Latest release: All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph/Warner)

Converge has been hailed as one of the most inspired and inspiring bands to have emerged in the last twenty five years with a string of highly acclaimed releases, whirlwind live performances and a following that cuts across the heavy rock-metal-punk fanbase. But as vocalist Jacob Bannon explains to Loud in our interview, from his point of view the entire essence of the band is just a deeply personal relationship between themselves and their art.

It’s been said of this album that it has a more stripped sound than some of your previous albums. What are your thoughts on that?
I don’t hear that. I don’t hear any difference between albums, aside from the subject matter. I feel that every record is a natural progression from the one prior to it. They all improve, from record to record to record, in a variety of ways, and that’s the one thing I really concern myself with as an artist. I want to become a more cohesive unit. I want to communicate more clearly as an artist and musician and I wanna write music that’s challenging and soulful. As to how people critique that work, well, that’s up to you guys. It’s the same musicians playing music, playing the same instruments. When people some something is stripped down, they usually mean something has been taken away to make it more raw, but this isn’t any more raw than anything we’ve ever done. It’s just us.

There’s such a diversity across All We Love We Leave Behind that in some ways to me it felt as if I was listening to a dozen different bands.
Really? I thought we have a fairly consistent sound as a band. I don’t think there’s another guitarist that sounds like Kurt or another drummer that sounds like Ben. I really hear that, but I guess that’s just me. It speaks for the dynamics that we can have and I’m appreciative of the observations that people have of our band.

You are a very personal story-teller. Is that always your main focus when song-writing?
I just write songs about my life. That’s all I’ve ever done. Being a personal band, writing personal songs. It’s the only thing that’s every done anythng for me. Otherwise I’d just get bored. It’s the only thing that’s ever interested me from a writing perspective. Expressing myself and working through issues in my life.

How have you found the reception to AWLWLB so far?
I don’t know, to be honest. Positive, I guess. I don’t really pay attention to much of it. The way I’ve always looked at it, once you’ve released music or released art, you no longer have ownership of it in the sense of the concept of the idea of how you want it to be perceived. And I don’t feel like I want to expend a whole lot of energy trying to explain it to people. I’m the kind of people who, if I wanted to start reading those things, reading reviews and paying attention to people’s opinions, then I’d wanna converse with them about it. And I just don’t feel like explaining art that way. From what I’ve heard, people are excited about it, and that’s good. And people are still caring about our band and what we do, and that just means that we’re doing something right.

It sounds to me then that Converge is really just a personal experience for you and the band and others can like it or not.
That’s it. That’s all it’s about. I think all art and music is about that. You wanna be felt and you want people to connect with what you do, but you want to connect with your emotions and your reasons for being here. Otherwise there’d be no reason to do it. Every night when we play our songs, you’re… you’re almost working towards closure in a way. Being a musician you always want to be expressing yourself to society in the way you interpret your own lyrics, how you interpret aspects of your life, all of it. It swarms together in this big, swirling mass. That’s the only thing that matters. Critical acclaim or critical dogging of what you do doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. The only thing that matters is music and art. That’s it.

Regardless of the way critics see Converge, you’ve probably come across a lot of bands that have drawn their inspiration from you over the course of your career.
Well, I’ve been told that, but I rarely see that. I don’t really see a band that’s like us. Again, it’s interpretation. I know intimately the sort of musician the guys are in the band, so I don’t necessarily see that spirit in other bands. And that’s ok. I’ve met plenty of people who’ve said they’ve been influenced by what we do and it’s been inspiring for them. I’m forever grateful for that and really glad that people are taking the torch and running with it and people are getting inspired to make their own music. But I didn’t really think about it any further than that. Because, if you do that, you start developing some kind of an ego and I’ve never known anyone for whom ego growth has been a positive trait.

That idea of spirit certainly rings true in your case when you look at how long the four of you have been together. A lot of bands seem to find that level of stability difficult.
I think it’s hard for a lot of bands because they concentrate on the wrong things. At the end of the day, the only things that matter are the first basic reasons why you start a band. To express yourself and to play music. That’s it. Nothing else matters. People’s outside interests from the band, people’s perception of what you are and how you should be, people’s interpretation of your art… if you take too much notice of those things, you start losing your sense of yourself. And that’s what happens. You get bands that start getting wrapped up in ego and they wanna fulfil some fantasy of being some giant, head-pulling artist. And that’s not real life. Even the more well-known people that I’ve known have never truly lived those lives. It’s just a strange fantasy. The only thing that matters is doing what you love. That’s it. And not being a shallow person.

Converge tours with Old Man Gloom across Australia in February:
12/2 Amplifier, Perth
13/2 Fowlers, Adelaide Lic / AA
15/2 Billboard, Melbourne
16/2 Manning Bar, Sydney
17/2 Hi Fi, Brisbane