Interview with Tomb Mold (Sled Island 2024)

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Tomb Mold at I Love You Coffee Shop on Wednesday, June 19 2024.

Based in Toronto, Ont., death metal band Tomb Mold will be performing in one of Calgary’s biggest music festivals, Sled Island. Scheduled to perform at Dickens pub on Wednesday, June 19 at 12 a.m., Tomb Mold’s members sat down with CJSW before their performance to discuss some of their memorable past performances, their latest album and their experiences on stage. 

Special thank you to Take Aim Media for organizing the Sled Island 2024 Interviews, and I Love You Coffee Shop for hosting us.


Catalina Berguno: Thank you so much for meeting with us today. We’re so excited to have you here. So, I guess for people who may not know, can you please take a moment to introduce yourselves and tell us who you are, your role in the band?

Derrick Anthony Vella: Yeah, for sure. My name is Derrick. I play guitar in the band.

Payson Alexander Power: My name is Payson. I also play guitar in the band.

Max Klebanoff: My name is Max. I play drums and I’m the vocalist in the band.

Kevin Sia: And I’m Kevin, I play bass.

Catalina Berguno: Awesome. So I know this is a band situated in in Toronto, Ontario, right? So I guess I was wondering, what’s your experience been performing here in Calgary? Do you have experienced performing here in Calgary and what’s the crowd like?

Derrick Anthony Vella: Well me and Max we came here in 2013 in a different band, a much different sounding band too. We played at Tubby Dog. We played an emo band. And we played there. We played a house show too. And it was fun. It was like a really great crowd. And it was like really great group of people. And I think we’re the only ones that have been out here before (turns to band member). You haven’t been here have you? No. But only positive memories. So I think this one will also just like further that, you know what I mean?

Catalina Berguno: Okay, so I’m guessing because of that you don’t have experience with Sled Island?

Derrick Anthony Vella: No, no, we don’t.

Catalina Berguno: Oh, so this is your first time performing here. Alright. So based on that what are you guys looking forward to being here in Sled Island? What performances are you looking forward to?

Derrick Anthony Vella: Well, funny enough, all of us have to go back to Toronto shortly after we play. But we are really pumped for our show. We’ve only heard good things about the venue we’re playing. I think that there’s a fair amount of excitement over our gig and I’m looking forward to it.

Max Klebanoff: If I had more time here, if we were here for the most of the fest, I would definitely be sticking around to see like Sarah Davachi, or Laurel Halo, as well, for sure. Unfortunately, we play here tonight and they’re playing in Toronto tonight. So it’s like there was absolutely no way for us to see them. But yeah, I would definitely be interested in seeing them. That would have been my first, you know, gig to go to after after hours, of course.

Catalina Berguno: Okay, awesome. Well, it’s too bad you guys have to leave shortly after this. What are the plans after leaving Calgary?

Derrick Anthony Vella: Well we get back home, and then we gear up for basically a month long tour throughout the states starting July fourth. And yeah, that. It’ll be fun though. We’re going to be touring with some friends of ours in a band called Horrendous, who are an excellent death metal band out of the Philadelphia area. And that should be a good tour. Yeah.

Catalina Berguno: I think I’ve heard of them. So, I guess besides Sled Island, what are things that the band can look forward to? I know you guys released your album a couple of months ago?

Derrick Anthony Vella: Yeah. Late last year.

Catalina Berguno: I’ve heard the sound is a little bit different from other albums you’ve done before? Derrick Anthony Vella: Totally.

Catalina Berguno: So I kind of was wondering what prompted that kind of change?

Derrick Anthony Vella: I think with every record we make, we sort of just try to look for something new to dig out of ourselves, especially as just musicians. And I think we had such an extended break after wrapping things up with our previous record in 2019. And even pre-pandemic, we had kind of agreed we’ll take like a bit of a break and just do our thing. But with the pandemic, really halting everything, like we all just had time to dig into our instruments and I think we just wanted that to be reflected in the new record. Maybe we wanted to explore different sounds and just like, you know, different textures, feelings, whatever you want to call it. And I think we wanted to make something that was like a challenge for us, right? Like something where when it was done, we were like, ‘okay, like, we really we really did it’ and it was really fun to do and it was very tough. I think it was just a, you know, there’s the fear of like repetition. It works for some bands. But I think when you’re like a legacy band, you can make the same record over and over again, and everyone will always be cool with it. But I think when there’s so many . . . now more than ever, there’s so many excellent metal bands, it’s just like you’re just striving to do something that’s true to yourself, but also just maybe like somewhat unique within the greater landscape of your contemporaries.

