losing bass-players, stepped-in and did a massive job on the bass on the album. We could not have done any of it without Paul. Also, out of necessity, I wrote the lyrics and vocal-phrasing, and Brandon performed the vocals for the record because he can bring the breeeeeeeeeeeees! We recently found a super cool and solid bass-player, named Josh Padilla, to bring the brutalz live with us (and on the next record).
Brandon: The Blank Standard formed in 2011 with no plans to stop any time soon.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Brandon: The main motivation for starting this band was to create crushingly heavy but groovy and memorable songs. We made a conscious effort to focus on these elements when the more in fashion thing these days is to play as fast and technical as humanly possible. Now with a full-length album released, and another on the horizon, I would say we are (hopefully) achieving this goal!
Eric: I have always wanted to create music that makes the listener feel what I feel when I listen to my favorite metal bands. I want to make the music that I want to listen to as a fan of metal, the kind that gets the adrenaline pumping and makes you laugh because of how brutal and heavy it is.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Brandon: I grew up playing guitar since middle school, learning some basic things from friends and teachers, but most importantly figuring out records by ear. As time went on, drums really became my calling, so I went full force and got a kit and signed up for lessons at the local community college the same day. From that moment forward, I have taken private lessons with a multitude of teachers, played in jazz bands at college level, and a bunch of bands. Meeting Eric (guitarist) has really changed everything and we have formed quite the formidable duo!
Eric: I started playing guitar when I was 14, taking lessons for about 5 years from an amazing guitarist named Ben Lacy. The most important thing I learned from Ben is that nothing is impossible on guitar. If I hear something in my head, even something insane, it’s just a matter of practice and perseverance to make it come to life. In the many years since then, I’ve continued to learn on my own, and from playing with others.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Eric: I’ve always considered metal to be one of the best methods of catharsis. It’s a safe, even life-giving, outlet for all the crap in my head and heart, especially really bad, messed up emotions and thoughts. Consequently, our music conveys many images, most of them angry, horrifying, violent, unchained, insane, explorations of darkness, and perhaps glimpses at the light through the clearly unreasonable depictions of some of the heinous imaginings that come to life in the music, but only there.
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals? (Next 1 to 3 years.)
Brandon: Continuing to support our debut album, recording and releasing our second, and play as many shows as possible!
Eric: I’m so hungry to play live again, I would eat 25 baby kittens. We are finalizing our live line-up and will be hitting the stage with brutal abandon in 2019. I am also super excited to record all of the new material we have written during the 4 and a half years it’s taken to get our debut album finished. The next album is going to be another level of devastating. We’ve become better musicians and the music has gotten, dare I say it, even more pissed-off. We are hoping to have a much quicker and more efficient execution of the recording, mixing, and post-production on this next one. Paul has signed on to do this one with us too, and we’ve gotten pretty good at working together, and have learned a lot during the process for the first album.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals?
Brandon: Hopefully playing domestic and European festivals and hopefully a small level tour.
Eric: To continue to write, record, and perform heavy music that I want to hear. I would love for as many people as possible to enjoy our music too. Playing larger festivals and venues, gaining more exposure with each release, and hopefully making a well-respected name for ourselves are definitely goals. Being able to do this full-time and still be able to support a family would be a dream come true. That being said, long-term what really matters is just being able to play, create, and put it out there for folks to take it or leave it.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Brandon: Tough call. I honestly love writing new music and crafting parts. Shows can be such a crap shoot so I’d have to opt for the former.
Eric: I love writing new songs. I also love playing live. Gosh, how do I choose?! Gnahghg! (head explodes)
XS ROCK: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Brandon: This is better suited for Eric.
Eric: Whoa, loaded question, where do I begin? I guess we can take it track by track:
- Two Ply – this is essentially a condemnation of half-assery, expressed with gross “toilet” imagery. A song against talking a big game without any work-ethic, drive, or results to back it up. The title itself came from an experience I had at a really fancy gym, where I went to the restroom and they had friggin’one-plytoilet paper! Of all the corners to cut in a place like that! Why would you use one-ply when you could use two-ply? Ooh, metal song title, kinda dumb but kinda funny, done deal. I remember Kevin showing me the verse riff back in, maybe late 2010, early 2011. It was just such a great mid-tempo devastator, with dissonant licks and diarrhea chords. Two Ply was just such a fitting title, so the lyric content had to do it justice.
- Dump Truck Full of Zombies – I was at a birthday party years ago for one of my kids’ friends and I saw this toy dump truck. Immediately, the thought came to mind of what if there were a dump truckfilled with zombies? That would be heavy and horrifying. Being a metal band, we can’t take ourselves overly seriously, as evidenced by this song title, and that of Heavy Death Murder Kill, and perhaps even Two Ply. That being said, this song can be taken both literally as the narrative of a dump truck full of zombies that drives around eating people in merciless fashion, and perhaps metaphorically as a representation of our throw-away culture that claims satisfaction by the latest, greatest material means, yet is never satisfied. We must feed.
- Hydra – It’s not hard to see why various forms of mental illness were often misdiagnosed as demonic possession….and perhaps vice versa. Anxiety is like a hydra, you cut off one head, and two more take its place. What follows is despair.
- Lepers at the Gate – this is perhaps the theme song that embodies our band name,The Blank Standard. This song is a sort of self-indictment about being lukewarm, failing to take action, making excuses, and thus being complicit with evil.
- Heavy Death Murder Kill – a song as ridiculously heavy and over-the-top as its name. Everyone has that point where they feel a very strong urge to snap and do grave bodily harm to someone else. This song is about that urge. Most of the time, hopefully, we all restrain ourselves from acting on that urge. What would happen if we didn’t? There’s this sense of extreme satisfaction that would result in fulfilling that murder-urge, which is, of course, a lie. Consequences and regret seem so far away at that moment, yet they immediately take effect. …So the next time you want to lose it on someone, bang your head, open up a put, and listen to this song instead!
