You don’t wanna make the same album twice,” declares Honor Titus, the six-foot-something ringleader of New York’s blistering punks Cerebral Ballzy. “It’s just different, and it’s got a good vibe. Ballzy is all about the vibe and as long as we can maintain that, we do whatever we want.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the five-piece, it’s fair to say that Titus is right. Having been thrust to the forefront of the NY punk scene in late 2010, they made quick work of leaving carnage in their wake. Each of their live shows became an urban legend, with the band becoming trailblazers for moshpits and discordance. Complete with half full bottles of red wine, feathery earrings and leather: it almost didn’t matter what the band were actually doing, as long as it was on their own terms.
“When we started,” the frontman agrees, “we were just young drunk kids. Now, we care about the songs that we write.”
“The first record was almost haphazard,” further explains bassist Mel Honore, detailing the rough-and-ready feel that ran through the veins of their self-titled debut. “We started touring with four songs, and once we had the opportunity to put out a record, we had to actually write one. People were paying attention to us before we even finished it, so it all moved a bit quickly. It all just flew together last minute, but we were still proud of it. This time, though, we had a more mature approach, and had more time to think about it, to figure out our direction.”
Having begun work on their sophomore record ‘Jaded & Faded’ in the first half of 2013, the five-piece decided to approach things somewhat differently. Channeling a wider breadth of their influences, and taking a decidedly ‘more mature’ approach, the band were keen to maintain the energy and feel of their work thus far, while opening themselves up to tread some different musical territory. “There’s a lot of influences from the power pop scene,” Mel continues, “so we have a little more bit melodic content to our vibe, and that’s part of us growing and putting more thought into our song structures. We’re giving our fans something new, while also pushing ourselves.”
“We learned so much from the first album,” Titus adds, “just travelling and meeting like minds, that like fast skate-infused punk. We toured so hard that we had to take a break; it was a wild whirlwind of a party. We’ve had so many experiences - good and bad - and this record goes so many places. I can’t wait for people to hear it. We have songs faster than the first album, and this record is way more melodic than our first. I think that even people who aren’t into punk so much will still have our tunes stuck in their head and, from a songwriting perspective, we’re stoked.”
“Ballzy is all about the vibe.”
— Honor Titus
If anything was integral to their latest musical output, it was the gift of time. Getting themselves out of the van and staying stationary was top of their list of things to do. Honor has no qualms with admitting that much. “We’re not really people that really take our time with anything, so it was nice to try, and nice to evaluate. We just took our time - we can’t emphasise that enough. As soon as we came out with the first songs, everyone was like, ‘They’re the boys’ and I think it’ll happen again. The last album, everyone was comparing us to seminal punk bands, whether it be like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, or whatnot. There’s a different vibe this time. Everyone’s talking about seminal New York bands now, and I think we’ve gone to another level. They’re talking Velvet Underground, and The Strokes…”
It’s not just the five members of the band that have a part to play in this latest chapter of Ballzy; the addition of Dave Sitek to the their team threw a whole new skill set into the mix. “He’s a great guy to work with, without a doubt,” assures Honore, of the producer. “He’s an absolute genius. Going into the record, we had the skeleton laid out. We knew the songs that we wanted to use roughly; there were a couple extra hanging around. He helped us figure out which ones to chop down, and helped change the arrangements on a few songs. Overall, just his approach to doing drums and recording vocals, and the melodic content in the vocals too, all added to it, to help it smooth out the edges.”
“He’s an encyclopaedia of sounds,” continues Titus. “We knew what we wanted to achieve with the rhythmic, melodic punk aspects, a lot of power pop ideas went into the songs, and he harnessed them so well. He helped us find the sounds, he directed us a bit more, he helped me with my voice. He’s just a brilliant guy. He did the Beady Eye record just before he did ours; he’s just a guy of ideas, and that’s so nice in the studio.”
Sitek isn’t the only new player in team this time around: after “just hanging out” together, the band were signed to Julian Casablancas’ label Cult Records. “He loved our record,” the frontman confirms. “He loved our sound and he’s a homie. We met playing basketball in New York and it was so organic.” The admiration doesn’t stop there for Casablancas: “As a fan of music, I just loved The Strokes’ aesthetic. I love the idea of a big, pretty band; it’s beautiful. Julian’s voice is really something; hanging out with him while we were recording, and as we were about to go record, definitely made me think about my voice.”
Despite having made their name through those carnal live shows, and skate punk agendas, the most important element – at least, according to Titus, was another simple sentiment. “No barriers.” No worries or pressure to continue with a certain aesthetic or succumb to certain expectations. “Although our first record is very referential, I feel like our influences carry not only a sound, but an idea; bands like The Velvet Underground and Bad Brains, we respect those bands so much, and they come from a place of honest emotion. There was never a barrier for us, because we just do what we want. We wanted to keep our punk fans stoked, but we wanted also to portray something different. A lot of people will be enlightened with this next record.”
Taken from the new DIY Weekly, available to download for iPhone, iPad and Android or read online now. Cerebral Ballzy’s new album ‘Jaded & Faded’ is out now via Cult Records; thet'll play 2000 Trees this August.