Max Klebanoff: I think we all shared a an eagerness to dismantle what we thought were key elements of our playing in our band in general. Like I wanted to really, like deny and affirm years of playing music together for . . . I mean, we’ve been playing in bands together now for, like 12 or 13 years. So this was a sort of a test of our fortitude as a band and as performers. And yeah, I think it was a make or break moment where we could continue on the path we were, which was comfortable or really deconstruct who we are as people and as a band and do something more affirming, you know?

Derrick Anthony Vella: It’s like wiping the slate clean, almost. Yeah.

Payson Alexander Power: Yeah, there’s a freedom you discover along the way where it was . . . you want to make art that connects with people, and you want to make art that people like. And somewhere along the way in the process when the record was being recorded, or not even recorded, once it was done, and it was in post, I had a kind of moment where I was like, I don’t care if people like this because I really like it. And that’s a good feeling. Because the whole way you’re working towards ‘oh I really hope people like this. I hope this connects with people.’ But it’s very freeing when you’re like, I don’t care. Like I’m glad it did. People liked it. But if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been crestfallen. So yeah.

Catalina Berguno: (looks at Kevin Sia) Nothing?

Derrick Anthony Vella: He didn’t play on the record. Sorry.

Max Klebanoff: Kevin joined the band, like in May last year.

Derrick Anthony Vella: Yeah.

Catalina Berguno: All right. And it sounds like you guys really like worked on, like, reflected on your sound individually. How did it all come together in the end? Like, how does the music come together?

Derrick Anthony Vella: So kind of how it works within the band is I present the songs as like, sort of outlines or drafts where it’s like, this is the song. But then, you know, I bring it to the the jam room, Max decides what he wants to play beneath it, I show pacing the parts, and then I just leave the floor open for what he ever he wants to do. And to change it up, we have our solo spots. And then we just kind of just cranked up the songs for like the better part of a year, I think. I think when we felt pretty ready, we booked studio time. We always go to the same place, which is a studio in Hamilton, Ont. called Boxcar Sound. Terrific engineer there, it’s a great sounding room, very relaxed atmosphere. So the only pressure that you feel is whatever pressure you put on yourself, really, and we’re always just, we always just kind of strike gold there. And then it was mixed and mastered by the same gentleman who mixed and mastered the last couple of records named (sp?) based out of Philly. And, you know, he joked that we gave him such an easy job, but it was yeah, the mix he gave us was a no brainer, it was such a fluid process once it was there, you know what I mean? And everything kind of fell into place (turns to Klebanoff). You want to talk about artwork?

Max Klebanoff: I was going to talk about recording. We had kind of decided on making this a very live sounding album too where we wanted our playing of the songs live to sound the exact same on the record, or at least close to being the same. So it captured the real essence of the band as like a performing group rather than just like executed you know, part by part, you know, methodically which is cool too but I think we were just trying to do something a little different. So when we look back on it it’ll be a little bit more personal, a little bit more fun too. I definitely wanted it to be fun and not light hearted but like you’re in the room with us, kind of like an immersive jam. Hilarious romp. Artwork was done by Jesse Jacobi, who had done our previous LP Planetary Clairvoyance. And he also kind of went under this sort of scene, reframing of his practice and his art. So I think it was kind of like a perfect pairing that we were able to do it again with him. And he really pushed himself into a pretty extreme realm. He had very little time to do it as well. So I think the added stress of that created something that was pretty, pretty crazy. And it’s, I think, as in terms of like our collaborators, besides Sean Pearson who records our records, Arthur who mixes and masters our records, and you know, 20 Buck Spin, Jesse is now someone I would consider a really close collaborator and a kindred spirit to the band where he’s like a necessary member. He’s like part of the greater tree of two mold like lore, where I can’t imagine a version of the band without him, or him not being a part of it in some shape or form. It’s not like he’s always going to be doing stuff for us, but he’s always there, present, you know?

Catalina Berguno: And so, I guess, this is more of a general question that I think each of you feel free to answer. What do you look forward to when you’re performing the most?

Derrick Anthony Vella: I love playing live. I think it’s very fun. And I sort of just look forward to like, ways I can make my bandmates laugh on stage or just to see them smile and just like really like relish in this like shared, joyful experience. I think we are more relaxed than ever when we play, which is like, such a nice thing. Like, I don’t think we really get nervous before shows. I think it’s also that thing, where now when we go to play shows we know that people are there to see us. So it kind of feels like you’re playing with house money. Like you’re like, you don’t have to worry, you know what I mean? But that’s just me.

Payson Alexander Power: I feel like that too. It’s a . . . no we’ve always sort of done our own like headline things we’ve never been like, toured on a package store with like three other bands where we’re first or whatever. So even when we were a much smaller band, we were playing smaller venues but people were always paying their 10 dollars to see us, which has been awesome. But yeah, it’s just fun to see people get stoked. And yeah, the vibe is really good. There’s no point and trying to be something we’re not, right? So it’s just gotten loose, I guess, having fun and yeah, it works well. Our last show we played went over really well. And I think it’s some of the most fun we had on stage together. And it was just very unbridled, sort of like, ‘let’s just party’ you know? It’s just the party vibes are in effect, right? So, yeah, that’s about it. From my perspective.

Max Klebanoff: I think I share a lot of the same sentiments. I can’t think of anything in particular that I like about playing live. I feel the same way jamming as I do when we’re gigging. Like it’s kind of linear now where I don’t feel any different. I’m just enjoying myself all the time. Maybe being on a gig, like a very fun gig is a little bit more disarming because you realize it’s really not any different from jamming. If I if I don’t think of it differently, it isn’t different, you know?Just that people are watching doesn’t really feel . . . like I don’t feel nervous playing like what you said. I really don’t don’t feel that way. It’s just fun. I think I’ve deconstructed it in my mind whether it means nothing, but it means everything at the same time, where it’s like, I don’t care if I screw up because I’m here having fun, but I also do care. Because I am here and having a fun –

Derrick Anthony Vella: There are like different points to make up for a screw up in our show.

Max Klebanoff: That’s true. That’s true. That’s true. That’s true. Like now, maybe like 2019, if I played like the worst fill, like I really fucked something up, I would be mortified. And now when it happens I just look at these guys, I’m like ‘that was awesome. That’s awesome. I can’t believe I just did that.’ It was like in when played in Texas like a couple a couple of weeks ago and I I just was like, I’m gonna try something different and it like bombs so hard. And I was like ‘yo’. I was looking at the guys of like that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was it was great.

Derrick Anthony Vella: Yeah, it’s just a good time you know?

Payson Alexander Power: In technical death metal too like when you’re playing death metal a mistake doesn’t necessarily sound like a mistake because it’s such ugly music, atonal or whatever. So you can make a grievous error and people are like, ‘whoa, that was sound so sick.’ Like, ‘yeah, man, that was totally on purpose.’

Catalina Berguno: Make it look intentional and no one knows.

Payson Alexander Power: Yeah, if you were playing like a Neil Sedaka song or something, then yeah, your mistakes are gonna pop right out. But in death metal doesn’t matter. Usually. There’s one solo I biff almost every time we play and in the last show I nailed it so I kind of climbed my asterisk because it was like, I could play it solo home and then I’d psych myself out, hands get sweaty, mom’s spaghetti, etc. And then I would mess it up, but yeah. We’re not playing the song? Now we are. Yeah, we’ll see if I do it tonight. Flip a coin.

Catalina Berguno: It kind of brings me to my semi last question which wasn’t planned but I’m curious, you know what’s like the most memorable show you’ve performed? And it can be for any reason, either because it was a malfunction or because the crowd was great.

Derrick Anthony Vella: That’s tough. I’m trying to think. Yeah, we had a really good show in Montreal, when we put up the record. That one was really good. Going in the Wayback Machine, the first time we played Philadelphia. On our first tour, that would have been 2017, we played at a venue called Kung Fu Necktie. And it was like there was like a main floor venue and then an upstairs. Upstairs was super small and it was just so crammed with, like, people who were stoked, and I think those early shows where there was like it was like a moment where it was like, oh, maybe like, we’re actually onto something with this band. And it just like those kind of things give you the . . . help encourage you to just keep going. And now, I mean, every show we play now we feel like we’re pretty blessed with it being good. They all are good for different reasons. But usually, it’s returning to cities. Like we had a couple shows in Brooklyn in February. And just like seeing a bunch of people we hadn’t seen in years, meeting a lot of new people, just like seeing the past and the present sort of all together. They’re very rewarding. It’s a surreal feeling that we get to do this, like we get to play shows, and people come and watch us and enjoy it. Like, I don’t know, I don’t ever really get over it.

Payson Alexander Power: Yeah, for me, it’s a really old one. And we played the Mr. Smalls Theater in Pittsburgh in 2018 for Migration Fest, which is a festival put on by our record label in conjunction with another record label Gilead Media, and the venue is pretty big. And it was like, we’ve never played a venue like that. We played a lot of DIY spaces and stuff. And this was like a, you know, a theater through the Rolling Stones practice before they went on tour. Ryan Adams & Cardinals did a bunch of shows there. So like, you know, a big capacity venue. I was quite nervous because I didn’t know how it was going to sound on stage. Usually we’re playing in front of our amps. We hear the amp volume. We hear Max, that’s the sound. This was you know, that was probably the first time we played with monitors. Yeah, we were second. And we played and we were really good. And I was super stoked. And you could tell the audience thought it was good. It really felt like we had exceeded expectations. Like I was like, ‘let’s just get through this.’ We were super sick. And that was a moment kind of like ‘oh,’ and people were hyped. I felt great, because I was like this went over really well. And the other two that kind of stand out to me were in the same place. Atlas Brew Works in Washington DC. We played in a brewery, smelled like a brewery, played on a bunch of skids. So we’re like, a full six inches off the ground. So nobody in the back could see us and the shows were just insane. And they were so hot. And my guitar the day after . . . I put it in his case and didn’t think about it. And I took it out and there was like, it looked like it had been at the bottom of the ocean because it was soaked right? So the strings were just like, disgustingly rusty. But those shows were crazy because they’re just total pandemonium. So those one standout, those are pretty fun. I like all the shows we play for the most part. But but the Migration Fest was probably my favorite one we did, I think. Even though I think we played for what, 25 minutes, maybe? Yeah, we drove down to Pittsburgh for the show, we got to see some awesome bands. But I think the fear, or the, you know, my anxiety ratio to how well we played was like it was a big payoff, because it was like, I didn’t think we were going to be that good or that well received.

Derrick Anthony Vella: You we had to learn how to play rooms like that. Now, like, you know, we don’t play rooms that size. But you know, like we play three to 500 cap rooms. And now it’s like, we actually know how to ask for like a mix in our monitors. And we actually know how to like dial in our things like considering like the distance of like, the back wall and whatnot (talks to band member). One day, one day. But it’s good. Now it’s yeah, it’s like it’s funny to think about the first few times we played things like that were just felt way over in over our head. And now it’s like, it’s just kind of feels normal. It’s crazy. (turns to band member) Do you have any shows too?

Max Klebanoff: The ones you guys I mentioned were definitely big ones for me. I think in on a more recent note, I think the Montreal show that that you had mentioned Kevin was a big one too. I think mainly because I realized the sort of power and like and reciprocal kind of feeling we had with our crowd that was more attentive to our playing where I was really just prior to that just playing as hard as I could, ignoring how people perceive the band or how people reacted to things. And at that show I kind of realized the free flowing kind of, like emotion between the crowd and us where I felt like we just didn’t have command over like the space in terms of sound we fill it with. But the silence we fill it with too where like there were palpable tense moments when we were doing nothing in a way where I hadn’t felt that way from any of our gigs prior. Where it felt like a very, very strong moment in expression for the band, where I was like, I think I truly get what we’re trying to do. And I know what I want to convey. I think people understood that too. They react differently, but I think they get it. In that moment I was like, I think ‘everything is making sense now.’ Many, many years later, I think I get it. (band member talks in the background) They are. (background discussion) Yes. Like us playing? Yeah. They definitely definitely respond . . . visceral, it’s very raw, but it’s cool. It’s nice. I mean, not every place has to react like that. Like our new our shows that we played were, you know, pretty, like not ambitious, but we don’t normally don’t learn like two unique sets of songs ever. So seeing people, you know, stand with their arms crossed, watching us and I’m like, ‘I don’t think people think people here like us very much.’ Yeah, one of them was a matinee so it was like nobody had dinner yet and that’s like a big thing. Nobody was drinking. Yeah. Yeah. But even then, the reactions were pretty stoic, but people seem to receive it after the fact well. but But it’s interesting, I think now, every show, even if it sucks, it feels like a little bit of an experiment. And in our like, spatial politics, where it’s like, we can discover what exactly our band means in front of different people often. You know, it’s an easy barometer for how we’re feeling.

Derrick Anthony Vella: Well, that and I think when people are watching the new songs play live they’re sort of just they’re taking it in, you know what I mean? There’s like, so much happening, and they’re just sort of like, kind of entranced by it. If people will be like, Yeah. It’s like, I have to pay really close attention. And then you play the old stuff. And then I can kind of like bob my head a little bit and sort of get lost in it. Another good one was London, England, when we played there in 2019. That show was crazy. That was a lot of fun. And that was another moment where it’s like, you go across the water, and you’re just like, whoa, like this, many people will come out to see us play. That’s crazy. That was cool. But yeah. So there’s a bunch a bunch of good shows.

Catalina Berguno: I’m glad to hear that. So like before we wrap up. I wanted to ask if there’s anything you wanted to talk about or anything you think I missed throughout this this conversation?

Derrick Anthony Vella: No, I feel like we covered it. You got anything? Okay. Awesome.

Catalina Berguno: Thank you guys.

Derrick Anthony Vella: Thank you. Thanks for making the time for us.

Catalina Berguno: No worries. Thank you for meeting with us here today.

Derrick Anthony Vella: Of course, our pleasure.