- The Gorgon Reflecting Pool – the more we objectify someone as a waste, a monster, something ugly and unwanted, the more they will internalize that and play the part set out for them. What happens when they can no longer look at themselves as they are, rather than what they’ve been manipulated to be? A gorgon is a monster that will turn anyone who meets its gaze to stone. A mirror, or some kind of reflective substance, must be used to look upon it without being turned to stone. Is there some kind of reflecting pool for these “monsters” to see themselves as they really are?
- Megaton – what metal album is complete without a song about war? This one starts out with a scene from the trenches of The Great War (a.k.a. WWI) then flashes forward to present day remote drone warfare. Oddly enough, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The tools are different but the toll never changes.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
Brandon: We once played a show at the Viaduct Theater in Chicago. It has since gone under new management and reconstruction, with good reason. The place was an absolute hell hole. We played on a “Stage” that was two separate pieces of the cheapest lumber construction I’ve seen in my life time. As we played the stage was literally spreading in half from the wobbling. It was a joke! Such is the life of a local metal band unfortunately…
Eric: Nothing super ridiculous, I do remember driving back from a show in Peoria, with Wade (our old vocalist) and Kevin (the guitarist who started the band with me.) It was about 3:30 in the morning. We were all so exhausted, we kept switching drivers. It was pretty cold out too. It was my turn to drive, and after not too long it became apparent that I was not going to be able to keep my eyes open, so I pulled off at the next exit and we parked in the lot of this Super 8, axe-murderer-looking, motel. We literally just parked, I turned off the car, and we all just instantly fell asleep in our seats. Total serial-killer-bait. We woke up shivering, freezing cold, backs aching, wondering where we were, at about 6:30am. It was so uncomfortable, like emerging from cryo-stasis on a deep-space expedition. But hey, we didn’t crash and kill anyone, or ourselves, or the gear in the trailer we were hauling, so yay for the parking-lot stasis pod. We didn’t get axe-murdered either.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Eric: “Please…k-kill m-me!” …just kidding! No one has asked for anything really weird I’m sorry/relieved to say.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Eric: Yes, they bought me my first guitar (and two others over the years after that) and hooked me up with lessons. Thanks Mom and Dad!
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Brandon: Dump truck full of Zombies.
Eric: Dump Truck Full of Zombies and Lepers at the Gate
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Brandon: Personally? I would have to say Van Halen was the first “real” rock band I was exposed to due to the influence of my older brother. The raw over the top energy those guys had in their glory days was unreal. Not to mention, Alex Van Halen’s drum kit was godlike!
Eric: The trifecta of Metallica, Pantera, and Slayer are to blame. Listening to those bands, learning their riffs, and seeing them live just set this indelible impression on my mind that: I too must do this.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Brandon: Oof, this is tough. Touring with Revocation, Lamb of God, or Cannibal Corpse would be amazing beyond belief!
Eric: We’d fit great on a bill including Lamb of God, Decapitated, and Cannibal Corpse. Playing with Pantera or Slayer would be mind-blowing, but Pantera is no more and Slayer is on their farewell tour. Meshuggah would also be insane to play with.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Brandon: Sticking through the darkest times and staying together as a band. Honestly. There were so many times when it practically felt hopeless, but we stuck to our guns and are keeping it alive!
Eric: Perseverance through all the obstacles we have faced and finally releasing our debut album. So much effort, time, and soul went into this album, and we pulled it off. We are really proud of it.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Brandon: Well…I work in the manufacturing industry…so we are not exactly a “professional” level band.
Eric: Well, this band does not provide enough income to support my family, so I actually have a “real” job, haha. I work in the financial industry, which I never thought I’d do in a million years, but hey, that’s where the opportunities led and that’s how I support my family. I’d like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it too, over the years.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Brandon: My main rig is a Mapex Saturn drum kit, Sabian cymbals, Trick pedals, Vic Firth sticks, and misc drumheads.
Eric: ESP M-I and M-II guitars, EMG pickups, Ernie Ball Baritone strings, Dunlop Jazz III Tortex picks 1.14 gauge; fun fact: since I’m the only guitarist in the band now, I run 2 heads and 2 cabs simultaneously via ABY switch: head 1 is a Mesa/Boogie Mark IV from the early 90s pushing a Mesa Oversize 4×12 with 2 Eminence Swamp-Thang and 2 Eminence Wizards: head 2 is a Mesa/Boogie JP-2c pushing another Mesa Oversize 4×12 with the stock Celestine V30s. Overkill? Come on, this is metal! Bwhahaha!
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Brandon: The current metal scene is going strong! I’d say stronger than ever before perhaps. Local shows are doing quite well in terms of turnout and national/international bands seem to be doing well if they are constantly touring and releasing music. The proliferation of Bandcamp and Spotify certainly have played a pivotal role in this.
Eric: I’m so out of touch with all the different genres and sub-genres of metal out there. I really couldn’t comment. I’m glad heavy music still garners enough of a following to still have plenty of shows and new material being released by wonderfully talented and creative people.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Brandon: That I have an autoimmune disease called Celiac’s, which is a big pain in the ass.
Eric: I’m such a nerd, and an introvert, it would probably be a surprise for them to find out that I’m in a metal band and that my life’s passion is to write brutal, bone-crushing, kill-you-in-the-face metal.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Eric: Brutal, bone-crushing metal.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Eric: Sincere thanks to all who have supported our music and enjoy listening to it. We have another album coming for you hopefully in late 2019 or early 2020. Until then, we hope to see you when we play live. We promise to bring the pain if you all promise to…OPEN UP THIS PIT!!!
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock!